Two Thoughts for a Sunday

One:

I will be incredibly sad if there ever comes a day where I do not get excited that we have chocolate pudding and mango juice in the house. And by excited I mean crazy-dancing-in-the-kitchen-with-the-cats-when-no-is-looking excited.

Two:

I also miss the beach. It’s getting too chilly for weekend getaways, and I can no longer sit on top of our kayak and read for hours on end. It’s carefully covered in the basement now and I’m many miles away, spending close to eight hours a day in cafés, writing. But even though I’m feeling nostalgic and wistful, part of me doesn’t want to be there. If life consisted solely of summer at the beach, it wouldn’t be special anymore. I wouldn’t get excited stomachaches the night before we left or enjoying walking into town for milky way ice cream every evening. I wouldn’t like having to constantly change clothes to deal with the temperature changes or having to put up with how the humidity makes my normally very straight hair bushy. It’ll be seven months until I return, so for now I’ll look at pictures and sigh.

You can also find me hanging out on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/.

In Which Ella Gets Caught in the Rain, Tells Stories from Middle School, and Visits Cecelia at Yale

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being caught in the middle of a torrential downpour without an umbrella.

Add to that carrying a backpack, a purse, a jacket (no hood), and a bag of books, and you’d have me standing outside of a very large train station this evening, trying to figure out the next leg of my trip home.

The books, thank God, were in a plastic bag from the Yale bookstore that completely protected them from the rain, but I had nothing to cover my body or bags. I watched the leather of my purse turn dark, the padded straps and back of my backpack began to retain water, and I could only imagine what was happening to the things inside of my backpack as the wet seeped through. My shirt was sopping and sticking to my skin like an extra layer of white and blue striped epidermis, and the front of my jeans were drenched. I had decided that I wasn’t even going to think about what my hair looked like, which meant, of course, that I was entirely focussed on it.

And then once I was finally indoors again, the really misery set in. I was sopping wet, and where I wasn’t, I was damp. And all I could do was sit still and wait to dry out. Let me tell you, it takes a very, very long time for jeans to dry and even longer for backpack padding. So when I had to pick my bag back up again to walk, my dry shirt was dry no longer.

But despite the fact that traveling home was not the world’s most fun experience, the trip was entirely worth it, and I have had worse experiences in the rain.

Keeping with the tradition of saving the good news for last, I’ll first share with you one of my rain horror stories.

When I was in middle school, I took the school bus to and from school every morning and afternoon. One day, it was raining. I didn’t think much of it when it started coming down at around nine, but by ninth period I began to get a little worried. The rain had not stopped, I was not dressed for the weather (I was wearing brand new suede Puma sneakers and did not have a jacket or umbrella.), and I could see giant pools of water forming wherever there was an indentation in the ground. An uneven sidewalk seam would create a lake. But then dismissal bell rang, and I ran out of the building, racing towards the buses, along with the other seven hundred students.

At that point, my biggest concern was how wet my shoes were going to get while I ran a block and a half home. (At this point of my life, I had decided that the optimal way of traveling to and from the bus stop was to sprint, completely hunched over with a very determined scowl on my face. My backpack was neon green, and I had strapped my lunch box to it at an odd angle, and it would thump loudly as I ran. It also occasionally would smack me on top of my head. In my defense, I was doing all of this when I was twelve, and now at eighteen, I walk upright with very few signs of complete insanity.) But then the bus started driving, and I noticed that we were taking a very different route. I first panicked, thinking that I had gotten on the wrong bus, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t and the route was just wonky because there was flooding.

I live on a hill at the base of a mountain, and there was no way for the bus to get to my or anyone else’s houses. We got let out over a half mile from home and had to wade across the train track through upper-shin-deep water. I took off my shoes, put them in my lunch box, and did it in my socks. For the next ten plus minutes, I walked in the rain through water of varying depths back to my house. Did I mention that it was early March and the temperature had significantly dropped since the morning?

But in the words of my first choir master, we’ve had our onions, and now it’s time for the orchids. (He said this when giving us reviews of our weekly performances in church. When I first heard it at the age of nine, I couldn’t understand what was wrong with onions. They’re in practically everything you cook! How were they somehow evil? And then my mother had me chop one myself, and my view entirely changed.)

But back to the present.

