A post not about my childhood

Today it’s spring. There are little flowers everywhere, suddenly. The light is less hazy and stays for longer, the rain is warmer. I leave the window open when I sleep and I can hear birds in the morning, wind chimes, children shouting. Neighbors running their car engines. I go on long walks with my dog, to the park with the little daisies in the grass and the big doug-firs that almost, almost feel like the forest. Kinnikinnick stands with her face in the wind, eyes half-closed, and sniffs. And then she bolts across the grass, ears back, smooth like a little seal jumping in the waves. I call her and she makes a big arc, tiny feet flying so fast, and zooms back toward me, little fox-body flinging woodchips in its wake. So fast, she likes to think no dog could catch her.

I love my dog so much.

Yesterday morning I woke in the bright morning light to see that she had crawled up on the pillow and wedged her triangular snout against my cheek. Her clear brown eyes were so close to mine and I could smell her small dog breath. I fell back asleep and when I woke up she was still there, watching me. She is my best dog friend, my seven-pound luck-dragon.

We went and saw Derrick Jensen speak last night, Corinne and nik-nik and I. It was crowded and noisy and nik-nik was so good, sleeping on my lap or making friends with the strangers around us while Derrick Jensen talked. Derrick was wearing a sweater with a parrot on it that his mom had knit him and he explained mildly, in his Andy Warhol-like voice, that one way to stop the cycle of violence, as the potential victim of a rape, was to shoot the rapist in the head. He talked about the inevitable rise in violence against women that goes with the collapse of civil infrastructure. The collapse of civil infrastructure being, of course, imminent, he quoted a second-wave feminist in saying that women should “harden their hearts and learn to kill”. Then he talked about the Pink Saris of India, who travel the countryside looking for rapists, whom they beat.

Some people in the crowd were confounded by his talking, and at the end they asked stupid questions, like “but how do you justify fighting violence with violence” and “how do you know the difference between fine art and crafts.” I thought his talk was wonderful. I am no stranger to the fact that we live in an incredibly violent society, although if one is privileged enough, one can live in a way so as never to see the violence, in which case it is possible to pretend that the violence doesn’t even exist. And if there is no violence, then how can you justify self-defense against it? But there is so much violence. Violence against women, children, prisoners, laborers, forests, salmon and entire nation-states. All in our name, all of us complicit. And why does it make sense to fight violence with violence? Why does it make sense to shoot someone who is trying to rape you? Because right now, only two percent of rapists spend even a night in jail. And if rapists, lets say, risked getting shot, then far fewer rapes would happen.

It’s like the playground at school. If someone punches you, and you punch them back, they’ll back the fuck off. You don’t just let them punch you and punch you. Everyone knows that the adults aren’t going to do anything. You’ve got to show the bully that you’re not going to put up with their bullshit. You might lose recess privileges for a week, you might have to stand against the wall while everyone else plays four-square, but you know what, in the end, it’s worth it.

We are complicit in so much violence, and yet, as individuals, we are such cowards. And I can’t help but think that it’s because we are the bullies, and standing up against the violence would ultimately mean standing up against ourselves, against our way of life, against our manic consumer greed-fest, against our ignorance of physical reality and our deep, deep denial. We’ve got a white-knuckle grip on our privilege, and even though our way of life is destroying our water, air, planet, communities, and ultimately ourselves, we just can’t be talked into letting it go.

You can listen Derrick Jensen’s “Endgame” talk here-

Part one

and

Part two

light bulbs, chihuahuas, and writing about myself

My new apartment is two square rooms, a yellow kitchen counter, and the hum of the fridge. It is the click-click of the baseboard heaters and the cold blue light of the stark-white walls. I have not hung artwork yet. I just moved yesterday from a one-room cottage with a woodstove to this land of carpet, neighbors, and window blinds. But I had to share a kitchen when I lived in the cottage and I don’t want to share a kitchen anymore. I have some money and I want to live alone. I have never lived alone in Portland. I have lived alone in plastic, drafty yurts, I have lived alone in dark cabins made of logs. I have slept alone beneath mosquito netting in a camper van, I have lived alone in a two-person tent that I pitched, surreptitiously, in a patch of woods next to the highway, while I waited for salmon season to start. I have lived alone on the freight train, and always I have lived alone in the copse of trees on the outskirts of town, lying on my back on my foam sleeping pad, watching the birch leaves flip like coins in the wind. But I have not lived alone in Portland and now here I am, in the City, in my very own Apartment. I must be grown up, or I must be anti-social. I am highly efficient, or I am a capitalist tool, unwilling to do the work it takes to share space with others, and so ultimately responsible for the current breakdown of human community, and all of our resulting cultural alienation and existential despair.

