susanstinson: (Default)
There were a few light flakes of snow as I rode in. There's supposed to be a big storm coming tonight.

Following me up the steps this week was the man who cried last week. He was very polite, almost meditative in the way he went my pace as he walked up the stairs. About the third flight, he said something I couldn't understand, and laughed in a friendly way, but when I said, "What?" He said, "Oh, nothing." Then, he mumbled something like, "We're going the same place." I smiled and nodded, both because we were and because it made me happy. I stepped aside and gestured for him to go up the last flight ahead of me. It felt a little like starting the dance on the stairs, with all the placards telling us anyone can dance.

I spent some time with a cushion on the floor, stretching and playing a little with how it feels to get up and down. I watch people go to the floor with so much grace, but what is between me and the floor is something else. For one thing, if the chairs of the world are too flimsy or too small, the floor and the grass or the ground always stretches out to accommodate me, and I take it up on that, sometimes regardless of propriety. Because my arthritic knee needs padding under it if I rest my weight on it on the hard floor, I get up like a baby, walking myself up with my hands on the ground, my legs a little straddled and and my butt in the air. I was self conscious about that when I first had to figure out how to do it, but now it comes naturally. So, yeah, I don't swoop down and leap up, but I bent over and slapped the floor for a while today, like people make steps with their feet.

They played Rock Steady! What it is what it is.

I was trying not to jump around because my knee was sore all week, so I spent a long time planted in one spot. But then they played some kind of country song, and I couldn't figure out what to do with it until I started skipping all over the room, which felt like flying, it was so fun. Other people started doing something like it, too, and it was pretty delicious to weave in and out of everybody dancing (a young willowy girl in a black leotard and filmy skirt who danced with her even younger sister like a ballerina letting her hair down; an older woman doing contact improv with a young man -- her son? -- who might have been autistic, rolling him over her back, dancing with another woman her age as they both kept physical contact with him; a little girl tossing a rubber snake back and forth to her mom; couples doing swing dance moves), I liked it, and my mess-with-me friend from last week was doing it, too, but I has to skip out the door in the middle of the song to gasp and drink water, because I am not so used to moving that fast.

Later, when I was dancing in a corner, a young woman came over to hug me and tell me that I radiated joy. A guy who had been dancing behind me said, "You have more fun than anyone." Which might be true. I think that this was something that I've been needing -- in a time when I'm looking urgently for paid work, and holding the experience of getting so much no and silence back from putting my beloved book out into the world, when my personal obstacles can set up a clamor with the big struggles and hard times -- to have somewhere to stretch physically, socially, emotionally, to explore connection and separation, to move. It's very wild to me that this is a bodily thing, not an intellectual thing, not about language, and that I've started to feel reflected back there in a way that I've been thirsty for. There are a lot of things about it that almost embarrass me, especially once people start talking, but I can't afford the luxury of indulging my taste for critique, not now, not yet, maybe not at all. Mostly, I'm just grateful that it's there, even for the likes of me, and that all I had to do was find it, drop my five dollars in the basket and dance.
susanstinson: (Default)

  • I was going to skip dancing this morning, but my body wanted to do it, so I jumped on my trike and went downtown. I liked shaking, liked the drummers, liked rolling around on the floor and kicking my legs in the air, walking my feet up the heated pipes along the wall. Okay, maybe I really am a hippie. I was singing "The Age of Aquarious" as I pedaled away.

  • I rode to State Street Fruit to get a ticket for a poetry performance, then read about Dickens and mesmerism at the bagel place.

  • The big poetry show was at the Academy of Music. There were slam poets I enjoyed, but the deep heart of it, for me, was Richard Wilbur. I got to hear him read poems I love, including this one.

    In which he says to his daughter, who is working on a story, about writing:

    It is always a matter, my darling,
    Of life or death, as I had forgotten.

    I'm needing nerve, focus, and flexibility. There are so many ways to keep getting there: movement, poetry and community among them.

susanstinson: (Default)

  • I found out about it on I'm going to go fold clothes for the hospice shop and collect canned food for the survival shelter tomorrow from an event I found there, too. There's a lot to be seen about the Obama administration, but I appreciate that they found me a place to dance.

