Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

Archive for the 'nature' Category

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Ugh, moving.  Always such a joy, especially for a disorganized magpie.

However, the last few mornings when I’ve woken up, grabbed my coffee, a smoke and the dogs to sit out on the porch as I do, I have been able to remind myself that very soon, my view will not involve asphalt, speeding cars and a ton of parked cars, loud sirens and garbage cans.  After the age of six, and up until now, this has been what I have seen every morning of my life, excepting the times I was able to go camp or otherwise escape to greener pastures very temporarily. That’s 34 years of urban life, my friends, which feels longer every day, especially the more urban starts to involve a lot of drywall and shiny-plastic-business and look more and more suburban in a lot of ways.

The knowledge that in a week I will wake up, go outside and see only forest sans asphalt, maybe a speeding chipmunk or two or a parked deer, or hear a bunch of loud frogs (the area of the island we’re living in apparently is chock full of frogs for a month or two every year) is DIVINE.

My coziest coffeeshop here in my current hood, where people were earnestly friendly, closed a couple months ago (RIP Mr. Spots Chai House).  The folks at the closest one to our new place, what’ll be about a 4-mile bike ride, which works just fine for me, already greet us warmly, even though we have only been in there a few times.  It’s also NOT across from a monstrously-sized condo development.  We already know our neighbor, and she’s friendly and hilarious and did this crazy thing where she said hello and talked to us, something the vast majority of my neighbors here, where I have lived for four years, have yet to do, even when I say hello first.  Half the time, given the reaction I get, you’d think I’d said “Fuck you, poopyhead,” instead of “Good morning!”

I’m looking forward to what I also hope will be the stretchier way time moves when you’re out in the mostly-middle-of-nowhere.  I just have had so little time for myself lately that wasn’t about work, and only work-work, not my creative work.  It’s also been so hard to keep up with calls and letters to friends over the last year, which I hate. I want some of that other time back, please.  I’ve also physically and psychologically felt very detached from the rhythms and flow of the seasons and the outdoors lately, which always puts me out-of-sorts.  Want that closer relationship back, too.

That all said, it is weird to be leaving this house and this city at the same time.  I’ve never lived in a city where I only lived in one place in it, for starters.  Even in only six years in Minneapolis, I lived in four different places. I also worry for this old place, clearly struggling to keep itself together with little help.  Vainly, I’m hoping the new folks keep a lot of the things I did to make it lovely intact, like the hand-painted wallpaper I did in two of the rooms and the bursting meadow our front. Of course, I have to let go of any attachment to that.  But still.

I’ve also had some moments of panic realizing that I have never moved where there is a boat involved. What if the ferry with our moving truck on it sinks, taking my piano, my photographs and all of my material life with it? It’s a silly worry, I know, but every now and then I get this vision of the next-to-last scene from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou in my head and cannot get it out.  Now that I think of it, it’s an especially silly worry since both sides of my family came over here on big ferry boats, too, even though they came from islands (or almost-island: the Italian side were living in Venice when they emigrated, so) TO a mainland, instead of the opposite way around. Maybe I just need to think of myself as following a family tradition, which could be good since most of our family traditions are not at all pleasant and should be avoided at all costs.

Between packing, moving and unpacking, possible hiccups in getting everything set up and connected, and the strong desire to just settle into the hammock once we get there and never come out, I anticipate a silence from me for the next couple of weeks.

Thanks to everyone who gave me some tips on professional no-saying, by the way.  Very much appreciated and highly helpful!  Also, if you haven’t seen them via my Flickr feed already, there are some pics up of the new place to peek at here.

Bon voyage to me!

Friday, April 24th, 2009

it said it saw itself as a very tall tree, and so I saw it that way, too.

After the weekend before last, I feel very, very clear on the fact that life on the island would fit my wants and needs very nicely.  I’ve known for a long time that I wanted, at some point in my life, to live more quietly, more rural,  I just thought it was going to be a bit more down the road than this.  But I think the only reason I thought that was that I didn’t see it as feasible any earlier.  It is, in fact, feasible sooner, as feasible as living exactly where I am is.  In some ways, it may be even more so.

