Wednesday, November 27, 2013

post office woes

Went to the post office this morning to mail a package. Handed the postal worker a $20 bill. She looked at it as if it were a two-headed snake, looked back at me and said, "We don't have change today." I thought she was joking. She said, "No, seriously. You'll need to pay with something smaller." I said I didn't have anything smaller. She ripped the stickers off my package and handed it back to me and said, "Come back later then." I asked everyone in the post office if they had change for a twenty, but no one did. Eventually I walked out, utterly dejected, and then remembered the bookstore next door. They were very amused by my tale of postal woe and happily handed over two fives and a ten. I went back to the post office, got back on line, ended up at a different register. It had lots of change.

Monday, November 25, 2013

because mocha

I licked the soap in the shower this morning.

It just smelled so delicious, an irresistible combination of freshly brewed coffee and deep, rich dark chocolate, and the scrubby coffee grounds made me think of dark chocolate covered espresso beans. And so I licked it. Just the teensiest bit, on one corner.

It tasted like soap.

Years ago a boyfriend gave me an expensive jar of sugar honey body scrub and I couldn't help but taste that too. It also tasted like soap. Very sweet soap, yes, but still soap. He, of course, thought I was nuts. So does my current boyfriend, for that matter, when he catches me doing something like this.

I don't have any excuse at all, really, other than a childish compulsion to sometimes put delicious-smelling things in my mouth. (And no, I don't mean that in a dirty way!)

I just couldn't resist licking the soap this morning (as my friend Sarah might say), because mocha.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I don't really get Black Friday. I don't get waiting on line for hours in the cold and dark. I don't get this national obsession with getting the best deal, the biggest electronics, the most cheaply-made gifts. My family is trying to keep Christmas small this year. What I mean is that we're trying to keep it filled with love instead of filled with things. Oh, there will be presents of course! There is a baby involved now in our holiday gatherings, so of course there will be presents! But my gifts this year will be simple gifts. A handcrafted wood playset. A knitted cowl. A jar of infused honey. Local handcut, paper-wrapped soaps. Things to please the senses: the tactile pleasures of wood and warm wools, the rich, satisfying tastes and scents of honeys and herbs and oils. I won't be specifically supporting Handmade Monday (11/25) because I try to buy handmade on a regular basis already anyway. But I encourage YOU to support it because it's a lovely thing in the face of our overly-consumerist, factory-made, underpaid gift-giving culture.

There's so much talent out there, so many people making beautiful, durable, practical, fantastical, truly artisan things, and it's so worth being a part of and a supporter of that movement.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

'i've been feeling old, i've been feeling cold...'

(Musicians: Flume & Chet Faker. Dancer: Storyboard P.)

"But the dancer, as elongated in limb as a Giacometti, rejects hip-hop’s reflex bravado. The intricate language he helped invent and is constantly, obsessively revising describes dreamers, poets and ghosts, not gangsters. This “mutant” idiom shows what it feels like to be young, black and pinned to the inner city, not whatever stance you take to deal with the situation."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


So we did the photo shoot yesterday for the bridal shop. At one point Dawn, the lovely photographer, instructed Ari, the lovely model, to look at me as if we were having a conversation. We started chatting about what to buy for our Thanksgiving feast next week. (Tons of garlic, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, more garlic, some sort of bird. Did we mention garlic?) Dawn sat patiently. Finally she rolled her eyes, amused, and said, "Ladies. When I said have a conversation, I didn't actually mean HAVE A CONVERSATION!" This is what happens when you've been BFFs with your model since the first grade, I guess.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

bridge, 11.16.13

maternity care & men

This whole debate about men being forced to pay for maternity care in their health insurance plans has me in such a rage that it feels like old times (you know, now that I'm not quite as generally rageful as I have been in decades past).

Here's the thing. Or a couple of things. You don't get to pick and choose what's in your insurance plan. You can probably pick another plan if you don't like the one you've got, but you don't get line-item veto power with the plan you have. You're not the fucking President. If your insurance covers a certain number of therapy sessions per year, just for example, and you are lucky enough to be in pristine mental health, you don't get to say, "Oh hell no, I'm not paying for that!" Or if you're lucky enough to have insurance that includes dental but all you need is an annual check-up because your teeth are made out of goddamned diamonds, well, you're still stuck with cavity coverage. But no one's forcing you to use it.

So there's that.

But even more enraging is that many of the people who are all up in arms about men never having babies and still having to pay for maternity care (Republicans) happen to also be the same people all up in arms about women controlling their own fertility (Republicans).

You know what's cheaper than maternity care, foks? Contraception and abortion!

That's right. By tens of thousands of dollars per pregnancy. On average, maternity and newborn care in the United States costs $30-50,000. The average abortion, on the other hand, runs you a mere $400, give or take. You want to put your money where your mouth is, than make sure those two things are covered and you won't have as many freaking pregnant women to pay for. Or babies, for that matter. Because clearly they're a burden on society.

So there's that.

But even more infuriating to me than that is this: every single man had a pregnant mother. That's right. Every single man has quite possibly ALREADY BENEFITED FROM MATERNITY CARE. But that's the thing about so many of these so-called conservative Christian attitudes. It's all, "I've got mine, so screw you." And where exactly is the Christianity in that, I ask you?

So there's that.

But there's even more! There's this: basically these up-in-arms-about-the-horrible-injustice-of-having-to-pay-for-maternity-care-folks are saying that women alone should be financially responsible for the FUTURE HEALTH OF THE HUMAN RACE. By dint of biology.

So then let us fucking run the human race for awhile, why don't you.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

early rising

I woke up yesterday morning, as I do every morning, to the sound of my alarm clock at 6am and blearily noticed there was a new text message time-stamped 5:45am from my Ari-love saying simply, "Are you awake?"

