A Week and a Day

As much as I’ve struck out into the wild yonder (of whatever color — green in this case), I still get nervous at this stage. I head out in a week and a day.

I’m a little more relaxed about it than I was before this morning, though, because I just got a big bonus, putting me barely over the official “Cost of Attendance” (CoA) for a foreign postgraduate Writing student at NUI Galway. I had a moment of panic a week or two ago when I realized that the CoA had the total at more than $36,000 because it had calculated the exchange rate at 1.20: .12 over my initial estimate according to information I had at the time. That put me way short: I’d have to charm or luck my way past border control, which only sort of worked last year — and that was for a couple months. This’ll be a year (at least!). But with this bonus, I’ll have upwards of $37,000, all things considered: my savings, the biggest loan I could get, and two scholarships. I’ll still need to be careful, and I’ll still want to find work, but at least now I can breathe easier about Immigration.

So, in a few days, I should once again be running barefoot on Irish soil. (Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!) Maybe I’ll even go for a swim in Galway Bay, before it gets too cold.

I have the traditional consternation about what to take, but even moreso than usual, because whatever I can carry will be the seeds for starting a new life. Before, I’ve traveled. This time, I’m moving. It’s a fun process, once I get going on it. It whittles everything I own down to the very most essential and precious of what I can take. Funny how I have few enough things that they fit comfortably in a treehouse, and they still seem like a lot.

When I went to Ireland last year, I thought I might stay (and desperately wanted to), but things felt unfinished on both coasts of the U.S., as well as a bit in eastern Canada. Now it’s all about as resolved as can be. I’ve spent time with all but one of the friends and family I most wanted to see (and that one is a special case). Serendipity the unicorn and Spider-Planty (the spider plant) are now fostered in Washington, and most of the last bits of my other stuff have been collected and suitably reassigned. The half-dozen boxes of keepsakes and memories that aren’t coming with me are either at my parents’ place or slated to go there in the fall. All that will remain of me in California, other than the impressions I’ve left, will be my bank account.

I’m down to just a box and half of copies of my book left to distribute, having given an entire box to a delighted goddess in Oregon (who, incidentally, was the book’s interior layout designer), and spread other copies far and wide . . . at least around northern California and middle Oregon. I’ve gotten a couple emails from people who have found them, including one that came while I’ve been writing this post. Fun!

I feel scattered and excited. Books to read, knitting to finish, people to see and things to do one last time . . . ! Hey, is anybody heading from Sonoma County to SFO next Saturday?! I could take the bus, but a friend would be more fun. Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Inklings of Ireland: Brody, Snow, Fish, and Bull

With less than three weeks to go until I’ll have moved to Ireland (!!!!!), dreams of it are coming thick and strong. (I’ve hardly dreamed about it since I left, I think because it hardly seemed real even when I was there and I hardly dared hope that I might live there. But now that I’m getting close, its spirit-tendrils are reaching out.)

Last night, I was traveling in England or Wales, I think, and hanging out with some people who were all well and good, but I was ready to go to my host somewhere on an Irish coast. (His location felt northeast in the dream, but it wasn’t in Ireland’s actual northeast — dream landscapes being weird, as you know.) I had never met the guy before or even talked to him on the phone, but I had his number and thought to call him before I headed out. It would be at least a three-hour journey to get there and somehow it had already gotten to be 9 p.m., so I would be late and might need to find other accommodation.

His name as given wherever I’d found the listing was Brodwick. When his voicemail picked up, he sounded like a jovial old lad: “Oi, this is Brody!” He went on like that a moment and then switched to speaking Irish, saying a lot more in that language than in English. I found myself grinning and crying a little. Hearing such good cheer in so beautiful a language was food for my starving soul.

In the middle of it all, a woman picked up: “Hello?”

I explained that I was the American girl who was scheduled to stay with Brody that night.

“Oh! Right.” She sounded quiet and distracted and said some things I didn’t catch.

