I think the pandemic has brought up a lot of desires for different people, and I hope it has also brought clarity. For my part, I have realized the vitality of movement in my every day life, and not only movement, but expressive movement. Movement as art, as practice and performance, even if the performance is just me alone in my living room, sliding around in my socks on the wooden floor. Even if the performance is just for myself and all the selves I’ve been that have led me here.
    I know I’ve written about dance before, most probably when I started pole dancing in 2014. I’ve continued to take classes but have largely focused on strength and flexibility work, while mostly ignoring the “dance” part. During this past year, I’ve started wanting to  understand the dance side better, to be able to incorporate some less intense, more flowy movement between bouts of hanging upside down.
    Sighted dancers have tried to teach me choreography over the years. I have tried to learn, and seemingly have mostly not been successful, at least in a visual “look like everyone else” way. Looking like everyone else was very important to me as a kid in tap dance class, and as a highschooler in show choir. To be frank, I think it was important for my instructors, too. As an adult dancer, who isn’t competing or trying to prove myself to my peers, I’ve come to rethink the idea that I need to look like everyone else. Why? I’m not everyone else, so what’s the point of hiding that?
   A few months ago, I heard a podcast interview with Krishna Washburn, a blind ballet dancer who teaches beginner ballet to adults. Her project, called the Dark Room, consists of a beginner class and a mixed level class, taught over Zoom, our pandemic overlord. Both of her classes are free, as a nod to blind communities generally being unemployed or underemployed. I was so thrilled at the prospect of learning dance from a blind instructor so I signed up for the next 8-week beginner session.
    That was in May. Now, I’m in my fourth month of mixed level class and my mind is busy memorizing French words for new movements I have never asked my body to do before. I’m completely in awe of professional ballet dancers: the total body awareness required in every move, and I’m just doing very beginner dancing! Truthfully, I’m in awe of Krishna, who describes body positions and steps through the tilt and balance of the body. The angles of the arms and transfer of weight. The energy flowing in a diagonal line from outstretched fingertips to an outstretched leg. I feel free to move in my own way, at my own pace, without worrying about anyone watching me. One of the great advantages of all of us being blind!
    I know Krishna puts intensive time and work into designing her classes. Each piece we dance, she says, can take 15 hours to choreograph and memorize. We have new pieces every two weeks, and a rotating collection of units focused on families of movement. We all love her and love the blatantly obvious care she puts into our classes. Last week, a fellow student was thanking her for her dedication to us, as happened fairly regularly at the end of class, and sharing some not so positive experiences he’d had in other dance classes. Krishna listened, said thank you, and then said, “I do this work because all of you deserve the very best. Truly, in this world, you deserve the best teacher and the best classes, ones that center your needs.” It might sound disingenuous, but I felt near tears when she said that. I had never heard anyone say it with such conviction, that I, as a blind person, deserve the best. If I’m being honest, a part of me still thinks I deserve whatever crumbs a visual society can sprinkle my way. If I get 50 percent of the same experience with something as a sighted person does, I’m made to believe that is “good” and “progressive.” If I feel a little less on the outside and a little more included, it’s time to celebrate and claim we’ve done all we can. And here’s Krishna, working her ass off for her blind adult students, because we deserve the very best. My only hope is that we can give her all the grace, love, and support that she deserves, too.

