I didn’t think I’d have time for a good entry before departing for my Southern Solstice Celebration, but I was bright and shiny at five AM this morning for some godforsaken reason so I’ve got an extra hour at my disposal.
I just want to tell you how much living in this new cottage has changed my life. Changed everything. Things I didn’t even know were bothering me, things that were inhibiting what I needed to do that I didn’t realize. Even little things.
I got a new shower head. And this place has water pressure up the wazoo. (Is it disturbing to put the words “shower head” and “up the wazoo” that close together? Brings back memories of Heathers…) The houseboat’s shower featured a stunning drip so forceful that ants were nearly washed down the drain, should they happen to be directly under the faucet. One of the reasons I cut my long hair off was that it took me forty-five minutes to rinse the shampoo out of it one strand at a time. The landlord may have thought me crazy when I wanted to test the water pressure while viewing this apartment before signing the lease, but my showers are of utmost importance. I was showering at Mark & Lori’s house whenever possible, because they had a nozzle that could take off your epidermis and then the paint on the bathroom wall when you got out of the way. But then they moved to Rhode Island, leaving me with my lonely drip. Drip. Drip.
So I got one of those shower heads that is large and circular and has a “rain” setting, and the water comes out in such vigorous gusts that the shower curtain billows in the wind created by the falling water. I was in the shower last night with an enormous smile plastered on my face, just thinking, “I have a real shower. It’s real. And it’s mine.”
I also have a washer and dryer in my bathroom. Some folks may find reason to complain when they have to trek down two floors to a musty basement in order to do a load of wash. Try packing two people’s laundry into two giant bags weighing 60 pounds each, drag them 1/4 mile along a narrow, slippery (sometimes icy) dock to the parking lot, then drive a couple miles, and sit in a scuzzy Laundromat with a bunch of certified Weirdoes for three hours, then fold it all, pack it back into the laundry bags, drag it out to the car, drive back to the parking lot, and carry the 120 pounds of cargo back 1/4 mile to the houseboat. Then try to fit it through the door, which is two feet by four feet, and then try and cram the clothes into the smurf-size closet. Every week. In the pouring rain.
It’s not that life on the houseboat was horrible. I don’t want it to sound that way. It’s just that when pretty much everything you do has to be modified into a slightly more annoying task on a daily basis, it takes more energy to live, and I was finding myself exhausted by the end of the day just from existing.
Bought a yoga tape but couldn’t use it because I couldn’t stretch my hands over my head (6’4″ ceilings). Turn off the heater in order to use the microwave so you don’t blow a fuse. Sleep with your knees bent cause the bed that fit in the sleeping nook is shorter than you. Get dressed in the hallway cause the bathroom is too small to bend over fully in to put on socks. Store the tortillas in the cat condo because there’s no cabinets big enough.
Size matters, people.
I loved living on the houseboat for a lot of the time I spent there. Especially the summers. Pacific Northwest summers are just unabashedly delicious — they are to be savored manically as you are presented with 100 flawless bluesky days in a row to be gulped by the handful before disappearing into a seemingly endless stretch of dark wet gloom. Each summer day, waking up to sun and water just feet from my bed, the baby ducks on the lake, the gentle clang of sailboats, dining on the upper deck in the open air sunset at 9:30 PM… it was just decadent. But it seemed for every perfect summer day, there was an equally soul-crushing winter night. No running water, not enough heat, slamming against the dock repeatedly in harsh wind, squeege-ing condensation off the windows.
So simple things like lots of hot water, a dryer I can get to without talking religion with The Safety Pin Guy, and an enormous bed where I can sprawl to my heart’s desire — these are treasured amenities to me. I almost don’t even notice how slanted the floor is in the 100-year-old cottage because it’s so warm and dry.
