Ain’t that just like me?

Sleep that doesn’t come in a bed that can’t feel comfortable on a night my heart won’t beat.

I never met David Bowie. I didn’t know him personally. But I lost one of my dearest friends today.

My most recent blog was about flying to New York and being terrified of doing it alone. I was flying to see Lazarus, the play which Bowie helped write and create.

  
 The play was based off a character he played in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth back in 1976. Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) played the title character and brilliantly captured Bowie’s emotional portrayal of Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who crashed to Earth and desperately wants to get back home. In the play, Newton has moved forward 40 years (not aged, however, he doesn’t age) but has lost hope of going home. He just wants to feel love. Love and acceptance and comfort. At the end of the play, Hall lays face up on the floor, surrounded by an outline of a rocket ship (made with duct tape), singing ‘Heroes’ and believing he has finally left this world to go home.

  
Last night, Bowie left in a rocket ship. Not quietly. Not gently. Apparently, he had been battling cancer for 18 months, and it was not a battle he was going to win. His friend and producer, Tony Visconti, said “I knew for a year this was the way it would be…”, citing that Bowie’s album Blackstar, which was released just three days ago, was his ‘parting gift’.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I went on Twitter to scroll through the lines of fluff and dark comedy that comes from those I follow. An artist I follow posted “aw man, I hope this is a hoax”, but as I kept scrolling, I saw no news, no story that would warrant that post. I went onto Instagram to continue my browsing, and I saw something that made my heart sink so deeply I had to catch my breath.

  
I just cried. I wept openly for someone I’d never met, for someone who didn’t know me in the slightest. I held my husband and thought of my grandmother, who died exactly 50 weeks prior from her own cancer battle. I thought of myself, of my own health, my loved ones, and I thought of his music.

I went through unbearable pits of depression and anxiety as a teenager, and Queen and David Bowie got me through them. I would play each of their albums on repeat until 5 in the morning, looking outside and wishing I was comfortable enough to join everyone else living their lives. I had a similar bout of pain during the winter of 2012. Imagine my utter glee when Bowie announced on his birthday in 2013 that he had a new album coming out that March. The Next Day helped me climb through another deep, dark tunnel and into a slightly less scary world that I’d been imagining.

I cannot yet process everything that this artist meant to me, but I can say that today is one month exactly since I saw Lazarus. The play takes the name from one of the tracks on Blackstar and takes on a whole new meaning when I listened to it today:

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now…


Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?”

When I was in New York, I walked Central Park for hours. I was thinking of my grandmother, how much I deeply missed her. We have a joke in our family that Grammy died and came back as a bird. My mother saw her as a peacock at their lakehouse, my grandfather saw her as an albino pigeon on the deck at home. I hadn’t seen her. I was waiting patiently, foolishly looking for any sign of her I could find. That day in Central Park, I sat on a bench overlooking the water, and she appeared.
As a blue jay. A blue bird.
She hopped over to me and sat within inches of my camera lens, chirping and nestling into the wood chips. Tears ran down my face as I took as many pictures as I could. When I finally stopped, I looked up and looked into that bird’s eyes. Then it flew away. I saw Lazarus that night.

  
Of course it’s coincidence.
Of course it’s just a bird.
Of course it’s not technically a bluebird.
Of course.

and tonight, I will make a toast to a friend whom I loved and supported for decades of my still young life. I will send love to his family, as countless people did to mine when Grammy died, and as countless people have sent love to me today. I will hang my Lazarus poster alongside the lithograph I got from the Blackstar vinyl. I will put Scary Monsters and The Next Day and Aladdin Sane and Blackstar on my record player. I will cry. I will watch The Man Who Fell to Earth. And I will go to bed.

And I will wake up tomorrow.

  
 

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On a flight. 

30,000 feet above what is apparently the north-ish end of New Jersey. Flying along. First time I’ve flown alone in…at least 11 years.
I had a massive panic attack as the plane took off. I can’t do this. I want to go home. I’m so scared.

And as we jerked through the clouds, I gasped as I saw this 

  
And I thought of my Grammy sitting beside me, like she did on dozens of flights.

And I started to cry. I had to turn away from the other passengers to avoid an awkward conversation. 

I’m taking this trip to New York City alone, but Grammy is here with me. This trip will be beautiful, wonderful, and extremely cathartic.

25 minutes til we land. 