In my apartment, now, there are No Distractions To Keep Me From Writing, and it is raining heavily, so even my dog needs nothing. She is a chihuahua, from the desert, and she does not like the rain. If I try and walk her when there is water falling from the sky she will turn, face home, and plant her feet. Sometimes if I stand motionless, the leash taught, and wait a long moment, her peanut brain will reset and she’ll forget why she’s pulling so hard. She’ll trot merrily for another half-block, before she remembers, again, that she doesn’t like the rain.

Today it is raining and dark, I am tired, and I do not know what I need. I am tired today of my small dinners, my cabbage-and-onion browned in a cast iron skillet, my half-a-lemon, my leftover-chicken. I am tired of reading periodicals and watching the rain in the courtyard. I am weary of the way I overthink my relationship with my dog, the way I look at her and try to puzzle out her emotions, the way I project my own negative feelings onto her (Kinnikinnick doesn’t love me, Kinnikinnick thinks that I am a failure) in a way that I do not do with any human relationship.

I am Tired, I have Fatigue, I cannot Concentrate, and so instead of working on my novel here I am, writing about myself, which is what I specialize in anyway, since it is what I have done the most.

Yesterday I was at Fred Meyer buying a can opener and I found myself lingering in the light bulb aisle, picking up the long fluorescent tubes that said things like “sunshine!” and “full spectrum”. I’ve thought, before, about buying a full-spectrum light box, in front of which I could sit, in the mornings, until I became energized. But full-spectrum light boxes are expensive, and what with my solo apartment in the city and all the money I’m spending on healthcare each month and how much Corinne and I like to eat at Chaba Thai, I wasn’t sure that I could afford it. Then, in Fred Meyer, I saw that you could buy the “full spectrum” tubes individually, and that they were the same price as any other florescent bulb. So theoretically I could just get a fixture and put one of these bulbs in it, and then I’d be all set to get jacked each morning on pseudo-sunlight and slowly turn my sad face upside down.

But then, I didn’t know if the ones at the hardware store were really the same as the ones in the light boxes, and I just looked on the internet and the light boxes were on sale, so I bought one.

We shall see, when it gets here, how it makes me feel. We shall see if it can replace the forest, if it can replace the drip of rain in the fir boughs, if it can replace the infinite peace that nature brings. If it can prop up my chi enough for me to write.

In the meantime, dear steadfast reader, I have a question for you- have you ever used a full-spectrum light box, and how did it make you feel. Was it as nice as cross-country skiing? Did it make you feel generous towards your chihuahua? Were you less prone to eat snack chips instead of meals? Did you feel like running in the rain?

 

comfort

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down. Simon Weil says simply, “Let us love the country of here below. It is real; it offers resistance to love.””

-Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Readers! I imagine you have almost all gone by now. I am working full time until september, I do not have time to write. It is kitchen work, which suits me. I chop alot of things. It’s in the woods. There is solitude, for better or worse. Summer has been slow coming, and that frustrates me. I’m afraid I’ll miss everything. I make minimum wage. I read stacks of books. I walk in the woods alot. Life does not seem hard or easy. This season is not for asking questions- it is for trading labor for capital, and for acceptance. I accept that I do not have time to write. I accept that capitalism exists. I accept it all. I accept I accept I accept.

d e e p t h o u g h t s i n b e a u t i f u l i d a h o

Rural Idaho is big, rural idaho is lonely. Being in rural idaho with one other person does not keep the loneliness away- it holds it back, for hours at a time, the way a campfire holds back the dark- but then, walking in the mountains, the feeling returns- and it is not even loneliness, really, but a feeling of inadequacy- a feeling that I do not even exist, a feeling that I am tethered to nothing, adrift, alone in space- it is a hunger for a validation that the universe can not, does not provide. And really, isn’t that the point? That no-one asks us to live and yet we do it anyway, that we wake each morning, determined, in spite of our stark solitude in this cold and endless universe, that we work towards some uncertain future, and we do it without thanks or encouragement. Making art, in particular, setting aside a month of time to just make art, seems to make one feel this way. You must come to terms, each day, when the stars pale and the sun rises, with the fact that you are small, so infinitesimally small as to be insignificant, and yet it is enormously important that you continue to exist. And it is the great joke of the universe that no-one can tell you why.