The best part of the cottage, though, is the loft. One of the rooms, which was converted from a garage, insulated and carpeted, has 20 foot ceilings with exposed beams and a skylight running the entire length. There is a ladder, and 15 feet up, a loft where I have stashed my writing desk and my journals and my items of creativity. And my cats. I have to bribe them with tuna treats just to get a seat up there — Delia’s usually curled up in my chair and Jasper kneading my meditation cushion in feline bliss. I have acquired a gallon of Cerulean Blue to paint the ceiling, and a sea sponge to make little fluffy clouds (which reminds me warmly of Jema and her apartment on Comm. Ave.). There’s even a window up there, and a stuffed snake winding its way up the stairs. I procured two enormous leaves made out of tent material and a giant flower lamp that make me feel like a little fairy living in a tree house. And string after string of golden stars in shimmering strands forming a wall of sparkle where there would otherwise be just open air.
Having my own creative space again has changed my outlook on the world. I had my loft in Ballard, of all places, but Ballard was a drive away, and if I felt the urge to write, it was quite an ordeal to get myself there, get settled and begin. I’d usually get distracted en route, or end up trying to organize the space better because it always seemed a mess. But now, I pop out of my exuberant shower, put on boucle fleece socks, climb by ladder to my tree house and write. I’ve been doing morning pages up there, and evening pages. Plotting creative projects, speedwriting and streamwriting. It feels so fabulous. I feel alive. I have not felt creatively alive in a long, long time.
Which is why I felt the need to update this morning about all of this. Writing snowballs for me; when I get started small, I feel the need to do lots of small things. Which grow into larger things. Then I have the urge to do lots of large things. And more of them. And pretty soon I’m turned on 24 hours a day like a 100 watt light bulb, churning out page after page of ideas and prose and thoughts and dreams. I cannot be stopped.
I have not reached that point yet, but I feel it coming on. Like the tingle before a sneeze.
In October when I realized I’d probably end up working in my office job, I told myself as a consolation prize I’d get a new digital SLR camera. I received it just before we moved, and have not had a chance to play with it yet, except for Sunday. And it’s not the kind of machine you can just turn on and figure out in five minutes. Or rather, I can’t. I’ve got three hours on the plane tomorrow that might help me figure out how to turn it on. It looks like the dashboard of a flight simulator. And I majored in photo. (Which is a whole separate scary concept, that a good chunk of my education swiftly became obsolete with the invention of the digital darkroom.)
I just started shooting digital about three years ago, when Bee was working at the camera store and got me a fat discount on a Canon PowerShot, a truly awesome point-and-shoot. I recommend the newer generations of the same camera. They are simple to use, stunningly high-quality point-and-shoots for $200-$300. (And they come in pink.)
Being fairly new to the world of digital photography, I have never even held a digital SLR. Mags brought a borrowed one over one day and I think I was afraid to touch it because at the time they were about $4,000, lenses not included. The prices have come down quickly, and while still a sizable investment, doable. So I got a Nikon D80. But having never used a digital SLR, it’s going to be a whole different experience. Most of the controls look familiar to me from my old manual SLR that I was shooting with since I was 15. How to get them to do what I want is another story.
For folks who aren’t versed in this silly jargon, SLR stands for “single lens reflex”, which boils down to a manual camera. Manual, in that you select the amount of light coming in to the lens, you select how fast the shutter takes the picture, you select the focus and depth of field. When you use a point-and-shoot, all of those decisions are made for you by the camera. While this method of shooting was great fun for me when I first started with digital — it freed me from all the math and bracketing — I have recently been finding the lack of control inhibiting. I stopped shooting shows because without a digital SLR, it’s nearly impossible to get a decent low-light picture or control the exposure or focus — essential in a dark club with a moving target. But I’ll be able to shoot shows again, hopefully. I’ve got three weeks to figure it out before delicious Rob Dickinson and Tom Brosseau play the Tractor (!!!!). And I’m sure Tucson in all its red rock glory will present me with a few postcard sunsets to test the waters. And hopefully, Javelinas.
I’ll be in Tucson for The Holidays® so I may not get to write again for a bit. Hope you and yours are full of Holly and ‘Nog. Just make sure you get Holly’s permission first.
