1. My desk faces a window that looks out onto the back yard and the park and the creek and the path along the creek that follows the water as it leads to the waterfall and then the river and then the ocean and then the sky (in truth, the path does not lead that far, but in my mind it does. In my mind there is a pathway that leads from my body along the grass and up the myriad trails sliced by the rain. In my mind, I follow a road made of rain, cutting my feet on water). But I digress. There are eleven trees framed in the square of glass of my window (my window is made from the liquid left over from the white glow of burning sand. My window flows like water. When I was little, the sand burned and the blue water licked my feet and cooled them down. Burning sand and cold water was the language of summer. Later, when I was older, I burned my hand on boiling water and cooled the burn on the frosty glass of an uninsulated window. When we grow, the world contradicts itself – that which is wondrous becomes more wondrous, and that which is strange becomes more strange, but we lose the words to call it so. This is the language of adulthood, and it is a dull thing.) Ten of the eleven trees have lost their leaves. Their branches hold the sky. But one stubbornly hangs on, and it is gold, gold, gold, its colors brazen against the blue.
2. There was only one last piece of pumpkin bread, and I fell into grief. I set it on an orange, plastic plate – the kind that we bought from Ikea when the kids were small because they would not break, but the kids refused to eat on them, and instead used them as frisbees (and terrible frisbees they were. The oblong shape made for a haphazard wobble. They could not be aimed, flung, chucked or caught. The could only make a chaotic splash of color against the world, before smacking against the ceiling or wall or floor.) There were eleven walnuts in the slice. I counted them over and over. The meat of the nut slices cleanly – a smooth, slick face, a fleshy give against the teeth. I ate it slowly, crumb by nut by crumb. And this is how it is: the work of our hands, though it is dead, keeps us alive. We feed upon the dead to slow our decay, and in this way we are one with the world.
3. My son and daughter are out of school and are banned from the computer and banned from the television, and banned from all media, and are banned from my room while I work (on a computer, for the media, because incongruity is the soul of family life). I can hear them in the other room, along with the sound of bells. There are no bells in my house, and yet my house rings and rings and rings.
4. There is a document open in my computer -the copy edits of a novel that will inch its way towards the world on legs that I did not fashion and eyes that I did not form. Writers will say that they do not play god, but we lie. We play god all the time. We create worlds and people and plot arcs. It’s just that we really suck at it – or we don’t realize that the worlds we create will swiftly leave the realm of our control. That our worlds have free will – a will that is almost instantly subverted by readers and publishers and critics and e-readers. My child’s e-reader has converted my story into a series of ones and zeros. This is a language I do not speak – a world I did not create – and yet somehow my characters live in it. I cannot help them there. I cannot assist them. I created them, but they have strayed beyond my reach. I wonder if this is how god feels about us.
5. During the fall and winter, I make soup almost every day – sweet potato soup and tortellini soup and fifteen bean soup and lentil soup and white bean soup and beer cheese soup and tomato soup and mushroom soup. I have never, ever used a recipe. This is why I cannot go back to graduate school – and really is the reason why I left teaching way back when. I suck at following the rules.
6. I also suck at numbers. I have no idea what my cell phone number is and it took me three years to learn my home phone number. However, I learned my husband’s cell number instantly. He didn’t even have to tell me twice. Maybe this is what it’s always like for married people – they are tattooed on our skin, tattooed in our eyes, tattooed in the muscle fibers of my heart. His name is etched on my bones.
7. When I was eleven, I went to camp and rode a horse named Champion. He was an asshole of a horse – rude, arrogant, and pompous. I was terrified of him. He bit my shoulder, leaving a bruise, and bucked me off onto the ground, leaving more bruises. My counselor asked me what I was doing to make him so angry. I said, “being alive.” They switched me to an ancient horse named Horace. He had no teeth.
8. I own eleven pairs of wool socks, though only three are currently without holes. I keep the pairs of socks with holes because I am a nostalgic person. I hang onto the memory of warm toes, the whisper of wool against the cold, wood floor. I hang onto them because I think that one day I will learn how to darn socks. This is a fantasy. I only ever received one D in my entire academic career. It was in Home Economics. My teacher wrote this about my locker caddy that I had sewn as my end-of-the-year project: “This locker caddy has no straight lines and no right angles. The hanger does not fit at the top. The pockets have holes. This would neither hang straight nor flat. It would not fit in a locker. It would not hold a comb or a brush or a scissors or a packet of pens. The mirror is not affixed straight. It does nothing that a locker caddy is supposed to do. But I love the color, and the butterfly applique was a nice touch. D-”
9. Last week I consumed eleven pieces of halloween candy in a single day – though not all at once. I am not proud of this. Please don’t tell my children.
10. When I was a park ranger, my husband and I staffed a station at Marmot Lake, which was thirty miles into the back country. I brought eleven books with me to keep me in words for the summer. Unfortunately, the first one was TOMMYKNOCKERS by Stephen King, which scared me so thoroughly, that I was put off books for a long time – as even a casual glance would send me into a fit of shivers. I did end up reading my copy of Borges’s Ficciones, and my copy of Moby Dick. The rest of the books I left in the ranger’s cache, for the next park employee who needed something to read. I did not, however, leave Tommyknockers. That I brought home and recycled.
11. I have eleven notebooks in my desk with the outlines and synopses and character descriptions and drawings and place descriptions and histories and bank notes and shopping lists and music lists and possible futures and every other tiny bit of background and complications and information for eleven different novels. I have not written these novels. I don’t know if I ever will.