12/1/11

too much time in the woods, maybe.

There was a moss-covered cliff, hundreds of feet high, and directly below that, a deep pond. Someone got the idea to jump off the edge into the water, for the thrill of it. Everyone was sure he would die, but then he didn't. With the first successful jump in mind, a young couple dove after him, and they also lived. A family of four thought for sure it was safe after that. "It's not safe, don't do it," I thought. Hand in hand, they jumped anyway. I watched as two of them tumbled down the side of the cliff to their death. Of the two that missed the cliff, the boy was fine, but his sister hit the water funny and broke her neck. After that came a slow motion montage of jumpers. Some of them bobbed to the surface, smiling. One girl bounced off the side of the cliff twice and then fell into the water with both legs broken. Judging by their clothes, the whole thing took place in the seventies. All the jumpers were beautiful, and, forgive me for saying so, crazy.

Here in the woods I meditate a lot. I’m wondering if that’s what’s causing all of these cinematic dreams. What do you think it means?

11/6/11

The Woods, Week 1.

Dear Diary,

Hi. Remember me? It’s me, Molly.

The MacDowell Colony is pretty weird, I’d say. The living all alone in a studio in the woods of New Hampshire is the best part, probably. The worst part is that all the other people are strangers and it’s scary to have to talk and get to know them. It’s a rotating door with people coming and going always. I almost said, “like rehab,” out loud to someone but I’m trying to do things differently this time and not say weird, alienating things right out of the gate. Trying and failing, I suspect, but oh well.

Here is what my days are like:

I wake up every morning around 7:30 AM, which makes every morning a christmas miracle. You have to get up early because you can only get eggs for breakfast between 7:30 and 8:30 and after that it’s continental, which, you know, that’s cool, I’m not fussy, but they only have cows milk for the cereal, and pardon me, but that’s disgusting. Do I look like a baby cow? I am a baby almond, or coconut, or rice or soy bean, thankyouverymuch.

The communal meals have a way of seriously stressing me out, because it seems to me that the other people just love to be in each other’s company, whereas I am terrified of them and only ever want to be alone. Once at breakfast I thought I was very lucky to find that the one table everyone was at was full up. So I just sat at the empty table, but this always makes people flip out. People always flip out when you try to sit at an empty table, like I was crying and feeling so lonely and unpopular when really I was so, so grateful, but they said no, pull up a chair, come sit with us. I know that they’re just trying to be nice and making sure that I behave normally, and I’m not trying to complain. I just always wish I could do whatever I want without worrying about other people’s feelings, and you can’t. Not even alone in the woods at an artist’s colony can you do that.

On another morning, the people with tortoise-shell glasses motioned me to their table, but there were all these hearty, amazing men at the other one, and I thought, yes! The salt of the earth, blue collar writers are here! So I sat down and they were very friendly and easy to talk to, reason being that these were all maintenance men and groundskeepers.

The only thing that would make this place better is if it were me and a bunch of homeless people. Then I would feel really good about myself instead of weird and terrible.

In the time between breakfast and dinner we do whatever we want. What I usually want to do is hang out in my studio writing, or reading, or playing the guitar or eating out of the picnic basket they leave at my doorstep around noonish. Sometimes I walk around in the woods. The woods are filled with little creeks and moss covered stones. There was a lot of snow when I got here but it’s beginning to melt. It’s all really fucking inspiring and beautiful and shit.

Mollybear loves picnic.

I’ve seen 5 deer total, and they seem like very fast, happy deer. Today I walked by one who just stood on the side of the path staring at me. Temple Grandin has an entire chapter in her book called, “Fear is Worse than Pain” and so it’s very important to me that I am calm and make deer in my path feel as safe as possible. To do this I tell my heart to tell the deer’s heart, “I am your friend and I will not hurt you,” and I walk slowly and keep my head down and look deferential. It’s a serious sacrifice because I’d really like to look at the deer. I walked by her twice and both times she didn’t run away and that makes us both happy, I would like to think.

At dinner, again I have to see all the people, and I really don’t mean to complain about the people, they really are nice, they are just such terrible reminders of what a weirdo I am and how poorly my social skills have developed that I can’t help but resent them. On my first night I gave a brief intro where I said that I was from Michigan and had arrived there from school in Montana, so most conversations start with “Where in Michigan.” A girl who is a really nice person and sculptor said to me, “I went to graduate school at Cranbrook,” and she said it sort of apologetically because it’s such a good school. And what did I say? I said, “Cranbrook is a really great school. I used to work as a custodian there,” which is, you know, true, in high school I worked in the bloomfield hills school district and I cleaned the toilets at one of Cranbrook’s satellite locations, but who am I, Good Will Hunting? I mean, it was a Humble Brag, big time, and I can’t even pretend like it was an accident, I pretty much do feel that way. So that sentence has been echoing in my head for the last 5 days or so, plus other stupid things I’ve said that are too horrible and numerous to go into further.