But! I am writing again, and it feels easy again, and such is the mystery of making art. And Idaho is beautiful, and here are the pictures to prove it. They are all of myself, Corinne, or Nature, because it is just the three of us out here, alone in the promised land.


the wildz

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the good life #1: gluten-free fried chicken

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corinne

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corinne outside the junkshop in town

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the good life #2: our breakfasts are even better than our dinners

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an abandoned farmhouse from 1911- newspaper and cloth insulation (photo by corinne)

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fancy wallpaper over log walls (photo by corinne)

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beautiful grass and sunshine. so beautiful! (photo by corinne)

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newspaper on the logs- good times stories, june 1911 (corinne’s photo)

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scrabble in the cave-cabin (it may look like my hands are moving fast, but I am actually the slowest scrabble player this side of the Columbia) (corinne took this photo)

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corinne in the cave cabin

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corinne and mighty-man, the resident pony

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corinne in our backyard

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corinne and Hallie, the sweetest pitbull in the world, cuddling in front of the woodstove

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the good life #3: these hotsprings are three miles from the house

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the good life #4: eating buffalo jerky in the hotsprings

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the good life #5: getting buff in the sunshine

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yours truly, having deep thoughts on a mountaintop

Fund-Raising!

Faithful Readers-

So I’ve been invited to do a writer’s residency in remote northern Idaho for the month of March, at some artists’ land where there are horses, and nice light-filled rooms in which to work, and dry steadfast weather, and solitude. I don’t have to pay a single cent for it, other than gas costs and food, and there will be infinity of hours in which to work, and zero distractions, and it will all be in the environment where I find it most easy to be productive- the lonely wildz. And there is so much work that I need to do- there are stories that need polishing, and stories that I have only just begun, and stories that are like little seeds in my brain, waiting for the right light and air in which to sprout. And Idaho would be like my greenhouse, my tray of starts on the bright window-sill, the long empty weeks my worm-filled compost.

If you are a writer or an artist, you know what an incredible opportunity this is. People work their asses off to get residencies like this one, and they are few and far between, and you usually have to have a pretty hefty resume in order to get one, and I have no resume, only unformed talent and a mountain of unpolished writing. So it is sort of a miracle that I got it at all, and I would be able to get so much work done there, and I might even leave with the beginning of something that could end up being something much larger. It really is a very rare opportunity, and I am extremely fortunate to have stumbled into it.

But! I can’t go. I can’t go because I am almost laughably underemployed here in Portland, with no savings, and while I was gone I would have no way to pay my rent and bills. There is just no way. It’s like a big joke, like the whole universe is laughing at me. I can try and will away the need for money, but it just doesn’t work. So I have been brainstorming ways to raise the funds, and I came up with the idea of doing a fundraiser on my blog. Because the Idaho residency is about writing, and developing my writing, and leaving with something larger than what I have now, which is a handful of polished stories and a blog. It’s about push-starting myself out of this creative routine that I am in and into the next thing, whatever that may be. It’s about the first day of the rest of my literary life. And who is more invested in that than my faithful and steadfast blog readers? My faithful readers who maybe want to see me go write for a solid month in the middle of nowhere, and are curious about what would come out of that?

So will you donate? I am trying to raise five hundred dollars, to pay my expenses while I’m gone. I will update you as fundz come in, and let you know when I have reached my goal. Make magic happen, on the internet! Put me in Idaho, in a ray of morning sunshine, with an unbroken block of time before me! Send me off with a sack of GF flour and ten pounds of kale! Lock the door and throw away the key! I will make the sentences 4 U!

Yours faithfully in syntax,
Carrot Quinn

SEND ME TO IDAHO!

Argiope aurantia vs. the giant who made civilization

I slept well last night. You are not going to believe this, but the weather has been warming and yellow garden spiders the size of my thumbnail have been making the trek through the wall between my shack and the garage and catapulting themselves, at one a.m., onto my bed near the wall. It’s happened twice. The first time it was a dull THUD, just after I had turned out the lights, as if a small rock had hit my pillow. Reaching out in the dark, I felt the big spider scurry over the back of my hand. Thinking it was a mouse, I yanked on the lamp-cord. It was a yellow garden spider, gentle and horrible, frozen in the light, terrified. I smashed it against the wall with my stiff dayplanner. I had unpleasant thoughts. I fell back asleep. A fluke! I told myself in the morning, over bacon. Never to happen again.

