99 Words for 99 Days: June 30

30. Halves of a Whole

On the last day of the first half of the calendar year, I’m in a Gillian Holloway course, and again, as last time, it’s gift after gift after gift. This, I can use! I wonder now – are the ways of dreams not merely the Salvador Dali representations of the things we’re telling ourselves and trying to know and needing to have (or to stop having)? Are dreams also a constructed garment we can turn inside out? See the seams? Look at the construction? Find what we are made of? Does the way we’ve dressed ourselves come fashion our dreams?


99 Words for 99 Days: June 29

29. The Dreams of Others

As I knew she would be, Gillian Holloway is amazing. As I had no idea would happen, the class is absolutely brim full! Discussing dreams with more than twenty people at a time is quite the undertaking, and I’m on a bit of a psychological high – like with drugs – a really good trip, man. Whoah ….! Look at these dreams! And once again, as I never do anticipate, but as happens so often it crushes me and brings me to my knees in breathless prostrate gratitude, there is generosity. Abundance. Love. When God made people, he made embodied glory.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 28

28. The Company I Keep

I heard amazing stories today. And I started an amazing course in Native American Culture and Literature this week. I feel saturated in stories. A wonderful teacher once said to us, “Meaning isn't a given, it is a process. It involves an interaction between the reader, text, author, culture, history, etc. There is great agency given to us in this demand for interpretation.” Right now, I pack my bags. A weekend course in Dream Psychology is waiting. The stories others tell me, and the stories I tell myself – always I hear stories. And the Word became flesh.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 27

27. The Work Crew

They came, they sawed, they chippered … and then they took their trucks and left. The electric lines must be raised. They limbed our trees to make room. The kid must have been only barely old enough to work on the crew – he got sent to tell me about the young oaks they'd cut away. We stood in the yard and talked about the land, watching the work. “You don't see many houses with fields by them anymore,” he said. “Just keep going up the hill,” I told him. “There are more fields further up.”


99 Words for 99 Days: June 26

26. Headboard

Through the open window I can hear the sound of a power sander sanding something in the garage. I leave my apron on. I leave the house. I walk through the curtain of tiny silver raindrops, across the grass, across the gravel, under the walnut tree. The dog stands up to say hello. “What are you doing?” I ask the man. “Which color do you like?” he asks me. He has started to test stains on the headboard he found in an attic, the headboard his great-grandfather built. I choose the darker stain. We have yellow walls.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 25

25. Or maybe not

I'll have a leisurely start to summer – or maybe not. I'll ease into my new courses and take just the one online this time, because wouldn't it be fun to do two weekend courses? That's what I'll do – or maybe not. Permissions granted, forms filled out, calls made, switcheroos performed and, no. Definitely not. This summer it's two online courses. A grind? A hot, sticky climb to the blissful cooling of autumn? Well, maybe not! Maybe a summer full of Systems Thinking (aka, How Stephanie's Brain Works Anyway) and the literature of native nations. Un-fun? Definitely not!


99 Words for 99 Days: June 24

24. Maybe

They've canceled my class – maybe. I'll take Milton, Dante, and Blake instead – maybe. But it involves driving, and weekly bakings and blowings in a car not air conditioned all the way to school and back are not only expensive, they're disheveling. I could take Statistics, and study math online in the heat in my office instead. But I could drive home in the summer nights, when the temperature cools and it's okay if my hair stands on end because I'll be home soon and I love the minds of Milton, Dante and Blake. So … maybe ...


99 Words for 99 Days: June 23

23. Tent

In the living room. Being repaired and reassembled with the elastic cord we bought at a dizzying craft store on the way from the mind-numbing sameness of all the sports shoes in all the world at the other stores we went to. Her tent is in my house, and her lingering cough and slow breathing will be in our guest room, her self in the back seat in the car tomorrow morning when we drop her off. She goes back to the woods. Takes tent, shoes, boots, and all. We'll have other Saturdays. I want to make a quilt.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 22

