little things, april 2021

I. blooming flowers and a friend, reminding me: you have to start somewhere. not all things are beautiful when they first begin.

II. a morning walk on a summer day
in northern california
which means I am wearing two jackets and a hat
but you can hear the rising sun saying to the world “watch out for me today.”

III. collage (n): an assemblage of different forms…thus creating a whole.
when I pick up these camellias (that have fallen onto the sidewalk – once beautiful on their bushes, now browning and alone) and press them underneath a heavy book, I like the idea that I am giving them a second life.

IV. I look at the clock and see an hour has passed
since I sat down on the couch to read my book.
I am thankful for artists who conjure up these other worlds
that can so readily relieve me from my own.

V. I see a whale! – no, it’s a wave
and then – a spout!
I am sitting near the edge of the cliff and my sister is on the phone and I start crying.

whale watching in mendocino

A Garbage Post [Happy Earth Day]

Each year I celebrate Earth Day by going on a plog. For those unfamiliar with the term, know that Thomas was as well until his edification three years ago:

This text conversation is probably more embarrassing for me than it is for him, as it speaks volumes to what he thinks I’m doing in my spare time.

In previous years I visited some combination of my favorite parks nearby our house in San Francisco: Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Sutro, Glen Canyon, Billy Goat Hill, Kite Hill, Corona Heights, and/or Bernal Heights (there were so many amazing parks in walking distance! I love you, San Francisco!). Today, on my first Berkeley/East Bay plog, I jogged with my bag of accumulating trash through Strawberry Canyon and Claremont Canyon. It’s a common theme in the Bay Area that if you want to explore the local parks you have to be willing to climb a lot of hills, but luckily I’ve lived here long enough that the thought of a flat jog is intimidating.

By the end of my jog I’d filled and emptied four bags of trash, not to mention stopped for a few selfies and tree appreciation moments. (Imagine living in the beautiful, magical land that is Northern California and not wanting to save our planet!)

Here is a list of the most common trash items I found:

  1. Masks. This one sucks so much. Not only do we have a pandemic on our hands, but masks are creating additional litter! Wear your mask…but dispose of it properly, please!
  2. Bags of dog poop. As the sign (pictured above) courtesy of Untrash.it says: “This is trash too! Please pack out your dog waste.”
  3. Napkins. In particular: those rough, brown napkins they keep in large dispensers on tables at fast casual restaurants and college cafeterias. Either people are using them as toilet paper on the trails (use a leaf! or air dry!) or they’re eating a lot of trail snacks that require napkins, but either way it was sad how many of them were crumpled up on the side of the trails.
  4. A half-eaten burrito. Ok, fine – this was not a common item of trash. But the fact that I found a half-eaten, foiled-wrapped burrito in the middle of some wood chips in the park was mind-blowing! Not only did this person litter, they also wasted most of a perfectly good burrito! Food waste + litter = double whammy.

More importantly: thank you to organizations like Untrash East Bay who are working to keep our beautiful parks and earth clean. When group activities are back up and running I plan to join them on their weekly group trash pick-ups. I was also thinking that for my next birthday I should invite friends to one of my favorite parks for a trash cleanup partt…prizes for the person who picks up the most trash!

As for other personal Earth-related initiatives, I found this tweet I posted on Earth Day two years ago (from a pre-pandemic world in which and we still commuted to an office for work):

I am sharing this because I have always been passionate about improving access to bikes, buses, and trains as means of both work and personal transport. If you live in San Francisco, I suggest joining and/or supporting the San Francisco Bike Coalition who works to improve bike accessibility and safety in the city. Even more importantly, I recently read this incredible article written about the lack of representation low-income riders have when it comes to safe cycling and transportation planning. While I have become a more avid cyclist over the past few years, I am continually frustrated by perceptions of the cycling community, and the inclusivity of the community itself. The lower-income folks who rely on bikes as their primary mode of transportation are overlooked when planning and accessibility decisions are made, and the cycling community doesn’t always do the best job of advocating for them. The article provides a great overview of why it’s important to support lower-income cyclists and I am thinking of ways to be a better advocate in my own community.

I’ll end with a post from one of my favorite Instagram accounts @intersectionalenvironmentalist:

Little Things / March 2021

1.

In a brief moment of culinary inspiration last weekend I decided I wanted to bake some scones. I’d just had my morning coffee – so the possibilities for my day were seemingly endless and I dreamt my biggest, most wild dreams – and seen an inspiring photo of local produce from Berkeley Bowl.

“What flavor scones should I make?” I asked myself as I sat on the couch, already envisioning the Samin Nosrat I was about to become. I had the essential ingredients in my pantry – flour, butter, heavy cream, sugar – and decided on lemon poppyseed: a classic, hard-to-mess-up flavor that would only require buying a lemon or two from the grocery store. And then – of course, as usual – the moment of inspiration passed before I even made it to the store.