There are plenty of young people here and almost all of them come from Brooklyn. If I want to feel poor, insecure, meek and weird, not just for the next two months but for forever and all of time, I think I should probably move to Brooklyn and try to distinguish myself as an artist there.

My favorite person so far has been a shy, gentle man with a killer mustache and a tattoo on his neck. I thought for a second he wanted to have sex with me, which I love about a person, but then when I asked him if he was happy about going home he said, “mixed feelings. you know, I’m homesick. I miss cooking and I miss my boyfriends.” I told him that I didn’t miss any of those things, and we had a good laugh about that. “I miss my boyfriends!” Oh my god. The best. That night he performed an autobiographical monologue in the library that included a lot of dick sucking. It was pretty great. Of course he’s leaving now.

Most nights they put on a talent show and a couple people present what they’re working on. It’s fun. It’s great to see people other than writers who are very serious about and excellent at their craft.

I miss the internet but it’s not that bad. I have one bar on my phone so I can get text messages in my room and I can check my email. I don’t get enough email and it makes me mad. I would very much like to know if they are utilizing James Spader’s character more on The Office because I very much like his character. I miss The Biggest Loser and The Daily Show, but those are the three shows I watch, and you know what, it could be worse. If things are going badly in politics or whatever, I am happy to not know that stuff.

The library has internet and it’s about a 5 minute walk through the woods from my studio. People at home have been scolding me whenever I check Facebook, like I should be some sort of writing slave who has given up their Facebook privileges. Well fine. I am (mostly) taking it to heart and try not to interact much so that people are content that I am sufficiently suffering.

Not to belabor the point, but I mean, you do know it’s not “Facebook” that I love, right? That it’s the people and the relationships that it allows me to maintain and nurture? Whatever. I’ll try not to use Facebook.

The writing is going really well. I feel good about my progress. The fact that every correspondence I have with people from back home usually contains something akin to, “We expect great things from you” scares me a little but not as much as you might expect.

Here’s what I do: I meditate some, or I just sit still on my bed and think for awhile. I try to very literally get into an unconscious, trance like state. Then I write in my notebook as fast as I can and for as long as I can. At night I type it all up on my laptop and marvel at the sheer number of words I’ve created and I try very hard to delay the fear and panic that the words are all wrong, arranged in the wrong order and amount to all the wrong ideas and sentiments.

I really do think it’s going well and I’m so grateful to be here.

Here is my little house.

Love,
Molly

 

03/10/11

whatever.

Not just weird and sorry, but misunderstood. I need to work on my inflection or personality or something.

Stress, anxiety, depression: all the best things. When I was younger I could just check out for awhile when this happened. It’s not that hard to deliver pizzas when you’re suicidal.

It’s the difference between, “Aw, bro, I’m so sorry I forgot your cheese dip. No, no, it’s my bad. Let me run back to the store. No problem at all. Let me see if I can get you some free breadsticks” with excited affect, and: “sorry, I’ll be back in 10 minutes” with no affect.

Look at this dumb fucking failure. It's called evolving to eat things other than bamboo, Panda. Ever heard of it?

And the thing is, the amount a person tips is ingrained in their personality and rarely varies given the circumstances. Take me, for example. My usual is to tip over 20%. Add two dollars for every ten dollars, round up; it’s simple. I learned to overtip from my mother. I think we both feel like our very existence warrants the world an apology. If I feel I’ve gotten really shitty service I might tip 15-18% instead. “That will show them!” I think. Of course, it doesn’t show them.

I got a little off track, but what I started to say is that I’m depressed, but I can’t check out, I have all these responsibilities. Teachers are all “why haven’t you turned in the work?” and my students are like, “when are you going to give me back my story?” and blah blah. On top of that, I’m not single, so I have this whole other person to juggle. I have to consider his feelings. The way I do that tends to be to constantly accuse him of not considering my feelings, which are considerable. It’s exhausting, being depressed.

