February can be hard

The only time I want to write these days is at one a.m. when I go to bed. I don’t, of course, I lay there with my eyes shut and write letters in my head to friends who like that sort of thing- real wooden letters, in my head. The rhythm of my own sentences lulls me to sleep, and in the morning they are evaporated, gone, and life is a dry socket packed with gauze, and nothing has any music, and there are no babbling brooks of poetry coming down from the very sky itself, rising off of everything like steam.

I guess I am uninspired.

February can be hard.

Last night with my eyes closed I wrote a letter about The Bear, a knitted bear that a friend in Alaska made for me. The Bear has a creation myth, like any good thing, and in my head I wrote a story about that, and took pictures, and imagined how the pictures would go with the story. But I didn’t write it down (I was slowly falling asleep, instead, in my dark and breezy room, with the window open and the sounds of the highway coming in) and it’s gone, gone, gone.

I think I need nature.

So yesterday I didn’t write, I went to Forest Park, at last, I’d been meaning to, but it’s (seemingly) hundreds of miles from my house and I already travel that far to go to where I write so I can’t usually do them both in one day and I had been writing nearly every day and there you have it. But yesterday I planned to not write, instead of trying to write and failing, and so I went to forest park instead, to my favorite entrance, up, up, up the hill, past the mossy million-dollar homes in their moldering cedar-shade and bright purple trim and woodchip mulch, up and up and up until the NW industrial area stretched below me on the banks of the river, the white rooftops shining gold, and I said, Ah, the sun is setting, I am usually watching it set from the other bank- from the park with the apple tree that looks out over the trainyard- but now I am seeing it set from the other side- I am behind the setting sun. And I walked on, and the small narrow path wound through the shaking, standing trees and then I could not see the river anymore, I could only see the tall stalks of the forest, and here and there were dry and shadowed clearings and the leaf littler breathed up at me and the flashing clouds made negative space between the trunks and I cut off into the underbrush, Oregon grape pricking the palms of my hands, until I came upon a gently sloping ridge that looked out over the ravine and I could hear the traffic again, off in the distance, and I took off my backpack and put on my hat and I lay down and the forest cradled me.

I pretended to meditate. I don’t know how to meditate, but I pretended to. I got up to pee, I drank some water, I read my library book with its thick heavy cover. Soon it was five o’clock and the sun was still up. When did this happen? I thought. Spring is coming for sure. I put down my book, not sure what to think about. When there is no writing to do (because sometimes I do not want to) I come unstuck, unsure of who I am or what it is I should be doing. I thought about fashion for a moment, about a picture I’d seen in a magazine of a crew-neck sweatshirt (remember those?) with the sleeves cut short like a T-shirt. I wondered if I wanted one. I thought about going to goodwill. I thought about vintage eyeglass frames, where I would find them. I thought about money, too, where I would find that, but decided not to worry. Nothing bad has happened yet, and I doubt that it will. I thought about the Susan Sontag novel I am reading, in fits and starts, for its lyrical narrative style, of which I am a fan. I thought of writers who slave away to make their stories like TV shows, or movies, one scene fading into another, lots of stage directions, a hand on a knee and everyone is always pushing a lock of hair out of someone else’s face, and how I didn’t want to write like that, and then I was thankful, once again, that I didn’t go to college for writing, because it is my suspicion that that is what they teach you to do. I thought, too, about spring- and how I am afraid of it. I am always on the tip of everything, one foot out the door, my brain set on a three-month timer, like I live my life in shifts. It makes me practically unhireable, here in the land of no-jobs, where the health-food store gets a thousand resumes a day, and everyone is forever looking for a reason to say No. And I have almost exclusively seasonal work on my resume, so No.

That’s not entirely true.

I had a job interview the other day. At a long wooden desk in a tall-windowed room, carafe of hot coffee and walls made of glass, corporate conference style, the three of us in tall leather chairs that dwarfed us, leaning back. My interviewers (there were two of them) asked me thirty minutes worth of questions that were meant to test my personality- Did I like to talk a lot, was I interested in other peoples’ problems, did I think that people were annoying, did I get nervous in crowds. Also a trick question- what was more important- customer service or a quality product? The answer was BOTH, of course, but I didn’t know that and the two eyed me intently as I fumbled through my answer and then they nodded at each other and agreed that although I hadn’t answered BOTH, they had liked my answer anyway. As a rule, I hate these sorts of tests, but the interviewers were nice about it, and chatted with me, and also I’d stopped Giving a Fuck if I ever got a job or not (which seemed irrational but actually, somehow, increased my chances of actually being hired) And also it was a nice day and I had ridden my bike. When it came down to the last question the woman interviewer said, very serious,

“Now I want you to just answer this last question without thinking. I want you to say the first thing that comes to your mind.”

“Ok,” I said.

She paused, for effect. “Are you a door or a window?”

“A window!” I cried. They nodded, looked at each other.

“Ok, why?” She asked.

WHY? WHY? What the fuck? How the fuck was I supposed to know why?

“Uh,” I stammered, “because a window has a view, and anything can happen, and a door doesn’t really symbolize anything to me? I mean, a door is just a door.” They were nodding, scribbling on their yellow pads.

As we were packing up our things, the man interviewer asked me-

“How do you feel about the colors pink, baby blue, yellow and lime green?”

I shrugged. “Sounds happy,” I said.

“Those will be the colors of the uniforms,” said the man. The interview was for a job at an icecream shop, scooping icecream for minimum wage. “And we’re going to put clever slogans on the back of the t-shirts,” he continued, “word-plays with the name of the icecream shop.”

