December 10, 2001

"Explain this to me."

Well, folks, here we are at the close of another year.

The last time I sat down to write the Annual Letter, the result ended up looking a bit like a miniature travelogue. We'd been here and there, done this and that. (And for those of you who are wondering, yes, I am *still* working on the Journal.)

So, what did we do to top last year? We stayed home. I mean, really, how do you top two continents, seven countries, and a castle?

Never fear, it wasn't all thumb-twiddling and basket-weaving. Among the Cool Things That Happened, we:
  1. Got engaged. (Whee!)
  2. Got laid off and jumpstarted a new career. (Bye-bye dot-com, hello Hollywood!)
  3. Submitted a short story for consideration. (Results announced in February.)
  4. Showed our new music videos to mini film-fest audiences. (They were very well received.)
  5. Spent a whole year in one residence.
In between these landmark events, it seemed we were always buried in some project or another. Our Creative Endeavors produced tangible results:
  1. Three music videos.
  2. A handful of websites.
  3. Several stories. (Some are more finished than others. We'll keep at it.)
  4. Five new quilts and several pillows. (Someday I'll get the pictures online.)
  5. A garden in the back yard and a small jungle in the house.
Some endeavors were yummier than others. Things We Learned To Cook include:
  1. Navrataan Korma
  2. Rose Lassi
  3. Maccaroons
  4. Baklava
  5. Spanikopita
Of course, we continue to be media junkies...
Once in a while we were able to pry ourselves away from the excitement at home. The world is, after all, still a big place and worthy of exploration.
  • Most Frequent Modes of Transportation:
    1. Our Feet
    2. MUNI
    3. BART
    4. MR-2 (our car)
    5. CityCarShare
  • Trips Taken:
    1. Seattle for Ian's 30th birthday
    2. Santa Barbara for Solstice (and the next weekend for a lovely house-cooling party)
    3. Mendocino to visit an old friend and take a walk in the rain
    4. Big Sur to celebrate a magical wedding
    5. Presidents' Day weekend drive north, just because
So 2001 has been quite the change of pace. We can just make out 2002 lurking on the horizon, misty with promises. May it bring treasures to all of us.

June 21, 2001

"Of all the people,
you are one of the ones I wonder about."

We were walking down Mission Street after Moulin Rouge (not the absinthe-laced free-for-all some reviewers seemed to think it was but nevertheless a riot of sound and color nicely flavored with love and tragedy), when someone behind us called my name. Called it three times before I figured out the voice might be addressing me.

It turned out to be one of those movie-moments that never happen to real people: time and distance fade to nothing, and someone from the past recognizes your present self. In this case, it was eighty miles on the map, eight years, and all the intervening experiences that separate me from my high-school self that suddenly disappeared and left me shocked, staring into the film of Time sprung from its sprockets. The man standing in front of me had black hair, wore a blue denim shirt with his company's logo embroidered between his sholder blades. If I shook my head, he was blond, with longer hair, black Doc Martin's laced midway up his calves, wearing a Depeche Mode "Violator" t-shirt so faded the rose had lost it's shape. We had gone to high school together, endured the same AP courses, and gone our separate ways after graduation. Now, to the amusement of Coincidence and Fate, here we were, on Mission at midnight, suddenly faced with Time, Change, Memory. If we hadn't been the last people out of the Metreon, routed out of the last unlocked door, the one farthest away from the car, our paths would never have crossed. What's stranger, that we met at all or that we nearly passed each other by, separated by a single San Francisco block?

The whole experience rendered me simultaneously wordless and over-effusive. I seemed to be much louder than usual, my laughter a little crazy. There were the usual questions: "What are you doing now?" "How have you been?" And I seemed to have nothing to say, to say things wrong. I tripped over my tongue, my vocabulary vaporized. If I could look at this man and see his current self fading in and out of his high-school self, what could he possibly be seeing when he looked at me? I was in jeans and well-scuffed boots, my hair is shorter, I am more traveled; did he see the present me or the fading perm, the long skirts, the load of books I seem to remember carrying, the GPA I probably wore stamped into my forehead?

A friend of mine last weekend pointed out that I am far happier these days than I used to be. I have stopped trying to be the person I thought everyone wanted me to be and have concentrated on discovering what I want to be. When I was younger, I once asked my mother if I was happy, sure that I didn't know what "happy" felt like. Now, having given up on defining my happiness based on the number of smiles and praises directed toward me by other people, I don't have to ask anymore.

