Sunday, October 30, 2005

Rebecca moved to Orcas Island and all I got was this lousy party

Well, those of you that did not come to my party missed a good one. And, you have no idea what we did or did not say about you in your absence. :-)

I had intended the party to be an open house and expected people to stop by, kibbitz a little and then go, but people stayed and talked to other people besides me. I love that about parties. I don't do well in groups of friends. I have lots of individual friends that I see for coffee and dinner but the TV show Friends has never been my story. Over the years, though, the friends that come to my parties have found people that they socialize with there when I'm off talking to other guests. It's really intense to observe. My friends impress me.

So, we (my parents and I) fed people pizza and offered them beer and pop. My friend from preschool, Carrie, is so naturally a mother. I met her baby Caitlin for the first time. Carrie is so much more sure of herself, confident. It was such a visible shift from who she's been to what we never realized was the real her.

I answered people's questions about where I'm headed in the next stage. I put out of bowl of quote scrolls and offered CD's full of music that resonated with me while I lived on the island. My friend Joanie, who is in her sixties, came and coyly, girlishly revealed that the man with her was her fiance. So full of the life that hope for the future gives a person.

I expected to do a series of 3-minute slide presentations with the pictures I took on the island. I dubbed it a "cool, retro slide show" on the invitation. I love film and doubt I'll ever shift to digital. So I took 85 pictures on slide film and pulled out my mother's old projector from the closet, took some framed pictures off a wall and started right up. Since it wasn't an in and out group, I was reluctant to break up their conversations with each other to gather them all in until 7:00, which was only an hour before the scheduled end of the open house. So, I had one continuous slide show, with breaks for people to get up and walk around, get another beer, go to the bathroom, head out the door for home. At least four people got what I was trying to communicate and that was enough. The rest were, at least, polite. :-)

My brother came even though he had declared he could not. I had called him in the morning, worried that no one would come. Although I had not asked for an RSVP, several people expressed regrets that they could not come ahead of time, but only three people (two of whom did not ultimately show) had said they would come. That made me very nervous. Daniel gave me a pep talk on why I shouldn't take an empty house personally since my friends tend to be like me, which means they tend to enjoy evenings at home with a book. But I bet 30 or 35 people showed up, including my softie brother.

It's good to feel loved. It's good to feel home.

On my doorstep

It's hard to blog lately because it seems like every time I sit down to the computer, people that haven't communicated with me in over a year are seeking me out. Some are responding to the email invitation that I sent out, but others are simply out of the blue and haven't even realized that I'm back in Chicago. The total is at least four and it puts my emotions in a roil every time. Somewhat, this is because the total includes two of my ex-husband's friends. When I was married, I spent almost all of my social time with the guys that my husband was friends with. Some time was spent with girlfriends, but I didn't have a default group of them, so I only saw them when we set up dates to have coffee. The people that I had fun with were my husband's friends. We played role-playing games together and spent speech tournaments together and it was a good time. I became very close with several of them.

However, when Dennis left so suddenly, every single one of those friends seemed to hide from me. Our best friend told me I was a bad person.

Actually, this is really hard to write about. Rather than go into all of it again, let me simply summarize that I never saw my friends again, which hurt terribly and I have had to accept that I would not be able to force any aspect of closure from the situation. So, I put it behind me as best as I could.

I don't know what to do with these men that are writing me now. One agreed with our best friend in his assessment of me then and told me so, but by sending me an email. The other told me on the phone that he liked me still quite a bit, but because of his somewhat scattered personality (which is part of what I have loved about him), I haven't really engaged in a conversation with him until now.

I've gone back over the emails from the few of those friends who engaged with me even to that small extent. Some of the things I wrote sound a little hysterical, but not all of them. Had they no sense of empathy for the condition I must have been in? Why didn't they care enough about me to even see if they had the whole story before telling me that I was a bad person and that if it weren't for me, the divorce would be amicable and not ugly? I mean, my ex-husband hasn't returned a phone call since I left for the island. And it's my fault that things got ugly? Didn't they consider our years of friendship and give me the benefit of the doubt?

