The geese are coming back.  I’ve been hearing them for the last few nights, and the first time I did, I actually stopped what I was doing and listened, trying to figure out what the noise was.  They’re much the same as they were last fall: same v flight formation; same grey-bodies-black-heads; the leader still opens her mouth against the high altitude rush and quacks the same harsh quack; and the rest of the gaggle, eager to chime in, answer her with equal harshness.  It reminds me of field trips, when my kindergarten teacher would ask my class (jokingly, I suspect), if we were all present.  “I’m here!”  We’d shout from our respective bus seats, loudly and unhelpfully.

Truthfully, even as I type, I’m not sure what the geese have to do with the rest of this post.  I suspect, however, that I’ll work them in somehow.

It’s been a hard week.  Actually, one of the hardest weeks of the entire school year.  And surprisingly, not because of papers or exams or presentations.  But because of student government.  I’m going to try to say this vaguely, so bear with me: I’m currently Election Commissioner for the spring student government (MCSA) elections.  What that means is that I organize “get out the vote” events, manage electronic voting, and make sure that all candidates are following the guidelines for legal campaigning.  It sounds pretty straightforward, and usually it is, but this week there were two major incidents that I had to deal with, and both became heated and ugly and personal.

One of the incidents, particularly, led to me taking a rather unpopular stance based on what I felt was fair.  That garnered a few phone calls, a few Facebook messages, and a lot of emails which involved calling me power-hungry and MCSA a “diseased organization.”  And for the first time in my entire life, I had to wake up and go to campus feeling like the entire student body hated my guts.

It all worked out in the end, thankfully.

But I can’t help feeling that this week has been a trial.  I’m not sure if I passed or failed.  I’m just glad it’s over.

As for the geese, well, perhaps they were chased out of the tropics by Spring Breakers.  Perhaps they ran out of Noxema and decided to retreat from the sun for a while.  Perhaps they’re heralds of the Spring, bringing her to Morris just when we were starting to think she would never come.

Perhaps, like other animals, they’re merely following their instincts.  Listening to that tiny twinge near their left ankles that tells them when it’s time to move on.  Perhaps they’re simply doing what they have to do, regardless of personal (animal?) desires.

There!  I told you I would do it.

Mark Making

Whilst laying under the dining room table today, petting Ruby (who claimed the spot as her sanctuary when she was just a puppy), I discovered something:

IMG_0665I actually remember doing the deed.  I think I was old enough to know better, but also old enough to have developed my still-present obsession with putting my mark in public (or semi-public) places.  No, I haven’t relieved myself in the middle of a square in Madrid like my middle school Spanish teacher (who claimed that everybody does it.  I was dubious even then).  But this blog, for example, gives me a sense of permanence.  My name is in the public record.  It’s in Google.  And even if no one ever reads it or cares, I’ll still know it’s there.

Well played, ten-year-old Holly.

How to Win Daughter of the Year

1. Buy your mother some flowers.


You may consider the Easter lilies at Cub, but after finding them pale and somber, it’s probably best to choose bright orange begonias instead.

2. Make dinner.  Salmon with balsamic cherry sauce, roasted brussels sprouts, and fruit salad is good for a warm day when the snow is dripping off the eaves of the garage.  Do not panic if you don’t remember how to cut a mango.  Have your sister help you, and sneak a few pineapple chunks in the meantime.


3.  Suggest a game of Mexican Train post-meal, and don’t complain when Mom plays a James Taylor album in the background.  Tease Dad for changing his mind on the placement of a domino, using the old family mantra: “A tile laid is a tile played.”


This morning found me in the dentist’s chair, staring up at a poster taped to the ceiling that said “every warm hand is a whisper from the heart,” which didn’t make sense to me at that particular time, and doesn’t make sense to me now.  I was grateful for that poster regardless.  I was also thanking my stars that Chris Martin exists, and that he sings loud enough that I can hear “Clocks” over the whir of brush and sputter of water squirter.

