girl.investigates

because everything has a story

Month: November 2016

Wrimo-ing away

Ned says Happy Friday!

I hope everyone had an argument-free Thanksgiving and nobody gave anyone else smallpox. I appreciate the idea of a day for giving thanks for what you have and spending time with friends and family—even if it might have a pretty murky history. I have a lot to be thankful for and it’s nice to be reminded of that.

I haven’t written much on here this month because, as mentioned, I’m doing NaNoWriMo and 1666 words a day feels like a lot. It’s hard time to squeeze in any more writing on top of that. It’s funny though, each day has gotten easier and now writing a couple thousand words doesn’t feel as daunting. I am still behind though. We had family in town last week so there were four days where I only managed a couple hundred words a day. I’ve been gradually closing that gap though and now I’m only about a thousand words behind where I’m supposed to be. I keep imagining that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where they’re chasing the Black Pearl through a storm. I am Jack Sparrow and what’s put me in such a fine mood is that “We’re catching up.” I should probably dig out that pirate hat from last Halloween and wear it every time I go write in a bar or a coffee shop. It’d be a fun conversation starter I imagine. Although I need words on the page, not conversations, right now. Still. Maybe once I’m back on track.

Writing in public places makes me feel less like a hermit. I find I have to get out of the house every day or I start to go batty. My new favorite is actually a hotel bar downtown. It’s pretty quiet there after the lunch hour and they keep refilling my single cup of coffee without any apparent annoyance until happy hour starts and I switch over to wine. I like the people who come down from the hotel, too, people traveling or here on business. There are a lot of interesting conversations going on. It’s funny how much the setting around me seems to influence how much work I get done. Creativity is an odd thing. The rational part of me thinks that it doesn’t matter where you’re sitting or who’s around you. You write what you write. But that’s just not true, is it? It matters. These weird little rituals can make all the difference for whether I struggle to get out five hundred words or whether I disappear into the page and come out two thousand words later. Like coming up from underwater. Like waking from a dream. Our minds are funny things. I don’t understand it but I guess I’ll just have to accept it. Anyway, see you at happy hour.

Happy writings,

Carol

Fairy lights

I’m watching the sun rise this morning and realizing that it’s winter. Well, fall, technically, but it’s feeling a lot like winter here in Seattle. The sun is rising so far south, it’s traveled all the way across our living room windows and is rising just out of my sight. I’d get up to see it, but Sprout has settled herself on my legs and I don’t want to disturb her. Not yet. She looks too pleased. My cup of coffee is within reach so she’s in luck for a bit.

It’s looking like it will be another one of those perfect fall days, clear and crisp and perfect. I woke up early this morning. One minute I was asleep and the next a voice whispered in my heart. Christmas is coming. My eyes flew open and I just couldn’t bear to stay in bed. I get so excited for the holidays.

I was raised celebrating Christmas in a broad, non-religious way. For us it was about family and warmth and celebrating what we had. Some years my mom would pack up a thermos of hot cocoa and an abundance of snacks and we’d drive out into the cold night to see everyone’s holiday lights. I remember being bundled up against the cold with my hands warmed by my cocoa and looking at the lights twinkling in the dark. There is magic in lights that shine in the dark and the warmth that comes from within you.

These days the holidays have taken on new shapes. This year I’ll be making the hot cocoa and hanging the lights. Maybe I’ll pick an evening in December and my partner and I will drive out to see the holiday lights. I’ll buy peppermint sticks and put them in my coffee every morning. Everyone can enjoy their pumpkin spice but peppermint will always be where the magic is for me. There’s nothing like a good old fashioned candy cane. I’ll turn up the heat a little and hang lights that shine in the dark. They are a little reminder that we can make our own light when the sun stops shining. The holidays are about creating your own warmth and light, and how the contrasting cold and dark outside can make that shine all the brighter. Love lights us from within and winter makes that easier to see sometimes.

Cheers,

Carol

Hit the ground napping

I can’t tell you how weird it was to get off that plane and be home again. I said goodbye to Memphis and then settled in for the most restless flight of my life. I was so impatient to get home. I wanted to keep traveling. It’s a confusing state of mind to want two opposite things at the same time. I am glad to be home, to sleep in a real bed every night. To know when my next shower will be. But now I have to start thinking about all those questions I left here. What do I do next? When do I look for a job? Can I justify continuing to live off my savings?

Because I don’t want to go back to real life, to the 9-5. I’ve been floating around in this creativity hot-air balloon. Alone and untethered. Sitting down to write every morning with a cup of coffee (and another and another) and a happy lab snoozing on my feet. The thing is, I did the backpacking trip I wanted. I did the traveling thing. Shouldn’t I be done now that I did all the things?