It feels like they didn't. But I don't want to commit the same offense of not being empathetic to how hard it must have been for them that their friends were splitting up. I want to give the one who is now coming back to me the benefit of the doubt. But what would I say? Will I have to defend my actions? Will I have to tell him the sides of the story that they never knew because I had to become a private investigator to figure it out and they never asked before they cut me off? How much will it hurt?

So, now, as a chance for a little closure is presented to me, what do I do? It obviously still hurts since this is rediculously hard to write. Is it worth dredging it all up?

I don't know and it's too late at night to call anyone. Dad said bloggers, including myself are a little weird, and I think the fact that I'm laying this all out to you proves his point. But what else do I do with this sad energy that would never let me fall asleep?

Friday, October 28, 2005

On The Road Again

This morning, I'm going to West Virginia with my dad. We'll be home tomorrow evening. He's going for an event with one of his affiliates and asked me if I wanted to go along. We fly into Pittsburg and then drive about two hours south to get there.

When Dad first asked me if I wanted to go, I told him no. I thought about having just arrived in Chicago and interrupting my assimilation process to go, I thought about the fact that Jeff would still be in Illinois and going would mean missing two of my last days with him, I thought that basically there wasn't much in the trip for me to make the effort.

And then I realized that I was a grown-up.

Dad hadn't asked me to go because of what I would get out of it. He'd asked me to go because of what he would get out of it: my company. How boring it must be for him to make all the effort of arriving at the airport earlier than the flight, sitting on the plane for two hours (always physically stressful for Murphys), wrangling to get a rental car, driving for another two hours and getting dinner and a hotel room just for one little dedication. Or, he could do all of that with his daughter who, for some reason, shares similar interests (except for watching sports on TV) and a similar temprament.

So, I stepped up to the plate and said that I'd like to go. It's time to start paying him back for the sacrifices that he's made through my 28 years. Plus, I'll have a pretty good time while I'm at it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A New Covenant

When I drove out to Orcas with my brother Daniel, we saw a rainbow that seemed to cross the entire "big sky" of Montana. (Safe and Sound) I smiled one of those deep, private, inward smiles and murmured to myself, "A new covenant." Although I believe that God sticks his fingers in our lives when it's necessary, I generally do not believe in "signs." However, over time, our society has given meaning to certain objects and occurrences in order to help themselves understand the normally indecipherable presence of God in our world. When humans encounter a Mystery, they have to nail it in place in order to study it, otherwise its ephemeral nature causes us to stand there befuddled at the breach in logic that has just occurred. When we choose objects or occurrences to attach to Mysteries, we create our own signs. Thus, because I've known the story of Noah since I was a small child, I interpret the rainbow that I sight at the beginning of my new adventure as a new covenant: a new contract with God and the world. (My Uncle Kim, on the other hand, is always reminded of the time when he had to huddle under a table with 3 and 4 year olds because he was trying to communicate just how crowded it must have been on the ark. This then, brought him to having to discuss where all of that poop went. In hindsight, the discussion looks inevitable, but since he didn't foresee it, it's approach must have felt like a train in slow motion while he was pinned to the tracks by an untied shoelace.)

Yesterday, on my way to my first job interview for this new life in the city, I looked in the rearview mirror while stuck on the Eisenhower Expressway. I did not see the perfect elongated hump of a rainbow. We crowd out our sky with buildings here in Illinois. Instead, it was more like a rainline. But it was lovely. The erratic rain still fell on my windshield, but the sun also shone in the side windows and over the 355 expressway that I had just crossed under. I smiled one of those deep, private, inward smiles and murmured to myself, "A new covenant." My deal with God is no longer, "God, please take care of me while I rest and learn in this beautiful place" to which God said, "OK," much to my surprise because that doesn't seem like God gets very much out of that deal. It's like when my Grandpa used to offer me three pennies for a nickel. The kicker was that when I fell for it, he'd never laugh good-naturedly and give me my nickel back with a brief lesson on fiscal responsibility like most Grandpas. No, Grandpa would cackle and keep my nickel! And here I was, keeping God's nickel! The audacity of my asking and His kindness (it must be kindness since He's not naive, like I was at age 6) in accepting are astounding. And now God says to me, "Rebecca, take care of others while I push you out of your comfort zone." It doesn't seem like a fair deal by the world's logic: now God is offering me two dimes for my quarter. But what can I say but, "OK"?

