On the Subject of Ducks and Doing Too Much

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It’s not easy to get your ducks all in a row, but once they’re there, they look really good. A nice matched set. Unfortunately, the thing about ducks is that they have minds of their own and aren’t always well-behaved, so sometimes they go off wandering, at which point you’re left with two choices: you can either chase them down, which will take time and energy but you will have your neat row of ducks again, but it also carries with it the risk that the ones who didn’t go off wandering will do so while you’re chasing the ones who did. Or, alternately, you can sit there guarding the ones that didn’t run off, so you still have a row of relatively well-behaved ducks, just not quite as many as you had before. Either of these options are acceptable, so long as you still have ducks and don’t mind continuing to corral them until you can finally somehow get them to a pond. Eventually, you may feel a little bit desperate, but you still have to keep trying.

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I came up with this description when I was having a very, very not good day, probably around the beginning of this semester, maybe towards the middle of finals week last semester. Either way, the ducks were decidedly off wandering, and I was wasting way more energy than I would have liked trying to chase them all down.

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The fact remains— eventually, the ducks will get to a pond. They might not be the ducks you started out with, but you will have some. And maybe trying to put them all in a row for now is not the best use of time— finding them in the first place is. After all, ducks aren’t really meant to be in rows.

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Resolutions

It’s a little late for New Years resolutions now, given that we’re already more than halfway done with January (we’re more than halfway through with January- what??). But that’s not going to stop me from coming up with and posting some of my goals for the next semester, maybe the next year. All in all, it’s pretty simple. I like the idea of resolutions. I like the idea of writing down ways to make myself— and my quality of life— a little better. I also really appreciate my parents’ take on this, which I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about before: Burning and planting. For every good thing you choose to take with you into the next year, you choose one not-so-good thing to leave behind. So, without further ado:

I’m burning the like-seeking, popularity-wanting middle school side that sometimes emerges. I’m planting comfort in myself, my body, and my art and words. I am myself, and I have to be comfortable with that— I can’t rely on others for my own validation. First and foremost, that has to come from me. I’m planting, in part, my ambition that’s always been there. I want to nurture it, to grow, to really take flight in the way that I know I can.
I’m planting the part of me that somehow finds the willpower to keep going, despite the exhaustion, despite the twelve different types of “I can’t” that consistently flash through my head. But I’m trying my hardest to burn the anxiety and insecurity that frequently either gets in my way or appears as a byproduct of the same events that make me push so hard.
Not to be too Kondo-esque about all of this, but I’m planting the seeds of what has already brought me joy. And the things I’m burning aren’t just going away— there’s a reason we plant things, too. The future grows out of the past. We can’t learn from mistakes if we just let the mistakes blow away in the wind. Not all of my burnings and plantings will stick— I can’t guarantee that I’ll tame my anxiety this year, or that I’ll consistently be mindful of where I am and what I’m doing. I’m sure I’ll end up binge-watching a mediocre show full of pretty people while eating chip after chip, neglecting my homework and then waking up exhausted the next day. But my point is that I will be aware. I will keep working, because I know what makes me happy, I want to be happy, and most of all, I am reminding myself that I deserve to be happy.
Whatever your goals are, so do you. Just do your best— don’t give up. Resolutions aren’t goals, as far as I’m concerned. They’re decisions. I am deciding to be happy. I am deciding to aim for confidence and ambition and mindfulness.

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Transformation and Gratitude

 

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Two weeks ago, I packed a small suitcase and a purse, got on a plane, and flew halfway across the world with twenty-eight strangers.

Now, I write this from an airplane, watching a country I didn’t even realize I’d fallen in love with disappear under the clouds and into the distance as I fly back home. 

Two weeks ago, I knew that I was doing something a little bit crazy. I knew that I didn’t know anyone, and that I was flying to a country where I’d never been, where I didn’t speak the language all that well, and where I was one of the youngest members of the group. I knew I was in for not a lot of sleep, and I knew that I was about to embark on some kind of adventure. 

Two weeks ago, I had no idea what I was in for. 

In the space of fifteen days, those twenty-five strangers have become a family. From that group, I have gained colleagues and peers, friends, a true community.

Israel has gone from a distant spot on the map, the center of decades of political rhetoric, to centuries of history whose remains and continuations I have seen and lived and breathed, to a place of beauty and wonder and a constant tug to one day come back. 