There’s a lot of reading and writing to do, but watching David Attenborough’s Animal Documentary series on Netflix, one after the other, this is about all I can manage. It’s a wicked indulgence. To watch an antelope frantically clawing through the water in slow motion, only to have this prehistoric beast, this heartless, cold-blooded alligator leap from the depths and chomp the thing – I don’t know what to say. My God. Cheetahs are fast but gazelles are better at dodging. In one scene you see it make an unexpected zip, the Cheetah gets caught up, stumbles, and the prey animal lives to fight another day. In the next sequence though, we’re reminded of the pitfalls of eyes on either side of your head – deer runs straight into a tree and the Lioness rips his neck open.

Wait, there’s more.

Big fat walruses, hundreds of them on the beach during mating season, all of them roaring and armless, like slugs with tusks. The babies squeal for their mothers who try their hardest to keep them alive, but male walruses – angry they are not the baby’s father – wobble over and suffocate them. Nature is filled with murderers and everyone wants to live. For a moment you’re happy the gazelle gets away, but then it’s all, “Cheetah just wants a hot meal, what’s so wrong with that?” Who do you side with? Nobody. Nothing. No one.

But the prey animals, they don’t want to hurt anyone, right? Have you ever felt a blade of grass? It’s covered in microscopic barbs. It wants to live the same as everything else. There are no winners here. It’s like watching a war or a funeral procession. Look out your window, hear the crickets chirping? The crickets hate each other. The birds want them dead. The grass doesn’t want to be stood on. Everything’s fucked.

Who invented this world? Where is this God I keep hearing about? I can see now why Rednecks might all gather together in a field with shotguns, shooting pointlessly at the sun. I can imagine a scenario where that would seem like a reasonable reaction.

I believe in beauty and hope and kindness, sometimes. Sometimes I try to express it or talk about it, but I have this problem with inflection. Have you ever tried to say something enthusiastically, genuinely, in earnest and full of love, only to have people react something like, “yeah right!” or “are you being sarcastic?” I’d say that happens to me about twice a week.

We workshopped my non fiction piece on Monday and afterwards I said, “Thanks a lot. That was really helpful.” The class laughed. The teacher snorted, “yeah, right!”

“I meant it,” I said, to the air. To no one. Helplessly.

It hurts. It makes me want to not find things beautiful and to not be grateful.

Is it comforting to know that elephants in captivity can paint flowers with their trunks? They’re just trained to do it. It’s a circus trick, and then their human masters sell the paintings. They have no fucking clue what they’re doing. Whatever. We’re all doomed. That’s my position.

03/8/11

molly’s favorite animals

1. bears
2. dogs
    a. domestic
    b. coyote
    c. wolf
    d. fox
3. elephants
4. insects/arachnids
    a. ants
    b. spiders
    c. moths
5. horses
6. chimps
    a. bonobo
    b. gorilla
    c. orangutan
7. cats
    a. lioness
    b. house
    c. lion
    d. panther
    e. mountain lion
    f. tiger
8. sloths
9. birds
    a. sparrow
    b. duck
    c. raven/crow
    d. osprey
    e. robin
10. platypus

Honorable mentions:
sharks, donkeys, snails, squirrels, and rats.

Worst animals:
1. lizards
    a. all variety of lizards.

09/24/10

The Significance of the Bear


I took this picture and I wrote a story about it. It’s in the second person. Bet you didn’t know you were an alcoholic named Carl! You are.
.
.
.


The Significance of the Bear

You know very well one day at a time isn’t going to last forever – not for someone like you. You feel trapped. When you go to the movies and the lights dim, the idea of two hours in a room with these strangers is enough to make you want to rush for the exit. The only reason you don’t is that you’ve played it out a million times before. You’ll be just as listless out in the fresh open air of the parking lot. In this way it doesn’t matter where you are or whom you’re with. On a long enough time line you will always want out. Still, you have to keep doing things. That’s what life is made of. So you moved from Michigan to Montana on the whim of a pamphlet and vague hope. A friend had told you, baselessly, that Missoula had the best meetings, and off you went into the pointless fucking void.

You don’t have to be a Christian in Alcoholics Anonymous. You can be other things, so you tried out dime store, new age mysticism. It’s hypnotizing to think that events have meanings, that thoughts become things. You started with The Secret and it was embarrassing. When you tried wishing for checks to come in the mail and they didn’t, you looked into it. You worked your way backwards to the heart of the matter, which is that it’s not enough to intend for things; you have to get your head buzzing right, and you have to be a good person and meditate and remember to say thank you, always, and still, even then, if the angels don’t want you to have it then you can’t have it. You despair in the bleak truth that there is always a catch.

