I knew she was going to ask
she talked incessantly, I nodded absently
both of us waiting for the bus
too late at night, too dark
men yelling at each other across the street because god knows why
or doesn’t
she says they have anger management problems
what a sad world, we should call the police
and I know police won’t care or won’t come
or at least just make it worse
and I also know in that moment she is going to ask me
“Have you been blind all your life?”
The seven most invasive words from a stranger
the words I dread
the words I hope to avoid if I just don’t talk to people
even though I want to talk
they might say them, so I don’t
This time I have steeled myself, I am ready, I wish I didn’t have to be ready
“I’d rather not answer that question.”
Six words I can only hope will work.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“Thank you.”
Hopefully we are done with this.
But no.
“I just know that some people have an accident and some people are born like that.”
“Yup.”
Does she think her incredible knowledge will open me up?
Does she even think of me?
Is there any place in my Midwest Polite where I could tell her that being born “like that” is better than being born unable to take a hint?
Also leave me alone
Also don’t ask any other person you don’t know something like that ever.
Also it is so none of your business and I owe you nothing just because you think you’re being nice to me.
No. There is probably no place for any of that.
Small triumph that I told her no
small triumph that I didn’t feel a need to reassure her with
“I was born like that. Don’t worry, it probably won’t happen to you.”

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The first audio described movie I saw was Mary Poppins. I LOVE Mary Poppins, probably more than is warranted. I have never claimed to be a good judge of entertainment. “Let’s go Fly a Kite!”, anyone? Anyone?

Anyway, that movie, (on VHS no less), was a great sick day companion for me from the time I was about 8. I had a few other sporadic opportunities to see audio described movies, mostly at blind summer camp and occasionally when my parents would rent one for me from a far-off national library catering to blind people. I think I saw the first Harry Potter movie with descriptive video about ten times.

Between all the Harry Potter viewings, I sat through movies in theaters and in people’s houses, more or less confused. Rom coms were ok: lots of dialogue, predictable, if mostly forgettable and uninspiring. Musicals at least had singing to break up my monotonous confusion over what might be happening visually. But my friends, being mostly nerd types, wanted to watch sci-fi and superheroes and battle movies. Stuff that often has hugely visual components. The Lord of the Rings score is painfully embedded in my brain, because I saw it ten thousand times and the battle scenes are nothing but sylvan screaming and soaring violins.

Three years ago or so, I began noticing more opportunities to view audio described movies. In particular, my dear Minneapolis friend Teresa, (who never reads this blog, though she knows she should!), started inviting me over with the enticing trio of pierogis, a cat to snuggle, and an audio described Disney movie. I have recently watched several movies from my childhood that now have audio descriptions, and have discovered so many new things I never understood before!

A few years ago, I also attended a puppet show that was audio described by a live human. A puppet show, you all! I never thought I could enjoy something so visual, revel in that particular artistry and movement, wonder and speculate about what it all means or doesn’t. I have this dream that someday blind folks will get to experience all sorts of visual media via spoken word: art exhibits, ballet and other forms of dance, opera, amateur film festivals, all the things!

I have gotten spoiled. I have discovered a new zest for watching movies in theaters, but at this point, I don’t think I would shell out the money for one that isn’t audio described. I want to go back and watch all those battle scenes with a voice in my ear telling me exactly what everyone’s fighting for. And I really want to know if the new Mary Poppins has similar descriptions to the one that got me through decades ago.

The biggest presence in my life right now is snow. This is old news, and uneventful news for most of the country, but it’s been snowing in Seattle for the last couple of weeks. I’ve barely left my apartment except to hunker down in other people’s homes. My neighborhood is a huge shellack of heavy, continuously freezing and thawing slush. I know this sounds extreme, but the truth is, several times I have caught myself confused about where I am in the universe. I feel like I’ve gone back to Minnesota winter in a dizzying swoop. I feel the malaise sink in, the dread of the next several months of trudging through this half-water, half-ice nature dump. I feel the anxiety of life unlived, appointments canceled, obligations unmet, because the minutia of travel is just too difficult. The feeling is low-grade suffocating.

