jeremy made me start this blog. he thought it would be a great idea to have someplace to put down all my strange thoughts and ideas. i was resistant, at first, as i often am with ideas that aren't my own.
but i contested and as usual, my darling husband was right.
i opened my shop and soon after felt a shift in my writing. not better, i'd say, that's dangerous and presumptuous, but as though i'd found my voice. as though i'd slipped into a chair that i wanted to spend not a morning in, but whole afternoons and evenings. slowly rocking, slowly thinking, always writing.
it felt like time to think about getting a website, something of my own, that would bring together the old and the new. the branding of my shop, the tone of my words, a simpler template where i could really hone in on the parts of my writing that i've come to treasure most - poetry, philosophy, photography, thoughts.
i've decided not to migrate arm circles material over to the new space, (sometimes it's nice to just let go), but i won't disable or re-route it either. from time to time it will be good to check back on the old girl, reassured in the knowledge that she's still there.
to you, loyal reader, for being on the other side of this computer, for hearing what i have to say, for offering words back in exchange, i thank you. let's take this next step together. i think we're both ready.
i found this fine specimen beside the garbage dumpster. it was sitting there, unassuming, as we took out the recycling. its simplicity and single functionality appealed to me right away.
it doesn't play cds or mp3s or lps, just the radio in fm or am. it has a knob for tuning and a smaller knob for volume and a handle, for carrying the good tunes around.
i've been calling it my boom box and holding impromptu dance parties in the living room. jeremy, always up for a jig, is happy to oblige.
who would get rid of something so cool? maybe the previous owners were exhausted from too many dance parties of their own. we have to get some work done around here! get to business! get that boom box out of here!
my mom and dad divorced when i was 5. when i was 11 he stopped coming for visits and it's a moment i still remember - standing in the sunroom with my weekend bags packed, waiting for a man who would never come. i wonder how long i actually waited but in memory, a tragically romantic thing, it was forever.
with my grandfather, my dad's dad, i kept a yearly correspondence. cards and letters, christmas' and birthdays. we never spoke of my dad, (fear? the bond of mutual silence?) but it was comforting to know there was a tie to that side of my biology. a leaf on the branch of the other half of the tree.
not long ago, (5 years? 10?) i decided to ask my grandfather about my dad and was surprised to learn he'd alienated that part of the family as well. the imagination is a wild, rampant thing and i'd just assumed, that all these years, he was a full and active member of a family i wasn't part of. maybe he'd had other kids. maybe they had large, summer barbeques. maybe sometimes he asked about me. maybe sometimes he'd just wonder in silence.
to learn that he'd chosen to isolate himself from all family, not just me, felt in many ways like a relief. it wasn't personal, it was who he was. it may have been the first (and last?) time i felt an invisible connection with him. i understood that need for isolation. the desire to separate from the clan. to identify one's self on one's own merits. i thought of men going off into the wild - farley mowatt, chris mccandless, the guy from legends of the fall - romantic notions of men closing their hearts to find their souls. i made a kind of peace with the mystery. with the imagined poetry.
and then in december of 2010, just before the holidays, a letter came from my uncle. my dad was dying of colon cancer and had decided to reach out to the family he had shunned, to make good with the years of silence. i felt many things, to be sure, but prevailing was a sense of entitlement to an unhurried grace period, during which i could think through, in my own way, how i wished to proceed.
i talked to my mom. i talked to my step dad. i asked for their advice and support. i talked to jeremy. i talked to steph. i sat in silence with myself feeling surprisingly calm and clear-headed. i kept waiting for an emotional outburst, a dramatic desire to see my dad, to talk to him, to ask him questions, to demand answers, but nothing of the sort came and the honest truth seemed to be that despite this potentially life changing news, my life wasn't changing.
i decided that i was comfortable opening the lines of communication with him and, being a writer, sat down to pen the first side of a conversation with my estranged father.
