Saturday, July 30, 2011

timing issues

I've been so inspired and motivated in the past few weeks to write some really profound and beautiful things about life and beauty and mercy and other various sundries that might make you sigh and think wistfully or nod your head or wonder aloud to your spousey-poo or roommate about the joys and delights of the blogsphere.

Problem is, I happen upon these ideas and moods-to-pen-the-ocean when my head is sinking gratefully into my pillow late at night, or when I'm in my car on the way to work (for this one, I could blame Bon Iver).

So instead of actually writing about these things, I'll just tell you that I'm thinking about these things, because at least, then, you'll know I've been thinking.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

to the young leaders at Utoeya

This seems silly to write in a way; as if there’s anything to be said; as if I could find words for the situation (after all, great sadness steals vocabulary). But there was a thought that struck me over and over as I read the news, and I think it warrants a mention.

Norway. Of course you know what I’m talking about. I have been trying to process the stories from the past few days and I keep coming up with blank spaces in my head as I stare at my keyboard, wondering if my fingers will find the words my brain can't. I simply don’t know what to do with this information. It is, in every way, tragic.

Specifically, I have been thinking about that island of young leaders and how their lives will be shaped by what happened. I have been thinking about the reasons they went to Utoeya in the first place, the reasons they are involved in politics and culture and the kinds of ideas they have to effect change as they go. I am thinking about them, and hoping these ideas and aspirations are not lost as they move forward. It sounds so cliche to say that these young people are the future but in this case, they actually are the future leaders of that country, and perhaps (likely) of a lot of other things as well.

To the young leaders at Utoeya: we still need you.

It is my hope and prayer that you will heal – and then, over time –  allow yourself to lead once more.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

deconstructing the myth: meaning

I’m not quite sure what to pin this on – pop culture, society, belief systems or good old fashioned overanalyzing – but there is something in me that always felt pressured to ascribe meaning to everything; and I do mean everything. Was I raised this way? Did the Bible tell me so? Have I watched too many movies? Hard to say.

I’m tempted to throw the rope around this pop-sage phrase: everything happens for a reason. But to press even further, that lasso could probably extend itself over traditional Evangelical indoctrination that everything happens because God either loves you or is disciplining you or has handed you over to Satan like a modern day Job. Run into an ex on a bad hair day? Miss your dream-college application deadline? Get sick? Or, did you win the lottery, lose the sinus infection, and marry up? Clearly, God and the Universe and all the Heavenly Host are trying to tell you something.

Here’s the problem with this theology (and though it isn’t entirely religious, I’m calling it theology anyway, for the simple reason that most people abide by this rule in some fashion…like theology): it leaves the interpretation of life’s events far too heavily in my own hands, and quite frankly, leads to bipolar and OCD-like tendencies in at least 98% of adults who abide by the rule* (*conjecture). Personally, I don’t want to live under the assumption that I can tell what God has up his sleeve, simply because today went really well or not and therefore I’m obviously in his favour or not. To un-relig this idea: maybe the Universe isn’t telling me anything. Maybe the Universe wants me to lighten up and stop asking the Universe so many near-sighted questions. Maybe instead of reading the events of today like a horoscope, I should just get some rest, drink lemonade on a porch somewhere, call my mom; tell her who I just ran into and why that’s so darn funny.


Do you want the truth? I don’t ascribe meaning to things anymore, and I haven’t for quite awhile now. The reason is this: according to that popular sage, God and the Universe are in on a Joke that seems to revolve around me. In fact, the more days I gather under my belt, the more I realize that they’re either laughing with snooty self-gratification at that poor little game piece named ashley, or, I’ve been completely misinformed. It took awhile to kick in, but eventually I stopped deciding to believe that I am a pawn in some cosmic game. Perhaps it was an act of self preservation and nothing more, but hey, it worked.

