i want to write another post for medium, this time not something pulled from my archives. i get about 2 views a month through medium on my portapotty post (which i consider my pinnacle blog post).
but my dilemma always is: what do i write? how do i fill the white void? from where in my mind do i pull tendrils of memories and translate to something readable?
maybe that’s what i need to write about. the void that needs to be filled. we’ll see what i can do.
often in the middle of a writing practice you feel muddled; you are not really saying anything. Try this: don’t even wait to finish your sentence – right in the middle put a dash, then write, “what i really want to say,” drop to a deeper level, and keep going. or you can start right off with this as the topic: what i really want to say is…
what i really want to say is something meaningful. something that will stay with people. i want to say something that will strike a chord, trigger a memory, jar a thought. what i really want to say is something that i’m not necessarily able to pull from my writing depths on a daily basis. what i really want to say is sometimes cloaked in humor or veiled in sarcasm. what i really want to say is sometimes hard to say – so i write it. what i really want to write is sometimes hard to write, so i will avoid it until it is an obvious time to put it into words and easily flows from my brain to type. i cannot say what i want to say until it is the right time to say it.
i’m reading the book “quiet” by susan cain. she writes:
studies have show that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend those relationships into the real world.
we all come from someplace. where do you come from? how did you escape?
if you’ve been following my blog at all, you know of the posts related to the “crap my aunt says” variety. (for those unacquainted, my aunt is very conservative in most aspects and very catholic.) this i what i grew up with, and because i was entrenched in it early on, i was, well, entrenched in it for quite a while.
i remember the bush/dukakis presidential race. of course everyone in my family was voting republican; of course we were. there was no reason to support dirty democrats. then a tiny moment of clarity: i asked my mom if she voted for bush. she said no. but! bush is pro-life! i remember clearly stating my point in the kitchen of the falling-apart kitchen of our austin farmhouse. my mom looked at me and said, no, bush is anti-abortion. he supports the death penalty, and that is taking a life as well. dukakis is anti-death penalty. (i don’t think she voted for dukakis either, but she presented the facts.) i had something to chew on.
when we moved from austin to new london, separating ourselves from the clench of my dad’s family, i felt like we were more able to explore ourselves as a family unit, not just an extension of the wallace family name. this encouraged more individual exploration and open-mindedness, something my parents fostered. add on to that that we’d had our lows (welfare and food stamps), and you can see that we had a unique viewpoint on the human effort. plus, i’ve always been happy that my parents were almost on two ends of the spectrum politically because it gave me the viewpoint of both sides.
once in college, it sort of snowballed, and experiences and circumstances led to a complete 180 from my 8-year-old self who was wailing about why her mother hadn’t voted for bush. but there’s something of a warning when encouraging your children to be open-minded, critical thinkers: it can come back to bite you in the rear. my parents are disappointed that i lean more toward the agnostic theist way of higher beings rather than catholicism (or christianity in general, i guess). ultimately, that was what was at the root of where i came from, but was it escape? or a lapse and apathy?
i am planning on *finally* going to mandan for the fourth of july. my parents and various siblings have been going to mandan, north dakota, where my aunt and uncle live for the fourth of july for years, and i have never had or taken the opportunity to join them. apparently it’s the best fireworks display a person can see on top of a whole lot of other fun. I have the days on the vacation calendar at work, i’ve told everyone i’m going to be gone that week, and barring a disaster, i will finally be inducted into the mandan independence day club.
and a relevant prompt: tell me a memory from the fourth of july.
my early independence days in austin seemed to be full of pomp and circumstance. it seemed that every fourth was the same, even though the concrete memory i have in my mind may be the result of only one year, or a melding of different years. after waking up excited for the parade, my family walked down to the end of the driveway where our tall flagpole was and hoisted the flag up the pole. whilst watching old glory wave, or just lie still against the pole, we sang “america the beautiful” because it was a much better song than the actual national anthem, argued my mom. then one year, or every year, as my memory is sketchy, my aunts and uncles stopped over for coffee cake, and my mom made eggs benedict for breakfast.
then it was off to the parade, where horses and floats, bands and fire trucks marched past us, throwing candy out their windows* and from floats. it was at these parades that some animosity was fostered among the different supporters of the hormel plant in town. a strike in the mid 80s had effectively divided the town, which you can still see from time to time today.
after the parade, we stopped by our parents’ friends’ place, who had a garage with a screen over it in the summer time so they could sit in their garage and not worry about bugs. they also have THE COOLEST fisher price little people toys. they had a castle! it was awesome. alice was also a really good cook from what i can remember, and we probably had lunch there.
then it was a waiting game until fireworks. after supper we got antsy for darkness to fall, and finally it was time to pop popcorn to place in a paper bag with lots of butter and salt. we stashed bottles, and later cans, of pepsi in a small hard-top cooler and drove over to the kmart parking lot. my mom popped the tops off the bottles of pepsi on the car’s hubcap, and we sat on the hood of the car waiting for full dark. we chomped halfway through the bag before the actual fireworks started, but once they started, we forgot about the popcorn anyway.