I am alive and well, despite the mad crazy windstorm that left the streets full of powerlines and decaptiated trees. I was surprised to hear that our tragic weather actually reached the Northeast news, after our situation was declared a State of Emergency — everyone in New England is probably yawning and shrugging, “Wind? An inch of snow? What are you people complaining about?”
The main problem is that this city is not equipped to handle anything but rain. And Seattle had a ton of rain last month, soaking all the trees and soil and roots and telephone poles, so when the hurricane-force wind kicked in, up came the trees and poles into the streets. I lost power for a day, which sucked since the heat is electric, but I have no right to bitch because I just came in to work to hear several coworkers still without power — that’s four days now. So I had it pretty good on Queen Anne, despite the bludgeoning the cottage endured from the Madrona tree above.
Please read this article and feel sorry for me.
I moved off the boat just in time. I feel like someone whose car was balancing on a cliff, and they scrambled out the window just in time to watch it crash and burn down the gorge below, ending in a gaseous explosion, wiping my forehead in relief. (Though the boat is still afloat and undamaged.) Melodramatic, but you know me.
Happy Holidays to everyone, whatever your holiday of choice may be. I’m celebrating Winter Soltice. May you and yours be merry and bright.
You know what I haven’t done in a while? Yes, dishes. But I meant something more important. Not that dishes aren’t important. Cause how would you eat if you didn’t have clean dishes? Out of the box? Is that any way for a college graduate to behave?
I have not, in what feels like forever, written a blog entry. I know it’s actually only been a number of days (okay, weeks), but for someone so obsessed with documenting her own importance in this measly little world, that is a paltry show of attendance.
Kris Delmhorst has been the soundtrack to my days lately. I love Kris Delmhorst in ways that defy gravity. She was on NPR last week, and hearing her talk about her music, and literature, and the world, lit my head on fire and reminded me what it is I love most about art: when it gives birth to other art. Her last album is called “Strange Conversations” and it’s all based on very famous poets and their works. Some of the songs are tributes to a well-known rhyme and others are compositions using the poem as the lyrics. She is just brilliant. You must hear it. Kris is hands-down my favorite female Boston artist and her voice makes me a tiny bit homesick for Somerville — Johnny D’s, or the Burren even, or the MidE, or the subway platform where I asked her to marry me and she giggled. I was serious — in a way. I want our art to get married. I think the loftiest compliment I could receive as a writer is to have a musician I love render my words into song. You can listen to the spot she did on All Things Considered that I heard while driving… you should listen. She speaks and sings with equal relaxed ease about literature, love, life and music. Like she’s talking about the weather.
Kris played with Red Bird not too long ago at the Tractor — a fabulous seated acoustic show, along with bandmate Peter Mulvey, another Boston folkie I cherish. Their music is such warm and barefoot goodness, long-haired gin and juice nights on the front porch, and inspiration sandwiches with a side of starfish and fireflies.
When I miss Somerville now, it’s different. It reminds me of Jonny Rodgers song when he sings, “when I miss you it’s a good pain…” It feels now like I miss a story someone told me, like it’s not quite real. But there’s something about the music of my times there that reignites the feeling of being in Davis Square, or Harvard Square, or 894 Broadway. The other night, listening to Porterdavis, I could nearly feel the cold vinyl seats of my car and my black down jacket as Rizz and I laughed so hard about the enormous phallus of a chocolate stick Dunkin Donut — across the street from the Toad where we’d just emerged from seeing Porterdavis play in the shining January night… we laughed until we were snorting powdered sugar, still high from Daniel’s music, and the leftover Christmas lights, and my heart was warm with snow.
And the refrain kicks up, and I Adore You, and it’s time to hit the road.
Magnolia and the Olympics.
These photos are Sunday’s view from my new apartment on Queen Anne. I’ve left the houseboat for now and returned to life as a landlubber.
In related news, read the Post-Intelligencer article entitled, “Seattle’s Wettest Month On Record, Including A Week Of Snow, Sleet, Hail And Subfreezing Temperatures For Which Kristin Was Not Prepared“. There will be more to follow once I finally get some furniture, and DSL access, and I’ll sit down with a cup of tea and tell you all about it. Hope these will do for now.