Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Not Even Close to Famous

The Country
by Billy Collins

I wondered about you
when you told me never to leave
a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches
lying around the house because the mice

might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was absolutely straight
when you twisted the lid down on the round tin
where the matches, you said, are always stowed.

Who could sleep that night?
Who could whisk away the thought
of the one unlikely mouse
padding along a cold water pipe

behind the floral wallpaper
gripping a single wooden match
between the needles of his teeth?
Who could not see him rounding a corner,

the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam,
the sudden flare, and the creature
for one bright, shining moment
suddenly thrust ahead of his time—

now a fire-starter, now a torchbearer
in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid
illuminating some ancient night.
Who could fail to notice,

lit up in the blazing insulation,
the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces
of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants
of what once was your house in the country?

From Nine Horses: Poems. © Random House, 2003

Summer speeds by with handfuls of cilantro and spritzes of lime.  The weather has been blissfully varied, with afternoon rain storms, cool mornings, and very few mosquitoes here in northern Colorado.  I tack this summer's weather onto my gratitude list every day, along with my lima bean-shaped dog, and my husband, who has my back in so many ways I cannot begin to count them. 

Mentally preparing for warm weather this past winter, after getting blasted by heat and wildfire despair last summer, I told myself: I will go swimming.  I will crash kiddie pools if I have to.  I will wear slippery tank tops and jeweled sandals.  I will drink fruity drinks. 

I have done all these things, except the kiddie pool.  Is it embarrassing that I am only now reaping the benefits of grounding, of following the seasons, when I am thirty-five?  Don't answer that!

I caught myself listening to The Strokes this morning, remembering years when I lived in New York after college.  Those years were a somewhat grave miscalculation of what I need in an environment, to say the least, but there was some good mixed in with the confusion. 

One of the good things was a brief internship at Interview magazine, where I was working when The Strokes album Is This It? crashed onto the scene.  For two weeks, I transcribed interviews between famous people and other not-so-famous people while The Strokes bounced around the cultural zeitgeist.  The magazine's offices were incredibly dark, arranged with important desks near windows and others, well, let's just say the room I transcribed in could have doubled as a broom closet.  But I loved the work, though I was completely intimidated by everyone around me.  I eventually had to leave because I had also applied for an internship at Rolling Stone, and when you get a call from Rolling Stone magazine, you answer that sh*t, you know? 

I had the great fortune of being a music intern there for the greater part of a year while I explored New York and various phases of my life.  At first I lived in catatonic disbelief that I reported to work on Sixth Avenue, and salivated nervously every time I was asked to do something cool.  On my first day, Roger Waters called to be patched through to one of my bosses, one of the kindest people I had ever worked for.  I met my brother down the street for coffee some days for lunch, and others grabbed a sandwich and walked to Central Park with another intern, a gorgeous young woman who went on to work in Bollywood and write a book about it. 

What is my point?  I'm not sure, except sometimes when wandering in a thicket of questions about my life, I try to remember other times I've felt lost.  What I recall is that, not only were good things happening during those times, but I was being cared for - by myself, by my friends, and possibly by some great, all-knowing love that I can't even guess at. 

Has anyone seen the movie Smashed?  I don't recommend it.  Like, at all.  But there is a scene in it, in which two recovering alcoholics piece through the journey of the younger alcoholic, who is newly sober.  Her sponsor, played by Octavia Spencer, says, "It's hard to live an honest life."  I think about this all the time now, and think, That's right.  That's what I'm getting at when I catch myself thinking that life is hard.

Because maybe life itself isn't so hard, but keeping your heart open for all it's trying to teach you is. 

Sometimes I think I could have embraced the opportunities I had in New York more, but other times, I see that I was slip and sliding all over the place spiritually.  I was doing the best I could, at the time.  Isn't that all we're doing anyway?

In honor of environment and culture, I give you:

1) The above poem from Billy Collins, which makes me ridiculously happy with its mice mouths and matches between tiny teeth. 

2) Some quotes from one of the greatest interviews I've read in my adult life, from the June 2012 issue of The Sun.  The interview takes place between interviewer Ariane Conrad and painter Ran Ortner, who said that thing we all loved about supporting your art instead of asking it to support you. 

* A culture is made by those who have a willingness to encounter life fully, to feel the storm of it and bring it back to us, so that we can put on Mozart's Requiem and listen to the fullness of the human heart...

* Awakening is a collective effort.  The more we can awaken individually, the more we will awaken collectively...

* ...I think that making art is profoundly and fundamentally life affirming.  To make art is to give, to pour yourself into life, so you don't die with the music still inside you.  You give it to your culture. 

Did you hear that?  Get your fine selves out there and give to your culture, please! 

Sending love,

P.S.  Completely coincidentally, Lukis and I posted an episode on our podcast this week about the movie Almost Famous, in which a young character gets assigned to write a story for, yup, Rolling Stone.  I never followed a Zeppelin-like band, or even a Skynyrd-like band, for weeks to write about them.  I barely left the office.  But the movie is fun, and discussing its merits and demerits was even more fun.  Hop on over to listen, if you're curious! 

P.P.S. I am now changing my blog's name to, Kara Reads The Sun.


  1. I love your blog so much.

    That is all.

  2. Katherine said it best!! :)

    1. I need to subscribe to The Sun!
    2. Love this a lot: "A culture is made by those who have a willingness to encounter life fully, to feel the storm of it and bring it back to us, so that we can put on Mozart's Requiem and listen to the fullness of the human heart..." But recently I've been worried about the culture that's created from bad reality television and celeb-obsessed magazines. I recently read--can't remember where--this person say: "To be famous, you used to have to do something or make something." But that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I mean... am I just being a total cynic or did I watch one too many episodes of Keeping up with the Kardashians last night?? Either way, it WORRIES me.

    OK, over and out. xoxo

  3. ♥ you girls!!

    Amerzz, trust me on this one - I think about your Weekend at Bernie's T-shirts WAY more than I think about celeb wedding outfits.

    It does seem that the media world is spinning at an increasingly bizarr-o rate, but I have total faith that even if no one sees the things you create, they have put oxygen back into the earth, just by your attention and the love that making something requires of you.

    Of course, what you make is beautiful and everyone who sees it says so. Just keep hustling, little lady!

  4. Ha ha... I think NYC is a serious miscalculation in what *everyone* needs in an environment! (Even if they don't realize it!)

    Speaking of, or not speaking of... but since I'm here, I'll be at the yoga conference in Estes Park at the end of Sept. Will you? Will you be near??

    Thanks always for your thoughts... I thought for a moment you were literally changing the name of your blog to "Kara Reads the Sun" and I thought it was brilliant... but then I realized you were probably joking. Still brilliant, either way.