I inquired further. She responded with something else I didn’t understand.

This went back and forth a couple times until I heard her clearly: “He died.”

Oh, no.

All I’d heard was Brody’s voicemail, and already I’d felt him a dear friend, and lost him. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll make other arrangements, then.”

“Yes, well.”

I awoke still mourning the loss of Brody, a man of whom I’d only dreamed . . . and only heard a recording of, at that. Godspeed, Brody.

My other dreams of Ireland have been just as vivifying. In one, it snowed! Peaceful white wondrous flakes. And I got asked on a date by a car salesman at a dealership where I was getting free goldfish. (I gracefully declined.) At first I thought I couldn’t have goldfish, because I was about to move to Ire– but wait! I was in Ireland! So I took them and bought goldfish accessories, too.

And I outwitted and outmaneuvered a charging bull in a grove of trees, in part by grabbing it by one leg or horn and holding on until I could escape into the ocean. And there was a sort of mermaid on the rocks — actually a girl in a mermaid costume — and an Irish male co-narrator of the whole thing who relished the idea that she might drop something down her costume and have to retrieve it.

Anyway, back to so-called reality, for now: it’s a foggy, almost Irish morning, but for the golden hills. Grandma is quiet. I have a warming cup of tea and a bursting schedule. I’m scaling back on survey-taking and sweepstakes entries and just doing as I wish. There’ll be time enough to make more money, and my finances are more-or-less settled for now.

I’m not so much excited as contemplative and filled with peaceful anticipation. It’s all comin’ around the bend, but there are a few things for me to do here yet: passages to honor, books to distribute, and friends to see one last time.

Squinting to See the Green Light

Sometimes when I sit down here to share some of the eureka moments that burst open in my head like fast-forward flowers, the inspiration fizzles. It’s almost as though they’re just for me, or at least for a to-be-determined few.

Part of it, I think, is that I’m just not inspired in this town anymore, or at least not enough to push the “whoa!” of a momentary realization out from my heart and head through my arms and into typing hands. At least not very often. Why is that? I don’t know. I used to be so eager to put pen to paper or fingers to keys. I guess it’s that even though I’m doing completely different things and living in a different abode than when I left “forever” a year and two months ago, it’s the same place with the same stultifying force that slowed this Superball almost to a stop. I become animated in conversation sometimes, especially if it pertains to animals or Ireland or love, but in black and white, I’m just about spent. Good thing I’m leaving “forever” again in a month and a day.

I had the Feeling not long after I first moved here, almost seven years ago, and for a good span after that: an overwhelming strength in knowing what I was doing, even if it didn’t make any sense. I was where I belonged. The certainty welled up as an exultant YESSSSSSS that swept away everything else like a flash flood — or sometimes as a forceful “this will not stand, man!” Or both.

But now it’s like things are dying a little bit at a time, not least of all my old, old grandma. Maybe when her spirit breaks free, so will mine (in a different way, of course — I intend to stay in this body a good long time yet . . . though one never knows, does one?).

It’s almost hard to write about the magic, even though it’s obviously still happening behind and under the scenes, because I remember its full force only from before, when I felt it last. Remembering is not experiencing.

Self-expression is borderline exhausting. I’m weary. But a spark keeps me trudging, keeps these words smoldering out onto the screen for some reason . . . until one fine morning . . . .

This Is That

I have two days off coming up again after my day shift tomorrow. I think I’ll use them to drive around and leave copies of my book everywhere. Anybody want a Superball drop-in? I could put a couple visits into the itinerary.

I’m getting a full refund from the airline booking site (Kiwi.com). Hallelujah! At least I can start from scratch and they don’t get any extra benefit from me for their lackluster customer service. I’m now waiting on Aer Lingus after I submitted a form today requesting their special student rates. However that pans out, I can now fly to Ireland sooner — probably leaving August 21 at the latest, at least a full week earlier than I originally planned! That is working out amazingly.

