#wordsofwomenHH, 20 questions, blog features, march 2017, words from wise women, words of women

Words of Women 20 Questions: Abby Y.

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Inspired by this article from Words of Women, I decided to ask friends to take part in the questionnaire. It’s been so fun reading their answers and I’m excited to share them every Wednesday. If you want to participate, send me an email at aeallen (at) gmail (dot) com.

About the list of 20 questions by Sophie Calle:

Sophie Calle is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle’s work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing. (Words of Women)

This week’s questionnaire comes from Abby Y., the rad lady I mentioned in this week’s Three Things. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and magic personified. I think it speaks a lot to our relationship that we’ve actually never lived in the same city, but have a super close bond. Boy, am I thankful to live in a time when distance is just a thing on a map — or however that phrase goes. 😉 Anyway… Hey, ho! Let’s go!

When did you last die?

I died two weeks ago in the Netherlands when I was almost run over by a bicyclist zooming by and again when I walked around the Stededlijk Museum observing the fascinating inner mind and works of photographer Ed Van der Elsken (Camera in Love) WHILE listening to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ album.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The idea that anything is possible and that it will be a great day and good things are going to happen. Also, creating.

What became of your childhood dreams?

They’ve always sat in some part of my brain. I get the sense that everything I have been working on for different segments of my life is going to come together in something that will feel like to me, an incredible symphony. Meaning I think my dreams will happen but it’s been a long road that required the right alchemy.

What sets you apart from everyone else?

I think people are far less big of a deal than they think they are. There are probably 750 different me-type people that are roaming the earth and we all like dogs, rollerblading, You’ve Got Mail, Beyonce and purple nail polish.

What is missing from your life?

Someone I wanna get old with. Well, a male that is.

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?

YES.

Where do you come from? Do you find your lot an enviable one?

We are Swedish and Dutch and Spanish and Irish and probably a few more things. We are dogged by depressional episodes and bouts of intensity and threads of creativity and whole lotta need for exercise and play. I think we are lucky to have and be who we are.

What have you given up?

Thinking that I know how this all will go.

What do you do with your money?

I don’t know, the government owns me.

What household task gives you the most trouble?

Any. I don’t mind a little bit of a mess.

What are your favorite pleasures? 

Sex, reading, laughing, wine, traveling.

What would you like to receive for your birthday? 

I want everyone I love to come spend the night in tents at our cottage in Wisconsin and stay up all night around a campfire and drink, talk and look at the stars.

Cite three living artists whom you love.

Marina Abramovic, Noor Unnahar, Casey Niestat

What do you stick up for?

Immigrants, women, children, animals, anyone with pure intention and heart of gold.

What are you capable of refusing?

Dessert things. I’m salt all the way.

What is the most fragile part of your body?

Oh boy, that heart. Feel it pinging all day long. Like a damn text message. I am very sensitive.

What has love made you capable of doing?

It has made me fly across the country and take big, uncomfortable chances. I have gone against convention time and again, to pursue things that seem true and magical. Have made many bad decisions, ignored wise advice and made myself sick with sadness or jealousy. Life has taught me that love (for the most part) should be kind and soft. Thank god!

My mouth.What do other people reproach you for? 

My mouth.

What does art do for you?

It’s church for me. It is seriously my tonic for a bad day. Grab a chocolate chip cookie, put some headphones on, turn music up and sit in front of the giant Buddha at the Nelson for 20 minutes. Reprieve.

Write your epitaph.

That’s enough.

In what form would you like to return?

Blue Ivy Carter, hands down.

Love you, Abby!!

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#wordsofwomenHH, 20 questions, blog features, march 2017, words from wise women, words of women

Words of Women 20 Questions: Claire M.

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Inspired by this article from Words of Women, I decided to ask friends to take part in the questionnaire. It’s been so fun reading their answers and I’m excited to share them every Wednesday. If you want to participate, send me an email at aeallen (at) gmail (dot) com.

About the list of 20 questions by Sophie Calle:

Sophie Calle is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle’s work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing. (Words of Women)

This week’s questionnaire comes from a friend I’ve had since my college days. Claire has always inspired me with her fantastic humor and brilliant writing. I mean, she is a rad journalist, published NPR-ien (is that a thing? now it is), and she won a year’s supply of La Croix water. The woman is amazing.

When did you last die?

