If there are ten zombies in the swimming pool, and zombies fall into the pool at a rate of four per minute, and zombies claw their way out of the pool over the rotten and disintegrating bodies of their fellow zombies at a rate of one per minute, how long will it take to fill the pool with zombies?
Yesterday I came across a quote, supposedly from Rose Kennedy: “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
And this week I’m reading Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. Strayed talks about the moment in which she realizes that losing her mother at a young age will never be ok. In spite of having a good life and being happy, she has lost her mother, the most essential figure in her life. “And yet the unadorned truth of what she said — it will never be okay — entirely unzipped me.”
Strayed’s writing is amazing. Honest and poetic, and flowing with grit and compassion and love. I love to read her writing. When I read her words I am often overwhelmed with emotion. Surprised to find sentences that feel like they were written only for me and my experiences and my feelings. How could she do that? And how much does a bibliophile long to find those sentences, the ones that are written just for me? It doesn’t happen for me as much as I’d wish. And as much as it aches sometimes to read her sentences, Strayed’s words often do that to me. The same thing happened when I read her memoir, Wild.
Her words prompt feelings of old pain flowing over me, but in a sort of orderly way, as if old scars have been reopened. The opening isn’t as messy as it used to be. I can look at the pain, I can feel it, I can know it is there, but I can also close it again when it isn’t serving me, when it is standing in my way. I do not have to wallow in that pain.
Yesterday, when I came across that Rose Kennedy quote in the same hour I read the Dear Sugar letter “The Black Arc of It,” in which Stayed is unzipped, those two pieces clicked together. My scars are there, but they aren’t hard tissue or soft. My scars are closed with the sturdy zippers I have built from my pain. They open sometimes, but the power is always within me to close then again.
This is not denial. My zippers are always there for me to see. The dangly bit often jangles for my attention, clamoring to be opened. In a certain turn of weather, or a certain season, the scars ache underneath. Some words, some phrases, some actions, some memories, careless people, well-meaning people unzip the zippers, letting out some pain, some emotion, some tears. I can feel these feelings and know that I am alive and human and imperfect. I can accept that some things will never be ok. But those feelings, these scars do not have to stop me. I can grasp the little jangly bit that I have built with my own healing and my time and my understanding and I can close the zipper, closing the scar back over the part that will always be there, covering over the part that will never be ok. Closing the zipper to save my sanity.
I am obsessed with the work of an author whose work I have never read. I’m not sure what to do with that. Part of my brain wants to keep up this years-long academic hate-crush in just the same way I’ve always carried on — by continuing to NOT read the author’s work, but to consume every story or article about that work and then think myself in circles about how much the author AND the way people talk about the work both irritate and entice me. Part of my brain thinks the other part is an idiot and should just get on with reading the ACTUAL fiction of the author in question. Does it even matter who it is? What would you do?
And, oh, yeah, HI! Distractable summer, blah blah blah. Throw open the windows and let in some air and sunshine. Sweep out the crickets and we’ll get on with SOMEthing, shall we? xo
Warning: Knitting Content
Back in January (during the few weeks it was chilly here in Coastal Texas) I was keen to knit a pretty, stylish something that could do double-duty as a scarf and small shoulder wrap. While trolling that knitter’s opium den (Ravelry) I came across the Shizuku Scarf by Angela Tong (try here for a Shizuku link off the Rav). The original design is striking, with little teardrops forming the fringe on one edge of a triangular shawlette knit in Noro Kureyon, a progressively-dyed yarn. According to the pattern, “Shizuku” means “drops or teardrop shape” in Japanese. I wasn’t sure how I felt about those droplets. They looked fascinating, but would they be fun to make? Further down the rabbit-hole I found a mod that banked on the brilliance of Cat Bordhi (clever knitter extraordinaire). Ms. Bordhi has a You Tube video in which she explains how to make Tendrils—sort of fringy twists—all over a hat, suggestive of cartoonish dreadlocky hair. While the substitution of tendrils for teardrops neutralizes the original name of the pattern, the result is lovely. And those tendrils are FUN to make. I want to put tendrils on everything now. I used a little more than a single skein of Lion Brand Amazing (wool and acrylic blend) in the Glacier Bay color way.
My ear buds needed a sweater. Less to keep them warm than to make them look cool. Plus, I cannot resist whimsy, and who wants tangled rubbery cords? I covered my cords with South West Trading Company’s Tofutsies yarn (Superwash wool, Soysilk fibers, Cotton, and Chitin). I used US Size 1 (2.25mm) needles to make a four-stitch I-cord over the main wire, then a three-stitch cord after the split up to the ears. I didn’t cover the mic, and stopped short of covering the ear end of the cords because I didn’t want yarn in my ears. Bonnie Pruitt has a video tutorial if you want to try this one.
A Book A Week, the Unintentional Mother’s Day Edition.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, Alfred A. Knopf 2012 (library copy)
I don’t read much memoir and biography. I don’t read much (wo)man versus wilderness. And I don’t usually read advice columns. But I love love love Sugar. I found Dear Sugar at The Rumpus when she told one of her readers to “Write Like a Motherfucker.” Sugar delivers a kind of gritty, tender, nonjudgmental, pragmatic, tough love, interspersed with bits and pieces of her own real, raw, regular life. I love her. I love being called one of her sweet peas.
So when Sugar’s real identity was revealed to be Cheryl Strayed, and that Strayed had a new memoir about her extraordinary hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Southern California to the Oregon/Washington border, I didn’t hesitate. I knew I had to read it and I was not disappointed.
Suffering from the consequences of grief over the loss of her mother to cancer, Strayed set out on a solo hike across California. On the hike she hoped to have a lot of time to contemplate her feelings and her troubles and to sort out the worst tangles. Inexperienced and ill-prepared, the struggle to even stand upright under the weight of her enormous backpack (“Hunching in a remotely upright position”), among other physical challenges, left little time for direct contemplation.
Strayed’s relationship with her mother was positive, but in loss, her grief turned to self-destruction. Her family drifted apart and her marriage fell apart and she found herself seeking solace and sensation and numbness in sex and drugs. Strayed was not responsible for her mother’s death, and did everything she could to care for her mother in her final weeks. Yet Strayed’s grief was so overwhelming, so heavy, that she could not seem to move forward under its weight.
Her hike was a primal grab for a cure. In her memoir, she speaks in an intimate voice, honest and unflinching. It is not faith or religion that guides her, but the strength she finds inside herself, and support from favorite books, memories, and strangers. I could feel her physical pain. She has created a picture that allows readers to inhabit her sore and blistered body fully. As the story progresses, readers can feel her body getting harder, her emotions shifting as she walks each difficult step.
Wild thumped a drum inside me. Tapped one tender, calloused finger against a scarred place. At the end I was left with a proud, happy, throbbing, shattered, feeling — emotionally like Strayed’s blistered toes. I could not help but contemplate my own relationship with my mother reading this book, could not help contrasting my experience with Strayed’s. My emotional scars still hurt sometimes, the feelings still get heavy. But Cheryl Strayed’s story has been cathartic for me, opening channels for grief and understanding that had waited behind latched gates. On her hike, Strayed learned that she could bear that weight, and she writes about it in the same way she dishes advice as Sugar. Patiently, honestly, with pain and joy and complexity. Plus a little happy sex and ice cream.