Archive for the ‘let’s not ruin this with words’ Tag

It’s my first growing season   Leave a comment

I live about twenty minutes outside of Raleigh, the 43rd most populated state in the United states. It has a population of about 430,000. I live right next to Cary, which has a population of 151,000. I live in the heart of suburbia — “encroaching suburbia” is what it can best be called. The farm that Lacey and I visited in October is about five minutes from where I live.


When I was driving home a few weeks ago, I turned onto Church Street and noticed that there was an awful lot of smoke. As I continued driving, I thought it smelled like smoke, too. The smoke was only getting denser and denser the closer I got to the Presbyterian Church. Finally I spotted a sign — fireman training in progress. I glanced across the street from the church and saw a house engulfed in flames. I saw a woman sitting in a lawnchair, watching. I saw maybe one fireman standing outside the house. That’s all I saw in the split second before I turned my eyes back onto the road.

I wondered if I should go back and watch. Clearly they weren’t stopping the one woman on the lawnchair. But I was also very tired, since I had been up since 5:00 in the morning. I decided to go home and stay home.

I regretted that decision. What happened to going out and living? Seeing new sights? How often did one get to watch a house burn down?

Two days ago I kept myself busy. I cleaned a fishtank, in preparation for goldfish. I reorganized my living room. I read two books — I can’t really concentrate, so I would pick them up, read a page or two, set them down, and walk away. I ate well. I was feeling satisfied with myself. So I decided that I would, indeed, go take a closer look at the burned down house.

First of all, if someone ever asks me for fun things to do in Morrisville, NC, “walking down Church Street” is not something I would recommend. Church Street has intermittent sidewalks and the ground immediately drops down from the road. I was frequently in danger of being run over.

In the ditch between the road and the burned house, someone has tossed a fresh stack of hay, making it easy for me to cross over to the burned-down property. Where did they get the hay? Why do we have hay? Church Street is weirdly rural, in the center of suburbia.


However, the burned-down house had police tape all around it.

“I am a responsible 28-year-old member of society,” I told myself. “I’m not going to cross that line.”

But I was so far away and could only take so many pictures from one angle.

“I just won’t walk on the house,” I said. “Just on the lawn.”



So I got as close as five feet from the house. Look at those pictures. Totally worth getting a potential trespassing fine. I have no idea what the “C” means. Condemned? I don’t know legal things.

“Yes,” I said, inspecting the house in the fading light. “That is a burnt bunch of house things.”

I went home.

But, of course, living close to condemned houses and houses flying the Confederate flag isn’t the only good thing about living in encroaching suburbia. Since we’re surrounded by farms, we got to go berry-picking!

berry picking

They’re Sweet Charlie tomatoes from a farm near Cary. We picked them ourselves! In the sun! We had honey from the same farm! I bought a cantaloupe and a tomato plant. It’s the last days of berry-picking season, so there wasn’t much to get, but we managed to get a full bucket of blood-red strawberries (for pie, of course). I learned a lot! Strawberry plants have flowers! Honeybees are nice! Strawberries taste best right off the plant!

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I have been nibbled on by the were-hamster! When the full moon arises, I shall become a were-hamster! I shall enter the woods and feast on it!



This is relevant because I am now moving from somewhere I am well-liked   Leave a comment

When I was in third grade, we moved to Sterling, VA. My parents rented a townhouse in the Sugarland Run community there and I attended a nearby elementary school. We lived in that townhouse and I attended that school for two years. There, I made some friends, some connections, but I wasn’t part of any particular group; mostly I sat at my desk and read, to be perfectly honest. But I knew lots of people and was generally well-liked.

However, the winds of change were sweeping through Sterling. It was the mid-nineties, and the dot-com boom was in full swing. With it came AOL and Verizon and government contracts. Lots and lots of government contracts. A server hub was built in Sterling. AOL set up its headquarters right outside of town. New houses and schools were built to accommodate all its news residents. The demographics changed within the two years we lived there; the newbies had their large, fancy McMansions with high fees to pay for their “fascist” HOA. They looked down their noses at the likes of the established Sterling Park and Sugarland Run communities. They didn’t want their children going to school with those children. Boundaries shifted. To my mother’s horror, we would no longer be attending the same school we had attended for third and fourth grade. We would instead be attending…another school.*

The time was nigh. Just before the end of fourth grade, Mom and Dad bought a townhouse in the relatively new Cascades community and we moved in. For fifth grade, we attended a brand-spanking-new school with high test scores.

