Sunday Night Coffee

I’m sitting in Tate Street Coffee House with a friend. We’re in my favorite spot, the table in the window at the front. There’s a step to get up to it. I kind of like being on display like this; it adds accountability for me. If one is going to be on display, one should probably be doing something productive. It would be a little shameful to just be on Facebook or Pinterest, at least for me. Though I’ll admit it looks more romantic to be typing in a document or writing in a notebook than it does to be working on a spreadsheet.

There’s a certain kind of energy to a coffee shop at night, especially when it’s one in an area that looks like or is a downtown of some kind. The neon lights from the “open” sign in the window and similar ones shining from the surrounding businesses add a different vibration than when those lights are much less visible in the light of day. There’s an increased energy. In the middle of the day, when sunlight is streaming through the windows, there’s almost a sleepiness to a place like this. It’s relaxed, full of people quietly working or friends gathered together. In a coffeeshop in the middle of the day on the edge of a college campus, one is either killing time in between classes or quickly grabbing coffee before something important. At night, there’s a sense of urgency underlying the relaxation, almost overwhelming it. Only those with something to accomplish put caffeine in their bodies this late, especially on a Sunday night.

I’ve ordered unsweetened iced green tea. (I’m turning into my mother.) But here whatever tea they use is fragrant, and so much so that it’s almost sweet on its own. I can’t drink hot drinks; they do not quench my thirst, only increase it. I wish I did enjoy hot drinks, because it would be much more pleasant to walk around with a hot coffee in my hand than an iced one in the dead of winter. Idiosyncrasies are fun, aren’t they? Mine sometimes annoy me, but I try to accept them.

Tate Street Coffee House is nearly empty. It’s understandable, at half-past nine on a Sunday night. Classes don’t begin until Tuesday, so there’s not much reason for my kind of crowd to be in here yet. Soon the place will be buzzing to various degrees at all times of day. But not tonight. Tonight it’s quiet.

 

The Elusive Muse

Sometimes – or, if you’re me, oftentimes – your muse has abandoned you. I don’t care if it’s writing, drawing, music, or anything else. My muse is an elusive creature; either she’s incredibly shy or she hates me. There are methods many people use in order to entice their muses. These are the ones that have worked for me and continue to work for me.

 

Get inspired.

Consume something similar to what you want to create. If you’re a writer trying to write, read. If you’re an artist trying to draw or paint or anything else, look at some art. If you’re a musician trying to compose, listen to music. There is nothing new under the sun; everything is a retelling of the same few old stories. Drawing inspiration from someone else is what every creator has done after the creation of the earth, so do not be afraid.

 

Ask questions.

There’s the classic question: “What if . . .?” But my favorite question is, “What would I like to read?” It’s easy to replace the word “read” with “see” or “hear” or anything else. What would you like to see in the world? What is missing from the world that you can contribute? Find the answer, and create it.

 

Create anyway.

Even when nothing is coming, sit down and write something, words or music, or draw, or whatever it is you do – do it. My boyfriend told me something that really struck me recently: Keep ideas flowing. “The bad ideas have to flow too, or you’ll never get to the good ones.” The most important thing is to create, even if it’s bad, even if you destroy it later. You’ll have created something. You’ll have done something. And that, is something.

Why “Perfect on Paper” Doesn’t Always Work Out

Sometimes, when everything should work out, it doesn’t. Just because something looks perfect on paper doesn’t mean it’s actually flawless – especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Of course, paper can’t account for chemistry. But it goes deeper than that.

Sometimes, that person who has the same exact background as you – same religion, same school, same class, same interests, same job, similar family – who seems so perfect for you in every way – isn’t. It can seem like they are, even for a long time. But too much in common is actually a problem in a relationship the vast majority of the time.

I think what leads a lot of us to fall in love for the first time is that almost complete or entirely complete similarity. We see ourselves in another person, and find ourselves drawn to them for that reason. First love is a journey of self-discovery. Because of this, first love is falling in love with one’s self as much as it is falling in love with someone else. This is why it is so essential, for those who experience romantic feelings. Though first love doesn’t necessarily teach one how to love and accept oneself completely, and frequently does not, it can and should teach a basic self-love.

At the same time, similarity is why first love frequently falls apart. We see ourselves in someone else initially, and when we grow and change, sometimes we grow in different directions. Sometimes these paths are identical or complementary, but more often than not they skew in opposite directions. People grow and change. It’s what they do. It’s what they should do. It’s a miracle that my boyfriend and I, after over three years and much of that time spent long-distance, have managed to grow together. It’s a miracle that anyone does, frankly.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t important things that couples need to have in common. There’s values and expectations, and dreams, that must be considered, and should be quite similar. That makes for a lasting foundation, and for a future to work toward. It’s nice for couples to be from similar backgrounds, especially socioeconomic, and similar interests, but it isn’t necessarily something that can make or break a relationship.

