Rain Day

Today was a special day. This morning I woke to rain. 

The world was wrapped in a curtain of water, floating over green leaves and lightning. Droplets suspended like mist on the air currents. I sat in the concrete stairwell and watched. Rain is worth attention. Nothing else on earth feels like rain. 


It isn’t just water from the sky. It is sound and silence combined, something far richer than white noise. The sensation is close to what linguists refer to as “mutual intelligibility:” the partial comprehension of a language related to your own. 

In the case of rain, it feels as though the comprehension should be there. But it always runs parallel to understanding – never intercepting. Rain balances a deeply intricate existence with a straightforward purpose – yet I am reminded it isn’t a creature of nerves and synapses. This untranslatable quality turns rain into an event that changes the world’s dimensions. 

A rainstorm defies mapping. It is a lesson in disorientation, remaking normal points of reference. Hard surfaces seem to float, waver, and disperse, while pliable surfaces, such as leaves, become prominent and heavy. Light scatters across, rather than illuminates, slick surfaces. Even the air seems literally out of its element. It becomes visible in waves or gusts of water, and the act of breathing feels akin to swimming. The line between earth and water is also blurred, as dust and surface debris are washed into streams while water sinks into the soil. 

As each separate element of the environment is coated in water, even the distinctions between similar phenomena are taken away. It becomes clear that the difference between a trickle and a torrent, a puddle and a lake, is only a matter of size. In details and behavior, they are identical. They act upon the world in the same way, regardless of scale. 

A rainfall event therefore seems to change the world because it changes the qualities we regard as static – the apparent touchstones of our environment. 

Like many disorienting experiences, this change in scale and space can be addictive. I used to take walks in the rain just to see the transformation. I do not believe I am alone in this urge – there are far too many “rainy day” recordings looping across YouTube, too many (or just enough) “rainy day aesthetic” images on Tumblr. But rain isn’t captured in a facsimile. It is far too complex a creature, a force. These things may substitute if you live in, say, Phoenix – like water for whiskey, as the saying goes. They do not begin to replicate the full sensory engagement of a rainstorm through its full life cycle. 

Rain is not a crafted experience. To stand in the rain is to pay perfect attention to everything that matters. In that moment, rain is the world. That is all.


(…but is it? Part 2, tomorrow.)


“A Personal Statement of No More Than One Page”

I find myself in a ridiculous position. Perhaps you can relate? 

At various points in time, we are all in ridiculous positions. It begins with being born and continues, without letup, until we “shuffle off this mortal coil” (in the words of my father in a flippant mood). 

If I am truly being honest and thorough, it doesn’t end even then. Decay is a supremely fantastical spectacle. Even more fantastic is the reconstruction that occurs in the minds of others. Ask the “survived by” to relate their fondest memories, and you will be left looking around (Travolta-in-Pulp Fiction-style) for any resemblance to the deceased. 

I digress. You asked for a personal statement, not a birth-to-death statement. Presumably, then, you are only interested in the before-and-after immediately relevant to your perspective on this moment in time. 

You want to know why. 

Why? Why I am a good candidate. Why I am a good fit. Why you want me, why you spend time reading this, why we have any reason to be connected (to intersect) beyond shared strains of DNA and probability in an (possibly?) infinite universe. Shall I mention the Drake Equation? 

(Note to self: I shall not. This is no more than one page and the critical analysis would require quite a few appendices and a bibliography.)  

The weight of this question presses on me. I am stacked, no more than a breath or a second in time, apart from others who share my atoms and desires. I am pressed between my past and future, the needs of the planet and the gaze of the sun. 

My great-grandmother was named Stella. She spoke Polish and English; she tricked history in appearance and procedure. Her daughter was Dolores (in the Spanish manner) – “sorrowful one”. Her daughter had a son. Then her daughter married. Then her daughter had a son and then a daughter. Her son died, her daughter lived; her first-born son was lost (until he found himself). Her daughter planted a rosebush when she couldn’t have a child, and found a child as she lost parts of herself. Her daughter had the name Rose, and another name besides; two parts, each separate and together, thorn that bleeds and flower that breaks walls. 

I write as history presses me forward. I write for what could be lost, not in the past but in the future: the futures that don’t yet know they exist. Show a future, and it becomes a possibility; speak a future with enough conviction, and it becomes a probability – like finding intelligent life. Just ask Dr. Drake. 

In this book, this world, 
We are each no more than one page – prelude to the next. Turn us.


Top Shelves Are Easy, It’s Conclusions I Can’t Reach

The title says it all. I’m 5’3 and determined: top shelves are easy. I’ve lived with tall roommates before, and they laugh like nobody’s business (well, really, it isn’t – but I digress) to see me stretch and jump and growl and climb on the counter. But I make it, every single time. I get what I’m reaching for. I’m proud of it, too. Top shelves are easy. 

