Friday, February 08, 2008

little bits from other places

I can't compartmentalize. Everything swirls together in my head, in one murky glob, sometimes shimmering like a chemical rainbow on wet tarmac, and sometimes, well, sometimes not. And it can just be a challenge, a simple real estate dilemma, with disparate observations jockeying for the same pieces of my brain. It's a little tight up there, with all the noise and noticing and over-analyzing. If I stick to the precarious real estate analogy, I could follow that with so much competition for my thinking space, every random notion becomes more valuable. Your basic supply and demand. I find strange comfort in that, in letting the odd ideas move in right alongside the sanguine, expected passing thoughts about life (and by life, I mean my life, which is mostly relegated to the categories of Mothering and What's for dinner), and regarding each one as an important part of who I am. So, important, but no less odd. Like the other day, for example. I was at the doctor's office (regularly scheduled ladyparts look-see) and in the waiting room, I had this moment of swirling madness where I couldn't quite reconcile the contrast of what was happening in the waiting room, what was happening in the book I was reading, what was happening in the whole world. And I could just about see myself as a tiny pinpoint and do that pull back, higher and higher and higher thing you see in movies, or google earth: the waiting room, my town, the state, the country, the planet, all of time and eternity, right there and the horror and wonder of it all screaming in my ears.

It shouldn't surprise you that I was reading The Grapes of Wrath. I sure talk about it enough. But I'm like that. I am such a creature of habit. I grind a path and then plod, predictably, in the same bare ruts. The Grapes of Wrath is my favorite book for reading whenever I don't have anything else to read. I have the audiobook on my ipod (and if you haven't experienced it as read/performed by Dylan Baker, then I suggest you remedy that straight away. I love it so much I can't even really tell you) and listen to that a lot, too. It's not just my favorite fill-in-empty-space book, it's my Favorite Book. I opened the book several chapters in, after the Joads started in the Hudson heading west, but before they reached California, in the thick of the worry, the uncertainty, the humility of needing to trade one's shoes for gas. A tangential inner dialog sparked, considering potential possible correlations from that era to our country's shaky future. And what I said elsewhere (when I wrote about this in my other place, which, yes, makes these rambles a little bit recycled, but you know how I feel about secondhand stuff and, also, I don't use complete sentences or even proper punctuation over there) was that the contrast, between the frail but tenacious old man holding onto his walker and worrying about his wife's Alzheimer medication, the young pharma-rep chippies in pantsuits talking about "getting drinks later" while waiting to unload their samples and swag, and the desolation and exquisite hope in Steinbeck's meandering, perfect prose all swirling around me right there felt very powerful and beautiful and painful.

Oh, bother. That's a very run around sort of preamble to yet another mention of Hi, I keep meaning to write more here and I keep not doing a very good job of it. I can't separate the tedious details, the t.m.i. and the incriminating evidence from the boiled down, reduction of the parts best fit for public consumption. I write elsewhere for myself, to purge and be done and start fresh, but the reverse of that tactic is proving inefficient here. It all seems so shallow. And so incomplete. I guess I need a focus. If not purging the minutiae, then what? I lack practice in forming words for any other reason. I'm not a crafter, I'm not a mommyblogger (I'm a mother with a blog, but even writing about my children feels too precious and unreal and I tread lightly there), I avoid politics, I'm not full of smart essays others want to read. I'm just plodding along and trying to write a little about it. It doesn't have to be smart to be a piece of my truth, another slice of my life, of all life, another chance to make myself available to the real, tangible connections that can form and happen in this virtual world.

I don't have to imagine what life would be like without this deep pool of people and ideas and relationships available through the internet, I just have to remember. I'm actually quite friendly and chatty and comfortable in most situations, should you happen to run into me some time, but there are some things in life that one enjoys quite a bit once the thing has started, but which one isn't likely to initiate oneself. (I'm sure that's as much of a double entendre as it seems to be, but no worries, I'm not headed that direction). I am not as lonely as I would be otherwise, as I have been, because of connections that start in my magic flashing box before migrating into three-dee space. Some folks are so talented at creating community. Drop them in a new town and they'll be organizing civic events and hosting dinner parties in a few weeks. Not me. I like to be a part, but I'm not very good at making it happen without a deliberate invitation. I've humorously remarked in the past that I'm always secretly waiting for a random band of merrymakers in party hats to show up at my door for a good time. It's not that I don't like to make merry, it's not that I don't enjoy being a part of a community greater than my own, immediate four walls, it's that I'm not so inclined to initiate it on my own. And knowing that about myself, having some presence online, however small and inconsistent, keeps me a little closer to something resembling sanity.