I have been breathless with amazement, awestruck nearly every other second, and left with a catch in my throat and tears in my eyes more times than I can count. 

I have climbed the mountain where an entire city chose death over slavery. I have slept under more stars than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I have placed my hands in the dirt and helped uncover the history of a civilization long lost. I have climbed tels, stood on the stone walls of civilizations long gone. I have walked through an entire history of my people, and I have formed friendships and memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Falafel in the flea market at Jaffa, where we took our first group picture and learned each other’s names. 

Tel Megiddo, where history became tangible, where we truly realized just how ancient and sacred the ground we stood on might be. 

The sun over Bet She’An, as we walked a Roman road and stood in the center of an ancient theater. 

Ein Zivan, where a dog stole one shoe but all of our hearts, where we ate at large tables all together, where we danced without self-consciousness, where we stopped being strangers and started turning into friends.  

The Banyas, where our staff members started to become people, separate identities from the trip organizer logos on their shirts. 

Khirbet Kaiyafeh, where we walked nearly a mile in order to hear the stories that so few know, where we could stand inside of the walls discussed in biblical words. 

The City of David and the Temple Mount, the Kotel and the rooftops of Jerusalem, where history and reality blur together so closely that they can hardly be distinguished.

The halls of Hebrew University, where we sat in lectures and laughed and learned, where we drank university coffee and had our hands cramp up from too many notes just like any other student’s would. 

Usha, where we brushed and dug and sieved, drank sage and hyssop tea, and found ourselves drenched and filthy but laughing all the way as a downpour seemed to target our group specifically. 

Our bus, which we covered in mud, rode barefoot, grew territorial over our seats, had conversations about life, the universe, and everything, translated Hebrew into English, and slept more than any of us did in any of the hotels we were actually at. 

Tzfat, where everything is tkhelet, and where my soul lit up like I’d never felt before. 

A quiet cafe in Jerusalem, where we ate sweet potato fries and talked about dogs until 2018 came to an end. 

Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl, where we remembered nearly a century of bravery and loss. 

A campfire, where we sang and ate bamba and strange marshmallows, where we drank some of the best tea I’ve ever had, where we wore ponchos and blankets that made us colorful and bright and only a little bit less cold than we were before. 

The path up Masada, where we shivered and shook in the dark until we found ourselves walking with arms around each other, walking in lockstep, through the darkness, wind whipping our faces and sand scratching into our skin, until we reached the top and found ourselves breathless, full of adrenaline, and dumbstruck with the tangible history of our roots and the beauty of the vast empty view.

A park designed for children, where we ran for the swings, laughing with abandon.

A cold, windy market street where we huddled together for warmth, shivering and smiling in equal measure. 

Two shabbats, where I learned about others and myself, found answers to questions with which I’ve struggled for nearly two decades. 

The tiny hotel basement where we began to say goodbye. 

And finally an airport, where we played Words With Friends, in a massive, cross-group tournament, trying our hardest not to miss each other before we left the ground. 

This trip has changed my life. 

I feel like I’ve been dreaming, and I don’t know how much I want to wake up. Tomorrow, I go back to my life— to books and to classes, to a cold over-chlorinated pool, to the art department I love so dearly. I’ll be returning to grocery shopping and dollars, no more street food and shekels. Lights that turn on without a strange buzzing flicker, showers with curtains and doors that actually close, tea and coffee that isn’t instant or eighty percent milk.  City lights and no mountains to speak of. My family. The friends back home who have become like family. 

I want to go home, and it’s time. 

But the life that I’ve lived feels so mundane. 

I want the magic of these fourteen days to last forever.

But if I have learned anything over the past two weeks, it is this: 

Listening to others and making actions count makes magic out of nothing. 

So I’ll keep my eyes open for the mountains. 

I’ll listen to new voices and try to broaden my worldview when and where I can.

I’ll refuse to say goodbye, because it isn’t— it’s a see you later, it’s a we’ll talk soon. 

And most importantly, I’ll remember to say thank you as much and as often as I can. 

Thank you to the friends who made these two weeks unforgettable. 

Thank you to the world whose natural beauty never fails to stop my heart for just half a second every time. 

Thank you to my history, which is steeped into my roots, good and bad, with its thoroughly tangled discourse.

Thank you to the country I grew up in, and thank you to the one where I’ve been told all my life I’d belong. 