What a starting question! But it made me think about how I view my life and transformations within it. I’ve gone through many phases and chapters where not only life circumstances change, but my personality dramatically shifts. When those different versions of myself  change, it could be looked at as one version dying and a new one emerging. And with that in mind, I’d say I’m in the middle of one of those major shifts, so I guess I’m dying right now 🙂

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The paycheck and health insurance on the other end of the commute. Otherwise I’d be laying around listening to podcasts all day.

What became of your childhood dreams?

They became my adult dreams. I always wanted to be a writer, which I do now.

What sets you apart from everyone else?

My wit.

What is missing from your life?

Contentedness. I desperately want to be in a place where I’m living in a place where I want to be in long term, and in personal and professional situations where I see myself in years down the road.

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?

Of course! There’s creativity and beauty in everything. I hope there are accountants who look at a spreadsheet and see it as a masterpiece, just like a potter would walk away from the kiln feeling.

Where do you come from? Do you find your lot an enviable one?

My family is a group of very different thinkers. Our interests, world views and opinions are all very different. While that can be hard to relate to, it’s taught me the importance of listening to those different from you. It’s taught me that ignorance is dangerous, because if we refuse to be near and even love people with dramatically different views than ours, we’ll never understand our world.

What have you given up?

Making decisions because it will “look” like the right choice, the fun choice, the most “Instagrammable” choice

What do you do with your money?

Travel! I live modestly in my day to day life so I can regularly take weekend trips and vacations to visit friends and explore new places.

What household task gives you the most trouble?

Cleaning surfaces.

What are your favorite pleasures? 

Grocery shopping, being in the woods, laughing with a girlfriend.

What would you like to receive for your birthday? 

A weekend away in a cabin where I could cook, read and relax.

Cite three living artists whom you love.

Anne Lamotte (writer), Phoebe Robinson (comedian), Viola Davis (actress)

What do you stick up for?

Listening to others, even if you don’t want to.

What are you capable of refusing?

Power.

What is the most fragile part of your body?

My mind.

What has love made you capable of doing?

Recognizing my own flaws and shortcomings, and making efforts to change.

What do other people reproach you for? 

Making snap judgments.

What does art do for you? Write your epitaph.

Art reminds me of the beauty and joy that exists in all of us and in the world.

Epitaph: She always bought lemonade from kids.

In what form would you like to return?

A 9-year-old girl, who has all of the unabashed confidence, resilience, and joy that most grown women long to get back.

Thanks so much, Claire! Come visit Hamburg!

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#wordsofwomenHH, 20 questions, blog features, march 2017, words from wise women, words of women

Words of Women 20 Questions: Lena S.

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Inspired by this article from Words of Women, I decided to ask friends to take part in the questionnaire. It’s been so fun reading their answers and I’m excited to share them every Wednesday. If you want to participate, send me an email at aeallen (at) gmail (dot) com.

About the list of 20 questions by Sophie Calle:

Sophie Calle is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle’s work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing. (Words of Women)

This week, I have a fantastic questionnaire from Lena S., a coworker-turned-friend. Lena is never without a smile, has a great laugh, and is a super rad human all-around. Let’s get to it!

When did you last die?

This is the first question but I left it unanswered till the end. And still don’t know what to say. Maybe I am not spiritual enough to form an adequate response.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The prospect of a good day ahead. I’ve realized that it’s on me to either plan at least one thing I can get excited about or get excited about one thing I have planned. Both work.

What became of your childhood dreams?

I’m very bad at remembering specific things from my childhood. Like when I read memories and people write about something that happened when they were five in vivid detail, I just can’t help thinking they can’t possibly remember that! I’m haven’t ever been someone who sets hard goals… more “whatever happens, I’ll be okay with”

What sets you apart from everyone else?

Maybe my willingness to change my opinion when presented with convincing arguments. Also I’ve never been someone to hold a grudge.

What is missing from your life?

Meditation! I am convinced it would help my mental well-being a lot but have yet to make the time to integrate it into my life. I’ve already downloaded the Headspace app. So we’ll see.

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?

Yes!

Where do you come from? Do you find your lot an enviable one?.

I’m from the outskirts of Hamburg, from I a town I think is utterly boring and lacks character. We bought my childhood home and the property it is on from my grandfather. He and my dad then had a feud that spanned decades over the backyard which was resolved last year. So now it’s actually quite nice and spacious there… Alas, it is still in that same town, so I would not consider it enviable. I’m not even sure that was the question, so…

What have you given up?

