Eating Out: The Prague Edition

A page from my journal:

Last night's pizza dinner reinforced what seems to be the trend in restaurants here. Here's how it goes...

1. You sit down.

2. "Mluvite anglicky? (Do you speak English?)" you say. "No," says the waiter. This might be short for "ano," which means "yes" in Czech...or it might be the only English word he knows.

3. Waiter immediately wants your order; what do you want? What? What? What? Hurry up!

4. The menu is poorly translated. Your phrase book keeps opening to "At the Post Office." Panicking, you make a Hail Mary and point at something, sincerely hoping that syrem means "cheese" and not "headcheese."

5. Food takes forever to come. (Actually, it's not bad in most places, but this pizza joint was abysmal. Also, don't ask why we were eating pizza, of all things, in Prague. Just don't.)

6. Optional intermission: adventures in bathroomland.

7. Food comes. It is thankfully more cheese than head. "Dobrou chut!" says the waiter. (Enjoy your meal.) "Dobrou chut!" you say back, because (curiously) that's the thing to do.

8. Nazdravi, you eat!

9. You must flag down the waiter, who is trying very hard to ignore you, otherwise the bill will never come.

10. Before your party can correctly divide the bill, your waiter is hovering over you. Pay now! Pay now! Pay! Pay! Hurry up! Get out!

That, pretty much, has been my experience.

Pictures of Prague: Part I

Some of the things I came across during my Praha week:

I drool over interesting gargoyles. I guess the feeling is mutual. Because of its age and turbulent history, Prague has some amazing architecture going on. So many different styles, from Gothic to Art Deco to Neoclassical...It's as if the city designer was handed a slip that said, "Please build incredible things; no genre!"

Painted eggs for sale at the outdoor Easter market. A pysanky paradise.

I might have bought one of these boar skins, but I'm pretty sure customs wouldn't have approved.

A traditional children's folk dance at the outdoor market. I'm not sure what the story was, but it went somewhere along the lines of: the girls celebrate the advent of spring by picking flowers, milking cows, and parading with the milk tins, then the boys come along and beat the girls with sticks until they run away screaming. (Don't worry; the sticks have ribbons.) This photo shows the part where the boys are threatening to hit the girls. All the while, younger children on the edge of the stage merrily dance and sing.


Watching this was one of the times I really wished I spoke Czech.

A McDonald's right outside the Museum of Communism. Two red symbols of terror. (Three, if you count the trash can that is clearly labelled as a bathroom.)

Top, a motivational poster greeting Czech workers during the height of the Communist era. Below, a translation for us schmucks wandering the museum.

If you're going to San Francisco, do the hair/flowers thing, but if you're going to Prague, take a can of spray paint. This is the John Lennon Peace Wall, which was once used to write covert Beatles-related messages opposing Communism. It's still being overwritten daily with fresh messages of love and peace. Now instead of carrying the secret hopes of a few Czech students, it's an international canvas for anyone who comes to visit a new free Prague.

The Beginning.

"Let's go to Prague," my good friend said.

"Sure. Why not?" I said.


Maybe that's not exactly how that conversation went down. It was probably more along the lines of, "I'm going to Prague...wanna come along?" We're starting a tradition, I guess, where she picks some random far-flung place to visit random far-flung friends and family for her spring break vacation, and I tag along for the adventure. I hope it's a tradition; I rather like it.

For example, several years ago we went together to Ecuador, and although it was my third time there, I felt like I had never seen the place before. Certainly not like that. Ecuador in a week! Two days in the jungle! Two days in the city!! Two days in the mountains!!! Nearly get killed by a snake, eat bull testicles, play soccer straddle the equatorwaaaaa-haaa! If living in a country for several months gives one a true local's taste of it, speed-touring through a representative cross-section of a country is like falling Alice-in-Wonderland-style into a promotional TV travelogue.

That's what I was expecting for Prague. Shutter snaps of Central Europe!! Vienna, Bulgaria, Warsaw! (Obviously I was not really looking at a map, just randomly naming places in the nearby...continent.)