  • It was snowing this morning. Not too much, but it made for hard triking! They had barely plowed, so I had to ride right in the middle of Route 9, in the only place that wasn't thick with snow. The cars had to go my speed until I pulled over to the deeper stuff and let them by. I almost didn't go because of the snow. (And, you know, fear.)

  • When I got to the drive for the Fitzwilly's building (site of an encounter last summer with a rude man and his motorcycle) I had to get off and push the trike through the slush. A woman walking asked if I needed help, but I was waiting for her to go by. She was nice, then she went into the door I was headed for. Two other people, looking happy, went in, too. Okay!

  • It was on the fourth floor. (Another reason I almost didn't go.) I could hear the drumming. There were placards along the stairs with quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They were saying beautiful, profound things. I went slowly up the stairs and read the placards. This made me both less winded and less scared.

  • I took off my boots in the anteroom. I like an anteroom -- it's good to have another moment of transition. I peered into the room -- everyone was the floor while someone danced in the middle. Yikes! But they looked like old hippies, and other generations of hippies. Hippies and artists taught me how to dance in the first place. I like them, in general. I'm not exactly one of them, but I dance like them and I understand a lot of their ways. I liked the sound of the music.

  • Then, there was a little dressing area, where I took off my coat and my jeans, and saw the nice woman who had offered to help me with my trike. She said that she hadn't been there in a long time, and I said that I never had before. "Oh, you'll love it," she said. I go too many days when I don't have nice, simple, small conversations in person with someone else. This was very good, and I was also glad that there was no talking once a person went in to dance.

  • I put my can of baked beans into the basket. I put my five dollars in another basket. People were up and dancing now, and, why not?, I started to dance. There were handsome women drumming and singing in the front. There were grey-haired men in tie dye. Some people rolled over each other or lay down on mats and did acrobatic dancerly moves, alone or together. They were fun to watch. Lots of women my age or older, including a couple of fat women. A few kids running and laughing. Mostly white, but not everybody. I started dancing at the back near the nice lady from the driveway. People looked at each other lightly, not demanding, but with some sense of welcome. There was a window with a ledge that always had someone sitting in it.

  • The drumming was good for shaking, arriving that way. It felt so good to move. I was quickly too hot. I had on leggings and a body suit and a little brown dress that came in the [ profile] amarama's magic box for my birthday, with straps on the sleeves that dangle and fly. I liked having a skirt I could swirl by the hem.

  • After a while, a grey-haired man who was tie-dyeish came up to dance with me. He did a shaking all over thing, like me, and hand motions, like me. It was funny and fun for a minute or two, and then the song was over, and I sat down on the floor, and that was enough of that.

  • I liked the live drumming and singing. After they left, I liked the highly altered version of We Will Rock You. I stomped and even jumped up and down, which might not be wise. There was a tall, blonde woman who struck me as an lgbt person, who was smiling very sweetly at me and pressed her hands together and bowed a little when I smiled back, stomping.

  • I didn't dance in the big line and circle with most people at the end. Wasn't quite ready for that, but did stand up and dance on the outside, and that song ended with a piece of a speech by Martin Luther King, not "I Have A Dream," but he was talking about a call to love.

  • Then we watched a video on the wall. The Dells doing the Star-Spangled Banner, with a background of intense images from African American history, including slave imagery and a lynching. I watched, and felt it, and followed the lines from the writing I've been doing over the past few years to these images and back.

  • Then, there were circles. We said our names, and drew a quality from a basket. I got "education. " Then we went around with announcements. Afterwards, most people left, but I stayed for a small circle in which people talked about their experience at the dance and anything else that was coming up for them. Nothing was perfect, but the whole thing had this quality I love of a bunch of people trying to keep something happening because they care about it and because they think it might be a good thing in the community. I folded up a couple of scarves and put away a few placards.

  • Right before I left, the tall blonde woman came up to me and whispered in my ear, "I loved to watch you dance. You're a dancer. " That was lovely. And it felt true -- I felt like a sweaty, hippie dancer, in my body, ready to trike home (the roads were plowed! an old hippie guy that I'd seen at the dance actually threw me a peace sign with his fingers from his car window as I pulled out on my trike!), and being the other things that I am, hot to tell the story to you.

