reset buttons and beets

I’m sitting in the Tattered Cover in Denver, drinking a latte and eating a cinnamon-dark chocolate chip cookie, which is—and I know cookies—on the high end of the amazing cookie scale. I just went for a leisurely stroll around downtown Denver, around Coors Field and up the 16th Street Mall, in the crisp sunshine of a Saturday morning.

It’s a breath of fresh air to be back in Denver after a very hectic month. A whole month, I realize, since I checked in with you, blog, and I apologize for my neglect. There’s a direct correlation between my happiness and how frequently I write, so it’s a good sign that I’m plunking away now (but similarly the gap between posts the sign of a bad month).

Let’s see. I took the GRE. I did well, but studied too hard and burnt myself out. I didn’t get the awesome, adventuresome writing job I really wanted—made it to the final two. Yes, yes, it was an honor even to be considered, but it was a disappointment, to say the least.

So, because I found out I was not going to move to Peru and become a travel writer—as least, not this year—I went and bought awesome, kicky boots at Nordstrom.

I also went to Newport Beach and walked the beach and listened to music and sat in the sand and watched the ocean. It was then, when I was sitting in the sand, moping about starting over, about how hard it is to dream big, when I was staring into the distance, a forlorn look on my face; it was then when a song clicked on my ipod—“So sturdy up sturdy up your heart. For the road is long ahead”—and I looked up and saw three dolphins meander by, not fifteen feet beyond the gently bobbing waves. They crested and arced, up and down, smooth and circular and natural. The message could not have been clearer—look up, look around, dear girl. Breathe and just keeping looking up and paying attention. And so it goes, and I got up, dusted myself off, and went home.

I think it’s important to find those reset buttons in your life—like chocolate chip cookies, beach days, and boots—that you can turn to when things seem like they’re going to shit—as they always seem to seem.

As Tim Robbins says in Jitterbug Perfume, one of my favorite books of the year:

“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”

And, in the vein of the dolphin meandering by: “Your truly happy people, which is to say, your people who truly like themselves, they don’t think about themselves very much. Your unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwellin’ on himself and start paying attention to the universe.”

I woke up in the middle of the night on November 1 and as I stumbled to the bathroom I realized with a start—oh holy moly it’s November. The advent of this great month meant that my hypothetical statement of “I think I’ll apply to graduate school” became—oh my god, applications are due in a month and I haven’t started them. So, I decidedly decided to apply, after much wavering, to get myself an MFA (Master’s of Fine Arts). Specifically, I’m applying to MFA programs for Creative Nonfiction. I have a list of nine schools, but if you get my reference to individually sized raspberry pies, you know where my first choice is.

I’m in Denver because on Tuesday I turn 23 and because also on Tuesday, Kara turns 24. So we shall celebrate together and another year will swoosh closed and another will open wide, possibilities spread thick before me. I’m excited by the possibilities, by my possibilities, of the coming year. I feel like I’m on the verge.

I’m actually still a little obsessed with Jitterbug Perfume, which I read months ago in a hammock in Nicaragua. I’ve similarly been on a beet kick since then. I love beets. I eat them in salads, make beet-orange smoothies, eat them cooked, eat them raw. They just so pure and purple and primal. That color! Those long veiny leaves. The sweet vegetable flavor. Beets are a staple veggie in Nicaragua, indeed in most of Latin America, and beets play a huge role in Robbins’s book.

I don’t want to reduce his book, a lovely romp and frolic through the powers of the imagination, to a single quote, but I shall end with his words.

“At birth we are red-faced, round, intense, pure. The crimson fire of universal consciousness burns in us. Gradually, however, we are devoured by our parents, gulped by schools, chewed up by peers, swallowed by social institutions, wolfed by bad habbits, and gnawed by age; and by the time we have been digested, cow style, in those six stomachs, we emerge a single disgusting shade of brown.

“So the lesson of the beet, then, is this: hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown.”

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