The flight has been mostly smooth. When I was a kid, I wasn’t scared of turbulence at all. At 27 and a half, it terrifies me. The only way I can cope with it is when I can see the ground below or can see the horizon. Then I have perspective and can pretend I’m in a car. When we’re in clouds, I can’t handle it. 

But Grammy is here. She used to smile and let me hold her hand if I had a hard time on a plane (I used to hate takeoff and the way the planes rushes forward, now I don’t mind it at all). 

I haven’t thought about Grammy as much as I used to. I feel both guilty and relieved to say that.

She wouldn’t want me to sit and be sad. She’d want me to do what I’m doing now, jetting off to New York City for the weekend to see a play David Bowie is producing. I’m so proud of myself. 

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to fly. 

Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to go somewhere I’m not familiar with. 

Last year, I wouldn’t have been able to fly alone.

And tonight, I’m going to eat a delicious meal, get a glass of champagne, and toast to the woman who I miss so dearly, but I’m also going to toast myself.

We’re landing.  

 

On an early morning touchscreen.

I’ve been feeling anxious and uncomfortable all night, something which I haven’t had to deal with in a long time. In a way, that feels great, because I’ve been able to manage my stress and anxiety well. But, that means when it does hit me, it’s exceptionally tough to deal with. 

Things have mostly been good, though. I’m coming up on nine months at my job, and I still love it. It saddens me a little that my education degree isn’t being utilized to the fullest extent, but with how fucking broke our state is and CPS on the verge of striking, it’s for the best. My husband works for a company that manages the recess and after school programs at a ton of CPS schools, and if CPS strikes, he refuses to be a scab and will likely be out of a job too. That’s down the road a ways, but I’m not worried. He’ll find a far better job, and I’m proud of him for standing by the teachers.

My photography endeavors have really been paying off. I’m reaching out to bands and being granted permission to do a fair amount of shows. I’ve received a few standalone offers to shoot for online publications, but most of them have turned out to be a little seedy and more trouble than they’re worth. I’ve been better off independently researching bands and photographing shows that way. 

For Thanksgiving, we’re going back to Canada, this time to Montreal! I’m very excited to visit such a beautiful town. A few weeks later, I’ll be traveling solo to New York City to see a play called Lazarus, starring Michael C. Hall and which has new David Bowie songs/material. I’ve been wanting to take a trip alone for years, and I finally feel like I’m ready to do so. 

Well, that’s a super short update on how things have been lately. I’m going to write again soon; I’ve still got a lot to say. But for now, it’s 5am, and I’ve got to try and close my eyes. 

(Quick plug again! Please check out my site at katescottphotography.com!) 

 

On a touchscreen. 

Wow, haven’t written in a while. This post will be short, but I’ll write again soon. 

The biggest thing is I’ve started my own photography site and am doing everything I can to get my photos out there. My passion is concert and music photography, so I’m diving headfirst into it.

I went to the FFS show last night (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks), and I got to take photos for the band! I also hung out with the band and author Irvine Welsh afterwards. My inner teenager was freaking out!

My site is katescottphotography.net and it would mean SO much to me if you’d check it out! 

Alright. Gotta sleep! Here’s me, Irvine, and Alex Kapranos. ❤  

 

And then the storm broke.

(I wrote this yesterday.)

  
This lakehouse is everything to me, and I haven’t been here in eight years.
Grammy died on January 24th, but I’ve known all my life that when she died, we were to all bring her ashes up to the lake house and spread them under a tree we plant just for her. When she died, we were expecting it, but I don’t think any of us thought about the finality of it. That’s it. It’s done.

So we waited a while to spread her ashes. Another delay of the inevitable. But in the last few weeks, Papa was getting restless. “I really think it’s time we go up there and do this”, he said one night, crunching on my mom’s cabbage salad. We all agreed.

I’ve had crippling anxiety for a large portion of my life, and it’s the reason I wasn’t able to come up here. I constantly wished I was able to just go to the lake and be okay, but I wasn’t. I would have had a miserable time.

How awful that I’m only able to come up here after Grammy’s been dead for seven months.

I took the train after lunch from work. I wasn’t nervous at all, partly because I really like riding the train. It’s nice to be able to just relax and not worry about driving. However, a group of about 40 yuppies clogged the train with ascots and boat shoes, devastated they couldn’t all sit together on the way to the racetrack. I gritted my teeth as some slimeball in a checked blazer stood in the middle of the aisle and blocked anyone else from finding a seat. As the train took off down the track, a few of them started Skyping another friend and walking around the train shouting and filming.
So I nearly clocked ‘em.