I called her immediately and we went on to have one of our crazy discussions, this time primarily about the sudden collapse of her and her partner's dojo plans the day before, the drama and trauma that ensued, and the sudden discovery of a new and better place for their dream-cum-soon-to-be-a-reality.

I put water on for tea as we said our first hellos, stood by the stove waiting for the teapot to move on from wheeze to gurgle to full-blown whistle, poured the water and spooned out the honey and finally curled up on my desk chair, as is my wont, as I listened to her tale of woe and redemption. (No dramatics here, I swear, just keep on walking.)  And then I happened to glance at the clock in the lower right-hand corner of my trusty little computer and saw that it read 6:03am. I did a double-take, thinking somehow my computer had gone slow or something, before realizing that in fact I had been woken up by Ari's 5:45am text message, not my 6am alarm clock.

And I smiled because I was so pleased to be talking to my Ari-love, and so pleased that my infamous tendency for early-rising is what had allowed this conversation to happen in the first place, and so pleased that my quick-to-waken self had been roused by her text message, thus giving us an extra fifteen minutes of talk time before I had to cut us short and get ready for work.

bridge, 10.19.13

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

bus conversations, overheard

Yesterday, it was one of those people: the ones we avoid making eye contact with, hoping we will remain magically invisible, untainted by their imbalanced minds. Except this particular one of those people was one of the friendliest of any people I've ever seen. He smiled huge smiles and greeted everyone who got on and off the bus and blessed us with his rosary and his love of Jesus Christ. He complimented the mothers on their well-behaved children and asked the children about their classes and their favorite colors and insisted on telling the bus driver (repeatedly) that he was the best bus driver, the most accomplished driver, he'd had the pleasure of traveling with. And what was so sad about all of this was that we all, myself largely included, continued to treat him as one of those people with whom its best to avoid eye contact. The children ignored him, the parents silently condemned him, and I buried my nose in my (admittedly very compelling) book. Eventually he got off the bus at 162nd Street and stood on the corner cheerily waving at us as we pulled away. And I've found myself thinking about this, tainted by his imbalanced mind, wishing I'd had the moral fortitude to catch his eye and warmly grin from ear to ear.

This morning was less tragic and more plain old awesome. Two kids, probably about five years old, got on the bus in the midst of a very serious discussion about zero. One boy, perhaps a little older, perhaps just more attuned to the abstract world, was explaining to the other boy that zero isn't just a number. That, in fact, zero is nothing, but nothing can be zero or else it is something. This seemed to blow the other boy's mind. In a good way.

Monday, September 23, 2013

'she's a machine,' or, a simple life

Yesterday afternoon I was showing off my most recent knitting projects to a fellow knitter and dear friend, and I found myself feeling embarrassed at how prolific I've been in the last few months. Just since June I've finished two marigold shawls, three seaglass shawls, one mohair ivory shawl, one tussah silk bridal shawl, one rose and gold shawl, and this scarf and this scarf and this scarf.

I, only half-joking, said, "Clearly, I have no life these days."

She, in her ever supportive way, said something along the lines of, "Emma, don't say it like that! You're making these beautiful things."

Later in the afternoon another knitter friend joined us and we spent a lovely couple of hours drinking tea and chatting and working on our various projects and I found myself saying the same thing again. And again I was embarrassed, though this time not about how much I've been making, but rather about how I was portraying myself -- as this person with no life, with something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

Because the thing is, right now, I am truly loving the life that I have, in all its quietness, in all its creativity, in all its solitude.

This past Saturday I got up at 6, met a neighborhood friend in the gorgeous early morning and walked up to the farmers market.  I bought maple cotton candy, bags of apples, a pound of honey, several ears of fresh corn, and a bagel. We walked back through the park and home, and it was lovely. I spent the rest of the day at home finishing that second marigold shawl and working on a chuppah, and having a really good telephone conversation with my brother.

Sunday I also got up at 6, worked on the chuppah and drank tea, and eventually walked up to Marble Hill to meet a friend for breakfast. We made our way back to my place and spent the afternoon knitting and and making apple sauce with all those farmers market apples, and then by 4:30 I was alone again.

This week I have plans two evenings after work, lunch plans in Brooklyn on Saturday, and a photo shoot for an hour or so on Sunday. And the rest of the time, when I'm not at work, I will be reveling in this alone-ness. I will be working on beautiful things and drinking tea and rereading stories written by friends of friends.

Next time I have bags full of shawls to show off I will not say I have no life, but rather will say quite honestly, "Clearly I'm on a roll these days."

And tonight? Well, as my dear boy recently put it to a friend of his who was inquiring about how finish shawls so quickly, "She's a machine. Give her bad TV and Chinese takeout and whammo."

Friday, September 20, 2013

thwarted, sort of, but not really

I've gotten into a nice little morning routine these last few weeks. The alarm goes off at 6 and I reach over to the bedside table to get my glasses. As I do that, the cat jumps up and goes racing out to the kitchen. I stumble out to the kitchen too, put the kettle on for tea, put food and fresh water in her bowls. As the water comes to a boil I empty the dish washer or putter around straightening in the kitchen. I pour the water and put my meditation cushion on the floor and start my meditation timer and then just try to breathe. Simply, lovingly, in the early morning quiet before the city truly begins to wake.

And then, after those fifteen minutes, I add honey and milk to my very-strong, long-steeping mug of tea, and I read my emails and check the weather and eventually shower and am out the door by half past seven.

Except this morning my simple, living, loving breathing was abruptly interrupted by a huge sneeze. And that huge sneeze freaked out the cat, who then came over and started yowling in my face. At which point I got the giggles and practically fell off my meditation cushion and finally just thew my hands up in the air and turned around to check the timer.