  • Now it's 3 pm and I better eat lunch and do the next thing. But the dancing felt so good!


Dec. 30th, 2008 09:05 pm
susanstinson: (Default)
I've been to Texas. Flew home yesterday.

Today, I got on the stepstool to get down the good teacups, and had rills of talk with a friend over hummus on toast. Then, I went with her to a community farm to pick up the weekly "winter share" that had been given to her by someone who is out of town, and so missed the pick up time. It was an adventure. We got lost twice. We didn't know what to do, but, when we finally found it, there were different categories of food listed on a blackboard and directions about how much to take of each: 1.5 pounds of green beans. Greens: lettuce, kale, chard. Choose four. Like that. She been told to bring bags, and shared copiuously with me, so I had two turnips, two yams, a bunch of kale, a bunch of lettuce, a huge hard round avocado (did that grow around here?), two tangerines and an orange (some kind of fruit swap?) in a big white paper shopping bag from Talbot's (est. 1947), which was meant to carry new clothes home from the store. I put her green beans in an xmas gift bag covered with little decorated trees.

When I got out of her car, the bag ripped, and the turnips and the citrus went rolling away down the street. I had to chase them. It's a slope, and the orange and one turnip looked to be heading towards the entrance to the fairground, but when I got in front of them, they rolled right to me.

So, I put the turnips and yams in the dutch oven, and just ate the white, juicy, sweet meat of a very round turnip, mashed with a little butter and pepper in a bowl. The taste was new to me. It was a good way to come home.
susanstinson: (trike)
The trike shifts weirdly in the cold, and sometimes not at all. The tires spin on the first little hill when my street is icy. The lock sticks. Tonight, the small pump I carry in the basket was sliding out and poking into the spokes of the wheel. Also, something ominous is happening with the hub or the chain again. Moments of suddenly pedaling through nothingness, with no connection to the wheel. Moments of suddenly pedaling through thickness, as if the road was gravelly mush. This can be shocking to the thighs, which like steady work.

Also, I couldn't find one of my gloves today, and there was no waiting to see if it might turn up. Riding a trike when it's below freezing without gloves is reckless. It's getting dark so early, and I wish I had the better light that I had last year, the one with 5 leds. It stopped working this fall, probably from water damage. I replaced it with one that was much cheaper, but nowhere near as bright.

Those are my plaints, so early in the winter. But, I like feeling rugged. I like being able to get where I need to go. I like pushing the left grip back up the handle bar as it threatens to slip off. I like the motion, and the phyiscal work of it. I like its squat elegance, its red modesty. I love my aging trike, even in winter. As long as the snow isn't too thick to ride on, and the air isn't too cold to breathe.

Honestly compels me to add that I also quite enjoy sprightly rides in warm cars, too.
susanstinson: (Default)
I quoted this yesterday in an email to a friend, and keep thinking about it.

Only the action that is moved by love for the good at hand has the hope of being responsible and generous. Desire for the future produces words that cannot be stood by. But love makes language exact, because one loves only what one knows. One cannot love the future or anything in it, for nothing is known there. And one cannot unselfishly make a future for someone else. Love for the future is self-love--love for the present self, projected and magnified into the future, and it is an irremediable loneliness.

Wendell Berry, from Standing By Words


Oct. 10th, 2008 01:13 pm
susanstinson: (trike)
Slow flurries of leaves like chips of light drifting over the bike path.

Also, yesterday, a very small snake wriggling past my front tire. I didn't see it until I had stopped to take off my sweater. Today, a squirrel almost ran in front of me, but changed its mind and whipped around so fast that its tail bent in a plush U at the edge of the path.
susanstinson: (Default)
Counting my blessings:

  • Last night, I went out to a chinese restaurant with friends for a birthday, and the celebrant, who is friends with the owner, brought along a bag of green beans from his garden and gave it to the kitchen, so we had a huge bowl of his own green beans with tofu - tender! delicious! gone fast! -- with the meal. The staff were working on preparing another heap of green beans on one of the tables in the dining room, but I hear that they do that all the time. Also, we were at a round table with one of those giant lazy susans that you could gently spin to get the dragon skin to come to you. We talked bees, donkeys, and adventurous photojournalists.

