In Brief, 2022: The Pangs of Our Hope

As per the usual birthday post, here we go…

Bears Ears National Monument, Spring 2022.
April 1, 2022 (with edits): 

I want to imagine
my fingers holding
a slack, unfilled balloon
somehow I am able
to turn it inside out
and the balloon still balloon
expanse in the touch
of my hand, but it has
changed direction, orientation
elsewhere but still
attached to what was before
visible and not I imagine
this is what traveling
through space is like
fabric pressing
points of distant spiraled light
bent or folded, ballooned toward me
or maybe it is me that is ballooned
either way, stretched
no end or limit to the smallness
that rises or inverts
into gargantuan beings.

While this edited journal entry isn’t the first for 2022, it seems to echo subtle notions in my last entry from 2021:

December 19, 2021:
piled, wind blown
dunes of light
and shadow
Mummy Peak, RMNP, Summer, 2022.

I had been fascinated by the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park and wanted to think about the piling of light as opposed to sand and how it changes over time. Degrades. This year, I’ve begun thinking about how dreams and memories can be seen as piles (or balloons or bending space) that shapeshift over time. They can become mythological in nature, something you aren’t sure whether or not to trust fully anymore, and yet they are rooted in truth. Childhood is very much a myth in this way to me now as it is nothing but an amalgam of stories either repeatedly told or forgotten. Sometimes I wonder if certain memories are even mine. Maybe they were once a photo I saw or a story I’d heard from others and they’d become a memory indistinguishably held in my brain.

My first entry for 2022 was about a nightmare I’d had. I won’t go into the details, but the first thing I wrote was, “I don’t trust that it was just a dream, but neither do I trust that it wasn’t, that it was real.” Our brains have a peculiar way of blurring these lines, maybe to protect us, maybe as a reflection of how interchangeable life really is between the waking and the unwaking, between our stories and our truths, between what the brain knows in raw and what we think we see from it. This blurring is fascinating to me and it drives my endeavors to create hybrid work, to have poetry and prose coexist as mediums of memoir on the page. Similarly, I want to further explore having myth or legend coexist with nonfiction in the telling of truth. As I feel that we are exactly thus. As humans, we become our ideas and our abstractions, and our stories reside in the context of both lived experiences and imagined ones.

[Related: In Brief, 2021: What the Brain Does]

Wash Park, Denver, Winter/Spring 2022.

This past Spring I took a Self-Guided writing course with Creative Nonfiction Magazine. I’d like to share some of the drafts I created:

Lesson 2: Beyond Genre, Beyond the Familiar

I climb up the gully in steps or switchbacks. A falcon is nearby, circling above the trees. Her shadow stretches and shrinks across the pink sandstone. Shrieks of her babies can be heard from within the cliffs. I climb past trees and their roots, past the little stones turned all-the-more steps, up to a saddle in the Boulder skyline. I can see the Indian Peaks on the horizon, snow-donned and glistening. The sky is bright, too, but hazy. The wind carries with it dust or pollution or some amalgam of both. This ridge is also where the online dating conversation is taking place: two men chatting, taking breathy steps up the steepest section of the route. Loose rocks nudge and the too-dry topsoil makes me wonder about my race in 5 months. Will they moisten the steepest sections for safety reasons? (A distracting question from the more pressing matter of my plantar fasciitis). And what of the lives of the baby falcons? Will the man ever find what he’s looking for in a partner? Will we forever be throats screeching into the haze the breathy pangs of our hope?


Morning frost, Fall 2022.

