Christina Rosalie

Trying for fire

Posted on May 19, 2015

100 Days of circles

I should be doing other things. There is a list. Deadlines. So many shoulds. Instead I am thinking about the rose that my youngest picked today that smelled like euphoria, and of his smile asking to play catch, and of the homeless people I pass by again and again, each time feeling everything and still not knowing how I can help, passing as I do in my car without carrying cash, or on the sidewalk with my dog. Instead I’ve got headphones in my ears, and paint on my fingers, and I’m circling my circles, and I’ve got this Tim Seibles poem on mind.


TRYING FOR FIRE

Right now, even if a muscular woman wanted
to teach me the power of her skin
I’d probably just stand here with my hands
jammed in my pockets. Tonight
I’m feeling weak as water, watching the wind
bandage the moon. That’s how it is tonight:
sky like tar, thin gauzy clouds,
a couple lame stars. A car rips by —
the driver’s cigarette pinwheels past
the dog I saw hit this afternoon.
One second he was trotting along
With his wet nose tasting the air,
next thing I know he’s off the curb,
a car swerves and, bam, it’s over. For an instant,
he didn’t seem to understand he was dying —
he lifted his head as if he might still reach
the dark-green trash bags half-open on the other side of the street.

I wish someone could tell me
how to live in the city. My friends
just shake their heads and shrug. I
can’t go to church–I’m embarrassed by things
preachers say we should believe.
I would talk to my wife, but she’s worried
about the house. Whenever she listens
she hears the shingles giving in
to the rain. If I read the paper
I start believing some stranger
has got my name in his pocket
on a matchbook next to his knife.

When I was twelve I’d take out the trash–
the garage would open like some ogre’s cave
while just above my head the Monday Night Movie
stepped out of the television, and my parents
leaned back in their chairs. I can still hear
my father’s voice coming through the floor,
“Boy, make sure you don’t make a mess down there.”
I remember the red-brick caterpillar of row houses
on Belfield Avenue and, not much higher than the rooftops,
the moon, soft and pale as a nun’s thigh.
I had a plan back then–my feet were made
for football: each toe had the heart
of a different animal, so I ran
ten ways at once. I knew I’d play pro,
and live with my best friend, and
when Vanessa let us pull up her sweater
those deep-brown balloony mounds made me believe
in a world where eventually you could touch
whatever you didn’t understand.

If I was afraid of anything it was
my bedroom when my parents made me
turn out the light: that knocking noise
that kept coming through the walls,
the shadow shapes by the bookshelf,
the feeling that something was always there
just waiting for me to close my eyes.
But only sleep would get me, and I’d
wake up running for my bike, my life
jingling like a little bell in the breeze.
I understood so little that I
understood it all, and I still know
what it meant to be one of the boys
who had never kissed a girl.

I never did play pro football.
I never got to do my mad-horse,
mountain goat, happy-wolf dance
for the blaring fans in the Astro Dome.
I never snagged a one-hander over the middle
against Green Bay and stole my snaky way
down the sideline for the game-breaking six.

And now, the city is crouched like a mugger
behind me–right outside, in the alley behind my door,
a man stabbed this guy for his wallet, and sometimes
I see this four-year-old with his face all bruised,
his father holding his hand like a vise. When I
turn on the radio the music is just like the news.
So, what should I do–close my eyes and hope
whatever’s out there will just let me sleep?
I won’t sleep tonight. I’ll stay near my TV
and watch the police get everybody.

Across the street a woman is letting
her phone ring. I see her in the kitchen
stirring something on the stove. Farther off
a small do chips the quiet with his bark.
Above me the moon looks like a nickel
in a murky little creek. This
is the same moon that saw me twelve,
without a single bill to pay, zinging
soup can tops into the dark — I called them
flying saucers. This is the same
white light that touched dinosaurs, that
found the first people trying for fire.

