Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Quality TimeToday I was helping my friend Dee clean up his house and was vacuuming his shag rug stairs with his old and unweildy cannister Electrolux.
About midway through I pulled the attachment too far and the cannister thudded down the stairs and I yelled something along the lines of "ACK!"
A few minutes later, Dee (who was painting the windows outside), called to me and asked me what happened and if I was OK.
That summed up everything, I realized after telling him that I had merely dropped the Electrolux a few steps down the shag rug stairs. I went back to cleaning and he went back to painting, but that interaction told me everything I needed to know about what I want in a relationship.
Basically, that's it: I want to be with someone who will ask if I'm OK if there's a weird thump in the same room that I'm in.
It was said so nicely in the movie "Friends with Money." They had the same situation and the fact that the husband didn't ask was largely the straw that broke up the marriage.
People don't ask all the time. Because of power trips. Because of a secret "HAH" that goes on in the mind of the person who hears the thump, the HAH that says "SEE, that BITCH finally got what's coming to her." Or at least that's what the silence says to the person being thumped.
The silence says I don't care.
The silence says it serves you right.
The silence says Oh GOD, if it's that important she'll tell me what happened, and goes back to reading the paper.
The silence says we're disconnected.
The silence says it's over.
Dee is my best friend from high school. He has property up here in Oregon and we all have spent the days puttering around the house, going on walks down to the river, river rafting, procuring and cooking and cleaning up food, and generally hanging out.
I've travelled with Dee many times over the years. He is as close to me as a brother and we know each other's rhythms pretty intimately. We both love making travel plans, logisticating day trips, figuring out the best order in which to do things. We have the same sense of humor and laugh frequently. Our energy levels are very similar so niether of us feels like we're dragging the other while the other just wants to go home and curl up. He treats the kids with infinite patience and good humor, while still protecting and admonishing them on the important things (like attempting to eat a more balanced diet). We travel as a foursome exactly as I would imagine the perfect nuclear family to operate: seamlessly, with long periods of having no problems.
In short, it's practically perfect.
The only thing missing is the sex.
Which of course we don't do.
It's obvious to me that all this harmony is a direct result of us not sleeping together. If we slept together there'd be fights and power struggles and issues and conflict. Whenever a waitress refers to the kids as "our kids" I just want to say, well, yeah... but the only reason we're getting along so well is because we don't actually, you know, do it.
But still, I look at us and I think that there are lots of things I can learn from this relationship (besides the fact that sleeping with someone strongly appears to ruin otherwise perfectly harmonious friendships). I can take the qualities we have together and list them as qualities that must appear as a baseline for any future relationship I may get into.
Here's what we have that seem to me to be the basis for any good relationship, sexual or not:
That's really all I'm looking for. Just someone to have a pretty simple life with. Someone who will fix up one part of the house while I'm working on the other, metaphorically and literally. Someone who does not take my desire to improve the collective as a usurpation of his authority. Someone who does enough in his own right that I'd like to help him out with my own skill set, so that together we'll have more time to NOT be working.
I know it sounds like crazy talk, all of this. But I still believe it must be possible.
In the meantime, I am finding all the qualities of relationship I need from my friends that I don't sleep with. My girlfriends, my gay friends, my male friends with whom I just don't have sex. It's all good, and in the aggregate, it all works out well.
Collectively, when they hear a thump, they all ask if I'm OK. And truthfully, that's better by far than being with someone in a "real" relationship and hearing that silence from the other room.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 11:08 PM 2 comments
Monday, August 28, 2006
Burning Woman, Pt IIAs I write this I am in central Oregon, surrounded by fires.
We are in no danger. And this is all perfectly normal for people who actually live with fewer buffers between them and the natural world. But once again I'm being bombarded with this theme of burning.
There is the "Cascade complex" of fires to our east. And just now, as Jack and I were driving back from Salem to pick up Chris and our friend Dee as they ended today's river rafting trip, we headed right into the eye of huge plumes of smoke. They seemed to emanate directly from the river where two of my three favorite people in the world were racing rapids in a yellow inflatable boat.
It was not a great feeling.
