Here’s a post that’s just flowers, because SPRING!
Here’s a post that’s just flowers, because SPRING!
Do you ever notice a particular line in a song that describes you exactly? Or you’re mindlessly listening to music when a lyric slaps you across the face with its poetry?
It happens to me all the time. I know I’ve written before about songs capturing the essence of “me” perfectly, but this post is about what I’ve started to do with those lines. It started at work — meaningless doodles scattered with jotted down song lyrics. Next thing I knew, a storm had erupted across the page, snippets caught in a hurricane.
I noticed a trend on Pinterest — or maybe it just seems like a trend because I’ve been pinning more and more about it — of hand-lettering. I love the idea of turning words into visual art, especially when the words themselves already provoke a visceral, art-like-response in me.
Now that we’ve moved and my student-husband has taken over the desk, I keep the scraps of paper tucked into my planner or a favorite book, waiting to surprise me when I open to the right page.
I am a rough draft of an unfinished story.
More scribbles and scratch-outs than fully formed pages.
Rearranged and torn in two,
Rewritten and crossed-out and written anew.
I am wrinkled nights and broken mornings,
Blackened fingers and crumpled words.
Half-thoughts and almost-ideas left for tomorrow.
I am a page, bleeding ink,
Splotched with tears and tea-stains.
Spiral bound with bent wires and torn covers.
Loved and hated, fiercely possessed and easily discarded.
I am guarded secrets and hushed truths,
Hidden beneath layers of fiction.
I gather dust on the bottom shelf of an over-stuffed bookcase,
I am a burst of inspiration,
A frenzy of black and white smudged with gray fingerprints.
I am midnight mac-n-cheese and ice cream for breakfast.
I am candle smoke and flickering flame.
I am the cramps in fingers
Squeezed too long around an unforgiving pen.
I am every ache along every vertebra of a bent body.
I am drooping eyelids and lengthening shadows.
I am hope—caffeine-fueled and desperate.
I am defeat—emptiness and melting pillows.
Scalding showers washing sobs and ideas down a drain already clogged with shattered dreams.
I am pride and I am shame.
I am everything that could be and nothing that ever was.
I am a half-formed story, waiting for someday.
Today marks one month since we arrived in Saint Louis, and in its honor (and because I have nothing clever to say), I will share some of my journal entries from the past four weeks.
Here are the highlights:
Thoughts and memories from the second half of the drive (Columbus, OH to Saint Louis, MO):
Now we’re watching the first Harry Potter movie on the little TV I brought in my car — OMG I just found out my husband has never seen the end of the series and didn’t know (*SPOILERS*) Harry had to die. WHO DID I MARRY!?
It still doesn’t feel real, but as we get more unpacked and start exploring the neighborhood, I’m sure it will settle in.
My husband just informed me the pill bugs we found yesterday got squished into the bottom of our air mattress and won’t come off — gross, but hilarious!
Some bee-otch was moving out this morning and booked the loading dock from 8-10 but her movers were late and they were supposed to pack her up, too, and they were all “do you mind waiting?” and we had to be like LOL NO.
Tonight we had amazing Mexican at El Burro Loco and met the bartender Juan who recommended a strong Chupa Cabra Marg for me and promised I’d like it without even knowing me, but guess what: I did, so good job, Juan. — Love, me & tequila
This morning we got coffee from Soulard Coffee Garden. The back patio was very cute and their sit-down breakfast options looked good. We just got coffee/tea and a muffin — and the coffee guy was pretty douchey.
Since our dishwasher is still messed up, we’ve developed this adorable habit of washing and drying dishes by hand each night and even though there’s a drying mat if I take too long to grab a towel and start drying my husband chides me like, “excuse me, young lady, what do you think you’re doing?”
This morning we tried out Rise coffee shop in Tower Grove. We drove past one boarded building and two with graffiti so my husband was convinced we’d entered the heart of the ghetto. But the Tower Grove strip was nice — super hipster. It reminded me a lot of DC. We also checked out the Galleria so my husband could find some business casual pants — which he ended up ordering online. Typical millennial, destroying the department store industry.
For the fourth night in a row, I’ve asked if he wants to document anything. For the fourth time, he’s simply said “no.” with an angelic smile.