It makes for complicated conversation. I have no easy, resume-ready responses to the usual questions that come up when randomly encountering people from the past. Nothing quick and easy seems accurate; no one really has time, or the interest I'm sure, for the longer version. Anything brief seems to leave something out, and I fear upsetting any of my capricious muses.

I need a title. A job description. Something that sounds official, something to say in the face of expectations that I am busy, employed, successful. Something that doesn't sound like a list of hobbies, despite the fact that I am a more interesting someone due to my varigated list than someone who simply defines herself by job title. Still, "One - who - can't - stand - pointless - office - jobs - and - so - has - abandoned - corporate - life - in - favor - of - words - pens - knots - design - quilts - art - websites - cloaks - plants - books - and - the - occasional - pastry" is a bit of a mouthful. I'll never remember all that, not for the times when I'll need it most, among strangers, over cocktails, or flustered by sudden midnight encounters with the Past.

May 15, 2001

"Children are very good at pulling you into the moment,
if you will let them."

I watched a mother I know play with her two year old son, trying to wear him out so he would sleep when she took him downstairs to his bedroom. He lay back on a huge, floppy stuffed lion, commanded "onetwothree," then squirmed and giggled as his mother blew on his side, tickling him with her hair. Evidently, "onetwothree" was inadvertent education. His parents used it as a drumroll when playing games with him. "Get ready..." Now, the child says it back, onetwothree, make me laugh, onetwothree, play with me.

His joy was infectious, and I giggled as I watched them. And I wondered what kind of toddler I had been. Had I ever been that wide-eyed, that split with laughter, that innocent? I suppose I must have been, but I don't remember it. For reasons miscellaneous and sundry, I turned my back on childhood early, hurrying toward "grown up" just as fast as my child-legs could carry me. Mom says I demanded to ride the school bus to my very first day of school; I told my first grade teachers to call me by my full name, not my nickname. I wanted my dresses long, like Mom's. I wanted to stay up late. I seem to remember leaving off play and silliness when I was young, and looking down on my sixth grade classmates for their lack of maturity.

Was it worth it? In my rush to grow up, what did I abandon? I worry about the future almost constantly and have an extraordinarily difficult time simply enjoying the now. I make lists and plan my days; if I could put together a five-year plan for my life, I probably would, even though experience has already taught me such efforts are generally useless.

It seems the one thing I have managed to hold onto in my hurry is a wonder at the natural world. I can sit at my desk, pen in hand, and spend small eternities making idle ink smears on the page while I stare at the purple violas outside. I marvel at the richness of their color, the petals that look like velvet, the rippled leaves, the pointed buds, the star shape left behind when the seed pod pours its contents to the soil.

It's a simple joy, this wonder at my flowers. But it's so rare, considering the heft and weave of the rest of my life. Did I once have more of it? If I knew what hurrying off to maturity would cost me, would I do it again?

A week or so ago, I passed a street performer outside the Virgin Mega Store. Spread around him, a fantastic collection of buckets and pails, pots and pans, all different sizes, all different materials, all upside down. The man looked a little run down by life, but as he beat a rhythm on his improvised drum collection, he had to have been the happiest person I'd seen in ages. A child approached, slipping a dollar in the gentlemen's tip bucket, and I thought the man's face would split as his smile became even wider, even brighter.

This was a man, all grown up, simply thrumming with wonder and joy. In at that moment, he was the most alive person present. If he could have given off light, he would have bathed the gathering crowd in bright yellows and pinks.

Onetwothree, let there be wonder, onetwothree, let there be joy.

April 26, 2001

"Don't suspect a friend,
Report him!"

The ads are plastered to the sides of the Muni trains I take downtown. "Brazil!" they scream, in a font that seems disturbingly close to that for the title of the Terry Gilliam movie of the same name. It struck me as more than a little odd, an ad campaign that conjures images of tiny offices, bureaucracy run rampant, and duct work. Not to mention the shoe-hat. I wonder if the marketing department has any idea?

It's not dystopia they're advertising, evidently. No, it's Macy's 55th Annual Flower Show. Yes, it seems a bit odd to me too, a department store hosting a flower show. I'm expecting motives hidden somewhere, perhaps in the 30 some Brazilian flags snapping gracefully in the breeze outside the store. The last time I saw this many Brazilian flags in one place, I had made the mistake of trying to drive through Los Gatos after the Brazilian soccer team had just won a qualifying game the year the World Cup was held in United States.