Time… carefreeness.. and the ability to play The Sims for hours on end without feeling guilty. Which, I guess goes hand in hand with the other two.

What do you do with your money?

Spend it on food, for the most part.

What household task gives you the most trouble?

Dusting! At least it would, if ever remembered to do it.

What are your favorite pleasures? 

Spending a whole day doing whatever I want. This does not happen very often because I work almost every day, but when it does: it’s heaven. I love creating things. I have recently taken up sewing again and signed up for a knitting course at the Volkshochschule, which I’m positively giddy about.

What would you like to receive for your birthday?

A voucher for a massage (not by the hands of the gift-giver, but a professional one!)

Cite three living artists whom you love.

“And in my opinion (until I change it), life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running(!), being enthusiastic. And then there’s love, and travel, and wine, and sex, and art, and kids, and giving, and mountain climbing … but you know all that stuff already.” Tim Minchin

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” 
Mary Oliver

“I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things.” Amy Poehler

What do you stick up for?

Everyone’s right to express their opinion and live the life they enjoy living – as long as they don’t deliberately hurt anyone in the process.

What are you capable of refusing?

Help, more often than I should, probably. I also got better at accepting or asking for it though!

What is the most fragile part of your body?

My knees. Everyone in my family has shitty knees and at 27, mine are starting to hurt with every step up or down a flight of stairs.

What has love made you capable of doing?

Accept mannerisms or opinions I don’t understand or agree with.

What do other people reproach you for? 

I tend to make more plans and set more dates with others than I actually have time for and then end up cancelling or combining them. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

What does art do for you? Write your epitaph.

Give food for thought.. enable me to look at things through the artist’s emotional or cultural lens.

“Life is not about grand gestures but is best lived finding beauty and meaning in the mundane.”

In what form would you like to return?

Bird, I think. Would love to experience what flying feels like.

 

Hear, hear on playing the Sims for hours on end, the Headspace app, and pretty much all Lena said! Amazing, Lena! Thanks so much for taking part!

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#wordsofwomenHH, 20 questions, blog features, march 2017, words from wise women, words of women

Words of Women 20 Questions: Carina S.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-5-08-01-pmInspired by this article from Words of Women, I decided to ask friends to take part in the questionnaire. It’s been so fun reading their answers and I’m excited to share them every Wednesday. If you want to participate, send me an email at aeallen (at) gmail (dot) com.

About the list of 20 questions by Sophie Calle:

Sophie Calle is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle’s work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing. (Words of Women)

After such great feedback following the last questionnaire, I’m excited to introduce this week’s: Carina S. Carina is another long-time instagram friend who bakes amazing desserts. Carina is a native German, but she answered all her questions in English. Amazing, right?

When did you last die?

I just finished reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and that book killed me. The story is so heartbreaking and more tragic than real life could ever be, but at the same time so universally human. I underlined so many paragraphs.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

That’s simple: I have to go to work and catch my train on time. (Not the most poetic reason, I know.)

What became of your childhood dreams?

Not much I’m afraid. I always wanted to be an actress (or a singer, but I’m so bad at karaoke!). My Oscar speech is practically written and rehearsed. But it’s been years since the last time I stood on a stage…

What sets you apart from everyone else?

My curls probably? I am also very good at doing small talk which seems to be something most people struggle with.

What is missing from your life?

Right now: adventure. I’m 23 and work a full-time job. There isn’t enough flexibility in my everyday life to do whatever I want whenever I want it. So no impromptu adventures for me. On the plus side: I do have more money to spend on myself than some other people my age who are still going to university.

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?

Absolutely! But not everyone can be good at every kind of art. Someone could be a fantastic painter but a terrible writer at the same time. You just have to find out in which way you can express yourself best.

Where do you come from? Do you find your lot an enviable one?.

I grew up (and still live) in the suburbs of a big city in southern Germany. In my opinion, it is one of the most comfortable and easy ways to live.

What have you given up?

Meat and fish. I decided to be a vegetarian about 6 years ago and I never looked back. The way I cook has changed for the better and the longer I go without eating animals the more absurd eating them seems to me.

What do you do with your money?

Treat myself! I buy exotic food and nice smelling shampoo. But also save something for my future self. (How very responsible of me!)

What household task gives you the most trouble?

All of them? I don’t understand people who like to do housework at all. It may be therapeutic in some ways but it’s just no fun at all.

What are your favorite pleasures? 