But wait! It’s November! You know what that means. I have to finally complete National Novel Writing Month (what were you thinking? I am definitely continuing to shave. I just got back to my shower remember?) now that I have the time. I’ve tried a couple of times but I always ended up petering out (is that how you spell that?) part way through the month. I had too many commitments and not enough time. I even have a story that I want to write. I have no excuses.

And so I get to continue being a shiftless layabout who writes every day despite making absolutely no money doing it. Although I did add a donate page on here so. Hypothetically I could make money if any kind souls who actually have jobs currently care to send coffee money.

You know what’s funny? Look at that picture of me by the cocktail sign in Beale Street. I look happy. That’s because I am happy and I honestly can’t tell you the last time I was able to say that, fingers uncrossed. A while back a friend of mine was practicing painting portraits and asked for selfies. I took a photo and then never sent it to her. I looked at it and I saw so much unhappiness in me. If you want to know what five years at the public defenders will do to an emotionally sensitive young woman, look at this picture:unsent selfie

There have been so many things in my life that have made me unhappy and it wasn’t until this year that I began to realize that I can change those things. For a long time I lived passively, following whatever path appeared. I didn’t choose a college, I just went to the one that was close. I didn’t pick a profession, I just fell into one. Quitting my job was the first time I made a choice and then changed my life to fit. I said I don’t want this to be my life anymore and then I made it so. Suddenly the world opened up before me, endless in it’s possibility. I understood in a way I never had before that you can be the director of your life. You can go out and make shit happen. How did I never see that before?

Here’s to possibility,

Carol

Memphis sunrise

I took an overnight train from Chicago to Memphis. I didn’t sleep much because the guy next to me wouldn’t stop moving. He was constantly twitching or talking or fiddling. It wasn’t hard to see the monkey on his back. I almost asked him about it, but it sounded like he was trying to shake it, heading to his mom’s in Memphis for a bit. If he didn’t want to talk about it I didn’t want to make him. He was nice too and I was glad I hadn’t just shut him out after first glance. He tried to help when my phone froze. He offered me his blanket. Part of me wishes he had told me his story but mostly I just wanted to get what little sleep I could. It was the first full train I’d been on and that made it a lot harder. So I slept fitfully and woke to a sunrise coming into Memphis. I got off the train and walked over the edge of the parking lot to take a picture of the sun rising over the rougher side of Memphis. Turned out Memphis had a lot of rough sides. After I took a photo of the sunrise I started walking out of the train station, but a guy who was unloading baggage on the train ran over and stopped me.

“Don’t leave in that direction, you’ll get robbed as soon as you leave the station.” He points me to the staircase out to the north that lets you out in the nice part of downtown on Main where there are coffee shops and people dressed for work. I thanked him and headed the way he’d pointed.

“This is Memphis after all,” were his parting remarks.

Yes, this is Memphis. Where Blues and poverty are side by side in no coincidence. Memphis has a rough history. In 1870 it was the second biggest city in the south and yet it still had no water system or a way to remove sewage. It was growing a reputation for being poor and dirty, and then yellow fever hit. Anyone who could left the city, leaving only those too poor to move. The population went from 40,000 to 19,000 in just a few months and most of those remaining got yellow fever.

The crisis had skimmed the middle and upper class people out of the city, leaving poverty in it’s wake. Since then the city has struggled with poverty and crime, often in the top ten most dangerous cities. In an FBI report based on crimes statistics from 2013 Memphis passed St. Louis to be labeled the third most dangerous city in the country. I don’t know the details of these statistics and how things might have changed since 2013, but I certainly got a lot of warnings while I was there. Don’t go south of that intersection. Stay in these parts of town. Working for the public defenders for so long I know how people’s fear can grow out of proportion, but there was no way for me to tell if that was the case here. I was curious though, about what lay on the other side of those lines in the sand.

These are the kinds of places that gave us the blues. Out of poverty and misery came something beautiful. I like to think that blues music can sort out who’s had real struggle in their life. I never liked the blues until I worked at the PD. Things had to get rough for me to understand it. Now I see it as a sort of litmus test. If someone likes the blues then odds are we’ll understand each other.

Memphis had an odd mix of people. Walking downtown I saw a lot of white people in business suits, fancy cafes, and tall glass buildings. Then I’d go into a restaurant and all the servers were black. It made me uncomfortable. Class seemed to be split down painfully clear racial lines. This was something that I knew, academically, but I’d never seen it. I’d never sat in a cafe and watch racism eddy around me like muddy water. I don’t mean that the people around me were racist—I don’t know if they were or not. It is the whole system of wealth, and who has it, that’s broken. And not just in Memphis, it just felt clearer there for some reason. More apparent.

It is one of my core values not to turn away just because something is hard to look at. Poverty isn’t pretty, but we can’t ever improve it if we don’t acknowledge it. In our world, you have to stare darkness in the face before you’ll ever see a sunrise.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Thank you for sticking with me for this.

-Carol

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