Perhaps the motives are hidden within the men's store, where there are several costumes from this year's Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The centerpiece is mostly white and pale blue, entirely covered in sequins. The short jacket with the wide shoulders and tight pants look like what you might get if you crossed the space age with traditional Spanish bullfighting. On either side are enormous sequined wings, and suddenly the costume is reminding me of the movie again. An accompanying sign announced that it weighs more than 150 pounds and is symbolic of hope and the future.

I went outside. I know what Gilliam's futures look like.

The women's store is hosting the flowers. The cosmetics and fragrances department are buried under trees, bromilliads, spider plants, dozens of other plants I've no names for, fountains and foam done up to look like stone ruins. At first, it seemed rather magical, something out of one of my dreams, a harmonic fusion of man and nature, with man taking a secondary role. Then a woman at one of the cosmetic counters approached, about to offer me a makeover, I presume, and the bubble shattered. I was in Macy's; this is a commercial environment. The whole thing is artificial, from the foam-stone Aztec-styled "ruins" to the plexiglass enhanced and controlled fountains. Suddenly even the plants seemed fake. The only real thing left was the warm scent of controlled air. I dodged the cosmetics lady, and headed for the door.

Brazil indeed. I kept my eyes down as I merged with the flow of shoppers, tourists, and commuters on Stockton Street. No one should see the horror on my face; they might report me.

April 24, 2001

"Walk me down the aisle, Daddy, it's just about time;
Does my wedding gown look pretty, Daddy?
Daddy, don't cry."

Dear Dad,

I turned 26 yesterday. I had a party last weekend and got drunk on Brazilian cocktails. Grandpa and Grandma sent me flowers, a delivered arrangement, like they have every year since I was 19. The flowers were roses this year, pink and white. I had a birthday yesterday. Did you even notice?

The last birthday card I ever got from you came in a business size envelope. You used the letter wizard in Word, probably, and sent me two sentences formatted in formal business style. You signed it "Sincerely, Jim Willott." Not, "love, Dad." It was my 20th birthday.

Six years later, you don't know my middle name. You don't remember the name of the man sharing my life. You can't tell me apart from my sister, shorter, younger, more married, and definitely more pregnant than I. You don't know and express no interest in my life, my interests, my activities.

In stories, fathers are supposed to be proud of their daughters. They brag about her accomplishments, her refinement and class, her brilliance to anyone who even looks like they might listen. In the movies, fathers are so concerned for their little girls that they grill the men brought home, covering everything from income to ethics: are you good enough for my princess?

I keep trying to cut you some slack. I know you are sick, even if you refuse to admit anything is wrong. I've seen the images from the scans the doctors made, and I've seen where your brain is disappearing. You used to design microchips, and now you spend eight hours a day playing solitaire on your computer, if you can call rearranging the cards until the computer accepts a move as "playing." You can't make the connection between the words "killed" and "dead." You mistake the detergent bottle for the juice jug and don't know what to do when the phone rings. The last time someone left you home alone, you nearly burned the house down.

We can't take care of you anymore. For your safety and our sanity, we need you to move out, move on, to a place that is safer, to people who have training with illnesses like yours. I don't know why am trying to explain this to you; according to you everything is fine.

Yesterday was my birthday, Dad. I heard your voice on the answering machine today, not with congratulations or best wishes, but sounding forlorn and accusing. "Come get me," you said to the machine, the confusion and hurt in your voice so clear I could see it, all sharp edges hidden in a fog. "Come get me," you asked your 80 year-old parents. "Come get me," you said, and I wrapped myself in my anger until I could not feel my heart break.

Happy birthday to me, Dad, happy birthday to me.

March 26, 2001

"Here is the church, here is the steeple;
Open the doors and see all the people!"

While walking to my neighborhood BART station yesterday, I passed a church. I'd walked by it before, for months actually, without its church-ness being all that obvious. It sits on its own artificial hill, squatting over its parking lot. The building itself is a marvel of non-traditional architecture, with three parallel roof segments, and a front wall entirely of glass, revealing a spider's web of steel support beams inside. It reminds me of those collapsible plastic spheres you see in toy stores these days. In a condensed state, the sphere is almost solid and is surrounded by spiky protrusions; expand it with a gentle pull or a skilled wrist-flick, and it opens, huge and spacious.