I got to see Cecelia! Albeit, it wasn’t even for twenty-four hours, but I’ll take whatever I can get. We walked all over campus yesterday afternoon as she gave me the grand tour of Yale.

Now, I have been to Yale a lot. It’s my parents’ alma mater, but seeing it from Cecelia’s eyes is entirely different, and to be perfectly frank, quite a bit more fun. We checked out the farm to visit the salad greens she had planted and explored her residential college. I met her incredibly nice and funny roommate. We ate dinner at my mother’s favorite New Haven restaurant and split a piece of carrot cake, only to eat double scoop ice cream cones five minutes later.

Later, we spent well over an hour in the Yale bookstore where I had the most awful time narrowing down my I-CANNOT-LEAVE-HERE-WITHOUT-IT list down to two: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. And then we watched a movie, which in typical fashion, meant that Cecelia fell asleep about fifteen minutes in.

The next morning, we had breakfast in a bookstore and went to the Yale Art Gallery. I have been having a torrid love affair with their third floor modern art exhibit for many years now, and this Ellsworth Kelly painting and I had a very happy reunion.

(If you ever have the chance, visit the Yale Art Gallery’s modern art collection. It is phenomenal.)

Sadly, after that I had to leave. But the Yale-Harvard game isn’t too far away, so I’ll be back soon.

In other news, I get to see Tal and hopefully Lily tomorrow! There might even be some visiting with Audrey! Long live trains and colleges’ fall weekends!

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Falls in Love with Happiness

I have blisters on my feet, my eyes are seeing double, and I’m so tired I could fall asleep without a pillow on the kitchen’s tiled floor.

But none of that matters.

I had the most terribly perfect, horribly wonderful, and awfully amazing day today. There were books and there were parks and there was shopping and there was walking and there was modern art and there was meeting some of my literary idols. Libba Bray and I had a conversation so awesome that it nearly made me cry later on when I was walking back to the subway. On the train home, I figured out part of my novel that I had been struggling with and was suddenly struck by an idea for another book. And now, I’m in bed with my beloved laptop ready to relish the night and darkness before I go to sleep.

Every year, I have a few days like this, where nothing in the world goes wrong and everything just feels good. It doesn’t last, but, in a way, I don’t want it to. It wouldn’t be as lovely if everyday were perfect. It’d just be a monotony of joy. I want my happiness to be shocking, like ice water on a hot day or an unexpected present. And that’s what today was: a genuine surprise of wonderful.

But I am tired and babbling. My eyes keep drifting shut, and I feel the urge to hum a long, contented “mmhm” until I run out of breath. So I will. I’ll be just like a purring cat or a dog thumping his tail or a rabbit doing whatever weird happy thing rabbits do.

Mmhm. Happy.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Declares Her Love for the Night

Oh for goodness sakes am I tired. My eyelids burn, my head is heavy, and I want nothing more than to lean over, bury my head in the pillows, and just sleep. For hours and hours and hours. But it’s not exactly an option.

It is night, and I hate to waste it sleeping. These dark hours are my favorite. It’s as if I am the only one alive in the world, and I can do whatever I want without anyone ever seeing or knowing. I do my best writing after midnight, and I’ve grown accustomed to the clock showing one, two, even three in the morning before I drift off. But the exhaustion is worth it just to have those quiet hours where it’s only me and the crickets chirping.

Perhaps it’s because bad things never happen in the middle of the night, and you don’t have to deal with all of the sucky parts of the day. You’re running away from them, but this time it’s okay. You can’t be expected to fix an argument or stop being so depressed because everyone’s asleep and every place is closed. So it’s okay to pretend that everything is alright and that you’re gonna be okay.

And the cats are always up. They climb up on my bed. All three of them. Rolley fur-balls, nuzzling their wet noses and mouths against my hand and settling down in the most inconvenient places, forcing me to contort my body in order to share the bed. But I don’t mind. I think they might be the best companions in the world. But people are still pretty good, too.

Sometimes, you don’t have to share the darkness alone. Sometimes, there’s someone there with you to talk to and say things you never would if it were light out. The night makes life feel a little more safe to let down all of those barriers. I love talking on the phone, leaning halfway off my bed, seeing how close I can get my head to the floor before I overbalance and have to grab at the sheets to avoid falling. I love talking to people at sleep-overs until the wee hours and when they fall asleep in the middle of an answer, leaving me wondering how lucky I am to have friends like them.

