haunted.

IMG_7999I dream about my grandmother’s house often. The cheap blue siding. The rock wall that lined the backyard. The shed I only saw open one or two times, a cobwebbed structure that smelled of mold and damp. A basement that was half-finished and half-unfinished, the unfinished side stretching back for what seemed, at my young age, an impossible distance.

When I dream about this house now, as an adult, it is usually the backdrop of a family gathering. It is unchanged and perfect in its details, with none of the distortion that dreams sometimes inflict on familiar places. The brown recliners are still in place in the den. The living room is still pristine and off limits. There is still a trail of stained carpet in the hallway that leads from the kitchen to the bedrooms. My grandmother still eats bowls of white rice, an excuse to consume her daily requirement of butter. There is a white cat named Fluffy that will eventually be eaten by coyotes or run over by a car, I can’t remember which.

In the most recent dream, I’ve given birth to twins. Two little girls; I can’t remember their names.

When I was younger I felt the need for children more distinctly, but I can’t be sure it was a genuine desire and not one imprinted upon me by the expectations of society. From an early age I was taught the order of things: school, job, marriage, children. Sometimes those things got a little switched around but they were always there and, in the proper order, each subsequent step was meant to take the place of the one before it. Marriage trumped job. Children trumped marriage. After that, I had only death to look forward to.

When I was six or seven years old, we had to give a presentation about what we wanted to be when we were older. Bonus points if you came to school in costume. I wanted to be an entomologist but, upon quizzing some of my classmates, realized that all the girls wanted to be nurses. I ran the distinct risk of being labeled weird if I came to school dressed as a studier of insects.

You’re supposed to want to be a nurse, one of the little girls said to me.

So, when the time came, I dressed in a little white hat and said I wanted to be a nurse. When my teacher asked me why I wanted to be a nurse, I shrugged.

I’m supposed to want to be a nurse.

I spent my middle school years dreaming of how many kids I’d have, what I would name them all, how much money my husband would make. It took up a good chunk of my daily energy: constructing this future life for myself. My wedding, my house, my car, my pets. As I’ve grown up, as I’ve evolved, all of that has faded. Eventually the thought entered into my mind: but what if I don’t want to have kids? Is that OK? Is that a viable way to have a productive, fulfilling life? Or is it only a recipe for, one day when I am much much older, a sudden surge of regret? The feeling that I haven’t done what I’m supposed to?

So why my grandparents’ house, and why these infants in my arms, filling up my dreams with their tiny fists and feet. Is it me, some biological clock inside me ticking away my last years of reproductive viability, or is it the outside influence—every movie and TV show and book and magazine suggesting that my self-worth is somehow compromised if I don’t dream about putting two hands on my full belly, buying a rocking chair and practicing my breathing.

I haven’t seen my grandparents’ house in years. They’ve both passed now, but the house was given up years before that. My grandmother couldn’t walk down the cellar stairs anymore. My grandfather could barely make it down the hall to his bedroom.

When my aunt sent me this picture (I asked for something old) I commented that it looked haunted. She responded: There were times it may have been—

and as dramatic as it sounds, I feel that way about every house, about every dream of babies.

mt. san jacinto, part 1.

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An hour into the hike, I had mentally given up. The elevation was the toughest part; I couldn’t catch my breath unless I was completely motionless and sitting. But once I sat, it was hard to get up and start walking again. I compromised by leaning against trees, counting to thirty, making myself move again.

I felt betrayed by my body. I was telling my legs to move faster but they were doing the exact opposite. So I told them to go slow, take it easy, and they stopped entirely. That’s when I looked up and saw the deer, staring straight at me, a funny look on its face that is the expression of all deers. Its meaning: do you pose a threat to me, or can I keep eating?

Just like the deer in Yosemite, this one ultimately decided I was unimportant. Its friend joined him and they ate together, slowly munching at the vegetation while I took photographs, later using them as an excuse to why I had fallen so far behind.

I saw a deer! I insisted. I have proof!

But I think everyone knew that was really code for, I am so so tired. I don’t think I can do this anymore.