It must have been very good, that moment
when wood smoke turned to flickering, when
they believed night was broken
once and for all — I wonder what almost-words
were spoken. I wonder how long
before that first flame went out.


First published in Hurdy-Gurdy by Tim Siebles

Black & white glimpses

Posted on May 9, 2015

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A handful photos I’ve taken recently, processed in black and white, in the same way that one chooses to write fiction over non. There is a story element to black and white. A telling, beyond the marrow and the bone. Black and white captures the illusiveness, the fleeting way that light catches skin, falls long, flutters, move on. It tells a little of what can’t be told; the longing inside of skin. The sweetness of breath. The suddenness of gesture. By being less saturated with hue, it leaves more room for what becomes. The story on the page, perception, like a breath caught, a lip bitten, sudden laughter that lifts on the air.

To the coast

Posted on April 13, 2015

We went to the coast, just us two for a few days. We climbed cliffs and ate fish tacos and watched whales spout and turn as the sun set and the gulls dance. We drank wine on sand dunes in the rain. We lay side by side and felt the earth spin. We ran down dunes, giddy, laughing. We slept in late. Argued. Made love. Went for a run. Explored every tide pool. Wandered slowly. Answered the 36 questions, and then more questions, mapping everything: tattoos, trips abroad, new ways of seeing, the future big, passion-filled, near. It was good. These are the images I don’t want to forget.

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Like magic

Posted on April 4, 2015

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Today I found myself standing in various rooms, having walked there from other rooms without knowing why, on auto pilot. I opened the bathroom cabinet, then shut it again, forgetting to take out the hair dryer. I opened too many browser tabs and crashed Chrome. I forgot obvious words in the middle of sentences. Basically I ran out of words. Every single word squeezed out into sentences for presentations in which every word must be the exact right word. It’s been a doozy of a week.

On Monday I gave away my cat. Bean is allergic, terribly. I stayed up with the friend I gave the cat to, drinking wine until nearly midnight. When I left the cat followed me to the door. We had her since our first apartment together, T and I. We had before 9/11. We had her from the advent of Web 2.0. Remember when email was a novelty? Remember when we had Hotmail accounts? Remember Ask Jeeves? My friend who took the cat is gorgeous and smart and loves brass figurines. Together with her husband I think they may love the cat more than we collectively did, seeing as T never really loved the cat, only grew accustomed to her. Still, to look back and remember getting her from the shelter together, baby faced, just out of college, and then to see our lives now? Time flies like magic.

On Tuesday I stayed up till nearly midnight, at a Guster show. I remember how much a friend in college adored their band, though I never listened to them much. Turns out, one of my sweetest writer friends in VT is married to the lead singer, and our families became friends. It was a kind of surreal to watch him perform. He was so exactly himself, and yet so much larger than himself, and then after the show, hugging him, he was just regular again. Like Magic.

On Wednesday I stayed up until midnight, working on a presentation for work. As a strategist, I basically start with the broadest and most complex challenges, or ambiguous data sets, and then distill them gradually. Often pages upon pages end up being a single page, so obvious that it doesn’t look like it’s anything at all. This, in fact is the mark of good strategy: to distill to the point where something is self evident. Where it’s so straightforward and intuitive, there can be no mistaking. The work to get there is often arduous, but invisible once the answer becomes evident. Strategy is all about process. Thinking about that this week, I thought of the Tibetan monks I once watched making sand mandalas. They bent over their work for an entire week with intention and focus, creating something splendid, and then sat back to let the wind blow it away. Magic.

On Thursday before I collapsed into bed the minute the kids were in bed, which is late these days because of spring vacation. My mother in law is to watch the boys for the two weeks they have off which is a boon. She makes soup and takes the boys on adventures, and her love, unconditional and abundant, is a gift. Yesterday they did tie dye. So far all I have seen as an outcome is that my ten year old’s hands are somewhat permanently dyed blue. His grin when he announced he was a Smurf was perfect.

