Maps: Last night, I dreamed that I had to move out of my nice, cozy Hepburn single into a double with my new roommate, a girl with whom I had exchanged about 10 words outside of class. I wanted to go to dinner but I had forgotten my shoes, so I had to go get them. I couldn’t find the room. I wandered in and out of confusing hallways with lots of corners. I wandered in and out of many strange types of rooms, and still I couldn’t find mine. My friends finished dinner. If only I had had a map.

Furniture: When I opted to live on a substance free floor, I was matter-of-factly informed by somebody I love and trust that my neighbors would all be losers who only do homework. As it turns out, I live with an activist, a triathlete, a musician, a dancer, an editor, and a furniture maker. And our bathrooms are vomit-free! The furniture maker lives directly across the hall with his perpetual good temper and a homemade chair. He’s often the first person I see in the morning. Time passes, and I worry about where I’ll get my morning greetings when he’s in Italy.

Lighting: I went to elementary school with a girl that I absolutely couldn’t stand who had a dog named Lightning. The girl was a terrible show-off. I remember that she did the splits in a museum on a school field trip to show off for the chaperone. The chaperone was my mother, and she was not impressed. I know about Lighting, a very nice golden retriever, because I was friends with the show off’s twin sister. I had a dilemma when I wanted to invite one and not the other to my birthday party. Eventually, I decided not to invite either.

Birds: About a month ago, I could have told you the family and order of any bird in Vermont, provided I got a good look. I could even have gotten many of them down to species name, including quite a few of the sparrows and the warblers, of which there are gazillions. I’ve retained a bit, I’d say. Impressive, eh? Pointing out that the family name of sparrows is “Emberizidae” makes me extremely popular, naturally. My mother loves taking walks with me, but I get the feeling that everyone else just wants to hit me. Ahhh, the plight of being knowledgeable…

Snow: I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions – instead I do life goals. My life goals from about 10 years ago (no particular day) are to fly and to make warm snow. Thank you, I am well aware that neither of these is attainable at the moment. Also, I am well aware that anyone who knows me will probably die of shock if I end up as the developer of any sort of cutting-edge technology. Still, I entertain these fantasies. Right now, I can see the snow falling outside. Some of the flakes seem to be falling up. I have faith.

Shoes: I went to the Holocaust museum in Washington , D.C. with my Hebrew school and again in the seventh grade on a field trip. There are some pretty horrifying things there. Touching. Gruesome. Shocking. There are short walls around some of the footage screens. “Think about it,” the walls silently warn. “Are you sure you want to look and see this?” In most cases, in seventh grade, I wasn’t sure. The thing that stuck with me, though, was not whatever terrifying images were guarded by the walls. It was the shoes of the dead. A whole room, without any walls.

Gyroscope: I spent about an hour today, in bits and pieces, talking about gyroscopes. First in class, when Alex and Alex informed me that my childhood had been incomplete without a gyroscopic thing. Then, at the dorm where a friend actually took the wheel off of his bicycle to demonstrate gyroscopic motion. I got a physics lesson from a neighbor. I co-looked gyroscopes up on Wikipedia with someone else. It seems that everyone has a better idea of this than I do. And they’re all willing to share. I’m definitely going to get some sort of gyroscopic thing for my kid.

Cranberries: There is always both fresh and canned cranberry sauce on our table for the big holiday meals when we have company. The fresh cranberries are from my great grandmother’s recipe. Add gelatin and sugar to cranberries that have been stewed in a mysterious juice until they pop. The canned (“jellied”) cranberry sauce comes from the Ocean Spray people. Actually, it takes a considerable amount of finesse to extricate the jelly from the can without endangering the carefully sculpted parallel lines on its burgundy side. After the extrication, one must carefully cut the sauce into slices the correct size for consumption.

Stretch: “A cat in a good home,” my mother always says. “In my next life, I’d like to be a cat in a good home.” We have two cats. They keep each other company when no one is home during the day. My brother’s pillow and sun spots are favorite curling-up places. On the rare occasions when they get up, they stand slowly and proceed to stretch, as only a cat can. When we come back in the evening, they are fed and petted and generally loved, except by my father, who prefers the integrity of couch arms to little beasties.

Clock: There is a ticking clock in the kitchen. It’s been there, on the wall above the table, forever. It looks a bit like half a grandfather clock that’s been stuck to the wall: big box surrounding the actual clock part, wooden ornamentation on the bottom and top, shielded by a glass door. It has a face, and it has hands. It sits there, on the wall, at dinner every night. Company often notes how loud it ticks. My dad put a rubber band in the workings to muffle the booming chime. I can’t hear the ticking, even when I try.