The whole weekend, I kept doing that thing one does in a heavenly place, where you say to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could live here?”  Usually, when I’m somewhere where I say that to myself, it’s a pipe dream.  In this case, every time I thought that, I’d then remember that I CAN live there.  The rents and expenses are really no better or worse than they are in the city, everything I have here on the mainland I could have on that island, and getting to the city from Bainbridge (there are other islands, but this would be the most convenient for me) is exceptionally easy and highly pleasant.  I know locals here kvetch about the ferries a lot, but having grown up with subways and inner-city buses, I tend to find them a far more pleasant means of transportation than what I usually ride on.  I wouldn’t have to take the ferry much anyway, as I really only need to be in the city for outreach/clinic work two times a week at a maximum.  And two of our clinic staff live on the island, so carpooling is also an option.

I just felt better there, separate from the fact that I was also there visiting with Blue, who I hadn’t seen in five weeks.  I breathed more deeply, my skin looked immediately better.  I could walk out on the porch in the morning stark naked without anyone’s notice or care and take a soak; have my first sip of coffee with the moist breeze on my skin.  The quiet both soothed and inspired, and the company of trees, ferns, birds and water felt more like me these days than the company of tall buildings, construction detritus, bar mania and a ton of people everywhere I turn.  The rhythm of the day there fit my own so well, sending me to sleep early and rousing me to wake before the sun came up.  Doing the dishes by hand felt better than loading them into a machine: doing simple things and doing them more simply is so grounding for me.  Taking a long hike on the dirt felt better than a walk on the pavement.  The people were warmer, everything was smaller; more intimate, yet more private all at once.  My head felt more clear, my heart more at rest, to the point that I could put most thoughts of work away save flashes of inspiration.

I felt much more like island people than mainland people.  I felt much more at home. I felt much more like myself, much more like I fit, than I have felt in Seattle.

While I was there, I started to do some planning.  Ultimately, if I could sell another book in the next six months, I could handle the financial aspects of this move with incredible ease.   It’d be doable without that, but that would make it nearly a cash cakewalk. I will need to find myself some kind of reliable junker to drive, which means a) getting a new license (I let my old one expire ten years ago, having no need of it), and b) purchasing said vehicle.  I may also need to consider finding a roomie, but I may not: it really depends on what I can find to rent for myself or not.  In a lot of ways, I’ve felt so alone in my own home over the past couple of years, as well as in this city, that literally being alone, not just feeling alone, seems very important and like the right thing for me.

I do think that as much as I have always loved the solitude of being in more isolated spaces, and as much as I need to be alone in the near future, it will probably take some adjusting on my end to be out there alone.  But I realized there is a very easy and fantastic solution to that matter, which is simply calling and emailing some of the people in the world I love and miss the most and inviting them to come stay somewhere beautiful with me for a week or two during the first few months after I move.

Briana is going to come up here to visit in June or July, and wants to come see the island with me, too. (Mya is coming around then, too, maybe I’ll drag her over for a day, as well.)  I’d love more than anything for she and The Baby Liam (who isn’t a baby anymore, but I plan to call him that well into his adulthood, in alignment with my job as his obnoxious auntie) to be close to me, even to live with me, but given custody arrangements with his father, that may or may not be an option.   But it’s likely also possible for the two of them to be on one of those visits when I love, regardless.  I can also ask Becca, Elise, Christa, Mark, Mya, Heath, Fish, my mother, my father…any number of people who I’d love visits with anyway.  I think it’s a workable plan.

I don’t know when it will happen, but I’m thinking fall or winter.  Like I said before, one of the toughest parts of this is that my moving out of the city at all also equals my moving out from my living arrangement with Mark, and even thinking about that is so very hard and makes me feel tremendously sad. It’s probably right for us, regardless, to start moving towards not living together,  but that doesn’t make it easy, and it’s something very heavy in the lightness of my feelings about being somewhere else where I think I will be happy as far as my location goes.

And as I’m talking about somewhere else, I’m packing to go somewhere else yet again. After a week from hell where I have had to be on way, way too much, I’m heading back to Chicago for a week to visit family, get some grant work started, to spend a few days with Fish (who moved from here to there a few months ago, go figure) and to see Blue.  AND, perhaps coolest of all, to have a 5th grade slumber party reunion with two of my other closest friends as a child who I haven’t seen in decades.  I don’t know if there’s much cooler than that.