Grammy would have approved.

The train ride was two hours. More and more people got off, very few people got on. I laid down on the sideways seats and fell asleep for a little bit in between working on my laptop and staring out the window at the dwindling architecture and growing fields of wheat and corn. Mom and her fiancé Tracy picked me up in Harvard, and we hopped the border back up to Wisconsin, to this small town that I’ve known since the womb.

  
We walked the downtown area for a while. I was thrilled to see that nothing much had changed. A few new stores had popped up and taken over old fronts, but the brick roads and family restaurant remained virginal in their appearance. The afternoon sun hurt my skin as temperatures rose past 90 degrees, so we packed it into Tracy’s GMC and headed to the house.

How perfect. Absolutely nothing had changed in my absence. The rooms smelled the same. The soft well water tasted slightly coppery, and every antique nook and cranny felt like it did growing up. All I wanted to do was lay on the floor and breathe deeply, but I knew I had far more important things to do. I had to catch up before I was ready to let her go.

I bundled up despite the dripping heat so I could go for a hike in the woods. The paths I’d once traveled were now overgrown with brush and thorns. I did my best to make it through the dense, deep forest as what felt like thousands of mosquitoes furiously tried to land on my flesh. I couldn’t get far, but I did make it far enough to find what can only be described as a raccoon graveyard. It was quite beautiful, really.

 
I went back into the house and took a shower to get all the Off! off while mom and Tracy got dinner ready. Papa made it back from town and we sat and chatted for a while about life and what we’d been up to lately. Mom and Tracy prepared dinner.

“Well, when should we do…this?”

We looked up at Papa.

“Now. Now would be good, I think.”

We unscrewed the box and took a measuring cup and dog food scooper to Grammy’s tree in back. Doug’s tree stood tall beside hers.

“I only have one thing to say.”

We stood silent and waited for Papa to speak.

“The last trip you grandmother and I took was to Egypt. While touring the tombs, I was captivated by the level of intricacy in which the Egyptians prepared to send off their royalty, filling their tombs with gems and things they might need in the afterlife. So, we bury these with you, so the path to the afterlife is that much smoother.”
Papa pulled out a cigarette and a tiny bottle of Skyy vodka. I put a poem I’d written just for her in the cigarette box.

I knelt under the tree as mom and I slowly spread the ashes in the circular trench Tracy had dug. We covered the Marlboro pack and vodka with her, then carefully packed the dirt on top of the trench. She was sealed. She was secure. Nothing flew away or escaped. The ashes gently settled into the dirt, knowing their home well.

I didn’t cry. It didn’t feel complete.
We ate dinner mostly in silence, not out of melancholy, but simply because there was nothing to say.

Exhausted, I lay on the sun room floor and stared at the ceiling. The trees shook outside and rapped against the windows.

“Guys, come outside, come check out the lightning!” mom called to me. Papa and I left the sun room and stood on the back porch. The sun had set, leaving us in pitch black. I walked out to Grammy’s tree and sat beside her.

Grammy loved watching storms at the lake. She’d turn off all the lights and sit with the dogs, gazing out at the neon flashes of white and blue that graced the water and lit up the deep, humid sky. She always called mom or papa when she and I were up during a storm. Sometimes, we’d have ice cream and sit out in the sun room, just talking about school and family and shopping.

I sat next to her, a pile of soft dust, and meditated. I spoke to her, telling her that we would all be okay now, that she would be at the lake forever with the storms, the snow, the sunlight.

And the storm broke.

Lightnight fractured the clouds.

Thunder reverberated through the soil.

Raindrops occasionally landed on the tip of my nose.

I wept. I stared at the sky and watched Grammy dance across the cosmos, light and graceful and athletic, the way we all would remember her.

I dug my hands into her soil and rubbed my palms in her ashes, letting her softly melt into my skin. I smelled my hands; they smelled of sandalwood and pine.

The harder I cried, the faster the wind whipped the tears off my face and into the dirt. The leaves from Grammy’s tree landed on my shoulders and back, hugging me.

Yes. My Grammy was the storm.

I believe this. I have no doubt in my mind that she was the storm surrounding our house, saying goodbye to us in the most physical and conspicuous way she could think of. No subtlety.