Friday, October 21, 2005

A student of mine from my first year of teaching is missing. Her name is Olamide Adeyooye. Today as I ate my breakfast, I found this article on my parents' counter sitting on top of the rest of the paper.

My heart is heavy and all I can do is ask people to pray for her and her family. I think I would feel this way for any student of mine, but she was particularly sweet and hard-working in a year of kids that felt totally out of my control and/or influence and was, therefore, a balm to me. I pronounced her name Oh-lahm-i-day with the accent on the second syllable and it always made her smile and tell me that she liked the way I pronounced her name. When I protested that she should correct me, she would laugh, shake her head and tell me I was close enough. I include that because I always feel better when I know how to tell God someone's name with confidence.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Jeff and I rolled into town around 8:00 last night after a great time at Barterfaire and a really good drive across the country. We made good time without exhausting ourselves and were able to take scenic bypasses of the highway and to stop at sights that interested us. I only freaked out that I "just wanted to go home" a couple of times and Jeff responded valiantly and the trip was better because he did. The dog slept with me like I'd never left and she'd never formed different affections and patterns. I know this will never happen again but it felt good last night.

I'll post again soon after I shower and unload the stuff and get my next few days settled. However, if you haven't gotten an invitation to the "Back from Where the Wild Things Are" party and you'll be in Chicagoland on the 30th of this month, email me (look on the left-hand side of the blog for a link) and I'll send you the info.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tom and Jeff

Tom and Jeff own Shearwater Adventures, the store where I worked taking reservations all summer. I have worked for a lot of small business owners and I have to say that working for Tom and Jeff has been the best of those experiences. I say this because Tom and Jeff have figured out what they want out of life and those needs are very simple. As far as I can tell, they need just enough money to maintain their current lifestyles on the island and I would bet that they try to put some money away towards the future. But that's it. They are not constantly trying to always make even more money or trying to get out of debt they got into to grow the business. They built a business that would be successful enough. Therefore, they are not desperate, which would be the way that I would characterize every other small business owner that I've worked for (like the lady at the Green Planet, Philomena, and Jane, but now that I list them all, I realize that Bill and Ruth were pretty cool). The other people seemed to be frantic all the time that the business needed to be more. Since I was just there for the paycheck and they were there for their life's blood, conflict or at least tension sometimes arose. Even if it wasn't direct conflict with my boss, I had to spend hours of my life listening to them complain about how everything worked against them, since I was a captive audience. Tom and Jeff, though, are content. They've found their niche and the effort that would be involved in pursuing more money is not worth the compromises they would have to make out of their lives to accomodate that pursuit.

I love that mindset. It is the ideal. Part of what appeals to me about my homesteading fantasy is that the work that I would have to spend my days doing would be good work that is enjoyable in its actual completion and satisfying because its results directly benefitted my lifestyle (gardening, for example, is days spent outside working hard and food on the table). It is so easy to get disenchanted with working in a cubicle for money that can then be exchanged for lifestyle benefits only when one is not working. Tom and Jeff have found a way to avoid that trap without homesteading, which is a much more realistic goal to set for myself. They like kayaking and working with the guides each summer and fixing boats and the paperwork is not really terrible. So, the work itself is good and the money that they make is also good. Since they own the business, they can choose how many hours of life are worth sacrificing to work and they keep the balance sane.