Today I missed two coffee dates with two different sets of people because of the work. I said goodbye to one of my favorite designer friends who’s moving on to a rad new show. He is one of the zen travelers I know. I had the fortune of taking a trip with him to Chicago for a conference last year. He forever changed how I think about travel. Worry less. Just show up. That’s basically his approach. Its good for life too.

Now, looking ahead to Saturday, there will be Easter egg dying and coffee drinking and bike riding and writing.

I write every saturday, slowly but surely on my next book, or more realistically, on a single story that will be in my next book eventually. Each weekend I wrestle the piece back from a feral state. I write sentences. I delete them. I grapple with the way everything seems to come back to my mother, even though the story isn’t about my mother at all. I sit in a cafe a few blocks from my house and I write, and in between I watch people come in. One couple comes every weekend. They spend the entire time taking selfies, and photos of their coffees. She wears incredible stilettos. He wears one of those baseball caps with a flattened bill. Another is a guy who is also writing. He takes smoke breaks out in front and fiddles with his wait length dreads. So far we haven’t said hello. It seems like a matter of time.

Tomorrow, the weekend. How grateful I am every week for the interlude. It’s like code switching. Right brain left brain. On the weekend I exhale. Sometimes I fall apart. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we fall harder in love. Whatever happens there always magically seem to be enough moments to reconstitute me for another week. Magic.

Happy weekend, friends!

Early Spring

Posted on March 16, 2015

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With the longer light the days have a little more ease. We get home, and there’s just enough time to go out on the back porch and listen to the wind stirring in the trees and the spring time birds serenading the setting sun.

Every weekend is a boon. A few hours spent writing at my new favorite coffee shop, listening first to Joan read aloud. Letting the sound of her clean, direct sentences wash over me.

Other hours doing the endless loads of laundry that creep up on us, and all the other things the week never affords: grocery shopping, vacuuming, the usual. But there is also time for sipping coffee + reading Modern Love. For riding bikes to Blue Star with the dog, the wind in our hair and the scent of cherry blossoms heady and sweet filling the air. Or picnicking up on Mount Tabor overlooking the reservoirs set aflame with the light of setting sun.

Not enough hours, really, together, all of us, but still. Enough to fill us up temporarily so that we all head off back to our separate worlds sated till about mid week wen we’re all hungry for time alone and time together and dinner happens later than it should. Enough for the time being. For March, for early spring in this city we’re falling in love with daily.

At the end of next month, we’ll have been here a year.

How did that happen?


PS:

There are just these few pieces left from my studio sale, including the little humming bird piece above. Just leave a comment & I’ll get in touch.

Owl Medicine

Find Flight

Flight Behavior

Messenger

The older they get

Posted on March 1, 2015

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My boys, they’re BOYS now. Six and ten. Their birthdays passed, bookending the middle week in February with a sprinkled rainbow cake and a chocolate cake and best friends and grandparents. Balloons and a treasure hunt for Sprout. The arcade, the pool, a movie, and a sleepover for Bean. We’ve made it. We’re beyond the beyond of early childhood. They pack their own changes of clothes for the beach; carry their own backpacks.

It does and it doesn’t get easier, the older they get.

When they were babies, toddlers, preschoolers, the demand was high for every single moment, yet the moments themselves were small: A digger! A yellow dog! The injustice of mittens in winter. The fury of being asked to eat broccoli. The complexity or simplicity of falling asleep.

Now it is the complexity of being alone. The discovery of self. The absolute of independence. The hunger for protection. The need to stand out, or to fit in. Best friends, secrets, multiple choice homework assignments, and the fury of having to fold one’s own laundry.

Bean hit double digits. The half way mark between now and when he’ll take off into the wide orbit of his own life. Sometimes in the morning on the weekend he’ll climb into bed with me and tell me about his inventions. Futuristic cars with self-generating motors, and houses with secret walls. Mommy, he says, do you know? And then he’ll launch in, my mind trailing his. We’re in the era of homework, cello practice, weekend sleepovers, nights when his mind spins and he can’t fall to sleep. A week ago Bean fried everyone eggs. Perfect, crispy, with just enough fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. He walks to the five and dime around the corner for milk. He reads everything within reach.

