Monday, January 25, 2010


Originally uploaded by brian_adams

Life is so strange and terrifyingly beautiful if only you take the time to look.

When I asked my sister, B, what her favorite thing about living in Alaska was, she said that it was "how quickly the seasons change." Now, as we're gaining 5 minutes of sunlight a day, I know what she means. Darkness is not the same as the lack of light, and light is not the same as the lack of darkness. I can't say that I would ever have understood this as fully had I not moved here. It is not the same thing to be "not unhappy" as it is to be truly joyfully alive.

Here, changes and polarities notch the spine of understanding.

Lately, BA and I have been up to all sorts of things, from snowshoeing in a quiet wood of freshly fallen snow to throwing a surprise birthday party for L and a baby shower for R to interviewing local tattoo artists and applying for grants for a book project established to bolster support for Native Alaskan communities. In a word, we are busy; if there is no work, we make some.

It is, of course, the wonderful people in my life like BA and B that keep me going even when the work runs dry (and, my friends, it has!).

It is indescribably affirming to wake and retire everyday with another artist; there are the times when the scream beneath the surface rages and frustrates before it creates, but BA and his love of his work is an endless source of inspiration to me. That we both harbor a deep interest in and love of this world is nothing if not an assurance that we will find ourselves all over the earth, always doing what we love.

Last week, BA and I had the privilege of briefly meeting acclaimed poet, essayist, and social activist Nikki Giovanni, a woman who, at 66, has been publishing poetry for over four decades while working to bring matters of social justice into the public eye through her prolific essays and lectures. Last week, Giovanni was on fire; I attended expecting a poetry reading but soon realized that she was prepared to lecture for the full 1 1/2 hours--without any notes--on current politics, social justice, and civil rights, while also paying a tribute to her friend and inspiration Rosa Parks, who, according to Giovanni, is the "most important person of the 20th century."

Rock. On.

Nikki Giovanni, as you might expect, is not a closeted, stuffy, silver-spoon professor of English; she is a woman who says what she means (and means what she says) and an artist who has constantly pushed herself creatively throughout her life, creating works that make the world question itself. On Thursday, she proclaimed her support for gay marriage, claiming that one day we will look at the current laws and this struggle the way we now view miscegenation laws--with a kind of What the hell were they thinking? scowl.

This struggle, of course, is key; the struggle is the point of departure.

In a word, Nikki Giovanni is powerful--powerfully validated by her experience, wise, and compassionate. She harbors the sort of quiet intellect--the kind that truly has seen it all--that I hope to earn throughout my life.

Happiness and understanding, of course, do not come easily; these are fruits of a constant and effortful response to that creative drive within that spurs us on everyday to learn and create. It is a toil that is undertaken with a deep kind of gratitude--the kind that's hard to find sometimes--and a desire to see and feel and leave as much as we can before we die.

Before us, there was life. After us, what will there be?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A New Year

New Year's Weekend.
Originally uploaded by skinny.jeans

Hoar frost, which until now I had never seen, has begun to stick thickly to the branches of trees, icicles on houses, and even my eyelashes, so that the world looks strange and newly beautiful, coated in crystal. The cold arrives and wanes, the winter sky remains always in a brilliantly dosey state of twilight, and the sun runs along beside us but never overhead.

And so the new year begins in a place truly new to me.

The holidays were lovely and almost overly eventful, packed with new families, new friends, and new traditions; BA and I bought and decorated our first tree, MF and I shared our first meals, B and L and BA and I shared our first Christmas Eve, and I had not one but two first Christmas stockings, both appropriately stuffed. I deeply missed my holidays with my family (though I'm happy that we were able to skype and talk on the phone!), but I was so welcomed by BA's family and L's family, that I felt anything but lonely. And, of course, MF is a beautiful, genuine, and interesting creature, as I knew that she would be. In all, the holidays were a time of opportunities to learn and love. (I often wonder how people who weren't deprived of these fundamental needs their whole lives see them--could they possibly appreciate them in the way B and I do?)

I realize that most of these opportunities were available to me because I've entered into BA's life, and were I not here, these would have still happened, just without me. This is what it is to move often: in this place where I am always the newcomer, I feel that I could just disappear and life would move on, unaffected by my absence. (It is a comfort, usually.)

In this crystalline winter, I am the visitor.