Additionally, both of their personalities have been good to interact with. Jeff is a family man, but pretty conservative for the other families that have parents his age on the island. His children, Tika and Kyle, are interesting, which is strange to me, because kids around the 3rd to 5th grade are actually pretty abhorent to me. But they tell interesting stories and act like I imagine my brother and I act. Occasionally, Jeff can be coerced to tell stories from his childhood, which are like mine in that they contain no drugs or alcohol, but are unlike mine because he had somewhat criminal (but harmless) fun. Jeff's been a great role model for me for how to live that life that I've wanted of traditional family in a way that is not as stifling as it can so easily become.

Tom is a storehouse of knowledge. He fixes the boats in the partnership and is always looking for an excuse to step away from the paperwork that is his responsibility in order to talk about ideas and facts and phenomena. When not out on the water, he spends his leisure time reading non-fiction or listening to NPR. Then, he tells me all about whatever interests him. Currently, he knows a lot about parasites and diseases and has a lot to say about the inevitable pandemic of flu that will be as devastating as the 1918 flu. He's loaned me a book called Parasite Rex that I swear I will read, but I'm pretty sure that I'll wash the skin off of my hands with avoiding germs afterwards. Tom also likes to observe human interactions on the island (a pasttime for many of us) and can be a good source for information (i.e.-Are they actually dating?). His energy is usually upbeat and he seems genuinely amused and delighted by living. However, as you get him talking about ideas, his predictions for the future are pretty defeatist. He's just come to the conclusion logically that our socio-economic system cannot be fixed, our political system is entirely out of reach of the common man and women should pretty much plan on being single mothers at some point in their lives if they choose to have kids, no matter how secure the relationship seems right now. Like James, I really can't argue with his points logically. I can totally see how that could be the case. However, I just can't agree with him. I believe in the redeemability of people. Of course, I'm also pretty sure that the post-apocolyptic vistas envisioned by writers like Charles DeLint in Svaha and Octavia Butler in Parable of the Sower are bound to happen as our society falls apart as the gap between the Haves and the Have-nots widens. But people are redeemable. Tom thinks that the effort to try to make the world a better place is wasted. Very Naturalistic, like the story "To Build a Fire." However, his actions completely belie that truth that he's determined logically. He's an EMt and treats people with dignity and fairness. It's like he's decided that the only response he can live with after looking at the void is a personal code of conduct. I really like Tom.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Liminal means in-between and pivotal

I have begun several posts that describe various aspects of island life that I haven't yet described to you, folk of the mainland. However, I hate moving (have I said that before?) and I'm a little moody right now (sorry, Jeff) so I get halfway through and lose all interest in being interesting. I'll finish them at some point, but goodness, they would be boring if I finished them right now.

So, for your entertainment, I am providing several links to sites that describe Barterfaire. When I first moved here, Rhonda said that it sometimes seemed like we didn't really have a fall season on the island. We have summer and then at some point, everyone startes asking everyone else if they're going to Barterfaire. Then, once everyone gets back, it's winter.

So, I'm going to Barterfaire, even though if Jeff were ready, I'd pack up the car tonight and be gone on the first ferry tomorrow to get home. I hate this transition stage. I know, I know, liminal stages are absolutely necessary for interesting stories, but nobody ever really likes meeting the Weird sisters at the crossroads. Interesting stories are full of blood and rarely contentment.

Friday, October 07, 2005

James and Issa

James and Issa are a classic type on this island. They were both at Bridget's party last night. (Although she never said to me that it was a going-away party, several of the other guests told me that she told them it was. Classic Bridget understatement. I was honored and had two big pieces of cake.) I'm not sure whther they are married or not, but they are certainly partners. They are in their early sixties and look like consumate hippies. Big, bright, and bulky wool sweaters with woven ponchos and a blatant lack of regard for whether anything in the outfit matches. James occasionally pulls his long, thinning hair into a topknow over his bald spot and threads a stick of incense through it like school girls thread pencils through buns. James has a long grey beard that he braids into two skinny little braids and Issa has little grey Heidi braids. She is from Sweden. When I asked her for the recipe for the potato almond cake that she brought to the party, she gave me the measurements in decilitres. They are so kind and open, but also a little nutty. James has a continuing conversation with me about the feasability of suing the American government in a class-action suit with the American people as plaintiffs accusing depraved indifference regarding waste disposal. He wants all of our landfills to be like the Fresh Kills landfill that is completely catalogued with the debris from the 9/11 wreckage since we will at some point need to go back into our landfills to mine them for resources. There is no one point of his that I can disagree with.