When you were first made to admit that you were powerless over the sauce, you promised everyone you’d stick with it forever, but secretly, by forever you meant one year. It’s about that time and a voice in your head calls, wanting to know whether you’re planning on renewing your subscription.

Drinking a lot is like democracy: it’s the worst, but what’s the alternative? Still, you grew weary. You felt sick and ugly most of the time, so you got more drunk and woke up broke and embarrassed. You got so embarrassed one night you told everyone you knew that you recognized you had a problem and you wanted to get better. Later you were like, “just kidding about that thing I said about being an alcoholic” but they were all, “no take backs.” More or less.

Driving down from the Rattlesnake yesterday you saw a brown bear strapped on the back of a pick up. It’s the only bear you’ve seen in Montana - not alive but it was almost better that way, because you could see it close up. There was a cloth bandage around the bear’s paw, applied with what you could only interpret as misplaced tenderness. For a moment you fell in love with the driver of the truck. Was it a homo moment? It wasn’t love, you reasoned; it was admiration. (If it were romantic love it would be a valid and beautiful choice, but it wasn’t.) The man was an unapologetic killer of beasts and he was in no hurry to escape his situation. He would probably be content to drive up and down Broadway for all time, like the legend of the guy rolling the rock up the hill, but cheerfully. It's not sexist to assume the driver of the truck is a man, and not just because men are killers and women plant flowers or that only men drive trucks - remember, you're in Montana - it's just the whole scene. It’s the way the carcass is knotted to the truck bed, the sheer audacity of it. It’s like how everyone can tell girls’ handwriting from boys without understanding how. You took a picture of the bear and you showed it to your new AA friends.

-Hey guys, let's not talk about not drinking for a change, you suggested.

-That's a grizzly bear, they said.

-Look at the way the nose turns up. Those are round ears, not pointed like a black bears. No doubt about it.

-There's no hump, someone argued.

-Too young for the hump. That is definitely a grizzly bear.

They told you Grizzly bears are famous in Montana and it is always illegal to kill them. They decided you should report the bear to the state Fishing and Gaming Whatever. You were uneasy. Where you come from nobody calls the police on anybody.

-But look at the way the hunter nursed the paw, you pleaded.

-That’s not a bandage, one of them said.

-Nah, that’s just the tag. You have to tag animals before you take them out of the woods. It’s the law.

-Ironic, someone pointed out, helpfully.

You wanted to go around the circle and punch every one of them for telling you all these things you never wanted to know about hunting.

-What’s the big difference between killing a grizzly bear and killing a black bear? you asked them, and then you realized it was stupid. Because there are less of them?

-Yes, they said.

-Well, I mean, it's a respect thing, another added, but the reception for this comment was mixed.

It’s true that you don't drink or live in the Midwest anymore, and you’ve changed some, maybe even a lot, but you still can't see yourself as the kind of person who would ever call an 800 number to report a crime. You try to imagine the right scenario. If it had been a naked man up there, phallus dangling wherever, stripped of not just life but also dignity - Hell, if it had been a naked woman, still, you would hesitate. Perhaps they had it coming, and maybe not even in a "she was a real bitch" way - maybe she came at him with a knife. Plus, why would a man have a human strapped so flagrantly to the back of his truck if it weren’t somehow legal? You do that sometimes - reorganize the entire world to fit one anomalous idea.

You tell everyone you're going to call the wild life people, but you're lying. You're not going to. It's the same way you’re lying when you say your name is Carl and you're an alcoholic. You don't believe it, not really. It’s not that you love drinking, it’s that you hate life. You should say instead, “Hi, I’m Carl and I hate life.” And when you tell the others to keep coming back, the truth is you don't care either way.

What's the significance of a bear? You think about crossing the room to look it up in your spirit animal book, a relic from when you believed in things, but what will knowing do? Anyway, it's just as cold on that side of the room as it is over here. You try to draw connections between the two things on your own: There’s your alcoholism, a disease of the spirit, and there is the dead bear and your cowardice. Or indifference. Whatever. You try to weave it together in a rich tapestry of truth to create a synthesis and nothing happens. You get caught up in the events of the day. A third thing comes up that doesn’t match the other two things, then a fourth, until it all becomes one big thing again and you’re back to not believing in magic.

You’re standing in a church basement in the center of the room, fluorescent lights dangling overhead, surrounded on all sides by smiling men seated in metal folding chairs. They want to give you a keychain. The room is hot and you’re sweating and all you can think is: what the fuck. Why.

08/27/10

I made a mistake.

