Monday, September 29, 2008

Taking suggestions for a first name

I am tired of people pointing out who I share a first name with.
if SHE becomes vice president, I am changing my name. Or at least, going by something else.
I am not kidding.
When I was in third grade, I changed my name every week. I even have a response to a fan letter I wrote to an author, that is addressed to "Scarlet Kelsey." Many of my Tennessee relatives have two names that they go by. Not kidding. I have a great-aunt who is both Myrtle and Bonnie.
To make it easy, I will probably just switch to my middle name and from November 5th on, you will all know me as "Lizzie" or "Beth" or something.
I'll be listening to suggestions for a first name, anyway.
But hopefully this will all be moot when Obama is president :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Like Physics

I'm typing up an excerpt from some things I wrote in my paper journal last Monday, edited somewhat for drama minimizing and for clarity and brevity--I hope.

It's like a Physics equation. Things balance out on both sides of the equation. The weight is equal to the normal force; obviously an object exerts a force on the table, but also the table exerts a force of equal magnitude on the object sitting on top of it.
So, what is meaningful and positive for one person is meaningful and positive for both people involved. One person feels set free, like a curse has been lifted, free to trust and not fear people anymore, but for the other person, too, it is meaningful and positive to be given that trust. That trust is power and it is privilege, the privilege of feeling special, being made special, like a hero.

On second thought, it's possible that this trust and power could feel like a burden--a freedom for Person A is a burden for Person B--and that is in keeping with my whole "Physics equation" idea.

Maybe "responsibility" is just as accurate--but nicer--a word than "burden."

Things don't disappear--they change state--like the law of conservation of matter--and forces must be balanced.

But I always say that feelings don't follow scientific law. Maybe they do, a little bit. Maybe scientific law can help to understand human emotion.

Like poetry.

Science itself, nature and the physical world, don't always follow these rules, either. The square root of negative one appears in nature.

Unless we are using the wrong equations.

There's a place in everything where ends don't meet, rules don't apply, things don't add up or balance.

Like morality.

Recently a conversation arose on the morality of domestication of animals, based on my grandfather's proclamation, "Animals is for human to eat." It was likened to a breeding program for humans to be used for medical experiments. If they're bred for that purpose, then is it wrong to treat them that way? Similarly, is it wrong to raise and kill animals for food if they were only brought to life with that intent, anyway? Are these two situations the same? (At the time, I avoided the question.)

Now I think, YES! They are similar situations! Except for minor details--animals domesticated for meat theoretically aren't being tortured. But I guess the practices of factory farms ARE like torture.

The world is ugly. Maybe that's why I forgive people so easily. Because there is already too much ugliness and anger in the world.

I didn't write this on the eighth, because I would have to go on for pages and use many words to finish my thoughts on this, but I feel that this--domestication of animals for meat--is one of those places where morality, where things don't meet or add up completely. Is it more ethical to have food with a face--things you killed yourself; is that more honest? Is it more ethical to eat no meat? Are lions and wolves and things that are naturally carnivores--are they immoral? Something's getting hurt, but something has to get hurt for anything to survive. (Even plants; they're photosynthetic, but so many are allelopathic...)

And that's all I want to write on the subject for now.


Water Bears!

Invasive Species--maybe not so bad?

If I weren't still in mid-coffee, I'd have articulate thoughts on the invasive species article, since that's one of my things. Also, I wrote too much yesterday. I'm going to be quiet today.

I haven't read these yet, but the titles are interesting and I'm going to try to read them later:



Also, on a side note, has anyone noticed that Internet services are dumbing down for us? I don't like it. I'm not talking about the new Facebook (which I do like...and I'm in the minority) but the new Firefox, and a not-so-recent Gmail update where now it only automatically fills in e-mail addresses if I start to type the person's display name, not their address. This enables me to forget their address. I feel like we have to know less and less HTML, almost like it's harder to get to the HTML editor than it is to just write things normal, and NOW Firefox's address bar functions like a search engine...filling in all kinds of things for me.

It's convenient, yes, but it's making me stupid. I feel like my agency is being taken away!