But most of all, I love how not so many people like the night as much as I do. It’s my time, all for me, and it’s rare that I ever have to share it. I get to be horribly selfish with absolutely no consequences.

But as much as I’d like to, I can’t stay up until all hours tonight. I really ought to go to bed. Because tomorrow morning, I’m going on an adventure.

I’m taking my self to MoMA and to a book launch for Maureen Johnson’s In the Name of the Star. I might go my favorite book store and to nerdfighter MJ party. Maybe I’ll take some pictures to share. I’ll write in a park and make up stories while I’m riding on the subway. It’ll be amazing.

But when I come home, it’ll be dark again, and I’ll have these wonderful hours just to be, exactly the way I like it.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I Have a Confession to Make: I Sleep With Books

Hello. I’m Ella, I’m seventeen, and I sleep with books.

It’s kind of a problem, you know, such hard rectangles do not make very good pillows, and they are often wont to leave curious red marks on your face and body when you lie on them for too long. Beds are made for people and animals, not things. Besides, wouldn’t it be so much better, if you didn’t have to worry about rolling over into a face full of paper?

Ah, but you don’t know what lovely bed-mates books make. They don’t snore or kick*, and they don’t hog the covers. They stay where you want them until you decide to move them, and they don’t wake up really early in the morning and leave you all alone**. They don’t even get annoyed when the cats sleep on top of them! And whenever you wake up or can’t sleep, they’re there, ready to do your bidding without complaint until you drift off again.

Right now, I’ve got four books neatly piled next to the pillows and three cats curled up on the bed. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to fit, but we’ll make it work. We always do.

*About five years ago, Pippa and I had to share a bed at an hotel over Thanksgiving, and I woke up in the morning to discover that she had put her pillow on top of my bottom and was sleeping on it. I kid you not.

**It always freaks me out when I wake up and discover that whomever was in my bed when I fell asleep isn’t there anymore. In those first groggy moments of wakefulness, I become panicked that they’ve been abducted or abandoned me for good. Thankfully, the kidnappers tend to leave them in the kitchen, and the abandoners always seem to end up there, too. It must be the hip place to be at six a.m. I hear it’s got coffee and yogurt.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I Have Found a New Wonderful Thing to Love

I have found a new wonderful thing to love.

Blue Over Orange (Ellsworth Kelly)

Isn’t it lovely?

I just want to sit down on the floor in front of it and stare and stare and stare until it’s closing time in the museum, and I have to leave. Maybe I’ll stay there, seated Indian-style on the floor and they’ll have to grab me by my arms and drag me across the floor, my clothes and hair becoming a dust mop, as I strain my neck to keep eye contact with the blue and the orange and the white.

But it isn’t in a museum. Someone bought it for nine thousand five hundred dollars in an auction in 2007. Someone else gets to keep this beautiful, wonderful, perfect thing just for themselves. And I can only download the lithograph from Google Images.

I wonder if they love it as much as I do, if they’d let themselves become a dust mop, just so that they could have a few more moments of staring.

Probably not.

They’re most likely modern art collectors, but I don’t even know if it’s because they love it or if they want to impress their friends, relatives, neighbors, business associates at their cocktail party where they position the picture so that everyone will see it and know that they had nine thousand dollars to spend on art, which of course, means that they are quality, important people.

But for now I’ll just continue staring at my computer screen until my eyes become even more uncomfortably bloodshot. If I turn down the brightness, I can have another ten minutes of quiet meditation before it’s time to read poetry and turn in for the night. Maybe tonight when I dream, I’ll have this painting all to myself if only for a little while.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Rain Again for Wednesday

Remember that time I wrote about being inside while it was raining? You know, yesterday? Well, it’s raining again right now, and yesterday’s storm is nothing compared to this. Someone might as well be dangling from the old maple trees in the front yards and pouring down huge buckets of water from the sounds it’s making on the roof. But there is no thunder. Oh, how I do love a good clap of thunder. The type of thunder that’s so shocking, deep, and loud that you feel it in your chest.

UPDATE: Never mind, there was just a giant bolt of lightening and some thunder. This girl is very happy right now. I do love a good thunderstorm. If it’s got to rain, it should at least do it with some passion.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Rain, the Bluish Tinge of Aquariums, Dancing With Scarves, And Wonderful Feelings

It’s raining.