What I’ve discovered as a result of the string-cut is both freeing and unsettling. First, the freedom comes in the everyday, in the ability to just enjoy life, to laugh when things are funny or fucked up and then to move on like an adult. The unsettling bits come when that question still arises and I have no answer afterwards. ‘What does this mean?’ is now met with silence instead of practiced belief. Instead of basing my understanding of God on situational experience, I’m now forced to find a new way of seeing Him in my world, and I admit it’s not that easy.

But here’s the thing: I can’t go back. The days of interpreting the voice of God via the checklist of Must Haves are behind me (Dear Jesus: I believe you are bigger than my culture). I believe that life is just life; a series of good windows and solid walls in no particular order; a run of miscellaneous ups and downs. I have experienced 'love' from those whose only goal was to test me because they felt I didn't measure up, and I can tell you: that isn’t love. So when I think about life, this thinking begs the question: is God testing me, or has he simply given me the ability to learn? It must be concluded that if God is Love, and if love is truly not self seeking, then the latter is true: it is more important to focus on what I do with my days, than on what my days do to me.


i knew it.

"We Who Are Your Closest Friends"

by Phillip Lopate

we who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift

your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us

in announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves
but since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your
disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective

(from At the End of the Day. © Marsh Hawk Press, 2010)

Friday, July 22, 2011


When asked,

"Do you think all any of us really want,
deep down, is to be loved?"
famed author and storyteller Garrison Keillor responded:

"No, we want to be rich; to be admired;
to eat like a horse and be skinny as a snake;
to have small children
ask for our autographs; to be on terrific medications
that make us calm and witty and sexy; to
sing Irving Berlin and Gershwin and Porter at the Oak Room
and be described in the Times as 'luminous'.

But in the absence of all that,
it's enough to be loved."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

inaugural clientele, part two

Dear Anita,

What a fabulous imagination you must have; either that, or a fabulously imaginative life. Which is it?

I have begun to mentally process, and also visualize, the awe-inspiring idea you had for a commissioned drawing. As I am not one to understand sarcasm or its uses, I have taken you for rote. I will begin working on a picture of the multi-talented, multi-tasking mountain man as soon as I am able. Please do wait with baited breath until I have finished. I will let you know when I have finished.


the artist.

PS. Because you are my first commissioned piece, I will draw and then send this to you free of charge! Please note that any future commissionings will come at the steep price of one dollar. Per drawing. Unless all the drawings are all on one page, at which point I will still charge you just one dollar.


inaugural clientele

Dear Leah,

Thank you for your interest in my obviously beautiful artwork. Your (original!) prints of "poorly drawn bird", "poorly drawn horse", and "poorly drawn houseboat" have been sealed in an envelope and sent to you post-haste, in exchange for the dollar you promised was on its way.


the artist.

PS. Any one interested in a print will be sorely disappointed, as I forgot to photocopy the pictures before I sealed the envelope.


Friday, July 15, 2011

i seem to be missing my rabbit ears

I can’t tell if its apathy or hesitation on my part, but this blog is likely going to continue on its most recent streak of empty caloric value. “I just don’t feel like writing” said the incapable toddler. I don’t want to put life into words right now, I don’t want to mark these ideas in ink; I don’t want to advertise the increasingly shallowing depths of my psyche (you wouldn’t approve). I do, however, want to eat my body weight in pasta and bathe in music and doodle incoherently. Vis a vis, the following: Remarkable Drawings in a Three Piece Set, seen below. Pen on paper. For sale: $100 each, or 3 for a dollar.

A picture is normally worth a thousand words right? So, by combining the supposed-word-value of these three remarkable drawings, you’d get at least…10 words apiece if you tried really hard (words like “wow” and “augh! my eyes!”) – which would make for at least 30 words in total, which is kind of the same as a short love poem or a detailed ode to sock bunnies (max requirement for sock bunny odes: 30 words)...which kind of equals a blog post.

...I hope I have demonstrated to you, at least in part, why I am not writing anything down at the moment. With that, you may now stop your head from spinning and admire my beautiful artwork.


Thursday, July 7, 2011