There are many typos on my Christmas card. I blame my exhaustion. And also my hubris that I can type.
Typos found: First word! Or first number: 2109. I am telling you, the future will be rough. Also, Eventhough is not one one. Also, two ons don’t make it right.
There are probably typos in here but now I have to go find my mom’s missing luggage. I will try to proofread later.
I came up with a new word for revision. Actually 7 words. I told my students this year that if the word revision freaks them out to think of kinder, gentler words like go over, rethink, re-see, consider, add texture, layer. The idea of layering is particularly useful to me. I compared it to painting a wall. The first coat looks OK. It sort of covers the drywall. The next layer really thickens the color. The next layer fills in all the missing parts–it looks smooth and seamless. Not that writing ever gets to that seamless stage but to go over to me is so much more fun that re-doing or revising.
If I think of 2019, I think of layering. There was the kind of layering that meant one layer of parenting, one layering of teaching, a layer of friending. A layer of writing. A layer of occasionally even going out for a glass of wine with Erik, just the two of us. I’m not sure if juggling isn’t the better metaphor but truly, you do have to do all five things at once. The layers stick to each other, so when sometimes I can write and make dinner at the same time. Sometimes, I can grade and help Zoe with her homework. Sometimes, I can hang out with my friends from work and we get some work done and some friending done which does feel doubly accomplished.
I’ll remember 2019 as a thick year. Thick with travel, with climate news and sorrow, with impeachment, and with my kids getting so old that I am mostly their Uber driver. The travel is both great and tricky. When it’s just me traveling, I miss my kids and Erik. When the kids and Erik come, it’s four willful humans battling it out for where to go to lunch.
Some of the places, I got to go twice, which was awesome. The best trip was the first one–to Portland. Erik and I stayed downtown at the Crystal Hotel across from Powell’s Books. I read at Powell’s on January 10th from Sustainability: A Love Story. This was my life goal and so it’s hard to imagine how the year could get any better. Maybe it did but it was so fantastic. My boss from 20 years ago from the Oregon Winegrowers Association came. My friend Tanya from Idaho. My college boyfriend Andy and his parents. My love friend Misty and her husband, John. Even Jewelee came, who I hadn’t seen since I’d moved away from Portland. Kim from my freshman year came and Em and Van joined in too. Rhett my old roommate. It was the greatest gift that these people came. My friend from Flagstaff sent me flowers. I read from Sustainability and we talked about climate and hope and loss afterward and then we had beer and wine. I will never forget that reading and the hanging out after and the dream of Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Erik and I drove to Seattle by way of the Olympic Peninsul
a. I saw otters swim in Capitol Lake. We stayed at David Shields house in Seattle and ate delicious Seattlean food. I wish Erik and I were heading back there in two weeks.
OK. I’m going to have to pick up the pace or this will be the longest thing I ever wrote and I have 5,328 things to write over break. Max played basketball in the winter. Practice on Friday nights. Which he did the year before and will again this year. My friend Beya lives around the corner so I can pop by to visit her sometimes during his practice. Zoe runs a lot. She ran in the fall. She ran in the winter. She ran in the spring. She played soccer and ran. and she played basketball and ran and she ran through the forests. Also, apparently Erik took all the running photos.
It snowed well this year. We went skiing for our friend Lawrence’s birthday. We took Max’s buddies along. Did I ski again? Maybe not but Max and Erik and Zoe skied at least seven times. Plus, Sledding! And pretend-dog-sledding.
I read in Tucson at the U of A Poetry Center so I got the best of both worlds–some snow and some not-snow. I stayed at the cottage on the U of A campus which was super fun. I also went back in early March for the Book Festival. I love Tucson, books, and to see my friends Ander and Megan and Athena. This is a picture from Tucson. Of what, I’m not sure. Maybe there’s a road runner in there?
March was the month of double visits–not only did I go back to Tucson but I went back to Portland for AWP conference. Not only am I layering thick my presence in these towns, I’m also laying thick streams of carbon. Did I buy carbon offsets? No. But I thought about it. Now I feel even more guilty but now, because it’s Christmas, I’m also broke. I will buy some carbon offsets! Or I will join the current leaders of the US and Brazil, India, and China in trying to burn it all down as fast as possible (see the darkness of the layers? It creeps in.)
Erik took this picture of me and Zoe and Max at MeowWolf museum/funky place in Santa Fe. We went so I could give a reading but the store flooded that weekend. That’s OK. Zoe and I got a facial instead–which was lovely although the technicians kept trying to sell us on their light-stimulator. I resisted at $780, at $350, and even when they offered it to me for $120. I prefer my stimulation to come in the form of weird experiences with funky glasses at weird museums.
April! What happened in April. No one knows.
May! Graduation. Not only Zoe’s graduation from middle school.
but my nephew’s graduated from high school. After Z’s graduation, we headed to Boise for his graduation celebration. Boise, from where my sister Valerie just moved and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law moved to. I can’t blame anyone for moving–it’s part of why I travel so often–to see people I’ve moved away from–but I do wish we could all stay in one place. Salt Lake is good. Boise is good. Portland is good. LA is good. Truthfully, I wish everyone would come live in Flagstaff but that is probably selfish on my part. Flagstaff is expensive and it’s hard to tell if we have enough water for all the people I want to live here.
