Thursday, July 30, 2009

An Unexpected Party -- Queer Lodgings

In May Zach and I were trying to decide how we could stay in England through September. My reasoning was that I really wanted to focus on writing the dissertation. I also wanted to travel England in the summer while reading classic novels. None of that was to be. 

In June we ended up flying to Denver via Chicago. Zach got a job interview in Seattle on July 12 and departed on the 11th. I stayed in Denver to see my visiting sister and spend some more time with my dad and my second sister, Laura. While there, I wrote daily and tended my dad's corn and squash plants- nothing else took to the sandy soil. On July 25th I joined Zach in Seattle. We fully intended to stay there and write. His parents were heading to Thailand for three weeks for LST. We thought the big empty house and beautiful Seattle summer would be perfectly conducive. We didn't count on extreme heat spells or the alluring temperate rainforest on the Olympic peninsula. 

Yesterday morning, after a sleepless night in a 92 degree house, we threw clothes, books, and papers into his mom's car and headed for the coast. We had a few hostels written down on a subway napkin and a cooler full of ice with exactly one bottle of water and three bottles of beer. As we passed through Port Angeles and Forks, we remembered taking the same journey almost exactly four years ago. In 2005 we took a magnificent hike up through the Hoh rainforest to Cape Alava. 

We ended up spending last night in the Rainforest Hostel 22 miles outside of Forks, WA, home of the Twighlight books/movies/and paraphernalia, and much much more. Couples' accommodation is a well-kept RV. Our host is a Vietnam-Vet with passionate pacifist convictions and respect for the native populations and traditional gardening. He's asked us to run the hostel for him next week while he attends the 2009 Tribal Journeys festivities in Suquamish. We have a ton of writing to do but I don't think we can pass up the opportunity to spend a free week on the cusp of the rainforest. There is nothing like hiking through a couple of easy miles of rainforest and stepping out right on the Pacific ocean. We'll spend one more night here, try to catch the sunset on Ruby Beach, and return to Seattle for the weekend. Its there and back again beginning Monday. Someone up there likes us. 

Monday, July 27, 2009

Puget Sound

From behind the many desks- mostly library desks- at which I've sat during the past five years, I've met a lot of people with smoldering ambition to start over or move to a new city. My frequent relocations seem to get people excited. They talk about their family living in the west, or the northwest. They talk about their young adulthood, when they had the opportunity to live out of boxes and suitcases. At the time, I always feel a pang of loneliness because I'm leaving the little close knit groups of circulation workers and librarians, of urbanites who know their cities like I might have known them had I chosen to stay. But I also feel a certain lightness. Like I'm passing through and am therefore ultimately untouchable. And consequently, when I arrive in a new place, there is a romantic period of intrigue, as I learn the streets and visit the trendy coffee and sandwich shops, that will eventually give way to vagueness as the shops and streets blend together. 

I met another group of people this past year. These are permanently-temporary people, those who spend a season in Stehekin and then move on to another mountain park, as well as urban professionals who retreat to the seclusions of the mountains for a year or two. And I met a lot of global students in Leeds, those who have lived in the middle East and Africa and western Europe in the span of two or four years.  

So the goal, I think, as I enjoy the beautiful Puget Sound, Cape Alava, and the North Cascades, just a few perks of my new town, is to live like this is home. Hopefully Vancouver will be. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Films and Historical Fiction

Over the past month or so I've been reading some historical fiction. It's a bit of a relief from the sort of high-art post-modern mass I've been reading this year. 

David Gutterson's classic Snow Falling On Cedars is impressive for the sheer bulk of research and imagination that obviously went into the novel. The novel borders on genre (mystery or romance) once in a while, but its deep investment in the representations of place pay off. The result is that it succeeds in transporting the reader wholly to the communities inhabiting the islands in Puget sound in the first half of the last century. The book leaves a lasting and honest impression. It also speaks strongly to beliefs about American masculinity and nationalism, perfecting its picture of the laconic, war-haunted frontiersman. 

I can't say enough positive things about Geraldine Brooks's 2006 Pullitzer Prize-winning novel March. It engages with a so many fascinating topics and ideas: civil war history, transcendentalism, american religious reform, pacifism and tolerance, abolitionists, racial relations in the south during the war, and some critiques of paternalism that are essentially anti-colonial. Brooks also does an amazing job developing March's character as a self-obsessed tunnel-visioned eccentric who none-the-less holds all the right convictions. Brooks's prose is seamless enough to render plot development inconspicuous. Perhaps this is partly because the plot is necessarily contained within Little Women's plot and Louisa May Alcott's father's personal letters. 

Zach and I saw Away We Go last week. I can't decide if the film is an uncanny representation of us, or we are just a typical double-M-Arts couple. The film is funny but we liked best the fact that the characters are committed and in love without any of the typical dramatic complications that usually accompany romantic comedies.  

Early early this morning I saw the sixth Harry Potter movie with my sisters. Fun times, sore necks.