Then, the night before last, it happened again. Lights out, and THOCK! as a small object hit the wooden frame of my bed. NO, NO, NO, I thought to myself, and almost did not turn on the lamp. Almost rolled over and went back to sleep. almost. I sat up and turned on the light. There was another one, massive, trembling, immobilized in the bright lamplight. Gentle spider, I thought. Spinner of elaborate garden webs, catcher of dewdrops. Steadfast. What was she even doing in here? It was the female, large and decorated. The male is a ghost, existing only for mating, then dying. Their lives are in the garden- what were they doing in my shack? As I reached for my planner, a part of me remembered that I was the giant in the situation. I had created civilization, the combustion engine, synthetic fertilizer, iphones. She was only, maybe, looking for a warm place to lay her eggs. On a sort of expedition. Being brave. I smashed her with my planner. I turned the light back off, had horrible thoughts of yellow garden spiders jumping like lemmings from the upper part of the wall, falling in a cascade onto my face. What I deserved.

Last night I crawled into bed at midnight, somewhat anxious, with a borrowed copy of Chelsea Starr’s hurriedly photocopied zine, Long walks on the beach with Chelsea Starr. Chelsea Starr does not know it, but she is my favorite queer Portland writer. Maybe she reads this blog. Chelsea, you are my favorite queer Portland writer. Chelsea writes genuinely hilarious stories about her childhood of incredible poverty and neglect. Reading her stories is like reading about my own childhood, only somehow I have magically been given the ability to laugh at it. I do not know how she pulls this off, but it seems enormously important that she continues to do so.

I read Chelsea’s zine, and no spiders fell on my face. Life is good. I fell asleep.

Now, this morning, it is brightly sunny, like spring. I eat my breakfast on the back deck, sitting cross-legged on the wood. Eggs fried in bacon grease, Brussels sprouts fried in bacon grease, corn tortillas fried in bacon grease and bacon- friend in bacon grease. It is the same thing every day, with mustard greens or kale in the weeks that there is a frightful hike in the price of Brussels sprouts. I wonder if it is bad for me to eat so much bacon. I like to roll the egg and bacon up in the tortillas, and make a little taco. I like to eat the Brussels sprouts with my fingers. I have been having violent dreams. Is it because of all the bacon? Last night I dreamt that friends were trying to kill me, that my housemate shot me with an antique revolver. We were all wearing long slinky dresses with splits up to the knee. I woke up feeling as if I had missed something important, neglected something, forgotten something so crucial, like a child or a whole life. It felt as though, in the night, a part of me had left. Was it my old self, my old way of living, my old way of thinking about the world- was it this part of me, saying goodbye? Slipping out in the night? Did it happen when I half-woke to the sound of freight trains, the highline to Chicago, the 4am mail train? Was that the old me, leaving quietly, so as not to wake me? Scrawling a note on a piece of paper bag, leaving it on the nightstand while I slept? I love you, I miss you, I’m leaving, goodbye. Is that why I woke with such a sense of loss? Is this what happens when you decide, for the first time in your life, to go to college? After eight years of never being in one town for more than eight months at a stretch?

I do not know, but it fills me with melancholy, this bright morning. What happens to that other self? Where will she go? Will she be lonely? She will always be out there, in the fields, sleeping, alone. There is always someone, lonely. Running from nameless things. Looking. Attempting to transcend gravity.

And what about this new self? What am I, now? Boring? Uninspired? No! I will be prolific, I will grow all the things that one can grow will moving in time, but not in space- I will no longer spread myself so thin that I cease to exist entirely. Days and hours will stack up into something of worth, and every minute will add onto the one before it. This is what I want.

the curse

Once upon a time, in this life of some other, at some point, somewhere, I was unlucky enough to have a curse put on me. I don’t know what I did to deserve this curse but then, no-one deserves anything, and life exists within the context of two irreconcilable realities- the wonderful and miraculous and the terrible and cruel, and it is our failing as a species that a spectrum of this size does not fit neatly into our field of vision and so in many ways our reality is actually incomprehensible to us. But a curse! A curse fell like an apple from the terrible/cruel side of the tree and hit me on the head.

There are worse curses, but I cannot imagine what they might be. There are comparable curses, perhaps- the curse of the external processor- having to process all of one’s feelings and the complex minutia of day-to-day living with whoever might be in the room. The curse of the depressive- for those who have been stitched entirely from heavy, damp wool, and tossed into a world devoid of significance.

My curse was the curse of the cuddle insomniac.

I was given a curse wherein I would not be able to sleep when in bed with another person. I can sleep alone, yes, more often than not, and for this I am grateful, but with another person- it is as if their very existence is reason enough to be wakeful. My god, this person is living and breathing! Dear jesus, the miracle of life! How can I sleep when I am barely a foot away from the sprawling multitudes of heaven and earth, neatly encapsulated in this warm living skin? Oh, for the love of freckles! And so I lie wakeful, long after they have fallen asleep.