22. Just like everybody else

Just like you, just like me, just like everybody else. “Cosmo, I just want you to know no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just like everybody else.” “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” “All men are as grass,” and that – right there – “That's the blank, unholy surprise of it.” Like beasts - like the grass - like the seasons and the fields and the end of each day, we end. Not miracles like the stars. Not miracles like universes or like the deep sea. We are the miracles of a moment.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 21

21. Places Everyone

She sent a postcard from Leavenworth, Washington, and on the back it says, “Beware falling kitch.” He's in a band called Sorry Devils. And he is watching a cult Russian film from the 80's – a film that gave this picture its name. I took herbal remedies to one mom and homeschooling stuff to the other. He and his brother went out together to tie the goats out in the good weather. Yesterday, I put away the candles altogether and now the liquor is atop the piano once more. Summer has come. Everyone is in the right place.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 20

20. Pirandello

I've been thinking about a character. She's me who I was, but I never was her. She's still here. I saw her in the eyes of a man who used to be the little boy I babysat. I saw him this past weekend. At the wedding, I saw him. He sat in a chair and said to his wife, “She's always this tall. In my head, this is how tall I am, and this is how tall she is.” He framed the distance with his hands. He remembers her. I remember her too. In search of an author.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 19

19. Oops!

Almost forgot! This is only day 19, and I almost didn't make it. At thirty minutes to go, just under the wire, my 99 words for the day. Social History of Rubber – check! Philosophy and Environmental Science – check! Summer is actually here! Check! And this was the day someone said, What if we approached aging human bodies with the same sense of amazement and wonder as we would have for a very very old tree? Each crag and crack and cranny – every fissure and every fold – all wonderment of reverence for the biography in biology.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 18

18. Mirror

Once, I heard a therapist say that children compare their private lives to the public lives of their peers and so believe that “everyone” is doing it. This weekend I read an article about the “meta-bias” rooted in our ability to spot the mistakes of others and our inability to spot those same mistakes in ourselves. New Agers talk about resonating to the music of others; Old Wives say that what Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than it says about Paul. Today, after listening, I notice that self-indulgent wordiness irritates me . . . and I cringe.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 17

17. June wedding

Sleepy, sultry, soft weather, and more of this year's clouds arranged in ways you'd like to capture with paint and canvas, but you know you would never be able to do it. Has it always been like this? Has the start of every summer been so self-assured and happy, and I too busy or distracted to take notice? Probably, the person who invented silk cloth got inspiration from days like this. Cool and slippery and warm in the sun. We got a quiet rain last night. This morning, when she opened her eyes, the young summer was a bride.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 16

16. Warmth in June

Today my nephew has a wife and I have an essay about the social history of rubber to write. Marylhurst students graduated, and I watched and listened live online. I put an armload of dirty denim into a washing machine, added soap, and turned it on, and I'm typing into a wireless keyboard balanced on my knees because I cannot bear to sit properly at my desk. And in the midst of all this futuristic way of life, the cat sleeps in the sun, the air smells like warmed cut grass, and the dark old fir trees laugh quietly.


Swimming Lessons

It feels like being in the pool at the Y, in the summers of being a kid - only without the sting of too much chlorine up my nose. That's what this summer feels like.

We took swimming lessons in the summer, and I was never really much of a fan. There were, to my mind, several problems with swimming in the pool at the Y. Chlorine, other people, swimsuits, water that was never warm enough, and the inevitably resulting nasty head cold, for instance. But I remember a very specific thrill that comes when some new skill is tried. Some letting go of the edge of the side gutter, or some opening of the eyes underwater (even now, I want to thump the person who chlorinated the pool at the Hollywood YMCA). I remember the day I dove deep and scraped my nose on the bottom of the pool because I dug deep with my arms and pushed through the water ... but my eyes were closed and the bottom was nearer than I'd thought.

Swim lessons and I were never friends, and I still hate public pools, but I remember that one thrill. I remember what it was to be scared and excited at the same time, and to have the water surround and hold my skinny white body - water miraculously unkilled by that wretched chlorine - chlorine that stayed in my hair and skin for days. The water knew things. Even then, I knew that the water knew things.

It's odd, this summer of 2012. Like the year's almost-palindromic numbers, there's a sense of repeating a pattern, but with a slight hitch. A new stroke of the pen has happened since 2002, and the pattern does not go backwards the same as forwards now.