The key is complementarity. There are things that must be agreed upon, and there are those that must be in agreement. By “in agreement” I mean that there are certain views, personalities, and styles, among other things, that should complement one another. Also, what one person in a relationship lacks, the other should provide, though they should work toward equality, if not in ability, than in the amount of effort put forth by each party. It should ultimately balance out.

Complementarity, and not being identical, is key, because too much similarity is boring. Conflict brings interest and passion. Too much conflict can be damaging, whether short- or long-term, to a relationship and/or an individual, but a healthy amount of conflict keeps the spark alive between two people. So many of us have heard of the overused trope of “making up” being almost or entirely better than being in a good, healthy place in a relationship. Maybe there is a little bit of truth to it.

Conflict indicates something else as well: investment. If you can argue with your person, come to a conclusion, and move on, it shows that you are invested in the relationship. Conflict shows that you’re not only willing to fight, but that you’re also willing to fight for the relationship itself. It shows trust; you trust that, even though your partner is seeing a less attractive side of you, that they will still love you. Their continuing to love you through it all is a reaffirmation of that love. It’s a sign of commitment.

So, for those of you in love for the first time, don’t be surprised if it ends. Most people don’t end up with their first love, though some do. But know this: you are going through something monumental. You are going through something important. You are going through something life-changing. And I hope you’ll be the better for it.

Before and After: Brie

Before.

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After.

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Brie. The little mutt that makes my life so much brighter.

Brie came to me about two years ago. She’s about three years old now. She’d lived the first year or so of her life on the streets of Puerto Rico. When she was picked up, she had hookworm, mange, no fur, and, though fully grown, weighed eight pounds less than she currently does at her ideal weight. She was literally skin and bones; her ribs were clearly visible.

I think what saved Brie was that she is so friendly and sweet as molasses. A dog like that gets saved, no matter how ugly it is. Compared to the beautiful dog she is now, she was an ugly animal. Though, I’ll admit, she was still cute. She has a sweet face, and back then she had the saddest eyes.

I had been searching Petfinder for a few weeks, looking for an emotional support animal. I saw a dog called “Briana,” listed at sixteen pounds and short-haired. My mother’s requirements for a dog was that it not be a puppy, have short hair, be less than 30 pounds, and be female and fixed. “Briana” ticked all those boxes. The dog in the blurry picture was tall, almost gangly. But I asked my mother to email Lost Dog and Cat Foundation and request her presence at an adoption event at a Petsmart a mile from my house, just to meet her. It was her first, and, it turned out, only adoption event.

I got up early and we waited for the van to arrive. The volunteers opened the back doors of the van, and there she was, in a crate in the top right corner. I turned to my mother and said, “That’s my dog.” She was doubtful, to say the least. But she still ran inside and signed up for an interview.

Not too long after, we took Brie home. The consensus in the car before we’d arrived at Petsmart was that, should we adopt “Briana,” she would promptly be renamed “Brie.” “Briana” was too human a name for a small dog.

Brie gained weight, and I got her to be truly housetrained. To my mother’s dismay, she grew a long, beautiful, honey-colored coat. She became the most friendly, sweet, and affectionate dog in the world. That dog runs around with an actual smile on her face. She’s the sweetest and happiest thing. Sure, sometimes she’s a brat or annoying, but she’s truly a delight, and I love her more than I ever thought possible. She’s a fantastic emotional support animal; though untrained, she knows when someone is upset. She loves to be touched and talked to.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the best present I ever got.

 

Synesthesia

Synesthesia. A word a surprising amount of people have heard, but many do not understand.

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the word synesthesia comes from the Greek syn- and aesthesis, meaning “union” and “sensation,” respectively. Its figurative translation means “to perceive together.”

Synesthesia is, by definition, a sense impression made on one part of the body or on one sense that is produced by stimulus to a separate sense or body part. To simplify, synesthesia can be thought of as a “crossing over” of senses.

Synesthesia is not a disease, nor is it a hallucination. It is a genetic biological phenomenon, unlearned, more common in females than males. It is believed that one in every 2,000 people are synesthetes, the term used for those individuals with synesthesia. Famously, Vladimir Nabokov is reputed to have been a synesthete.

There is a widely-accepted theory that synesthesia is caused by a genetically driven overabundance of neurons in the brain. Synesthetes tend to be musical, artistic, and/or good at spelling and history. The musicianship and artistic abilities come from the lives of synesthetes being, for the most part, saturated with color. The enhanced spelling and history ability come from these colors, too. If the colors of the letters or numbers are amiss, the synesthete can more easily locate mistakes and fix them.