And then, in the morning, when the first birds sing, and a breeze blows the curtains, and my bed-mate barely stirs- Oh, what is this radiant heat? What sleeping hands are these, with their warm soft palms? These arms! So long and folded! I will wear them as a shawl, and it will be everything that sleep is not. Oh, but it hurts my neck to lie this way! Perhaps I will roll away, and sleep some more. Nevermind, I am awake!

And so it goes.

And then, of course, dear fate, the people I grow fond of are the ones who value sleeping with a lover more than almost nearly everything, and for sure it is for them one of the very topmost reasons for having a lover at all. Oh, and it pains them! I try to explain my curse, I paint elaborate pictures in the air of the trials and tribulations of my cuddle insomnia, of how it hurts me, of why I must sleep alone, many nights, if I wish to be productive or focused at all in my day-to-day life, if I do not wish to simply fall into a downward spiral of sleep deprivation, unmotivated anxiety, and exhaustion.

But they do not understand! They wring their hands. Why don’t I want to sleep with them at night, in their bed, with the gentle breeze in the curtains, and everything so pleasant? Why am I depriving them of this thing that is so meaningful and wonderful and beautiful and precious? Aren’t we going to have babies together someday? Aren’t we going to fuck on a bear rug? Aren’t we going to go to Haiti?

But yes! I exclaim. Lover! We are going to do all of these things. Only let me explain! But the words are like marbles and they fall all over the floor and jumble against each other and do nothing, and a small sliver of misunderstanding grows between us, a tiny elephant in the dim corner of the room. And I will starve the elephant! I will sleep over ever night until I am exhausted! I will forgo the sweet peace of my lonesome sleeps, in my big ship-bed, in order that the tiny elephant might starve. But the elephant does not starve! And my bad boundaries only make the misunderstanding stronger, and the elephant grows! So I will slay the elephant! But the elephant has become solid, as if made of hardwood. So I will burn the elephant! But the elephant does not burn, because it is a cursed elephant! So I will set out on an epic quest to find the answer to my curse. I will wear all my best wool and carry three months’ worth of sext-messages for sustenance, printed out on sheets of birch-bark, wrapped in a red hanky, tucked into my left back pocket. For company I will bring my new housemate’s old cat, who is black with yellow eyes, just like an animatronic TV cat from the nineties, and who yowls like a dog when you eat turkey sandwiches. I will leave in the spring, after the crocuses, but before the cherry blossoms. Am I getting the order confused? Betwixt the daffodils and the tulips? When the willow buds are prime for salve-making? That is when I will leave. I will build a raft from planks torn from the sides of condemned houses and float up the Willamette, towards the mercury-rich waters of the Columbia. Each day it will rain, but the rain will be warm, because it is spring, and this is how you tell spring from winter. I will light my raft with stolen beeswax tealights in clusters of mason jars, and every day I will write my intentions on pieces of birch-bark and burn them in the jars.

today I will see a heron.
today I will catch a fish, and deign not to eat it.
today I will leave text range.
today I will reach the ocean.

At the ocean the cat and I will be sucked out by the tides and we will float for weeks, on that pure big mass, in whatever direction it is that the currents pull us, perhaps into the north pacific gyre and the island of trash that lives there, where we might find objects with which to build a new life, or sodden textbooks that teach us celestial navigation, that we might escape. Eventually we’ll find our way to Siberia, the cat and I, grown very thin and weathered, and there on the wind-swept shores we’ll meet an old woman who lives in a hut built of smooth stones mortared together will moss, and she will take us in and feed us bone broth thick with caribou hairs and tallow. And I’ll sleep for forty days and nights on a shelf of rock laid over with skins, and the cat and I will have visions. And in our visions an endless night that is sort of like death will spread out in all directions for as far as we can see and we’ll wake startled, terrified, the crusts of tears on our cheeks and in the corners of our eyes. The woman will be rolling wicks of reindeer moss for her seal-oil lamps and she will look up at us, wise, and she will say

Sleep is not death, you know.

And I will be cured.

list

I have a list, taped to the wall next to my desk. I suppose I should blog, instead of doing any of the things on my list. Because all of those things represent someway I can climb out of this life I live in, this plane of existence I have grown weary of, that I have trampled with my footprints, that I have exhausted, that I have outgrown, staring out the window at the rain, staring out the window at the rain is all I have done, and still I have outgrown it. There are places to go! But at the end of the day, still, this blog is all I have. At the end of the day, this blog is what is familiar. At the end of the day, this is all I have to show for myself. And I am faithful to it. And I don’t want to lose any readers. So I write this blog, first, before anything else today.