*did you know that they can’t *throw* candy anymore? they have to walk to the kids and hand it to them. good grief.
here is a prompt i came across in my goldberg book: “ten minutes on being fat, chubby, flabby, stout, bulky, paunchy, pot-bellied, fleshy, blubbery, plump, round, or corpulent.” i guess i can write to that.
i have never been skinny, or thin. i’ve heard stories of my dad’s comment, when he and his sisters were watching me run as a two year old, “well, she’ll never be a sprinter.” true enough.
the thinnest i felt while growing up was during a growth spurt – i must have added a bunch of inches to my weight around the time i was 12 and 13, because i was able to fit into a size 12 jeans and a medium shirt.
the most i’ve weighed was right before i started running. the scale was tipping way too close to a number that was too close for comfort to another number. the number was one thing, but another was how uncomfortable i felt with myself. i never felt bad about myself, or had low self esteem because of my weight; i just felt physically uncomfortable. after losing the weight i did, i remember how annoying it was to find clothes that fit the way i wanted them to and didn’t make me feel like i was always having to tug something somewhere. on top of that, the boobs were (well, still are) ginormous. that doesn’t help matters.
then there was the matter of chairs. i remember going to a lecture at scsu for a class and we had to sit in the theater chairs, which were built many years ago. after about half an hour wedged into the chair, i was starting to get clausterphobic. i don’t run into that that much anymore, although i wouldn’t be surprised if i still did.
the thing is, now i feel more self conscious about my flab, probably because it really is more flabby, in that it’s looser skin that jiggles around because it doesn’t have as much fat underneath it to keep it taut. the two places i wish would tighten up are my upper stomach (above the waistband) and my inner thighs. my butt can jiggle all it wants, and we all know my boobs will jiggle til the day i die.
so that’s what i know about flab, fat, chub, or corpulentness.
tell me about silence. all writers know about silence, even if they talk and chatter all the time. it’s at their back. silence drives them into the radiant light.
(i love that.)
silence. if you know me, you know it’s my thing. my mojo. what you don’t know is that my brain is never, ever silent. i try to meditate before i go to bed to make my mind calm down so i can shut it off long enough to slip into slumber, and it doesn’t work. when i’m silent, you’d better know that my gears are running at full speed, probably even more so than a chatty person, because i feel this pressure to say the right thing.
but that’s not what ms. goldberg is talking about. she’s talking about the silence that pushes a writer: the silence of a blank page, of the next word that needs to materialize in your brain so it can flow through fingertips to paper or screen. when you write, there is this push, need, drive to fill a void with what you know or have to say. when you can’t find the words to put down, or you can’t put into words what you want to say, then silence – the blank page – is suffocating. it takes everything in you to push a little further and break the surface, silent white no more.
what are some relentless dreams you had?
when i was young, i had a couple recurring dreams. one involved a circus or something at the hormel plant, and then i somehow ended up at the finnegans’ house where there were a couple weird clown statues. it wasn’t scary in any way; it was just really weird.
another common dream i had involved a very large sledding hill in the middle of the woods. there were always a lot of people there, and the hill was very steep. steepness seems to be a recurring theme throughout my life, because i have a lot of dreams about heights.
now it’s gotten to the point where if i am watching a movie or tv show and there is something on there about heights, i will most likely have a heights dream. a lot of them involve having to jump up onto platforms that are too far apart but above a huge drop. most of the time a family member is there telling me i HAVE to jump to the next step. or i am sitting above a huge drop with nowhere to go. yuck.
i also have dreams where i remember things from other dreams, but never remembered in waking life until i wake up from the current dream.
and then there are the peeing dreams 🙂 i always know i have to pee pretty badly when i use the restroom in my dreams and i STILL have to pee.
write about some big weather you experienced.
one of my early summers was hot and dry, and the rain held off long throughout the summer months. i remember my elders talking about the crops and how no rain will affect the corn in the fields, their green stalks already taller than i. in the evenings, while i ran around outside through stubbly grass, the sun continued to beat down, low and orange in the sky as i stared out over the field on the north side of the farm. the winds blew across the field from the pig farm, from across our field and again the fields of my aunt and uncle. days and days like this.
then one afternoon the sky turned greenish yellow, and humidity hung in the air so thick i felt like i could stick out my tongue to get it wetter than it was in my mouth. my dad hung around outside on the porch, walking the driveway, hiking out to the edge of the field, even though it was not his corn. my mom turned on the tv and watched the local channel to see if there would be a tornado warning.
eventually the sirens rang, alerting us that a tornado had been spotted. by this time rain had started to dot the dust in our gravel driveway, making large, dark spots out of light tan. soon the spots melted together and the driveway was no longer dust.
my mom hustled me down to the cellar, which was in the back-back room underneath a piece of floorboards that swung up to reveal crumbling cement steps that led to a dark, damp hole in the ground with one small window on the east-facing side. i remember seeing my dad still watching the outside from the doorway in the room as i descended into the hole. my mom went back up to get liz – a baby – and came back down, now with my dad, and the long, heavy cellar door came down on her head as she was making her way down the steps.
