Tag Archives: fall

Fall in Another City

Campus 2.jpgI’m still getting to know Moscow, Idaho. I’ve only been here since August, but it takes me a while to reconfigure myself to new surroundings. I adapt slowly and cling to what is familiar: campus aesthetics, coffee shops, quiet mornings for writing.

The last time I moved, I went from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Lincoln, Nebraska, and it took me about a year to adjust. It took me a year to feel grounded in the place, in the people, like I wasn’t a transplant from the Southwest to the Midwest. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I feel like a double transplant in yet another variation on the west, a west that I want to write down in the long, laborious tradition of writing about places. Do I need to be a tourist or a resident? I’ve gone from deserts to plains to this stranger place called the Palouse, a valley of vast wheat fields and pine trees.

I am not, yet, a tumbleweed, a person with “roaming proclivities.” But I still feel detached from so many places, so up-in-the-air right now. I wish I had spent more than two years with my friends in Nebraska before uprooting myself again. I wonder how long I’ll be in Idaho before I’m again uprooted.

I am still very much a westerner, but after only two moves, I feel scattered. I vote in Arizona, I made strong connections in Nebraska, and now I’m a writer in Idaho. The one constant has been the university as a setting, like a monastic system in which I orient myself toward the library, the English building, and the nearest coffee shop. Campuses are large and sometimes quiet. This is true of Flagstaff, Lincoln, and now Moscow. I like old campuses, brick buildings, planned and structured squares of nature for viewing purposes. In other words, the constant for me is finding places to work, the one thing I hope I am never uprooted from. If and when I move again, I hope there is a quiet campus wherever I go.

 

-jk

 

Apparently I’ve Been Blogging for Three Years

all-skull-and-bibles

A photo I took exactly three years ago.

I don’t tend to celebrate anniversaries. I don’t actively celebrate my birthday and I ignore my country’s independence day. But WordPress insists on reminding me that I started this blog three years ago, and I may as well mark the occasion.

Since my last blogiversary, I’ve attended a rad academic conference in Albuquerque, had poems, a short story, and a nonfiction essay published, and visited multiple national parks. I’ve completed a draft of my creative writing Master’s Thesis, a collection of interconnected short historical fiction stories (is there a more pretentious phrase? If so, I’ll find it), as well as poetry collections and essays. My writing has improved (I think), and I’ve developed a better understanding of literature.

I’ve also been in Nebraska for over a year, and my relocation here has started to set in. I’m finding a community in Lincoln. I’m forming connections with friends and colleagues. Sadly, I may be leaving again for another graduate program. Once again, I’ve decided to apply to graduate programs to pursue either a PhD or MFA program, and once again, I have no idea where I’ll be living a year from now.

But wherever I am, I’ll at least have a blog. It may not be much, but if I leave my friends, colleagues, and relations, if I leave them all behind for another new start in another state and another program, I’ll still have this little journal of my affairs. It may not be much, but it can be a grounding ritual, or a way to kill time. In either case, I enjoy it.

Wherever I am, wherever I will be, wherever I’ve come from, here’s to three years of fairly sporadic blogging. Cheers, peace, and until another autumn.

Peace,

-jk

Writing With the Season

graveyard-walkI can’t tell you why I enjoy autumn as much as I do. Apart from the many holidays and the associated consumerism, I enjoy the aesthetic this time of year imposes on parts of the country. In my hometown of Flagstaff, AZ, the leaves on the aspen trees turn whole sides of Mount Elden a new, shocked shade of yellow. In my new home in Lincoln, NE, the season is just as magnificent, minus the mountain. It’s darker and windier every morning as I walk to campus. The nights are cool and toasty.

As a child, I once took a stapler to the woods and tried to “fix” the falling leaves. I was too young to understand the relationship between seasons and change. I liked the color green, and I was mortified that things could curl, turn red and yellow like infections, and fall to the ground. The pine needles, too, browned and plummeted. Before I could begin stapling the leaves back to the branches that I thought (wrongly) I’d be tall enough to reach, I wondered if maybe this change was good. If maybe it was supposed to happen. Maybe the leaves, like fingernails, would grow back to replace what has gone.

Now, I’ve come to prefer orange, red, yellow, and gold, but I still have trust issues with nature. I feel on edge watching it change, wanting it to be the same, but I can do nothing to stop the leaves from falling.