There were only a few seconds left anyway, though, and all in all it still seems like a good way to start a beautiful September Friday morning.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

confessions of a soapaholic

I was writing a silly story in my head the other day about turning my boyfriend into a soap snob.  It didn't really go anywhere but it still makes me smile in its small, silly way.

I am a soap snob. I love handmade soaps, and pretty much won't use anything else these days. Every time I find myself in Anacortes I swing by the farmer's market and stock up on these lovelies.  I spend way too much time browsing Etsy in pursuit of the next soap. Some have been awesome. Some have been iffy. Some are still on the ever-growing wish list.

And then there was the one that my boy deemed just about the perfect soap. I was not so secretly thrilled to have converted him into a soap connoisseur, and returned to this shop again to stock up on this particular body product perfection but only managed to snag two more (the woman had decided to move on to other endeavors and was selling off the last of her stock):  one for our showers those last days before he left for greener, more western pastures; the other to be tucked into his backpack for use on the far side of his travels.

Two weeks ago he asked me for the shop link for the perfect soap and for some reason it made me sad to have to tell him there was no more. But I did have a recommendation for him (my new favorite bar, acquired during my summertime travels to his neck o' the woods at the Skagit Valley Food Co-op): Samish Bay's delicious lemongrass & oats soap.
I had forgotten about this exchange until, a week or so later, he told me a story about being out with a friend buying beer and finding himself wandering the soap aisle, having remembered my suggestion. And he found it! And what's been making me smile these last few days is the thought of us thousands of miles apart, hours and hours apart, using the same damned soap.

And the thing is, I've been feeling closer to my boy lately than I have in a long time. Not just because of the soap, obviously, but it's funny how this distance -- all these miles and miles and days and months of ambiguity -- may just prove to be a clarifying experience.

I was talking to a friend about this over Labor Day weekend, well before the soap -- about how I've been missing him more than I'd expected. She just smiled that shy, knowing smile of hers and said, "Well, that's a good thing, isn't it? Now at least you're sure."

I don't pretend to know what the future holds, or where any of us will be a year or two years or ten years from now. But I do know that I've found surprisingly sweet pleasure in having him ask me for soap advice, going to him for yarn advice, sharing our small daily tales of triumph and woe. And maybe, at least for now, that's enough.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

commemoration gone wrong

Yesterday morning those of us crossing campus along College Walk were confronted with a crop of miniature American flags that had sprouted over night.  At first it seemed sweet to me, this commemorative display in honor of 9/11, but the more I thought about it, the further along College Walk I got, the more uncomfortable I began to feel.

This was different from the University flying its flags (the American flag and the University flag) at half mast yesterday, which of course is a common occurrence when honoring the dead.  The lowering of our flags was a collective acknowledgement of the huge loss we suffered twelve years ago now, and a collective demonstration of remembrance. These little flags festooning the greenway, though, were clearly meant to represent the individual people who died on that day. Even without knowing then, as I found out later, that there were in fact 2,997 tiny flags, it was clearly an attempt to individualize our collective grief.

In theory this seems like a worthy idea -- it's important to remember people, to not lose sight of individual experiences. Except that this display completely whitewashed individuals into all being exactly alike -- American -- ignoring the fact that at least a couple hundred of those 2,997 lives lost were not.

9/11 may have happened on US soil, but it also (mostly) happened in one of the most cosmopolitan, one of the most international, cities in the world. It was, in fact, a global event, with global losses and global ramifications and global grief, and was spoken of as such in the days and weeks after that day.

I won't go into my whole diatribe about all the false patriotism that bloomed so horribly in the months after 9/11, but I will say that yesterday's display, while nice in theory, had an unfortunate jingoistic flair to it that left me unsettled.

It somehow didn't surprise me at all, this morning, to discover that the flags were the brainchild of the Columbia University College Republicans.  At least it wasn't the University itself, which makes me feel a little bit better about the whole thing.

For quite a lovely take on a sadly common ambivalence about the flag, check out this beautiful piece.

Monday, September 09, 2013


I fall in love with autumn every early September: the crisp blue air and the high clouds and the sadness caught in the shortening of our days.

I finished a shawl this past weekend with the intention that it be the first in a set for a bride to give her bridesmaids for her wedding ceremony. It is the most beautiful yelloworangegold you'll ever hope to see, saturated and rich and cheerful.  Perfect, I think, in the exuberant leafy pattern I chose for it, and I would love for it to go to a joyful, lucky bride to wrap around her dearest women.

I can't help imagining it in the dusk of early fall in the botanical gardens, catching and glowing and emanating love in the last of the evening's light.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

coming clean

I failed to go to a wedding last weekend and have been floundering in a morass of guilt and relief ever since. It was a wedding for a woman I adore, and though we have never been particularly close I am pretty sure, in my less insecure moments, that this adoration is mutual. But I had been dreading the wedding all summer.

My own partner is several thousand miles away finding himself, and while the summer has in some ways been very good to me, it has also been very difficult. And then this late summer wedding weekend began to get complicated, with trains to catch and uncertain places to sleep and rides not as forthcoming as originally hoped.

I had lunch a few days before the wedding with a dear sweet friend about whom I've written before.  This time she brought me a little organza bag filled with a couple ginger candies, a worry stone, and two klonopin. And it struck me, in those days leading up to my abrupt failure, that perhaps it wouldn't be so horrible to bail on something that had me so tied up in knots as to be craving a klonopin or two.

And so I didn't go, and instead caught MetroNorth up to Cold Spring and spent a few hours with my Cindy, my grounding, my home away from home.

This morning I finally allowed myself to look at some pictures from the wedding on Facebook, and of course there was the ex-boyfriend and his lovely wife. It's been awhile since I've seen pictures of him, let alone him in the flesh, and I was taken aback at the way my heart clenched up, the way my breath caught in my throat. But of course there it was, the underlying reason behind my last-minute wedding freak-out.

