169 tagged with #daily

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deja vu

this morning felt like most mornings until i reached for my apron in the back of the upper shelf in the right-hand cabinet in the darkroom, groping for an object i know to be there. when i felt the familiar stiff plasticized fabric, i remembered a dream in which someone gave me two identical leather aprons, and i left one at my house and brought the other to work.

i stood in the dark, holding the apron i knew to be the correct one that has been here since before i have been here, and could not convince myself that i had woken up, gotten out of bed, and came to work hours earlier.

there's a taste i get in my mouth when i am dreaming, which cues me that i am dreaming, and i could not taste that; thus, i knew it was safe to proceed with my day as if i was awake.

29 January 2018 18:15


some days, the sun seems to set inconceivably fast, and a pale moon sprouts in the sky as if it sprouted from a tree and escaped into orbit. the light glows harshly for a few moments, then fades as the sun struggles to light through slanted layers of atmosphere. we've filled the air with things that clog the sun's breath.

the moon strengthens as it climbs, brightens as the sun rolls into the distance. the city sounds different at night, when the sun can no longer see what is happening. i rarely hear distant cars the way they sound at dusk, when tendrils of pink slide further and further into the distant river valley.

i am always surprised at how quickly it grows cold in the winter.

28 January 2018 20:50


i have this distinct memory of a long, blowing expanse of white ground under a grey sky. dark smudges lined the edges; pine trees, inky black against the snow. the sound of a plastic dish separating my puffy pants from the ice, a terrifying endless crunch. i was afraid to grab the sides, in case the rolled edge leaned over too far and trapped my mittened fingers against the ground. it hurt my cheeks, and my eyes, and small shreds of ice sprayed over my face and tunneled for the warmth of my neck under a scarf.

that scarf is still here. i keep it inside a table that stores all the things i don't feel like getting rid of, but also don't need to use ever again. i have two other scarves, and i still only wear one scarf, ever.

people say iowa is flat, with unbounded spreading cornfields, but i remember this hill, and other hills. i remember the hill from my house to the road, a long stretch of concrete that i was afraid to bike down for the first four years that i knew how to ride a bicycle. i remember a dense woodland where my neighbors would take me mushroom-picking, which ended at train tracks rumored to be haunted by all the ghosts of people who couldn't handle the slow, futureless daily turns of a mediocre life in the midwest.

in the second grade, we were obsessed with ghosts; a friend and i made up chants and rituals that would force ghosts to reveal themselves, and we tried them everywhere. 'chant green ghost until you see the green ghost appears, then you'll know how many times you have to say it,' was one of our experimental methods; the green ghost was a flicker of green that would appear on the screen of the old projector reel system our teacher used to show us films. i don't remember any of those films. 'ghosts come from people who died when they were sad or angry,' i whispered.

'oh, like my uncle gary!' he cheerfully responded. i only nodded; i didn't know his uncle gary, but i knew i was always helping to look for him. 'green ghost, green ghost, green ghost, green ghost, green ghost, green ghost,' he said, holding up another finger each time so he could keep track. when he exceeded ten, i started holding up my fingers to help. we got to fourteen counts before we saw the flicker again, and stifled our gasps so the teacher wouldn't hear us.

we tried fourteen as the magic number, but we never saw the ghost again that day.

once, we spotted a pair of boots sticking out from under the brush by the creek; we took a stick and moved the bushes, and saw that they ended in a pair of jeans, and then a tarp. the tarp looked long enough to cover a body. the boots didn't stir when we shouted, or when we nudged the toes.

'it's a body,' one of the other kids said. we ran away, screaming, and never told anyone else. i had this sense that people died in the woods all the time, from stories my mother told me of her childhood in far north china where wolves stole children and tornadoes picked grown men off mountains. sometimes, i walk in the woods and feel a pull, as if the earth has a memory that i released by stepping on the right rock, and i wonder how many bodies have passed by.

27 January 2018 18:21


moving on my feet seems painstakingly slow, most days. when i plan trips, i budget myself around a dozen miles per day; this number seems startlingly low, as someone brought up in a car. for cars, we think about distances in hundreds of miles, because a four hundred mile day is easily approachable when a machine is doing the majority of the work.

but dozens of miles add up as well; seven days on the trail took me from johnstown to ohiopyle, 77 miles with my legs moving myself and everything i needed to survive for those seven days. sometimes, i'll hike all day, pulling my body in what feels like an impossibly slow slog; at some point, i'll reach a prominence, where i can look down and see the valley drop towards a distant gap where i know the car was parked.

it's a powerful feeling, to look at a speck in the distance and know that i cleared that distance with my own body within the span of a morning.

26 January 2018 20:44


i'm torn, always, between the urge to preserve every scrap of human existence and the sense that all things ought to be purged once they are complete. these desires are always selfish; i personally benefit from the work of people and things long past, thus i feel some sense that current creations ought to persist into the far future. but then, sometimes, i think about a distant future human who might have access to the things i have extruded into existence, but without the context of my actual existence, and i feel a wringing in my gut.

i believe that the best way to understand things is to get my hands dirty in them; i've participated in processes i didn't understand, contributed to systems that i later condemned, built up infrastructure i won't admit to in public. this is fine, i tell myself. this is how i learn.

i've been proofreading machine-transcribed texts that have been scanned from books in the public domain, but do not yet have a digitally portable existence. it's mind-numbing, to have my eyeballs pass over marks on a screen in two columns, remembering that one is a source, an 'image file', while the other is a desired output as a 'text file'. conceptually, these two things are different, but visually, they are frustratingly close.

the easy parts are to correct errors in spacing and spelling, translating little flecks of ink and dust on the scanner bed into coherent text that can be easily transported and manipulated into a variety of formats for print, screen, text-to-speech, etc. the hard part is when a jumble of unfamiliar scribbles appear, and i need to stare at my keyboard in despair while trying to decide how to communicate those parts of 'image' into some format of 'text'.

at the same time, i'm taking a class on the history of books; we do exercises in hand-scribing to understand pre-machine copying process, we look at parts of printing presses and the books that resulted from historical manufacturing, we touch parts of old skin and wood and metal that was invented and assembled so that one human could transfer a thought to another human.

some days, i look at the errors that happen from context being lost in that transfer, and worry less about if we're doing it right now, because we've never done this right. we can never do this right. writing is an approximation of language, which is an approximation of thought; books are an incomplete model of someone's worldview.

these buttons i am punching on this machine to ask it to record a very specific integer that can be sent to other machines to turn them into a script that another person might read, this is an incomplete model of my worldview.

25 January 2018 21:39

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