Splendor of ended day, floating and filling me!

(“Song at Sunset” by Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass)

The anniversary slipped past without me thinking much of it, which is actually kind of nice. Three years (and a few days) ago, I was a patient, etherized upon a table, while a robot nabbed my uterus, thus relieving me of not only the cancer that had begun to sprout there but a slew of not-very-ladylike health problems that had plagued me more than I’d realized.

I didn’t panic until I was all alone, my mother and boyfriend ensconced in the waiting room while I took off my brave face, and donned the butt-baring robe, my feet mummified in weirdly binding socks. So this is it, kid, I thought, and what do you have to show for it? What would you do again if you had the chance?

Hey, you get a free pass for melodrama when they’re about to conk you out for major surgery and you’re not 100% sure — who is? — you’re going to come out on the other side.

The thing that rankled me most was my self-consciousness about swimming. When I was a kid, I loved to swim. Looking back, I see now that it was the only form of exercise at which I felt I was any good, and it was certainly the only physical thing I ever did to the point of exhaustion. It’s remarkable that I gave it up so quickly. My flabulousness made me an easy target during awkward middle-school swim classes, and so my swimming career ended in eighth grade, when I passed the “lifesaver” test, wherein I bobbed like a cork in the deep end of the school pool, a wet pair of size-14 jeans inflated and looped around my neck as a clammy makeshift life preserver. (Yes, really, that was the final element of our swim test.) As God as my witness, nobody would see my naked arms ever again! If I had to lie, steal, cheat or kill!

Life is too short for that. A cliché, yes! But deadly seriously true. I was furious with myself in those last few minutes of consciousness: You loved it! And you let it go! Because you didn’t want anyone to see your arms, your belly, your thighs? Because you didn’t want to be seen at all!

Obviously, I did wake up from surgery, and I really took my deathbed-but-not-really-but-it-seemed-like-it-at-the-time epiphany seriously, telling myself whenever I felt wiggly that what other people thought of me was none of my business. Going to the gym was a huge step. Working out with a trainer, a huge lunging step. Walking, jogging, all that stuff, literally huge steps.

The swimming thing I kept on a back burner until the right opportunity presented itself. One of the jewels in the crown of my gym’s massive new facility is a gorgeous aquatic center that opened a few weeks ago. I signed up for swim lessons, the first of which was last night. I don’t even know if there are words to describe how great it was to jump back in. After the lesson, I farted around in the therapy pool, in the whirlpool, in the steam room and sauna, not really wanting the evening to end.

When you step out of the water, gravity seeps back into your bones. I was so giddy that I didn’t really notice the effect. The endorphins of exertion were at work and play in my bloodstream here, of course, but more than that, there was a promise fulfilled, a wrong righted, a disconnected chunk of my soul has slipped back into place.

On Magic

The silver lining of being a few years late to The Magicians is that a sequel was published last year. I can jump right into it without pining away! I am so enthralled that I have to ration it – I only listen to it while I’m out on my walks. Today I was out there for a couple hours, logging over seven miles, because I did not want to stop listening.

The weather reports predicted a very warm day that never materialized, bogged down in fog that never lifted. Ah, atmosphere. It’s like walking in a cloud because you are walking in a cloud. Droplets clung to the trees.


It was really beautiful.

The Park in Mist

“The ‘D’ is silent.” “I know.”

There was sequence in the middle of wild, cathartic, bonkers Django Unchained that brought tears of glee and delight to my eyes. Django and Dr. Schultz on horseback, trekking across wintry vistas, set to the tune of Jim Croce’s “I Got A Name.” It’s completely ridiculous – shades of Butch Cassidy farting around on his bicycle to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” – but it’s also ridiculously beautiful.

Concerning Hobbits

In honor of J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday, a few Internet bits and pieces:

Letters of Note: I have no ancestors of that gifted people. In 1938, German publishers asked him for proof of Aryan ancestry. He was not amused.

“Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold”

“Song of the Lonely Mountain,” Neil Finn. Pop music needs more anvil!

J.R.R. Tolkien reads from The Hobbit: Riddles in the Dark

The Hobbit, 1977. The first few minutes of the original Rankin-Bass production that captured my imagination when I was five years old.

My Year In Film

Top Five favorites from the year. Not necessarily released this year, but they were new to me for whatever reason.