TOY PIANO

Perhaps my first encounter with a piano was the toy version. Within the wooden upright look-alike, the twang of the metal rods reverberated in an odd, out-of-tune way. Like old wind chimes or fairy-tale crystals clanking around my toddler mind, the sounds (or music, if you’re kind) were excitingly at the whim of my own fingers. Though, perhaps the first time I truly heard a piano was different. A real one, like the ones in churches, or the one that sat in the wall-papered living room of my grandparents’ home — my mother knew how to properly press their keys. She could play and sing, and when I was old enough to reach the pedals, I asked her to teach me. But I was sensitive then and cried whenever I did anything incorrectly. Perhaps sensitive isn’t right. Perceptive, self-deprecating. She sent me up the street for lessons with an elder neighbor. Criticism was easier to take from a stranger. I did well. Grandmother’s piano was moved into our own living room. Dad would hum tone-deaf notes behind me as I played some of his favorite songs. None of this proves anything about perfection, really. Pianos are often tuned only to themselves. That is the case with this piano at least, the one that followed a matrilineal line into my own living room now, here. It’s too old to tune correctly. It’s too easy to abide by the metaphors of true pitch, that perfectionism is a difficult shadow. What if perfect meant: whole unto itself in all contexts of time and manner? Young or not, perhaps sensitive is right. Perceptive, pleasing, pliant. Within a wooden upright, the twang of perfect still reverberates: mother sings, dad hums, and I play what I can.

The Saber, RMNP, Summer/Fall 2022.

Lesson 3: Nonfiction and Imagined Worlds

TIME HAD FOUND ITSELF

It happened. We found them and studies took place. There is no manner of sense-making, though, given our own manner of bias. Our elders had always warned that you cannot truly hear what is to be spoken if you approach with rules. It happened. I met with a forest and I think all they wanted was for me to sit, so I sat and I sat and I let my body interpret what it could. There were a lot of small things that wove themselves into a higher fabric. Beings occupied every semblance of space. I started to understand. I knew this would be complex, maybe too much for me to surrender to. I started to see how they wove everything together. That everything from the beginning of time had found itself there. But I was not like the tree people. I was a soft body and they, hard. I had fluid-filled eyes and they a mesh of leaves or needles or whatever it was that they had grown to harvest their light. They fed from the earth and fed each other. They were homes and resting places. They knew the stories of the river and the fox, the mouse and the hawk. I listened to them, to as many as I could. Then a whisper, a warning, about the others in upright form, like me, they said. Like me? Yes, you who see yourself estranged. It happened. We found them and studies took place. And I sat at the table of man. And I was like them. They had mouths with dull teeth and a tongue that had the power to reshape the world. They spoke and I started to understand. Their stories were sad, they’d forgotten. They were estranged. And I was like them.

A painted wall along a trail in Boulder, Summer, 2022.

[Related: In Brief, 2020: Child Again]

I’m also very grateful for having started my Moonbox Notes series this past February. A monthly blog post to help keep me accountable in my writing and in my sharing of what I’ve been reading, watching, learning, etc etc.


My running life: This year was another adventurous year for my running, and for Patrick, too. He ran his first marathon in June with my older brother in Missoula. I focused a lot more on fueling strategies and nutrition this year, and my Run the Rut 50k race thankfully reflected a better performance than my Telluride Mountain Run 40 Miler last year. There is still so much more to learn and do, of course. I still experienced nausea at the end of the 50k, likely due to a lack of heat training. I struggle with fluid intake, particularly when I’m not exercising. I become rather forgetful in the day-to-day, and I get so engrossed in whatever it is that I’m doing that it’ll be hours before I realize I haven’t had any water. In the off-season, which I’m in right now, it is the worst, because at least during the height of my training I’m exercising so much that I am drinking water all the time.

A summit along the Mummy Traverse, RMNP, Summer, 2022. Photo: Sarah Malone.
Running with Patrick in Illinois at the Cahokia Mounds Sacred Site. Fall, 2022.
Wind River Peak FKT Finish, Summer, 2022.

I also still struggle with my relationship building. I want my running to be more community-facing, but now that I’m in Durango, I’m not sure how to find diverse running groups. The established clubs I have looked into just simply aren’t that. Then create it, you might say, but I don’t even know how to begin or how to reach out, and I want to believe that BIPOC runners in the area are already gathering. So, I have high hopes. Winter probably isn’t the easiest time to connect over running anyway.

Since I didn’t travel as much this year as I normally do, I’m hoping 2023 will allow me to visit California again, among other places. I hope to team up with other runners who also pursue FKTs to create more of a collaborative environment and to also create opportunities for advocacy and education. I really do look forward to the work of using this platform in such a way, and I hope other runners will want to join in.