I really had a moment of wondering if this time I'd pushed the odds too far. What was I thinking, letting them go? And how had this fire erupted into such an overpowering size in the two hours since we last saw them set off?
It turns out it was a controlled burn. Agricultural fields. Intentional and useful.
I can't even start with the metaphors of yesterday's river rafting. I mean, duh. I've already clobbered the river metaphor to within an inch of its life in the intro to my book, and that was before I'd been actually IN and ON and THROUGH a river. That was simply from some observations. After yesterday, I will never look at a river the same way again.
I know this blog is about burning, but I do have to make one amendment to my introductory essay in the book as soon as possible: you know when I say that it's really not about the rocks? Well, actually, when you're the heaviest butt in the boat... it is. It really IS all about the rocks. Yes, you're going down the river whether you like it or not. But when it's YOUR butt dragging on the bottom of the river, the passage is not quite as serene as it looks from above.
Outside, the smoke is clearing. We are about to drive up to cook our dinner at a campsite by a lake. Not the hiking experience we'd been hoping for (cancelled because of the fires), but one that works a whole lot better for weary city people unused to all this interaction with nature.
We will harness the fire to cook our dinner and keep us warm. The energy will be useful, not destructive.
Fires you use to cook with are useful. Forest fires are essential. Agricultural burning -- while letting off scary amounts of smoke -- are mandatory, too.
Sometimes it's not serene, and sometimes you bang up into the obstacles in a painful and embarrassing manner. Sometimes the smoke gets in your eyes. And sometimes it looks worse than it is.
Things that look large and threatening can, at times, be good and empowering. Necessary for future growth. Clearing the way for new things, providing nourishment for the renewal of life.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 4:27 PM 0 comments
Friday, August 18, 2006
Blog RecommendationsI'm not sure why but, as you may have noticed, I don't have links to my favorite blogs on the side of my site. I think it was an aesthetic decision on the part of my designer (he's like that and God help you if you try to talk him out of it). But that doesn't stop me from making some recommendations from time to time.
I've been particularly attracted to four new blogs recently. Three of them, yes, happen to belong to friends of mine... but I also found one this morning that I really like even without knowing the person behind it. So here is some PR for my friends (met and unmet), and direction to some good reading for anyone who happens to want more places to go.
The one I found this morning is Hollywood Flakes, written by South Pasadena resident Sarah Flake. I found it because Sarah happened upon my blog first and was kind enough to write me a comment. So I checked her out. Delightful! Like, REALLY delightful. She's got a terrific style about her -- kind of a Mormon Annie Lamott. My favorite part was the "Things I eHat" (that's pig latin, of course). She's got a sassy sense of irony and timing and her words just go together perfectly.
Bookfiend is written by my friend Tom Gartner, who is also terrific at putting words together in exactly the right way. His blog is in its infancy, probably less than a month old. But already I'm seeing where it could go. It is all about books, well, mostly. It uses books as a springboard for other ruminations, but it all works because books can be the entry point for every adventure you'll ever want to have. He's a beautiful writer and reading the entries is like curling up in a leather armchair next to a crackling fire on a winter's night.
Another friend, Peter, has a wild thing going at http://010355.blogster.com/. This one is funny and out there and stabs like a stilletto. Peter's completely unafraid to say whatever is on his mind, usually political these days. A random pick from a list he put up in one recent entry called Ameri-iik-a... listing 21st century trains of thought that really need some derailment:
My other favorite part of his blogs are his work haikus... just a couple here...
Finally, I'd like to recommend bike (b)log, my friend Scott's latest endeavor. Scott is training for the Davis Bike Club's Foxy's Fall Century bike ride. I don't know why it's interesting to watch someone train for something like this. Every entry is mainly just about that day's bike ride. Booorrring, right? Oddly not though. He goes into all his statistics, weight, heart rate, type of ride, where he went, and sometimes puts little pictures in to illustrate the fact that it was a gravelly road. I think what's kind of interesting about this is the pure obsessiveness of his voluntary descent into hell. I mean, it's like watching Rocky's training in verrrryyyyy sllllooooowww motion. It's definitely fun to read in a "better you than me, bub" way. Also, for me personally, I get a kind of sweet validation that I'm not the most obsessive person in the world. I also like the picture on the top of the site. Man, if that doesn't evoke the siren's song of the open road, I don't know what does.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 10:03 AM 1 comments
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Burning WomanLast night I did a burning ritual.
