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"Time is Up" by Ali Cavanaugh

"Time is Up" by Ali Cavanaugh

Time is up.

NaNoWriMo has ended.

December 1st has passed.

We survived.

And this, this is the story of survival.

"Covering Shame" by Ali Cavanaugh

Survival begins much uglier than you might think.

It begins with guilt and shame and a desire to fade into the white and the flurry of fragments — of self and storyline and understanding.

The story is a blurred and spinning motion show.  It is circulating cascades of colors and lights and fragments of faces and pieces of periphery.

The story of survival is substantial, but it is not ordered or ordinary.  It is out of order and spinning spinning spinning spinning.

And so, in the face of our own survival, with the force of bed spins weighted at our temples, we begin here: We failed the challenge.  We did not produce 50,000 words in 30 days.

"A Perfect Sway" by Ali Cavanaugh

“A Perfect Sway” by Ali Cavanaugh

We plunged into the starkly cold early winter waters, foraged in the dark depths with our toes, and fought against the current.  Yet we could not hold our breath until the end.  We bubbled to the surface just shy of ourselves, just short of discovering our inner underwater worlds waiting to be exposed, written and read.  We nearly made it and yet we did not.  There are thousands of reasons why we did not make it.  Which would you like to read?  Which would you believe?  Which reason suffices power and force enough to yank us up from submersion in our inner selves just as we are about to discover a new lifeform and bring it to the surface for questioning?

Well it begins here: somehow we lost momentum, our tethers tensed up and flung us away, and our surface selves beckoned our immediate attention.  For me, my dear car was totaled and I was called to a different reckless adventure in search of new mobility.  For Ms. Bernstein, graduate school and cold weather and the indescribable and unexpected arrival of foreignness in another country pulled her outward of her attempt.

And although the story of our survival begins there, it does not end there.  For, though we did not meet our mark, though we did not produce our 50,000 words, though we did not amass a new lifeform — we did not fail.

Failure does not suffice.

It does not suffice our survival — our bravery, our attempt, our experiences.

"I See Your Heart" by Ali Cavanaugh

"I See Your Heart" by Ali Cavanaugh

“It’s not what you thought when you first began it / It’s not going to stop until you wise up / It’s not going to stop so just give up”

We nearly made it, but we did not fail.  I do not call FAIL.  Not just yet.

Although we did not surface with an undiscovered underwater lifeform in arms, we do not defy its existence.  We have circumstantial proof only, but we have enough not to deny the truth of possibility.

Our NaNo novels are non-mathematical postulates, non-logical axioms.  They are truths waiting to be proven.  Words waiting to be counted.  Virtual pages waiting to be given tangible life in ink.  Feral children waiting to be given homes and parents and structures and culture.

We have characters who, alternately, have stories and lives and words and creatures for whom they are responsible.  We have towns that do and do not exist, alternately — for they exist in our storytelling and perhaps even in actual space.  We have much to prove.  We have much yet to do.

I do not call FAIL.  Not for us.

The Internet Meme

FAIL: The Internet Meme

Even if failure is the best word we have available in our present, shared lexicon — failure itself is a story.  In fact, it is an internet meme.  It is a phenomenon of virtual culture.  It is globalized.  It circulates the global in intangible form at unimaginably rapid speeds.  It is shared by thousands and thousands of people, strangers to one another, each day (on different days in the world and in the world’s time).  Even in this photograph, fail is called for an ironic and probably, in all likelihood, unintentional shelving order for a bookstore in NYC (that same bookstore that gave away the free postcards that my Bernstein used to mail me delicious bites when she was an undergraduate student first living in the great wide city).  But even this failure is not failure.  Failure does not suffice this photographed shelf.  Failure does not suffice its irony and subtextual meaning.  Failure does not suffice metaphor.

Our NaNos exist betwixt — betwixt the truth and fail — betwixt success and failure — betwixt sexuality and relationships.

We have not failed.  We have only just begun.  And we shall not let go.

"I hope you never leave my arms" Ali Cavanaugh

"I hope you never leave my arms" Ali Cavanaugh

This entry has made generous use of Ali Cavanaugh’s watercolor frescos.  Please visit her personal blog to preview more of her work, to support her efforts,
and to read more about her biography and aesthetic.  As printed on her website, “[Cavanaugh] is fascinated by the dichotomy of the seen and unseen in the human condition…
body and soul…Cavanaugh’s art brings to light the complexity within contemplation.  Her signature poetic titles are part of this engaging discourse.”
Her frescos have been used in this entry to evoke the inner experience of survival and its complexity (shame and happiness and selfishness and selflessness and inner exploration).
Please visit: Ali Cavanaugh

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Where did I put my marbles this weekend?