There are so many! French macarons, bubble baths, an evening alone at home, freshly washed bed sheets, comfy shoes, a cup of tea…

What would you like to receive for your birthday?

The moment this question pops up, my mind goes completely blank and I can’t remember one thing I want.

Cite three living artists whom you love.

“Making music. Baking cakes. Sewing curtains. These things mean something greater: that we have been known from the very start. Our eye color, our hairline, our jawline, the shape of our big toe, the tone of our voice. These things have been designed from the very beginning. What kind of music we listen to. The sort of skirt that looks good. The baseball cap, the tennis shoe, the orange bandana. We have been made to find these things for ourselves and take them in as ours, like adopted children: habits, hobbies, idiosyncrasies, gestures, moods, tastes, tendencies, worries. They have been put in us for good measure. Perhaps we don’t like what we see: our hips, our loss of hair, our shoe size, our dimples, our knuckles too big, our eating habits, our disposition. We have disclosed these things in secret, likes and dislikes, behind doors with locks, our lonely rooms, our messy desks, our empty hearts, our sudden bursts of energy, our sudden bouts of depression. Don’t worry. Put away your mirrors and your beauty magazines and your books on tape. There is someone right here who knows you more than you do, who is making room on the couch, who is fixing a meal, who is putting on your favorite record, who is listening intently to what you have to say, who is standing there with you, face to face, hand to hand, eye to eye, mouth to mouth. There is no space left uncovered. This is where you belong.“ (Sufjan Stevens)

(I discovered this quote yesterday and I’m obsessed with it. It comforts me somehow.)

”Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” (J.K. Rowling)

“You’re considered superficial and silly if you are interested in fashion, but I think you can be substantial and still be interested in frivolity.” (Sofia Coppola)

What do you stick up for?

I like to think that I stick up for myself whenever it’s necessary but I’m not nearly consistent enough to do it every time. It’s something I work on all the time.

What are you capable of refusing?

Many things: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, a second cup of coffee, bacon, Amazon Prime (I work in publishing: we do hate Amazon a lot ;))…

What is the most fragile part of your body?

My skin. Which is the most annoying thing ever. It breaks out super fast, reddens for no reason at all und I can only wear cotton shirts because it gets irritated to easily.

What has love made you capable of doing?

Self love especially makes me able to push through bad times. And I don’t mean the self love that’s based on taking bubble baths and buying nail polish (which is great too!), but the one where you look at your temporary upset feelings and decide to not act on them and instead go on with your day.

What do other people reproach you for? 

I’m a lazy person, I tend to forget to contact my friends and my humor can be too bitter and sarcastic sometimes. I can be terribly harsh when someone else wants to give me tips on what to do when I haven’t asked them for advice.

What does art do for you? Write your epitaph.

She was fed by art and cake equally.

In what form would you like to return?

As a cat. A big fat cuddly cat. Sleeping most of the time sounds heavenly!

These are my new favorite posts. I love getting to hear all of the wonderful insights my friends have. Thanks so much, Carina! This was wunderbar!

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#wordsofwomenHH, 20 questions, blog features, march 2017, words from wise women, words of women

Words of Women 20 Questions: Joanna H.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-5-08-01-pmInspired by this article from Words of Women, I decided to ask friends to take part in the questionnaire. It’s been so fun reading their answers and I’m excited to share them every Wednesday. If you want to participate, send me an email at aeallen (at) gmail (dot) com.

About the list of 20 questions by Sophie Calle:

Sophie Calle is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle’s work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing. (Words of Women)

The first questionnaire comes from a long-time instagram friend, Joanna H., a sociology professor in the U.S. who studied situated identity practices. (So cool!)

When did you last die?

I have never and will never die as I am immortal. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The actual answer to this question is that the thing I’ve thought to be “me” has died a few times over my life when my life abruptly and completely changed. The first time I looked at my son something happened in my brain that killed who I had been even thirty seconds before. And I have never been someone who, frankly, thought kids were that great. I still don’t. I love my own kid, but I’m not usually a sappy romantic person. But that moment, when he looked directly into my soul, something happened. I felt it. I died.

There was also the time I experienced soul death while on LSD. Do not recommend.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Obligation.

What became of your childhood dreams?

I don’t know if I ever really had “dreams” – I just wanted to know things. I wanted to understand. I suppose I am doing that still. It is an unending task.

What sets you apart from everyone else?