Love, your crazy friend Sarah.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A ghost (two weeks after move-in)

I got a bunch of new music recently, and almost all of it--almost every album--has a song with the word "ghost" in the title.
So, after writing that post this morning, within an hour after getting to work I was feeling better--like myself. Which doesn't mean that what I wrote was some kind of out-of-nowhere thing; I've been like that a lot. Sad and then back to my old self, either if I'm occupied or ESPECIALLY when I'm with people.
Yesterday, I found that I could walk to the grocery store in about ten minutes. This is very exciting to me. So I got my green bag that says "EarthSavers" on it, my wallet (which is really a beat-up clutch purse), and my iPod, and started down the street, trying to distract myself from melancholy by taking in the interesting houses around me, the people in the street enjoying the warm weather, and the wealth of cute white wood aster growing in masses along the roadside. I passed by a house where a bunch of guys were sitting outside; one of them had a guitar. When the man with the guitar noticed me, he turned and started singing in my direction, LOUDLY, just banging out chords (or perhaps just hitting all the strings--I still had my iPod on so I don't know), "Love of my LIIIIIIIIIIIFFFFFFFFEEEEE" and a bunch of other silly things. I tried to just keep walking, but I was laughing and laughing. It was just too silly to be annoyed or feel self conscious.
(Later that night, though, I was back to feeling blue.)

Anyway, I was thinking and thinking and thinking last night, and thinking that I was in a low place--which is sometimes necessary to being something better, later. I wasn't doing the things Sarah normally does. I make fun of people who are overly activist, who join silly Facebook groups and talk loudly about their ideas--as though they've just discovered The World and social conscience. But I'm no better and am probably worse than them, because I've become really lax in my own commitment to social change. I drive a somewhat fuel efficient car, I walk a lot of places (because I can; many people don't have that option), I buy a lot of organic groceries, I compost some of my trash, I carry my own bags to the grocery store. But I waste a lot of water and hardly give it a second thought. I waste a lot of things. I use a lot of plastic. When I was moving, I threw out a lot of things that weren't garbage. Maybe a lot of people will read this and think--you're not doing so bad. But it's not WHAT I'm doing or not doing; it's the attitude. I've been thinking more about myself lately, as though self-preservation is the highest priority, but why do I need to be preserved? I am better off than a lot of people.
So, in summary, I need to care more. I need to go back to caring more and doing more. That is an essential part of being Sarah.

Additionally, I've potentially made some bad decisions this summer. They can't be undone. And I can't decide if I would want them to be. I think about the consequences - what it would mean if they never happened. But they happened--and that's IT. That's fine, but I need to get off that path and not do similar things.
I had all these realizations when I was on the road, things that meant big change but could be summed up in one sentence. Such as: I need to tell people what I want from them. I need to tell people when things are wrong. I need to talk less because no one is listening to every word; I need to listen more. I need to make my own decisions about my life. But here is a new one:
Some people are not bad people. They are not mean. But they do not care about me. At least not enough. And when someone doesn't care about you, you should not waste your time on them. It's probably unfair to them in some way, but more importantly, it's not fair to you. It's hurtful and damaging, and it's also really unfair to the people who actually do care about you.
I need to stop giving the time of day to people who don't care enough about me.

People say that I forgive easily, that I forgive everyone. I kind of like being this way; but forgiveness isn't the same as what I do. It's not fair to give as much of myself to people who make some small effort, as I do to those who are considerate and nice all the time.

This is a post full of "I", but I write these kind of things hoping they're like when Crazy Aunt Purl writes things like this--things other people will read and relate to some part of and be able to apply to themselves.

Une nouvelle vie commence

That means "A new life begins," and it's what my mom's cousin wrote to me on the day I was moving from my old apartment to my new apartment. It was one of those moments where life feels like a novel or a movie, like a well-made play actually, where something that seems staged actually happens.
Quickly, the nouvelle vie took a turn I didn't expect, or had expected I guess--there's nothing stopping all the hopes I had for this fall, but the nouvelle vie feels much emptier than I'd like. I guess the only thing that has changed since Sunday two weeks ago is my own mindset and outlook.
I have written over and over again how I mourn my old life, my old home, specifically where I was a year ago--before we were cognizant of what a dump the house was, before the things that made it a dump actually infringed upon our happiness, and before some of the other things that made me happy started to disappear.
A year ago, I was happy there. But thirteen months ago, things were still shaky. Some days, something really great would happen, and it was like I was seeing into the happy future I would have there, and I was perfectly happy. Other days, something small would happen, like some plans got canceled, or no one would be at home, and it would expand into not just one evening of loneliness but an entire year or lifetime of loneliness. It was as though my mind was extrapolating that this one evening of loneliness indicated that the whole year would be that way. Because I couldn't see what happy things would fall into place, what people would be in my life, it was like no one was there, and instead of just taking one night in by myself, I would be very sad.