It was yesterday, though, that I noticed the fence. It's probably mostly a required safety precaution, something to keep the children running off the edge of the flat topped artificial hill, falling to the sidewalk below. The gates, however, are impressive. They are heavy looking things with doorknobs and large steel locking mechanisms. They say "keep out" without mincing words. They encourage a separation between believers and the rest of the world, something I've heard urged from Sunday morning pulpits more times than I care to count. (I've often wondered how Christians are supposed to make any difference in the world if they are not supposed to interact with the world.) These gates are serious about keeping a sinful world out of God's house.

Locked churches bother me. The locks seem to contradict everything the church claims to endorse. One night in Santa Barbara, I went walking, more out of depression than any interest in exercise. I passed a church, a beautiful stone thing with arched doorway, and thought I'd try working through my troubles in God's house. Since it would not be full of people, maybe I would ask for guidance and perhaps God might have time for me. But the door was locked; not just locked, it was heavy wood bound with iron and utterly immovable. I had never, in my whole career of feeling cosmically isolated, felt so cut off, so abandoned.

What ever happened to the notion of Church as sanctuary? What if it hadn't been just my psyche tormenting me that evening? Once upon a time you were supposed to be able to seek refuge, protection, or aid from the Church, whether from drunk soldiers intent on rape or from the tax collector threatening your freedom rather than working out a payment plan. You could go inside and throw yourself on God's mercy, and the soldiers and the tax collectors couldn't touch you.

Perhaps I watch too many movies, or perhaps I have romantic notions of history. But if Jesus, the very person the Church claims to honor, said "Come unto me, all you that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28), then it would seem that fences and doors have no place in a church. How can anyone come if the doors are locked?

Of course, most churches lock their doors to keep out the vandals and the homeless. No believer in any faith likes to find spray-paint and splinters marring his place of worship. Nor is America's Puritan heritage very lenient when it comes to giving "handouts" to people who don't work and who want assistance. ("He who doesn't work, doesn't eat." -- Captain John Smith) So, the doors are locked. There isn't the budget to keep someone on hand at all hours to chase away "the bad people," to give a meal and a warm bed to someone who needs help (conveniently forgetting the parable of the good Samaritan), to talk with someone angry and disillusioned, to comfort a person feeling small and forgotten. It's never been a Sunday morning when I needed a little touch of heaven.

What a sorry state to come to: judging and turning away the very people Jesus, "anointed... to bring good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18), loved. By closing the doors and minimizing the staff, churches may be ensuring that their sanctuary is always pristine or that there is the money for that really fabulous youth retreat to Tahoe at the height of ski season. They're also ensuring that the only people whose lives they will ever touch are the ones whom they've already saved.

March 15, 2001

"Ignore Reality.
There's nothing you can do about it."

The other day I found myself thinking about things I wrote during my last significant period of creativity, pieces written when I was certain that I would be a writer and when I did not doubt that I had something to say. The stories are neatly packaged narratives, written with the simple belief in the clean orderliness of the world. Right is right, wrong is wrong. I wrote them when I knew everything.

Now, 10 years later, it seems I know so very little. When I left my small high school of teenage horrors and went to college, I stopped writing stories. I wrote some poetry, dark and dismal stuff. I wrote personal essays, and I wrote a lot of term papers. I learned I didn't know everything, that I could never hope to know that much. I learned that the world was bigger than I ever imagined and full of more ideas than I would ever understand. I learned to doubt that I had much to say, that I would ever be a writer.

Despite this, I am writing. I am filling journal pages with the stray bits I find in my mind: to-do lists, movie critiques, self evaluations, and pop psychology. This collection of random thoughts has 16 entries in it now. And it is because I am thinking of tackling new, different, bigger writing projects that I find myself reminiscing about the things I wrote before. I remember it was easier before popular "reality" got in my way.

For it is reality which tells me that I must accept that I am small and the world is big, that my thoughts are insignificant droplets in the sea of humanity's accumulated ideas. And because I have never been very good at pushing the limits, my tendency is to accept them and retire quietly to my corner. I never had a rebellious stage. I was a diligent and ideal student. I continue to be a conservative dresser. I have no piercings, no tattoos, and only occasionally color my hair a subtle burgundy.