Instead, I discovered that once I got to Prague, I didn't want to leave it. A week spent in the heart of one city doesn't have to be a snapshot. It can be intensive...and intense.

Thus began one of the strangest trips of my life. I'd call it life-changing...but really, aren't they all?

The Reminder.

speculam in rebus talibus crastinam invenio

This has been my wallpaper for nearly two years.

nihil nimis difficilis somnianti


Could not read that last post without going back and editing it.

It's always that way with me. Every time I reread something I wrote, I have to revise it. A post goes through several versions before it ends up here, cemented, visible to the naked eye. But then...if I should happen to read it again...

Tinker, tinker, tinker.

That's the great thing about my blog, y'all! Not only does it have new posts every now and then, but the posts that are already up are constantly changing! It's alive! Yes! Go back to the beginning and read it all over again. It's ALL DIFFERENT. It's the BEST.

(I might be exaggerating. A little.)

Lost Draft: 20 Things to Do

While browsing through my unpublished drafts, I came across this 2007 list of things to do before I die:

1. Learn Morse code
2. Join a protest
3. Apprentice to a master sushi chef
4. Write a musical play
5. Take a homeless person out to lunch
6. Travel as a crewmember on a sailing ship

7. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
8. Build a treehouse

Five years later and much more the responsible adult, here are some things I would add:

9. Make a quilt
10. Publish a novel
11. Memorize the constellations
12. Start drawing a long-form webcomic (maybe even finish it)
13. Learn how to spin a car 180
14. Get my black belt
15. Fund a scholarship
16. Go to Antarctica
17. Bake a good loaf of sourdough
18. Dive with a whale
19. Play the fiddle
20. Shoot a clay pigeon

The list is always changing. I crossed out the original #5 and #6, since those two are (dun du-du duuuh!) ACCOMPLISHED!

In their place I'll put:

5. Try jellied eel
6. Get a PhD

And I've had plenty of chances to try to shoot a clay pigeon...I just haven't hit one yet.

But last year I did begin another one of my long-time goals - I started sponsoring a child. She's six, she lives in Mozambique, and the few letters and drawings we've exchanged so far have been wonderful. I'm excited to be in her life as she grows up. I hope I can help inspire her to stay in school as long as possible. I worry for her and the gender constraints she might face as a young woman in Africa. Maybe someday I'll get to meet her. What an amazing day that would be!

(Edit: Yikes. The above sounds...sanctimonious. Complete fail in tone. Really I just wanted to say !!!!! but that's kind of hard to put into words. Seriously, people, I'm super excited about my sponsor kid. That's what I get for writing while I'm distracted.)

Back to the list, though, it's really not all-inclusive. There are so many things to do, learn, make. Life, why are you so short?

Fair disclosure: I haven't included any goals that are imminently about to be fulfilled...

Too many pixels in my life

Oh my goodness, this blog is keeping me from going crazy right now.

These days I'm spending all of my waking hours using the computer. Screens. So many screens. And so how do I relax from the computer? I write a blog post, naturally. Man, I've forgotten what a book even feels like.

I was good and pulled myself away to visit the gym today, but it's still too darn windy to go outside for some fresh air. (Well...I can get fresh air. It's just that I get it at 100mph all at once. I risk inflating like a balloon.)

Thank goodness for forums to vent: cars, showers, and blogs!


Synesthesia. An unpronounceable name for an indescribable sensation. That's what I wanted to title this post. Or, if I was personifying the word, I might have titled it, "The Tiny Matriarchal Nation of Mild and Unassuming People Who Feel Embarrassed About Being Roped Into a Medical Term." (More on this later.)

Actually, I originally went for "Confessions of a Synesthete," but it turns out someone has an entire blog named this. And a colorful life they must have. I guess I could have gone with Synestacular!, which could also be the name for a travelling science museum exhibit, or perhaps "Synesthesia: Apparently I Have Every Form of It."

Well, no. That's not quite true. I don't taste pistachios when clocks chime, for instance. And besides, it turns out that synezthssss is fairly common. Nearly everyone has some variety, otherwise circular clocks and rectangular calendars would never have caught on. So perhaps the better title would be "In Which I Further Establish My Own Normalcy in Line with the Rest of Humanity."