Two and a half hours into the hike I felt some modicum of strength returning to my muscles. My father always talks about getting a second wind and whether or not you believe in that particular phenomenon, I suddenly went from dead last to the front of our fourteen-person group. I tried not to outdo myself while also taking advantage of my suddenly tireless body. We hiked an uphill mile in about thirty minutes and I felt for the first time like I might actually make it to the top.

The last switchback revealed a mile marker that boasted .3 miles to the top. The elevation was listed as 10,000 feet and that is where I again became convinced I couldn’t do it. I wondered how stupid it was to make it 1,500 feet from the top only to go no further.

Later Dan told me that reaching 10,000 feet hits your body extra hard, that everything gets immediately more difficult. But I don’t know if he was just being nice.

But I made it. Very slowly.

When I finally sat down at the very top of Mount San Jacinto, my legs wouldn’t stop quivering. I didn’t know how I would manage the hike back down. I spread out across a rock and closed my eyes and thought about how much closer I was up here to the sun. The elevation of Los Angeles is 233 feet. Here: 10,834.

I wanted to be back at sea level again.

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photographs taken on the way up  Mount San Jacinto.

marion mountain.

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I haven’t been camping since I was a child, and I haven’t been camping in a tent since I was a toddler. My parents’ favorite story to tell is the time the five of us crammed into a too-tiny tent and five minutes after lights out I started gagging on a penny I had found and promptly eaten. I don’t think I was the type of kid with much of a mouth fetish, but I guess there was something about that penny. It is Scotch-taped to my baby book now, playfully labeled as a thing that might have killed me but didn’t.

I was too young to remember it. I do remember these other choking incidents:

Aged three or four, maybe, I went with my mother to the furniture store where she worked. One of her coworkers kept a crystal bowl of candy on his desk. He always offered me the thick, red, round pieces, even though I was too young to be trusted with them. I choked in the car, strapped into my carseat. I remember clearly the sensation of not being able to breathe, the sticky candy settling somewhere in the back of my throat. I don’t remember if my mother stopped the car or if I figured it out myself. She doesn’t remember the incident at all.

The second time I was older. Maybe nine or ten. I was at my friend Mary’s house and it was February. We were eating candy hearts, but the very big, thinner kind. I swallowed one whole, presumably by accident. Mary dragged me down the hallway to the kitchen and presented me to her father. I was turning blue and hadn’t had a breath in about thirty seconds. He called my parents and asked them what he should do. I ended up vomiting into the kitchen sink, overhearing my parents’ tiny voices through the phone receiver: I don’t know, do you know the Heimlich? 

Camping now, as an adult, is almost exactly how I remembered it. It is fun through dinner, through lighting a fire and making smores, through telling stories with family (now replaced by friends) and drinking soda (now replaced by beer), all the way up until it’s time to go to bed and forty degrees out. S and I brushed our teeth together by my car, spitting into the dirt. I saw a Jerusalem cricket and almost had a fucking heart attack. Our air mattress had holes in it and we woke up with our bones digging into the ground painfully. I slept maybe forty minutes and remember one dream: in which my ex-boyfriends all lined up to tell me they were lying, they never loved me anyway, they just thought I should know.

I thought the hardest thing in life was writing when you would rather watch Gilmore Girls, but it turns out the hardest thing in life is getting out of a sleeping bag in the morning, an eleven-mile hike looming in your immediate future, the mountain air a crisp almost-freezing, and your hiking clothes made from the type of material that is so slick and shiny it is like dressing yourself in ice.

But I managed it somehow, and afterward I sat so close to the fire that my face turned red and I loved every minute until it was time to go to bed again.

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photographs taken in Marion Mountain Campground

delicate.

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8171678461_d1298bcbf1_zS and I leave in a few hours for a camping trip in the Marion Mountains. We bought special socks for an eleven-mile hike in Mount San Jacinto. You have to take the Palm Springs aerial tramway to get there. I’ve been on it before and I took pictures the whole way up to distract myself from the feeling like the floor might open up underneath my feet.