I never really fit in with the kids at that school. It was 1997, and we were all hitting pre-adolescence. I continued to read Animorphs and Star Trek novels in the back of the classroom. All the other kids wore designer children’s clothing and sang Spice Girls songs. I made one friend, but she moved away halfway through the year. I spent the year alone, desperately alone. The Vice Principal even noticed how alone I was and tried to make some popular girls spend time with me. I tagged along with them for about a day before going back to reading quietly in the back of the classroom. They were actually very nice (I was actually had many classes with one of them throughout middle school, and we were perfectly friendly), but we just didn’t have anything in common. I was just that girl who didn’t have any friends.

The same year that school opened, a new high school opened, right behind our townhouse. Towards the end of fifth grade, all of the fifth graders in the school district were bused to the high school to see a special production of Alice in Wonderland. Not everyone in my class would fit in our assigned row, and three of us had to go sit with another school. That school was my old school. We were sitting with all of my old classmates.

“Kelsey!” they all shouted.

“Hey guys!” I said.

“Geoffrey likes you!” said one boy.

Geoffrey gestured wildly that this was not true, but I laughed. I didn’t care whether Geoffrey liked me or not; what was more important was that I was welcomed back. I had a place. I was too goody-two-shoes of a girl to sit backwards on my seat, so instead I had to keep turning in my seat to add to conversations. I caught up with all my old classmates, how their schoolyear had gone and what middle school they were going to and how sports was going and how much they liked or didn’t like their classrooms and what books they read and where they had gone on vacations and oh the play was starting but I kept turning around to talk to my friends. Sitting next to me was a boy in my class named Andrew Olson. He was a boy I didn’t like very much; he teased me a lot. He slumped lower and lower in his seat throughout the whole afternoon.

I finally had to say goodbye to everyone from my old school as the chaperones collected us and brought us back to the bus. The class was waiting for us as we approached the bus.

We hadn’t even reached the whole way when Andrew Olson shouted at the class, “Well Kelsey made a lot of friends! All her friends were there! She wouldn’t stop turning in her seat and talking!”

And everyone was surprised, because I was tiny and quiet and smart and quiet and I never talked to anyone. Andrew Olson was brought back into the fold. I stared off into the sunlight and scratched my teeth, because I am gloriously attractive.

I heard a boy shout, “WHEN’S THE WEDDING?” followed by laughter. I worried about my dental health.

One of the girls in the class — Sam, maybe? — approached me. I was broken out of my sunlight-and-tooth-scratching reverie.

“Andrew Olson likes you,” she said.

Well that was right out of left field. Andrew Olson couldn’t stand the sight of me. I once won a science-review contest by remembering that the skin is the largest organ of the body, and he had followed me around the entire recess shouting “skin! skin!” at me. I said a cuss word one time and he had laughed hysterically at me. Another time I said a cuss word and he ratted me out.

I had no idea what to say so I just smiled awkwardly.

“Do you like him?”

This was clearly the heart of the matter. I have no idea what I said; I stammered it out, whatever it was.

So Andrew Olson, fuming, had to sit next to me on the bus ride back to school. He slouched in his seat and stared at the windshield. His friends sat in the back, popping their heads up, trying to see what we were doing. I had the window seat, and I stared out the window and rubbed my tongue along my teeth, thinking about plaque.

I wouldn’t have another date for nine years.

EDIT 8/22: Apparently I wasn’t clear enough on my school situation. My family liked the school I attended in 3rd/4th grade; they were “disappointed” in the school I attended in fifth grade. The school that I described as “dangerous” my family was indifferent to. The main reason that we moved to the house we ended up moving to was because it was right next to a high school, and my family wanted us to walk to high school rather than depend on transportation. I was mistaken.