This synesszths to which I refer, of course, is the condition where...words...and, collide to form vast new galaxies...wait, that's something else.

How do I describe it? (Let me count the ways: female, female, red, yellow...) At first I thought this would be easy, but I might as well try to describe that dream I had where the dinosaurs went to war with the Muppets. To Wikipedia!!

Synesthesia is a neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

Now you know what I'm talking about, right? It's the criss-crossing of perceptions, like if someone sees green when they read the word "library," tastes strawberries when they hear Dvorak's "New World Symphony," hears a cat meowing if they see a hexagon...that's synesthesia. It's the blazing of neural pathways, formed during the brain's early development, between sensory regions that aren't usually connected. And though it's not uncommon, it's unique from person to person, with as many possible combinations as there are possible perceptions.

(It's also apparently sponsored by Skittles: "Taste the Rainbow!"®™©)

Oh, these kinds of strange neurological phenomena hook me like nobody's business, a fascination that began when I first read Dr. Oliver Sack's "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." Thus my delight when I discovered that, though I'm not quite worthy of a Dr. Sacks chapter (and that's probably a good thing), I can count myself among the proud number (blue) of the synesthete community...even if I can't pronounce its name.

I have three of the most common forms of synesthesia: OLP, color-graphemic, and time-space.

1. Ordinal Linguistic Personification, or "Number 72 Loves His Beef Wellington"

Anyone who has been around me long enough has inevitably heard my "letters have personalities" conversation starter (or stopper), which I like to throw out there because:

A) It is strange, and the reactions I get are amusing

B) I secretly want to find other people who can sympathize with what the heck I'm talking about

C) It's more dinner friendly than the "jungle parasites" conversation

OLP people begin personifying numbers and letters at a very young age, perhaps the moment they learn them, and once designated these personalities become fixed for life. If someone with OLP sees the letter H as a cocky Frenchman at age 6, H will still seem to be a cocky Frenchman at age 86.

H is not a cocky Frenchman for me, but I do have my own unique set of personalities for letters, numbers, colors, days of the week, months of the year, words...etc.

For instance, the letter F is a young, rather weak-kneed fellow who would get into trouble if it wasn't for the older, wiser gentleman G living right next to him. Troublemaker E loves to drag F into his antics, but can't do a thing with his other neighbor, the perky and somewhat daft lady D... and so forth.

So when I seen a word, I don't see just the meaning of the word, but a complex interaction of personalities. Perhaps this explains my unusually good ability to catch spelling errors. "If" and "of" are pleasing to my eye because the strong letters I and O put docile F in his place, but if I see something like "fo", it looks as wrong as a dog taking a man for a walk. Of course, I have to know what the correct word looks like to begin with, otherwise I'd think there was nothing wrong, per se, with a dog walking a man.

In that regard OLP imparts a bit of an editor's advantage, but sometimes the personalities are more confusing than helpful. I can never quite remember that the "subject" comes before the "object" in a sentence. O and the word she commands is very dominant, while S and her word are submissive. I want to rank them in order of their energy, so "object" always tries to come first.

The letters in my words sometimes shift vertically according to their relative dominance, making it difficult to scan text quickly. This is extremely exaggerated, but I see MOCK TURTLE SOUP sort of like:Besides an active emotional life for each letter, each word has its own personality too. This is dependent on the letters it contains and the order they're in. A word like "Eiffel" is a veritable frat house, thanks to E's loose morals. "Synesthesia" is a tiny nation of like-minded, mild, mostly female letters.

Words retain their identities no matter where they are. Within a sentence, the words interact with each other like a room full of people.

For example, in that last sentence there were three distinct social cliques, plus some aggression between the beginning and ending. The dominant words are marked in bold, the submissive by parentheses:

I never mind these interactions much when I'm reading, ignoring them sort of the same way that I might ignore all the conversations around me as I beeline towards the dessert table at a crowded buffet. But when I pause to consider the structure of the sentence, the interactions are always there.

