Too Happy to Cheer

Today I found out a book review I did is going to be featured in an upcoming fanzine. I was emailed an advance copy of the zine. I was very impressed with everyone’s work. There is no love like fan love. When I was growing up, the worst thing you could do was to act like you loved anything too much. Sarcastic and aloof, blank eyes and a sneer were the coolest poses. Even if you were unexpectedly caught liking something, you had to keep up appearances by pretending to be trying it on casually. You couldn’t know too many details, like the names of key cast members or plot details, unless it was something popular like Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbeaan, or Tim Burton films. Then it was perfectly okay to sing every song from the soundtrack at lunch or something. In any case, since I have grown up it has been both a sigh of relief and a culture shock to be embraced by active fan communities for things I love, like LGBTQ romance novels,  the tv series “Queer as Folk,” the late and beloved actor River Phoenix, and, in the case of this fanzine the writer V.C. Andrews.

When I got a message saying my writing had been selected, I was wildly excited, but this euphoria was like colorful makeup put on to disguise the fact that I was actually afraid that nothing would come of it. The zine would never get off the ground, or my entry wouldn’t be credited with my name if it was. Worst case scenarioes that felt more plausible than someone actually liking my writing that much, and the love and brave expression of that love being openly expressed by fans amounting to tangible effort.

Well, today when I actually got a Facebook message that my advance copy of the zine was waiting in my inbox, I felt something different. Not giddy, but not exactly underwhelmed. I told my family, they congratulated me genuinely and enthusiastically, but it felt natural to me in a way that hearing about the zine when I thought it wouldn’t happen didn’t . I realized that when you are doing what you love and things come out as you’ve wished, hoped ,and worked for, it makes you too happy even to cheer. Too happy to brag about on Facebook or text anyone about, so happy but so calm because it is a kind of gravity, and we thank the Earth for continuing to spin by walking everywhere we usually go. I procrastinate and get self conscious about writing, but lo and behold it is what I am doing right now.

Two Mint Plants

Well, I named this blog about two months ago, but I don’t really like the name anymore and I wish I could change it. But, nothing ever really changes on the Internet, when you think about it. Technically, we can Edit, Delete, change usernames and profile pictures to out heart’s content, in a way that we only wish was available in real life. However, I have always been fascinated by the residue that our posts and pursuits actually leave. It can be like finding a time capsule. I remember getting into Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles when I was 13-via the Gosh awful movie “Queen of the Damned” that I still love out of nostalgia and love for Aaliyah and Stuart Townsend in leather pants-and searching for Vampire Chronicles fanfiction. Despite her notorious fanfic purges of the late90’s/early aughts, some still lingered on LiveJournals and Angelfire sites. I stumbled upon a crossover of the Vampire Chronicles and the film “The Crow”. Gosh, I thought, this is the most 90’s thing possible. I felt like I had been transported back to 1994. It was eerie, exciting, and precious, to think of a world in which this was not a nostalgia trip but current culture, something being created and consumed in a living feedback rather than obscure effluvia I had stumbled on while everyone else was watching the last season of “Buffy”. (Well, I was too, but you have to admit she wasn’t the best guidance counselor ever…).

Sometimes, going back is not so fun. That is why we erase so hastily, yearn to, read the FAQs until we think we have found a way to Delete.  That’s a human hang-up. Nature doesn’t do that. I don’t think the earth regrets. Even when something seems to fail or mutate, it has still served a purpose and lived its life. And it usually finds a way to come back again. Today, I started a garden. I have spent the last couple of days buying plants, compost, and fertilizers with my family. It’s not something that we have been able to do together for a couple of years, due to lots of illness and conflict. I can’t even put into words how fun it was to walk in the mud between the rows of herbs,  crawl in the dirt, put my hands in it, and dance to Led Zeppelin in the sunshine as the music poured out of my brother’s phone. Two of the plants that I put in the ground today have been my house plants for a few months now. I bought them at my old job, at a time when things were Not Looking Good. I was a full time employee with health and educational benefits, at a time when this company cannot afford too many of those people around. All of a sudden my name was mud, and every day was poisoned with the stress of some new accusation leveled at me so that I would just go ahead and quit already, stop wasting money by continuing to show up every day and  be competent.

I rubbed the mint leaves between my fingers, and revelled in their sweet, sharp scent on my hands. I dug my fingertips into the moist dark earth in the pot until I could feel the spidery, fleshy roots, almost. It grounded me, it soothed me, it made me feel like there was a real world of green leaves and dirt out there beyond the cement floor I was standing on, and once spring came this madness would be over and I would rejoin that world. The inevitable happened at work….but I still had my plants. I watered the same leaves and roots I had rubbed and sniffed comfort from the day I walked out of the job for the last time in the next few weeks, as I scheduled interviews at what became my new job, went in for orientation, and began work in a new town and employer.  I couldn’t erase, delete, or change these plants. The leaves died on their own time, and grew back again. There was no spirit of regret coming from the two mint plants as they turned dry and brown, as I pruned them with scissors, as tiny new leaves formed on tender shoots. The earth accepted them into the mud, there was no rejection from the dirt because these plants came into my life “at a bad time”.

When we change or bury things on the internet, it is usually done out of embarassment or a sense that “that’s just not me anymore.” What comes back is usually random and nostalgic, a little kitschy, a little odd just for having survived the collective will to bury what doesn’t serve us anymore. In nature, however, things know how to arrive at the end and return to life again with a peaceful spirit. There is no need for forgiveness because nature doesn’t doubt, blame, or remember anything that doesn’t in some way, concern birth.

So, this blog can stay SpeakMemory. That is the tile of Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir. I am not a huge Nabokov fan, really. I read Lolita in high school. It was a tattered, blue,cloth bound copy that my English teacher said belonged to the first woman he had ever kissed. I loved the book,, and it didn’t really shock me because at 16 you don’t put much past anyone and have no sense of humor, really. Children are quite pedantic. There was an excerpt of Speak, Memeory in a textbook, and I can’t remember too much about Nabokov’s childhood but those words were talismanic, they had the same unquestionable  fairy tale magic of “Open Sesame” or “Abracadabra”, but with an ominous element of suspense. If we command  our memory to speak, will it actually tell us what we remember? Like any act of magic, it is a dangerous undertaking to ask the memory a question. I have known that for a long time. I cringe at this name whenever I look at it, so obviously I am not comfortable with that knowledge. I would like to forget. So it deserves to stay, so that I can grow without shame like my two mint plants.