  This month I am taking a sabbatical in Tumwater, which is just outside of Olympia. The idea came to me by way of my dear friend Sheva, whom I caught up with in person when she was visiting Seattle in August. Sheva is a seeker, someone I admire very much. She’s also someone who’s been doing lots of travel in the past few years, living in different places on work exchanges. I asked her where she’s been lately that she particularly liked. “I know I’m going to have to move eventually,” I explained, “There’s going to be a time when I can’t afford Seattle any more.” “I really liked Olympia,” Sheva said. I’d never thought about Olympia before. I assumed I would need to move out of Washington State to find another city with good transit and good vegetarian food. It turns out that Olympia does, in fact, have both. And since I’m working remotely right now, it seemed like the perfect time to book an Air BNB and see if I would fit with Olympia.
   Even though all of that sounds quite premeditated, I don’t actually have an end goal in mind for this month. I’m tired of end goals. They only serve a person so much, and there are enough areas of my life that are goal dependent. Here, I’m trying to let go of expectations, be in my present surroundings. It’s hard not to get caught up in future planning, but I am trying.
I’ve been exploring Olympia and going for walks with no particular destination. The coffee is great, the bus drivers have been truly courteous and amazing, and downtown Olympia has been easy to orient and get lost in. Kiva has an enclosed space to run around in at the back of the cottage where I’m staying, and she has been using that space to contentedly sniff for hours. I don’t think there’s much running happening. I’ve been working, writing, and cooking. The days pass quickly.
   Right now I’m eating a late breakfast at a diner in downtown called New Moon Cafe. It’s a worker-owned cooperative restaurant, and they have great vegan food. I like the vibe here, down-to-earth and unpretentious. It’s inviting and warm.
  The thing is, I’ve been feeling so stuck lately. My job is a dead end, some of my relationships feel stagnant. And the thing about being stuck in those areas is that there’s not much I can control there, not without other people doing their part. What I can do is create my own momentum, remind myself that I am myself: independent, capable, resourceful, open, and curious. I forget this in my day to day, but I hope I will remember this month after I return to Seattle, and remember that I am still me.

Hi my beloveds, how are you? I realize it’s been ages since I’ve been here, and I’m not sure why. Or, I’m a little sure why. Writing has been hard, but it’s been hard since the start of the pandemic and the reason I thought it was hard for months was that nothing new was happening in my life. I’m a creature of novelty. The other day I got paranoid out of my mind because I watched a video about narcissism and one of the top traits is novelty-seeking. Also, the title of the video was something like, “Why are narcissists always bored?”, and I read that and was like, oh shit, that’s me. If you know me and haven’t mentioned to me that I might be narcissistic but you think I am, please let me know.
   Anyway. Now things are sort of happening. I got my second vax in late May. Then waited the 2 weeks for science, then went out for a celebratory beer. I saw my friend’s band play at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood on my birthday, and 2 weeks ago I returned to my pole studio for in-person classes for the first time since March 2020. Even though these things are things I used to do, they are new again because of their absence in my life, and yet, even they have not inspired me to write.
   Of course, any writer worth a semicolon, (and semicolons are worth a lot, when used judiciously), will tell you that if they waited for inspiration to strike before they write, they would never write. You’re supposed to write anyway, even when, especially when, you’re not inspired. Those are the secret writerly rules. And I have been writing, unmotivatedly. My word counts have been feeble, though the writer rules would tell you not to pay attention to word count. What I’m saying is, there’s just not much to see here.
   What I’m also saying, if I’m being honest, is that “reentry” or “getting back to the new normal” has been difficult for me. Not impossible, not in a way I anticipate will last forever. I’ve had it blissfully good this past year: being able to work from home, having work at all. My struggles are with the reentry into ableism, into a world that I have battled with my entire life. The thing about not taking transit for 15 months is I almost forgot what that was like: people trying to schmooze my dog, telling me uninvited stories about their disabled friends, or the time they were “legally blind” for 5 minutes before they got the right glasses, or stopping me in the middle of a block to ask, “Where’re you trying to go?”, as if I am constantly lost. I also forgot how much energy it takes to navigate sidewalks with stuff everywhere: cars parked in weird places, people loitering, posts and poles and parking meters and restaurant tables and millions of other little things. I am easily frustrated and easily irritated. I’m probably a little depressed, probably a good time to get back into therapy. I am lucky to have that option, too.
   This morning I walked over to a coffee shop in my old neighborhood that I haven’t been to since early last year. There’s a big wall up blocking the stairs I usually take to get in. A guy leaned over it from the other side: “You have to go around,” he said. I stared at him, trying to hear over the brain-breaking rumble of Stone Way construction.
   “Around,” I said.
  “Yeah, just go left at the corner and go down the other way.”
   “Why?” I said stupidly, like he was the coffee shop guard and could explain all the changes this place  went through during the past year.
   Miraculously, though, he could. “Since they serve beer on this patio, the city made them put up a wall.”
   “Cool,” I said, “I haven’t been here in a while. Thank you.”
   That seems to sum it all up: I haven’t been here in a while. Where “here” is “anywhere.” So I’m getting used to being places again. It’s going to take a while. I’m going to have to be ok with that.