I myself have synesthesia. Mine manifests in the form of letters and numbers having colors, genders, and personalities, especially numbers under ten. I also “see” music. Music usually looks to me like colors, sometimes shapes, and occasionally scenes, like paintings.

The way synesthesia works for me is that I see that letters in a book are black. I know the ink is black; I see the ink is black. But in my mind’s eye, the place where one visualizes things, (for example, memories) the letters each have their own colors. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, because the words become tiny paintings comprising a larger, more beautiful whole.

My favorite words because of my synesthesia and the colors of its provides are “beautiful,” “meadow,” “dinosaur,” and “bride.” My favorite pieces of music are Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” which is deep blue and speckled with silver, with moments of the palest yellow. I also love “By a Sleepy Lagoon” by Eric Coates, which is peach and sky blue and green. The letter “A” is red, “I” is a pale ice blue with a tiny tint of lavender, and the letter “T” is forest green. They are that way because they’ve always been that way. I’ve never known a time when those letters didn’t have those colors.

Synesthesia varies from person to person. The colors of my alphabet, while they largely conform to those of most English-speaking synesthetes, vary slightly from that alphabet. My sister and my father have synesthesia as well, and their alphabets differ from mine, with some similarities. We get into joking fights about what color certain letters are.

I wouldn’t trade my synesthesia for anything. It literally makes my life more colorful. It makes music and reading more interesting and delightful. I’ve never lived without it, and I wouldn’t like to. If you’d like to know what color your name is, comment below, and I’ll let you know!

 

Works Cited:

Carpenter, Siri. (March 2001). Everyday fantasia: the world of synesthesia. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar01/synesthesia.aspx

Harrison, J.E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (Eds.) (1996). Synaesthesia: Classic and contemporary readings. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

 

General Update

*Slinks up to the microphone* Hello . . .

I have completed the first summer session of classes and am well into the second. I’ve been working as a nanny since April, as well. In between I’ve been reading, reading, reading.

I’ve been reading Delusions of Grandma by Carrie Fisher (I love you forever, Space Mom) and Ellen Herrick’s The Forbidden Garden. I’ve also been continuing with Stephen King’s On Writing, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, and rereading Rilla of Ingleside – I’m always somewhere in the Anne series at any given moment.
I’m going to pick up The Sun Also Rises, as well. I bought myself a handsome copy of it at my favorite used bookstore, Ed McKay’s. I hated The Sun Also Rises in high school, because I had read The Old Man and the Sea too young (seventh grade) and hated it, so I decided to hate Hemingway on principle. Honestly, this view of mine didn’t change until I read A Moveable Feast for the first time. How can one, upon reading about Paris in the 1920s, not fall in love with anyone writing about it when they’ve lived it? And so, I fell in love with Hemingway.

It’s Been Awhile

Hello.

As I am currently in one in-person class and two online classes, I’ve been a little busy. Then again, everyone is busy. I’ll be doing the whole three-class thing again in the second summer session, so I won’t really have free time until mid/late July. Please bear with me!

The biggest benefit of my taking three classes in five weeks is that I’m reading. I’m reading a lot for classes, obviously, but more importantly, reading for these classes has brought me to a place where reading is all I want to do, and is what I spend most of my scant free time doing. It’s been fantastic; now I’ve been reading, reading, reading for weeks, all I want to do is write. I can feel the creative urge beginning to stir within my heart and mind. My to-be-read stack is ridiculously tall, but I’ll get to it. I’m steadily moving through books. I don’t devour them in a matter of hours anymore like I did my entire childhood, but I am consistent with how much and how often I read, and I still read in large chunks at a time.

I’m currently reading (for fun) You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, and The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. My classes are Representing Women, which so far has largely been about female representation in and creation of art, Major American Authors Colonial-Romantic, and Contemporary Rhetoric, so you can see how I am doing a lot of reading. The class I enjoy the most so far is Major American Authors.

So, I’ll keep plugging away and working my butt off. I’ll try to update here.

 

Summer

I love summer. I really do. I always have. Even summer in the South, even summer in the reclaimed swampland where I spent the majority of my life: I love it.

I love the contrast in temperatures. The sun is scorching, but the water – whether pool, lake, river, or ocean – is cool. I love baking in the sun, cooling in the water, and repeating the process to keep myself comfortable. I love that water is something my whole person can enjoy once more, that it is something in which I can again submerge myself. I love being cold indoors and thawing outside, then boiling outside and freezing indoors.

I love getting tan. I’m blessed to have southern Italian heritage, so I don’t burn easily – I definitely can, but frequently I wake up the next day just tan when the day before I looked absolutely like a lobster. I love getting blonder. I’ve never dyed my hair or even gotten highlights, and the summer sun combined with chlorine from pools and juice squeezed from the lemons in my kitchen is the only way I lighten my hair.