What I do know is that I’m wiped and need a soft, warm bed.  And that the idea of having it somewhere as lovely as the islands is a marvelous — and attainable! — daydream.

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007


And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations (Revelation 17:4)

Maybe it’s just me, but filth and abonimations, being drunk on the blood of saints and martyrs and riding around on seven-headed beasts has always sounded like a damn good time.

My maternal grandmother was a big fan of religious shaming and of scaring her children, grandchildren, and anyone else within the sphere of her influence with Biblical nightmare tales. Having no reverence for the dead when they were awful alive, I’ll share that she was one of those people who was at mass three times a day primarily because she enabled her household to be so abusive that not only did she have lots of guilt to work out, my impression always was that mass provided a perfect excuse for her not to be there and to leave her children to take the worst of it. So, she got less of the nightmare AND approval at exempting herself from it. Bonus.

In any event, while there were plenty of familial scare tactics and terror that did work on me as a child, the morality tales about fallen women never had any effect on me. Quite the opposite: it always struck me that those terrible, sinful, rebellious women of the Bible we were supposed to avoid becoming were the ones to aspire to be.

I remember quite distinctly — which is likely part of why I still fixate on it in my collective imagination often enough, and lord knows I’m in good company in my fixation with this one: Durer, Swedenborg, Blake, Monty Python — having parts of Revelation read to me, and my grandmother doing her level best (to my ears anyway, but then much of my mother’s family was seriously creepy) to make the Scared Whore of Babylon sound as horrific and terrible as possible (no irony lost there, either, since she’s supposed to be Rome, and my half-Dego heritage disgusted my grandmother to no end). I came away from that with nothing more than the idea that this colorful Babylon chick clearly scared the hell out of whatever idiot guys wrote this stuff and people like my grandmother — go, her — and she sounded pretty fucking badass to me.

(And yes, these are my self-assigned Sacred Whore of Babylon tulips, which I care for by lovingly fertilizing them with the blood of saints and martyrs, and the ash of empires crushed cruelly underfoot. I got the bulbs a couple of months ago, thrilled to bits about the crazy mix of colors in there, and how dangerous they looked, so I was elated when they finally started opening this week. There’s some black columbine starting to come in behind them, next to the bleeding hearts also just budding, and the stinky voodoo lilies behind those, so my garden is becoming a wonderful den of unabashed floral terror and mayhem right now.)

I was reminded of this last night when Mark and I were cooking while listening to Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I still have a handful of vinyl of some value (the original Sargeant Pepper with the moustache inserts, for instance, and an early copy of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills), and the tri-fold Yellow Brick Road remains in my collection.

I loved the whole album growing up: all the young vocalists and pianists love Elton, after all, and it’s a helluva piece of work. But the inside of that album was so awesomely illustrated, so it was great to pour your eyes over while you sang along. In all of these illustrations are many, many pretty women: a gorgeous illustration of Marilyn, a rendering of the stylish Bennie, the vargas-style pinup of the Sweet Painted Lady and he sister who can’t twist with her shiny stockings, the delicate blond Alice (later on in my adolescence, I’d grow to hate “All the Young Girls Love Alice,” though — just hit too close to home, and it wasn’t at all cute to me at that point).

But I wasn’t drawn to those painted ladies: instead, the woman in the illustration for “Dirty Little Girl” (which ultimately is a serious piece of misogyny set to music, but I didn’t get that then) was the one that got my attention. The song was critical as shit of her (”you have to clean the oyster to find the pearl,” is one of few nasty gems in there), and I think the illustration was supposed to make the viewer disgusted. But to my girlhood eyes, she was the only woman in the bunch who looked relaxed and fun, who looked like she could have given a shit what Elton John or anyone else had to say about her. Her rollers were falling out, her hair was all over the place, she wasn’t wearing a bra; she clearly was dirty and had a big ol’ loud mouth, and she topped it off with a smoke dripping ashes all over the album cover.



And so, of course, I adored her.