Conclusions, now. If I could get the 6’-and-over crowd’s help, I would…swallow my pride and do so. In a roundabout way. Or maybe even a fairly direct way. Sometimes one’s pride must be sacrificed. If I could reliably summon forth a top-notch conclusion by ritual pride-sacrifice – listen, this place would look like an over-enthusiastic artist’s rendering of any Incan temple you care to discover. Sadly, conclusions do not seem to respond to summoning (ritual or otherwise). 

Instead, conclusions are like hard-of-hearing beagles. They happily romp around in the distance. They somehow always get further away the more you run after them. To all appearances, they are oblivious to your pursuit. This is why I have a betta fish instead of a beagle. This is also why I have a hard time reaching conclusions. 

And if I’m being honest, it’s not even that I have a hard time reaching conclusions. I wish the problem were that easy. Rather, it goes something like this: I have a hard time reaching conclusions because I have a hard time telling stories. 

This is because I don’t like stories. They are never true. Or rather, they are not true enough. They edit out so much; it’s an act of necessity, because you can’t show everything, and if you could no one would understand it. 

But I feel it is ethically questionable to decide that one portion of the story deserves to stay just because it will make a streamlined plot, a comfortable fit in a human-sized neural network. There are probably more interesting stories out there, for example, considered through an insect’s eyes. Just imagine the kaleidoscope plot lines twirling elegantly as mutually-contradictory events unfurl on opposite sides of your dragonfly eyes. 

It’s a crowded concept; it’s a riotous idea. It would not be fun to edit. It may (certainly would) be impossible to write. But it would save me from having to prioritize events, decide what should stay, and – Heaven forbid, we’re back here again – reach a conclusion about the whole messy business. 

You know, life doesn’t conclude. Of course it does, after a fashion – but then you discover it doesn’t. Hearts are mended almost as soon as they are broken, and broken many times before they are ever even made. Single-celled organisms thrive in the wonderland of cellular apocalypse. Neurons lose their spark and heartbeat stills…

And even after all that – I STILL CAN’T REACH A CONCLUSION –


“Rain” Is A Verb

“Rain” is a verb
A rush, and the wind overturned
A tide of the world caught at peace –
At poise. At brink of self, 
At touch of falling down, 
Inevitable
While skies seek 
Gravity’s gift. 

Rain is a secret
That shares itself – a truth, so known,
That strips the world 
Of lines – the leading, the hard, 
Blacktop or concrete,
As earth-soaked roots 
Dissolve the guise
Between.


Well-Written Article (Letter To A Writer)

There are exactly two terrifying things about a well-written article. 

The first is that it could change the world. It could change the way humans see themselves, their surroundings, their world. We’ve heard about the pictures worth a thousand words; well, perhaps there are words out there worth a thousand pictures. If you write well enough, maybe those words could be yours. 

The second terrifying thing about a well-written article is that it could change nothing. 

It is entirely likely that you, as a writer and as an intelligent and reasonably ethical observer, will witness events that are both devastating and fixable. 

The reasonably ethical portion of your character will understand that, if these events are fixable, it is incumbent upon you to in fact fix them

The writer portion of your character will say – “I know what to do!” 

And so you will pour life onto the page. You will research facts and you will research feelings; you will seek to understand inevitabilities and to put a face on the numinous, the grotesque, and the fine line between human and inhumane. 

You will create a piece of life for your readers that they can live without living. It will be better arranged and more comprehensible than anything they could ever hope to experience for themselves. It will have meaning, it will have a clear call to action. It will even have an outcome. All this in, say, a thousand words, plus a few photos. What more could they need? 


Let’s leave that question for a moment. What more, my reasonably-ethical writer friend, could you need? 

To see the world change? To see a fix, a heal, a mend across the break? 

Or do you want upheaval and transformation? Perhaps a revolution here and there, peaceful of course, or perhaps not. It depends on the day. Perhaps you want levees that don’t fail; perhaps you want forests that don’t become firewood. Perhaps you just want to show a portrait or memoir, so a life is respected. 

Write in service of life and all its demands, but know thyself. In your world, you are the one with the most to lose by disappointment or expectation. Write, and let go; write again, let go again. Keep moving. Understand you will lose pieces of yourself. Create new pieces to take the place. 

As to the readers – I wish I knew what else they needed. If you know, please tell me. Or not; it may be better not to know. 

But don’t stop writing.


Bunkerland

I’ve been away for a few days at a top-secret location. The location is actually not-so-secret, and I may have been there for more than a few days – who really keeps track of details like this anyway? – but the crucial piece of information is this: it’s a space I have come to think of as “Bunkerland.” 