My intelligence. I often feel like I see the world in a completely different way because of it. And to be honest, I don’t know if that is necessarily a good thing. I sometimes wish I could be as stupid as the average person because I would understand them better and they would understand me better.

What is missing from your life?

I am STILL not Beyonce.

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?

I think anyone can call themselves an artist, but most of them would be lying. With enough practice, most people can become good at any given skill (even something like painting, music, dance), but I also truly believe in raw talent. Some people are just better at some things than others.

Where do you come from? Do you find your lot an enviable one?

My origins are kind of complicated. I grew up in small towns in central Illinois, surrounded by corn and cows. I was born in a town called Jacksonville, which is near Springfield (the state capital) because my parents went to college in that town. We lived there until I was 10, at which point we moved to Effingham, IL. So in many ways, I lived in small towns surrounded by people who didn’t have many hopes or aspirations beyond getting a high school diploma, maybe a 2 year degree, and then getting a solid blue collar job, starting a family, and settling down in the general areal. On the other hand, my parents both went to college and all four of my grandparents also went to college. My maternal grandmother has a Master’s degree, which for her time was very rare. My maternal grandfather had PhD and was a college professor. So I certainly had that influence as well. I never really fit in with the people I grew up around and got out of there as soon as I possibly could. I know that I am extremely privileged.

What have you given up?

I try not to think about the choices I made as “giving up.” I’ve made choices that have made certain things less possible or probable, but I could always make another decision that would change that calculus.

What do you do with your money?

Spend it on diapers, debt, and bad choices.

What household task gives you the most trouble?

Anything involving spatial relations.

What are your favorite pleasures? 

The smell of my son’s freshly washed head, the taste of IPA, the sound of “99 Problems” played loud in the car with the windows down on an open road, the sight of a well organized Excel spreadsheet, the feeling of freshly washed sheets.

What would you like to receive for your birthday?

A date with my husband.

Cite three living artists whom you love.

Beyonce, Rupi Kaur, Matt Groening.

What do you stick up for?

I try to stick up for people who can’t stick up for themselves. I don’t know if I am wholly successful, but I try.

What are you capable of refusing?

Anything I don’t want. I am incapable of refusing anything I do want. Attachment is the root of all suffering.

What is the most fragile part of your body?

My feet, particularly my toes.

What has love made you capable of doing?

Forgiveness of others. Forgiveness of myself.

Also, scooping poop out of the bathtub.

What do other people reproach you for? 

Talking too much, being what they see as careless, leaving the doors open and lights on.

What does art do for you? Write your epitaph.

Art provides a reflection of life.

“The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne” – Chaucer

In what form would you like to return?

Something of value.

Ah I loved this! Thanks so much, Joanna! 

 

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essays, february 2017, read it love it, Short Story Love, Uncategorized, words from wise women

Short Story Love: “Challenger Deep” by Marina Keegan

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I just finished Marina Keegan‘s book, The Opposite of Loneliness. It was bold and beautiful and haunting.

Marina is most known for her Yale commencement speech of the same title, which went viral immediately. She was killed in a car accident only five days later. She was only 22. A former professor helped her parents publish various works she wrote during her time at Yale, and published it with Scribner.

I loved every piece I read, but I especially loved on of her non-fiction stories, “Challenger Deep.” I wasn’t sure I would like it as it began, as it was out of the realm of the typical stories I go for, but by the end I was riveted and left wanting more. Below, you can read it in its entirety. I’d love to hear your take on it…

“Challenger Deep”

When the jellyfish came, we woke everyone up. They floated down on the ship like snow and even Lev came into the sail to press his face on the periscope. The glow was dim but we could see our arms and outlines and after a minute we stepped away from the glass to look at each other’s eyes. No one said anything, not even the Captain, and I could hear Ellen breathing hard against the glass. My eyes hurt from seeing but there was a strange hope in the blue light, and the weeks of darkness drew us toward it like moths. The five of us sat on the steel for what must have been an hour before the fluorescent specks drifted out and the submarine returned to its blackness. Eventually, I heard the Captain stand up – but it was a while before he finally cleared his throat and felt his way back to the controls.

We couldn’t see anything. Not even our fingers flexing in front of our faces or the steel walls we ran our hands along as we passed through chambers. We were thirty-six thousand feet under when the ballast tanks broke and the pressure gauge short-circuited the electrics. The power was on but the lights couldn’t be fixed from inside. I wasn’t angry like the others. Lev would pace around and scream things in Russian or slam his fist against a door, but he was young and louder than the rest of us. I preferred the days when no one spoke, or at least not about the surface. There wasn’t a point, I told them once while we were eating dehydrateds, there’s really no point.