Lighthouse: My father has always said that he would love to be a lighthouse keeper, but I don’t believe him. He says that he likes being alone, that he would just need a room of books in his lighthouse to be happy. He wants to row a little boat to shore so that he can buy groceries, not talk to anyone, and hang out in the middle of the sea somewhere doing light-housey things. “I don’t like people,” he says. He doesn’t know himself. He makes friends with the man who pumps gas in New Jersey, where it’s all full service.

Squash: I worked at a garden this summer. I had decided that squash and I did not get along long ago, but out garden squash made me change my mind. My favorite to eat is yellow squash, sautéed in olive oil. My favorite to look at is Pattypan squash – like a headless, dumpy body in a tutu. What could be nicer? My favorite to marvel over is zucchini, when it becomes huge and can’t be used for anything besides zucchini bread. My least favorite to pick is yellow squash, because the plants seem to be particularly vindictive. Of course – go figure.

Traffic: I’m in a train on my way Charlottesville, and I’m looking out the window at the traffic. There is quite a bit of it, as usual. The people in the traffic are probably fuming. They’ll complain about it to their spouses when they arrive home. But really, it’s pretty incredible. Traffic works. The signs tell where to go, are placed exactly right — and there must be thousands of them. Traffic lights are in concert with each other. Lanes appear and disappear in apt places, and everyone manages, eventually, to get where they need to go in their thousand-pound weapons.

Airports: At home, I have responsibility. I have a family, and I must live my life to fit around and to intertwine with other peoples’ lives. They live the same way. At college, I am completely selfish; I live only for me. I do what I want how I want, exactly when I feel like it. Airports are a little stickier. I’m not quite back in one world, and I’m not quite into another. A bit of responsibility – to call and say I’m safely there. Just a little. It’s really embarrassing how often I forget. It’s not because I don’t care.

Fresh: At Middlebury College, we do not call them “freshmen” anymore. They’re “first years.” We’re very sensitive to sexual discrimination here, you know. Also to racial discrimination. We’re mostly good with that by now, though – we all pretty much got our fill of African American writers writing about race in high school. Of course there is certainly value in There Eyes Were Watching God and God’s Little Bit’s of Wood (What about religious discrimination?). The problem is in lack of diversity. I have a friend who goes to Wesleyan. He calls them “freshpeople.” I think he’s joking, but I’m not sure.

Standard: There are four main categories of ballroom dance: American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Latin, and International Standard. I realize that “American” makes two of the categories sound cheap and inauthentic, and that there are infinitely more people interested in, say, Argentine Tango than in American Tango. Really, though, there’s a lot of merit to American Smooth dances. They’re relatively easy to pick up, pretty, and enjoyable. American Rhythm is, admittedly, pretty useless – International Latin is more exciting. International Standard is very confusing. There doesn’t seem to be an identifiable basic step for either foxtrot or tango. I dropped that event.

Victory:Is running a mile a victory? Ten miles? A marathon?

Is beating the clock a victory? Beating the other team? Beating your old self?

Becoming a new self?

Making something grow?

Answering the phone when you know you should, but don’t know what to say?

Making someone else happy?

Remembering to bring an ID to the airport?

Managing to smile at the airport lady who’s wanding you because you don’t have an ID?

Writing a beautifully-worded text message?

Victory usually depends on the who, what, where, when, whatever.

But taking pleasure from little things and calling them victories? Yes, always.

 

 

Birthdays: It’s 10:23, and my dad wants to go to sleep. But that’s not really the point. You know how old people are (he reads these exercises, heh, heh, heh). More importantly, it’s my birthday time, October 23. I don’t remember when I started loving 10:23, but it always gives me a little lift. It’s not the same as the thrill of a real birthday – which is wearing off more and more each year – but it’s fun to be taken by surprise. To pause. For a moment. And think about nothing. Not past birthdays. Not the future. Nothing. but. the time.

 

 

Kumquats:
Senior year

I think

I went searching

With a boy

An exciting one

For kumquats

Because we could.

And we looked in the fancy shmancy place

That I’d walked by

A million times

And it didn’t have kumquats

Though it should have

And we wanted it to.

So we walked across the street

To Safeway

Boring

They were there.

Mine was good

His wasn’t

But we were glad we looked

And tried

And learned

Anyway.

And then we filled a whole camera

Of stuff we did

Crazy stuff

That we did

Because we could.

I lost the camera

Long ago.


Wednesday:
I remember Wednesday, Uncle Fester because he’s in the song, and Cousin It, because people used to tell me I could look just like… it… if I wanted to. I never took it as a compliment, but I wasn’t particularly perturbed by the idea, either. My hair is the antithesis of Wednesday’s straight black locks. I’ve slowly learned to keep it under control — only usually — but I can feel it defying gravity, proclaiming joyful exuberance, sproinging from my head when there’s moisture in the air. Mine is a bit poofier than Cousin It’s. “Fuller bodied,” if you will.