Whether it’s about my own self-image or about how I look at others, I love a woman undone who looks like she hasn’t taken a shower in a week and just got back from camping. I love people-stink (I confess to even being an enthusiastic armpit-sniffer, and I’d totally pick off gnits from someone’s back and eat them if we hadn’t since evolved past that and gnits were available), I love the mud and ash, I love a big, giant, uncaring mess of a person. In terms of myself, the more “done” I am, the less human, the less sexy, the less female, the less grounded and real I feel. I never feel as much myself as I do when I’m coated in sweat and dirt, when the most I’ve done in a day is scrape the grime off my teeth and maybe have a nice, hot facewash before I shove something in my hair to get it outta my face, or better still, when it’s gotten so ratty from days of being ignored that I can just knot it up with itself and it stays in a messy, stupid-looking bunch. My queendom to have a head full of Medusa-snakes instead of hair.

What’s supposed to be or look gross, too overt, too overwhelming or just plain out there has always had the opposite effect on me. I was one of those kids every adult had a “Don’t TOUCH that! Don’t PUT that in your mouth! Get your finger OUT of your nose! Keep that icky thing OUT of the house! Oh GAWD, throw that AWAY!” on an endless loop about. What’s supposed to be filthy, abominable or nasty has always struck me as the good stuff: bring on the muck and the mire, literal and symbolic. It’s always seemed to me that if you’ve got to go seriously nuts trying to clean every inch of yourself up, all the filth underneath you’re clearly convinced is there and needs be complusively washed away is clearly wearing you anyway, so you may as well just put it the hell out there and wear it. Go dirty girls, go.

(You know, until just this minute, I was convinced this mini-ode came from a pretty elevated place, until I remembered that I really need to tidy the house today before Becca comes to visit, and now find myself wondering if some of this isn’t just about procrastination per housekeeping, which would be really pathetic.)


P.S. I solidified the first of my travel for the summer for book promotion and other nits, and will be in Minneapolis from Thursday morning (red-eye flights, barf) May 17th through Saturday afternoon, May 26th. As book promo dates come in, I’ll announce them here and on the Amazon page for the book, but I also will have some time for a couple of photo clients while I’m there for those interested.

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

I’m hoping to be able to make time tomorrow morning to be able to do some self-portrait work, so long as the old camera will be a dear and cooperate. (Can’t use the new camera for that, and besides, we seem really to not care for one another — it’s hopefully going back soon.) If I don’t get to it tomorrow, it won’t happen until after my Dad is gone.

I know it’s been a while. Primarily, that has to do with time and how much I’ve had to cram into a day, but it also has to do with interest. As longtime readers know, I tend to cycle between my arts, with one often crying out for attention over another: I have seasons of creativity that demand different media at different times.

Too, though, subjects here are few and far between, and I haven’t been all that interested in myself as subject lately, and without the real interest, there’s no real work.

But as winter is at its end, I want to capture my body in the state it’s in right now, because I know it is soon to pass. Due to both the winter months and to less activity during the winter than I’m used to, I put on a bit more winter weight than usual, to the degree that I even managed a teeny belly, which delights me. I can grow a lot of lush things on my body, but my midsection has always been the one area where weight just doesn’t tend to go: maybe I’m changing with age, who knows. But through my life, I have coveted other people’s bellies. Much to the chagrin of lovers of mine who don’t like bellies — or bellies on them — my hands always want to wander up and down a convex curve of someone who has a belly of substance. If allowed, I’d just run it back and forth like that for hours. Not sure what that’s all about, but there you go: I’m a belly admirer.

I’m also as pale as I get, which is to say pretty darn pale. While the Mediterranean genes keep me slightly olive beneath it all, during the winter months, my freckles become less and less distinguishable. So, between the paleness and the extra-cushy stuff, there’s something about my body during the season of dark and cold that I cherish in its difference. It reminds me of the passage in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek where Annie Dillard talks about the vulnerability of vertabrates: there is something both more transparaent and injurable and yet more insulated about bodies during the winter.