I waited by the periscope for the rest of C shift because it was my sleep break anyway and I wanted to see if the currents changed and the jellyfish came back. I sat there for a while but they never came so I pulled out the ripped piece of shirt to tie back around my eyes. It’s easier when you pretend to be blindfolded. I heard this on a cave tour in Arizona but Ellen was the only other crew member who listened. It was a small ship, only an Alvin II, so I could pass whomever I wanted to if I took the right turns. I heard Lev talking to the Captain by the desalination tank, which was easy to find because of its dull hum.

“We’d know if we were rising.” The Captain must have been sitting down.

“Maybe not, sir. Maybe the pressure streams are different in the trench.”

“We’d know,” he repeated. “We’d feel it.”

“Then how do you explain the goddamn fluorescence? You know damn well cnidarians can’t survive in near freezing!” He was pacing now.

“The geysers are heated—”

“The geysers are heated. Poshol na khui, suka!” He kicked the metal and I inhaled.

“Ellen?” The Captain had heard me. I was always accidentally listening in because I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“No, sir. It’s Patrick,” I said. “I was just coming back from the sail. Wanted to make sure we didn’t miss them if they came back.”

“They’re not coming back.” It was Lev’s voice and I heard him lean against the wall. I waited for the Captain to reply but he didn’t.

“I just wanted to make sure.” There was silence and I could hear Hyun clicking the switchboard down the passage. He was Korean and couldn’t really speak English but he was the best technician at Woods Hole lab. We listened to his taps for a while until we fell back into ourselves. The Captain walked over to the air vent so it blew on his face and hair. I knew everyone was zooming out, imagining once again what we looked like from far away.

“It was nice,” Lev finally said from the wall. “I forgot what it was like.”

“I know,” the Captain said. “My hands.”

I pictured the tiny dots floating out like stars. The way it looked like outer space from the periscope windows. For the first time in a long time I thought about my sister and the house I lived in as a child. Lev stood up and walked out to his berth. He didn’t leave at B shift but there wasn’t much we could do about allocations anymore.

* * *

We had no concept of time and soon the darkness made it hard to remember what was real. I’d imagine tables that weren’t there and reach for railings that had never existed. After a while I stopped having visual dreams, shifting in my sheets as my mind recounted sounds and sensations that were all cold or steel or underwater. We talked less about trees and more about nothing, playing endless games to name the elements or species of fish until one of us would hit something or start crying or simply not respond.

Once when we were all together, Lev wondered aloud whether China had a deep-capacity submarine that no one knew about. It was stupid, but we spent the next three days hypothesizing about why and how the international community might be able to procure it and send it down to get us out. Ellen believed it most of all because she was in love with a man named Daniel who lived in London. She told me when we were cleaning the interhull vents and the other three were sleeping. I’m not sure why she decided to tell me – probably because I don’t say much. She was skinny for thirty and wore a blindfold like me. I remembered then that she’d told us this was her first real dive.

“He’s a teacher,” she said softly. “We met online through this website.” I’d heard that this could happen but I didn’t really understand how. I took the solution and ran it on a cloth pipe through the holes. When she sat up, her braid flew up and fell again on her back with a small thud. “We haven’t made real plans but I think we’re going to get married.” Ellen was the only one who still spoke about home in the present tense.

“What does he teach?” I wasn’t sure what to ask.

“Social studies.” She paused. “I did my marine PhD at Cambridge so that’s why we met.” I was trying to get the dust from the vent sheets but I couldn’t see whether or not it was working. Ellen was working too and I liked that about her. She wasn’t a very pretty girl if my memory was right, but she had really long hair and her eyes were a sort of green. “I don’t—” But she broke off.

We worked for a while until it was mostly done and then I asked if she wanted to eat now or later and she said now. We traced our way to the dry box that held our rations and added water to the powdery protein mix. Regulations required six months of meals on all H-certified vessels, and the Alvin II was about eight weeks into what should have been a two-week Experimental. We sat at the small half-counter and ate until Ellen fell quiet and started to shake. For the first time in my life I think I was happy to be alone. I wouldn’t want anyone up there to be shaking for me.