Autumn must be a good season for writers. I associate it with writing, at least. I associate these months with ghost stories and tall tales, and the existential crisis of trying to be static in a changing world. I associate the season with staying inside writing poems while eating pie or writing a novel every November. I want to celebrate the season, when I can, by writing, walking, and sharing. I enjoy the mystery, even the uncertainty. It’s a time to lean on the edge of our seats to see how the narrative will unfold.

Maybe autumn isn’t for everybody, but it suits me. I’m learning to enjoy the change.

-jk

 

I Bought a Pumpkin. Now What?

Orange

Leaves are changing colors, candy is getting cheaper and oranger, and the farmer’s market is filled with freshly harvested pumpkins. Resisting temptation is hard; now I have a pumpkin. What does one even do with a pumpkin?

Orange Triptych

The first thing to do is get to know the pumpkin. Give it a cute name, something like Fred. Spend a few nights drinking with Fred. Really get to know him. From there, it’ll be easier to figure out what you want to do with Fred. In my case, I wanted to make Fred into a pie.

Fred 1

Give Fred a good bath, remove Fred’s stem, and slice Fred laterally with a large cutting knife. This might upset Fred, but he’ll just have to learn to live with it. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, remove all of Fred’s insides, scraping against the flesh to get all the strands and seeds out. It goes without saying you can save Fred’s inside for later consumption. Dash a little salt onto Fred’s flesh, place his two halves flesh-side down on a covered cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about thirty minutes, or until Fred is nice and mushy, like he always gets after a few beers.

Fred 2

Again, using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, scrape out Fred’s flesh, which should come out easily after baking Fred. He may be confused at this point, but just remind him it’s for a good cause. Mash (or blend in a food processor) Fred’s flesh, until it’s nice and smooth. You can store some of Fred’s flesh in the freezer for future endeavors. For example, you can make muffins out of Fred, too.

Toss 1 cup of Fred’s pureed flesh into a sauce pan and cook until it simmers. Add 1 cup milk, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Feel free to adjust the spices to make Fred as spicy as you like. Fred, of course, prefers to be very spicy, if his sass didn’t tell you anything. Mix well and let simmer.

Fred 5

In a separate bowl, combine two eggs and 1 cup of brown sugar. Add this to Fred’s simmering remains and stir to combine.

Fred 4

Once the eggs, sugar, cream, and Fred are thoroughly combined, pour into a pie dish with a prepared crust. You can make your own crust (like I did, in a completely unpretentious way), or buy a premade crust. Place the pie dish on a cleaned cookie sheet and bake Fred at 350 degrees for forty to fifty minutes. Fred will be very disappointed, but delicious. You can make it up to Fred by covering him in whipped cream and serving him with hot beverages. Like all gingers, Fred loves whipped cream and hot beverages.

Fred 6

-jk

How to Buy an Authentic American Autumn

I wrote a snarky poem about autumn, because autumn is just around the corner, and I love being snarky.

Leaf

How to Buy an Authentic American Autumn

I used to stand in line waiting
for pumpkin-induced espresso drinks
made from soy, sodium, soil, soylent green,
and other ingredients I can’t pronounce.

Then I’d wear a scarf made by small hands
somewhere in Thailand or Haiti,
hands thin and gnarled as roots,
the scarf I bought at a mall for its Generic Fall Sale.

Ready for autumn, I’d find a bench.

There, I would listen to a mechanized tree
whirr and beep above me
as it produced authentic autumn leaves ©
from shoots in its plastic branches,
letting them fall on an artificial wind stream,
each one a perfect shape, each one flat,
made by a cookie cutter in a factory
somewhere in the Midwest.

I used to drink and wear and feel
all that was required of me,
looking at pumpkins
with supermarket smiley faces
lining the curb every five feet
as leaves made from condensed paper
littered the street and bench and my lap.
The chill in the air, of course,
was from a pill that created the chemical sensation
of a perfect autumn breeze, crisp and cool and scented
very faintly with ginger and cinnamon,

the way all wind naturally smells,
according to the label on the bottle.

Only when an authentic autumn became too expensive
did I see the mess of curled, earthen leaves
that crunched beneath my feet. Only then did I see
the wind rush through a girl’s hair
and tangle it with the orange scarf her sister knit,
the horrors of homemade pumpkin pie
served fresh with strong black coffee,
and the abomination of smoke
lifted on the wind when the home fires glowed after sunset.

-jk

Poem by Keene Short 2014. Photo courtesy of Keene Short Photography. Thank you.