**UPDATE: So I found out that there is a neighborhood called The Grove, and one called Tower Grove, and contrary to my belief (and in my defense, the belief of our waitress who was there when we found out), they are NOT the same place. Rise coffee shop is in THE Grove. Not to be confused with Tower Grove, which is more residential, and has a rather lovely park.
For dinner we went to Dressel’s Pub near us. My husband had the “best burger he’s had in five years” (or so he told his dad) and I had some freaking excellent crawfish mac n cheese.
My husband’s (FIRST) input:
The nice thing about living somewhere else is it forces you to reach out to people you wouldn’t otherwise.
And he likes his friend’s neighborhood in U-City.
My husband shaved his beard for picture day yesterday (frowny face). It won’t be so scratchy when I kiss him, but I really like him with a beard. Fortunately, he does, too, and will likely grow one again once “meet the firms” is over in September.
(Update): On our way to a river boat cruise with his MBA class, he and four of his buddies agreed to grow mustaches this november. NOT what I’d hope for his facial hair…
Last night’s river boat cruise was a lot of fun. It was cool being at the base of the arch, even if the river front is nothing special — very industrial. Still, coming back toward the dock after sunset, with the cool river breeze teasing the hair around my face, the city lights twinkling off the water and the shadowed arch looming overhead, it felt like one of those rare, fleeting moments of 100% perfection. A tiny sliver of pure contentment when you’re just happy to be alive.
After the cruise we went out in Ballpark Village, which was basically like a mall but with bars instead of stores. Expensive, though, so we left and went to Tin Roof. It was so fun, dancing with everyone. A lot of the guys had moves so similar to my wildcards I couldn’t stop laughing.
Tonight, my husband had to remind ME about Game of Thrones! I keep forgetting it’s an hour earlier here and almost missed getting to sing along with the opening.
Earlier in the day, we finally walked through our side of Forest Park. There are some very pretty bridges — one a Victorian footbridge from the 1890s — and decent water features. Still, it’s very shadowed/treed in the direction we walked, so I’ll likely not go that way alone. But it’s nice that we have such pretty walking/jogging paths literally right outside our door.
How is it that a song can so perfectly capture a complete stranger’s heart? Phantoms drift through a soul, nameless but achingly present, without words to explain the ache or hope or love burning holes through a chest. Then a song will come on and suddenly it all makes sense. Every single lyric is a word plucked from within my heart, every description a tale of my own life.
Lyrics put words to the feelings inside, and the melody spells out in the clearest language the nuances of those feelings, of aches and dreams and faith and fear.
Avalanche by Amasic (originally by Bring Me The Horizon) kills me softly every time. It’s like all of my neurosis and darker days are spelled out in the straightforward yet anguished strums of the guitar.
If I want to dwell on the tragic beauty of the human condition, I can dive into We Fall Apart by We As Human. If I’m in the mood for a darker reflection, I’ll turn to the haunting and desperate Still Alive by Breaking Through.
Nothing reminds me of joy and hope and sunshine like Suburban Legends’ Bright Spring Morning. This song is fun and adventure and a reminder that I can roll down my windows, crank up the radio, and fly away.
I’m not very picky in my music tastes. I’ll listen to anything as long as it moves me in some way — even if just with a really catchy beat. Music infects every part of my life. There’s almost always some song playing on repeat in the back of my mind. If my playlist won’t load, I’ll have an extremely hard time at the gym or driving anywhere. It isn’t a road trip until I’ve rapped along to Forgot About Dre, it isn’t a party until someone starts belting out Don’t Stop Believing, and it isn’t a good writing day unless I’ve started with Waiting in the Moment. I think better with music playing, I write better to a soundtrack, cooking, cleaning, anything is better against a backdrop of tunes.
What about you? Share some of your favorite songs in the comments — I’d love to check them out!
Some people — my husband among them — turn to art for an escape. They like light-hearted movies, happily ever afters, comical adventures, feel-good music. Life is hard enough and sad enough and real enough that they look for leisure activities that distract from reality.
For me, the best art makes me feel everything. Happiness, joy, hope — but also devastation, loss, fear, rage. Is it strange that I feel most alive when I’m drowning in a good book or being ravaged by good music?