  • My love brought more buckets of tomatoes. Yesterday, I made a brazilian salsa with her peppers and tomatoes, then poured it over salmon and baked it with some of her zucchini. I poured it all over some greens before I ate it. Yum!

  • I made my mama's biscuits for breakfast, and had them with a kind of fritatta with eggs from my beloved's hens, onion, garlic, zucchini, tomato and monterey jack.

  • I had left over biscuit dough, so I baked it in a pie pan, and think I might make a tomato pie. Also pepperonata from some of the sweet peppers. Then I'm going to make a sauce from the rest of the tomatoes, shred the zucchini, and freeze it for winter.


Sep. 10th, 2008 08:33 pm
susanstinson: (Default)
I put the soapstone that used to be the top of a woodstove on the burner (electric), cut the stems off a tabletop full of very ripe tomatoes, squeezed out some of the juiciness, stuck four cloves in an onion, threw in a bag of little carrots, some peppers from the garden, basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme, and simmered for some hours. I really like the cloves in there, and the way the carrots gave up their sweetness and thickening texture. I haven't decided if this is a soup or a sauce, but it tastes beautiful, and there's plenty of it to be both.

Also, while I waited: toast with a little bit of leftover pesto, a little fresh mozzarella, and a slice of perfect tomato.

Also, the seedling that I picked up on the street back in June, the one under the sign about what kind of heirloom tomatoes these were that passersby were being urged to take for free, turned out to have tomatoes the size of marbles that taste so sweet.


Aug. 23rd, 2008 07:56 pm
susanstinson: (trike)
Today I rode to the reservoir in Leeds. I haven't been there before, in all the years I've lived here. It is past the end of the bike path, past Look Park, and there is a big hill on the way, since this is the beginning of the rise into the hill towns above the Connecticut River Valley. I wasn't at all sure I could make it, but I put on my swimsuit, brought a jar full of ice water, a pear, and a bunch of my stuff in a bag, and tried. The hill on Florence Road had me gasping, and I finally got off and walked for a little while. I wasn't sure how much farther the reservoir was, and there was also a pretty big downhill that made me nervous for the ride home, but, once I got there, it was perfect. A little sandy beach, other people on bikes pulling up, families. I put down my towel and walked into the cold water. It's a river, marked off with rope and floats for swimming. Lots of kids, and lots of room. There were many little fishes in the water. A very tan and friendly woman told me the sandiest place to walk in, to avoid the rocks. The water was cold and lovely after all of that effort, and I was langorous. I floated on my back, and swam to a far corner, then back. There were foamy bits on the surface.

When I got out on the beach, a chubby little boy showed me his rubbery chain of flowers, which twirled and bounced, and told me the story of his only sunburn. I read bits of The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice for Writers, by Betsy Lerner, the pieces at the back about what editors want from writers and what writers want from editors, and about the life of the book itself, once it's bought. It's not good for daydreaming about books, but it's a bracing reminder of some common points of view of people who work within the industry. I'd been enjoying reading my Dickens biography, which, itself, was a study in a dazzlingly successful career as a novelist and some of its costs. But I'd finished the biography, and the beach, with the water in front of me and the ride home still ahead, was a good place to think a little bit about the publishing industry, with plenty of gritty sand and the story of a sunburn so bad that a little boy had to take a shower instead of a bath to put it in perspective.

There was also a little girl walking very purposefully down the beach, saying to herself, "Something is wrong. Something is wrong." I looked up, but couldn't see what was the matter. Finally, in the water, she shouted, "Something is wrong, and IT'S TADPOLES!!!" She went running up the beach, and the next time I saw her, she had a jar full of green water, trying to catch some of the very present small fishes.

Also, I saw a garter snake before I set off, small and fast, there in the dirt near where I park my trike. Such a good late summer day.

