Christina Rosalie

The world moves, and moves on. One minute, then the next.

Posted on January 3, 2015

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One minute everything is flaming up grandly, and the next, it seems desperate and desolate in the small fire pit at our feet that we’ve fashioned out of smooth beach stones. Every visible flame has licked itself to ash. Coals glowing on the blackened undersides of logs, but nothing more. Then the wind shifts direction, and up the flames lift. Flames bright and filled with sudden roaring heat. Sparks skid off into the dwindling light as the sun sinks down.

Beyond us, at the shoreline the waves lip at the rocks like a pony at a handful of sugar. Then fresh waves ride in slantwise, full of vim, and crash headlong into the rocks causing spray to skid off into the dusk.

Steadily, the earth turns. Each day, we arrive and are made new.

In the car, driving to the beach we hit the 1.5 hour mark and all of us have had enough. We’re sick of each other, sick of the sound of our own chatter. In a no-service zone, even satellite radio plays only the crappiest songs. Everything feels suddenly feels claustrophobic and close, and the coast seems like a horribly stupid idea. But then, out the window passing wetlands, a hundred birds lift into the golden winter air. They twirl and lift in a sudden exquisite ballet, and all of us see them, and as we drive on, we’re different. We pass around cheese sandwiches. We start the alphabet game: Antennas on the hill. A red barn across the way. Cars. A dog in a truck. Electrical wires. Fences.

So the world moves, and moves on. One minute, then the next.

Sitting watching the fire I realize how intensely I live into each moment. How easily I’m fooled into believing it’s a forever state, a constant. How my default is often still to power through or run when things feel dire or off kilter. Clam up, or tirade. Fight or flight.

Yet after the fire nearly dies three times, and I throw everything into it’s rekindling: smoke in my face, armloads of small driftwood sticks, sparks in my hair, I give up. Let go; try just sitting back observing. And the fire dwindles. And rekindles. On its own. The day becomes night. We sip wine. The boys dig holes. One minute they laugh. The next they yell. Water seeks its own level, and holes fill; every ember flares up to live its promise as a flame.

A wonder-filled new year

Posted on January 1, 2015

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We went, just before the New Year to the high dessert. To a place of cold air and saturated hues, big skies bigger quiet. The kind of quiet that reminds you what you are, and also, what you hope to be.

Among the topography of the dessert you feel time differently. Where the landscape looks Mars and bears the memory of Paleolithic beasts, you understand what you are, and realize that becoming means more than this day or even this life.

Time here tells not of daily things: hurry up, finish up, let’s go, come on, make it happen. But rather, galactic evidence. You are here. Part of everything. Breathing and alive. A speck on this spinning planet. A spark, a fleck, some inkling of the beyond.

I did what I haven’t done in years: lay down in the snow with my face towards the sky and let the quiet take hold of me until my heart began to thrum in tune with the painted hills. Thrum with the truth of their the vibrations; of the pebbles red and ocher and green; of distant tectonic shifts; of volcanic ash; of other landscapes, submerged, fiery, then cooling; of the, the earth spinning, spinning around the spirit sun. The sun that painted the landscape indescribable hues of gold and lavender in the long light of afternoon. The sun that flirted with the moon all day. The sun, the moon, the spinning desert that held me. And then my word for 2015 found me.

A word born of the blue, blue sky, and the gibbous moon, the golden dessert, and the silence.

Wonderful.

Yes.

Happy New Year, friends. May it be truly wonder-filled.

Glimpses from Christmas

Posted on December 28, 2014

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It was a quiet holiday, filled with many moments of sheer delight with just the four of us this year. T and I both took two weeks off, and it’s afforded a certain kind of leisure. Making dark chocolate dipped orangettes, gingerbread from scratch, white bean soup, pork chops, cranberry sauce, pop-overs. Setting up the nativity passed down from my grandmother. Playing carols in French on Rdio. Hiking up above the city, zig-zagging on trails under ferns and mossy trees. And then on Christmas, waking early to make a fire and pry our eyes open long enough to sip coffee and watch the boys discover the things they’ve been wanting there beneath the tree. New bikes and legos. So many legos. And afterwards a nap for T and I as the boys played, and then dinner by candlelight, and later, singing all together, around a candle-lit tree.

