Waiting at the window

Last week, as Joey and I lay in bed talking in the dark, the sky blew up. A sharp crack and green light through the curtains. We froze. After a moment, I crept to the window and looked out at the still night. “It’s normal,” I began to say. The sky lit up again, a snap of green filling the sky and then gone.

Reeling from a day spent inside, from the news just before bed that coronavirus was only going to get worse, I felt the world tilt. Maybe it was aliens this time, for real. Why not? Everything else I thought wouldn’t happen had happened. Joey said maybe it was the rare green light that comes with a sunset. I admired that he still thought of the sun in the dark.

I laughed, because there wasn’t much else to do. No one knew what was coming. Anything could happen and all we’d know to do was wait at the window for the next explosion. I thought of my life cracking open and apart. I didn’t know that world I saw, a green light and a boom at midnight without explanation.

It turns out that a transformer had exploded a few blocks over, two big booms and a power outage for the whole neighborhood. We walked by the spot the next day on the way to play basketball. It took a minute to even find the new transformer box in the trees. It was so unremarkable. We couldn’t believe something like that could make such a loud noise, could conjure aliens and sunsets at midnight.

The coronavirus shelter-in-place for me, so far: Going out to fly a kite. Empty shelves at the store, and the baby going berserk next door, and a woman crossing the street when she sees me running down the sidewalk. Worrying about everyone I’ve ever met and loving everyone I see from my window. Being pulled from bed to an unfamiliar sky. And then, after a moment, climbing back under the covers and willing myself to sleep.

Reading…

What do we lose when we stop touching each other? The Hard Tomorrow - a graphic novel for our precarious and tender world. The Farm - beautifully rendered, dystopian, and too real. Corporate feminism leaves out so many women. When (almost) everyone stays home, in photos. Coming out as gay in China. “I had a dream that you told me I was waiting for a woman to love me. You said, ‘You shouldn’t have to wait for anyone.’” Identical twins find each other across continents. What it’s like to be on Naked and Afraid (it’s gross). The lingering of loss.

Watching and listening…

I cried at this moment of neighbors coming together. And at humans and animals helping each other. And at this little girl singing beautifully. And at this deer rescue. This Reply All episode provides an engrossing, triumphant escape for 51 minutes. I’m back watching Survivor after a few years off and it’s… so good. Favorite TikToks of the week go to this one and this one!!! I’ve mentioned this before, but animal cams are truly getting me through this time!! Bald eagles in Big Bear, deer in Maine, raccoons and skunks and birds in Ohio!

Recommending…

Brown butter chocolate chip cookies. Stretching. Making elaborate grocery lists. Learning a TikTok dance. Getting Creative Cloud for free. Writing down your dreams. Turning off the news for a bit. Letting your mind rest.

This week, time keeps going. The cats around my apartment building still brush against my legs. The sky turns brilliant colors around dinnertime. Rent is almost due, somehow. And I pray in some ancient, non-religious way, feeling the electricity of wishing under my skin. I don’t know what the world will look like after all this is over, but I know it will go on. Fish will swim in the Bay. We’ll try to make each other laugh. The sky will surprise us. Isn’t there so much sweetness in that?

Take care,

Kira

A moment of rest

Bringing you a quick newsletter to break through the Super Tuesday madness (I’m voting for Bernie, and you should too! Here are some reasons why!).

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Here’s a poem by fellow Sonoma County writer Ada Limón. I hope it seizes your heart and helps you find a breath of beauty today.

What I Didn’t Know Before

was how horses simply give birth to other
horses. Not a baby by any means, not
a creature of liminal spaces, but a four-legged
beast hellbent on walking, scrambling after
the mother. A horse gives way to another
horse and then suddenly there are two horses,
just like that. That’s how I loved you. You, 
off the long train from Red Bank carrying
a coffee as big as your arm, a bag with two
computers swinging in it unwieldily at your
side. I remember we broke into laughter
when we saw each other. What was between
us wasn’t a fragile thing to be coddled, cooed
over. It came out fully formed, ready to run.

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**If you follow me on any social media platforms, you’ve seen me post about the union-busting going on at Oberlin College, my (usually) beloved alma mater. I am so angry at and exhausted by the institution’s persistent failure to support its service workers. Oberlin wouldn’t be half the school it is without our kind custodial and dining staff. If you’re an Oberlin alum, join over 2200 of us in signing this petition and contacting school administrators!**

What I’m reading

The Boys Scouts of the Border Patrol. Tomboys. Grieving on Facebook. I’m fascinated by the psoas, a muscle attached to emotional wellbeing and flight-or-flight responses. “Stories inspire our actions. They frame for us existences that are and are not possible, delineate tracks we can or cannot travel. They choose who we can find empathy for and who we cannot.” Instagram influencers are now agents of… the pharmaceutical industry. Hey, why not try to spend Bill Gates’ money?

