Friday, July 27, 2012

'but sometimes you can't be sure...'

My mother, a few months back, had a run-in with the police. By which I mean that she was working in the garden one spring afternoon when a cop car pulled up in the back alley (this is not as threatening as it sounds -- we are talking small town America here, not the mean streets of Gotham, and this particular alley is lined with wild flowers and climbing roses) and asked if she lived there.

When she nodded, he asked if they could talk. She, ever the polite hostess even while anxiously awaiting the worst, asked if he wanted a cup of coffee. He proceeded to spin a tale, an outlandish tale, involving a husband gone missing half a century ago, a suspected murder, and the concrete floor of my parents' garage.

That was merely the beginning. My mother and stepfather, in cooperation with the local police department, cleared out years' worth of accumulation (rusted barbecues, rain buckets and potting soil, boxes of old books and baby clothes and photographs and letters). Eventually there was space for the police to bring in ground penetrating radar equipment.  The grandson of the missing man came to the house, along with a local news crew, and the police set to work. The GPR picked up something -- an anomaly, an unknown, perhaps a body -- grounds enough to break through the concrete, dredge up what may lie hidden beneath.

But the story was even stranger than that.  The missing man, Isak Iverson, disappeared in 1967. He was 71 years old, and had been married to his wife, Helga, for fourteen years. They were both born in Norway. He emigrated to the United States in the '20s, she sometime after World War II.  During the war, it is said, Helga was a member of the resistance, and had the distasteful but necessary job of disposing of Nazi bodies in the ice and snow of the Norwegian mountains.

Family lore was that she'd offed her husband, buried his body in the family garage, poured a new concrete floor, and eventually reported him missing.

Yesterday equipment was brought in and concrete was smashed and absolutely nothing was found. My parents, Isak's grandson, and gawking neighbors milled around outside waiting for news, and word spread quickly that there was no body; that Isak Iverson was still missing, will officially probably be missing forever.

The police still believe Helga killed him (old stories linger of a blood-stained corner on a wooden dresser, a wallet with cash left bebind), and that his body is likely somewhere on the property ("A beautiful place to rest," said one cop, and he's right), but the investigation is over. The story is finished.

But maybe Isak, despite all the evidence, just left: started a new life, found a new wife, retired in his golden years to a warmer, balmier place -- Hawaii or Florida or sunny San Diego. Or maybe there was an accident -- an argument and a push and a fall, and the inevitable ensuing panic. Or maybe Helga, resistance fighter who stood up to one of our great human evils, really did murder him but had her reasons.

It's hard to think that we will never know, that sometimes there is no closure, and that this is truly where the story ends, shrouded in a strange and lingering sense of mystery and history and loss.

"Disappearances, apparitions; few clues, or none at all.
Mostly it isn't murder, a punishable crime -- the people just vanish. They go away, in sorrow, in pain, in mute astonishment, as of something decided forever. But sometimes you can't be sure, and a thing will happen that remains so unresolved, so strange, that someone will think of it years later, and he will sit there in the dusk and silence, staring out the window at another world."
(John Haines, The Stars, the Snow, the Fire)

Friday, July 20, 2012

'everyday life is a life lived...'

"Everyday life is a life lived on the level of surging affects, impacts suffered or barely avoided. It takes everything we have. But it also spawns a series of little somethings dreamed up in the course of things."
(Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

no, thank you!

1320 yards of pure alpaca goodness arrived in the mail today, along with a box of books from the mother -- there's not much more a girl could ask for, really, at least in so far as the postal service goes.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


Nick carries in his head a picture of me from many, many years ago. It belonged to his then-girlfriend (an old and dear friend of mine going back to grade school days), who pulled it out to show him not long after she'd first introduced us.  I've never seen this picture myself, but somehow we got to talking about it one evening last week during a larger conversation about old photographs and the different ways in which we are caught in them.

I'd been rummaging in old boxes and had found a small stack of pictures taken by an old boyfriend.  He took good pictures, that boy of mine, of many, many things: darkening skies and fractured trees and blizzards and architectural oddities and beloved friends and me.

My favorite of his pictures of me is this one, in which I was so far away (or he was) that it is mostly just empty space -- wooden dock, open water, hazy shoreline and hills and sky -- and me, a distant body, in the midst of all that beautifully suffocating air.

I love this picture, but it also makes me feel like I must have been infinitely tiny then. Like I must have felt very fragile and small, out there in the middle of such nothingness, lapping water and splintery old wood and flat sky holding more force than my barely there, nearly indiscernible self ever could.

Nick described his particular picture with phrases that made me want to cry.

I watched him from across the table, our dinner plates pushed aside and our second round of margaritas dripping condensed water between us. His hands shaped the air in front of him, and he looked at them as he worked through his memory of that picture, dredging up what he had thought of it back before we knew enough to love each other.

"You were a lot skinnier then. And you looked so tired," he said. "Caught in a moment of being very far away, of being very still. Of maybe working to hold something in, or keep something at bay. I don't think you knew that anyone else was there to see."

I don't remember this picture being taken, but I imagine it was during the latter part of '96, during a weekend of fleeing the city, of wanting to be somewhere home-like and safe, my friend's childhood house. I was very tired back then, and doing things that were not very good for me.

This was years before that old boyfriend and his pictures, and before a hard-earned ability to shroud myself sometimes with distance and solitude and quiet, empty spaces.

My favorite picture now, taken just last month, is this ridiculous and beautiful thing. It is up close and immediate and filled with laughter (there may have been tickling involved), and the air is bright, and my hair is blowing across my face, tangling in my glasses and catching in my throat, in my teeth.

This new picture, in all its tickly-forced goofy glory, was taken by someone for whom I want to be entirely present in ways I haven't really wanted, haven't really felt capable of wanting, before.

bridal wrap for j.

seasilk wrap, in 'saltspray'

sage green leaves shawl, beaded

available here

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

all the pretty colors

I get sucked in sometimes by all the pretty colors. Most recently, it was eye shadows. She was offering sample sales! And oh how I wanted to look beautiful in the likes of passion fruit and  plum berry and glistening grapefruit and autumn leaves.

But the sad truth of the matter, as I've learned over the last few weeks of excitedly applying these gorgeous colors and immediately and frustratingly scrubbing them off again, is that unless I'm going for the up-all-night-sobbing look, they're just not for me.

I spent way too many mornings over the years trying to cover up the remnants of actual up-all-night-sobbing to even consider emulating the look now.

So sadly, but also with a certain relish, into the trash go all these particular little lovelies.