I guess this description is really fitting for where I am now. I'm trying not to write about it, I realized--trying to focus on the positive, not proclaim to the Internets and the world as a whole that I am human and weak and feel sad even when there's no real reason to; I also don't want to seem like a brat, ungrateful for the good job and nice apartment I have now. But this is it--the nouvelle vie is uncertain, and sometimes I have trouble imagining what good could come into it. Some part of my head or heart that won't listen to reason believes that because I can't see it--whatever these goods things will be--they don't exist and never will.

And then, when something good is happening, I am my old self and everything's fine.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I finally went exploring the woods across the street from my house and found out that there is a hiking trail! It's not much hiking--just a trail in the woods--but still! It's nice and peaceful, and even though there's not a single place where you can't turn and see part of a house, it still has that comforting feeling of being in the woods. Surrounded by trees, protected by nature, and somehow separate from everything else. It's a different type of consciousness.
I'll start bringing a camera up there, especially because there are places where there are gaps in the trees and nice views of mountains and some of the more attractive buildings of Morristown. I can't wait to see how it looks as the autumn progresses.
In a way, I'm looking forward to winter, too, when the leaves drop and there's a bit more sunlight.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Blogging should not take precedence over potting soil

Sometimes I wonder if, on some subconscious level, I partly start a bunch of projects and mess up my apartment just so that I can clean it later and feel really accomplished.
For example, right now I have unpacking the vegetables I got yesterday, arranging the flowers I picked yesterday, removing inedible greens from and cleaning the vegetables, sorting out compost, unpacking, and making lunch all started. Blogger has been open for about an hour, but when I sat down to start this post, I realized that there had been potting soil on the carpet for hours, from me knocking over a plant, and I had managed to go to the bank, start all these projects, and check my email before it occurred to me ... wait a minute, before I write in my blog, maybe I should vacuum up that potting soil!
It has been pouring, without letting up, for an hour now. It has been cloudy all day, with rain on and off, and I was kind of hoping that this pouring spell would temporarily let up so I could get in some rush gardening and perhaps go to the store.
It's one of those days where in order to get one thing done, I have to do a bunch of other tasks first. For example, I can't go very far until I buy gas. But in order to buy gas and many of the other things I wanted to accomplish today, I absolutely had to go to the bank. Because I had no cash. Only Canadian change and assorted Euros (also in change.) I spent my last $10 on gas. I am aware of how nice it is that $10 of gas gets me through a week now, as opposed to one trip to work and back. That alone is adjusting in getting used to this new town.
As quickly and as dramatically as my new-home-loneliness set in, it seems to have disappeared. Probably because I went out last night and have a whole social day planned for tomorrow.
In general, I am just bad with transitions. It doesn't matter what I'm transitioning to. It doesn't matter how nice the new situation is and how bad the old one was; I will start missing mundane things. For example, I found myself getting really upset with myself for leaving behind two perfectly good Rubbermaid storage containers. I meant to put them in my car, and I just forgot. And when I was leaving my apartment, I almost left behind a bunch of perfectly useful household items--paper towels, cleaning supplies--thinking, "The new people can use them--They can HAVE them!" in this bizarre urge to somehow sever myself from the old life. As though severance from replaceable inanimate objects symbolized something. When I went back to get a second carload of stuff, my practical side took over--well, almost. It was practical to seize a lot of the paper goods and cleaning supplies for the new place, but there was also an element of, "How could I leave anything behind? How can I leave my old home behind? How can I leave my old life behind!?"
In fact, a former roommate and I were eating pumpkin seeds this week, and we realized that this communal container of pumpkin seeds had been purchased long ago, when classes were still going on, and found ourselves musing on how long ago that had been, how fast it had all gone, and meanwhile this container of pumpkin seeds regarded us without emotion, perhaps considering how much everyone had gone through during its tenure in our kitchen cabinet. And yet it remained the same, just diminishing in quantity a little bit over time.
I'd like to write about the new town, but I'm not sure what to say. My impressions are still scattered. For one thing, I do love that it's a true walking town. And yet, there are still all kinds of impediments to pedestrian life...businesses that have no pathway to the door, so that one has to walk through the parking lot, risking getting flattened by Escalades and other such vehicular monstrosities, the drivers of which aren't looking because they aren't expecting to see someone walking to the bank! Yes, those parking lots comprise a short but treacherous distance!
One of the few places in America, or at least New Jersey, where everyone can walk, yet nearly everyone chooses to drive.
One thing I find interesting and odd about it is that living here has elements of city life, yet also I have to re-adjust myself to things that were habit when I lived in the country. Morristown is very much unlike rural Sussex County, where I grew up, but in some ways it's eerily like going home. I guess it's in the Highlands or something--the natural landscape is very similar to what I grew up with. My neighborhood especially is woodland.
On a side note, I was thrilled when I realized that it's deciduous woodland and therefore, in the wintertime when I will most need sun, I'll have a nice reprieve from the dense shade and it will actually not be horribly dark at my house all the time!
I love woodland, but I miss the sun a bit. Only a bit--I really like stepping outside my door into cool darkness, with the familiar smell of North Jersey forest soil surrounding me.
I hate transitions, and it hit me the other day that my life has been nothing but transition since early May. So four months that were not settled. No wonder I was so neurotic!
Anyway, I'd like to go out and take pictures of the town, too. The architecture is great. It looks like what you see shadows of in other New Jersey towns and cities (Newton and New Brunswick being examples.) One of the rare places where old buildings and old city charm was preserved. It looks more like Europe (though not really like Europe) than say, strip mall-laden state highways. Old churches tower above the shops. When I was out earlier today, I noticed that some old house or something (there's no sign identifying this building) has a very long rectangular reflecting pool leading from its front door nearly to the street. Kind of amazing. I mean, it's unusual and beautiful and I wonder if that's a public building/park or what. And I've driven past it so many times without noticing!
That's why I like walking--you always notice something different, and you notice dozens of things you'd never notice when driving.
I think I'll close this meandering blog post now, give up on the rain letting up, and venture to the grocery store.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My new home