There have been a lot of bad things lobbed over the psychic fence at me recently -- inflamatory, hate-filled letters from my mother, low-blows from my ex-husband -- weird shit.
And it's happening all at the same time. I feel like the projection screen for the demons of the world and they are going to town flashing all their hideous scenarios on my face, delighting in how I disappear beneath it all.
So I've been engaged in some pretty entrenched psychic warfare back. I am not all that new age, but I do believe that thought is extremely powerful, and negative thought can be absolutely crippling. Since I seem to be the recipient of negativity and weirdness these days, from several places, I figure it's time to fight back.
The thing about waging a psychic guerilla operation is that I really can't come out and acknowledge what's going on. These people probably don't understand it any better than I do. And let's be honest, I'm probably projecting all of MY own fears and angers back onto THEM without knowing it either. So all I can do is take care of my own self... by staying calm, cultivating a strong force field of serenity around me, and purging the shit as fast as it comes at me.
Last night I just wrote it out. With a blue pen and a pad of legal paper, I sat crosslegged on my floor and wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote with my left hand (I'm right-handed). So the words came from deep within my psyche. When I do left-handed writing, I rarely know what's going to come out. It's like having my own inner ouija board. I wrote until I cramped, and then I kept writing some more.
I got the shit OUT of my system.
And it felt great.
Finally I was done and had a pile of pages next to me. I gathered them up and took them outside to my Weber barbeque, kept next to my lovely gas grill for just this purpose.
I opened up the bbq and crumpled up one of the pieces of paper. Lit it with a match. And felt that curious fear that comes with doing something absolutely irreversable. Some of what I was burning were letters from my mom... and despite the complete poison contained within them, there was a twinge of fear and deep sadness, a sense that I was burning her as well.
As the paper caught fire, I crumpled up a sheet at a time and threw it into the belly of the Weber. The flames grew large and licked the side, rising up high enough that I could feel the heat on my face. The cars on the Pasadena Freeway rushed by, obliviously (I live right behind the freeway. How could they know that 10 feet away from the chain link fence was a woman trying to save her soul using a book of purloined matches and a pile of yellow paper?)
Near the end of the stack I realized I'd lost the flame. The paper in the BBQ was smoldering now and suddenly I saw a huge plume of silver gray smoke billowing up above me. It was certainly visible from the freeway, and certainly visible from the street. It was WAY more smoke than a normal steak dinner would churn out.
Panicking a bit, I put the top on the bbq. The smoke twisted and turned and slid out the sides and up through the vents. I opened it up to see what was happening and a huge plume of it went straight up into the air. I was sending smoke signals to the universe.
I starting trying to figure out how I'd explain this to the local fire department.
I also had a few more pages left to burn and wondered how to get the whole thing over with so I could get to sleep (and dump the rest of the evidence), without causing more smoke to go up into the air.
It dissipated eventually. But as I lit the last few pages I saw that they were emitting absolutely NO visible smoke as they were consumed by the flames. The flames were pure and clean, unapologetically beautiful.
The problem had been when things were neither one way or the other. The smoldering part was WAY bigger and more obvious than the burning part. The smoldering part was messy and hard to contain. The smoldering part was ugly and unproductive.
And as I watched the efficiency of the fire to consume and destroy, I realized that the problems in our lives come when we smolder instead of burn. When we don't have QUITE enough heat and oxygen to actually DO something, but have enough to give off a lot of smoke. That is the place of the drama. That is the place of the waffling... am I going to give up or take over the world? I don't know, maybe I'll just sit here and spew out black stuff for awhile.
I went back inside, smelling of smoke and lighter in spirit than I had been previously. Yes, I'm exhausted but I prevailed in that battle. I am standing... both physically and emotionally. And as I gave myself a little nod in the mirror, I looked down to see traces of blue ink all over my left hand. The stigmata of the psychic warrior.
From Jack Kerouac, On the Road:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars ...
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 11:26 PM 2 comments