For one thing, this summer, the Little Kids of all those Christmases of all of those years that have happened in the space of O Holy Night - just the first verse - those Little Kids are now the generation of weddings and new couples and new households ... and we - my brothers and I - now we're the generation of the aunts and uncles who watch and smile and dab at our eyes. Some huge wave has broken across the pool, and taken their little baby hands from the side gutter, and while we heard the glub glub sound of the water at the corner drains, the babies swam off! They've been diving and getting out and shaking themselves off and diving back in again and now the pattern repeats - but they're not babies. The youngest son of my youngest brother is getting married today. Tonight there will be a new Mrs. in the family. This summer of lessons starts now.

Summers used to be like this. I remember this. All at once, in every direction, things that are the same have changed and the pattern that repeats is altered. Life acts like some kind of crazed flowering bush - in a wet and endless spring, budding ... budding ... budding ... and then, POW! All the flowers at once. A family wedding - but not my generation's brides and grooms. This is the wedding of one of the little kids. We'll work on the house this summer, and we'll have another anniversary, and I'll have a birthday, and so will our own youngest son ... and the house and our marriage and my birthdays and our kids - they all hold all the other years inside of them, and so this is the same only different.

It's always the same only different.

The summer is for swimming lessons.

99 Words for 99 Days: June 15

15. To Caleb

First I got married, and then your uncle did, and then your parents. Then I had a baby, and then I had another one, and then your aunt and uncle did, and then your parents. One more round of that, and there you were. Bub, who smiled with his whole being. You still do.

I'm pretty sure our whole story happened last week sometime, and so I'm not quite sure how you could be getting married today, but I know this: I can wish you nothing more happy than what we pass now to you. Congratulations, Caleb and Hannah.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 14

14. And I shall have two Saturdays

Today I took my horrid science book back from whence it came, and used the gain from doing so as a starter fund for the summer's studies. I sold back the silly book and bought two good ones instead. Tomorrow I shall write the back half of the rubber paper, an alchemy of happenstance and horrors, exploitation and innovation – the story of human people figuring it out. I'll finish it tomorrow. And since Saturdays are for finishing the week's work, and since a Saturday will follow, this week my life is giggling, and I shall have two Saturdays.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 13

13. Stay. Here.

Stay. Here. Inside this moment, not escaping from it, but burrowing deeper in. Here I find the window of eternity as surely as a traveler might find a noon without a shadow by moving only a little at a time to stay in time with time, an earth, entranced with the sun. I have all my pasts with me. I move – the flower's face is mine – and I keep all myself. If striving, I pull up roots. Leaning into hurry, shadows fall where there is not yet my ground. And so I stay. Here. Inside this moment.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 12

12. Oops! There goes another

… rubber tree plant! Oops! There goes another rubber tree … oops! There goes another rubber tree … found a timeline – I can use the book. Found a book and I can write it now. Oops! There goes another college class. Oops! There goes another research day. Research rubber for the final day. Oops! There goes another rubber tree. Social hist'ry exploitation and oops! There goes another rubber tree. Not the tree, but people runnin free. Hail the human creativity. Why not innovate and also see brothers not slaves in captivity. Oops! There goes another rubber tree plant.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 11

11. Things to Wonder While Tired

If I went to sleep at four in the afternoon, how many days would it be before I could go to bed at night?If I fell over backwards in my desk chair for real all the way, would I actually break my neck? If I could still talk, would I tell the person who finally found me that I was trying not to sit up too straight while removing my legs from the top of the desk and that I cantilevered myself just a bit too far in an effort not to exert any extra effort? (Probably not.)