So if not everyone is going to move here, we’re off again. Max and Zoe and I are going on a reading book tour! Lucky them. The whole project may have been slightly misguided. We bought a new car so I could buy a new bike rack so I could take all the bikes on the road so we could ride our bikes everywhere we went. We did do some good riding in Davis when I was at the ASLE Conference.
And we rode a bit when we visited Bek and Todd and their amazing kids in Los Angeles. I read at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard. Is there a better name for a bookstore? No there is not! And strangers came to the reading plus some friends from before–Aaron and his new partner Linda and Juliette. I made new friends too and one of them gave me a pink cat made out of wood so I knew I had arrived. At least had arrived for a minute.
But where has one arrived if one is always moving?
One has arrived at the coast, I hope. We rode quite a bit in Monterey where we saw otters even in I think the ocean.
Next, onto Napa where I’d arranged a reading at the Napa Bookmine. I am very clever because I like Napa and I like books. And I like wine. So together they went and we had fun but we did not ride bikes as much as I imagined. I thought the kids would like to ride from winery to winery, but the wineries are actually far apart. I think maybe next time, if I were to do this, I’d stay in St. Helens instead of Napa–at least for the biking.
Point Reyes was so cool and I have good pictures from there but by “I” I mean I don’t know where they are. Maybe Zoe’s phone?
From Napa to Salt Lake where I got to see my sisters, and nephews, niece, mom, and aunts. And where Max finished his rubick’s cube.
I almost forgot I went to Connecticut. Also, I almost missed my flight because in my mind, one flies to Boston to get to New Haven. But that is not correct. One flies to Hartford. I was sitting in the gate for the flight to Boston when I finally looked at my ticket and saw no Logan anywhere on my boarding pass.
I had a chance to work with these teachers as part of the Yale Institute and NAU’s Diné Institute. These
teacher-fellows take seminars with professors and then adapt what they learned in the course. I ate Connecticut pizza which I didn’t know was a thing until the Pod Save America people made fun of Jon Lovett. It was good because there is no bad pizza. I learned a lot and then I went back to Salt Lake to read at the King’s English from The After-Normal. This whole time, I carried with me the glass “Egg” that Angie (she of the flower givers at Powell’s) gave me that had three brine shrimp and the right amount of algae and oxygen to keep them alive for 6 months. One died but two still live. Now the balance of algae to fish is off so I have to move it in and out of the light to keep the climate right, which is a good metaphor for what I would do with climate change if I were a giant god.
While I was in New Haven, Max, Zoe, and their cousin Lily got to go to Torrey, Utah, outside of Capitol Reef. They rode bikes there and river rafted and painted in the park. Torrey is the best place to travel to if you want to feel like traveling is relaxing and good for you.
We did, for most of August, manage to have a bit of a regular summer. You know
a little protesting, a little fire, a little paddle boarding, a little more paddle boarding, a little time lounging on the new flagstone-patio that Erik laid late last summer.
School started in early August as it does in we-used-to-need-10-snow-days-built-into-the schedule. Zoe started running again. Max started dancing again. He also started to play soccer.
Then, it was back to Salt Lake for a reading for the Utah Humanities Council and a fancy fun party my sister threw for The After-Normal. She made truly post-normal food. (Not really. She made delicious food, as usual).
In Flagstaff, I also helped with the Northern Arizona Book Festival and taught my classes and tried to orient new faculty to the disorienting world of academia. The best part was how great my classes were right off the bat. The students, as usual, saved my sanity. The traveling was so great but there’s something a little desperate about running around the country, trying to sell books–especially at bookstores where you’re not sure you’ll have a good audience. I lucked out in LA and Napa but a reading not mentioned here did not turn out so well. I spent a lot of time revising in between trips and a lot of time trying to work on two new projects. Would I want to write all day every day? Probably. But would I run out of things to say if I didn’t go places and teach students? I don’t know but I probably wouldn’t feel so protective of time and home either.
I had a great chance to go to both Granville, Ohio and Winston-Salem, NC to read at Denison College and High Point University–about a week apart. I figured, perhaps I could stay all week and have a bit of a writing retreat? That dream came true when Dinty W. Moore
invited me to read at Ohio University. So off to Columbus I flew. I talked about climate change with students at Denison thanks to Margot Singer, who is my friend and co-editor of Bending Genre and a brilliant writer. They were mostly grieving but some had hope. I wanted to give them more but I didn’t want to give them spin either. I talked about the microorganisms that can grow lipids that could be, if scaled up used in current fuel infrastructures. Did this help? I don’t know. I told them how books are passports to other people and places. Maybe books will save us. And let us visit our friend and their students. So I took that passport to Dinty W. Moore, who I know through Brevity Magazine, his smart and funny books, AWP, and NonfictioNOW, and to his students students and then to Jacob Paul, who I know from grad school and from his ride across the country when he stopped in Michigan at our house when we lived there, and from his deeply intelligent books, and to see his students. Then I went back to Columbus where I got to meet Facebook friends, Kelly and Amy, and then I went downtown the next night and found fried chicken in the very cool town that was Columbus.
And then there was New Zealand, which I think needs its own page because this is already too much. Which is what it was. Even though it was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. And my books went around the world. And my kids came with for part of it. And Erik and I went to Portland and Seattle and we should go back because it’s good to return to your original effort and go over it one more time.
Here are some cute photos of last winter that I’m now regretting not using for our Christmas card.