Thank you to the mountains. Thank you to the cities. Thank you to the people, the books, and the rain. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, shouted from rooftops and walltops and the bottoms of valleys.

I’m saying shalom, but I don’t think I mean goodbye. 

Shalom, be at peace. 

Shalom, hello. 

 

 

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5 Years, and an Update

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According to WordPress’s analytics system, today marks 5 years from the day I started Memories on a Page. That number is completely crazy to me, because on the one hand, 5 years is not that long a period of time. It’s not even a relative second compared to the number of years it takes for something like a human to evolve.

Five years ago, my favorite authors definitely  included Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Lucy Maud Montgomery. I  loved Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson. I had just started to get really into Joss Whedon. I wasn’t a big coffee drinker yet, but that was mostly because I lacked the funds and equipment with which to buy or make coffee regularly. I liked baking, and was just starting to figure out some more complex recipes. Not that much has changed, really. Well, I started drinking more coffee, of higher quality.

On the other hand:

Five years ago, I had just started high school. Five years ago, everyone I knew was still obsessed with Divergent and the Hunger Games, and Vampire Academy was just starting to catch on. I don’t remember what I was reading, but it might have been by Sarah J. Maas (okay, that’s also still very much me). Five years ago, I hadn’t quit policy debate. Five years ago, I hadn’t even thought about college except knowing I would be an English major (hah), let alone ended up in the place I am now. Five years ago was my first NaNoWriMo ever. Five years ago, I could not conceive of a world larger than my middle school and high school, and those were already pretty darn huge to me. I had not yet gone through some of the longest, most stressful experiences yet. I had also not yet encountered people who would grow to be some of the best friends in the world. I thought I knew everything. Turns out, I’ll never stop learning.

I am still me from five years ago, but I am a stronger, older, hopefully improved me. Thinking about just how much has happened in five years honestly hurts my brain a little bit, and I’m not entirely sure what to say.

What I do know is that I should say this to all of you: thank you for sticking around and checking back here, even though I update sporadically at best. Thank you for the support. Thank you for reading my books. Thank you for looking at my art. Thank you for reading the ramblings of a strange girl who has always liked books and tea better than most people.

Apparently this is the time of year when I get restless and feel the creative itch to do something new. It doesn’t matter if I’ve just finished NaNoWriMo and I’m horribly sleep deprived, it doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of finals week, I always seem to find myself trying out something creative at the beginning of December. Once year, I baked seven kinds of holiday cookies in three days, two batches of each kind. Another, I started learning calligraphy. Five years ago today, I started this blog. And this year, it seems I am starting something new once again.

I have just opened up two shops for my art, one on RedBubble (shop name MaxxeRiann) and one on Society6 (shop name inkandpaperx).

https://society6.com/inkandpaperx

https://www.redbubble.com/people/MaxxeRiann/shop?asc=u

Feel free to check them out. I would love your support.

Five years is a long time. I think I am going to go read some Rothfuss or some Tolkien, drink some tea, and reflect on just how much some things have changed— and how grateful I am for a number of the ones that have stayed the same. A lot has happened in five years, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

 

What’s Up?

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Hey everyone,

Long time, no write, I guess. I’ve been thinking about re-vamping the memoriesonapage site. The URL isn’t going to change, and I don’t know if much about the layout will. But I’ve been thinking about using it to make a platform for… well, people like me, I guess. Who do too much, who love what they do. Who write a lot of words, do a lot of yoga, and still have to drink ten cups of tea to keep up.

So what’s been going on? I’ve been doing way too much, as usual. I got into college. I’m doing a triple major. I’ve gotten really into yoga. I’ve been working hard at the writing.

Light of the Oceans will be coming out soon.

The sequel to Touchstones should follow shortly after that.

I’ve submitted short stories to some magazines. Last year, one of them won a contest.
I’m still me. I still drink way too much tea and read too many books. I’m still (probably unhealthily obsessed) with the fall and winter months.

I moved to New Jersey for school; I guess that’s new— I actually get winters now.

More news to follow soon…
Things to expect:

– links to my online portfolio, where some of my writing and artwork are probably going to start appearing more frequently

– links to my book (s! Plural! I am very excited about this!)