at first the exercise was kind of fun like writing to a mysterious pen pal. my name is jenn sorrell! i am 30 years old! these are my interests! here are my memories! this is my life! but it needed something else, something truthful about my feelings towards him. something honest, but fair.
and so i wrote that i harbour no ill will. that i forgive him. that i don't pretend to understand the reasons why he did the things he did. that i'm sorry that he's sick but that i am not looking for a father. that the beauty in my life has been this - where he left off, others came in.
i sent photos of myself - our wedding, me camping - a return address and a sincere hope that we could start from here, from nothing, from not knowing each other, from not expecting anything, from honesty, from zero. i never heard back.
my uncle tried to pressure me into calling or going to visit. he said it was unreasonable for me to expect that a dying man would be able to write me back. he said i was being punative. the more he pushed, the more strongly i felt about my decision. this is something i had thought about at great lengths, after all. this is something i'd considered from outside of myself. what would i tell me as a friend? as a mentor? what would old me tell young me, looking back? the answer was always the same. i had done what i felt comfortable doing and i had tried to do it with honesty, compassion and grace.
was i proud? was i selfish? would i, as my uncle said and said again, regret my decision? i can't know the true answer to these questions but i do know indecision can be crippling and i stepped out of that fog with confidence. i made a decision, my decision, and i have not looked back.
my dad is as much of a mystery to me in death as he was in life however it is comforting to know that, upon receiving my letter, i was no longer a mystery to him. i hope that brought him some semblance of peace knowing that his daughter was happy and loved.
for our families, even if not by our own hands, it's all we can ever hope for.
i made a plasticine picture of mount everest. it's very realistic with the little tents at base camp and the prayer flags strung up and the khumbu icefall, all pocked with crevasses and snow.
it seems much less daunting in miniature. maybe molding is the safe approach to mountains! no frostbite or altitude issues! though your hands will smell of plasticine, it's a small price to pay for sculpting the summit.
i had yogurt and a nearly overripe banana. a tall glass of water. a deep breath.
jeremy had cereal and the sound it made as he poured it into his bowl was nearly musical in the atmospheric quiet of the morning. like little chimes. or little drops into a little void.
we went for a jog. 50 minutes at a decent pace. it's not my legs that feel tired in the end but my heart and my lungs. it's pleasing to think about them being exercised. pulled and kneaded into acceptance. the flush of new oxygen coursing throughout by way of new blood, inwards outwards, outwards in.
back home we stretched. showered. blended fruit with milk and a scoop of peanut butter.
danced slowly, languidly, naturally in each others' arms to a vintage country tune.
said i love you. said good bye. thought of love as the ultimate all-time thing.
jeremy and i like to play the 'what would you grab if you had a limited amount of time to get out of the house' game. usually we just say each other. and the rats though i'm pretty sure they could chew their way out through the window. they've done it before.
truthfully, the thing of most collective value in our humble abode is our book collection which, as irony and pending superhuman strength would have it, is also the heaviest and most impractical collection of things to attempt to salvage in an emergency situation.
maybe our place would burn quickest with such bountiful access to paper. maybe the fire would read everything in one giant, ravenous gulp.
if having stuff tethers you to a place, keeps you from leaving in the middle of the night, (or early in the morning if that's more your thing), then it's certainly the books that keep us firmly planted here.
books from jeremy's past, books from my past, books given as gifts, books bought second hand, well-read books, not-read books,poetry books, picture books, reference books, story books - books old, books new, books small and large.
in addition to our own collection a series of foster books can, at any one time, be found mingling with our nuclear family of books. books from the library, books borrowed from friends, books kept for a brief time and then put back into the rich, collective stream of shared stories.
sometimes i want to roll around in books. sometimes i do. sometimes it feels as though that's just what reading is, a delicious and full-force frolic between a front cover and a back.
we don't need to take them all with us, they already are.
i recently received an email from my grandma, (hello, 2012) in response to something i'd written last week proclaiming to be an atheist. what, she asked, did i then believe in and why did i not believe in god.