*To this day I have no idea what was wrong with the school we would have gone to had we stayed in the rental townhouse. Mom insisted it was dangerous, or in a dangerous neighborhood, or something. I have had plenty of friends who attended that school who said that there was no such danger.

A Quiet Day in DC   Leave a comment

So the last two weekends, I’ve been attending E Street Cinema’s Miyazaki film festival. Every Saturday and Sunday, they show two films from Japan’s Studio Ghibli: a more adult-themed one at 10:30, and a family-friendly showing at 1:30. They change the films every weekend. Last weekend was Nausicaa: Wind in the Valley and then My Neighbor Totoro. This week’s fare was Porco Rosso and Spirited Away. I have now seen enough Miyazaki that I’m picking up on themes on my own, rather than just listening to what my friends say. I can see his take on environmental themes. We’re not here to save the planet, we are here to work with the planet. Also (this might be more of a Japanese trope than a Miyazaki-specific trope), the films are a lot slower than I’m used to seeing in American animation. In Spirited Away, for example, we watched Chihiro walk onto a train, find a seat, sit down in the seat, arrange herself, ensure her friends were comfortable, look at No Face, look next to her, then point at the empty space next to her, then we saw No Face’s reaction, then we watched No Face cross to the seat, then sit down, then we had a moment of them sit silently on the train as it moved.

Image unrelated. I just cracked up when the train splashed No Face in the film, because I remembered this .gif.

There were a lot of scenes like that, scenes which didn’t advance the plot or develop the characters, yet they held weight and meaning anyway. Not everything that we do every day develops our personalities or our life goals. Chihiro and No Face getting onto the train; Chihiro and Lin eating rice cakes and looking out over the newly-developed ocean; Porco doing loop-de-loops while flying to Milan; Signor Piccolo blowing the roof off of his shed while testing the plane engine; 90% of Nausicaa: Wind in the Valley. These moments do nothing for the story, and yet they felt important. Life is a stretch of quiet moments. We saw our characters go through their loud moments and their quiet moments. It felt important.

Walking out of those movies and blinking in the bright sunlight beaming down on E Street, that same contemplation still swimming over me, I realized that it was a gorgeous day and that I had absolutely nothing to do. No one needed me to be anywhere. I had nothing due. The parking lot charged me a flat fee; I paid $10 whether I was there two hours or ten. Nothing was stopping me from just being in DC.

So I walked to the Sculpture Garden and watched a security guard chase some kids off of a sculpture. Then I walked to the Mall.

The only real castle that America will ever get, and it’s a damn information desk.

Once I was at the Mall, I realized that I had been to the Mall a billion times, so I decided to go to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. I don’t know if I had ever been to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial before, but if I had, I don’t remember it. So it seemed worth going to, even though I was on 12th Street and had already walked a half-mile just to get to the Mall. So I walked a mile to the Jefferson Memorial.

People were flying kites and riding bikes and going for jogs. Tourists were taking photos. The carousel in front of the Air and Space museum was in full swing. The Washington Memorial had shed about 75% of its scaffolding. I sat down on the grass and tried to get a picture of my finger “touching” the top of the Washington Memorial. The lighting was terrible. I sighed. It all felt like it did in Europe, when I had napped all over the city. I would, regularly, arrive an hour or two ahead of my Rome to Augustus class, find a comfy-looking spot of granite or marble, and nap. I take an odd pride in my ability to nap on public spaces.

I didn’t feel much like napping, but I did lay out my coat, tuck my purse under my arm, and close my eyes. I just wanted to feel the sun on my skin for a bit. Just listen to the sound of the city. I could hear the wind; I could hear cars. I could hear scratching nearby. It sounded like feet running near my head. I figured it was just a kid running around and ignored it. The sun shone through my eyelids. I wondered if everything would be blue when I opened my eyes.

Someone whispered in my ear.

I screamed and sat up. The whisperer was already running away; some white dude in a green-on-white shirt, laughing hysterically. If this were a Miyazaki film, I would have had something angry but funny to say. But I didn’t. I just lay back down and closed my eyes again. But the spell had been broken. Lying on the ground was stupid. I got up, put my jacket back on, tucked my purse over my shoulder, and walked on.