* * *

It wasn’t long before people started whispering. The darkness and circles were getting unbearable and most of us were beginning to crack in our own ways. Lev started advocating for “alternatives” to waiting it out. There wasn’t enough food.

No sub could go deep enough. It was now or six months from now. But the ship required five people to operate it, so everyone had to agree before anything was going to happen. I disagreed at first but the idea had fallen like a seed. I felt it when I lay in my berth, when I tried to sleep, when I had dark dreams, and when I half-woke to eat protein and walk around the same five rooms in the same five patterns until I slept and had the same dark dreams.

Ellen didn’t want to. No one needed to ask anyone else because it was just obvious. Hyun and the Captain were too rational not to agree, and Lev was the first one to really lose it. He started groaning and hitting his head from inside his door. The Captain admitted that he could still see in his dreams. He rushed through his maintenance so he could close and open his eyes. If the lights hadn’t gone when the pressure snapped the ballast tanks I think things might have been different. I think we might have been able to wait until the powder ran out.

“Here!” Lev screamed from the center control. “Here, here, now!” He was shrieking and we could hear banging so we all ran to the control. The Captain sat Lev down until he stopped thrashing. Hyun seemed scared and Ellen was hanging back to the side.

“I can’t do it,” said Lev. We couldn’t see him but we could hear the violent quiver in his voice. “I’m sorry. Look, I can’t do it. I see things in my head. Faces and all the water, it’s… My zdes’ umryom. Vy vse ponimaete, chto my budem zhdat’ i zhdat’, i potom mu vse umryom. There are voices and – the darkness and—” He erupted into a sob and the Captain went over and must have put his hands on his shoulders because he quieted down. Hyun never said much but we heard his quiet voice speak up from Lev’s other side.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes. No more do.” I didn’t say anything and neither did the Captain but everyone understood that we couldn’t. We needed to wait. We heard Ellen inhale like she might say something but her lips closed and she shifted her feet. There was a silence and I almost said something about the time or temperature gauges but then Ellen finally spoke.

“I just…” She paused. “I just… there’s no point in not waiting. They might… it’s not impossible.”

“It’s impossible.” Lev spoke the words quietly, straightforwardly. She was hurt. “It’s impossible,” Lev repeated, louder. But Ellen had shifted to move and walked out of the room. I heard the Captain run his hands through his hair.

“She has someone,” I said. “We have to wait for her. We have to wait for her because he’s in England and Ellen…” No one said anything and we waited in that room for a long time until Lev began rocking in his seat again. I started thinking about trees even though I knew it would only make the aching worse.

* * *

Things were different after that. We became suspicious of each other, of all two-person conversations. Ellen didn’t talk to anyone much, but we knew she was listening. I passed her one night standing by the dry box. I wasn’t sure what she was doing with it open but I wondered if maybe she was trying to calculate portions or time. There were five shift jobs and five people so we couldn’t run the ship without all of us. Lev might have been crazy, but he knew this too and he knew we all had to agree. So we waited. We waited two weeks until one day after circuit repairs when I couldn’t hear Ellen in her station.

I thought she might be upset in her berth so I walked by her door. I wanted to tell her that it was okay and that we were going to wait, that there was no rush. We could make it half a year if we wanted to. We could wait. But she wasn’t in there. She wasn’t by the dry box or desalinator and when I screamed her name it rang through the steel of the ship but there was no response. Then I heard Hyun’s tiny voice call back from a passage that we hadn’t used since before it got dark.

The Captain came running and we fumbled for the switch that pushed the door to the launching suits. When it was open, we couldn’t see but I started brushing my arms as fast as I could along the floor where the wires were stored, feeling one, two, three, and then it was missing. There were only four deep-water suits and I think we all realized at once what had happened. We opened the screen vent to the anteroom that opened out to the water and pulled in the cord with the autosimulator. The ocean was black just like the walls so when we heard her body thump into the chamber we couldn’t tell. I ran in and felt the cold on her face and the wet on the suit, but the veins in her neck were still throbbing. She’d cracked the helmet, and her face had ice shards on the sides.

“Ellen!” I screamed, but she didn’t respond. “Ellen! Ellen!” Then I realized what had happened. What the depth had done. I shook her quickly, and she stirred, coughed, choked over to the side. I moved immediately to her ears and felt the warm blood trickling out and into her long black hair. Her eardrums had burst and she was trapped in darkness and silence and a giant iron suit. We moved it off her and her hand reached up to touch my face. It felt strange and I wanted to move away but I let her feel my nose and mouth and eyes until she knew it was me. She’d done it on purpose but she didn’t know we’d find her in time.