Sprout became a big kid this year. Looking back at last year’s birthday I still see the toddler in him. Now it’s gone, and in it’s place is this boy full of muscle and movement and song. Every waking second he’s singing or joking or yelling. He can throw a mean frisbee, straight and far. He practices dribbling a basketball on the front walkway, and wants a hoop for the street. For him, everything is drama. His eyes wide in mock despair or bright with glee. He got a pocket knife for his birthday. Recently he’s learned to strike matches; carefully lighting the candles for the dinner table every night. This morning he made pancakes with T: pouring and flipping every one.

The weekdays go by in a rhythm and blur. School and work. We do the same things. We do different things. We spend our days mostly apart. We come together in the evenings, hungry, excited, tired, impatient, eager, quiet.

As we gather around the dinner table at night they tell us stories about their days. This ritual we started so many years ago. A moment of pause and grace before we begin, then all of us there, talking, passing food. Mommy, Bean asks, what was the most interesting thing that happened to you today? He doesn’t have perfect table manners yet, but he knows how to ask questions with weight. Sprout tries to remember to listen, to wait his turn. He tells exuberant stories. Finishes dinner quickly. Climbs into my lap. Always this.


On the weekends there is bacon. Good coffee. Sleeping in. Modern Love in the NY Times. A trip to the library. Some kind of adventure. Maybe a bike ride. Still, each of us craves time apart. There’s not enough time for all the laundry, errands, things that pile up from the week. So then it’s push & pull. Give & take.

Here we are.

Birthday glimpses

Posted on February 16, 2015

So I’m 37. My birthday came and went. A blink. It’s the first time in ten years I haven’t posted here on, or near my birthday. Instead, today my oldest son turns ten. TEN. In four days my youngest turns six. The world turns. It keeps turning. Every day with them is a hilarious mix of pure joy and annoyance, angst and delight, frustration and sweetness. Every day my heart is cracked open with wonder. Every day the floor is strewn recklessly with their things.

There is no way to make up for the lost days between my birthday and now: Nearly a month of milky winter sunrises through pale curtains; the smell of my boys’ skin curled next to me, reading stories before bed; oysters sucked down at the coast around a table with incredible writers; bonfires built on the sand; holes dug; donuts consumed.

No way to describe all the moments spent at the alter where ocean meets sky; at the cusp of the world where you cannot help but feel that you are made wholly anew; the ions dancing in the air; the kites; the bonfire smoke at twilight, sipping wine, watching the birds flock towards their rocky island homes.

No way to convey the way Tin House was both fire and solace for my writer soul, re-invigorating my work, and igniting new fervor. No way to list the he books I’ve read, or partly read; the thousand kisses exchanged with my love; the late nights spent on projects for work; the deadlines and the satisfaction of hitting them; the camellias in bloom; the downward dogs I bow into with each new day.

Instead, here are a handful of pictures. It’s been an incredible start to the year. A year I’ve begun with big intentions and deep gratitude.

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PS: I made a new Birthday List, here.

Be in time.

Posted on January 4, 2015

“You will be told that ‘time is your greatest enemy, time is your greatest possession. Hey, you better be careful with time because time don’t come back'; “Time flies” “Time is of the essence” “Don’t waste time” “You must control your time” and, above all else, “Be on time – Be on time.” Well, friends, in the words of the great Louisiana jazz trumpet man, Enute Johnson, “Son, don’t worry about being on time, be in time.” Because when you are “in” time, you can accept and experience a much larger slice of life as it unfolds. Instead of imposing your will on every situation, you focus on including everyone else, and just that little adjustment of attitude gives you the space to understand where and who you are.”

— Wynton Marsalis at my college graduation forever ago.