Monday, November 23, 2015

in the shadows of evening

My empty apartment stays quiet until I come home. When I arrive, it speaks in hushed tones of lit candles, running water, whirring ceiling fans, as if speaking quietly of something shameful. When I change out of my work clothes, the late afternoon light is already fading across my bedspread, leaving the rest of the room in shadows.

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There is a potted cactus that sits on the windowsill in my kitchen. In the quiet daytime hours, when I am at work or running weekend errands or trying to make my life exciting and full, the sun shines on the cactus, marking time by the shadows it creates. I water the plant occasionally, when I remember. Mostly, the cactus feeds on sun and time. Its growth is slow, nearly hidden. Some plants sprout over night. Flowers practically bud before your eyes. Bamboo shoots up so fast its reach upwards is audible, a pained and hope-filled creaking. Just the other day, after more than twelve months on my sill, I noticed that this cactus has a few new buds. It is stretching itself. I am proud of my silent cactus, the way it's stayed and grown despite so little attention from me.

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When I arrive home, my heart rumbles and stirs in my chest. I carry around small stories that made up my day (the funny thing he did, that meeting that went well, that bold idea I shared, the way they took me seriously this time). Too little, it seems, to warrant a call to a friend, but too big to keep all to myself. Who will see in all these stories that small shoot in me that sprouted, that wasn't there just last week? Who will sit with me in the shadows of evening, candles lit against the dark, their whispers only of hope, of the thing that comes after night?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

running new orleans

One of my favorite ways to see new city is to run it. Running takes you further than walking does. The terrain gives you a feel for the city - how dirty or broken the sidewalks are, the hills or lack of them, the kinds of trees and flowers that grow there. I'm usually doing it when the sun's still rising, which means that streets aren't too crowded - and, just like with people, watching it wake up can tell you a lot about a place.

I got two morning runs in during a quick trip to New Orleans this week. New Orleans is a complex town, both rick in its celebration - food, partying, colors - and disturbing in its desperation - age, disrepair, neglect. I took some photos during my running tours, below. There's a lot that these photos don't capture - the French street names and how they were marked in tile letters on street corners; the strip clubs next to the coffee shops and breakfast joints; the faces of tired men walking to the bus stop for work; the blankets covering people who had slept on streets. But I think they show some of its beauty, some bestowed and other hard-won.

The first day, I found a bit of a path along the Mississippi, then ran through the French Quarter and a sketchy neighborhood, then back to Canal Street, a main thoroughfare (where I had plotted a coffee stop at the end of my run). The second day, I wanted to make it over to the Garden District. On my way, I found myself on Magazine Street (boutiques! cafes!) completely by accident, then saw a coffee shop I'd heard about. I might have had a donut and coffee in the middle of my run. It felt like the right thing to do in a place like New Orleans.

Day 1:

Morning, Mississppi!

Sky and water

French Quarter
Louis Armstrong Park
Day 2:
Sunrise over the Mississippi

Shops on Magazine Street
Lower Garden District (I think?)

Coffee stop!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

straighter legs and sustained postures of discomfort

My body doesn't do that. This is what I think when the instructor calls out my name after she says, "Legs straight!" One of mine is on the ground, the other I lift behind me, over and over. I am bent over, back parallel to the floor, arms holding the ballet bar.

My body feels like a bunch of leftover pieces slapped together. My knees ache, my hips are tight, my shoulders broad and arms gangly. My big eyes bulge out of my round face. I hide my long forehead with bangs. My legs, which are slightly different lengths, are always tight, so they never really straighten.

When I sit on the floor at the end of barre class and try to spread my legs to stretch, mine make a tight V while others stretch theirs into nearly a straight line. Others bend over and hug the floor. I hunch over to touch my toes. My hip sockets won't let my legs turn out any wider. I think someone used the wrong kind of glue when they put me together. My joints are stuck.

I wonder if this is something I can change. Can I make my hips more flexible? I google this with my niece and we practice poses named after animals: pigeon, frog, butterfly. All I can think is, I'm not an animal, and this doesn't feel good.

When the instructor comes around to help me with my legs, she pulls the lifted one so that my muscle contracts and my leg lengthens. Suddenly, it is even straighter. I think about how my body might slowly change if I can hold my leg this straight every time. I think about strength, I think about flexibility and bending and molding. I think about sustained postures of discomfort and how quickly I try to escape them. I think about being content with my body, fearfully and wonderfully made, yada yada yada. I think about the process of being made, how it is past present and future, it is how straight I hold my leg, the discomfort I can bear. How being made is still happening.