    Hi everyone, how are you all doing?
    It’s hard to know what to come here and say, honestly. I feel the desire to write to you, and yet I have nothing of interest to write about. I haveo/,n’t been traveling. I haven’t been on a bus since March, so I have no good “people being annoying on public transit” stories. I realized the other day that I have, somewhat without meaning to, crafted a very busy virtual life, what with choir practice and recorder trio rehearsals and, along with my teammates, completely reorganizing the Real Rent Duwamish campaign. I still work my dayjob. I take writing seminars. I talk to friends on the phone and my family on Zoom. I cook and make jam sometimes and watch my dog retrace circles around the living room and kitchen. I take my pole dance classes, virtually. I started kayaking on Wednesdays with a friend who is now my neighbor, and that’s pretty much the outside in the world highlight of my week. I read my books. I rack up meters on my rowing machine.
    So I am busy. It’s a nice life, really. I am no longer constantly obsessed with remembering the last time I left the house and calculating when I might get the opportunity to leave the house again. That desire has gone from panicky and grasping to low-grade, always in the back of my mind but not particularly urgent. Our “new lives” are becoming chronic instead of immediately shocking, and I feel the sustained fatigue of my “new life.”
    I have a gratitude practice, which I’ve been doing for several years, where I write down something I’m grateful for at the end of each day. Sometimes it’s more than one thing, but I only require myself to write down one so that I have no excuse not to do it. Looking back over the last few months, my gratitudes have become simple, present-focused moments: sitting in the sun, eating a peach, steaming coconut milk for my coffee. (Actually, many if not most are food related.)
    Intentional gratitude does help me constantly check my privilege. I am safe. I don’t have an essential job. I am ok right now.
   But I do have to hope for life to be more than this again. Someday. Please.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about this here, but in August of last year I quit Facebook. It’s been one of the best mental health decisions I’ve made, but it means that I am completely out of touch with social media trends. (I was never able to commit to Twitter, Instagram is way too visual, and at the end of the day, (every day, really), I feel fine about not having these distractions in my life.) As if proving my point, I’m apparently “missing” people posting “decade in review” videos and lists all over the socials.

It occurs to me, with this blog, I get to have it both ways: I can post my decade in review list without having to read anyone else’s. Score! No, I kid, in fact, I’d love to hear your decades in review in the comments, if you’re so moved!
The tens were a great decade for me. The tens were not a great decade for me. Both statements are true. One of the things that eventually drove me off Facebook was the curation of people’s lives: everything polished and-or adorably messy. With that in mind, here are some highlights from my decade, with as little sheen as possible, messy or otherwise:

• Apartments lived in: 4
• Cats petted: as many as I could, but always never enough
• student loans paid off: 0
• credit cards paid off: 1!
• 1st dates: a lot, like, a lot
• People I met on first dates who are now my friends: almost everyone I consider the best people I know
• recorders acquired: I swear this number was supposed to be four, two bought and two borrowed, but while digging through my music bag last week I found two altos and a soprano that I can only assume simply showed up on their own.
• people lost: 2 grandparents, 3 friends. I miss them every day.
• dogs: 1. Longest relationship I’ve had, human’s best friend, etc. Kiva to whom everything is food. My little spoon. Doggiest dog of my heart.
• number of times someone has asked me: “How does your dog know which bus is coming?”, “What’s your dog’s name?”, “How old is your dog?”, “How does your dog read traffic lights?”: To infinity and. Still worth it for the dog, but if I charged for these questions, I could pay off those loans in a month.
• Therapists: 4
• Times went to the dentist: 1, and it wasn’t as bad as I feared, and also I has healthcare now
• times I thought my apartment(s) were haunted: 3
• baby rabbits I held in my hand: 2
• Education: 1 degree and 3 professional certificates
• people I called 911 for and waited for help with: 1
• Restlessness, on a scale of 1 to 10: 8
• book clubs joined: Also 8. OK, that’s a weirdly large number.
• Saddest I was: the last four months of 2016
• Happiest I was: the last five months of 2017. And any time my work, life, exercise, hobbies, learning, and friends balance is right. It’s rare but worth it.