I've been working hard these last eight months to find an inner peace, and I am beginning now, after a winter and a spring and a summer of trials, to feel it within reach. I couldn't let an uninvited run-in with a man I spent five years in a twisting spiral of mutual drama and abuse upend this thing, this feeling, that I so want.

And yet, upon seeing these pictures of him this morning, my heart seized and raced and I felt so unbelievably angry with myself for still reacting this way. And so I decided to sit, to find my breath in the silence of my home, alone, surrounded by some of the many things I love, by some of the beautiful things I have made.

And strangely, magically, in the middle of my fifteen minutes of meditation (specifically focusing, this morning, on the words of forgiveness*), I felt a warmth -- for my partner three thousand miles away, for that former partner in all his beauty and intelligence and rage, for my lost self, the angry hurtful woman I so often was with him -- that I had not expected, and a calmness spreading outward and quieting my racing brain.

Later, in the warmth of this early September afternoon, my mother and I were chatting and I told her about the pictures and my shame at this still physical, visceral response. She, ever the calm and supportive one, just chuckled and said something to the effect that we can't always help what the body does, how the body responds, and she knows and I know better.

And it was nice, so nice, though I won't dwell on it any more than that. It was nice, and I am grateful for it, and though I still feel badly about missing my friend's wedding, I am hoping that she will find it in her heart to forgive me. (I've already got something gorgeous planned for her wedding present. Maybe that will help...)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

sweetness & honey

Had lunch today with, I think, quite possibly one of the sweetest women in the world. We get together once a month or so for lunch or tea or long walks down Central Park West or dinners in the East Village or at our respective apartments with our respective partners. Every time she brings me some little thing so thoughtful, so kind, that it makes me smile for days afterward:  a rose quartz stone for slipping beneath my pillow to bring peace; a tin of peanut butter ginger candies; a special boxwood tea light to burn on New Year's Day; a hand made birthday card in my favorite shade of orange and her ever present purple.

The feeling is mutual, though I am not as adept at these small tokens of affection. I have to work a little harder, and yet more than for anyone else, I am often coming across things I would love to give her: a tub of honey-orange scented lotion; a felted purple flower; a sparkly purple mermaid scarf; others I have stumbled across and been excited about and then forgotten.

I love this reciprocity, and look forward to our Christmas exchanges and these offerings of small gifts and delicious treats almost every time we get together. It's a funny thing, and lovely, and cherished.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I don't miss my father all the time anymore, or even think about him every day. (Twenty years is time enough to learn how to miss other things.)  But there are certain days, of course, when his presence lurks just beneath the surface of things, making the lack of him, the void of him, all the more glaring.

Perhaps strangely, these moments are often beautiful, joyous moments. The afternoon my first real boyfriend and I confessed our love to each other, and a part of me wanted so badly to drag him over to Barnard to meet my father. The day my brother got married to a wonderful woman we all adore, and my mother had to walk down the aisle with me instead of him.  The night my brother called to tell me he and Shanna were going to have a baby, and I cried afterwards, and couldn't for the longest time figure out why.

And then of course there are frightening or sad or lonely days when I still imagine the smell of my father's plaid flannel shirts, or the way he would pretend to be angry but couldn't quite keep a grin from quirking one corner of his mouth, or the way I trusted him implicitly to always know how to do the right thing, what ever that right thing might be.

Tomorrow morning my sweet little nephew, after a year of anxiety and trouble and progress and worry, goes in to surgery. The hope is that this will help his little body be able to handle food better, and that he will then be able to move from IV drips back to tube feeding, and perhaps someday from tube feeding to mouth eating.

I spoke with my mother earlier this evening, as we have been speaking most days lately, about how they are holding up, about how frustrating and frightening this all is, about how strong they are and how resourceful. And I spoke with my brother a little while ago, with his baby boy fussing inconsolably in the background, for mere moments, not having much to say other than, "I love you. I'm sure it will be fine. We'll talk tomorrow when it's over."

And I got off the phone and cried. And I thought of my father and the way he woke me up early one morning when I was nine years old to tell me that my grandmother had died, and that my mother would be coming home soon.  And I remember how sad he looked, and yet how steady and matter of fact his voice sounded, and I am wishing he were here today to be all of these things -- sad and steady and matter of fact -- for my brother, to carry all of these things with him. I like to imagine he wishes so, too.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

seven seconds

[After a woman asks about Ben's father at a party, and he reveals his father died many years ago] "Everyone looked at the floor for the obligatory seven seconds before someone changed the subject, a ritual deeply familiar to people whose parents die young. Ben waited for the obligatory seven seconds to pass. It had been years since he had felt embarrassed during those seconds. By now they felt to him like time spent waiting for an elevator: boring, wasteful, a chance to run errands in one's head."
(from The World to Come, by Dara Horn)

Monday, July 08, 2013

only in new york

Yesterday morning I went traipsing out of my apartment, clothed in one of my many black tank tops and my ankle-length gauzy black skirt, to head downtown for a morning showing of World War Z with a couple friends.

As I locked my door and headed to the elevator my next-door neighbor came out of her apartment, clothed in a black tank top and ankle-length black gauzy skirt.

We said good morning and eyed each other warily as we waited for the elevator. Eventually we just chuckled at our identicalness and commented on the weather (it's been hot -- really hot -- here the last week) and went on with our day.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

'what could i say, i was far away...'

Do you have a song that catches you unawares and then makes you cry? This is the song these days, apparently, that does it to me. It's not new, and I haven't listened to it for a year or more, but it came up this afternoon on itunes. And I found myself in tears.