So, I've been interacting with James quite a bit during my time here and I've finally put my finger on what makes his persona, with its energies and rhythms, so different from most of the people that I know. James talks like a science fiction novel. He makes predictions about the future that seem absolutely fantastic because they skip right over so many necessary steps of technological evolution. And, he doesn't say them with the appropriate tone of preposterousness in his voice. He talks like he's got an inside track to see the future and what he speaks of is a predetermined as the Lutherans getting into heaven. For example, as a group we were discussing film and digital cameras and the benefits and drawbacks of both. Rather than be a part of that conversation, James contributed the following: "In the future, we will be able to just take our memories of things and project them on to a screen, just like that. We'll have chips in our skulls that will allow us to choose any image and just - pop- make a picture of it." Then, he just dropped back out of the conversation. He doesn't sound like a stoner and there is no embarassed silence after he says these things. It's very sage-like. It's like parting the Red Sea: once Moses drops his staff, the water comes flowing back in as if nothing had ever been different.

I'm glad James and Issa live here.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I hate this. There is this giant empty spot in my chest somewhere. I'm urgently hungry all the time but there is nothing around that my mouth wants to eat. My specific plans (such as when, actually, I'll leave) stay nebulous in my head so I'm spending time laying in bed, seeing the rain on the windows in my periphery while I read. I have a sense that there are things that still need to be done, but they'll take some creativity or at least some extended concentration so I don't so them and that adds a nagging sense that I'll soon feel panicked. I don't want to go to Barterfaire anymore. If I'm going to go home, I just want to go home.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Black Thumb

I am no gardener. However, I think that there is a technique that is used called "hardening" when it is time to transfer seedlings that have been grown in a greehouse into the ground. I don't know how it's done. Probably, the most I know is from the directions in a Martha Stewart magazine that I read while eating breakfast. But my image of this process involves not watering the plant for a few days so that when you pull it out of its little black plastic muffin cup, the root structure comes right out with a little cupcake of dirt protecting it. If you kept watering it right up until the day of transfer, the seedling would pull right out of the wet mud, but would probably leave a lot of its root structure behind.

I believe that I am hardening. Sometimes it's deliberate: Saturday, the last last Farmer's Market, I was invited to a classic island party: BBQ, lots of old islanders, stage for a band. However, for some reason, I just wanted to go home and be by myself. Even though Faith invited me and I'm currently pretty smitten with Faith. I just couldn't imagine putting myself out there like that, especailly because Jeff wouldn't be there to retreat to when I wanted to stand in a metaphorical corner and just watch the party.

Because the thing is, they like me, they really like me. I know this because Sunday, I threw caution to the wind and went to a bunch of different places where there were friendly people. And, everywhere I went, people talked about how they would really miss me. Me. This is an island full of people that are used to saying good-bye, especially around this time of year. But Holly talked about missing my energy and Bridget wants me to come over for dinner before I go and Julie said that she'd miss me at the Farmer's Market next year. Without realizing it, I have put out more roots than I ever intended to.