Still, I am a person in love with language, and I find I'm happiest arranging my words on a page. So, despite my excruciating awareness of my ignorance and insignificance, I will write something. I will find a story to tell. I must teach myself to ignore reality, to step outside the dictated lines, to believe mine is a unique and worthwhile voice, to know I have something to say.

Perhaps I shall start by coloring my hair aubergine...

March 07, 2001

"It's the future already, a new millenium.
I don't see any flying cars, though."

May I be forgiven. I am about to launch into a fit of nostalgia, and I'll just say "I'm sorry" up front and get it over with. This isn't even going to be a mellow, sighing sort of nostalgia, wherein I wax poetic about happier, simpler times, the joys of childhood, the blankies you drag all over the house, and the importance of afternoon naps. No, this is going to be hard-core, the kind of delusional, rose-colored glasses nostalgia engaged in by storytelling grandparents and by most Republicans. This is going to be a fit of nostalgia that longs for times long out of memory and probably nonexistent.

You know the nostalgia I mean, I'm sure. This is the kind that leads policymakers to lament the "moral decline" of America and long for the days of the "traditional" family. Somehow it's become a popular belief that if Mother always stayed at home with the 2.5 children and the 0.6 dog while Father spent days at the office and evenings in his chair with his pipe and the paper, things would be better. Lower teen pregnancy rates. Lower divorce rates. Lower instances of juvenile delinquency. A well-scrubbed country of smiling faces and popular opinions waving from behind our white picket fences. Because that's "how it's always been" and only since we've started deviating from that model has the country become the morally corrupt thing it is today.

Um, does anyone remember any time before 1950? Remember when both parents (and everybody else) worked one way or another? Remember the Middle Ages, when if you weren't nobility or clergy, you were a farmer who worked your plot of land with parents, siblings, spouses, and offspring and then gave most of your crops to your landlord? Remember the Industrial Revolution, when Father worked in the mines, Mother worked in the mill, and the children joined her there as soon as they could tie broken strings together? Our happy mental picture of the "traditional family" was born in the 1950s, out of post-war affluence and leftover aspirations of the Victorian middle class.

But this is not my point.

You see, I woke up this morning with a sour taste in my mouth and really determined crusties in my eyelashes. And no, I did not earn such an experience by exceeding my recommended daily allowance of alcohol last night, either. I felt miserable, depressed, purposeless. And then it came to me: today I want to sit in a sewing circle with other youngish, newly married, newly expecting women, drink tea, munch dainty cookies, and quilt. We would be making another quilt for the orphanage in the city, feeling ourselves righteous with every tiny stitch. No, that's not it; I wanted to take my laundry to the wide space in the river and chat with my neighbors over our suds and washboards.

Never mind that I'm not newly married, not expecting, or that I lack the strength and stamina to wash my clothes by hand with rocks in a river. If I actually had to live my life that way, I'd not have the time to write these rambling thoughts for your amusement. But still with these "life was better then" glasses, that's what I long for this morning. And if I look closer, it's not the river, the laundry, the cookies, or the quilting that I want. It's the community. The supportive gathering of friends.

How sad that we have become a nation of individuals so completely individual that we don't connect with anyone outside our home or workplace anymore. Gone are the days of neighborhood get-togethers; for that matter, gone are the days of neighborhoods. We work our mind-numbing jobs and go home, swearing at strangers on the highway who dare slow us down in our rush to get somewhere where we can be alone with our computer, our eBay account, and that guy in the chat room with the cute avatar. We know more than we ever knew before; we travel faster, horde more stuff, and spend less time with fewer and fewer people.

Welcome to the future; is it everything you hoped it would be?

January 23, 2001

I woke up this morning feeling ancient.
Stretched so thin, I'm probably transparent,
so much without substance that I fear if I were to go outside,
I would blow away or dissolve in the rain."

My father died when I was 18, seven years ago, when I was a freshman in college. That's when the dementia had destroyed enough of his brain to destroy the man I knew as my father. Dad was a laid-back sort of guy, with a sweet smile and an easy sense of humor. He loved music and technology and boats, was a championship marksman, enjoyed exotic foods and made holiday pies. He built a playhouse for my sister and myself, a shelter for the dog, racks for the firewood. We went hiking and backpacking together and took a family vacation across America.

The doctors can't say when the disease arrived. But by the time I was halfway through that first year of college, it had stolen my dad and left a silent, sullen man in his place. He spent more and more time playing computer card solitaire games, and he took no interest in what I might be doing now that I wasn't living at home. Our phone conversations were filled with empty silences.