I love the way ice water is the sweetest, cleanest, most satisfying ambrosia in the summer. I love all the fruits that are in season, and I used to love being able to pick produce from my father’s garden and eat it straight from the vine. I love the foods, lighter and colder and delicious, like caprese salad, that are seasonally appropriate. I love that those foods sit lightly in the stomach and make me feel like I can more easily do physical activity. I love flowers and the verdancy of summer. I love the warmth of summer rain, and the chill of the air conditioning drying the water from your skin and clothes.

I love that summer seems like the perfect time of the year for adventures. Want to jump off a cliff into the water below? Why not! Want to go on a road trip? Let’s do it! I love hearing the music of the ice cream truck in the distance. It almost sounds like a fairy’s music box.

My very favorite thing about summer is summer nights. I love that the sun doesn’t fully disappear until nine o’clock. I love the scents of rain from afternoon thunderstorms, heavenly honeysuckle, intoxicating lilac, heady magnolia. But the sweetest thing about summer nights is the humidity, believe it or not. It’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket, because the air is no longer hot. It’s comfortable and comforting.

Breaking the Fast

Good morning!

I am a creature of habit. I like some form of dairy for breakfast every day, whether it’s actual dairy, like cream cheese on a bagel, or fake dairy, like almond milk in cereal. I eat about three things for breakfast when I’m eating at home, with a slim margin of variety.

I made up this “recipe” when I was living at home, in between colleges. I got the idea from the breakfast I always had in the dining hall, when I got up for breakfast, at my first college. I would always eat scrambled eggs and fried potatoes. I noticed that I liked it best when I got a forkful of both.

One of the benefits of living in your parents’ house is that there’s a (sometimes, in my parents’ house) fully stocked kitchen. I decided to recreate the breakfast I liked from the dining hall. I fried up some potatoes – and then promptly forgot to remove them from the pan, and cracked an egg over them.

I wasn’t about to throw it away; I hate wasting food. So I shrugged and cracked the other egg over the potatoes. I had a slice of cheese on the counter for the eggs, and I shredded it by hand into the mixture. A dash of salt and pepper, and breakfast was ready!

Now it’s a staple for me. I usually dice a quarter of a potato, fry the small pieces, crack the egg(s) over the potato, and shred a slice of cheese into the whole thing. Personally I like my eggs wet, borderline Grace-is-going-to-get-salmonella, but you can cook them to your liking.

Have a good day!

 

 

Sunrise

A few weeks ago, I took a small road trip to the beach with two friends. We stayed in a cheap but incredibly nice Airbnb, where at night, because we are poor and college students, we stayed in and studied the one night we stayed.

It was a great trip. We listened to some excellent music on the way, and the drive itself was beautiful, as the day was gorgeous. We arrived on the beach in the early afternoon, and stayed on the sand almost till sunset. We took walks, dipped in the water, which was so cold it sent waves of aching up my legs from my submerged feet, napped (okay, mostly I napped), and passed a soccer ball around. The wind blew incessantly, getting sand everywhere whether or not it was welcome. The beach was mostly empty and the water, at forty-eight degrees, even more so.

The weather Sunday was supposed to be good, hence why we stayed the night instead of returning home once we were coated in sand. The three of us rose just before sunrise and trooped down to the shore. We stood in silence, watching the sky lighten, and then watching the sun rise.

We were silent and still. As young people, this does not often happen. But silent and still we were. It was lovely, and lovely to have only one thing to focus on. It was so quiet; it had been a new moon the night before, leaving the beach in a darkness so profound that I had never experienced such complete organic darkness before, and the tide was out.

Occasionally a smartphone appeared to snap a picture. Believe it or not, I’m happy the smartphone did occasionally make an appearance. It’s easy to unlock a phone and take a picture without taking one’s eyes from the actual event. I didn’t miss a moment of that sunrise, and I also have pictures to remember it from a slightly different vantage point.

If you’ve never experienced a sunrise, I would highly recommend it. This wasn’t my first sunrise, or my first beach sunrise. Sunrise is a wonderful time of day, especially if you get up for it specifically and know your warm, soft bed is waiting for a quick nap afterwards. It’s quiet – not silent, quiet. You can hear nature, mostly unadulterated by human noise, and there’s something ancient and enduring happening in front of or around you. It is an incredibly peace-bringing experience. It’s still cool or cold, but there’s a cleanliness to that, too. The quietude is what spoke to my soul. I live in an apartment with four total women including myself, three dogs, and a cat. It gets very, very loud, and having a few minutes of quiet was profound.

Find what your soul needs and enjoy it.