Boy Scouts discussed ways to measure the length of the Washington Memorial’s shadow. I tried to get another picture of my finger touching the top of the Washington Memorial. Too blurry. I headed for the Potomac River, and the Jefferson Memorial.

I walked along the river. I fell in behind a gay couple discussing couches. They didn’t know what size was right for their living room. Above us were the Japanese Cherry Trees, not yet in blossom. The couple walked off farther down Ohio Street as I turned towards the Jefferson Memorial. Everything seemed to happening way too fast, so I sat down by the river and watched the paddleboats paddle.

I knew why some parts of the river registered as blue; that was the part of the river that was reflecting the sky. But where did the green come from? There are many mysteries in life. Dissatisfied with my inability to reason why the river looked green, I got up and headed for the Memorial.

I looked at the famous Stairs leading up the Memorial thought, hah. I could nap the hell out of those stairs. I didn’t, though. But I could have. I was also delighted by all the people taking pictures of each other. For some reason, one of my favorite things to look at is people taking pictures. Also several people seemed to realize that the normal pose, standing and smiling on the steps, is super boring to look at, so I watched as several different groups had their members pose in odd ways just to jazz up the vacation photos a bit.

After a moment I realized that I was staring, so I went inside, feeling a bit like a sheep.

Everyone was taking a picture of the statue, but I gawked at the ceiling and the floor. It was exactly like the dome of the Pantheon. Exactly like it. The more I studied the building, the more I realized how much the Memorial resembled the Pantheon. The ceiling was exactly like the Pantheon, except that the Pantheon has a hole in the middle of its roof (on purpose). I looked at the floor. The layout of the white marble was exactly like the layout of the Pantheon’s marble flooring, except ours was all white while the Pantheon’s was a variety of beautiful colors. I looked around; there was seating on the edges instead of random votives, and open views split apart by columns rather than random shrines. But the layout was remarkably similar to the Pantheon. I looked back at the main stairwell. Indeed, exactly where the ancients would have made their sacrifices, that was where there were extra fancy steps and a gigantic marble block.

No wonder I felt like I could nap on it. I had totally napped on its cousin in Rome.

I didn’t nap on it. I discovered that the columns were incredibly comfortable for resting against, though. I sat behind the statue, where most tourists didn’t go. The tourists that I did see were in a mood like me. They weren’t chatty. They weren’t filling itineraries or taking pictures. They were looking at the road beyond, at the river, at the nearby trees, at airplanes taking off from Reagan National Airport. We sat in contemplation together. Watching. Waiting. Admiring the quiet moment for what it was. Quiet.

Oh Cicero   Leave a comment


Finals season for the summer session is upon us! I am now doing boring things. The downside to reading scholarly articles written in the 1950s is that all of the quotes are still in Latin, because Latin and Greek scholarship was still pretty common back then. So I have to bring the old Latin dictionary out and dust out my Latin grammar, which has been sitting in the attic for months under some old tourist maps and a pile of cobwebs.

I refuse to translate this:

Vidi enim hesterno die quendam murmurantem, quem aiebant negare ferri me posse, quia, cum ab hoc eodem impurissimo parricida rogarer cuius essem civitatis, respondi me, probantibus et vobis et equitibus Romanis, esse eius quae carere me non potuisset. Ille, ut opinor, ingemuit.

Apparently it contains some zingers, but no. I refuse to try. I’m willing to translate this:

aliqua gloria iusta et merit

I think it means “Some fair and deserved glory”, roughly.

I’m not entirely sure why I find this so funny, but I do.

Oggi   Leave a comment

Why didn’t anyone tell me

The Roman Forum!

It was there all along!

I just had to look behind the Palatine Hill

No, seriously, I love this. I love looking at a whole group of ruins, unfolding before you. You can see, just a little bit, how it must have looked to people standing there 2000 years ago.

Also, people were throwing coins at this monument. I don’t really understand why. I actually saw some people throwing coins. It appeared to be an athleticism thing rather than a good-luck thing. It didn’t really answer my question of “why”.

Some other pictures I took on my drawing errand:

“To be, or not to be. That is the question.”