Sunrise while ascending toward Longs Peak with Patrick, Summer, 2022.

May 31, 2022 (with edits): 
Your mouth is water
I have spoons of paper
secrets edible but blurry now
my testimony bleeding
you want everything
and I have so many dreams
spoons full of water
trauma shaped
page after page
and you lick every letter
and want even the hand
or the web of my brain
as if water doesn't erase
soften the secrets
into whatever it is
you obessively drink
sip gulp pleasure
and I do it still, I do
as if the water will erase me
soften pain palatable
until my dreams
are in the shape of your mouth
blurred and webbed
spoonful after spoonful
do I drown in the viscid dark.
A creek outlet in the Wind River Range, Summer, 2022.

The poem above is a response to the seeming accumulation of notions like “trauma porn” or the desire for “drama” and “entertainment” across social media and in writing or in film. A part of me has become exhausted from feeling that I have to be highly vulnerable all the time in order to connect with others (or to amass followers and likes and audience and, and…). The messaging seems to be that I can’t be a great writer (or relevant person) without regurgitating all the traumas and depressing things of my life. But I also think that my relationship with social media in general is evolving, or perhaps, devolving. I ask myself often how and why I feel this way, and sure, there have been articles written about this, but I suppose the reality-check is thus: I am more than the drama or the pain and I am even more than a truthseeker or a supporter of justice. I am also mundane. Giddy. At times complacent. Full of fantasies. I fail at simple, unentertaining things. The first thing I do in the morning is boil water. I have a soft spot for dark chocolate and ginger cookies. I write to-do lists and send funny videos to my best friend in California. I doom scroll. I sleep on my side. I don’t like listening to my heartbeat. My body prefers slowly waking to sunlight. My skin will itch if it gets too dry. I’ve been married for 6.5 years. My husband and I are still grossly affectionate to one another (like, if you distilled a day’s worth of conversation, you will find more I Love Yous than anything else said between us).

Bri’s graduation in Reno, Nevada. Spring, 2022.

But my writing has always had morbid undertones, or a sense of mortality, or layers of multiplicity, and I honestly love that about my work, about my voice. Perhaps I just need to practice turning this version of me off (or, rather, teaching it to rest). I simply don’t have to be my writerly self all the time. Or, my writerly self doesn’t have to always be morbid or trauma-facing. Who knows. Social media is a trip. I think I just need to stop caring so much. Live more of an in-person, spoken life. There is so much room for joy in writing and in what people want to read, so I know that my perceptions of vulnerability are skewed, because joy is also a vulnerable expression. Being happy. Being comfortable. Being honest about the mundane. But, I will also say that the risks of trauma porn are real, that there are industries and brands taking advantage of peoples’ pain and survival for the sake of profit. This goes beyond writing or art-making or social media, because it exists in our medical system as well. In how we perceive and interact with the poor, the homeless, and marginalized communities of color. Our politics. Our everything, really.

[Related: Moonbox Notes #4 – May 2022]

Shadows over an icy puddle. Fall/Winter, 2022.

I recently finished reading Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo and I’d like to end with particular lines from a poem she shared by Márcia Wayna Kambeba (“Warrior Silence”):

"I resisted, I wasn't conquered
From silence I formed my weapon
[...]
You must grow quiet
To hear with the heart
[...]
The song of the Mother of the Water
Who in her dance with the wind
Asks we respect her
As the source of sustenance.
[...]
For us, for the nation!"

I cherry-picked these lines because of how they specifically made me feel about the role of silence in power. How in the quiet we are able to remember all that may have been forgotten about ourselves and our connection to Mother Earth. That the earth will always be the answer, the solution. That we are inseparable from our earthness. We are “earth houses” as Joy Harjo writes in the book. And we, no matter our myths and truths, have a duty to respond. We are the earth piled in shapes of shadow and light. We are gargantuan beings who tread time with the breathy pangs of our hope, and we must not remain estranged.

Patrick and I cast shadows near a summit. Fall, 2022.

Feliz Cumple a Mi

Stay tuned for the upcoming Moonbox Notes #10: Diciembre 2022!

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