It’s a little ridiculous for a twenty-two-year-old woman to be scared (here I want to use a less polite word than I’ll actually use) to death of the dentist.  And I’m scared.  No matter how much resolve I have walking in the door, no matter how confident I am that I’ve brushed and flossed adequately, it’s all smashed on the tasteful carpet under my feet when I’m led to the chair.  Or the gallows, if you prefer.

You see, when I was decently young, but not young enough to be crying the way I did (maybe thirteen, fourteen?), a dentist had to drill at a cavity I had.  “I’m not going to use Novocaine, because I won’t be drilling near any nerves,” he told me, pleasant as could be. “You just raise your hand if you feel any pain.”  And so he began drilling.  The drill vibrating in my mouth was a little uncomfortable, but not painful.  And then suddenly, it was.  It was as if there was a rotten core to my tooth, strung through with thousands of nerves so that no one could get too close.  And that dentist had just burst through all of them and was drilling on the one soft spot that was more sensitive than any other part.  I raised my hand as high as I could.

He barely paused.  “Really?  That hurt?  Hmm … I’m not anywhere near a nerve.  I’m just going to keep going, okay, sweetie?  Almost done.”

So he kept going, and it kept hurting more than anything I’d ever experienced, and salty globes were sliding down my face, and my (still raised) palm was sweating.

In the car I told my mom that I was never going back to that dentist.

She let me switch, and I haven’t had such an unpleasant experience since, but I’m still wary.  I didn’t put on mascara this morning because I didn’t want it to run if I cried.

So this all explains why it’s so important that I can hear Chris Martin and that I have (albeit confusing) posters to distract me.  Because otherwise I’m confident that I’ll snatch up my purse and flee at the first mention of drilling.

Adventure Day in St. Paul

It was adventure day in St. Paul for Holly and the Gentleman Caller.

Cossetta’s for pizza and antipasto salad (I ate the cheese, he ate the jalapenos and tomatoes.  I think I got the better deal):

IMG_0538Grand Ole Creamery for ice cream (it tasted a lot better than this young man betrays):


The historic (think Gilded Age) James J. Hill House for a tour:



The laundry situation was a downside.  All the way in the basement, and must be done by hand.

IMG_0628The place is move-in ready, which is a perk:

And has lovely outdoor verandas:


And my goodness, we could attend Mass right across the street!


In the end, the house was a little out of our price range; so, we ditched the realtor and walked over to the cathedral:


Not conducive to good photography, but very beautiful regardless.

Then, filled with good food, stuffed with culture, and sighing at the sunset glowing orange in the rearview, we drove home in the Subaru.


Forget the Day

I thank the Lord for the nighttime.  As soon as it ticks past midnight, something in me clicks on.  It’s inspiration time around these parts.  It’s dark outside, it’s quiet, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to be on the couch swathed in blankets instead of doing something productive like shoveling snow or shimmying into my running tights for a jog.  My computer pulses silently, its white light hovering close to its metallic surface, and then pulling back again, dimming.

Ruby, our dear dog, who used to look like this, but who has now grown up somewhat (in stature, not in maturity),


is lying next to me, her back curved against the couch.  She huffs every now and then, whips her tail a little in her sleep.  Ruby carries around the head of her Christmas stuffed raccoon—its body long lost—as if it is very precious, and has been taking great care lately to infuse it with slobber and stray fur to make up for its recent encounter with the washing machine.  She hardly stirs any more when I read a bit of paragraph aloud, or when I rouse myself for juice or phone charger.

This is my time, after all.  It has always been this way.  I no longer expect anyone—including the dog—to stay awake for it.

Rite of Passage: Subaru Edition

Yesterday, I believe I utterly cemented myself as a liberal.  And perhaps more importantly, as an adult.

I bought my first car.  A dark red (I refuse to say ‘maroon’) Subaru Outback.



What was adult wasn’t necessarily the writing of the check, the shaking of hands, etc.  It was the haggling.  Mom and Dad informed me on the way to the lot that haggling was normal when negotiating used car purchases.  My throat felt dry all of a sudden.  As much as I appreciate a good argument, mine have been restricted to classrooms as of late.  Don’t get me started on Virginia Woolf, but when it comes to the value of automobiles, I hardly know what to say.