The images from last month's brain scans show many empty places, fingers of blackness where his personality used to be and a gaping hole were the words he used to know were stored. The dementia has consumed the tissue of this once above-average brain, leaving vacant holes filled with fluid behind an expressionless face. Leaving my family with the knowledge that whatever advances are made in Alzheimer's and dementia research, they will come too late for my dad to ever know his grandchildren. Leaving me with the fear that the failure in his brain is genetic and that dementia will start destroying me.

Yesterday we visited the neurologist. He was quietly sympathetic as he showed us the MRI images and discussed where we might be in the progress of the disease. He seemed almost apologetic that there is nothing to be done. It may be three years yet before we start to see physical manifestations of his shrinking brain: loss of motor control, incontinence, difficulty swallowing. In the meantime, my father will become more clueless, more inarticulate, and more difficult to be around. But it won't be over until his saliva gets in his lungs and he develops pneumonia or until the instructions to keep his heart beating disappear. The end of this chapter could still be 10 years away.

I stopped myself before I asked the neurologist if there was any way we could speed up the disease. Instead I watched Mom's hands. At 52, her hands are starting to look like her father's, who is 79. She is aging before her time because although my dad is dead, we can't bury my father.

I am angry at the dementia, but I can't scream at it, I can't reason with it, and I can't ignore it. It's just there, self-satisfied and taking up the entire living room like some monster-cat on steroids, impervious to temper tantrums and contentedly shedding fur to be tracked through the rest of the house. I hate it for killing Dad, for aging Mom, for having an immediate impact on the lives and bodies of people it doesn't inhabit. I hate it for moving so slowly. I hate how much of my life will be lost by the time it's done and how much my family has already lost. I hate that I want to postpone any children I might have until after the funeral, since what's left of my father will never understand and since I would rather my children grow up with stories of how their grandfather was instead of memories of how he is now.

I am angry, but there is nothing for me to yell at that would make any difference.

January 05, 2001

"Did you make any New Year's resolutions? Or are you going to do what I'm doing:
Using some of the resolutions I have just lying around but which are basically brand new.

Well, here we are, folks. 2001. We can all stop debating when the Second Millennium begins, or if the start of the Second Millennium means the end of the world. For all purposes, the millennium is well under way by now, and as far as I can tell, the world hasn't ended yet. In fact, it almost seems to be intent on proving its continued existence. The neighboring back yard has a cherry tree flowering wildly and our own plum tree has put on some rather extensive new growth. Having not actually spent a winter in San Francisco before, I can't say if the mild sunny weather is unseasonable or not. Is it wrong for the cherry tree to be blooming already? Who am I to argue with a tree who's been here longer than me?

I stopped inches short of resolving not to make resolutions for this year. It seems a bit strange to make some grand statement, "In this new year, I will..." when all the things I would have resolved to do have been things I've been working on in the last couple months. I would have had a head start on everyone. Hardly fair. But then most people probably made the same resolutions which get made every year: to quit smoking, to get more exercise, to spend more time with the kids. I just want to write more regularly.

Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. I want to do so much more than "just write." We celebrated New Year's part deux last night with some friends from out of town. Between mimosas and apologizing to me for what ever offensive things he might have done in my presence in the last couple years, one gentleman asked me what I was doing with myself in this city. After he'd told me how much he loved temporary work, ("Shows you how many idiots there are out there. You've got brains and talent; everyone must just love you. Because everyone else is an idiot. And you get to test out companies and find out most of them are full of idiots, too.") I explained that I am enjoying it because temporary employment gives me the chance to work on my other projects. I'm writing more now than I have in years. I've got these random thoughts and our travelogue which I am currently working on. I'm also drawing Celtic knot work, playing in Photoshop, dabbling in photography, designing and sewing a quilt, and experimenting in soup.

"I'm pretending to be an artist," I told him.

I've never admitted that aloud to anyone before, including myself. The notion has been batting around in the back of my head for some time now, slowly and quietly growing in secret. Me as an artist. It's a strange idea. But it is a strangely compelling one, and I am taking another look at it before tossing it out with the imminent spring cleaning. Something about it has caught my attention, and I find myself wondering if I keep up with the make-believe if I might not find some truth here. So, this year, in 2001, I resolve to keep pretending.