Around here, lately

Posted on December 11, 2014

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In this hemisphere the earth tilts farther from the sun. The days grow dark and short, but no matter. Inside there is light. In the evenings I’ve been making art. On the weekends, writing. Slowly a new short story, one in the collection for my new book is taking place. Three hours on the weekend isn’t much time to write, but it’s been just enough to stitch the story into being. I slip off to cafes, evesdrop next to people, let my mind wander, and catch the sentences as they arrive. It’s a ritual I cherish.

This week, I cracked open a new notebook. I’ve been a Molksine girl forever, but Leurchtturm has captured my curiosity. Something about the possibility of blank, yet numbered pages….

Here are a few other things I’ve been up to lately:

Listening :: The Paper Kites “Woodland” album.

Reading :: Dear Life, by Alice Munro + Bark, by Lorrie Moore.

Walking :: Around the neighborhood in the evening with my silly blonde dog the sidewalk wet and reflecting circles of light.

Sipping :: Rooibos Tea (my new favorite).

Smelling :: The fragrance of pine + juniper in the wreath on the table, and the candles we burn at dinner.

Working :: Long hours

Sleeping :: In on the weekend + then snuggling with boys in bed for longer still.

Watching :: Briefly

Reveling :: In the fact that I live on the same coast as my dearest friends.

Looking forward :: Two two weeks of vacation, coming soon.

*

Tell me, friends. What are you up to lately?

Say yes to life and embrace it wherever it is found

Posted on November 27, 2014

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One must say Yes to life and embrace it wherever it is found — and it is found in terrible places. …For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. 
— James Baldwin


Out the window, the Japanese maple has become a cloud of golden stars, quivering in the late November air. Inside, during the day I watch the sky pass. I look up from where I sit and watch the clouds. I like to think their passing is evidence of a world more real than mine at the screen and on the page. A world we all improbably share. A moon that follows us in orbit. Seasons, in spite of injustice, ebola, homicide, unrest.

How is it possible for any human’s heart not to ache at what’s happened? What keeps happening?

How is it possible for any of us to go on living at all, nodding to strangers as we pass, holding loved ones hands, offering beggars what we have, planning for Thanksgiving. There is so much hunger, need, anguish, guilt, loss. Each of us lives it in some way, and then beyond us, the world mirrors it back ten fold. One thousand fold.


At the table my boys are looking at a Lego catalog. They’re talking about which figures are the bad guys and which are the good ones, and most importantly, which ones have guns.

“Stop,” I say. I can’t help it. “Guns are awful.”

“But mommy,” Sprout says, “The good guys need them so they can shoot the crooks.”

It’s a new word he’s been using. Crooks. I have no idea where it came from. We don’t watch TV, and they don’t play video games.

“What makes a crook?” I want to know.

“They’re the bad guys, Mommy, obviously.” He says.

“Even bad guys have mommies,” I say then. I don’t know where I’m going with this, only that I want him to understand that every life matters, even in play.

I know we all seek ways to live out epic battles of archetype and wonderment, and kids do this in their play, regardless of the toys they have at their disposal. Good versus evil. Life and death. Tragedy and comedy. Still, there is a way that entertainment both glorifies and objectifies the things that terrify us in real life: brutality, horror, human fallibility. We become convinced that guns are necessary for fighting the “bad guys.” We claim we need them for our freedom.

Nothing makes me more devastated than this stupid, erroneous claim.

I know there are many things at play in each instant, in each case of brutality or heroism (the Taxi Driver incredibly portrays how fine a line it is between them.) But with guns, every instant ends with a certain absolute failure.

Guns are the weakest excuse. The failure of bravery; the bluntest accomplice of aggression, our greatest fears and shortcomings masquerading as our strength. With guns, every mistake is fatal, and every victory is fatal too.

How is this the way we choose to live?


Still we do. Morning finds us softly with new light. New bread in the kitchen fills the air with sweetness. We make plans with friends to gather and hold each other close. We sip wine. We light candles. We say whatever kinds of prayers we say, whispered, wonder-filled, pleading.


The world offers up its beauty and its terror, never equally. And each day we arrive in the morning of our lives anew. It’s up to us to choose to courageous, to be honest, to be true .