I went back to the porch and sat with my family until it began to pour. The water dampened her soil and tucked her in

And as I sit on this crowded train back to Chicago, I don’t feel I’ve left her behind. Simply, I helped reignite her spirit and watched her race the cosmic giants in moments nearly too quick for the human eye.

There is never an end to life, merely a transfer of immeasurable energy.

On a touchscreen.

Quick blog before bed.

I’ve had a really rough couple of weeks. Two Mondays ago, I got an IUD, because I’d been on several different birth control pills and was ready for a change. The procedure was pretty painful, but my mom was with me and that helped a lot. I thought I’d be okay just taking one day to work from home, but the next day, I was sweaty and nauseous and stayed home.

Nine days after I got it (and four days since I’d stopped having pain and bleeding), I woke up with terrible pelvic pain. It felt like my bladder was super full and pushing on my cervix. I called my doctor and they told me to come in immediately. We decided to take the IUD out.

I was so devastated. I felt like I’d failed as a woman. I went through so much with pills; the IUD was a great option for me. But less than two weeks later, and it had tilted in me and needed to be removed.

I will probably go back on the pill, but I’m taking a break for a few months. My poor body needs to recover. I don’t want my uterus mad at me.

I had a really nice weekend, overall. I saw my friends everyday, played games, got some naps in, and spent some good time with my husband. Oh, and Jimmy and I went to Market Days. I love it so. 

  
I’m pretty nervous for the weekend. My family is finally going up to the lakehouse to spread Grammy’s ashes. It’s time. We’re all ready. But, it’s going to be so hard. 

Well, off to bed. I’m going to try my luck at biking to the train tomorrow. ❤ 

Dear Grammy,

It’s been 6 months since you died, and I can still smell your lotion in the air on warm summer nights.

I’ve stopped feeling consistently melancholy about you being gone and have settled into a feeling of appreciation for the things you did for me that neither one of us understood at the time.

When my appendix nearly burst a few months ago, you were the only thing that kept me calm before my operation.Now, neither one of us knew that would happen to me. But, you had two knee replacements, two hip replacements, two heart attacks, cancer, two spinal fusions…
I could go on.
And I remember how happy you were to see me, no matter what.

There’s one time I remember specifically. I’d flown in from Florida to stay with you and Papa for the summer, and Papa had to pick me up from the airport. You were in bed with food poisoning (although looking back, it probably was your gallbladder). Either way, you were fucking sick. You didn’t want to get out of bed, and when you did, it was to rush to the bathroom.
I made you a bowl of white rice with butter and salt, and you sat and ate with me, smiling and lightly laughing. I could see sweat beading on your forehead as you ate, as if it physically hurt you to do so. But, you ate the rice, and you said I made you feel better.

But,
six months.
This is the longest I have ever gone without seeing you. I’ve never experienced this long of an absence from you.

I’m doing really well, Grammy.

I have a job I adore, and I’m really good at it.
My friends are the center of my world. They’re my family.
My husband. He’s my partner. We’re seeking new adventures and sleeping under the stars.
Mom, Papa, Tracy…they’re doing so well. You’ve gotta be proud. I can’t believe their resilience.
Especially Papa.

I talk to you a lot. Do you hear me? Sometimes I feel silly doing so, because I don’t know what I believe in. God? Afterlife?Reincarnation?
That last one is the most likely to me.

Last week I was pretty sure you were this beautiful moth living in our apartment.
You came to me first in the laundry basket, then flew off somewhere down the hallway. I couldn’t find you, but days later, there you were in the kitchen, quietly nested in a wooden bowl that matched your wings.
You let me softly pluck you from the bowl and bring you to the back porch.

Why didn’t you fly away? You stayed on my finger for a while, feeling my skin with your feelers.

Then, off you went.

A few days ago, Emily spotted a beautiful butterfly in our office. Again, I took you outside and let you rest on the leaves, but you didn’t want to get off my hand.

Can you be two different insects? Can you be one at all?

Honestly, I don’t know. And I don’t care.

You are these beautiful moths and butterflies and lightning bugs, and you are the shopping cart at TJ Maxx that moved down the aisle on its own. And you are the white pigeon living on your roof. And you are that really great smell I catch in the summer wind at night.

I miss you. I feel you everywhere. I hope, more than anything, that I never stop feeling you.

I love you Grammy. Come visit me soon. I’m keeping an eye out for your wings.