It's not particularly exciting or emotional or anything, it's just... loss. Simple, heartbreaking loss. And it gets me every time.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I dreamt last night that I was getting married. I was trying to keep it as low-budget as possible so was getting married in a church (which in and of itself is really weird) and having the reception in the church basement, using the church kitchen's supplies. I was really upset because not all of the cutlery matched, and I was trying to set a table with the mismatched stuff for the immediate family so that all the guests wouldn't notice this embarrassment. And then I woke up, very upset and angry about knives and forks and spoons.

I told this to Nick on our way to dinner and he just chuckled affectionately and said, "You? Getting married? In a church?!? That doesn't sound like you at all."

Which of course made me feel much better about the whole thing.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

'this house is like russia...'

'This house is like Russia 
With eyes cold and gray 
You got me moving in a circle 
I dyed my hair red today...'
(Tori Amos, Take to the Sky)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

communication failure

I will sometimes text Nick to ask if he wants to get together for lunch. Hours later he might email me, "Hey wanna get together for lunch?"  I will then reply somewhat testily, "Umh, yeah. I texted you hours ago."  He will then reply, "Oh yeah, there it is!"

Or sometimes I will email Nick to ask if he wants to get together for lunch and he will reply, "Umh, yeah. You didn't check your voice mail?"

Usually it works out and we end up meeting at the Amsterdam Gates at noon and going for our usual cheap Chinese. But sometimes we never do manage to connect, and we end up drinking coffee and reading alone, sad to miss our weekly lunch.

Today at least was a good day, and I am heading out momentarily to track him down at the gates.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

father's day

I had this sort of funny, sort of sad exchange with a friend the other day. She said she had to work this Sunday and I said, "Why? New schedule? Some holiday I don't know about?" And she said, "Umh, it's Father's Day. The one you blocked out." 

Dad and I used to go out for a special Father's Day/Birthday dinner every June, just the two of us. I always felt like such a big girl on those dinners. Dad, here's to your gorgeous cantankerous scruffy self. Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

self-portrait, blurry, with boy

It was threatening rain on and off today after days, on and off, of rain.

My boy left yesterday for his beloved Pacific Northwest. I accompanied him down to Penn Station and we spent a last half hour together before, abruptly, his train was boarding and our time ran out.

I came home in the rain, had a quiet evening filled with love and concern from friends via text message, phone call, Facebook. I felt buoyed by all this love -- his, our singular and overlapping circles, our families -- but even so waves of sadness have been taking me by surprise all day.

I got home a little while ago from a much-needed Lauren-dinner. It was just starting to spatter from  a quickly darkening sky and I almost burst in to tears as I put my key in the lock, knowing how empty it would feel on the other side.

I could hear Llama crying disconsolately through the heavy door.

I wasn't going to meditate today, perhaps out of some juvenile shred of acting out -- let me show you how much I don't care, how little all of this means to me. But Evan's meticulously home-made meditation cushion was on the floor next to my desk, and I looked at it guiltily, and then set the meditation timer for fifteen minutes.

At first I couldn't calm my thoughts, and every little noise went careening and swirling around my head. The rain flung itself at the windows, and the refrigerator's hum turned grating, and the room felt dark and empty and vast behind my eyelids, and Llama sniffed and yowled at me, inconsolable.

But then, suddenly, the rain quieted and a bird started chirping, and then. Then there was this warm golden light behind my eyelids, a loving light that wrapped itself around me, and when those fifteen minutes were up I opened my eyes to the sun breaking through the cloud cover and a room suffused with a gorgeous west-facing evening glow. Even Llama was basking in the light, stretched out on the floor and purring, eyes heavy-lidded with sun-shiney pleasure.

Thank you, my dear, for giving this to me, and for smiling with me yesterday despite our crying a bit through all those goodbyes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

that western air

My dear boy bought a one-way ticket to Seattle the other morning.

It's been a long time coming, this leaving of his, though we've both known it for awhile. It was the doing of it, of course, that's been so hard. Or, to be more exact, the being unable to do the doing of it.

His ticket is for the train, of course, because that is the way of my dear boy. I am envious of this (it was he who showed me, over the course of two summers, the romanticism of train travel and also the great beauty of this country), and amused (why do in one day what can be done in two, or three, or ten?), and so very, very sad.

We know that it is for the best, and that he is going home, for now, to the island he loves, to the forest lands and the ocean water and the air he longs to breathe.

My beloved New York, my small-town life in the midst of millions, is not for my boy, despite his genuine love for it too.

We will be saying goodbye, at least for now, at least for here. But in the meantime, from now until I kiss him goodbye at Penn Station on June 10th, we will fill our days and evenings with the people we love, and we will come home tired and tipsy and teary and filled to the brim with love for each other; with, in our calmer moments, hope for each other, and for us together.

Of course, when one or the other or both of us gets tragically overly sentimental about our impending goodbyes, one of us will, hopefully, manage to laugh and remind us both that we will see each other at the end of July.

And despite everything in between, this coming goodbye makes me think fondly of the beginning. I don't think, back then, that either of us imagined we would be together now, let alone going our separate ways, at least for awhile.

It's funny what can happen, and I'm banking on it getting funnier yet.

Friday, May 24, 2013

conversations on knitting, part II

Me, excitedly: After this chuppah is done I'll be down to having just five projects!
Evan, super encouragingly: Great!
Me: And then I can start another project!
Evan: Well, why don't you try finishing all of these before starting another one.
Me, super excitedly: Right! And then I can start FIVE NEW PROJECTS!
Evan: Umh. That wasn't quite what I had in mind...
(Part I)

Friday, April 26, 2013

it's funny...

It's funny (I was saying to Evan this morning) how I can have such a wonderful time with my mother, and then be ready for her to leave, and then afterwards feel this mom-shaped hole that aches for her presence. Do people ever stop feeling this way?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

mer-woman shawl

Knit from pure silk lace in a gorgeously rich teal, with turquoise beads in the border section. Now available here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

another april eighteenth, almost

Tomorrow marks twenty years since my father's death.