– anxiety management tips— basically “how to do too much without completely falling apart”

– articles on my adventures traveling the world

– writing tips, prompts, and motivational quotes

– bullet journal things, if any of you have any interest in that

– possibly, POSSIBLY some merch related to my writing and my art… we’ll have to wait and see about that one

– more regularly scheduled content! I think my hiatus from the internet may actually be over

– i don’t know yet— if any of you have any ideas, feel free to leave that in the comments below.

Memoriam


Hello, Internet.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. A lot has happened. Namely, an election and an inauguration. And right around the time that those happened, I disappeared from this blog.

So why am I back?

It’s simple. I feel that I have held my tongue long enough. I have kept quiet about so many political issues. I have restrained myself to private group chats and one-on-one conversations. No one explicitly told me to sit back and shut up, but nevertheless, that is what I did. I have felt, in a word, silenced.

I am breaking that silence now. I’m not going to rant about policies or politics. Instead, I am going to tell you a story.

Around this time last year, I visited St. Louis with my family. We drove around the city, to every place my grandmother could remember having lived. We—my dad, my mom, my brother, my Grampa, and I—listened to my Grammy as she openly discussed her childhood with me.

We ended our day at the local cemetery, where much of our family is buried. We walked amongst the headstones, and my brother and I listened for what felt like hours to stories of family members we’d never met.

“She would have loved your writing.”

“You look just like him.”

“He was such a character.”

I’ve never met most of this side of my family, and I only dimly recognized most of the names etched into the stones. But there was a sense of connectivity binding us all together, a family both living and dead, strong enough that I felt an urge to pick up a stray rock and lay it atop the nearest grave marker. My brother did the same.

When we left the cemetery that day, I remember not knowing how to feel. I had gained so many stories, whole aspects to my family that had previously gone unexplained. And I felt some kind of loss, too, at the knowledge that I only had stories through which I could meet these people.

That cemetery was vandalized earlier this week. I was sitting at my kitchen table doing homework when I heard my father, usually so mild-mannered and polite, exclaim, “Shit.” with the kind of tone that can’t be mistaken for anything but disaster.

My head snapped up and I turned towards him, half afraid to ask what had happened, what was wrong. When he told me, something inside of me crumpled up into a little ball and hasn’t unfurled since.

My family’s headstones look to be okay, though we don’t know for sure yet. But the blow struck close enough to home to leave me reeling. I’m still reeling.

Names and stories and maybe a couple of photographs. That’s all the living have, to remember the dead.

By vandalizing the names, by destroying the places we go to tell the stories, a crime far greater than scrawling graffiti on a rock is committed. It’s the destruction of a memory, of history. It’s the attempted erasure of our ability to connect with our past.

I have kept quiet, publicly, at least, about a lot. But I cannot remain silent about this. Several of my Facebook friends—classmates, people I know personally—insist that anti-Semitism is gone and over with, that America-now is not a place of danger. I read comments and post to that effect every time I log onto social media in search of cute puppy pictures or stop-motion animation food-preparation videos. I scrolled through at least twenty of those sorts of posts the other night, as my dad sat in the other room on the phone with every family member we could think of to call.

The world is many things, but it is not yet a safe place. Anti-Semitism is not only very real and a very present threat, but it has dealt a blow to my family and to my community that cannot be un-felt, cannot be ignored. but I am not writing to rail against the world and its injustices.

Instead, I write to ask you—yes, you—to take a look around you, to see the incredible diverse world we live in.

This is not a time to turn our backs on one another. This is not a time to take out our anger. This is the time to stand together. Being divided helps no one.

Times are tough, but so are we. And the only way to make any change is to unite.

 

A Tribute

david-bowie-06In the past week, this world suffered the loss of two great, influential, unsilenceable voices, at the same age and from the same disease, within days of each other. But I’m not here to write an obituary. Goodbye is not something I want to say.

Obviously, the men themselves are gone, and that alone is an indescribable loss, one that shook more than one country with each headline that appeared. But with each of those headlines came a resurgence of their greatest and their lesser-known works, and with that came a brief reemergence of their presences, as the globe grieved.

I couldn’t tell you what David Bowie liked to eat for breakfast, but I can tell you this story.

