Thursday, August 26, 2010

Away in Vermont

I am sitting at a very old, very beautiful dining room table in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont half-listening to a story on NPR about butterflies. Someone has figured out a way to tag and track butterflies, the same way they tag eagles or sharks, but I didn’t hear all the details of the story—the how the do the tagging, and what the tag physically is—because I am working on some new writing projects which I came here to hopefully finish, and those are taking most of my attention. Some of the butterflies which were tagged in Vermont ended up at the Connecticut shore. Some of them ended up in Mexico, where they usually go for the winter months. To me this made the butterflies sound like retirees.

Moments ago, the 21 year-old son of the friends that I am staying with came into the kitchen to tell his father, my host whose dinner table I am sitting at, what kind of noises that his car is making. “Angry grinding noises,” he says, and then he makes the noise for all of us—a loud, angry grinding sound which makes all of us laugh. This is a perfect moment, and it rivals the joy of feeding the forty chickens in the backyard, which I did this morning. “I’m not good at laundry,” the kid says, when he is asked to help. “I am good at my own, but I always mess up if I have to do someone else’s.”

My novel will be released on Tuesday. So I am here for a few days of brain rest and rejuvenation before that experience begins. I have no idea what to expect, but I am expecting to feel a lot, to have a lot of reactions. And I want to be in the kind of mental place where I can take it all in. I was reading an article in Vanity Fair about Angelina Jolie by Rich Cohen who wrote: “I noticed everything…as you notice everything in a video game: because who knows what you’ll need, what will mean your advancement, what will be your demise.” I realize when I read this that this is why I have come to Vermont: to ready my brain like September is a video game. I’m doing a lot of events.

On the way up here, I stopped to get gas at the same exit where I was in March of 2009 when my agent called to tell me that someone was about to make an offer on the novel. I figured it was a lucky place, so I bought four scratch-off lottery tickets. The lady who sold them to me asked me which kind I wanted, and she pointed to the big acrylic case where all the rolls of tickets were held. “Red?” she asked. “These red ones are the most popular.” This is when I became suspicious of her motives, perhaps wrongly-so, because I went against her recommendation and bought the blue kind—Sparkling Diamonds—and ended up not winning. Four dollars, goodbye. Oh well. I still win: my novel comes out on Tuesday.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Garden Update!

I was relieved when my friend June said to me: "It's not really about anything other than growing." I was complaining that my shishito plant was only yielding one or two peppers every three weeks or so, which, to give you an idea, when I cook them for part of dinner, I usually start with a pound or so. June clarified that the act of gardening is often less about the physical reaping than the excitement of just watching something do what it does.

Thus, the morning glories have finally started blooming all over the railing. I like them, despite how they take over everything and at one point began shooting out into the cucumber and I had to intervene lest we have our whole garden taken over. It's true, they don't have much dignity, but they are beautiful.

The green peppers are finally growing--there are these two on the plant, and a few more starting. Actually, I think these will be red or yellow peppers once they are mature. That's the shishito behind it.

Finally there is the "Mideast Prolific Cucumber" plant, which spun itself all over the concrete and hung down the back of the railing into the yard, covered in flowers, but for many weeks made no attempt at a cucumber. Then I went to water and low-and-behold! There is a single huge cucumber hiding under a leaf. Look how it's just resting on the dirt! Who knows what mysteries the garden holds!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Death of the Poet

You said you'd done 200 push ups, and then
we looked at each other.
I said: "Your arms look like it."
You said: "Do they?"
Then we said nothing for a while.
I thought you were comfortable with silences.
Then I realized that you didn't have
anything to say.

If I have to write one more poem about the distance
between you and me
--the singular me and the royal you--
then I'm going to die a slow,
mournful, ugly, selfish death,
writhing in cowardly pitifulness,
like something out of a Paul Verhoeven
movie, but not the popular ones.
The ones they don't show anywhere at midnight.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Happy Expectation

Things are good. I am finally starting to get excited about Yield being out in the world. That might sound crazy to those of you who are not me--and, um, I guess that's all of you. A box of finished books arrived the other day, and I stacked all of them up on the kitchen table. I looked at them, I held them in my hands. The transformation into a physical object is the real magic--I now know what a sculptor feels when the stone at last reveals itself to be a lady, or a beast, or a flower. I think what I mean by "finally getting excited" is "finally feeling content." There are a lot of fears that come with publishing--and I think I've somehow figured out how to work my way around those fears, how to process through them, and now I just have a kind of happy expectation.

My friend Andrew brought me a plum tree from the orchard where he works. Kip planted in the backyard, digging through the dirt there, which, we discovered is mostly clay and stones. It's beautiful, just standing there. It seems like it's waiting for something. Or perhaps I have projected this sense of anticipation on any case, as a gesture of gratitude, I took Andrew a copy of the book. And right there in the market, he started reading it. I watched him pick it up every now and then, dipping into it between customers, like a person can do when you work the kind of retail that we do. That, I really loved.

In addition to all the events I previously mentioned, there are a few more in the works--one more New York City date, and some others that need some ironing out. Stay tuned. I can't wait to share all of it with all of you.