My mother is visiting this week for the first time since 2010 and we have been planning a mini celebration, if you will, for his death-day. (We are never morbid, we McNeils! We just happen to sometimes feel like we have to make light about death.)

Later this afternoon Mom is meeting our Bill for coffee, and tomorrow our Jill is going to come up for dinner. It will be a simple meal filled with some of his favorite things: garlic & tomato pasta, a green salad, a bottle of good red wine, an apple pie. Perhaps Evan will bake a crusty loaf of rosemary foccacia with which to sop up the garlic & tomato sauce. Perhaps I will once again buy a pint of malted milk ball ice cream, or maybe just a bag of Whoppers.

Evan and Mom and I were sitting around the table the other night planning out this April 18th dinner and Mom suddenly paused and said, "Is this silly?"

It is silly. But it is also nice.

Sometimes, when I am supposedly meditating, I am composing letters to my father instead: Dear Dad. It has been almost twenty years, and I am no longer the sixteen-year-old girl you once knew. This no longer makes me cry, at least not often, and I am grateful for this dinner tomorrow, for these people that I love so very much and these foods that still taste so very good. Thank you. I love you. Your Emma.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

allergies / colds

It turns out I have allergies.

I've always thought of myself as a decidedly un-allergy-prone individual, so either they are a newly acquired frustration (entirely possible) or I've had them for years but also for the majority of those years spent so much time with nasty colds or fighting off nasty colds that somehow these pesky allergies got lost in all those weeks and months of walking around in a cold-induced daze.

This winter I didn't catch a single cold! Amazing! But here I am sneezing and itching and feeling generally miserable anyway (and being damned stubborn about taking any allergy medication), and nary a cold in sight.

I'm not entirely sure which is worse.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

easter is hard, except when it's not (love letter to M & C)

Easter fell early this year, safely out of the bounds of April (that strange amalgamation month of beauty and warmth and loss). I woke up early Sunday morning feeling hopeful, lingering sleepily in bed after days of seeping, creeping light.

Easter has not been easy for me, though if I look back far enough I can almost feel how much I loved it once. But ever since April of 1993, that last lighthearted holiday our little nuclear family spent together a week before my father's death, it's been a mixed bag of chocolate and rage.

Last year was going to be different, as Evan and I waited for news of my nephew's birth and as Mom and I shared gleeful conversations about an Easter baby: a joyous April, even, to replace or to soften our still-sometimes sad springs. But then Easter morning Nathan called and in stricken words told us that all was not well with his newborn son, and I got so caught up in anxiety and fear that I couldn't quite seem to stop crying -- not sobs, not drama, but constant slow tears -- for much of the rest of that day.

Later that afternoon our friends Matt and Courtney came for Easter dinner.  We went for a walk up to Fort Tryon park, through the gardens and up to the overlook from which you can see all of upper Manhattan and on into the Bronx. We stood there for awhile, and it was windy and clear and bright, and bless them, they talked enough for all of us until I was able to find my words again.

We went home and drank their strange and delicious drinks and ate Evan's strange and delicious Mexican Easter feast (tuna empanadas and shrimp cakes in broth and other delicacies I can no longer quite remember). April wore on and we flew to Portland to meet the wee babe, and spring wore on and I fell a little bit in love with this nephew of mine, and the year wore on and here we are at another spring, another Easter, a first year almost complete, and he is so very adorable and wonderful and strong.

This past Sunday morning found me and Evan in a tangle of emotion, circling each other in a swirling dance of frustration and sadness and love. Matt and Courtney once again got thrown into the middle of this semi-toxic milieu, and once again brought such warmth and affection with them that Easter, in the end, became beautiful.

I feel like it happens less and less the older I get: meeting new people who become so quietly integral. It hadn't occurred to me until going to bed that night that this couple -- this gorgeous, quirky, brilliant couple --  have been in our lives long enough now for us to have created traditions with them.

The days since then have been good to me, and I am hopeful that the rest of this April, of this spring, will be good to me, too.

Monday, March 25, 2013

in the catskills (and fiber things)

Spent the weekend upstate and talked my Ari-love's ear off (and vice verse), cooked and ate lots and lots of delicious things, walked by the reservoir, tromped ever so little in the woods, watched her aikido class, and spent a couple hours wrapping her up in knitted things. Links (& pictures) below. And thank the gods for old and dear friends.

spring greens wrap
silk & seaweed wedding shawl
oily water wrap
ivory bridal wrap
merino forest wrap
dragon wings bridal shawl

Friday, March 15, 2013

the elements (in wool)

I've been working on this project for about two years now, of creating pieces reminiscent of the four elements. Recently, installment number five made it off the needles.  Here, links and pictures of all of them:

1. Water I
2. Air
3. Fire
4. Earth
5. Water II (pictured below)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

fuschia bike, still here

This poor bike has been locked here now for nearly two and a half years. Here it is, garbage collector, collapsed pathetically in on itself, but still beautiful in its insect-like broken way, emerging from what has felt like a very, very long winter.

August 29th, 2010: fuschia bike (remnants), firmly locked, 123rd street

August 29th, 2011: fuschia bike, one year later


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

kefir (it's oh so easy)

Back in December I was pondering what to do with all the maple syrup I have somehow accumulated. Then Evan started making kefir every week and now I'm in the habit of making sure we've got some around myself.  Most mornings now I have a little juice glass of kefir with a spoonful of maple syrup before heading out the door by quarter past seven. Yay calcium, and yay maple syrup!

Here are Evan's instructions on how to make kefir. Let me know if you want a grain (we have two looking for homes at the moment):

It's as simple as combine Part A (milk) and Part B (kefir grain), and wait. But for some more detail.