I saved my legs for the one hill, but, mostly, it was coasting, all the way home.
susanstinson: (Default)
There are dangers here of parochialism, isolation, and romanticizing home (who makes it, at what cost; what happens there; who gets to stay and who gets to leave and who has to stay and who has to leave), but, still, this is speaking to me this morning:

To stay at home is paradoxically to change, to move. When poets -- and people of any other calling -- stay at home the first thing they move away from is professionalism. They move away from "professional standards." Their work begins to develop under pressure of questions not primarily literary: What good is it? Is it at home here? What do the neighbors think of it? Do they read it, any of them? What have they contributed to it? What does it owe them?

from "Notes: Unspecializing Poetry," in Standing by Words by Wendell Berry

PS: A old school bus painted green and white with THE VEGAN BUS painted on its side just had a hard time making the corner to drive down my narrow street. They gave a little toot of a honk a bit farther down. I wonder what's going on at the fairground this weekend! Okay, I just googled: The Vegan Bus. Either they are going to the Hunter/Jumper horse show at the fairgrounds, or some of them just live around here.
susanstinson: (Default)
I've been revising on paper, lugging copies of the manuscript up to the library in the basket of my trike. I've been working from a manuscript from April that's all marked up, a clean copy of an interim manuscript in which I've made some big cuts and restructuring moves, a chapter outline with dates, summaries and ideas for revision, and a yellow legal pad. Plus, timelines, notes on spiders and insects, and such.

I've been carrying everything in a sturdy black canvas shopping bag with a broken zipper that Sally brought me from this year's AWP. Sometimes I've had to put that into a plastic garbage bag to get my papers home dry in the rain. All of my papers and folders barely fit in the bag (hence, the broken zipper). There's a brown accordion folder that I've been using for the April manuscript and a legal sized expanding marbled brown paper portfolio with a fold-over flap that has both a snap and a built-in rubber band to keep it shut for the interim manuscript. These two old fashioned folders have become beautiful with wear. I already loved the accordion folds and now some of them have gone feathery. I've had to reinforce the edges with silver duct tape, which shines. I love the work they've done for me in containing my unruly book, and I love how they are changing texture from the friction of this revision.
susanstinson: (Default)
I had the fan on in the bedroom last night, so I couldn't hear the loudspeaker from the fairgrounds, but when I walked past the open window in the kitchen, an auctioneer was doing clear, fast bidding patter. "$20,000, I've got 20. 20. 20. 20 can I get 21. 21. 21.50. Can I get 22? 25? 25? 25? In or out? 25. 25. Believe I would. 25. 25." It, whatever it was, sold for $24,000, to benefit something.

Then another announcer came on, and they started blasting -- surprise me! -- YMCA! Encouraged by the dj, people sang along with the chorus. Then he said, "I know it's been stormy all week, so here's The Weather Girls." Sure enough, It's Raining Men.

I have a very distinct memory of throwing myself into dancing to It's Raining Men at a lesbian bar in Central Square in Boston in the early eighties, having a little argument in my head with the lyrics, because I was like that, but every time I tried to make it rain somebody besides just men, I started thinking too hard about it raining any big old bulky person at all, so I gave it up, and just danced.

Who would have thought the Morgan horse show's Friday party would blast all that into my kitchen?


Jul. 21st, 2008 01:54 pm
susanstinson: (Default)
I was just working on a chapter in the library, and it was thorny and pleasurable in the strange way that this revision has become. Then, I wanted to go swimming, but just as I left, a few raindrops were hitting the pavement outside the library, so I put all my notes and manuscripts (handwritten, a lot of it, in old fashioned brown accordion files: bad news if wet) into a white trash bag, draped my swim towel over it (they won't let you in the pool for a half hour if it's thundered), and headed home on my trike in a downpour that left me absolutely soaked to the skin, shivering and barely able to see. My shoes were squishing on the pedals. Wet, wet, wet. I'm home, still wet, warm and drying, work dry, too, about to eat some pesto from basil my love brought me yesterday. It's getting very humid hot in here again, and I'm exhilarated from the writing and the ride.

It feels so lucky, and so good.
susanstinson: (Default)
The Morgan horse show just started at the fairgrounds across from my apartment. It goes all week. Lots of trailers and canopies lined up along the fence, and crackly loudspeaker announcements aurally flavoring my days.