Years ago, I entered the virtual world by participating on message boards. I met some folks I still know on a now-defunct mama site. And in those years, it was enough to talk about breastmilk and the incessant cloth vs. disposable debate and feel a connection. I still veer toward folks who parent in a manner that's somewhat reflective of my own, but the older my older kid gets, the more I realize how little a lot of that stuff really matters, after all. (oh, it matters and I'm just as determined in a lot of my ideals as ever, but they're not enough to sustain relationship, that's all I mean). And then I made the organic transition that a lot of folks made from message boarding to live journaling. I approve of the shift in online community. The way we went from everybody talking at once to carefully inviting a particular group of friends over to share in our conversations. It became more intimate. And this seems even more personal, this blog with a specific url one must decidedly click to, as opposed to scrolling by quickly on a livejournal friendslist. I like having both. I sometimes feel guilty taking up the cyberspace with pointless rambles, but it doesn't have to be profound to be important. It's not always in the words, it's just in the being there. In the being here. With you. Whoever you might be, reading this.

I appreciate the visual community at flickr as much as reading along with my favorite bloggers (who may or may not be listed on my sidebar there. I'm shy about linking to folks I don't know). I play scrabble with my husband on facebook. Oh sure, we sleep in the same bed, you think we'd be able to manage a regular board game now and again, but it's easier to have a game going online and get to it when we can and not worry that the little boy in the house has already fed the extra tiles to his dump truck. Are you on the facebook? I'd play scrabble with you, too, and we can ward off the Alzheimer's together. And that's about as thin as I'm spreading the online representation of myself these days. Which is about as equally thick as any real time self of mine is spread. It's all legit and adds layers to my days. Community happens in all sorts of places.

And here's a story you can hardly believe, but it's true, and it's funny and it's beautiful. There was a family of twelve and they were forced off the land. They had no car. They built a trailer out of junk and loaded it with their possessions. They pulled it out to the side of 66 and waited. And pretty soon a sedan picked them up. Five of them rode in the sedan and seven on the trailer, and a dog on the trailer. They got to California in two jumps. The man who pulled them fed them. And that's true. But how can such courage be, and such faith in their own species? Very few things would teach such faith.

The people in flight from the terror behind -- strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.

-John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
the last 2 paragraphs of Chapter 12


sj said...

sometimes, in my head, over and over, it is saying 'water water everywhere but not a drop to drink'. it is always when thinking, under that layer of thought, about friendship.

"...the real, tangible connections that can form and happen in this virtual world."

i am thankful for.

we often have so many people around us, but that true friendship is not just isn't there. i am thankful for the small handful of dear friends i have, i do wish some of them lived a little closer. this way of staying connected to those we already know, and the new folks we meet, is nice.

i'm glad you serve up a slice of yourself over here. your thoughts, happenings, photos...if i had facebook and was a little better with words, i'd join you. i fear my lack of words, however, would be fairly annoying...

Lisa said...

I hope this doesn't change your opinion of me, but I have never read The Grapes of Wrath. Isn't that awful? I might have to put it on my reading list now; I just fear "classics" sometimes because I worry that they will be too dry or I will have to slog through it or it will not be relevant to how I relate to tody. Not that I avoid all classics, I've even read Anna Karenina, even though it took forever. Some authors, like Steinbeck, frighten me for some reason.

I'm not on Facebook, but I might have to take you up on your Scrabble offer, if you were really serious. I LOVE Scrabble.

april. said...

Oh, Lisa, no! I didn't read TGoW for the first time until maybe six or seven years ago. Okay, I take that back, I gave it a cursory skim during my junior high years, but I didn't really get it. Now, it resonates with me and every word reads like poetry. I generally admire Steinbeck a lot and enjoy his writing, but The Grapes of Wrath is my favorite, especially. I think it's probably a little trite to admit such a thing, but I am sincere about it. I think it's one of those books that a lot of people think they know, but maybe they've never really read it. I like East of Eden, too, and read that one often as well, but it's depressing to me. (a little irony there since so many people regard The Grapes of Wrath as hopelessly depressing. . . I actually see the opposite).

and I am serious about facebook! there are other ways to play online scrabble, but it's tidy and organized there. if you get an account, you can find me by my whole name, first and last.

Angelina said...

What a wonderful post and me with no time to sort through the things it makes me want to say. Later. There's always later.

Angelina said...

I've been meaning to come back and say that I think Steinbeck is a brilliant writer but I don't enjoy reading his work because it makes me feel parched and dusty and depressed. I haven't read The Grapes Of Wrath but "Of Mice And Men" made me so uncomfortable I put Steinbeck in the same category as Charles Bukowski whom I believe is an amazing author but that doesn't mean I can read his work.

What does it say about me that what I come back to again and again are Jane Austin novels and Charlotte Bronte novels? Does that mean I'm fluffy?

There was actually lots more I had to say but it's two O'clock in the morning and I think I should go to sleep now.