We’ve been recording songs and last week had our first official practice for our first official show, November 1st in LA. I feel nervous in waves, the hardest hitting ones leave me wondering what exactly it is I think I’m doing.

I’ve been in a writing slump I’m not worried about. It’s easy to feel like the inspiration might never come back, but it’s also foolish. I’ve worked hard for months and months, I get burned out, and I’m allowed to play guitar for hours or edit photographs until midnight or listen to old Damien Rice albums in preparation for new Damien Rice albums. I remind myself of this when I feel like I’m not doing enough. I remind myself of this when I still can’t figure out what sort of career I want. Not everything has to be decided all at once. Some things are too delicate to rush into.

For now I’ll rush into the forest and work on forgiving myself for things that aren’t my fault. Work on saying sorry less and defending my actions more. Work on creating a sustainable aesthetic. Work on flushing out the negative to make room for the inevitable, eventual influx of positive. To voice things out loud, to write them down, is to make them real.

photographs taken in New York with a Yashica-D twin lens reflex. 

 

 

in alleys.

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In an attempt to find inspiration in a close and accessible place, I photographed Bridgett in the alleyways behind my apartment. The beauty of Los Angeles is not outward or obvious. You have to go out in search of it. But it’s somehow much more rewarding because of the hunt.

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photographs of Bridgett taken in Los Angeles, CA. 

sleepless.

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I haven’t been sleeping.

I’ve been away from Los Angeles for a week and a half now.

Five days ago my eye doctor told me I had astigmatism. You should have been wearing glasses for fifteen years, he said, before berating me for the amount of eyeliner I used. I picked out my first pair of glasses later that day while my mom had her nails done. I wear them for fifteen minutes at a time. The world doesn’t seem real through them. They’re like a portal to another, slightly clearer place. I’m getting used to turning my head from side to side and feeling the slightest bit nauseous.

Before that, I took a train from Vermont to Connecticut, editing photos of my newest niece, Alma Lucille, for the better part of five hours.

Early this morning I woke up from a dream that the zombie apocalypse had started. I stole a car and drove somewhere foggy.

Today I will meet my agent and my new editor at HarperCollins. New York is cloudy and grey and just how I remember it.

I shop for socks on Amazon because my feet are cold. My sister-in-law’s cat rubs her face on my computer screen. She doesn’t care how many times I push her away. Last night she slept between my legs. She’s getting older and has had a sudden change of heart regarding how much human interactions she likes.

The first time I met my agent was over two years ago. It was the day after my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. It was raining. I wore a brand new Kelly green dress (dry clean only) and dropped a hunk of cream cheese on the front right before I had to leave.

This morning I eat a bagel warily and hope it doesn’t rain.

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yosemite, pt. 1

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The drive to Yosemite takes almost five hours and my eleven-day old niece, Harper, sleeps the entire way. We get a late start made even later by a coffee shop that takes twenty minutes to fill our order. We drive across the new Bay Bridge and continue east for what seems like an eternity. The farther away we get from the coast, the browner everything gets. It becomes apparent just how dire the drought in California is. The Don Pedro Reservoir is so low that its sides are exposed and the result is the landscape of some alien planet, or how you might expect the earth to look in a few hundred years.

We stop and take pictures by the Yosemite sign. A threesome of tourists wait for their turn and comment on how small Harper is. They ask how old and they tell my brother and sister-in-law they’re brave.

Do you think we’re brave? my brother asks me. People keep saying that. 

We walk around the grounds of the Ahwahnee Hotel together while my sister-in-law feeds Harper in our hotel room. We come across a river no more than five inches deep. I wade out in the sandals I bought at the beginning of the summer, now so tattered and worn I don’t care if the water ruins them. The river is freezing cold and numbs my toes, but the air is stifling and warm. The forest fires blaze just on the other side of Half Dome and everything smells like burning wood.

We wake up the next morning and the car is covered in ash. Soot falls around us like a freak snowstorm. We can’t see the top of El Capitan. We strap the baby into her carseat and drive up and up and up to find some cleaner air. IMG_6457

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photographs taken in Yosemite National Park.

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