For starters, Berns and I signed up for NaNoWriMo, which if you haven’t heard about is probably the most intimidating bout of dedicated self-torture through literary explosion I’ve heard of and knowingly, even excitedly, volunteered for!  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place in November.  It is a website-launched centralized attack on internal editors and procrastination.  It is a unique time-limited ultra specific challenge.  It is simply, this: 1 month, 50,000 words.  That’s 1666.66667 words per day.  As it ascribes itself, NaNoWriMo is a seat of the pants exercise in output.  Its sole focus is quantity.  Forcing yourself to get it out.  The it in the sentence meaning your novel.  The one, if you’re anything like Berns and I, you probably didn’t even know you had in you.  I am definitely afraid and intimidated — can I really write 6 double-spaced pages a day?  Can I write a uniform story?  Can I sustain cohesion and interest in it after so much concentrated output?  All that aside, Berns and I couldn’t actually be more excited about it.  We are forcing ourselves to get our literary bones in shape, which is something we haven’t disciplined ourselves enough to do consistently or routinely in years.  Sure, back in high school, we were required to write a minimum of ten pages in our journals per week.  But, to be honest, there were many weeks, especially at the beginning, when I didn’t meet that minimum goal.  Even when I was more practiced, I had a few tricks up my sleeve — artwork and experimentation with handwritten or typed font size occasionally bought me wiggle room (I can’t say the same for Bernsie — she was much more consistent and dedicated than me).  But, in this challenge, the marker is actually much more difficult to wiggle around — it can’t really be fooled by font size or other trickery.  It is word count!  Yikes.  I know I, at least, am in for it.  And poor Bernsie is trying to do it in the midst of writing grad school papers.  My suggestion to her was to incorporate elements of her papers into her novel.  And that’s no trickery.  That’s survival.  Besides, that gives her direction and may actually make her output more enlightening to read.  In the least, I can’t see why she shouldn’t put her academic research to creative use.  At least in this format, she has liberty to transform her research into self-propelled fiction.  NaNoWriMo is sure to be a madhouse.  As I described it yesterday, it’s a literary bootstrap puller-upper and we’re gonna need a lot of stick-to-it-ness to, well….., stick to it.  But what it promises to bring us is closer together and closer to a literary community, which is something Bernsie and I haven’t had in a long time (not in the last six years really anyhow).  And, at the end of 30 days, we’ll be in shape.  We’ll have a manuscript.  We’ll have perservered (stuck to it, that is … to be folksy).  We’ll have caught the golden ring.  And in the mean time, our challenge is to sucker as many others into doing it as possible and by sucker I mean persuade, of course, because we need a large and fully functioning literary community to support us in our marble hiding endeavor.  And now all I can think about is what I’m going to write about.  I’m actually a little worried that my story and my main characters are a little too fleshed out to start.  I am sorta entranced by the idea of literary haphazardness and forcing myself to just keep writing and making unimaginable leaps.  To not plan it all out ahead of time so that I am forced to create and draw connections and leap forward in unknown arcs all in the moment.  And I know just how much that excites Rachel B as well.  So, friends, I warn that through this November process we may not have much time to write or report here since we’ll be saving up our literary output for our novels, but rest assured that you will be hearing from us!  You will be able to track our progress through our blog via handy NaNo (our cutesy shortenin’) widgets!

My Progress (roaringaurora):

Rachel Bernstein’s Progress (either0r):

A Little Friendly jetset Competition:

To give you an idea of just how difficult NaNoWriMo may be, this post (including its title and this lil’ write-up) is only 893 words! And that’s 773 words fewer than my daily NaNo quota!

It would be enough craziness abounding had I just assigned myself one challenge in November, but alas! I have completely lost all my precious marbles.  I am now trying to discipline myself to not only write six pages a day routinely (three in the mornings and three at night), but also to exercise a minimum of three times per week!  I began today with 20 minutes of pilates and 20 minutes of insane upper body cardio/weight-training to work on my arms, shoulders, and core… (the parts of myself I am admittedly most self-conscious about and generally displeased with).  So… I’ll keep you posted on my progress toward those goals as well!  No I’m not trying to lose weight.  I am trying to get in shape.  That’s the theme for November… let’s hope they’re aren’t any viscious hidden turkeys to gobble my goals up!

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The guillemot (a European bird much like Bernsie, herself) hurls itself off a precipice before it is fully fledged, not as a test of will or wings, but as an instinctual following act just a few steps behind its mother.  And the fledgling guillemot doesn’t stick the landing.  It doesn’t even fly.  The guillemot feels weightless in plummet just moments before it crashes to the rocky beach below.  But even as it crash-lands in the grit, the guillemot is not unsteady.  It dauntlessly, haplessly perhaps, picks itself up and continues its relentless waddle to the water.

What mother leads its young into a hopeless crash dive off a cliff that doesn’t end at the sand below, but continues to drive forward into the great blue deep?