Only once did I meet someone who experience something similar to my letter-personification, although the personalities of her letters were completely different than mine...and therefore heresy!! Truly, someone saying something like "the letter B is male" might as well try to convince me that the ocean is filled with toothpaste.

Recently while procrastinating by surfing the internet looking for anyone else who might have the same thing, I finally turned up a name for all this craziness: Ordinal Linguistic Personification. It's been officially documented only lately...although it's probably as common as mud, if subsequent forums and message boards are any indication. And everyone says the same thing - "We thought we were the only ones who had this!"

Actually, finding other people with OLP is deeply annoying. The conversations always descend into arguments about which letter is having an affair with which, etc. Or else the conversation consists entirely of dry, unreadable, unrelatable lists:

A is a boy
B is a polite lady
C is a vicar
D is a prostitute who's just trying to earn enough money for college
E is a dopey British man with a knife
F is my dog Steve

That kind of thing. Since no two people every have identical synesthesia, these discussions essentially become as pointlessly circular as blind men describing elephants.

No. I don't want to hear about who populates your alphabet. Please don't list the fights your colors have had, or the favorite foods of every number between one and a thousand. Because you are very boring when you're like this. Also, you're wrong.

Oh heck...As long as I'm throwing around graphics, here are the genders (sans personalities) of my cardinal numbers:While such arguments tend to be dull beyond salvation, I have to admit that it's very hard not to go around educating people that the number 2 is, in fact, a lady. (Whose personality is very similar to the letter R and Saturday and December and red....ah, can't stop!)

Truth be told, I'm really more of an EP (Everything Personifier) because I do this with all inanimate objects, including rocks, telephones, my own fingers...huh. (I never really thought about that last one until just now. What are you looking at, Mr. Pinkie-on-the-right-hand?) My place setting is a tangle of love and angst on an operatic scale, with the hot-headed fork in a relationship with the napkin, yet having a burning undying love for the spoon, who is in a committed relationship with the knife, who has a history with the napkin yet is far too much of a gentleman to leave the love of his life. The plate is a bachelor.

Come on now, synesthetic researchers. Come up with a name for that one!

2. Color-Graphemic, or "Your Middle Name is Too Purple"

Speaking of red, the colors in the above examples are far from random. For me, 2 is always red, 7 always blue, and so forth what have you. This is a different type of synesthses...syn...ssszz...

Okay, seriously. Can everyone in the synesthetic community (or "Synesociety") please agree on an easier, cooler term to use? I suggest brain wizardry.

Anyway, color-graphemic brain wizardry links the perception of colors with numbers and letters. It's the most common form of brain wizardry, and one that's easily measurable. And when I say that, I'm referring to the Synesthesia Battery, an online test that measures synesthesia based on colors, genders, and spatial relationships.

The Battery takes a bit of time, but it's a great deal of fun. Go on and try it. If you turn out to be a synesthete, I'll buy you a cookie. (Which you will not be able to eat, because it will have a personality and a backstory of tragic failure and redemption.)

I scored high, but here's my secret. This test measures mostly color-graphemic synesthesia - sorry, brain wizardry - and my numbers and letters have colors only because they and those colors share a common personality. The number 8 and the month of December are both red because, like the color red, they are both brassy women. Because their personalities align so much with the personality of the color red, they will always and forever be red.

But there are 26 letters, 10+ numbers, and only about 10 colors, so invariably I'll have a problem like the letter N, whose personality doesn't match that of any color. Consequently, I'm lost. G is like a Cherokee filling out a questionnaire that reads "White or African American, check one." And so the color of the letter G constantly shifts in my mind, sometimes dark green, sometimes dark blue or gray, a chameleon varying between the various shades of his personality.

3. Time-Space, or "Get Your Elbow Out of My September"

When I read James Gurney's Dinotopia as a kid, one section jumped out at me more than any other, and years later I was able to remember it almost word for word:

"You of the West," Malik said, "think of time moving in a straight line, from past to present to future. Your eastern brothers regard time as a circle, returning endlessly in a cycle of decay and rebirth. Both ideas have a dimension of the truth. If you were to combine geometrically the movement of the circle with the movement of the line, what would you have?" He snapped his mouth shut and peered at me with an uncanny resemblance to my old schoolmaster.