Transition: Caterpillars. Place. Time. Hunger. Dough. People. Technology. Seasons. Hair color. Knowledge. Leaves. Emotion. Bodies. Weather. Relationships. Ice. Skin. I’m in Maryland now. On Sunday at lunch time, I’ll be in Vermont. It’s me, and it’s 2,400 other Middlebury Students. It’s me and everyone who’s ever become a parent, moved houses, or been dumped. Me and Spring, me and people with bipolar disorder, me and cookies, me and iPods. Me and 2:00 and 2:01 and 2:02 and caterpillars and butterflies. Me and the New England foliage and the anywhere foliage. Me and sublimation and evaporation and condensation. I’m well connected.

Blisters
: I used to stick my hands in plastic bags with a rubber band at the wrist to avoid the agony of hot shower water pounding into open wounds. I was convinced that they would never work properly if I allowed new, tight skin to grow in a way that didn’t allow me to flex. I split it. I had to pop them, or they popped all over the oar handles and got infected. I was a band-aid connoisseur. And how can I stand my prom date’s hands, she wanted to know? I showed her mine. “Oh my God, it’s contagious!”


Green: Who you are isn’t constant. At Middlebury, West Coasters are always excited about each other. This one lives in Seattle and that one in Sacramento, but they somehow feel that they have something huge in common. Would they care at all if they met in California? The same trend holds true overseas: in Mali, every American is your bosom friend. When I’m home, I’m the environmentalist. I give recycling bins as gifts, and I turn off all the lights. At college, I’m not considered one of the really green people at all. Green suddenly means more than turning off lights.


Hair:
I have a friend who proudly explains that he has THREE different colors of hair. His head hair is brown, see? His arm hair is blonde. His beard hair, when existent, is rust-colored. I’ve heard him say it at least twice, to different audiences. Both times I’ve thought, well, he probably has FOUR different colors of hair, actually. I’ve thought about it whenever I notice any hair color on him. Three colors. Well, probably four. Not something, I suppose, in which I should be taking the slightest bit of interest. But it’s not about that at all – just innocent observation.

Pillow: I like no squish at all on my men. I’ve only been with one squishy person (my first) and mostly I was just really excited that someone with a Y chromosome was into me because it had never happened before, squish or no. My best friend, on the other hand, went through what we fondly call “the Tevye phase.” “They make such great pillows and they are so huggable!” she says, always loud. She smiles when she says it. Eyes crinkle. Teeth show. There’s an accompanying fluffing motion. She remembers. I remember. I love that she’s still smiling about it.

Metal: Metal has delocalized electrons. The delocalized electrons make it a great conductor of heat. When the metal spoon is left in the hot soup, it gets hot also. I was fully convinced that, when I came to college, chemistry would be my thing, but I actually haven’t taken a single chem class. I’m a biologist because one of the chemistry professors intimidated me out of his subject. He gave a spiel that sounded suspiciously like “If you ever want to do anything even remotely cool, you have to do lots of stuff RIGHT NOW.” Unhappy words for a newly-arrived freshman.

Fire: I’ve never lit a match, and I’ve never told anyone who has not responded with some sort of disbelief.  It was just vaguely odd until about ninth grade, at which point it became a tradition.  I could really do it now.  Just hold it and strike, not so hard, not so dangerous.  My 5-year-old cousin can do it.  My sister taunts me with it.  My friends want to be my first audience.  I can’t, but not because it’s lighting a match anymore.  I’ve never made fire.  I’m really used to looks of disbelief.  And I like having something to say.

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “100 Words a Day”

  1. ken Says:

    Eight days – is the goal 100, 1000, graduation? If gyroscopes didn’t exist the earth would have more problems than it does. Not good! It’s your dream – so you know the way. Hollywood has invented warm snow. The important thing is for birds to know what species they are. Next time invite the retriever. Watch-out for Bush activists. No words for “shoes”.
    I was very impressed by the photos. Pick out your favorite 2 and send .jpg to me.

  2. miriam23 Says:

    The goal, for now, is a month. I may not get them up online daily, but I will at least have written them in a notebook.

    You can be lost, even in your dreams. Hollywood’s snow does not have the same consistency. Also, it does not fall from the sky — definitely a problem. My general confusion about gyroscopes prevents me from writing much more on them… We cannot do anything with and for birds responsibly without understanding them. Understanding requires, in some cases, knowing what else is in the family, etc. Can’t argue that taxonomy isn’t necessary. We were most likely having a chocolate cake, which would have been poisonous to the retriever. Watch-out for Bush activists?

    I’ll get to sending those photos, but it’ll be hard to pick them!

  3. jbru15 Says:

    I really like your 100 words on lighthouses… the ending felt unexpected, and I think that it completely changed the tone of everything that had come before it. I know that you have a very precise way of reading out loud, and it made me wonder how you would have delivered the first half given the little twist at the end.
    And the whole notion of thinking that you know someone better than he knows himself… what a great topic for down the road…

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