Each morning I wake up hoping to have grown in my flying feathers, and though I have what appears to be feathers growing in, I still can’t fly!

I have my own nest.  I even have a flock of young creatures (not of my own species or procreative efforts, of course) to look after — think Jean Piaget flock of ducks.  And, yet, I continue to feel unfledged.   I can’t save a dime.  Alright that isn’t exactly fair, I have managed to save a few dimes with my save the change account that rounds off my debit purchases and puts the extra pocket change into my savings account.  But it doesn’t ever seem to amount to much.  Because all I ever do is move my money around to delay its expenditure until it is appropriately allocated.  Then, by month’s end, I’ve nothing more than a few spare dimes to save.  I don’t know much about credit, but what I do know is that it is very difficult to build and very easy to obliterate.  I’ve bombed my credit off the map!  And it isn’t as fun as you might think it sounds.  I only have one credit card and has a very modest credit line.  Trouble is, my credit card has been my emergency safe and I’ve had more emergencies in my young adulthood than I had ever planned on.  So even though my actual debt is fairly minimal, I’ve only one credit line and it’s close to max.  I can’t seem to pay it down because my interest rate is horribly astronomically bound (we’re talking black hole big).  And the credit company won’t offer much to help.  So I slowly pay pay pay pay pay what little I can here and there throughout the month.  It’ll work.  It just takes time.  A slow drip drip drip of time into a tiny bucket of dimes.  All the while, I spend my time practicing to be a fledged adult.  I try to keep a responsibly clean and organized apartment, and I try to get my oil changes regularly, and I try to forecast a future for myself at my job.  If I squint hard enough at the horizon, I can envision a doable future of flight.  I can see it!  But how the hell do I get there, do I just keep hurling myself off the precipice hoping to either fly or make it to the bottom in enough pieces to walk myself to the water?

It isn’t a new theme.  It isn’t a new question.

You see, like the guillemot, women are born with sea legs and have to learn to walk on the land of men.


Maya Deren, “At Land” (part 1 shown), 1944.

As Maya Deren wrote of feminism in her films, I think that the strength of men is their great sense of immediacy.  They are a “now” creature.  And a woman has strength to wait.  ‘Cause she’s had to wait.  She has to wait 9 months of the concept of a child.  Time is built into her body in the sense of becomingness.  And she sees everything in terms of it being in the stage of becoming.  She raises a child knowing not what it is at any moment but seeing always the person that it will become.  Her whole life from her very beginning it’s built into her a sense of becoming.  Now in any time form, this is a very important sense.  I think that my films, putting as much stress as they do, upon the constant metamorphosis.  One image is always becoming another.”

Time is built into my body in a sense of becomingness.  But what am I to become?  What is to become of me?

That is a question that can only be answered in the air drift en plummette.  That can only be secondarily confirmed by the sea.  If I can make it to swim in the kelp, even if I become enmeshed and tangled, I’ll know, like the young guillemot, I have made it at least so far.

Photo Credits: “A guillemot swimming over the kelp beds” by Jonathan Wills

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“A child looking at ruins grows younger
but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips
in the sun.”
– W. S. Merwin, The Love of October

There are many thoughts rumbling through this ol’ brain o’ mine today as we approach the first of October.

We are in October’s eye.  I can’t stop thinking of these things: homophones, growing my flying feathers, time time time, calendars, Halloween, Rosh Hashanah, mistakes of Octobers of yesteryear, blisses of Octobers of yesteryear, and pumpkins.  October’s eye can be a homophone for “October Sky,” which is allatonce these things: the name I’ll call our sky tonight at midnight, a film starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal as a young and poor amateur rocketeer, and a clunkly wistful clarinet chorus song by the Belle and Sebastian off-shoot the Gentle Waves.  To continue with this stream of consciousness, this blog in an earlier draft (yes, my blogs do have drafts, at times) was titled “Autumn Leaves,” which is the title of a Vashti Bunyan acetate demo.  Yet, though the demo is titled “Autumn Leaves” on paper, Vashti’s whispery voice introduces the song on tape as “Autumn Tears.”  Here I am word gardening, again, and yet I cannot help but marvel at these lovely literary accidents — all these sounds — I pretend my fingers can read and my eyes can hear!  October October October.  Just might be my favorite month of the year.  I can’t wait for the orange joy it brings, the joy of pumpkin innards, apple cider, crisp leaves, costumes, saints, and the fun and adventurous aspects of fear.  As an added bonus, October is a three pay-check month!  How will I spend the unexpected extra chunk of pocket change?  Sensibly, of course (as a fledged one would).  Or, perhaps, on a splurge (says the fledgling)!  Here we’ve made a list for both!

