June Promise

At the end of this week, it will be the beginning of July. I’ve just now outstretched my arms over June’s bed. I’ve calmed into a June routine, and I’m not ready to give it up. Teachers turn a page from June to July and resist the gnawing feeling of July. As my friend Naomi calls it, it can feel like “the eternal Sunday evening.” But today, it’s still June, and today, I’m on day 2 of not going out anywhere by choice. I’ve rebelled this weekend against camp schedules and driving to far places.

Looking back at the last few weeks, I think I’ve had four goals:

1) Get kids to camp and back and try to tip the balance in favor of peace rather than in defeat of sibling rivalry. They’ve done some pretty awesome things and are peas in a pod when they’re not sloshing around in a stew.

2) Read as much as possible. I told Kal yesterday I’ve been having book affairs—there’s a different book in various corners of my house that I’m sneaking off to as soon as no one is looking. Even though it doesn’t feel like it some days, it’s clear that my kids are at a different stage as I’m able to actually to read books while I’m home with them sometimes.

3) Keep my house open to visitors and playdates; our first summer here has felt both like a vacation and a long, romantic first date.

4) Preparing myself.

I peeled back the covers at 6 am, careful not to drop Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (thank you, Katie) off my end table.  I could hear heavy sleep around me. I gently walked out of the room and down the hallway. I may as well have size 24 feet as loud as my steps sounded to me. I guess the weight of my need to get some fresh air amplified my belabored thievery. Luckily, I grabbed my notebook and opened the front door and settled in a chair. I looked over my shoulder a few times before admitting the coast was clear. I sat, listened, and wrote down what I saw.

An orb of gnats or some type of fly group sparked and spiked in a 6 inch radius around the juniper. I stared at the floating ball moving a few inches from left to right, keeping with their crazy circle. Apparently this cyclone was mating fervently since their life span is only a few weeks; they wanted to keep their line. They certainly looked busy. I tried to take a picture, but they just looked like static on a screen.

My eyes darted away from the gnat-party a few times because loud house flies buzzed around me unusually. One insisted sitting on the same spot on my leg.  A few different breeds raced and hit the window behind me, making a sound like a fingertip tapping on a glass. To keep myself unharried, I looked over to the flowers with curiosity. They looked so much taller. I once saw a bird feeding four of its baby birds, beaks wide open like an origami note. The flowers looked like they were sticking out their necks out high, waiting for something.

I got distracted by the loud sound of crickets and bird calls. I’ve been soothed by them before, yet this time was different. To my ears, they sounded like announcements. It was overwhelming really. Between swatting flies, the orb-party circling in front of me, and the warnings from the birds, I escaped back inside after only a writing down a little.

Despite the hot morning sun, the forecast says it’s going to rain today, and now all my notes make sense. Plants and animals feel the air pressure and react. Even bees scramble and cram back into their nests.  I bore witness to nature preparing and ordering the way a ship’s crew hoists boxes to each other, arching down and throwing up as they unload cargo and passengers. The ship directs traffic and brings on new crew, people dispersing depending on their goal; these systems work alongside each other noisily but with purpose. Maybe that’s why everything feels so calm right before a storm. Nature has already sent out its signals, and the crew has read the signs.

I feel the crumbs under my feet and know I’m going in the right direction. June has given me some time to commit. Repairing myself and pushing physical limits that went soft towards the end of the school year is one thing I’m prepared to maintain. Running trails and looking at huge trees, noble and Triassic, is something I have to keep doing.

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With that I have committed to more writing experiments every day as that’s the only way I can find the “treasures” as Gilbert alludes to in Big Magic.  It’s clear now that diligence and routine are the strongest ways of locating them.

Several hours ago while the kids watched Good Dinosaur again, I took out the recycling trash and something caught my eye. This giant bloom wasn’t there late last night when I watered the plants. It’s like the pressure in the air pushed her out into the world. She didn’t come out with a trumpet’s horn. Her buds were concealed, cloaked in an understated brush. I walked to take out the recycling and she caught my eye. She looked like a woman in a red dress, blooming and surprising the spectator, maybe even herself.