I went to yoga in the morning, then to church, where all the old ladies are. These past few Sundays they have said good-bye as if I were leaving that Monday, even though I remind them that I've still got a couple more weeks. Then I went to the Farmer's Market party at 2:00. That was in this neat little space called The Living Room, which is a spot downtown that is dedicated to being a space for small gatherings like poetry readings, art shows and parties like this. It's probably 20 feet by 16 feet, has a little gas fireplace that can be turned on to make things merry, a funky paint job on the concrete floor and a couple of long tables that make for easy buffets. The guys from Slappy Tubbs were at one end playing good ole non-Slappy Tubbs music. There were some potluck desserts (desserts from farmers tend to be pretty fantastic), really good wine, and both regular and dessert pizzas baked on-site from Armand, who is a European-trained baker and has a trailer that he has made into a commercial bakery. I had a conversation at this party with a woman named Owl, who grew up in Chicago and lived there for awhile so her daughter could go to high school somewhere other than the island. I spent time with Nicole and Holly and Faith. I danced with Rhonda and Erika and Steph and Andrew. I held a month old baby that looked like a little dwarf. I also drank wine. One of the hosts kept coming around and refilling my glass with yummy pinot blanc and I kept saying thank you. Before I knew it, I was leaning against a post, thinking, "You know, I think I'm drunk." I like being older than I was because I know now what to do in those situations. I poured out the rest of the glass that I had, filled it with water and sat down for a few minutes. Then, I got up and enjoyed it by dancing some more. I had to stay a full two hours more until I was good to drive to my next social function! It was good, though, because I got to have a really cool conversation with a guy named Bruce about music. It turns out that he was living in Berkeley, CA during the sixties and was right in the middle of the music scene. When asked what moment in history I would go back in time to experience, I will usually answer A) a science fiction convention in the fifties so I could meet Isaac Asimov in his prime or b)the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 so I could see Jimi Hendrix stare down Pete Townsend. Plus, Otis Redding. Yum. It turns out that Bruce went to every other concert in that area in that time EXCEPT Monterey Pop, because it was a whopping $5.50 to get in. :-) He also runs the internet radio station taht plays only island musicians. Check it out at
RadioFree Olga
. I like that interaction because I see Bruce everywhere but I've never had a conversation with him. Yet another root tendril that I've sent out. Thanks a lot pinot blanc.

So, I left The Living Room after-party to head out to Rachel's house. In packing up to leave Mindy's house, I realized that I had a lot of heavy, bulky baking supplies that would be a pain-in-the-ass to move for the relative cheapness. Since Rachel is a fantastic cook and baker, I wanted to give them to her as well as some fabric that I'd brought home from the Exchange that I was never going to use. She also fell in love with one of the paper mache bowls that I had made from a baby-name book from the sixties. She had said she'd be willing to trade, so when I brought it to her, she and I talked about a bag that I'd like her to make from some fabric that I'm totally in love with. I played with her baby some, letting him put his whole hand in my glass of water repeatedly. I'm pretty much a sucker for babies.

I had put Rachel on the itinerary because I was really headed out to Allan's house for Sauna Night. She lives basically next door. I've had only one Sunday off all summer so I've missed all of these Sauna Nights. So, despite Jeff's absence, I was going and it was a great low-key night with good food, nice people (who told me how much it sukced that I was leaving), and a good sweat with Bridget, who can make fart noises with her back by lying down on the wood benches of the sauna. While I was cooling off sitting naked on a bench outside the sauna in the pitch-dark surrounded by forest, I saw two falling stars. Why am I leaving?

Jeff is away on a week and a half long sea kayak trek through the islands. I think the fact that I've gotten comfortable in this community that he has introduced me into is telling. I have made friends with his friends and even his ex-girlfriends as an independent ranther than simply as half of a couple. So, I allowed these friends to water my roots a little and put off hardening a little longer. I mean, I've still got two weeks; I'll start to wilt with NO water.

What's interesting about this metaphor that I've been using is that if you leave seedling in their plastic pots too long, they die for lack of space to put their roots. When you transplant them, their roots have completely filled the little pots and taken its form and they have less of a chance of surviving in the garden because they take less soil with them. This island is a little plastic muffin tin that has been in a greenhosue and I have to take advantage of this window of opportunity to transplant myself into a larger garden. I have to go now so that I can take as much of the soil from this place as possible.