And there’s something thumping against the side of the house.

But I am inside, separate from the deluge of water, caught in what seems to be one of the common situations ever written about: being inside and watching the rain fall.

And yet, even though it is so common, I rather like it. I like the safety of my second floor bedroom as the rain comes streaming down. I like the sound of the rushing water on the roof. I like watching the rain run in rivers down the side of the street, nestled against the curb, towards the storm drain at the end of the block.

It doesn’t have the same ferocious beauty of a thunderstorm or the brilliant calm of snow, my two favorite types of inclement weather, but it’ll do with its dull, somewhat depressing gloom.

When I look out the window, I’m reminded of the color settings on my camera, and how when you go to change the picture to black and white, there’s also an option for blue, which casts the image in that same sort of tinge you see inside of an aquarium, where the passages between the giant tanks of sharks and tropical fish–though never in the same tank together– are mostly lit by the light shining into the tanks, so that the animals are brighter than you.

The red shirt I was wearing when I ran by the stingrays at the age of ten appeared almost purple, exactly like the way the car across the street looks right now, and my green sandals were even more deeply saturated than usual, not unlike the front lawn and the shrubs along the front walk.

If it weren’t so late and if it weren’t so chilly, I would run outside without an umbrella or coat, not caring that my shirt is mostly white and that my jeans will take forever to dry. I’d go barefoot, because dancing in the rain  should be done in wild abandon, without any sorts of constraints. I’d let pieces of grass stick to my feet and dirt cover my toes, and I’d spin in circles and run leaping through the yard.

It would be like the movement classes I took at school until I was twelve. The classes where we would be handed grey gauzy scarves and told to portray jealousy while the teacher played classical music on the harpsichord. Sometimes, she would pass out balloons and tell us to throw them in the air and very carefully watch how they fell, the way they seemed to be caught and cushioned by the air as they drifted down into our reaching hands.

And so I would watch the rain and how it fell. I would hold out my arms and pretend I had scarves and just move in some sort of fashion that meant everything to me and looked a little loony to everyone else.

And it would be perfect.

But I’m inside, and I won’t be leaving tonight. I’m lying on my bed, propped against pillows, reading about Nicholas Tesla, watching videos online of beautiful things, like the Game of Life, people’s travels and thoughts, landscapes, and portraits made out of corkscrews, and looking at pictures of rooms so impeccable, they seem utopian.

Click on the picture for more house yum.

I imagine Tesla’s lightening and his infatuation for pigeons, the way that all brilliance is sprinkled with something mad. I think about the power of words and pictures and all things impossibly lovely and how they cast such a wonderful feeling over me. The sort of blissful feeling that makes me want to cry a little bit and smile all at the same time and just stay still breathing for as long as I can. I like to think of it as my love for the universe. And when I have that feeling draped over me, I just enjoy it. Because in those moments, nothing hurts.

Finally, when I feel as though I’ve soaked it in as much as I can, I put fingers to keys and write. Because, sometimes, I think that writing and loving things, people, and animals is what I do best. Also, it’s what I love most to do.

And so I am here, watching the rain pour down and drench the black, asphalt of the road, the granite curbstones, and the slate sidewalk. It makes the merciless grey concrete of the front walk shiny and the potted plants overflow as water pours over their terra cotta rims. And the grass and the plant bed soak in the wet, like a sponge, until they can’t anymore, and the water pools in indents in the earth. It creates droplets on the cars, and if I weren’t so far away, I could race the raindrops as they zigzagged their way downwards.

But I’m inside.

So here it is, my cliché and for once I love it.

In the spirit of trying new, creative things, I have made a youtube video of me reading today’s post.

(Yes, I know I stumbled over saying Tesla the first time, no need to point it out.)

I’d like to know what you think: Should I do this again for some other posts or is having me read it annoying or uninteresting?

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Ella Explores the Beach

Thanks to a hurricane power outage, please enjoy some teaser pictures from my vacation in this post written before the storm struck. I’ll provide the story behind them as soon as we’ve got the power back!

