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Jan. 16th, 2009

oregon beach

(no subject)

When I was eight or nine I went to summer camp, as usual. I came back with browned skin, unbrushed hair, and a week's worth of dirt layered into my suitcase. My mother sorted through it in the laundry room and laughed. The house smelled so good, and she had cleaned our room, like she sometimes did during the day while we were away at school.

I don't know how to tell this story.

While I was at camp, one afternoon during quiet hour, I had taken out my little spiral notebook and pretended to write a letter to my mother. "Dear Mom," it said, "I miss you and want to tell you how much I love you, except for on Tuesdays." It descended by degrees in each sentence and ended in "All my hate, Kristen." It was some childish version of a writing exercise, a scribble, some way of amusing myself. I can't explain it, and I couldn't explain it when my mom found it, cleaning out my suitcase.

She came to me privately in my room, asked me gently. I dissolved, totally mortified. I felt caught; I felt culpable for something I didn't even mean; I looked at her face and would have died rather than have her believe it. I wasn't really a very softhearted child, and this is one of the only situations where I can recall the feeling of desperately loving my mother independent of the expectation of comfort or support. I burst into tears and babbled about not meaning it and just doing it for a joke, bored and away from home. She believed me. I can't remember if I told her that I loved her, but I know that she told me.

Like so many of my most humiliating moments, it's a little thing. It happened long before I ever had real troubles with my mom - the time I told her I didn't listen to what she said because I didn't respect her, or the ugly things I wrote in my journal when I was fourteen, or when she talked to grandma on the phone about grandma's cancer and I was filled with disgust for the way she looked when she cried. Unlike those other things, though, it was a secret she kept for me, and like the other secrets there were between us, since her death I have had to keep it alone. Shut deep, my memory of myself is dark and disproportioned, but I still have it, and although my memory of my mother is childish and one-sided, I have that, too. What I don't have, and what I want, is her side of the story; her knowledge of me as an adult and as my mother and as the keeper of all these old and quiet secrets.

May. 9th, 2008


(no subject)

Two years before I was born, the 1986 Expo was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. They built the Skytrain and Canada Place, and my parents went with their Kodak cameras.

Twenty years later I stood on bleachers in damp midmorning beside the track at a high school in Tsawassen, reading a faded and rusted over blue sign that read: THIS TRACK 8 FIELD FACILITY IS A COMMUNITY LEGACY OF THE 1987 B.C. SUMMER GAMES

As a child in Bellingham things were the same way. Our many city and state parks, public sports fields, nature paths, and visitor's signposts all blue aluminum placards in the sun and rain, dripping cedars and fir trees and emperor ferns. Like most of the Pacific Northwest, Bellingham underwent a spurt of energy and revitalization in the 80s that resulted in sudden population growth, and ushered the region into the clean, neutral, new modernity of the West Coast in the 90s. Nearly all human impact I saw around me was only five or ten or twenty years older than my memory. Everything else was clean dirt, vaulting trees.

We had a hospital - that continued to expand - a shopping mall - big enough to lure a steady stream of Canadians from the Lower Mainland, weekends or weekdays, who were forever committing traffic infractions - a strip of shopping centers packed on either side of a long and hazardous multilane street we called "the Guide." It ran north and south, from the Mt Baker Highway in north Bellingham farmland down to the curving bay, the oldest part of Bellingham, where the Roeder family and a handful of others who built the papermills and harnessed Whatcom Creek erected their stately family home in Victorian style - a remnant of Old Whatcom, like the Victorian and Edwardian mansions visible on the hills from a boat in the bay.

In this corner of the world, human history was an afterthought, a matter of mere practicality. We needed public buildings - the new city hall, courthouse, public library, all built in the 60s and 70s - because, like schools, they were necessary for the education and community life of the people. This was a land without churches. We needed cars and minivans to get around in the rain, do grocery shopping, and drive children to soccer practice. We had no false pride in old cathedrals or lines of brick tenements, no indoor gyms, no nightlife. The city built an indoor swimming pool in the early 90s, to the great consternation of many old-time Bellingham residents (local boys and 60s import hippies), who thought the lake and ocean had always been good enough for them.