“She’s deaf,” the Captain said. Lev was groaning again from the other room. We didn’t know what to do so we carried her into the counter room, heated water, and poured it on her over her clothes. It felt darker than it used to, and I wondered for a minute if that was possible. If we had drifted into a trench of the trench where we would soon hear tectonics crunch into lava and draw us down.

Ellen moaned. I ripped my blindfold cloth in two and balled it up into her ears to stop the bleeding. She lay there like that for a long time until she was quiet. We gave her food and she seemed like she was okay so we moved her into her berth and went back to our stations. I could hear Lev pacing and Hyun clicking and the comfort of the desalinator hum and ventilator air and imagined Ellen alone in the silence of her world – confined entirely to the universe of her thoughts and half-drawn memories of days somewhere in England.

She emerged much later with her arms outstretched, feeling around corners she already knew by heart. We’d squeeze her shoulder when we passed, but that was all we knew how to do. She was lost. And the reality of her attempt had silenced our philosophizing. We were waiting now. We ate and moved and ate and moved.

* * *

I was on Sonar Detect when we picked up the signal from the rover. It had no metal detection and looked like it’d been traveling blind straight through the trench. It was small, robotic, and probably the only thing they could construct to withhold the pressure in limited time. Lev went running and screamed and I guess Ellen could feel the vibrations he made on the floor because I heard her door shut behind her.

“It’s audio,” said the Captain. “There’s an antenna. No one’s coming.” We turned up the sonar controls and heard a short five-minute clip play twice through the wave detectors before it slipped past in its motion and out of sight. They knew our range and they knew we’d have five minutes to hear it on either side. It was expensive, I could tell by the frequency. A million-dollar message.

It was my sister and the Captain’s old lieutenant and Lev’s best friend and Hyun’s mom. The last voice was Daniel’s and it spoke in a shaky whisper: “Ellen, I love you. Ellen, I can’t look at the ocean anymore.” He went on but I was too dazed to remember more. Ellen moaned and walked around, confused. Daniel, I traced on her arm. Slowly, so she could comprehend each letter. A message. She didn’t understand. My hand was shaking, so I did it slower. A message. The ocean. He loves you. But we couldn’t remember any more – our own thoughts scratched with our own words. She jerked away and went wandering back through the ship until we found her later, collapsed and sleeping by the vent.

* * *

The hours blurred as our food box emptied, but I never stopped dreaming black dreams. Sometimes, when the Captain was at the controls or Lev was asleep, I’d climb into the sail and stare through the periscope at the thousands of leagues. I closed my eyes and saw stars but the jellyfish never came.

From the collection The Opposite of Loneliness, via Bookanista.

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hope, january 2017, saw it loved it, three things, words from wise women

Three things.

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I finally saw La La Land this weekend. It was so lovely and ever since I’ve had the soundtrack on repeat. Emma Stone is absolute perfection; she’s so incredibly talented, it’s ridiculous. (The song she does in the “audition” scene w r e c k e d me.) This is a really fascinating look at how the song came to be.

This is not a studio vocal. Emma was not lip-syncing. She was singing it live on set. I was accompanying her on piano, letting her lead the song and take the space she needed to act it. Because I was letting Emma lead the song, I was reacting to her. So a lot of times the piano is a little bit behind the vocal. It sounded like a recital or something where you know the singer is leading it and the piano is there to accompany. That’s what happens when two people make music together; things are not perfectly in sync. That’s why it feels musical and why it feels real and honest. (Vulture.)

This instagram post just stole my heart.

 

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Love love loved this post from Woolgathering & Wildcrafting on Nice Girls vs. Kind Women. Having been raised in the American Midwest, this spoke to me deeply. I make it a point now to approach life as a Kind Woman; I’ve bid my past days as a “Nice Girl” adieu.

Kindness is benevolence. It is the grace of our care, a gift that we can decide to bestow. Nice is mild and forgettable. Kind is a power unto itself. Kindness is a bigness. In many cross-cultural myths, we hear of references to the ancient Goddesses as being kind (though, just as often, Goddesses chose to be deeply wild, sharp and severe). But we never hear of a Goddess being nice. Goddesses simply aren’t nice. Nice isn’t big enough for the vastness that is feminine energy, compassion, and care.

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