At the school I attended for eleven years, we had chickens. Lots of them. There was one bird in particular that we called the Bowie Chicken, because it had a massive head of fluffy white feathers and a skinny long body. Other chickens pecked at it and shut it out of the coop because it was a different breed, and eventually its life was in danger for being in the close vicinity of the rest of them. so it left, and found a new nesting spot. We all thought that the Bowie Chicken was dead, but then a week later, someone found it perfectly fine, living in a new space, a chicken that had literlaly crossed a road, totally unconcerned with anything other than food, shelter, and whatever other thoughts run through a typical avian brain. So we built it a new coop, across the road, big enough for only one. And so it lived on (until its untimely end at what we assume was a coyote attack).

This story probably seems like some kind of allegory with morals at the end of it, but I’m really just telling a story about a chicken.alanrickman

I can’t tell you Alan Rickman’s favorite color, but I can inform you that I hear his voice whenever I come across the words “always,” and “obviously,” in writing. JK Rowling wrote the words, but he breathed life into them. One time, I wrote a one-act play and named a character Alan, purely because I kept hearing Rickman’s voice in my head every time the character spoke.

These stories probably seem totally unconnected, and maybe they are. But here’s why I’m telling them:

These are the stories that won’t make any sense in 20 years. David Bowie won’t be a go-to for the kids born in the next 10 years. The “Harry Potter generation” is largely grown up. I’m at the tail end of that group, and with every iteration of a movie or an illustrated body of work, or theme park, or even newly published fanfictions, the character of Severus Snape changes drastically, until Rickman’s portrayal is only remembered as “the original,” and then maybe not even that.

In 5 years, Love Actually may be considered a cult classic, and shortly after that, it may be wholly obsolete.

Harry Potter opened up a whole new world of kids’ lit—notice how quickly Twilight and the Hunger Games followed in its wake, as the YA-that-wasn’t-just-for-kids. Tis is great. It means that kids now have access to a much, much larger selection of books and worlds and make-believe than I had access to. But with that, the next generation of kids will never know the wonder of everyone reading Harry Potter, of an entire generation across the globe, all united in the fact that we were waiting for the next installment. There was a time when every year came with something new, either book or movie, and we all got together at midnight to see its release, often dressed in full costume.

The next generation of kids isn’t going to know that. Their understanding of characters like Severus Snape is going to be drawn from a much larger base of pictures and probably portrayals than mine was. And so Alan Rickman’s portrayal fades away.

David Bowie was already not really considered as prominent a figure for my generation as the one before. But I was raised on my parents’ favorites as much as my own and my friends’ tastes. And so of course he figured into the equation. But I haven’t run into a single kid under the age of twelve who has watched Labyrinth. Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale are known for the Dark Knight now, which means that no one knows they ever did the Prestige, and we live in a world where a Tesla is a car first, scientist second, movie character never.

And so David Bowie is left behind as well.

If/When I have kids, I’ll tell them about Bowie and Rickman. I’ll be met with blank stares. I’ll show them pictures and articles and videos, and they’ll get a vague idea of what made these two men so important to me, but it won’t quite be the same to them.

It can’t be, because that’s how pop culture and generational icons work.

It’s how I feel about certain movies and TV shows, and rarely books but sometimes those, too, yes. Just barely old enough that I can’t connect to it, because it’s of-its-time in a way that I never can be, so I can be literate in the subject but it’ll never be truly mine.

It’s not a study in which I can be educated, the way that books or Alfred Hitchcock might be, or the whole genre of film noir. It’s ICONS, who will be remembered as such.

I have always been on the very young end of those who could fully appreciate Rickman and Bowie, but I it doesn’t change the fact that I could appreciate them.

I think I always viewed them as kind of immortal. I’m not sure why, it probably had something to do with only ever having seen them on a screen.

But now.

Now they’re gone, and we’ve said goodbye, and the continuation of their legacies and we have witnessed the resurgence of memories surrounding them. But it won’t be the same. It’ll never be the same.

So this is my promise. The next generation of humans on this earth may never understand why, but I’ll do my best. I’ll read them Harry Potter until they’re impatient to read ahead on their own, and that’s when they’ll be ready do exactly that. They’ll watch the Labyrinth. I might even tell them the chicken story, once they’ve seen enough that it’ll make sense.

I’ll leave things out. I’ll fall short. I may not even realize I’ve done so until it’s irreparable.

But I will have given them a taste, an inkling, a small glimmer of understanding. I’ll never be able to impart my experience in full, which is good because this way they build their own experiences, which is likely as it should be. But perhaps this way, the legacies can live on.

Gone but not forgotten, indeed.
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