I Am In Love With the Impossible Miracle of the Universe

The day that I spent close to eight hours in the airport, I purchased The Year of Living Biblically from the airport bookstore. I’ve been reading it off and on since then, so one day when we were at the beach, I grabbed the book and headed down to the beach to read. My parents had just carried our kayak down, so while they swam the long distance to the buoy and back, I perched on the green hull and read the final fifty pages.

My parents are the two black dots on the left next to the buoy.

And when I finished, I slowly closed the book, dug my feet a little deeper into the sand and stared out across the beach in silence, letting people’s shouting, conversations, and the crashing of the waves becoming a dull buzzing in the background.

I slowed my breathing down and reached out for that periwinkle calm feeling that descends on me whenever I write or pray. I didn’t grab at it with needy fingers the way I am now as I desperately try to write blog posts for the coming days without power or the internet. I merely turned my hands palms up in my lap and waited. And it came with its softness and gentle weight, settling down over my shoulders and in the pit of my stomach.

Pressing my palms and fingers lightly together, I looked straight out over the water, let out a slow breath through my lips, and said, “Hello, God? Are you here, somewhere around me? I want to talk to you.”

I don’t pray very much. It’s more like a three to four times a week kind of thing for me, and it only ever happens when I’m really, really happy, really, really scared, or at church. Normally, I rush it, almost as if He wouldn’t hear it if I took more than a few minutes. But even if I’m trying to jam it all in in the minute of silence during Prayers of the People or in the few minutes following communion, I always ask permission. I know I never need it–God is always there, listening–but if I’m going to do something so terribly important, I want to make sure that we’re both entirely ready.

I waited a moment just feeling the pressure between my two hands and then said, “Hi, God. It’s me, Ella. I know that sounds just like the title of the Judy Blume novel about a girl named Margaret, but it sounds like such a nice opening to begin talking to you.”

And so I prayed, sitting there silently, trying to thank God for all that He has done for me. The clouds drifted slowly across the sky, and I thanked him for my friends, for my family, and I kept going until I was waxing poetic about the grains of sand clinging to my legs.

All of a sudden, the sky seemed to get a little brighter and the sun just a little bit warmer, but it wasn’t in a you-should-put-on-some-more-sunscreen sort of way–it felt like the miracle of the world was embracing me a little more tightly and that God was responding to my thanksgivings.

I don’t know how much I believe in the literal stories of the Bible sometimes, but I do know that some things are sacred, that there is some tremendous force of good and power that has given us the miracle of life, and that we must give thanks.

Out of all the ways that the particles from the Big Bang could have arranged themselves, this is the way they came to be. And from this arrangement, I had been chosen, also by chance, to be born. For a brief moment in time, I will have consciousness and experience this miracle; I will have the opportunity to experience the infinite good of the world. There will be other people from the same origins as me to interact with and there will be other animals with consciousness, and plants, and rocks, and all other sorts of inorganic materials, so much to explore and consider. It doesn’t matter how this was all created–it is a gift, and I will give thanks.

A little while later I stopped my prayers and examined my hands, still lightly held together. I traced the lines of the veins on the back of my hands and noticed for what felt like both the millionth and the first time, how I could watch the thin bones in my hand move as I wiggled my fingers. Beautiful, I thought, What a miracle.

If I were less self-conscious, I would have climbed up on the kayak and yelled, “I am in love with everything, dead and alive and about to be born! I am in love with this impossible miracle! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” But I didn’t, because people would have stared, and I probably would have frightened them. So instead, I did it in my mind. My voice rang out all the way across the ocean, and it was heard by all. And we all gave thanks together, a perfect harmony of thank you in an infinite number of languages to the air around us that would be heard across the universe and into the ears of God, wherever he may be.

Then, I stood up, carrying my book in my right hand and walked across the sand to the landing at the bottom of our street, up the stairs, and past the five houses between us and the sea to the back door, where I carefully brushed the sand off my legs and feet and walked into the house.

Back at the house everyone was moving around with the same speed they were before. Pippa and Jeanne were fixing themselves tall glasses of cold Gatorade, and my mother and my grandmother had started to fix dinner. There was a constant hubbub of noise and everyone seemed to in a hurry. Such a stark difference to what I had just experienced. I stood in the back hall for a moment, embracing my periwinkle feeling of calm before throwing it all off and diving back into reality.

“Did you get the yellow type of Gatorade, Mom?” I asked as I opened the refrigerator door to look for the bottle. “The red one tastes icky.”