Happiest Thanksgiving to you, dear friends. I’m so grateful you find your way here.

Patience is the destination

Posted on November 24, 2014

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Hello friends. I’ve missed this little corner of the world. Missed the routine of showing up, of documenting simply, day by day. Of taking notice, and hearing in turn how your worlds align and turn. I like that asynchronous connection. The moments of inspiration and reflection that come of shared moments across time. The stories that find their way into the comments. The wayward emails I get, reminding e we’re all connected, and my words find their mark in New Zealand or Sweden, Buffalo, under feet of snow, or in Burlington, where my muscle memory is still strong, and winter has already gathered close.

Here, autumn slips towards winter gently. The rains have started, but each day there are moments of brightness, and in them we rake leaves, look up at the sky and find rainbows, or walk to the cafe among the rose gardens for chai tea in the afternoon at work. Still, it’s taken until this month to feel a gradual settling of routines, and a steadiness in orbit here.

In the cafe yesterday while writing, I overheard someone say, “Patience is the destination.”

I couldn’t help thinking that they’ve got it exactly right. Flannery O’Conner only ever finished three pages in the three hours she wrote each day, and Gertrude Stein even less, though both I think understood the secret is just showing up steadily for something. Stein said, “If you write a half hour a day, it makes a lot of writing year by year.” The accumulated truth of persistence. The evidence of patience on the page.

All this to say I’ve begun writing again, stories this time, slowly. I write for three hours on Saturdays, and find that with this routine I’ve begun to be increasingly able to just sink in and write when I get to the cafe and order a coffee. In between times the story lives with me. The scenes find me vividly and sometimes I’ll write notes, like today while running on the treadmill I could hardly wait to finish three miles so I could jot down what I’d worked out.

I’ve stopped expecting I’ll finish anything with any kind of speed, and with that release of expectation I’ve found a new kind of focus for my work.

Still, it takes commitment. To showing up. I’ll be working on this new material at the Tin House winter Writer’s Workshop in January, staying in the Sylvia Plath Hotel on the Oregon coast for a long weekend, and for this opportunity thrilled. It’s a way to remind myself of who I am. Of putting a stake in the terrain that is my life, as a writer, even as I am also other things.

Synchopate

Posted on November 6, 2014

syn·co·pate
ˈsiNGkəˌpāt/
verb –
to displace the beats or accents in (music or a rhythm) so that strong beats become weak and vice versa.


Summer went, as it does. The long golden days becoming shorter. Arrows of light aiming sooner toward evening.

School started, and with it all the trappings of routine. Tea sipped in the car on the way to dropping off the boys. Homework folders. The hauling of a 3/4 sized cello back and forth three days a week. Late pick-ups at the end of long days. Traffic on the way home, and in that in-between time in the car, en route, we tell each little things or watch people in other cars tell each other things, their hands pantomiming stories we cannot hear.

With daylight savings, we cross over the bridge after the blue hour has been swallowed by darkness and the lights from boats below us look like stars on the river. In every tall building, we see signs of life. The evidence of days spent at desks, or wistfully at windows, or waiting for busses, or texting lovers, or having quarrels, or picking pumpkins. All of us, alive, and going about our days. All of us doing.

When the leaves began to turn, it was not all at once, but gradually. A blush of color among the green. And then, under certain trees with leaves shaped like small fishes, the streets began to fill with falling yellow and gold. At the same time everywhere, on every wall and tree and corner, the moss began to roll its velvet carpet out, green, greener with each softly falling autumn rain.

This was the way that summer summer went; punctuated by the particular certain geometry of being new to a place. A kind of slanting rush to acquire a sense of direction, far beyond whatever landmarks mean East or West. A circling around what shared purpose means now, here, with us moving through new routines and days, our familiar aims sent loose and spinning like a compass needle brought too close to the pull of other closer force fields. There were days that felt like we’d lost our North. Temporarily, or longer, even as we found ourselves, each of us, in the focus and drive and purpose of the work we love.

This was how summer went. With this prioritized over that, with wanderlust seeping in at the edges, with satisfaction sometimes fraying without a birds-eye view. With delight, sudden and intense. With hikes. With the coast never too far.

It isn’t just moving here. It’s that moving here has somehow illuminated in sharp contrast how my boys have grown.