"The spiral?" I ventured.

"Yes, yes. Or the helix. They are our models of the passage of time."

"So time moves on, but history repeats itself."

This made so much sense to me. Time as a spiral! Yet even though it logically made sense, I couldn't undo my perception that years move in a forward line, months move in a circle, weeks move in an oval, and days move up and down.

Time-space synesthesia may be the most common of all the synesthesia. In fact, it's reasonable to believe that the human brain has incorporated this cross-wiring into its normal structure, a product of trying to convert an abstract concept - time - into something that can be communicated and, more importantly, recorded. All human civilizations develop a physical representation of time, whether it's marks on a clay cylinder or moons on a deerskin canvas. People are predisposed to time-space synesthesia.

Trouble arises when the mind's representation of time does not match the actual passage of time, and therein lies my problem.

There's a wonderful BBC News article called "Can you see time?" by Victoria Gill (9/11/09) that details many of the forms of synesthesia, especially time-space. While I was reading it, I came across an illustration (based on an illustration by Carol Steen) that made me nearly jump up out of my chair. It's the representation of how one synesthete views the calendar year:

I was a bit stunned by its familiarity. "That's it! That's it! That's just like mine!" I said. My second thought was, "What on earth happened to this person's poor year?" I wanted to take a bike pump to it.

I say this because, for comparison, here's mine, with the months' colors and the approximate dates for the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock positions. It truly is that round.

Also, what is going on with the man in the middle of that illustration? some people mentally pivot around in the middle of their year? (And if so, do they feel trapped by time?) Does time rotate them, or do they work it like a hula hoop? Hmm, the article mentions nothing of this.

My circle floats vertically in my mind. The blank space in the middle does not exist, or if it does, it can't be looked at directly, an elusive timeless place beyond the water lilies, sort of like Aslan's land in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Unfortunately, because my weeks and years are so uneven I sometimes think I have a lot more time than I actually do. (October through December race by at an alarming speed.) And after the 6-o-clock position on the clock, I reverse my weeks and start climbing up through them backwards. The month of November:

But wait, it gets worse.

The way I envision a single week is actually like this:

So when I think of November, the looping week combined with the backside of the "annual clock" gives me a internal picture that looks something like this, if November 1st is on a Sunday:

(I've just realized that I gave November thirty-one days. Well, ignore that last Tuesday, because I'm not gonna redraw the whole darn thing.)

Unless I'm using something that puts time in its proper perspective, like a day planner, I struggle to track time realistically. You'd think I would learn how to ignore the idea that November takes up 1/6 of the year, but this mental image is so deeply embedded that I find myself completely surprised, year after year, when it's suddenly December. Where does the autumn go?

So that's what I can say about synesthesia. It's more in-depth than most of the other posts I've seen online about it. It's not nearly as in-depth as I could make it, but no matter. Since no one else sees the world quite the same way as I see it, it's more of an academic exercise, a self-affirmation, to attempt to describe it, friendly colors, frantic months, feuding forks, and all.


The burden of knowing
falls to the eyes
alone, and growing
from infinite lies
of vision and reasoning
out of what shows,
they mark without measuring,
thus presuppose.

What, when a mystery
weighing unfairly
on visual history
hints, oh, but barely,
of oceans of knowledge
untravelled, but wide,
can sight's simple sortilege
hope to provide?

Things I Clearly Don't Understand

Reading back through my blog after this long hiatus is somewhat depressing, mostly because it

A) Makes me think that in the last few years I've lost both my sense of humor and my ability to write, and

B) Documents the slow decline in my online self-documentation, also known as the No-One-Cares!/None-of-Your-Business! malady.

There's definitely a fine line between blogging too frequently (reduced to describing what clothes you're wearing, what you're eating) and blogging so infrequently that everyone forgets you're alive.

Readership: It's a Double-Edged Sword.