1. Put milk in a container (glass bowl, jar, food-safe plastic, etc. I use a 1qt. jar)
2. Put kefir grain in container with milk
3. Lightly cover container (ie. just set lid on top, or rubber band paper towel or coffee filter over top)
4. Leave at room temperature for 24-36 hours. The longer you leave it, the more it will ferment, and the more tart it will become.
5. Remove kefir grain from container, and place in a separate container with fresh milk (I use a 16oz jar and drink the milk that it was stored in after each batch)
6. You'll see it separates, kefir at the top, whey at the bottom. You can either spoon out the kefir at the top and use that (it'll be thicker, like thin yogurt), or shake the jar and reincorporate the whey back in and it'll be like a buttermilk consistency.

If you don't make a batch after 3-4 weeks, replace the milk in the storage container and it'll be fine for another 3-4 weeks.

I'd recommend getting some fruit syrup, honey or maple syrup to stir into the kefir to drink. Or just pour over granola/cereal instead of milk. Use in recipes in place of buttermilk.

Monday, March 11, 2013

relapse, or, being freakisly good (at being very, very bad)

It's funny the way that anger can feel like a drug.

The sordid truth is that after writing last week's blog post, I relapsed right back into that unfortunate little addiction.

I had been counting weeks but now I am back to counting days. Again. (Before yesterday morning it was in increments of hours, so I suppose there's that.)

It felt like such a coming out, that writing of last Monday night, and I got such wonderfully sweet feedback (thank you Abby, thank you Tracy, thank you Ari and Connie and Katrin) that was in itself a rush.  Evan and I joked that night about how, given past patterns, I had jinxed us by acknowledging that things were getting better. We joked and laughed together before succumbing to a bitter week of frustration and disappointment, almost entirely (it must be confessed) at my hands.

The morning after one of my nights of rage I apologized to my poor boy and he, with a heartbreakingly wounded look in his eyes, said tiredly, "You're freakishly good at it. Fighting, I mean."

So I am back to counting hours (and now, thankfully, days) of loving calm, minutes of straining to find the peace of my own breath. I am back to trying to remember that though anger is enticing (oh, the power and cold and quick-witted intelligence I feel in the midst of a bout of fury), it always feels completely and utterly shitty the next day.

I have quit worse things. Shocking how difficult it seems, some days, to quit this.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

'the way you listen to New York City...'

I am dying
because you have not
died for me
and the world
still loves you

I write this because I know
that your kisses
are born blind
on the songs that touch you

I don't want a purpose
in your life
I want to be lost among
your thoughts
the way you listen to New York City
when you fall asleep

(Leonard Cohen)

Monday, March 04, 2013

'33 minutes of unfruitful rage'

There's an Etsy shop I keep finding myself going back to, though I have yet to purchase anything from her. She's a print-maker in Portland, Oregon (of course), and her prints -- simple to the point of mundanity -- move me almost to tears. There is one in particular, this one, that's been haunting me for awhile now.

There are two numbers that I never want to know: the amount of money I've wasted on cigarettes, and the amount of time I've wasted on rage.

God, how I've raged and cried in my nearly-thirty-seven years, how I've thrown away huge swaths of my life to uncontrollable, unbridled anger. I have raged over big things (my father's death; my mother and brother moving thousands of miles away; Mick wrapping his car around a tree; the abortion; Chris going off to law school and falling in love with another woman; beautiful little Wynn's difficult beginnings) and little things (the wrong music, food in the library, miniscule snubs, a missed train) and things completely out of my control (the Catholic Church, security theater, Republicans, NOM).

I spent one summer listening to this, gorgeous and furious and running through my head for days, weeks, months. After awhile I couldn't get it out -- neither the rage nor the self-loathing it masked.

More recently, I yelled and sobbed my way through the months and weeks leading up to the New Year, and drove my poor Evan further and further away. I wrote beautiful things about wanting to be happy for him and with him and then instead was often and unpredictably cruel and desperate and sad. I began measuring time in increments between having to wash my glasses because of crying in them, and then would hold this over his head (as if it could possibly be his fault) in the middle of fierce arguments.

And the truth of it, of course, is that there is a certain power in rage and depression and sadness -- over one's self, over one's family and friends and lovers. It's not the power I find myself wanting these days, but it's hard to unlearn such entrenched patterns, such ingrained ways of being after decades of being that way.

It's not easy armor to give up, this cold steel of rage, but for the first time in my life I'm actually and actively working at letting it go. Last November I began seeing Jane on Thursdays, and in early January Dr. Bulow and Zoloft were thrown into the mix, and later that month I discovered that meditation (much to my cynical heart's surprise) is actually helpful.

And strangely, at this ripe old age of thirty-six, my own rages are beginning to seem a little less scary, a little less all-consuming, and I can't begin to tell you how simply nice this feels.

Tonight has been shaky -- shakier than it's been in a few weeks -- and I've been argumentative and accusatory (how dare Evan interrupt my writing to have dinner, and how dare he encourage me to write in the first place, and why oh why is nothing ever right in the world?).

My mother called a little while ago and we were chatting and finally I told her I was having a bit of a rough night.  She paused and then said, "I thought as much -- your voice sounds different tonight."  I told her I'd been writing about rage and then I got mad at Evan and she just laughed and said, "Of course you did. Now you get off this phone and go tell him sometimes you just get mad, and you're sorry."

What I value most in all the talking with Jane and Dr. Bulow, and what the medication and the meditation seem to be helping me with, is learning how to live emotionally (I fear I will never not be overly emotional, alas) without being consumed by those pesky emotions.

Sometimes it seems like an impossible battle, but more often these days it seems like a possibility of contentment, and a letting go of all those minutes, weeks, decades of unfruitful rage.