It’s a nice name, right? Reminiscent of post-apocalyptic movies like Zombieland, with fewer Twinkies and maybe one of the “serious war film” veteran actors instead of Michael Cera Jesse Eisenberg. I’m honestly not that current on film tropes, so I leave the rest to your imagination. Back to the Bunker…land. 

For a place built like a bunker, it’s surprisingly easy to get into. It’s a simple trick; become equally immobilized by your past regrets and future fears. Don’t look back, and don’t press forward. Make only the arrangements necessary to wait right here. Everything else can go; if it’s not in the bunker, you don’t need it. Forget “does it spark joy” – the new litmus test question is “can I avoid it?” 

With practice, you can carry on enough of the bare essentials of daily life to maintain your bunker’s top-secret status. It’s like wearing really high-quality camo – camo so camo, no one else even sees it. And yet it doesn’t look like you’re wearing nothing (of course I know where your mind goes) – it looks like you’re wearing … something. Just whatever is non-obvious – by anyone’s standards – in your particular time and place. It’s far too much work to deal with people, that’s why you live in a bunker for heaven’s sake. It’s a lifestyle. 

Speaking of the Bunkerland lifestyle – contrary to popular belief, canned goods are no good. They take far too much work to open. They require finagling a can opener. Can openers are officially banned from Bunkerland after too many instances of semi-opened canned good failures. And pull-tab cans are one broken tab away from dinnertime disappointment. No one needs that around here. So leave the Spam at the door. 

Things in bags are fine. Bags are easy to open. Frozen vegetables are great, and show a certain laudable regard for your future self. If you manage to microwave frozen cauliflower or broccoli, congratulate yourself. You are an exemplary dweller in Bunkerland. Have a “Good Citizen” award. Just don’t expect me to get it for you. I’m still trying to get my bag of peas open over here. 

While we’re on the topic of eating – may I suggest paper plates? Terrible for the environment, great for your counter space. Dishwashing is one of the things you don’t need in your bunker. It neither sparks joy, nor is unavoidable. 


Of course, all the talk about food and dishes is avoiding the main issue. The question we should (I suppose) be concerned with is: how to get out of Bunkerland? After all, it isn’t some sort of extended-stay motel. It’s a space specifically arranged for an emergency. When the immediate emergency has subsided, it’s time to move out. 

But unlike a movie, the timing isn’t dramatic. There are not always major plot points to guide or goad the action. And so, moving out can take a while. 

My very best advice, fished from the depths of honesty and experience, amounts to this: be patient – and let boredom be your ally. In the walls of Bunkerland, boredom is the one thing that never has enough room.

You will, eventually, find yourself engaging in small acts of unfaithfulness against your bunker: small acts of relish. Small acts of improvement.

You may notice your cauliflower is delicious. Then you may notice it could use a little something. You may fork in a bit of pickled garlic chutney, and admire the splash of vivid red color and spice. 

You may find yourself remembering that you quite like canned tuna, canned chickpeas, and canned tomatoes. You might begin to eye the can opener with the expression of one plotting a coup. 

You may notice that “can I avoid it?” isn’t quite as expansive a list as you thought. You might remember how good it feels, sometimes, to not avoid it; the rush of confronting a challenge. You may even begin to thoughtfully experiment with washing one or two dishes, here and there (nothing crazy, mind you). 

Most telling of all, you may find yourself thinking about “tomorrow” without immediate dread or apathy. 

These are signs it’s time to move out. Once the bunker begins to hold you in more than it keeps everything else out, its purpose is finished. 

Of course, like reruns of Zombieland or an unopened Twinkie, your bunker will always be there for you. But so will the rest of your life. 

And that’s the one thing you can’t – and shouldn’t – avoid. 

Citizens of Bunkerland, welcome back to the world. 


It’s possible that I should just invest in a better can opener. But I did discover tuna now comes in bags. Very convenient. 


Sidewalk Seashore

Today tides welled on the sidewalk. 
Today I sat on the shore, the curb,
Today I watched the tides roll in. 

Paint floated the waves, 
White and yellow breakers;
The ants on their journey,
Fast drifting towards purpose. 

At sunset, shadows marked
The tideline; dark and light, definition,
Contrast and the slow shift,
A dune and roots that bind.

The wind, waves, light and night
These things move against the moving;
Roll into dunes that roll 
As waves wash off the daylight
And night rolls in with the moon –

As bright shells appear through waves of sky.


Today Came Rain

Today came rain, through a clear blue sky. 
Today, the mists 
Rose from rock and wave,
Rose from crash and spray;
Pine and birch told secrets 
On a mountain’s face. 

Today came birds; their wings are pages,
Their wings color ink
Their song is the rustle
Of turning pages. 

Their rush of wings brings rain, 
Mist and sea, the trees of winter
The trees of spring; 
Secrets told, secrets read
From a mountain’s face.