I doctored the broken tail and cracked leg of my unicorn, Serendipity, with rainbow tie-dye “Duck Tape” in anticipation of journeying north for a handoff in three weeks. Also going along will be my plant, Spider-Planty (for the second time — a well-traveled plant), and my magicalest little box of magical things. They will be looked after until a day when we might all come together again — once I become a rich novelist resident in Ireland and can afford to ship everything. Or something like that.

Even though all this is happening and I feel better than I did for a while, I still feel a bit glum. I guess it just doesn’t seem real yet, and it still feels like I have so far to go, with so many complete unknowns.

My selves keep having conversations about it:

“Of course I’m moving to Ireland. That’s just the sort of thing I would do.”

“Wait . . . but what am I doing? I don’t know what I’m doing!”

“Yes, you do. You know exactly what you’re doing: following your heart, same as always. What is this concern? You’re an adventurer! And you know you can’t very well stay here.”

“No, that’s true. There’s nothing for me here.”

“So . . . okay. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. The question is what we’re going to do in the meantime.”

“Isn’t it always.”

“We could do a blog post.”

“Sure, let’s do that.”

“What do we have to write about, though?”

“Oh, all the things. Thises and thats.”

“This is that.”

“Indeed.”

U & I

Okay, so. A lot has been going on. I hardly know where to begin. Sometimes when I get to this point in writing, I abort, because what’s the point? Maybe this is one of those times.

Ohhhhh, except the whole reason I started this post, before a gazillion other thoughts and feelings rushed in, is that I now have every undistributed copy of my novel, U & I: A Wizard’s Quest (not counting the ones CreateSpace prints on demand to fill Amazon orders). There are eleven boxes of these puppies. I want to dispense them all before I move to Ireland (from California) in a month and a half, which means giving them away and/or selling them for cheap. Kind of exciting, because I love giving people things and I’d much rather get my words into the hands of readers who will appreciate them than have them sit in storage indefinitely, even if I don’t recoup the printing cost.

There were 361 copies originally (19 times 19!), including one with a misprinted cover that will probably be worth a million dollars someday, like that stamp with the upside-down airplane. (The weird one will have to go to just the right person. If you think that’s you, tell me why.) I numbered them all as soon as I got them. The numbers are kind of wobbly, because I was hungover and excited.

Soooooo . . . anybody want a copy, or know someone who might? I think it’ll cost me about $9 to mail one anywhere in the U.S. (as I believe it was $8 when I published the book, four years ago — correct me if I’m wrong, and I’ll adjust accordingly), so I’d part with them for $11 each until supplies run out, to cover the padded envelope and trip to town. (If you’re elsewhere in the world, let’s go with . . . $23.) Any of that is negotiable, if we can work out a trade. (As of this writing, the cheapest — used — copy on Amazon is $15.99, including shipping.) As long as I have bookmarks, I’ll include one of those with each copy, too, as well as a dated and signed dedication from me, if you so desire (in which case, please give me the name of the dedicatee and maybe the reason you want the book).

About the novel: It’s a paperback 500-page 6″ x 9″  illustrated fictionalized account of my/your fourteen-month journey all the way west around the world, and the aftermath. It’s about, um, a wizard on a quest . . . and is for anyone who’s interested in:

  • Overlapping realities that include this one
  • Stories that are written directly to you — that bring the reader into them
  • A look through the eyes of a 30- to 31-year-old female adventure-traveler
  • Unicorns
  • Love
  • Quests

And the like.

PayPal me — superball.rex@gmail.com — and include a mailing address.

I think I’ll also leave free copies in strategic locations when I’m out n’ about, for people to find randomly. Ooooooh, that’ll be fun!

A Scent Offering

Today my computer guy came to make sure my laptop would be good to go for Ireland. With dental, fluid, and computerly checkups now done, all I have left from that list is an eye exam.