Last night, the sky was flashing white with heat lightning before the rain, and I stood for a minute on the little landing of my stairs, watching a big open flame that people had lit next to their trailer in the corner of the fence blow sideways in the wind. I could see the dark outline of a guy standing right there, but the wildness of the flame still made me nervous. It was beautiful, too, in the humid, windy heat and dark, and I was counting on rain, soon. It's always a little strange to watch people who pick this corner of the fairgrounds to camp. I think that they might feel like they are getting a sort of private spot far from the center of the world they've made together in their horse show at the fairgrounds, but, of course, it brings them almost onto our street.

The smells from the stables make me think of Texas.


Jul. 5th, 2008 11:35 am
susanstinson: (Default)
So, I was writing a post, a happy one about oak apples, when the phone rang.

"Is this Susan?" asked a young female voice.

She didn't sound like she was in a roomful of telemarketers, so I went ahead and said, "Yes, who's calling?"

She said, "I'm calling from CVS about some prescriptions that need to be filled." She mentioned a prescription I refill every month and an asthma spray that I stopped using when one day, when I went to pick it up, they wanted something in the range of two hundred dollars rather than the forty I was used to paying, because I'd changed plans within my insurance company and this plan didn't cover it. That was a bummer, but I use a substitute they do cover instead. This happened months ago.

I explained about the asthma spray, and she said, "So, just the other?"

I've got plenty of pills left, so I asked, "Is it that you need to call my doctor in order to be able to refill next time?"

She said, "No, CVS wants patients to be compliant with their meds and wants them to fill their medicines on time."

You know, this makes me angry. It feels like a small moment that is a microcosm of a big, persistent problem in the way health care is perceived and practiced, in my experience. My impression here is that what CVS wants is to make as much money as possible filling prescriptions (and that a rainy fifth of July might be a slow retail day at the drug counter). But, even though they were seeking me out to press me to order drugs that I don't need, the explanation for why they were doing that was framed in terms of concern about my "compliance" or lack thereof.

That's insulting. It's shaming. It's a nasty paternalistic lie which serves as a poor smokescreen for the profit motive. And -- along with the genuine, serious and often skilled desire to help people live fuller, longer, more delicious lives in our mortal bodies -- I feel this kind of shaming disingenuousness as a dangerous element in many of my interactions (most where I am visible as fat) with healthcare.

It's not helpful. And I won't be going in to the drugstore today to pick up a med.

PS I liked this discussion about HAES in [ profile] deeleigh's journal the other day.


Apr. 6th, 2008 12:40 pm
susanstinson: (Default)
Being in the moment utterly, yes -- eat an apple when you eat an apple, as Zen phraseology might have it -- but then trying also to move on from there as mindfully and scrupulously as possible, bringing any intellectual or imaginative arabesques back to the authentic human experience where they belong.

Padma Hejmadi, Room to Fly: A Transcultural Memoir


Apr. 1st, 2008 10:02 pm
susanstinson: (Default)
  • Alison Bechdel is going to be at Amherst College tomorrow (Wednesday!) at 8 pm. I'm going! Details here.

  • The Nolose conference is going to be in Northampton, September 26-28. Look out!

  • I hear that letters and phone calls to Massachusetts state legistlators are the most important next step on H. 1844, the anti size discrimination law, so if you live in the state, that would be a great thing to do. Who they are and what the contact info is is easy to find online. I emailed Peter Kocot, the Northampton representative, about it, but haven't heard back from him. The legistlators have to act on the bill by June.

  • I'm in the middle of a spate of intense work on the novel, and won't be around here for a while. I want the book to be intellectually and emotionally adventurous! Aesthetically thrilling! Humanly compelling! Pages turning and turning and turning. Whoa nellie, do I ever aspire!

  • It's raining. There's something I find so moving in this common, intimate way about the sound of a car driving past on a wet street when I'm inside my apartment, warm and dry.

susanstinson: (Default)
One of the things about having the same breakfast every morning is that it serves as a pragmatic and literally nourishing ritual. Minor variations are ripples in the long oatmeal river. This morning, I overcooked it, so it's gluey. The big strawberries are very cold, bordering on icy, tart, sweet. It's the last of the pecans. I'm in a hurry because I'm writing with my friend Sally today. And it's as holy, complicated, simple and necessary as yesterday's breakfast, as food ever is. Every joy to you all this morning -- oatmeal embracers, resisters and skeptics alike -- the whole bowlful.


susanstinson: (Default)

May 2009



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