“Uh huh.”

Apparently I slayed the dragon and get to go on to level Two of the obnoxious multi-tiered Corporate Job game, aka I have another interview next week with a higher-up manager, and then if THAT goes alright I get to meet with the CEO. As we were leaving the corporate board-room the woman interviewer nodded down at the blue star, half-hidden behind my calculator watch, and the spruce trunk that peeked from the left sleeve of my sweater.

“Better wear a shirt with cuffs next time,” She said. And then she smiled. “My rouge is tattooed on.”

“Oh,” I said. “Looks good.” And it did. I was being honest. She told me about the time she’d had surgery and while she was under her face had gone pale ghost-white, save for two streaks of red on her upper cheeks. Her surgeons had frowned, alarmed. Whatever was the matter? And why were her cheeks still red? They’d all had a good laugh, of course, after she woke up.

10 thoughts on “February can be hard

  1. when you say antique spectacle frames, do you mean something like the old-style ray-ban wire frames, or something really old, like pre-1900?
    if you get a little tape recorder, you could dictate your pre-sleep letters/stories to it, if the spoken word is compatible with your creative process, but i guess that you’ve already thought of that 🙂

  2. Oh, to have been a fly on that conference room wall…
    My mom used to scoop ice cream during the summer– she said creepy guys would always ask for the flavor that was most depleted so she would have to bend down further. But she’d probably rather be a door.

  3. Self-taught artists are my favorite.

    I understand the dry spells. Writing is such a painful, beautiful thing.

  4. fenu- I’m not sure what kind of frames I want. I’ve never had glasses before! I’m actually really excited, tho. And the tape recorder is a great idea! I can just mumble to myself until I fall asleep.

    jj- what do you think it means to be a door?! God that question was so confusing, I can’t stop thinking about it! Who would say door? Seriously? Who says they’re a “door”?!

    Square Peg- Writing is hard! And then sometimes it’s the easiest thing in the world! You can’t force the magic, I guess…

  5. Dear Carrot,
    You are rad. (do they say “rad” in Portland? Do they say rad anywhere?)
    I think the reason you don’t go to school for writing, is because you don’t need to. In my writing class I take now they say that even if you don’t feel like writing, write anyway, and just write about not wanting to write. And then it just opens up. And you write a lot for someone who doesn’t want to write. And you open up in a really nice way…the way that makes you a good read on a chilly sunday morning with a cup of jasmine tea.

    I got myself a little recorder and I’ve said things on it like, “what is it like to be a bleeding human?”that of course was when I was menstruating, and when I was hungry I said things like, “I want to make porridge.” Anyway it’s a fun toy. I’m going to keep it next to my bed and tell it my dreams right when I wake up.

    I wish my art/skill was singing. Writing is like looking for treasure in your nose and then showing your boogers to people with great pride and bravado.

    Singing is so easy, and effortless for the listener. So easy to make people feel good. Easy to make myself feel good. In writing, we are actually asking people to do something that is kind of hard, almost like a favor. (Please take time out of your busy day to decipher symbols that tell you what is in my head. And then please decide whether that is relevant to your life in any way, etcetc…and if you want to pay to do this I would be much obliged)

    Anyway, the interviewer with the tattood rouge seems like someone you could make up a whole life about.

  6. oh, one more thing. I actually like “door”. A door is something you actually open and pass through to get somewhere else. A window is made just to be looked through. If it has glass, it has false security and freedom. Like, the glass is invisible so your pretending you can touch the outside but you really can’t. And at the same time, like glass is really gonna keep anything out, anything that mattered anyway.

  7. All of that just to scoop ice cream? It used to be enough to speak english and not be a felon.

    window or door? A window is transparent and can be fragile a door is strong and sturdy. A window can be high up and out of reach whereas a door is always ground level. haha there’s so many ways to see that question, I guess it more just about how creative your explanation is.

  8. Sloth- I was just thinking about you! I woke up this morning thinking about my readership, and how it had changed in all these subtle ways, and then I was remembering how you used to comment all the time and I was like- Sloth Womyn hasn’t commented in a while! Does she still read my blog? And then here were two comments from you! Hurrah!

    Yes, writing is just how you explain it! And thanks for humoring my “writing about writing”, which is maybe only interesting for other people who write, but hey- what else are you going to blog about when all you think about is writing? Or something…

    And your window/door analogies are great. I honestly couldn’t think of anything for door… but there’s so much!

    Adrian- You’ve got awesome window/door analogies too! And yes, apparently one’s personality must be “tested” before one is allowed to scoop ice-cream these days. One thing I hate about this recession is that it gives employers so much more power over the working class- as if they didn’t have enough before!

  9. I have a couple of friends who are doors. They’re very good friends to have. They portal you from one place to another. And I think it’s very good to move from place to place. I am thankful for the “doors” in my life. I sort of aspire to be one, someday.

  10. “I lay down and the forest cradled me.”, “Spring is coming for sure. I put down my book, not sure what to think about. When there is no writing to do (because sometimes I do not want to) I come unstuck, unsure of who I am or what it is I should be doing.” and “I thought, too, about spring- and how I am afraid of it. I am always on the tip of everything, one foot out the door, my brain set on a three-month timer, like I live my life in shifts.”

    The above 3 quotes are my favorite from this post. I have felt those thoughts, in my own words, times before. I’ve said as much here.

    Also, I love what Sloth Womyn wrote about writing! So excellent (btw: I say rad).
    In goodness, ShanaRose

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