What I’m watching and listening to

This bald eagle live cam is my new favorite thing. “Get Back to Where You Once Belonged,” a This American Life episode that looks at the idea of national belonging from multiple perspectives. Marlee Grace, who I feel close to despite not knowing, dancing to “Lilacs” by Waxahatchee. The new Netflix show Love Is Blind has a fairly stupid title and premise, but it’s SO good for watching in the middle of the night with a friend.

Recommending…

Tagalong Girl Scout cookies. Self-compassion. Playing a little basketball before sunset. Trader Joe’s frozen veggie fried rice. Taking a few minutes to get organized. Opening the windows. Putting silly magnets on the fridge. Washing your hands. Voting for Bernie!!

This week, be extra kind to service workers. We’re out here with minimal sick days, just as nervous about coronavirus as everyone else, but with little ability to avoid touching strangers. Tip well! Put your cart where it’s supposed to go! Smile at your cashier! All those actions make someone’s day a little easier.

Love always,

Kira

Reaching for more

Before I could talk, my parents taught me the ASL sign for “more.” I brought my hands together again and again, ma ma mar more more moooore! Yams, bananas, peek-a-boo, Raffi songs, dancing, MORE! Ravenous for the world, for taste and song and wind. More, please.

I still find myself reaching, wanting to feel it all. I mourn that I can’t live a thousand lives. I’ll never know what it feels like to grow up in a different country, or be a firefighter, or hitchhike, or be on American Idol, or be in the WNBA. I like that so much is still possible in this life, like running a marathon and learning how to scuba-dive and how to build a table and maybe even being on Broadway. I’m coming to peace with my everlasting desire for more, and focusing on what I do have.

I think about one of my biggest sort-of haves: a sperm donor. I have him and I don’t. We’ve never met, never spoken. I know him through Google searches and a questionnaire from 1996. He’s a name I hold onto, photos I click through, a voice that slips through my fingers. He doesn’t know a thing about me and my quest for more.

When people ask me about my sperm donor, as they often do, wondering if I want something from him, I try to answer. Sometimes I can tell them truthfully that I don’t think of him often. Sometimes I say it with an ache.

In my answer is a sun-lit coffee shop in a state I’ve never visited. I walk to the counter and browse the menu, making small talk with the barista. I buy an expensive mocha and sit in the window, quiet. And then the door swings open and the bell dings and I see him and he recognizes me. We sit and we talk about things we care about and our families and I hear his laugh and something in it is familiar. And maybe we don’t see each other again after that day, or maybe we send long update emails, or maybe he comes to my wedding and I introduce him as a family friend.

Really, the way I think of my sperm donor is just as the best bits of myself. My goofy, wordy sense of humor. My want for justice, my quest to find myself through my writing. My tendency to fall in love swiftly and often. My eyes that squint at the light and slowly open to let it in, when I can. I think he feels like I do, which is to say, I like the way I feel things. I imagine a long rope of light stretching between us, sending heartbeats and breath all day long. And yes, I want to know him more, and yes, I think I know him as well as I know myself.

What I’m reading

Disposable cameras are magic to me. A disgraced influencer makes a bizarre comeback. I can’t stop thinking about this incredibly upsetting example of the violence of our deeply unjust carceral system (major content warning for graphic descriptions of disturbing imagery). Stolen content on TikTok. I LOL’ed @ this piece about Nicki Minaj and bar mitzvahs. “I left with a very specific feeling, a kind of bottomless need that I associated with early adolescence, and which I had not experienced in a long time.” Finding companionship and connection on the border.

What I’m watching and listening to

The soundtrack of Jagged Little Pill, over and over (I haven’t fallen this hard for a musical since Hadestown, which I still weep about on a regular basis). AJR’s “100 Bad Days,” a song for me and everyone else who wishes the band fun. had never broken up. MUNA’s “I Know A Place” — perfect for dancing in front of the mirror. I’m celebrating Jewish resilience and grieving as I look through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s video archives for a project.

Recommending…

Asking for help. Having a daily hot chocolate (this is what my 2020 looks like). Big plants. Chickpeas as a staple dinner ingredient. Not holding in the tears. Talking yourself up. Letting joy find you, and saying thank you.

This week, ask for more.

Love and heartbeats and breath,

Kira

My new world

A lot can happen in a month and three days. Since I last wrote, I got really sick — like, “too sick to watch TV” sick — and got better. I stretched, and went to the beach, and played cards, and got happy, and got anxious, and talked about it. Conflict happened, as it always does, and I was reminded that family means choosing each other again and again. I drove around, and ate a lot of burritos, and watched the sky. I thought about writing a newsletter, but didn’t.