99 Words for 99 Days: June 10

10. Tired

He'll save the Indian food for later and so this week my Sunday night won't smell like curry. He says he'll just share the mushrooms with me – because it's already fifty o'clock. It sure is. Every bit of me is tired and every hour of the last few days is sitting heavily between my shoulder blades and rubbing against my lower eyelids. It's good that lungs and hearts and livers keep on working even when the words get stuck in lumps of balled up tired and thoughts all start to sound like the gibberish of dream declarations.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 9

9. Thank you, Sisters

I found the graves today. After class, I drove to the opening in the wall, and I parked my car and got out. I walked into the garden and I saw one brand new, soft place. One freshly laid little spread of flowers. Calla lilies. When did they begin to bury sisters here, I wondered? 1908 – or thereabouts. I cannot now remember because I was too busy saying thank you. Because of their lives, I can have this life. Thank you for loving this place. For loving your students. For loving each other. Faithful sisters, I thank you.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 8

8. Numerically Speaking
There are now two hours before class time, two class times left for Technology and Power, four or five pages of a final Philosophy essay to write, two new books from Powell's about the history of rubber sitting in the car, two books returned to this library, six (or was it seven?) books checked out from the library at home while I worked for four hours before I made three stops on the way to school, and this class will last for three hours tonight and seven hours tomorrow, and then one evening left to finish the unfinishable essay.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 7

7. Better

What's the point? It's all broken. All the systems are broken. No one ever listens to anyone anyway and we have all these problems and it's because our government has gotten too big. Or maybe it's because the government is under the thumb of lobbyists and donors. Or it's because of too much war. Or it's because the Maayan calendar prophesied doomsday and Nostradamus said we were all going to die and the End Times are here and God's judgment's begun. Or … maybe this is a day like any other, 
and we are meant to make it 


99 Words for 99 Days: June 6

6. Wakeup Call

Some days I wake up way too early. Sleep evaporates. Grabbing at the mist does no good, so I get up and usually I begin to write. Fish around in my head. Turn into a Psalmist – Why are you so disquieted within me, O my soul? I hypo some condriacal thoughts – What diet has caused this? What looming illness? Maybe one of the kids – What's wrong? What's happened? I'm Mrs. Castorini. “Who died?” But no one did and nothing's wrong. Only the world has rotated again, and the sensible birds outside my window are calling.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 5

5. Venus and The Queen

The transit of Venus only happens twice eight years apart and then not again for more than a hundred years. This time, it happens while good Queen Elizabeth is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. We saw her on the news today, impeccable as always. “God Save the Queen.” A sixty gun salute. A flying flag. The crowds below and on the balcony the soft peach color of the lace on William's Kate, and the muted stoney brown on the wife of Charles, and his mother, dressed in white - a woman as rare, I think, as the transit of Venus.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 4

4. Sounds, Not Silence

I can hear her zipping up the duffles, and I can hear the rain outside landing quietly on leaves. She leaves today. I can hear the creek outside the window next to the driveway down the bank flowing down the hill. The TV's on. Quiet, though. She doesn't like it loud. That was one of her first sentences - “too loud.” (The firetrucks were, and so was the garbage truck that came to our apartment building and made that beeping sound. And crashing when it dumped the dumpster out.) The train will not be too loud. For her.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 3

3. Sunday Tissues

What's weird about Sundays is that they come every week, but still I'm not ready in the morning when I need to be, and what happens while we're at church, and after that, is never what I thought would happen. Wind blows where it wants to. So I always do need a tissue. It was a good idea in the olden days for women to wear long sleeves to church because then they had someplace to tuck a tissue or a handkerchief and I don't even own a handkerchief so I have to keep my tissues in my purse.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 2

2. On Hold

The weird thing about working at the public library is that there are so many interesting people to notice and hear and help and see and wonder about, but writing about them would probably get me fired. But I will someday. Write about them, I mean. I'll write about the girl already too heavy and too large, and still young enough to be wearing a huge purple flower in her hair to match her dress, and all the questions I have about smart girls and large bodies and the hopefulness of learning how to put a book on hold.


99 Words for 99 Days: June 1

1. Passing Through

Because she's always on her way in, or on her way out – that's why. Because I'm the mom – that's why. Did you expect me not to? She will not even see me. It's just a little sprinkle. She's too old to need my help and besides – I don't want to interrupt. And when she's out again, out in the woods this time, out in a known unknown to supervise the times of others coming after her this time … this time, the sprinkling waters small spring plantings. The roots are deep enough. There is no flood.