Now seriously, tell me things about your decade. They don’t have to be inspiring or grand. In fact, it’s better if they’re not.

I miss my parents this summer. I’ve been out of the state where I grew up for over a decade, and even though I am occasionally homesick, I am feeling it harder this past month. I don’t know why. We usually see each other about twice a year, usually once around June or July, but their visit to Seattle is a bit later this year. Maybe that is why I feel the missing more.

I miss their Sioux City house, the house in which I spent my teenage years. It’s an old house. I wrote a poem last summer that I recently rediscovered, and in it I mention the trees in the sloping yard of that house. And now I am missing those trees again, and the swing where I played out fantasies in my mind of how great I was going to be during the upcoming schoolyear. I miss the prickly bushes that scratched my arms on the way up to the wooden porch in the front. I miss being so bored on a summer afternoon that I thought the day would never end and I would die seeking entertainment and never being fulfilled.

I miss being hot, like Midwest summer hot, and walking into an air-conditioned room. (For anyone keeping score, please note that I do not miss Midwest cold.)

I miss a best friend I used to have. We both had summer birthdays. I never felt I had the amount of time with her I craved. I remember the power I felt being someone’s “one and only” best friend, and how I loved that she was mine. We certainly tested our intimacy. I believe she was the first person I said “I love you” to who was not part of my family. That, in itself, felt potent and rebellious.

Perhaps I am thinking about missing because tomorrow will be my second Seattle anniversary. I moved back on August 1, 2017. I got in around dinner time, and ate a pizza at Arlie’s house and fell asleep not having any idea if I’d done the right thing. Two years on, I think I did. Here is where I want to be, at least for now.

August 1 is also my grandfather’s birthday. My family would travel to Indianola, Iowa, where my grandparents lived and my grandmother still lives, to a hot-air balloon festival every summer in late July. I remember my grandpa’s birthday celebration being a big part of those festivities. Not because it was grandiose, but because there was cake, and he was the oldest person I knew. I deeply miss him, too.

The thing about missing. Sometimes, certainly, it is painful and unhelpful. And other times it feels reverent to spend time missing the people and memories that shape the years we get to be alive. Right now, missing feels like honoring. It’s why I write memoir. It is such a bone-deep privilege to miss.

This summer I’ve been rowing on Lake Union. It’s been about two months now, and for about the first month, my biggest desire and concern was not tipping over the boat. I committed huge amounts of brain space to making sure my boat would not tip. I imagine most of my techniques were merely psychologically soothing. Until recently, when it started to occur to me that it might be nice to just tip the damn thing and get it over with, so I know what it will feel like falling from a boat and won’t have to wonder about it so much. I had even been considering asking a coach if I could purposely tip a boat, just to get that first time out of my system, under somewhat controlled circumstances.

As it happened, I didn’t have to voluntarily flip my boat. I flipped it this morning, involuntarily, along with my three crewmates, just off the dock. One minute I was in the boat, the next, slow motion, I understood that I was going into the water, and I let myself fall.

My feet didn’t touch bottom, but treading water is the one thing I mastered from years of swimming lessons as a kid. It occurred to me that it’s been ages since I’ve been swimming, and the urge to flip over and backstroke like a lazy otter while the sun blazed my cheeks was hard to fight.

Instead of leaving everyone in the dust and swimming until my arms ached, I let myself be summoned to the opposite dock and paddled my body out of the lake. “Woo-hoo, we fell in the water! Hell yeah!” I yelled, before I could remember I’m an adult and beatific displays make other adults feel awkward.

“Wow,” someone said, “you’re apparently the happiest person about this.”

And ok, ideally, we wouldn’t have tipped our boat. But if we were going to tip, which was sure to happen eventually, let it be near the dock, in the July sun, where the water, if not exactly warm, is indeed fine.