Two very wonderful, snow-related feelings have also surfaced. During the first snow storm of three, (depending on which weather forecast you look at), I experienced overwhelming childlike wonder and peace. I went outside with my dog and tromped around the back parking lot of my building. I baked a cake and made soup. I drank warm things like they were a life line. I conjured snow days of my past. I didn’t feel guilty for doing nothing for two days, and I only felt a bit stir-crazy.

As the stir-craziness became less easy to ignore, the other wonderful realization occurred. I was able to re-remind myself of why I moved from Minneapolis in the first place. Besides simply wanting a new adventure, I moved because I no longer wanted to be inhibited by snow for months on end. There are a lot of ways my life is inhibited, and I was no longer interested in snow and ice and cold being on that list. That particular inhibition was something I could control, and while it pained me to leave behind all the things and people I adore in the Midwest, living in a place with (almost) no snow has been very freeing for me. I know I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life, but this is one decision I’ve made that I am happy with, and I was able to see that reenforced during this atypically snowy Seattle February.

Hopefully, this will only be an every-few-years thing, and I can continue having a much improved, more appreciative relationship with snow. As for right now, though, I’m over it. It’s time for Seattle to melt.

I am drinking chicory coffee and lying under my weighted blanket on my giant beanbag. My dog is snoring beside me. This is the only piece of “furniture” she’s allowed on, which brings up the quandry of whether the beanbag is actually furniture at all.
When I was nearly 30, I came across an article, (or, I think, possibly someone emailed it to me), that snarkily dictated rules about being an adult. If you were a respectable 30-year-old, it said, you had ditched the Ikea furniture. You had, like, probably a couch that someone had to deliver. You had a bedframe, not just a mattress on the floor. You had retirement savings. Otherwise, no adulthood for you, just loser millenial purgatory.
I don’t understand why people write articles like this. A need to feel secure by putting other people’s choices or circumstances down fools no one. I should know, I am the king of doing this. My only hope is that I realize I do it, and can work on it, no matter how fruitless it sometimes feels.
Anyway, this beanbag has brought me so much happiness over the last several years I’ve had it, I don’t really care if it qualifies as furniture at all. I also have a swing that is supposed to be outside patio furniture, but which sits by my desk in my living room and which I swing on every day, because swinging makes me happy. Since everyone is super into Marie Kondo right now, I’ll go so far as to say that these things “spark joy” for me. All the joy, and honestly, there’s not a lot of joy in Seattle in January, so I’ll take it, damn you mean article writer.
What I really came here to say is… the last several nights I’ve been sitting in my beanbag, with my dog and my teacup and sometimes a square of chocolate, and I’ve been writing. Because I want to, or need to, and not because I am forcing myself to, which is usually how I’ve been feeling about writing since I graduated. I feel like I should say this quietly, at the stealthy end of this blog post, after the Marie Kondo and the cataloguing of my furniture. What if I shout it at the top of the page and I lose my zeal? Shhhh, don’t anyone tell my brain I’m writing and actually enjoying it.
It’s lonely work, certainly. Writing usually is. But if I’m going to be alone, at least I have my pup, and my not-furniture, and all the words in the universe for company.

Stating the obvious, I have been very neglectful of this blog the past several months. I can’t really explain why, except to say that writing in general has been slow. I’ve started several posts and set them aside, because they felt like things I had already said here many times before.

It has been strange this New Year not to go to grad school residency in Vermont. It didn’t really hit me until people started asking me what I was doing for New Year’s Eve, and I didn’t have my “oh, I’ll be in Vermont” answer ready to assure them that I indeed would not be a total loser stuck at home at the strike of midnight.

Spending the new year at residencies the last three out of four years gave me automatic New Year’s Eve companions. Built-in friends. Last year, I kissed one of my built-in friends at midnight, a fellow grad student I adored. She was the first woman I’d kissed in years. Not for lack of desire, simply opportunity, and even though I knew it was pretty innocent, and wouldn’t lead to some beautiful queer love affair where we visit each other in our respective cities and show off our favorite restaurants and walking paths and places to eavesdrop, it was still wonderful in itself. It made me feel part of something.

One thing that I have taken away from grad school, besides the actual school part, is the benefits of writing community, of going somewhere new for several days just to write and read, to see new things, to talk to new people. Even, perhaps, to whimsically kiss a person you never would have known if it weren’t for the drive to write and create.