Color Me Obsessed. Growing up in Minnesota was an experience that gave me many odd gifts, including an imperviousness to near-arctic-levels of cold and an across-the-century kinship with Our Lady of the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder. And then we had The Replacements. I was fourteen when “Pleased to Meet Me” was released. Fourteen! Do you know how much a song like “Can’t Hardly Wait” resonates with a fourteen-year-old girl? The gutsy, raw, sloppy gusto on the radio was like nothing else, most certainly nothing like Duran Duran, which was my actual favorite band at the time, and shook me up almost violently. I had to physically stop whatever else I was doing and listen when that song played, and it made me want to fly, it was that adrenaline-rush-inducing. “They were a glorious mess,” as they say in the movie. I was a mess when I was fourteen. Hell, I am still a mess. This documentary is a joy and a celebration and now quite easy to see online, thank goodness.

Moonrise Kingdom. What kind of bird are you? I love anything Wes Anderson does, but this one warmed my heart more than most. It helps that I saw it with my young teenage friend, and she was as enchanted and delighted as you’d expect, but it was also her first Anderson film. “I want to live in this movie!” she said. And so do I, which is something I say for every one of his films.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Absolutely mesmerizing, and I so regret not seeing it as intended, in 3D on a big screen. It’s an amazing technical feat, filmed with very limited gear in hardly any time at all. And it’s also poignant and bemusing in a way that only a Werner Herzog film can be. “In a forbidden recess of the cave, there’s a footprint of an eight-year-old boy next to the footprint of a wolf. Did a hungry wolf stalk the boy? Or did they walk together as friends? Or were their tracks made thousands of years apart? We’ll never know.”

Casa Di Mi Padre. I know. What? I don’t even know if this was ever in my local theater. We watched this on Pay-Per-View on a night when I needed to see something silly, and my expectations were low, to say the least. So to end up weeping with laughter, having to rewind bits because I was crying laughing so hard that my eyes were squinched shut and I couldn’t read the subtitles, was a pleasant surprise indeed. Will Ferrell commits himself 100% to this farce, and it wouldn’t have worked any other way.

Magical Mystery Tour. I’m over forty years late to this particular party, though it’s not for lack of trying. I grew up obsessed with The Beatles and while of course I had the album (on vinyl, and then on cd) it was never really released in the U.S. and my knowledge of it was limited to the withering commentary about it, along with the tantalizing proto-music-video bits, in The Compleat Beatles. I suppose if I’d tried harder I could have found a bootleg VHS copy at some point, but as it turns out, it was for the best, I think, that I saw the restored version, along with a documentary, on PBS’ Great Performances. I expected a mess, and it was a mess, but it was also so beautiful, in a melancholic, manic kind of way. Really astonished me, and I’m in the odd position now of wanting to watch it over and over again… but also being a little afraid to spoil the wonder of seeing it for the first time.

My Stories: BBC America / Masterpiece Edition

I have way too many opinions about television programs. A rundown on the latest BBC-type stuff catching my attention and clogging my DVR:

Call The Midwife. Was annoyed by this — too stiff, too posh, too PBS-predictable —until Miranda Hart showed up. Miranda! She steals every scene, and there’s been a few scenes where I’ve just been floored by what she does here. I love her.

Downton Abbey. Fuck you, Downton Abbey. I mean seriously, this was always crap but for the first couple of seasons it was fun, prettily-costumed crap, right? The latest series hasn’t started here in the U.S., but I’m already totally over you. Spoiled by a couple tweets — with the plot twists of course people can’t help but lose their shit and shout to the heavens — and yep, I’m OUT. RIP Mr. Pamuk. {No spoilers from me!}

Copper. Absolutely hilarious. Unintentionally so, but I’ll DVR this until the end of time and enjoy the hell out of it. I like to imagine the ghost of my great-great-grandfather, himself a Civil War veteran and resident of the mean New York streets where the action takes place, sitting by my side, shaking his head, spitting on the ground, maybe pissing himself laughing over the ludicrousness of this show.

Rosemary and Thyme. A relatively ancient series that I’m rewatching by way of WETA UK and my handy DVR. What I love about this show is how on every single one of their gardening/landscaping jobs, there’s a relatively horrific murder. And then the titular characters basically meddle in the crimes, ruining evidence and just acting inappropriately all over the place, but they’re adorable anyway. When I was struck with the hell-flu earlier this month I watched episode after episode, wrapped up in a comforter on my sofa. Cozy in every way.

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