Sensible

Invest the money in savings for rainy days, sunny days (and real estate), future vacations, school, or other future big ticket items or ventures
– Buy a wardrobe and organize mine and the moondawg’s clothes by season
– Purchase some supplies to reorganize and create the “office” space in the spare bedroom (it’s a cluttered heap, though we did reduce the dinge in the space)

Splurges

Get an expensive, but amazingly chic haircut!
– Buy some appropriately priced fashionable new clothes for fall — I happen to love the comfortable and brightly colored t-shirts at H&M!
– Purchase an xbox 360!  Yea, we’re way behind the curve, but at least this splurge is much more sensibly priced than perhaps it once was!

And what ever should I be for Halloween?

Colby and I toyed with several couple costume options like Laura Palmer and Detective Cooper.  But even if that is my actual costume du jour (of that all hallowed eve, anyhow), I’ll still need a kid-friendly costume.  I was Flower Power Frizzle last year — yay Magic School Bus!  But I’d also thought of these in the past: an elephant (with a really awesome paper towel roll trunk with fabric sewn around it and big floppy paper and felt ears) or a mermaid with lots of sparkles.  I definitely want something crafty where I’m able to repurpose or recycle something and be earth friendly and kid friendly altogether!  Thoughts thoughts thoughts?

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We are, between us, the following:

One world traveler/grad-student-to-be/post-Brookylnite/post-post-Baltimorean/canvas shoe wearer/fledgling orthalogian/daily consumer of Americanized Mexican food

One domestic cat-lady-in-waiting/psychiatric rehabilitation specialist/counselor/fledgling harpist/wannabe philatelist/incredibly redundant wordsmith/potential theology student

We are both cheeky. And avid coffee swindlers. And, of course, obsessive list-makers.

Once in a seminar/training, titled “Therapeutic Crisis Intervention: The Cornell Model,” I was asked about my own coping skills and interventions. What do I do to relieve stress and self-soothe? I write lists. A completely original/novel yet odd answer replied the trainer.

Why do we write lists? It’s a tradition began in our freshman years of high school (and, incidentally, our first year of friendship). These are not to-do lists. We write lists because we are process-oriented people and obsessive cataloguers of information/data, including personal information. The process is self-evaluation, or: when together, mutual collaborative evaluation. We make most lists in an informal tripartite reflective structure with the following categories: Good, Bad, and the ever-fluctuating Questionable.

So, even now, as we prepare for the departure of one half of our homo-social life partnership (Rachel) to the Czech Republic, we are engaging the process of reflection through list-making. When we planned our last stateside time together, there was a tacit understanding that list-making would/should commence. Only now, and for the near-first time (we did very briefly blog together — but it was often far too listy and did not have enough textual content), we are publishing our lists online. Names will be changed to protect the innocent and, the more likely of the two, the not-so-innocent (and, most importantly, ourselves). Moreover, these lists will be more prosaic as they are meant to document our intercontinental experiences in a variety of contextual ways, but most simply in the ultra-textual Internet.

So, here it starts.

Good:
Us.
Johnny Depp.
Taco Bell. (The first 3 are historic inclusions, and required. By our own rules.)
Today (23/7/08 — Rachel writes the date this way for practice. April writes it this way because it makes sense — like Russian nesting dolls).
Moving on — taking the next BIG STEP. (No more baby-steppin’!)
Commitment to our new blog!
2008 so far!
Colby Canada (Ape swoons!) and mustaches.
Escape from the rats (also known and heard as kangaroos on rollerskates).
Sweet summer romances.
Nostalgic mixes.
Baltimore music scene (at present).
H&M T-Shirts — casual. cheap. perfect-fit.
Good-fitting jeans — Levi’s and J-Crew.
Canvas slip-on shoes.
The unexplainable energy sweet romances gives you that somehow transforms your body and the way you feel about yourself. When someone else sees you as a beautiful, it is because you finally are beautiful — there is an energy that surrounds and encompasses you. You are more forgiving of yourself and the way you look.

Questionable
Going home with co-workers.
Limited choice of Baltimore music venues.
Friendship with England.
5 cats:1 house ratio.
Job status.
Grad school (Where? When? How!)
Where April will be this time next year? Is Austin the next big thing? Chicago?
Time-limited relationships – can you put a time-limit on feelings?
Canvas shoe tan-lines.
Packing up your LIFE in 2 suitcases or less – how to trim the fat and stick to the essentials?
Ape wonders about writing a children’s novel…
Being 5 pounds away from your ideal weight.

Bad
Solo birthdays (birthdays apart from our homo-social life partners).
Drifting cat odors (gross!).
Cat incest (these species don’t have taboos!).
Sick + Tired.
Car expenses… + repairs (Gemma the Jetta is 10 after all).
Rach has no wheels.
Bone spurs.
Rach has no health insurance and Ape’s health insurance doesn’t believe in women’s reproductive health!
Feeling creepy-crawly this summer.
Not having enough time together!
Feeling skinny but having stretch marks.

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