we waited in the cellar, which had a lantern and a weather radio in it as far as i can remember, until the threat of tornado passed.
by this time, my uncle squire had come out to the farm, and he, my dad, and i got in my dad’s orange and white pickup in the rain, drove the short distance to the edge of the cornfield, and watched the rain come down, windshield wipers steady against the rain. afterwards, one of the wallace men claimed to have seen the corn actually grow.
smooth, cool, drippy ice cream. in the dead of summer, those 95-degree days when the humidity is so high that your sweat can’t even ooze out of you pores because it has no where to go, the best place to be during the eveningtime, after supper has settled in your stomach and your tongue is craving something sweet, is dairy queen.
nowadays i get a hot fudge sundae, hfcs-laden as it is, but back when i was small, and trips to the DQ meant driving across austin to the west-side of town (the posh side), usually funded by my aunt colettie, i got a small vanilla ice cream cone dipped in chocolate shell. the DQ was small, and normally so packed that we would take our cones outside and sit on the hard, plasticated metal picnic tables that left diamond shaped red marks on the backs of my legs from sitting on them.
before the ice cream melted, you had to lick it up, starting with the tiny droplets of white ice cream creeping out the pores in the chocolate shells. starting at the top, you bit into the shell, taking a chunk of the white ice cream with it, and suddenly your mouth was quelled; the coolness slipped down your throat and brought a shiver of delight in the middle of the hot. but you couldn’t dwell too long on the feeling. you had to beat the heat.
licking along the top of the cone often to lap up the ice cream, you slowly ate away all the shell, leaving a small mound of ice cream atop the beige cone, always one step ahead of the heat. sometimes you just licked at it. sometimes you bit a chunk of ice cream off the top, leaving teeth marks in their wake. eventually you were down to the cone, and it was pretty smooth sailing from there (unless, of course, you waited TOO long and the cone started disintegrating).
crunching your way into the cone, you eat your way to the bottom, where the criss cross of cone helped keep disintegration at bay. usually at this point the ice cream was gone – the shivers had subsided and even thought the heat was still heavy, you were a little less hot with the cool ice cream in your belly. at this point you had two choices – throw the nub of remaining cone in the trash or jam it in your mouth, drying out the last remnants of sweetness still hiding in crevices. usually i couldn’t throw it away – it felt like a disservice to the cone.
sticky fingers, sticky mouths, but sated, it was time to peel the backs of bare legs from red plastic and back into the reality of heat. it was a short respite, but it was a respite.
the first concrete memory i associate with a bike is when i got my bigwheel for christmas when i was 2 or 3. it was a pink and purple bigwhel that actually lasted quite a while, as myself and my siblings all used it, rotating our little legs to try to get the hard plastic get a grip on the gravel in our driveway, until it was a faded greyish white plastic remnant no one could fit into anymore.
another early memory of a bike was riding down our long driveway to get the mail with my dad on his bike. his bike had a metal carrier on the back, and he would set me on it, telling me to keep my legs up and clear of the back wheel. i remember it was a hazy day – it may have been sunset, with the low sun shining yellow-orange on our east-west road. then i remember a mess, because i hadn’t upheld my end of the bargain and my foot got caught in the spokes of the back wheel. we went to the ER, where i don’t remember a lot besides bright overhead lights. i didn’t break anything.
the rest of my bike time is relatively fuzzy. i know i got my first two-wheeler for christmas, but i don’t remember it. there were training wheels, then there was one training wheel, then there were none. i know it was pink, and at some point i put those little brightly colored plastic spoke beads on my wheels that made me not only cool, but also added a musical element to tooling around the driveway. i had an old brown secondhand bike for a while after i outgrew my pink bike, and after the barn burned down (for which i was NOT responsible! woo!), one of the first things my dad and i did was go to the bike shop and buy me a new bike. it was the early 90s, right around the time road bikes were on the way out and mountain bikes were on the way in. i remember the bike guy trying to convince me to get the mountain bike he made me read the full guide here in hopes that I would jump on board. unfortunately i was not a pioneer, and i got a nice, sleek, purple road bike to be like all my friends. after about 3-4 years of riding it, i never rode the road bike again (much, i think, to my dad’s chagrin).
a few memorable bike events:
1. the catholic school walkathon/bikeathon was held every year, and my friends and i would bike the 12-mile loop around the eastern edge of austin to raise money for catholic schools.
2. one hot summer day, we were planning on going swimming, and it must have been at marty handsome’s house, because liz and i were biking eastward from our house with plastic garbage bags with a towel and change of clothes dangling from our handlebars. somehow my plastic bag whipped into the spokes (those dang wheels!) and stopped my bike cold. i flipped over the front handlebars and nailed my chin on the asphalt.
3. many trips to southeastern minnesota were had to take a trip on the root river bike trail, seemingly spending all day doing so.