I'd love to change the format of my blog, but this template seems to be grandfathered in. I'm kind of afraid to touch it. If I could improve on anything, I'd widen the text field to make it easier to read. CTRL+ works pretty well, too. (CTRL+ is the lifesaver of many a strained eye.)

If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's not to directly link to random sites nor use images other than my own, if I can help it. I, in my young and innocent blogging youth, never expected the occasional subsequent vitriol I got from sharing fun internet tidbits. So a blog isn't quite the same as a casual dorm newsletter - check. If SOPA had passed five years ago, I'd probably be in jail.

I've decided to give comment moderation a try after getting my latest round of comments like, "This text interesting I was reading Good Blog! Click on link too recieve 20% gasoline coupon." Because I've never done comment moderation before, it'll probably mean that I'll accidentally end up deleting everyone's comments.

Ha-aha-ha! CENSORSHIP!

Blown In

A Colorado weather report:

My goodness, today has been FRIGHTENING. I've never been in a windstorm quite like this one before.

Yesterday, deceived by the cheerful sun and blue skies, I went out to the park. At first I thought, "Hum, this wind is rather harsh," then I started having trouble walking against it. I was thinking, "This the is the strongest wind I've ever felt," when I suddenly noticed a dark cloud in the distance rising with alarming alacrity, and moments later was being pelted by every loose bit of dirt and dust in the entire valley. By the time I dove back into the car (total time spent outside: 7 minutes) I was spitting grit out of teeth.

The paper that day, as I struggled to get it out of the mailbox before the wind could tear it from my fingers and blow it all the way to Kansas, read, "Severe Winds Predicted..." Yes.

It's been so deceptive, this wind. From inside the day looks perfectly manageable, all bright and breezy, with the first real warmth we've had in a long time. It lures me out of the house. Yet the moment I step outside, just as soon as I'm too far from the door to dive back into it again, I'm surrounded by the most tremendous sound.

It's a hard sound to describe. In print, it might look something like;


It's the sort of sound that makes a person crouch down. The sound you might hear if you were in the middle of a mighty breaking roller, or inside a kettledrum. It's the sound of wind tearing through the trees at 95mph.

I've heard disturbing weather-related sounds before. When I lived in the rainforest, we could hear the rain coming from miles way. It was a murmur in the distance at first, the patter against the leaves, then slowly multiplied a million fold like someone turning up the volume on an applauding audience. Whenever we heard it, we'd have conversations like:

"Rain's coming."



"Better get the clothes in."


Actually, the conversations were never as relaxed as that. We were always stressed about drying our clothes. It rained so frequently, and was otherwise so incessantly damp, that the few precious hours of baking hot sun were the only chance we had to get the mold completely dried out of our clothes/mattresses/sundry items. If our clothes were still on the lines when the rains came, it meant another whole day of attempted drying. So our conversations were more along the lines of:


"Rain? Aaa! Rain!!!"

*group stampede to tear all the clothes off the lines*

I've also been in some pretty frightening thunderstorms, the sort where lightening is flashing all around, trees are exploding, etc. Those things are scary. But they don't generate a constant fear. It's more of a fearful anticipation, waiting to see where and when the next bolt...and thenCRASH BOOM! You jump ten feet off the ground, but you're still alive; you haven't been hit. Getting through one of those kinds of storms is stressful in the same way that watching a suspenseful thriller is stressful.

Now a windstorm like this, this generates a feeling of immediate NO, sort of like when the VCR suddenly eats that suspenseful thriller you've been watching and starts spitting out tangled loops of tape while shrieking like an injuring animal. This does not call for an edge-of-your-seat, wait-and-see type strategy. The body's instincts say, "I am not going to deal with this. Do not want." Immediately you either go rip the VCR out of the wall (does anyone still have VCRs?) or else go make some popcorn and ignore it while it catches on fire.

That's my reaction to the windstorm. I go outside, am knocked over by a blast of sticks and dirt and leaves, the whole world roars at me, and I retreat. Do not want.

This storm's been going for days now, and is supposed to last until tomorrow. I can't do a darned thing outside until it quits. I've heard about getting snowed in and rained in, but whoever heard about getting blown in?