For now, I will continue to take my little green pills, talk incessantly about all of this, and look forward to those daily fifteen minutes of quiet sitting, eyes closed, breath for once measured and calm.

ivory bridal shawl in merino & silk, beaded

This, I will have you know, was begun on January 3rd, 2012 and finally completed yesterday, March 3rd, 2013. It was one of the more difficult pieces I have ever done -- grafting two separate pieces of lace together sucks. Just for the record. This took over three hours. Seriously. My neck and shoulders are still recovering, 24 hours later. Luckily I had Bill Frisell and Built to Spill (not to mention Evan's delicious breakfast) to get me through.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

tea rose scarf

A lovely, delicate rose lace scarf knit from 100% sugar cane fiber, available here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

conversations on knitting

Conversation One, between a friend of mine and her five-year-old who just recently got a Clover Wonder Knitter:

H: Can we go for a nap drive so I can knit in the car?
C: If we go for a nap drive, then yes, you can knit.
H: Can I knit on the way to Daisy Scouts?
C: Sure, Helen.
H: Can I knit at Daisy Scouts?
C: Well, you're supposed to be listening and doing things with your friends.
H: But can I knit during snack time at Daisy Scouts?
C: That might get messy.  But I like the way you're thinking.  You're thinking like a knitter.
Conversation Two, between Evan and myself:

Evan: You remembered to take the leftovers for lunch this morning!
Me: Yup.
Evan: What time did you have lunch?
Me: Ummm...
Evan: Come on, fess up.
Me: Well, 8:30. I wanted to have time to knit on my lunch break.
Evan: Let me get this straight. You ate the lunch you brought with you to work at 8:30 this morning... so that you could knit on your lunch break?
Me: Well, yeah, I guess.
Evan: You do know that you have a problem, right?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

'i'm going to barnard, i think,' she said

Sadly, my dread of last week was well-founded. But before that sadness there was this lovely scene which, I must admit, made my heart sing the littlest bit:

Steenie left us, and I walked Marcia home. It was pleasant to walk with the snow melted, and we held hands and scuffed our shoes on the clay sidewalks, doing a lot of pointed inhaling to sniff the first scents of spring, which were largely imaginary.

"I'm going to Barnard, I think," she said as we reached the rectory. "My mother went there. I'm scared to death. I'm so stupid, and it'll break my poor father."

"You'll do fine," I said. "You've already got a head start on the New York girls in categories like blunt talk and dirty words."

"Are you really going to Harvard? I don't think anybody from De Crispin has ever gone to Harvard."

"That's always been a pitiful little dream of my mother's," I said. "It's more likely that I'll go to the University of Alabama. It's more my speed. They have forty fraternity houses and one classroom, where they teach the History of the Confederacy. They have a good record, though. They haven't been guilty of education since eighteen thirty-one."

"Well, where do you want to go? Don't you care?"

"Barnard's part of Columbia, isn't it?"

"That's right."

"I want to go to Columbia."

(Red Sky At Morning, Richard Bradford)

cream of carrot soup scarf

Knit from a wonderfully soft merino / alpaca / bamboo / nylon blend in a gorgeous, bright rosy orange with flecks of yellow.

Available here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I am reading Richard Bradford's Red Sky at Morning, a surprisingly beautiful coming-of-age novel about a boy suffering through his high school years during the Second World War.  This is one of those crumbling, brittle-paged books that I must have inherited from my parents, who apparently inherited it from one Joanne O'Neill (or so says the name inscribed on the first page).

Particularly moving, to me, is the relationship shared between the main character and his father. And this scares me, because the father has volunteered for the Navy and is off battling U-boats off the coast of France. It seems practically inevitable that he will end up not coming home, and I'm afraid this will break my heart.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Firefly. A wee nocturnal beetle. A wonderful TV series tragically cut short in its prime. And my new favorite eyeshadow: a glowing iridescent shimmery jade green. Ridiculous, the little things that can bring moments of joy

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

best dinner

I found myself grinning over dinner this evening, and wishing my legs were short enough so that I could swing them back and forth with glee.

What had me grinning and feeling like a grade-schooler was what I found in front of me after a long day at work: a little glass plate holding a simple egg-salad (a la Mark Bittman, with less egg and lots of mashed up celery and carrot and a dash of salt and pepper and a splash of vinegar and a dollop of  mayonnaise) sandwich made with Evan's all-the-flour-in-the-cupboard (buckwheat, all purpose, whole wheat) just-baked bread; a big glass of Nestle Quick chocolate milk (because oh how I love chocolate milk); and finally a bowl of sliced apples.

I couldn't help but grin and chuckle at this, our elementary-school-lunch-for-dinner, and it was delicious and delightful and everything a girl could ask for almost half-way through a long week.

Monday, February 04, 2013

hats, or, kid logic

When I was a wee lass I hated wearing hats, and winters especially were brutal affairs. After hours of tromping around in the snow or skating hither and yon across Mohegan Lake and back, my overly thin and fine hair would be tangled up into a veritable rat's nest under those pesky warm woolen hats.

My parents threatened and harangued and cajoled, and tears and No More Tears and unfortunate haircuts inevitably ensued.

My father even tried using numbers on me. He told me, at some point during one of our pitched hat battles, that we can lose upwards of 90% of our body heat out of our heads, and that if I only wore my hat like a good girl I wouldn't be nearly as cold.

This sounded dubious to me at best, and I came to the obvious conclusion that if this were true it should be alright to run around naked all winter long, but for a hat.

Luckily for me my parents did not, as far as I can remember, let me put this to the test.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

'i prefer winter and fall...'

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.”
Andrew Wyeth

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

blue leaves in bamboo, merino, silk

Christmasing in Washington project, off the needles and
photographed down by the sea, available here.