Of course, the very first place we looked had a Subaru.  Of course, it was far out of my budget.  And of course, when I suggested a lower price, the manager came out of his office and tried to bully me about it.  Maybe he could tell that I’m young and inexperienced and decided I would be easy to intimidate, but the more he rattled on about how he has to make a profit (how dare I mess with that!) and how much mechanical work he’d put into the car and how–good Lord–could I think of turning down the three-month warranty, the angrier I became.

And when he handed the list of work done to the car to Dad and not to me–“I’m sure he knows more about this than you”–I had had enough.

I told him we would keep looking.

At the next lot, we spotted an Outback right away.  It was a little older than the last, but the price was right.  I test drove it twice, heard lengthy descriptions from the salesman, and read over its history.  And then I signed the papers and agreed to come back with a check.

I’ve got my Monroe Crossing “I’m a Bluegrass Fan” sticker all ready to apply to the bumper.

In Which I Call for Help and am Answered by Tim

I am happy to report that the saga has ended.  My truck has been pulled free of its icy prison, and is currently resting happily, if tiredly, in the back alley driveway.

Really, the only unfortunate part of this ending is that I didn’t procure it myself.

Yes, friends, I caved and called AAA.

But only after another afternoon of scraping, gas pedal tapping, and boiling pot after pot of water to pour on the stubborn ice.  My housemate, Jordan, came out to help after a time, which was cause for additional optimism: Jordan recently bought (and maintains) a motorcycle.  Jordan recently started a business consisting of himself and a friend performing oil changes for college students who can’t afford to go to the local shop (or, heaven forbid, the dealer).  Jordan had some ideas.  He went to the garage and returned with several small planks of wood and a dirty towel.  The idea was that the planks would give the truck some leverage, and that the towel could fill in the watery tire grooves for added support.  It was a valiant effort, but after watching the planks shot forty feet from the truck by the force of spinning tires (I got out of the way, or else I would undoubtably be typing with my right leg missing below the knee), we decided that a tug was the only hope.

The AAA man was nice on the phone.  “I’ll send my son out,” he told me gently, “he’s going to delay his meal and head out there.”

“Oh, he shouldn’t do that!” I exclaimed, horrified at the prospect of the son, stomach growling, turning away his dinner in favor of helping an automobile-impaired college student who had managed to get her truck lodged in front of her own house.

The man insisted, though, and within a half hour, his son Tim was hooking a tow chain to the back of my truck.  One good yank and then a push from Tim, his right shoulder braced in my front wheel bed, and I was free.

I thanked Tim, drove a victory lap around town, and then went to the grocery store for a celebratory (and much-needed) shop.


A First

As I was walking home from copy editing with the newspaper; as I passed by the small public library, its parking lot lit with ugly, spiring street lamps, I looked up into the orange glow to see a cloud of white flakes above me, descending silently.  I stopped short to watch.  Tumbling softly over each other, these flakes fell further and further until one single snowflake gingerly stretched out a finger to touch the ground before committing entirely.  I saw that snowflake before it tumbled to the concrete, and after.  I walked out into a clear night, and was still walking when it filled with snow.

Out of all the firsts that all of humankind has witnessed, from the first human mother to hold her first human child; from the men who looked out at the pale expanse of the moon before it held footprints, and who were almost sorry to see its dust stirred into artificial ridges; from  the very first time pen was set to paper, and the very first person discovered the indescribable beauty that lies in describing absolutely anything one pleases; I suspect that my first was rather insignificant.


Badlands, South Dakota. Summer, 2012.

But it felt to me, as firsts often feel, like I had discovered the most important thing in the world, and like, for that first minute, the universe was allowing me to keep it to myself.  I basked, stock-still, for my one minute, and then continued toward home, gazing fondly at the white coating on street and building, as if I had brought it all about.

Of course, my sentimental reverie ended abruptly when I neared home, and remembered my truck, which is still–despite yet more valiant efforts on the part of my gentleman caller, some ice melt, and me this afternoon–stuck on the ice in front of my house.  I wondered if the snow would provide the friction needed for the tires to lurch free.