Letters from the Hedge: Letter in a Book

I like to visit the secondhand bookstore, and my favorite books are the ones that come with little notes inside. Old shopping receipts. Concert tickets.

I found the nicest note today, written inside a book called (of all things) Where There Is No Dentist.  Here it is – the note, not the book – in its entirety:


This is my small way of saying thank you for a wonderful six days. I’ve enjoyed spending time with you and meeting Corinne. The two of you seem to be good together. I wish you both only love and happiness. You are very special to me. Even though we were out of touch for a few years I still felt we were connected in some way. I think maybe you felt the same way. I love you a whole lot and value your friendship very highly. I know no one like you, you’re quite a special person. I hope we will always be close, no matter how far apart we may live. Remember, I am always here if you need me, and even when you don’t!  Thanks again for everything. I love you.


May 23, 1989

[January 23]

Color is more important on
dark days, like when you
spot grapefruit trees just before
a rainstorm, or when
you wake up briefly after
a fever, feeling completely,
utterly loved, although
you do not know why
you are loved, or by whom.

If you are born female, and you’re lucky, you grow up knowing that you’re beautiful, from your curly hair all the way down to your precious baby feet.  You know this because your parents tell you so and because little girls, at least below a certain age, are nice to each other.  Some of your friends have freckles, and some are chubby, and some have blue eyes, but you all help each other put on the fake makeup that smells like baby powder, and then you go play on the zipline outside, wearing scarves and cut-down dresses.

There is almost inevitably a day where you discover that you are not actually beautiful.  Maybe it’s when your mother, who you think is the most gorgeous person in the world, sighs about how much weight she’s gained.  Or when you look through beauty magazines and find tips on how to conceal big hips or remove facial hair.  You will not consciously decide that you are not beautiful, but once you have decided, you won’t remember ever thinking otherwise.

There will be a lot of fuss, most of which you won’t pay attention to, about whether or not we should call little girls beautiful at all.  There will be talk of internalized misogyny and the socio-political implications of wearing lipstick.  You will not understand any of this, at least not for a while.  You will only understand that your mother will not let you go on a diet and your father will not let you wear nail polish.  You may do these things anyway.  You may turn your attention to other things, and get better at sports, or school, or the arts.

Most likely, you will enter puberty, and gain 40 pounds seemingly overnight.  It will take you at least a decade to get used to the new dimensions of your body, to its new functions and capabilities.  If you enter puberty early, everyone else in your fifth-grade class will whisper behind your back.  You will, for the first time, compare yourself to the other girls, and even though the doctor tells you normal you will tell yourself fat.

If you are very lucky, there will be a day when you decide you are beautiful after all.  Maybe it will be when you are watching yourself on a recording for a class, or maybe it will be when you see a picture of yourself with friends, glowing with happiness.  You will not be the kind of beautiful you wanted to be when you were ten, all bones and blue eyes and pink lips.  You will be the kind of beautiful your parents knew you were, talented and persevering and stubborn.  You will remember a quote (was it Steinbeck?): And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

It will be a difficult lesson to internalize, but you will learn that beauty isn’t something you earn; it’s something you’ve had all along.

New Year

This is going to be a short post, because I’m typing it on my phone (the poor thing held up to like 6 hours of nonstop use today, so I feel like I should give it a rest.) It will also be a short post because I don’t know if I have the right words to express what I want to say. But then again, when do I ever?  😉

Last semester ended on a generally positive note.  Except for chemistry, I got straight B’s, which is quite an accomplishment for me.  I got the lead role in a play, which was another of my long-term goals. I made new friends in the heat of battle (chemistry.)  So there was really no reason why I should have been unhappy.

But I *was*. Deeply so. I was jealous and bitter and lonely, because it seemed like no matter how hard I worked to improve myself, everyone else was already doing so much better.  Over break, I had a chance to refresh myself and take a semi-break from Facebook (the only reason I go on there is to check messages from people who insist on sending them rather than being reasonable and texting ;))  I realized something that makes a lot of sense in theory, but is very hard to actually practice.

It doesn’t matter if people have higher GPAs than me, or if they have better relationships and friendships, or if they are more talented artists, or if they are thinner and more attractive.  What matters is how well I’m doing compared to my own past. I’ve spent so long – almost 22 years – trying to be the best at everything that I lost track of the art of living.  When, this past semester, I was the best at nothing at all, I had no way out.

Early in the autumn, before the tests and projects started piling up, I got in the semi-habit of going running at the gym. There was one week where I ran every day. While I started out running because I hated my body and wanted to lose weight, even the few days I worked out made a significant difference in my quality of life. When I played basketball, I didn’t get exhausted in the first two minutes. I felt powerful and free.

People tell me that competition is a powerful motivator, but I know from experience that it is also destructive. An equally powerful motivator is what I’d call momentum, in which I run a little further every day, and score a little higher, and smile at people until I mean it.

My poetry professors often asked me, “What makes the poem move down the page?”  In other words, what is its driving force, its purpose for existing?  Sometimes the answer is as simple as the anticipation of the next word. One word at a time. One day at a time. Momentum.