This is the view from the building on top of the Palatine.

This is il Teatro di Marcello, Marcellus’ Theatre. Marcellus was Augustus’ nephew, by his sister Octavia’s first marriage (not to Mark Antony). It sits right next to Octavia’s Temple, which held a temple to Jupiter and Juno. This area also functioned as the Jewish ghetto and the fish market. There are pictures of actual stores being built into the Theatre there. Mussolini kicked the storeowners out and tore the stores down to restore the Theatre to its former glory. Nowadays it functions as part of the structure for the apartment building behind it. Can you imagine??? Living in a ruin? A ruin of a building commissioned by Emperor Augustus himself? Oh my gosh.

Mantenete Italia strana   1 comment

A correction: I can wear my sandals and my boots. I cannot wear the blue tennis shoes Mom bought for me. They still hurt my ankle. I’m considering figuring out my European shoe size and going shoe shopping. (I’m a 37-37.5, apparently)

Anyway, the last 24 hours have been interesting. At around this time last night, we heard a whole bunch of popping outside our windows. It lasted for what felt like a really long time. Finally I stood up, walked into the living room, and asked Sarah and Deanna, “Is that gunfire?”

“We were wondering the same thing,” Sarah said.

Deanna and I speculated while Sarah was proactive and did research. Meanwhile, the popping sounds continued.

“It’s their independence day,” she reported. “It’s fireworks.”

We all rushed to get our shoes on. Sarah and I were rushing to the door while Deanna struggled with her shoes. Just as the door opened and Deanna finally had her shoes on, the noises




Disappointed, we all went back to doing what we had been doing before.

I got an email around midnight that said that public transportation workers would be holding a strike on the 3rd, so I should plan to leave early. This became: I arrived right on time. Although that’s more because I got lost. The tram was working, so I was able to get to the Largo di Argentino (the cat shelter) no problem. Then I turned right rather than walking straight. I almost got to the Palantine Hill before I realized my mistake.



…Oh, darn.

I turned around and went back to the square, and then figured out the right way to get to the Piazza Navona, where I was supposed to meet my drawing class. Fortunately, it wasn’t far from where the train had dropped us off.


I’ve decided that Rome is prettiest in the early morning.

The Piazza Novona, according to my professor, used to be a racetrack for pre-Roman civilizations. The Piazza still has the same shape, but various popes and other city leaders have had it filled it and have had fountains put in there. Now it’s a place where artists go and hang out, much the same way that writers hang out in Starbucks.


It’s also a place where immigrants sell mass-produced artwork to tourists.

Our assignment for the day was to make gesture drawings with sanguine pencils.




There were rings around all of the fountains. While we drew the fountains, several of us sat on the rings. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was easier than having to hold all of our stuff as we drew. While I was drawing the foot, some police officers came by and kicked everyone off of the rings. There were people sitting on the edge of the fountains, having their pictures taken. They were asked to leave the fountains, even without the pictures taken. They shooed a two-year-old away.

The girl I was next to told me that last week some drunk Americans had bathed in the fountain and even tried to climb the fountain. They were probably just trying to crack down on tourists messing around the fountains.

I got better at the gesture drawing as time wore on. Probably my best gesture drawing was the one that the teacher pointed out in front of the class, the picture of Elly from behind. It’s in the second picture, second from the right. Although the teacher described my technique as “chalky”, she said that I “make it work” and that it “has my unique handwriting.” I dunno I just do gesture drawings like this and so far no one has bothered to correct me. Last time I took a drawing class, I struggled with it until finally I started doing this, and then that teacher stopped complaining, so I just did it again for this class.

After I did the picture of the foot, I was able to leave, and I really needed to because I needed to finish my presentation for my Rome to Augustus class. So with some sadness I left the Piazza Navona.






Keep it classy, Piazza Novona.

On my walk to school from the Piazza:




I was nowhere near as prepared for my presentation as I thought I was, but after class I ran home, changed into more suuitable exercise gear, and then ran back to school for exercise class. I ran up to the fourth-floor terrace, and look what I found.




I never did find my exercise class, but this was worth it.