Happy 2019 everyone! May we all make space for a little more spontaneity and creativity this year.

In my recorder ensemble this term, we are playing “Ave Regina Coelorum”, a piece by Isabella Leonarda. Her music is some of the oldest known compositions written by a woman. It’s rich and layered, and when played with soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders, sounds like a choir or an organ. Outside of rehearsals, I’ve been listening to choral arrangements for context on how my part fits into the whole, and it’s gotten me thinking about choral music in general, and why I and so many others are drawn to it, even if we aren’t particularly religious.

My friend Nina and I attended a unitarian church service last summer. It was the same church Nina had grown up attending, and they wanted to see what it was like as an adult. I’ve been searching for a church-ish experience where I can feel like part of an intentional community without a lot of the god stuff: a sort of humanist, nondogmatic atheism based on critical thought, community activism, and kindness and generosity in all things. Even better if I could sing in a choir.

After the service and several rounds of singing, Nina said something like: “I don’t know what it is about that kind of music, it just gets me every time I hear it.”

I agreed. Even with all my ambivalence about institutionalized religion, the singing is still just incredible. I used to feel confused about that: why did I love the act of singing religious music in a group but feel so disconnected from religion itself?

This may not be a revelation for most, but it was for me. When I stopped feeling weird about it, I realized it was the human voice I loved. The sacred is in the sound of voices, trained or otherwise. The rising and falling of voices in a place that is spiritual to so many, and has been for centuries before, will always give me a slightly choked-up feeling.

Same with my “Ave Regina.” If I stop to consider it, it’s staggering to be playing music over a thousand years old. Most amazingly, it is still vital with life, and it will outlive us all.

I started taking pole dance classes almost 5 years ago. I wish I could say I’m amazing at this point, but I am not. For one thing, my commitment has been sporadic at best. For another, I’m pretty uncoordinated in general, and many forms of body movement do not come easily or naturally to me.

Still, I’ve tried many other forms of “fitness”, exercise, and dance, and none have stuck as much as pole has. I like that every time I go to class, even though I’ve been to lots of classes previously, I always learn a new move. There’s always some novel way to hang or climb or spin. Even just sitting on the pole, you can make all kinds of shapes with your limbs and hips and torso. You can be silly or weird or pretty or just a person making anguished faces because you’ve just smashed the top of your foot midkick, AGAIN. It’s great.

If you’ll allow me a little zen indulgence, lately one of the most interesting parallels I’ve seen between poling and real life is the act of letting go. Many polers are afraid of the spin; they fear falling midair so much that they can’t take the initial, required step. I’ve never had this fear. I fling myself at the pole with abandon, because I trust that even if I do the spin all wrong, the strength in my arms will keep me from doing a face plant. I won’t fall because, at the very least, I can hold myself up.

My problem, my fear, is letting my arms go. In specific sits or inversions, it looks fierce if you can let go with one or both hands. Trouble is, I don’t trust my legs to hold me like I do my arms. I convince myself, as I’m slowly lowering myself backwards, that I cannot possibly, possibly take my hands off the pole. Even though I know logically the ground isn’t far, even though I have never fallen before, even though there are people all around me ready to spot me in a flash, I … just … can’t … let … go. Any and all encouragement is drowned out by my mind just saying no, over and over. I will hold on if it kills me. Which is interesting, considering that letting go probably won’t kill me at all.

To bring this terribly on-the-nose metaphor to a close, sometimes I do finally let go. Oops, spoiler alert. And it’s always the same, after I’ve let go, I am never as afraid as I am in the moments leading up to it. I hold my arms outstretched, or behind my head, and I’m relieved. And then I forget, and fight the same battle all over again the next time.

I know I crave control. So many things in my life feel out of my control, and so much of the time I find myself reaching and grasping and holding on for dear life. It never feels good, but I sometimes convince myself it’s all I have. If I could just hold on tighter, grasp harder, maybe then …

Maybe then what? My life will be perfect? I can finally relax? Loneliness and boredom and frustration and fear will disappear?

At the very least, I expect I would feel the relief of my arms flung wide and my palms open to everything.