We considered it natural to do things outside. There was enough lake, woods, river, mountain, and ocean for all of us and more. In the summer, swimming, hiking, boating, walking downtown or in parks, low tides anywhere up and down the coast, biking and waterskiing. In winter, an hour's drive up the mountain brought skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, playing and sledding into the frozen bowl of an alpine lake. In spring and fall and winter and summer, we did it in the rain.

[fall 2006]

Apr. 26th, 2008

oregon beach

(no subject)

The summer I learned to drive, dad and I sought out the secrets of two counties and a hundred old roads. One evening in June we drove north, past the bluffs, past the airport, past the Indian Reservation, past the Cabin where we spent holidays, west of the farmland into the wooded sea hills, and parked on a rocky beach.

It was chilly by the water. It was almost sunset. We got out of the car and sat on camp stools and I read a children's book retelling of the legend of Frey and his love for the ice maiden. My dad told me how Spaniards and English came up from the south with their maps and named the dry land; how Point Frances is also an island because of the tide. He took out his scope and saw the birds, the islands, the names of passing ships.

It chanced one day that Freyr had gone to Hlidskjálf, and gazed over all the world; but when he looked over into the northern region, he saw on an estate a house great and fair. And toward this house went a woman; when she raised her hands and opened the door before her, brightness gleamed from her hands, both over sky and sea, and all the worlds were illumined of her.

Aug. 20th, 2007

ufo house

(no subject)

She would say, "Listen to the words," when I complained every week about the music at church. She said, "Grandma cares more about you than about her books; they're just things," when I damaged something of Grandma Wesley's and was afraid to give it back. She would say, "Grandma and Grandpa like to get your thank-you cards; they keep them, so write something nice." She said, "Wash your hair first, then your body, with the washcloth," and "it's easier if you zip the zipper before you try to button your jeans." Every time there were parent-teacher conferences, she and Dad would come back that evening, and Mom would call us to her room individually so she could tell us what they said - and what they said was good. "I'm so proud of you," she would say.

She said, "We dress nicely because we're going to worship in God's house." She said, "What would your teachers say if they could see you right now?" She said, "You're squelching your brother - I don't want you treating him like that." She said, "I'm glad he's still young, and he can yell up the stairs with his little boy voice," and, during her last summer, "In the past year he's lost his baby face: his face is thinner and his jaw is different."

We watched The X-Files and she said, "Too weird!" in the way she always said that, and I ate minute rice and a week later she was dead.

Jul. 20th, 2007


(no subject)

When I was younger and we were living in the old house, I would be in another room, or downstairs, and I would hear Grandma sometimes before I even knew she was there. She would come in and be talking to Mom in the kitchen, and I would hear her loud, delighted voice with that particular cadence muffled through the walls, and come to the bottom of the stairs to see if it was really her.

May. 12th, 2007

ufo dark hills

(no subject)

Phoenix is a vast grid of lights stretching in all directions, regular and intricate as a motherboard. It is 104 degrees in Phoenix, the baked earth making the plane shudder in its heat during takeoff, and it is 64 degrees as we land in Seattle, saltspray on the windows. The plane banks, the skyline dips - at night, in darkness, just a faint glow, but still discernible. The light of man.