questions like this i suppose, asked with genuine curiosity, can give one an opportunity to explore the reasons why we proclaim the things we do. and so for grandma, and the health of introspection, let me attempt to respond.
i am an atheist because i do not believe in god. i do not believe that one person created the universe and i do not believe that one person watches over our lives and ultimately decides, in the end, how we should be rewarded or punished for the manner in which we chose to live them.
i do not believe in god because despite much evidence to the contrary, i am a scientific minded person who seeks to understand the world around her by a system of logic. what do i see. what do i hear. what do i feel and why do i feel that way. is there reason for me to question things (always). is there reason for me to stop searching (never).
i believe that everything in the world is connected. my molecules and your molecules. the air i share in perfect union with plants. my actions. your response. my submission. your compassion. there is no step i take that doesn't impact something. the ground. a bug. someone i choose to acknowledge or ignore.
a friend told me that the only discernible difference between apes and humans is our ability to label and categorize our experience and in so doing, our perception that everything outside of ourselves is 'other'. this is just not so. the only divisions between ourselves, (the earth, the universe, understanding), are fabricated in the constructs of our language. our need to understand by naming isolates us from experiencing our lives as they actually are, not separate from our surroundings but completely and organically a part of them.
i don't believe in god but i do believe in the divine and it isn't something outside ourselves or in a select few or in some unknowable being. it's within and without and it's always been and it always will be.
well first there was wales, and then there was looking at wales photos at every available time slot to remember wales and then there was a quick succession of very engrossing novels, followed, preceded and surrounded by a heat wave and trying to stay cool with diy methods such as making a pool out of the bathtub and negotiating both of ourselves in there comfortably. fine tuning who still has dry hands to reach the books.
my water is balanced on a stack of very interesting kids books i got out of the library and heard about it in some pamphlet celebrating toronto library's 100 years of fine children's literature. the chinese version of little red riding hood is heartbreaking and i've gone back through it twice to determine what the wolf's crime was, apart from just wanting to come inside.
jeremy has gone to work which seems sacrilegious on a sunday. even though i'm an atheist, i still believe some things are sacred like taking a day off and jeff buckley's version of hallelujah. i love that song. it reminds me of christmas and the sadness of longing.
i'm going to make a chocolate cake in the shape of a mountain. i'll dust the peaks with icing sugar, mold tiny climbers out of marzipan and lower them down the face of the mountain with black licorice ropes. it's a good thing ropes aren't made of licorice in real life. or maybe it would be better? 'instead of descending from the summit of chocolate mountain, the climber decided to stay put, but not first without feasting on all 100 yards of the well braided, black licorice rope.'
we went to a party last night. a summer party in the backyard of a coworker, there was music and patio lights and clusters of people drinking and laughing and melting into the very middle of the hot season. i always feel funny at parties, not terribly at ease, like i'm not sure who to talk to and for how long and what to do with my arms so i look both relaxed and engaging. it's a nice thing, about your thirties, you get to know these truths about yourself like i prefer to be alone or in the company of a small group of friends.
or here with you, sharing my wares, where the honesty comes easiest when there's no one to expect it.
as part of our lifelong mission to seek out the world's most infamous trees, we visited the oldest tree in wales which, (perhaps more impressively) is also one of the world's oldest living organisms.
an estimated four to five thousand years old, this guy managed to be modest and magnificent at once.
an unassuming (yet sprawling!) yew tree in a darling little churchyard in a darling little village in north wales, i wondered who last sought out the ancient being assuming many had come before but feeling like the first.
we hung out with the tree, we gave it a hug, we collected its dead fall to bring home as a souvenir. i'm looking at its neatly tied bundle right now and thinking of the many ways we're literally and figuratively tied to one another.
it had little tiny buds, new growth on old. it also had much to teach but like all wise beings, chose to share them in silent, gracious ways.