Two weeks ago, on a Wednesday morning, I was riding in a Lyft to work with a driver from Somalia. Because I can’t have any conversation with someone without blindness coming up, (truly, the thing I find least interesting about myself is apparently the most interesting to everyone else), we got into it. He asked me if something happened to my eyes. I explained that I was just “born this way.” He asked about my job. I told him tech, just like everyone else in Seattle. (Except for all the egregiously underpaid folks who make tech workers’ coffee and serve us quiche. But that’s another post.)

Then he started in about how god was good to me for giving me a good job. I always get a sinking feeling at this point. I am not religious and even though I respect other’s right to religion, I don’t like when someone brings up god like they think we are on the same page about it. It tends to happen to me weirdly often in Lyfts and cabs, where I am trapped for the duration of the ride and don’t feel like I can say anything particularly controversial. So I usually just sit and feel awkward and try to steer the conversation elsewhere.

This guy though. He said, “Sometimes god gives someone everything, everything, except they don’t have a job.” His voice started to pitch erratically, and I thought, omg, he seems like he’s going to cry! Then I thought, he can’t be about to cry, right? But he was, crying openly as he drove and tried to speak.

“If you were born in Africa, you would not have this. You are so lucky. When I heard you have a job, I thought, thank god, how lucky. People in Africa, if you have a disability, they beat you up. Your parents might throw you out.”

He was weeping now, and my own eyes started welling because I often teeter on the verge of crying when I see someone else cry. And because, well, he would know. I only have small experiences of living abroad. Living in South America for a summer was indeed revealing; people seemed startled by me and, though most were extremely kind, they were also incredulous that I was there. In Spain, people said, “You’re so brave” at every turn. I vaguely know that comparatively, the U.S. is a good place to be if you have a disability, but good god, I spend so much time swimming through the muck of ignorance and ableism on a daily basis that I am challenged constantly to remember that.

It’s worth remembering though. It’s just luck that I was born here and given opportunities here. It’s luck that my parents were unendingly supportive of me.

And of course, on the other hand, perhaps a Lyft ride wasn’t the place for this guy to unload his grief. It’s not the first time someone has cried about blind people’s suffering in my vicinity, though, so I tried to take it in stride.

I don’t really know how to end this story. I started writing it shortly after it happened, and have been sitting on it trying to figure out what I have to say about it. Perhaps this story is not for analysis and tidy endings. It was just a thing that happened to me, and I’m trying to honor its lessons, whenever they present themselves.

“There are so many answers to these questions, pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive,
closer I am to fine.”
“Closer to Fine” Indigo Girls

Last weekend I saw the Indigo Girls for the first time, as part of an outside concert series at the Woodland Park Zoo. Emily and Amy have been a part of my musical life for well over a decade, though I haven’t kept up with their new music as much. I hoped they would play the old shit, which, in the interest of creative progress, I realize is probably not what they’re most excited about. Still, they did play some of the old shit, and I let myself succumb to nostalgia.

The Indigo Girls are part of a cozy, well-worn story, a story about me as a queer 18-year-old at a tiny liberal arts college in southern Iowa. I spent my freshman year there. I stretched my activism wings as a member of LGBTQA, (literally, that is what our organization was called, all those uncoordinated letters in a row; this was the first time I heard the term “alphabet soup” used to describe the queer community and queer activism). I was somewhere on the “lesbian” and “questioning” spectrum at the time. I also participated in the Progressive Action Coalition, and because of that group, I was able to attend the March for Women’s Lives in D.C. that spring.

We drove from Iowa to D.C. in a van. I didn’t know any of the people I was traveling with at first, except for someone who was in LGBTQA with me, but I didn’t know her well. We left in the morning with Muncie, Indiana as our destination for the evening.