The world can make us feel like we should be small, and like maybe writing a newsletter about your life and thoughts is a narcissistic endeavor. And maybe to some people, it is. But in 2020, this year of vision, I’m pushing back on my fear of being too much. I believe that something about my experiences must be universal. One of you must find something of yourself in all this, and come away with more understanding and self-compassion and patience with change. The poet Andrea Gibson writes, “Sometimes the most healing thing we can do is remind ourselves over and over and over, other people feel this way too.” Those words have given me comfort over the past year, from Sebastopol to Oberlin to Chicago to Los Angeles and, finally, to my new home in Berkeley.

Yes, big celebration!! I made a permanent move to Berkeley at the beginning of the month! My partner Joey and I have a sweet one-bedroom apartment near Ashby BART and we’re loving the adventure of creating a life fully on our own terms. Joey is working as a Political Organizer with SEIU 2015, an incredible union for long-term care workers in California. I’m looking for work in journalism, documentary film/TV, consent or sexual health education, and social justice in general. Wish me luck — and if you hear of anything, send it my way! I’m having so much fun exploring the area and drooling over the gorgeous weather. And it’s a treat to live close to my parents after so much time in the Midwest!

It feels good to meet myself in a new context. I visit with old friends in the Bay Area. I make simple dinners that I feel proud of. I stretch, and get happy, and get anxious, and try to talk about it.

I open the curtains at sunset and let the orange-pink light flood the room. That feels like peace.

What I’m reading

Connection across distance through letters, emails, and texts. Finding hope in the kindness of strangers. Fleabag and the “fantasy of intimacy.” That stunning art piece on the US-Mexico border in 2017. Um, gay people are amazing, including Minnesota’s teacher of the year!! Ayanna Pressley goes public. “What was going on then was about making a choice about what ‘feminism’ would be and who would have access to it.” If you don’t know about Moms4Housing, get educated.

What I’m watching and listening to

Encore!, a musical theater reunion show on Disney+ — I cry at every episode. Holmes Holmes on Twitter is my silly 2020 icon. The beautiful “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror was as good as everyone said it would be! The wonder of a snow day. When it comes to love, how do you know? (P.S. YOU on Netflix is actually the worst.)

Recommending…

Spending time with people who think you’re awesome. Twinkly lights. Beyond Brats, if you’re a vegetarian who misses hot dogs as much as I do. Finding free furniture on the sidewalk. TV shows about middle school (PEN15 and Big Mouth were two of my 2019 favorites). Sharing this newsletter with a friend if you’re into it. Embracing the embarrassing music you like. Keeping secrets from social media.

This week, take up space in your life. Be big. The world is opening its arms to you.

Love and blue skies,

Kira

Looking for magic

Last night, I sat outside and watched the moon. The clouds rushed over it, bringing the sky from light to dark and back again. I was surprised by how quickly they moved. Suddenly the clouds were gone, and the sky was bright. I blinked and the moon swam in my vision. It seemed like the universe telling me Something’s coming. Don’t look away.

The best way to get out of the rut I’ve been in is to move through it. To let myself be slow, but not stuck. To look for magical things. Earlier this week, I separately thought about two people I hadn’t seen in years, who don’t even know each other. Then today I saw them sitting next to each other in a coffee shop. My past keeps showing up, reminding me that the world isn’t as vast and unknowable as it sometimes seems. I can find my way around.

I’m living at home right now. Driving anywhere in Sonoma County, I see the sloping golden hills that have known me since I was little. I’m thankful for a December at home. I’m gearing up for something new, but for now, I’m taking a moment to watch those big, beautiful hills turn green.

What I’m reading

Poetry for what comes next. This comic that I show my friends to make them cry happy tears. A Holocaust story I had never heard before. The Good Place is really about rethinking policing and prisons. “You have to have the confidence to say ‘I don’t know if this is going to work, but this is what we’re going to try.’” Gay American Girl dolls.

What I’m watching and listening to

The trailer for the In the Heights movie (12 year old Kira is crying about this and 22 year old Kira is… also crying). Decoder Ring’s deep dive into tabloids, “women’s media,” and Jennifer Aniston. The personal practice of dancing every day. That famous Baby Shark viral video!

Recommending…

Listing three good things about your day before going to bed. Creddle, a free website that will make your resumé look faaancy. Putting goat cheese on basically any food to make it better. Affirmations for a better future from People I’ve Loved. Feeling your feelings.

This week, look for the magic. It’s everywhere.

Stay warm,

Kira

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