How they no longer need me the way they did. How I am still at the center of their lives, but not their everything. How their orbit has grown wide, drawn by the forcefields of their own lives and consumed by the turbulence of their own tides.

Their days are filled without me. In school, in after-school, with books and friends. Days spent with with sandwiches and goofing off on the swings, with secrets, with small hurts, with stories I’ll never hear, with facts about the solar system, with art, with wonder.

Suddenly time with them feels at once intense and rarified. And somehow more than ever I am unaccustomed now of it all; to whatever it means to be in the middle of this life, in middle age, with a career and responsibilities and all the hours of every day accounted for in new and different ways than when they were small and their hair smelled like vanilla cookies after naps.

The way that stories seem to hover in the air

Posted on September 18, 2014

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In the middle of the summer the light would last and last, but now it fades fast at end of day. The crows fly west, nightly passing over our house, cawing after the fleeting sun. The sky turns to rose, to melon, to yellow, to indigo, and then to night. Stars, faint here among the pole lamps and the traffic lights, and the thousand lit rectangles of windows that reveal the our private worlds, wink into the sky one by one. There, Cassiopeia, her unmistakable shape, a chair overturned, glistening through the walnut leaves.

We’ve come out to the back yard after dinner, drinking rosé in glasses without stems. We exhale. Twilight finds us.

Sprout climbs the bay tree by the neighbor’s yard and is immediately swallowed in the dark. He and the little girl next door are exchanging good night chatter. Every day they call to each other across the fence, play on the weekends, their laughter and yells and chatter filling both our yards. “Goodnight!” They call. “See you tomorrow!”

After the boys are in bed I take a walk with the dog, the neighborhood becoming gradually familiar. Here, the last of the trumpet flowers blooming yellow and wild over a low rock wall. There a girl standing in the light of her second-story apartment window, hair cropped short on half her head, long on the other, tattoos running the length of her arm. She sips wine and tilts her head back to laugh. Around her, friends, all backlit, are laughing too.


The sidewalk holds the day’s heat still, and I feel it through my soles. The air is sweet and soft with jasmine which blooms on nearly every street. Each flower a fragrant star, small and white among a foliage of midnight green. The dog pauses to greet a cat. Her tail wagging hard, then harder against my leg. The cat pretends to be the sidewalk. Flattens. Flattens farther. Becomes a shadow. Becomes the dark.

In the house beside us a man in a white t-shirt paces in his living room, talking on the phone. Behind him a wall-to-wall bookshelf. The kind you want to linger by. The kind I wonder if people will have any more when Bean and Sprout are big. The kind fat with volumes, each one signifying something more than the story or information it holds: the moment it was gifted or bought or loaned. The college course it was for. The girlfriend who dog-eared the pages. The grandmother who wrote, “Margaret,” inside the dust jacket. The best friend who gave the volumes of poetry as a birthday gift. The novel by John Williams, it’s spine unbroken, given by someone without a signature or remark. The underlined copy of Munro’s newest stories, loved so much.


Walking, alone under yellow streetlight along bushy cedar hedges, past sunflowers taller than my head, past tomato plants that dangle their voluptuous fruit into the street, past the garden beds of swiss chard and fennel, past cats on stoops, I am walking among other people’s stories.

A man stands combing his hair in the reflection his window mirrors back.

An elderly woman in a lazyboy, her face alternately blue and pale with the flicker of TV. In the still air behind her, a dozen rianbow colored mylar balloons.

At his table, a silver-haired man sits smoking, shirtless. Behind him, a lamp glows, it’s base a woman.

Beyond the waxy leaves of a magnolia, a blue bottle of Dawn dish soap in the yellow frame of a window, stands idle by the sink. Behind it, the wall is tiled red.

On my way back the air smells patchouli. On the corner, a man sits in front of an open warehouse door on an old folding lawn chair playing chords on an electric guitar.

This will be what I’ll remember about this first summer here. The softening light, the gradual end to summer, and the way these stories seem to hover in the air. With day drawing to a close people don’t draw their curtains the way they do back East where there is already the cold promise of first frost. Instead they go about their lives, windows wide open. Unadorned,and vulnerable: each one imperfect and beautiful among their particular and curious collection of things.