I remember so many little things about that trip which added up to some big, beautiful picture of what I wanted in my life. I crossed at an audible crosswalk for the first time in Muncie. I rode a public transit train for the first time in D.C. On the car ride I was reading Curious Wine for the first time, one of the first lesbian romances I could find in Braille. Cori, the professor who accompanied us, was a queer vegetarian who brought a huge vat of hummus which I tasted for the first time and couldn’t get enough of. We brought protest signs and a video camera. Someone gave me a button that said “I heart pro-choice girls”, which I have to this day. I remember dozing off while listening to Queen and in the midst of half-sleep a voice from the radio told us about the traffic on 66 and mentioned that it was “77 degrees in the nation’s capitol.” The nation’s capitol! Sometimes you experience something and you don’t have any idea that it will be such a profound piece of your history, and sometimes you know while you’re experiencing it exactly how prominent that fabric will be for the rest of your life. This trip was the latter for me; as I was living it, I willed myself to not ever forget.

Oh, and the Indigo Girls. They sang us to D.C. and back. I had heard of them but never listened to them before, and I was amazed at how many of the words everyone knew. When I listened to “Galileo” and “Land of Canaan” and “Closer to Fine”, I felt the words resonate so deeply for me in a way I hadn’t yet experienced. These were queer musicians, grappling with so much of what I was grappling with, struggling against society and yet longing to belong to it. They were songs of loneliness, fear, struggle, revelation, and hope. I relived all of it seeing them onstage last Sunday, and I thought about how these women had enriched my life as a queer person beyond anything I could have understood when I first heard their songs. Reflecting on their influence invites me to consider my role as an activist in my 30’s. What experience can I offer younger queers, if not worldwide, then in my family and community? How can I make their teen years easier? How can I be a source of constancy throughout their 20’s? What small legacy can I offer, even if only a kind word or a gesture of acknowledgement, some clear light so they know they are not alone?

Happy pride to all of you! May we rejoice in the absence of definitives and revel in all our shades of love.

“It was only my art that held me back: it seemed as if I could not quit this earth until I had produced all I felt within me.” — Beethoven

Last weekend I played in two student recitals for my recorder studio: one for solo and duet pieces and one for ensembles. This was my first solo performance in over a decade, and my first time playing with a harpsichord instead of a piano. This was the first time I invited friends to listen to the performances, even though I’ve been playing in this ensemble for almost two years now.

Oh, I had forgotten so many things about why I play music! It’s been so long since I have devoted this much time to music, since I was in college over a decade ago. Back then I played furiously: I sat in several ensembles and doggedly learned solos. In my adult life, I’ve often looked back at my younger self and thought: god, what was I thinking? I was exhausted. I practiced nearly every free minute I had. I still fondly remember which practice room I favored in the music building on my college campus: where I placed my recorders and flute and in what order, which keys on the piano were worn ragged, how the sound in the room changed depending on whether I sat or stood.

I wasn’t a performance major. Or an anything music related major. But I wanted music surrounding me and living within me, from the heady beginnings of learning a new piece to the fragile polish of performance.

And I remember why now. This weekend reminded me. It’s certainly not for fame: if I wanted that I definitely would have picked a different instrument. Recorder’s a niche hobby, and people aren’t exactly breaking down the door to hear a recorder concert, particularly not an amateur one. All told, we probably had an audience of 20 both days combined.

But the size of the audience matters less than its energy, and both days I felt so much warmth, conviviality, and celebration in that space. I couldn’t give a compliment without getting a higher one in return. It was like all of us, audience and players, set an intension of openness and generosity from the outset. I felt that none of it was insincere or patronizing. We just appreciated each other. I often think that people are a bit stingy with their generosity when it comes to art, writing, and music. It’s cool to be bored and unenthused, I guess. I’m glad my recorder community chooses to be generous and to leave world-weariness at home for a few hours.

The act of performing Telemann and Bach and Sieg and Leonarda felt reverent. It’s humbling to play music dreamed and created by another human soul. It feels like being offered a gift. You accept, and offer a gift back. You feel the notes in your own body: in the rhythm of your pulse, the plant of your feet, the gathering of your breath. You feel it in your own soul: as a resonant ache, as a tremulous joy, as a singular certainty that everything you experience in this moment has been felt and understood time and time again, as humans have made music through the centuries.

This may all seem very lofty and precious. And I suppose it is, to an extent. But it also just brings me peace. To know that there is so much music, to play and to create, and that I hunger to rest in this knowledge as often as I can, before I quit this earth.