Apr. 29th, 2007

ufo green hills

sin boldly

[april 20, 2007]

Yesterday at 5 or so I went to Subway, and on the way back stopped at Fusz for a drink and chips, and then had a picnic on the grass behind the bushes outside. It was wonderful. I listened to Sufjan, watched the rabbits, lay back and looked at the tree branches against the sky. I thought about confession, and felt so calm and ready: All my sins will be forgiven. My own sins, said aloud with embarrassment, will be heard like any other person's sins, and I will be washed free. I've been too jealous of my sins - not scrupulous in not committing sin, but ashamed of confessing it. I ought to "sin boldly," like Luther - not, obviously, in the way that it sounds, but through humility. To sin boldly, to take them out of the deep hidden place where evangelicals trap and muffle our sins, to sin boldly by openly admitting things that I have done, refusing to abstract them from myself, and going to confession because I need it. I need that discipline of humility.
lake whatcom railway

conversion, bluntly

[many assorted thoughts; from September 2006 to April 2007]Collapse )
lake whatcom railway

(no subject)

[march 1, 2007]

I slept in this morning (skipped Ethics) and have spent the midmorning on my bed, watching the highway and the rim of the city. St Louis is so dingy, but wears the light well. It feels a certain way that fits with 80s rock and reminds me of something. PBS shows, or Reading Rainbow, or Mr Rogers. I am learning to like it. It is becoming a part of me, but slowly. On good days little things can remind me of home, Seattle, even Vancouver, and it becomes sweeter even as I long for that other something I see through it.

That same mix of freedom, nostalgia, and contentedness came to me yesterday afternoon, when I stood looking out the window, listening to a Celine Dion song I hadn't heard in years that reminded me of the West Coast, Seattle at sunset, and I thought about my mom, feeling young and old at the same time. I am so distant from how I was when she was alive and knew me, and I've changed and grown and am almost nineteen years old. I always grudgingly admit in my mind that, yes, mom would be proud of me, I'm her daughter - but it's seldom I get the clarity and calm that allows me to feel it. I am in college, living on my own and in the position I longed to be in when I was fifteen and lost at home. How things change.

Listening to the Eva Cassidy version of "Time After Time," eyes closed and trying to sleep, takes me right back to the Cabin. In some moments of the familiar tune, I could be thirteen with my headphones on in the dark, holding my plastic Walkman, falling asleep to 103.5 and 104.3 and the dreamlike soft rock songs being replayed again and again. I remember my small space and every color and texture of the furniture - the slope of the ceiling. In the morning I will dress and go downstairs and get ready in the tiny bathroom; will comb my hair back into a ponytail; will eat cinnamon toast while Mom listens to Paul Harvey; will wear my red and white striped rugby shirt or white Stanford sweatshirt and jeans; will fill my backpack with Alyssa DiGregorio's Brenthaven binder, my textbooks, my SSR books, my sack lunch Mom made. It was another world.

The verse about warm nights makes me think of the summer before, at Kelly's house, sleepovers every week of the summer. The laughter and conversations, but also the quiet. The times when we would sit in her upstairs in the evening, listening to a CD and keeping our thoughts to ourselves.

Apr. 23rd, 2007

ufo dark hills

(no subject)

After all this, I am still lovesick for them, my "kinsmen according to the flesh." May God look with pity on his faithful servants, who love him with all their heart and all their might, who fear him and sing him songs by night, underneath the stars and hills, under the murmur of towering trees and in the hush of the dark.

I was listening to Lance sing "To God Be the Glory," a recording now probably ten years old, and thinking of Firwood. Centerstage in pajamas, arms around each other, the name of the Lord like honey on our lips. Walking up through the trees to dark cabins, hunting for toothpaste, trekking back down to the light of the showerhouse, a glow of people in the bustle of getting ready for bed, still bound by the last strains of our song, everyone in the quiet calm of the deepening night. The morning might come early, with rain pattering on the rafters and window canvas, but for now we can fall asleep to the wind in the trees, far up, and the clear smell of the lake and woods at night, broken intermittently by a far off yelp of laughter, and finally the hush of sleep.

Before bed we will dig out our flashlights and Bibles, flip through them in the familiar, almost careless, caress that is our way, as our counselor asks us that night's questions and we answer - we theologize - with sleepy ease. We have Bible study every afternoon on the grass or the swim beach, but in the dark we talk more freely, softened and made serious by affection for each other and intimacy with Him.

God does not waste things. Oh God, oh God.

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lake whatcom railway

January 2009



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