Waiting for dude, I was a veritable wreck of vulnerability and mortification. I already get nervous when expecting anyone from my outer circles into the inner sanctum, but this time, on top of that, my toilet box stank (with the undeniable smell of my pee, aged suddenly almost to gaggifying levels — ack!). I thought emptying it might help — a calculated risk — but alas, that only stirred up the fumes. So I sprayed Poo-Pourri all over the bowl . . . and lid . . . and the whole treehouse floor . . . and the balcony and door, for good measure. I followed that up with body mist on myself, to cover any splashes from the emptying procedure.

Still, there was no getting around the pungent wafts of old pee, now accented with citrus and other proprietary scent blends.

I met computer guy at his car. He admired the treehouse as we approached it — “Inviting!” — but as he settled in to work, I observed him sniffing discreetly, even with the door open. How bad was it? (How adjusted to the stench was I?) Why hadn’t I warned him right away, made light of it?

After a while, during a sniffy gap in small talk, I nonchalantly threw out there, “Sorry if it stinks. I just emptied the toilet this morning, and . . . .” I kicked at it.

“It’s not that bad.”

No pretending now that he didn’t smell it!

I wanted to believe his reassurance, but I fidgeted. Why did these kinds of things affect me so much? Did I think someone wouldn’t like me because my treehouse toilet was a little odiferous? And if someone was as shallow as that, so what? It would only signal me to usher them out of my life at the earliest convenience. Good to know, and good riddance.

I strong-armed through my filter of insecurities to try to read how he really felt. A miracle: to an outside observer, he would have all the appearance of calmness and focus and kindly disposal toward me. He wasn’t visibly choking. . . . His features remained pleasant and his conversation mild. We discussed a shared love of maté. I asked after his cat. He talked about how he finally got his wife to drive a car.

Though my embarrassment lingered, I felt a rush of gratitude toward him and a hint of pride in myself for Handling It.

“That’s so great you got this treehouse to stay in,” he said. “I bet the tree is happy to support you.”

You know, I bet it is. I have always loved trees.

I’ve been watching myself in little moments of stress, and from a certain perspective it gets pretty funny. As I woke the other morning, I pictured myself waking beside someone again — wondered how that might ever happen. But my hair probably looked terrible!

Wait . . . what? Where did that come from?! Did I really think that someone wouldn’t like me after a night of passion or cuddling because my hair was sticking up . . . ?! What kind of . . . ? Hahahahaha! No one who truly cared about someone would stop caring because of the way their hair looked! Or anything else, for that matter!

I thought back to other moments of insecurity and shot them all down with the same laughter. My slight weight gain from eating too well with too little exercise lately, my sometime social awkwardness, the fact that I chew my cheeks as a nervous habit, or pick my nose when I’m alone, or have the audacity to fart and poop and bleed every month: did any of them make me less deserving of love? Hahaha, no! Furthermore, none of those things would faze me in the least with other people. Why did I faze myself when I thought someone else might know? Why would I accept that kind of judgment? Ridiculous! How had I carried such baggage so far?

This isn’t to say that shame won’t still wriggle into my arms like a dog you thought you were done petting. It’s just that any sane person is going to be fine with any other person doing all the human things. I expect nothing less, among those allowed into my inner sanctum.

Solstice

This post is my first from the treehouse where I’ve been living for almost two months. I’m not sure what to say, which is often the case with these things, but I felt moved to write and I follow these impulses. Something always comes of them.

I don’t know what I’m doing here. It’s bright and beautiful and full of people I love who love me . . . and I feel glum and stifled, like all I’m doing is holding on. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I have many moments of joy and beauty and all that. I’ve come a long way from living in utter despair. I love living in a treehouse. I love my family — though we are cut from very different cloths — and the beautiful trees and skies and knowing I’ll probably bump into somebody I know or somebody else friendly and interesting whenever I wander town. I love going to movies alone in a cool theater with kombucha and a small popcorn that has all the stuff on it. Just . . . the overall feeling is one of waiting, of slogging through. I’m in the meantime. It’s a kind of purgatory.