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I’m preparing to be more willing, especially with fiction. The story that has lived in my head and in fragments on the screen for almost two years want to go somewhere, and I can feel it.  As Lamott says, I want to “squint at an image that is forming in [my] mind,” and to clear a space “for the writing voice.” I’m saying it here so I hold myself to the task,  even if it gets noisy and has me bumping into windows like the crazy flies preparing for the rain this morning.

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Uninked

During the summer, I can see what it’s like to work from home or to not have a job at all. I’ll go to the gym in the morning and wonder how so many people are already there and imagine what their daily lives involve. A few days ago, my body already ached from pushing too hard that week, but I made myself attend a kickboxing class. The room was filled with an array of badass poptarts, colorful and ready to jump, uppercut, and heave someone at any moment. Strong women, commonly beautiful in their commitment.

The 9:45 am-energy in this class was unlike anything I’ve seen in that studio, maybe because I’m accustomed to going to the “I’ve-had-a-long-day” classes at night. The boxing instructor taught in motorcycle boots, tight jeans, and a razorback top showing off her tattoos. Her hair was down, flying around at each jab, and she was rocking it.

A common denominator with some women in that room was tattoos. Women in the rows in front of me had a garden of them. Vines on forearms, birds on necks, words on thighs. All of them have a story, I hope, and I was the wallflower wanting to know about each of them. Ink on skin is like ink on paper—they hold a truth, a story. Tattoos instantly say to me, I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. I’m not complacent; I control the story.

Sheltering eventually makes everything seem so avant-garde. My generation of Persian girls spent so time writhing in their awkward years. Our parents tried to keep us modest, hoping that the shade cast from our overgrown eyebrows would keep us out of trouble. Eventually, we would recognize we don’t have to be blond to feel confident (although most of us have tried that route at least once), but by that time the damage would already be done. After middle school, it would take 10 more years before we could recognize that a boy and a girl can actually be friends, that driving someone home after school is not a big deal, that staying late for games is normal, that not seeing a future in every step is okay, and that making mistakes is fun and good—like that great line from Gregory Alan Isakov, “If it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone.” Growing up comes with common angst, but our adab can make the obstacle that much more…ethnic.

The loud bass in the class encouraged us to fight in unison, a solidarity that could be channeled to light cities, a visual reminder of our capabilities. These women who walked from different roads to get to class that Thursday morning are all part of a remarkable gender. I’ve said this many times before and will say it again:  women are the superior gender—naturally capable, able to be the stereotype and to break it, distinguish our inside and our outside. Sure, some of us might rule the world like a khanoom, a lady whose hands may fold over one another in her lap but only because she’s mastered multitudinous tasks and silently observes as if from a balcony over the crowd.

She carries, births, raises, cultivates, and preserves more than children; she’s the fraternal twin to Mother Nature. She’s like Alabama Shakes on stage, Brittany Howard rocking and redefining; she is Esme Patterson’s bird call, cooing with girlish ferocity in a duet with Shakey Graves. These ideas make me wonder about my past and about what I’m capable of; they make me imagine how one clichéd late night with friends would change both the way I see myself and the road I walked on.

It’s ironic that during this holy month of Ramadan that I should be thinking so strongly about the power of those tattoos and how much I want one. When everyone’s in bed and I’m given some silence to let words fall into their place in my head, I wonder how my life would have been if I had gotten a tattoo after high school. I never really wanted one then, and my father’s firm stance against them was clear.  I think, too, that what is un-inked is also a story. In Brooklyn, Jim tells Ellis, who has returned to Ireland after emigrating to America,  that deep down he is terrified of things that he’ll never do.  I supposed I’m suggesting that there is a figurative divide between the tattooed and the not-tattooed, and I wonder what it’s like on the other side.

Maybe it would be silly in some ways to get one now, but part of me wonders what else would come out of me as a result of the very defiance a tattoo outwardly projects. What decisions would I have made differently if I made that first bold move long ago? Or am I just glorifying it like I do so many of the things I didn’t do? Maybe I would have stepped on more toes, slammed doors harder, said no more permanently, rebelled a bit longer, or grown new skin sooner.

Certainly, I have my uninked stories that I’ve earned and that I cherish, but it doesn’t stop me from sitting here on this lazy summer afternoon and wondering about the possible-inked ones. 

Train