It’s important not to take things too literarily. Life is life and movies are movies, etc. I was walking down the sidewalk and I spotted a beetle-like insect, turned over on its back, frantically clawing at the air with those black, shiny legs they have. It was iconic, for one, but also reminiscent of two months ago when I saw the exact same thing. That first time I righted the insect with a stick, which revealed the larger problem: a broken leg. It moved in circles like a rowboat with one oar. It was humiliating. I thought about philosophy, and eventually decided the best course of action was to leave it on the sidewalk. A wounded insect wants to be stepped on, I reasoned.

This time I righted the thing again, and the beetle seemed physically fit… it ran down the sidewalk for a few seconds, and then plop! The idiotic bug flipped over once more. What is this, a flaw in nature’s design? What was the fucking deal? I moved it to the grass to see if it liked that better, and the thing seemed to flounder. The truth is I fell in love with the insect, or the romantic idea of it, anyway. I wanted the event to mean something disgusting or wonderful for my life. I resolved then to scoop it up and take it home with me. I would put it in a jar and it would become my pet. Perhaps I’d place it next to my bed and it would whisper stories to me in sleep. I decided this was a good idea.

I have a little tomboy in me but not so much that I’m going to carry a beetle in my bare hands. After a few failures (a leaf, etc.) I designed on a simple paper funnel as carrier. It tried furiously to jump out of the funnel and then fell down again, dejected. My second thoughts began at this time.

When I got home I put the beetle inside a sprouting jar. It’s breathable, it has holes! I thought this would be the point in the LARP where other hilarities ensued: What will I name the beetle? What do beetles eat? Water source? But it turned into something else.

The story becomes very dark. I learned something about beetles. When you find them turned on their back, groping at the air like mad men, this is not to be mistaken as a cry for help. It is, in fact, a suicide.

Allow me a little heaviness: It’s the same action with humans; I’ve seen it. On my grandmother’s death bed, I watched her grope out at nothing in front of her, her old withered hands having turned into claws. She looked like a kitten playing with yarn. She looked like she was trying to catch fireflies and failing. She looked like she was dying. A few hours later, she was dead.

The beetle is in a sprouting container on my kitchen counter and it is phenomenally depressed. It crawled to a corner and hasn’t moved since. It wanted to die on its back in nature with dignity, and instead it’s dying face down in plastic, all because I went searching for literary meaning somewhere I didn’t belong.

Next time you find yourself gazing at a single flower in a vase on the windowsill, in a urine scented stairwell, or standing with a bloody knife in your hands over your ex lover’s mother: take caution. You’re probably just in somebody’s story. Flip a light switch.

08/25/10

Dogs.

You may remember that I am a professional dog walker/sitter, in the sense that I profess a level of competency in the field, based on nothing, really, and I occasionally get paid for my services. These animals, with a few exceptions, love me. They doubtless love their owners too, but it can be startling how quickly they’re willing to shift their affection to any human who pays attention to them. (see: the attention economy.) Theres is an unconditional love – or at least, based on the measliest of conditions. It’s not even “feed me.” Just “touch me.” Who am I kidding, I’m the same way.

The puggles I walk on wednesdays are undeniably adorable, albeit useless little alien pig-like anomalies of nature. They don’t play fetch, sit on command, fetch newspapers (ha!) They in fact embarrass me. At the dog park when people tell me how adorable they are, I scream “they’re not mine!” But still. In my car they crawl around excitedly, like little, retarded toddlers. I talk to them. I have lengthy conversation that I imagine someone is overhearing. (No one is.) I’ve been referring to them as boys, as in “let’s go boys.” “shut up, boys.” etc. although, as I understood it, they were a boy and a girl: Rocky and Jayda. Today I looked closer at Rocky’s heart shaped tag and saw the name “Roxanne.” Hmm. Quick check revealed no external genitalia and gosh was my face red! So Rocky is Roxy and the boys are girls. I’m gonna keep calling them “boys” to be different. Brevity brevity brevity. I’ll tell you about some of my other charges later, resting on the belief that it’s not what you say but how you say it, cuz honestly, other people’s dogs? zzzzzzz.

Except three more things:
1. To a dog, the mouth is like a hand. A hand you can taste things with, but also pick up things with, but only a limited number of things. I theorize dogs don’t long for fingers so much as two mouths.
2. I get jealous of how much they love rawhide bones. I wish I loved something that much. I doubt I love my mother as much as they seem to love gnawing on shit.
3. That shameful look on their faces? It’s always there, but most apparent to the observer when they’re pooing. It’s the same way their smiles are not really smiles. A smiling dog is bound to start whimpering, and the illusion = shattered.