In slightly more than two months, I’ll begin a two-day journey back to Ireland, where I will attend school for a year and perhaps settle in for the long haul. I’m sort of excited, but it’s hard to be exuberant about a place that hardly seemed real when I was there, much less a year, a string of temporary abodes, and many thousands of miles later. It’s hard to see through all the fog. Will it be as good, going back?

(. . . Will it be even better?, she dared to whisper. . . .)

I’m curious about what academia will be like again — how I will prowl among that stripe of thinkers, dreamers, and passionate wordsmiths at this stage in my life and in such a land. . . . I think it will be better than the first time. Much better.

By the time I complete my studies — do you graduate again, with a graduate degree? — I ought to be ready to look for a regular job again, or some semblance thereof. I bet I could work full time at a desk again if I had to, especially in a place as magical as that, and chip away at my debts. Or maybe I’ll hole up in the wildest spot I can find there. With a cat. I could totally see myself as some small Irish town’s token crazy-American writer. Surely a town has lost theirs, or never had one and feels lacking. I have qualifications: I was a small Irish town’s pet Yank for six weeks last year. Those blissful weeks.

Speaking of cats, I went through a whole relationship yesterday: glances culminating in soft feelings, the tentative touches, the “this will never work” stage, followed by falling head over heels, the “surely this can work somehow” stage, and ultimately letting go with a broken heart. It was a kitten. I could have named it Solstice, I realized, being as how that’s the day this all happened, but I didn’t think of the name until today, so it got A354181. I probably still could suggest Solstice. Those people were nice. Maybe they’ll come to Solstice on their own, by the time A354181 is ready for adoption.

Anyway, this kitten had been among my grandma’s feral cats. It was by far the smallest, with eyes so goopy they sometimes stuck shut. Unlike with the other cats, you could sometimes pick it up and pet it. Skinny little thing. Wanted to play with the other kittens but always ended up on the edges of things, shouldered out, looking in. Often huddled face bent in the grass or on the patio, all alone when the others left. My cousin almost accidentally whacked it in the tall grass with a weedeater. It was probably one among a batch of tiny babies that barely escaped my uncle’s lawnmower not long after they were born.

Yesterday, after the weedeater near-miss, the kitten lay alone in the middle of the path to the back garden. It didn’t even seem interested in a piece of ham.

That was it: I called the animal shelter. Yes, they’d take a sickly stray.

I made a little nest in my second-favorite blanket for the baby and set it in the passenger seat. Off we went.

Within the first mile, the bugger of course crawled out of the blanket — luckily toward me, onto the emergency-brake lever. Grateful for an automatic transmission, I had a free hand with which to pick up the ball of . . . skin and bones. What was I to do? I plopped it onto my lap: where it stayed, calm except when we passed a lawnmower or when I fiddled with the controls. I stroked the baby almost constantly, reassuringly. It looked up at me with goopy hopeful-trustful eyes, as if to memorize the face of a kindness it had never known, and my heart melted right out of my chest, all over the kitten, and onto the floor.

I kept driving, though. The little thing clearly needed care I didn’t know how to give, so I couldn’t take it back to the treehouse just yet. Maybe the animal shelter would give me the lowdown on how to care for it.

When I got to the counter, I helpfully offered the intake girl my services in fostering the cat for up to two months . . . ?

No need, she said kindly. It would be fine.

But if it wasn’t adopted . . . ?

It would be adopted.

Oh. Okay.

I arranged my second-favorite blanket in a provided pet carrier and coaxed the little darling into it.

The girl took my number, and someone whisked the carrier away.

Goodbye, little Solstice. You will have a good life now.

I went back out into the parking lot. Hot day. Someone had written “Sadness” in the dust on the back window of the car next to mine. Right.

There was nothing for it but to drive away.

I ended up at the theater and saw The Book of Henry. It’s about a broken little hopeless creature who needs a new chance at life. I cried.