I think I intended to write a "Last Post from Suydam Street," but never got around to it. Oh well!
So this is the first post from Chestnut Street. I moved in two days ago. Yesterday I went for a big walk around town, but of course everything was closed between 6 and 7 PM on Labor Day.
The contents of my apartment are currently in boxes or scattered all over the place. I don't even know where to begin organizing.
However, enough decorative elements are in place that my apartment already looks cute. It's not too far from looking like a home. Except for the empty part. I'm sure I will like living alone, but it's hard to get used to after living in a crowded house in a crowded, loud neighborhood.
It's loud here, too, but in a different way. The first two nights I had some trouble sleeping, partly because I was woken up by LOUD nature noises. I at first thought, "Wow, it's LOUD here," and then realized that Suydam Street, being the street that emergency vehicles regularly speed down, certainly had its own brand of loud. There were bugs and right now there are birds, there were mysterious scratching noises, and last night I got woken up by VERY LOUD CHIRPING outside my window. Maybe it was a bat.
There have also been people noises. This may have been a holiday weekend thing. Last night I was woken up by very loud knocking and someone telling someone to open the door. It sounded like it was close enough to be coming from my own front door, but that could have been the amplification of the half-awake-dreamlike state, and in that state I thought, "What could they possibly want? Well, I am sleeping! so they can knock till their arms fall off!" and attempted to go back to sleep.
I wonder what kind of funny stories will come out of this place.
I was torn today between visiting one of my friends (I was hoping she could come HERE so I would feel like this place has PEOPLE in it--friend karma or something) and taking care of some house-stuff, as well as going for a walk, bumming around town when things were actually open, and maybe checking out the library. When my friend called to cancel, I was thinking, "Oh, now I can check out the town!" but also felt a comical urge to burst into tears, at the prospect of being left alone, in the middle of Wal-mart...where I was buying sponges so that I can finally wash dishes.
I'm afraid that what with the living out of boxes and all, the place will quickly become squalid. I am determined not to live in squalor!
Finally, the feature of this new home that seems to have the most potential for stories--there is a boarding house across the street about which I have been warned by everyone I've encountered in the neighborhood, including the tenant who preceded me here. In fact, when I heard all that knocking and noise last week, I thought, "Oh, it's probably the shady people across the street," and dismissed it, instead of thinking, "Shady people yelling are something to worry about at 2 AM."
Anyway, I came home from work and shopping and noticed someone was parked not just on the street in front of the house, but in the little indentation that appears to be a parking spot that I have designated as Just For Sarah. I thought that was strange.
Then, sitting on the couch with a view of everything in front of the house, I noticed that, up the hill in the yard of the "shady" boarding house, was a random fire in a pit or something. I finally saw a person, walking up the hill--I guess he noticed a person staring from the house, so he kind of looked at me, then kept going and I thought, "Ooh! maybe I'll figure out why there's a fire there!" But he kept on going as though there were no fire.