This is sensible, of course. We stay indoors far more often, and when we go out, we drape ourselves in layers that our own skin doesn’t provide. We are inwardly quieted and more slow. We are more sedentary, more solitary, we need to create more warmth in our own skin, and so, like any other mammal during cold times, we pad ourselves. When we’re not smart enough to do it ourselves, our own biology and the patterns of nature do some of the job for us.

It’s vexing to me how much to-do is made of winter weight and color and what is apparently a very dire need to change it as soon as is humanly possible. Of course, as the days lengthen, as light increases, as we become more active again — effectively, as we come out of hibernation — and we feel better, more energized, more vital. Again, even when we don’t pursue it intentionally, it’s the rhythm of nature and its effect on us: how intense the differences are between the seasons of the earth and our bodies and minds are clearly effected by our behaviours, but the changes would exist no matter what.

* * *

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately on some ideas I first started exploring in college, and which were going to be my primary focus of study until that crafty William Blake seduced me into a slightly different direction. Essentially, I’m coming to some conclusions regarding sexuality and body image in that the more divorced people become from nature and the most simple aspects of daily life — and I’m thinking this is particularly true for women — the more divorced we become from truly being in our bodies, and being in harmony with our bodies and our sexuality.

Working with teen and young adults, especially a generation in the western world who is the most divorced from nature in our history, these ideas have been coming to the forefront for me again. Trying to explain that a winter body exists because winter exists, and that it is only sensible and sound to honor and appreciate it for what it is, just as we do any season itself is likely to fall on deaf ears, even among many members of my own generation.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to talk about the body as something which — bearing in mind of the greatest influence of our genetics — takes the form and shape of what it is used for. If we engage in sports, what sports we choose to engage in will determine where our muscle most develops. The simplest explanation would be to talk about how easy it can be to recognize one kind of manual laborer from another just by the shape of their bodies, but to middle-class kids where many of them have never even walked to school one, where a majority of them don’t even know a single manual laborer, and may never do any themselves, this is obviously a lost cause, too.

Same goes for trying to work with some of them having real disconnects with their body and their sexuality in terms of exploring what is sensual, as in, of the senses. They rarely cook, and when they do, it’s rarely with fresh foods (much less food they’ve grown) or fire; even then it’s more about product than process — rushed, rather than savored. Many of them don’t even know what the whole of their bodies smell or look like without every product on them known to man, what it feels like to wind up totally covered in mud and dry in the sun, or to bathe in river or lake water for a week. The bleached-out world so much of middle America is woefully lacks a lot of opportunities for exploring the senses and what is natural. I can tell a teenager that the scents of their bodies are normal and just as they’re meant to be, but when the whole of their world is deoderized, sanitized, homogenized, and the only natural scent they might ever smell is their genitals, it’s going to stand out and seem foreign, rather than naturally blend in and feel natural. More than once the suggestion to some having a particularly tough time connecting with their own bodies to look into massage, dance or other bodywork, even to just start taking walks out of doors more often pretty clearly gets me dismissed as a crunchy old hippie. (Go figure: with the ones that DO get out and hike, like to camp or dance, cook because they’re vegetarian and family food won’t work, the body image and sexuality problems don’t seem so pervasive or intense.) There’s a section of the book where I work to get them to redfine “sexy” more holistically, with more emphasis on all their senses, and who knows if it’ll catch.

So much of this shift away from nature is thought to be a luxury; a privilege, and one given as a gift by the generation before to them. So many of them are expressly reared to drive, not walk; to nuke something frozen rather than cook; to take a pill rather than try and heal other ways; to spend lesuire time seated rather than in motion (and to HAVE so much leisure time in the first place); to hide or remove what is natural rather than to cultivate harmony with their nature and nature-at-large. The more time that passes, the more I observe things through this lens, I’m seeing less of a gift and more of a curse, especially the more and more extended childhood — or rather, dependency — is in our culture, and it is a curse not just upon people, but obviously, one on the planet itself.

And with that, I’ve got to tear myself away. There are so many branching-off points from here, but I’m about to miss my own evening walk I had set aside time for and very much need today. Mark and I are meeting for dinner in an hourish, but I’d hoped to be able to catch a solitary, moist, dusk-time stroll through the neighborhood before then.

How cool is it when you must force yourself away from work to something far more pleasant in order to practice what you preach?