And now something has just clunked down loudly on the roof - the days have been filled with mysterious clunks and cracks - so I'm going to go investigate whether a tree has fallen, or whether an elk has been picked up and dropped down, or whether we still have a roof over there at all.

Lost Draft #1: A Walk in the Dunes

As I've been nosing around my blog, trying halfheartedly to stoke it back to life, I came across a surprising number of blog drafts that I never remember having written. Some of them are mere sentences, others are almost complete. Here's one from 12/15/07, and why I never published it, I couldn't say.

I probably meant to write more.

A Walk in the Dunes

I went for a walk in the dunes. I did not take my camera. The day was bright and cold, an overcast sky, and the whisper of the trees and the rustle of the grasses spoke of rain. But I went anyway.

I stood out on the crest of the highest dune, looking out towards a horizon that could not be seen, then jumped over the edge and ran down in great leaps of cascading sand to the bottom. I followed my dog, walking until the roar of the highway behind me was replaced by the roar of the ocean in front of me. The sand, hard packed by the dampness of winter, showed every foot that had ever crossed it. Mouse prints threaded between the light, long tracks of birds. Tracks of a lizard, a snake, a mysterious hopping creature that I could not identify. Then a wide-padded creature that left sweeping traces of its long claws, disappearing over a dune too far to follow with the straight, purposeful stride of a predator. My dog's tracks too, swirling around me like the flourishes of an old-fashioned signature, and my own, a clear line traceable all the way to the forest's edge.

I followed some fox prints into a low lying island of trees, a place I usually dare not go because of childhood warnings of quicksand, which forms in the wet bottom area, and of devil's chimneys, pockets of air in the sand that form when a dead tree is buried, able to swallow a hiker in one misstep, with no clue left behind but a broken set of tracks. Stay high in the dunes, they say. But I followed the fox until its footprints were lost in a steep stretch of loose sand. Once gone, the tracks did not reappear. Fox ceased to exist. Red fescue dotted the slope, and also tiny trees with palmate leaves, bonsai hangers-on from the days of dinosaurs, and delicate moss clinging as precariously as film to the ground. I could not tread too lightly; my feet were heavy, awkward.

The tree islands, some say, are able to move when they're still young. They walk along their root paths, pushed along by the shifting sand. But this island was beyond wandering, young but fixed, and so dense that I, following game trails, was quickly covered over by its darkness. In a clearing in the the middle I found an old fire pit, a secret place where someone once came to sit in the sand and the trees, all shadows and silence. The mushrooms of fall were still there, toppled over and rotting, chanterelles that had miraculously been left unplucked past the harvest. It seemed like a true, inland forest, but kicking up the fallen pine needles destroyed the illusion, uncovering the sand just beneath.

A walk across the slope of a dune is a curious thing. The foot makes contact on its side, not sole, and though you are neither climbing nor sinking, every step must be made slightly higher than the last. In the summertime when the sand is quick and dry, the tracks at the beginning of a walk are gone before you return; the devastation done to the slope of the dune disappears in a breath of wind. But in the wintertime, the sand turns to stone. The hills are carved and cut, and the sand takes on mysterious shapes. The crests of the dunes where the wind blows over forms layered scallops and ridges, spires and buttes, sticking up like mini-dioramas of Zion and Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park.

To clarify

The below post refers to the fact that blogging is clearly very low on my list of priorities.


I.B. Procrastinator



Arg. Lame. I meant to start posting in November, and now it's January!

Curse you, the flight of time!

But no, really, I will be actively posting again very soon, and perhaps some exciting bits of news will show up here.

Or if not that, then some interesting essays.

Or if not that, then some napkin drawings.

If I were especially devoted, I'd make it my New Year's resolution to resume blogging. But no, I only make one resolution a year (so as not to divide my attention on trying to accomplish it!) and alas Blogger, you are not the One.

But I will resume blogging, by crikey, since I'm brimming with so many dumb stories to tell. Plus now that I haven't updated in forever I'm assured that no one will be reading them. Sort of like standing stock-still on the stage until everyone has left the theater before tearing off all your clothes and dancing in little fairy rings. This is my goal.