The first time I saw Titanic (at like twelve years old), I wandered around the house, limp and weepy, for days. My parents said that was why I shouldn’t have watched it — I was too young, I couldn’t handle the tragedy. They didn’t understand I was celebrating it. It was the first time my heart had been trampled by a fiction-wrapped truth, and I knew I would never be able to experience true art any other way.
I want my heart clawed from my chest, dragged over broken bottles and ruptured sidewalks, then buried under hot coals before it’s returned to me, encased in scar tissue but beating ever stronger because it has felt what it is to live. Life is the pain as much as it is the triumph. It’s the breaking as well as the growing. The terror and the joy and I want it all.
Maybe it’s (weirdly, inexplicably) safer to feel over art. In life, we have to express a certain measure of toughness. Can’t let them see me cry, can’t scream, can’t swear or rage or beat someone with a baseball bat. But in art, we can. Listening to the right song at the gym gets us running faster, shadow-boxing harder. If I come home with tears on my cheeks, it’s more acceptable to say “a song hit me really hard” than it is to admit “someone honked at me at the end of a long, boring day and it made me cry.”
So maybe art gives us all a safe haven. An excuse to delve beyond the surface, or a chance to hide beneath a blanket of distractions. Maybe for some, it’s enough to pick and choose the happy.
For me, I need it all.
So my husband and I were in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving, and there was no way I was going to be just outside of San Francisco and not visit Alcatraz. I’ve always been a big fan of historical tours, fascinated by criminals like Al Capone, and hated ferry rides. That last one doesn’t really fit, but the sentence needed a third thing and it’s the truth. Damn you, Block Island Ferry!
I also have a weird obsession with touching history. Those home tours with the ropes and signs that are all “Do Not Touch” are the literal worst (and I do what I want and touch stuff anyway). Before anyone freaks out too much, I mostly just touch parts of doors/walls/window frames that probably haven’t been touched by anyone since the historical figure who once resided in said home.
At Alcatraz, you can go inside cells and rooms and run your fingers over everything. Actual conversation between my husband and me afterwards:
Me: “I just love going in historical places that let you touch everything!”
Him: “I know. You should wash your hands.”
Me: “I might have picked up Al Capone’s syphilis and you don’t just WASH THAT TYPE OF HISTORY AWAY!”
He was not impressed.
He gets impressed by things like great views, which luckily, Alcatraz has. This place has everything: history, views, possibly syphilis…you know, fun for the whole family.
We learned that while there were three break-outs, no one ever successfully fully escaped from Alcatraz. They ended up immediately re-imprisoned or dead (though I suppose one might argue death is the ultimate escape… #philosophy).
Alcatraz Island was also a home for the Indians of All Tribes — a group of Native Americans who occupied the rock during the early 70s in an attempt to claim it as their own land. Fun fact: all federal lands that are retired/abandoned/out-of-use are supposed to be returned to the Native Americans it was taken from. The Occupation of Alcatraz didn’t end well, but it did positively affect federal Indian policy so it’s considered a win in the longterm.
There are really spectacular grounds, too, which are open to the public in the winter – when it’s less wet, I guess. I wasn’t really paying attention to the why it was open for us…
And those views. If nothing else, a trip to Alcatraz is worth it for the views. I’m sure it was a glorious sort of torture for the inmates who had cells with window-views of the city. The prisoners could even hear laughter from parties in San Francisco.
Alcatraz is the most popular tourist destination in the United States, seventh most visited in the entire world. This might turn some people off to a visit. I get it. I hate crowds, being stereotypically “touristy”, and ferries.
This. Is. Worth it. I promise. Once you’re off the crowded ferry (you can huddle outside to see the views while avoiding the worst crush of people — it’s really windy and pretty frigid so bundle up if you so choose), the island is pretty large and you can kind of wander at your leisure. The audio tour means people lump around the halls, but if you don’t like crowds, come on, you know how to navigate around the oblivious masses. You’ll be fine.
Or skip the tour (but if you like touching history, don’t skip it) and just go look at San Francisco from a unique vantage point. It’s seriously all winning. Even the ferry ride is only 15 non-horrific minutes.