I went for a walk through the neighborhood later that afternoon. I had spent most of the day attempting to read, but mostly ruminating, and sought fresh air to clear my mind. A few blocks from my house I came across a plastic dog bowl placed on the sidewalk with a paper sign taped to the rim that read “FREE” in black Sharpie. Inside the bowl were three large, bright yellow lemons that a neighbor had picked from the ripening tree in their yard. I smiled, picked one up, and put it in my fanny pack (yes, I was wearing a fanny pack).

Lemon x fanny pack

As I walked home with the lemon displayed proudly in the pocket of my fanny pack I felt so blessed. A lemon in a bowl on the sidewalk. It was such a small thing and yet it felt like a huge gift, to have this thing that I’d been “needing,” but hadn’t been able to give myself, brought to me with no strings attached. It was as if someone, somewhere had known that if I were presented with a lemon it might have the capacity to turn my day around.

At home that evening I stood at the counter zesting the lemon over a glass bowl. I grated the frozen butter, mixed in heavy cream and flour, and added just the right amount of poppy seeds. I’m not much of a baker but every time I bake or cook I notice how wonderful it feels to make something from scratch, to shape and create it with my own hands. When the scones came out of the oven looking and smelling just as I’d hoped, I thanked the world for the gift of a lemon that reminded and inspired me to create.

2.

The wildflowers are in bloom!

On Sunday afternoon I sat on a bench by a field of poppies and reread one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry:

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and goes, 
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

3.

Ben Howard released a new album that I (shockingly!!!!!) have not been able to take off repeat: https://open.spotify.com/album/09P40BHcaue9iF4QasXMTK?si=hVrCF0tbRQOcOkeRzxl6Og. Every time I listen to his music I think about what a gift musicians are to the world; how talented artists have the ability to make us feel and experience the world more deeply.

I read an interview he gave with Flood Magazine after the album release and one particular quote resonated with me:

“I think I’m always just looking for a little flash of inspiration rather than working on some great orchestral piece, and that kind of became what the record was—it was little fragments. I hate to use the word “vignette,” but these songs are little glimpses of life and of musical ideas. They didn’t even need to be completely finished—as long as the essence is there, it counts.”

Sometimes that’s how I feel about this blog (I am not, by the way, attempting to compare myself to a musical genius!): it’s a place where I can capture my flashes of inspiration – a poem, a wildflower, a lemon on the sidewalk – rather than trying to produce something cohesive or complete.

I’ll leave you with something else he said in the interview that I thought he articulated beautifully:

“I think that’s why I’m always reluctant to spell out every single element of a song, because feelings are supposed to change. It’s supposed to change with interpretation, and that’s one of the most interesting aspects of it all. Meaning can be quite an elusive thing. And actually, the most incredible moment is when you get presented with an image that you can’t get out of your brain, but you don’t know why.”

Happy spring, everyone! May it bring lots of wildflowers and hope.

The world is a beautiful place

I first read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry in AP Literature my senior year of high school. I can’t remember which of his poems we read (was it “Sometime During Eternity“? “Constantly Risking Absurdity“?); since then I’ve read his poems so many times that most of the words seem familiar.

When I moved to San Francisco I started seeing a therapist whose office was in North Beach. Every week after our session I would walk from her office to City Lights Bookstore and spend as long as I could among its shelves before walking the next few blocks to my office downtown. That was always a jarring transition: from the quiet of therapy and a bookstore to the noisy, crowded office.

For Christmas two years ago my mom got me a copy of Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems. I didn’t remember telling her about any of his poems that I loved, or all the hours I’d spent kneeling by the shelves in the cramped basement of City Lights.

I took the book with me down to Ocean Beach one day and read my favorite of his poems, “The world is a beautiful place,” by the water. It begins:

And then, later:

I read of Ferlinghetti’s death in between meetings yesterday afternoon, during a five minute break in which I was scrolling through Twitter.

In the evening, after work, I took the book of his poems and went out for a walk. I looked at everything and smelled the flowers.

Eating Disorders and Privilege

Before I begin: I have hours of thoughts on this topic beyond what I’ve shared below so…I would love to talk more with anyone who is interested. Please message me if you want to talk; it can be as general or as personal as you wish.

A few other prefacing notes/disclaimers:
The podcast I talk about in this post is eating disorder-themed, but its messages are universal and I imagine anyone who has struggled with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions will resonate with them. While I consider myself recovered from my eating disorder, my eating disorder was nothing more than a manifestation of certain harmful beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. I have been in therapy for years and am still working to address the “bigger issues” and foundational beliefs that may no longer result in disordered eating but present themselves in other ways.


I spend so much time struggling to figure out how I fit in in the world: where to take up space and where to make room for others; when to listen and when to speak up; how to find purpose, and how to act in a way that spreads love and compassion rather than violence and hate.

I listened to a podcast last month and – I never thought I’d say this about a podcast – it changed the way I view myself and the world.

In working to find my purpose I look for the intersection of “things I know about” and “things I care about.” So when this podcast explained the relationship between something I know about (white privilege and white supremacy) and something I care about (eating disorders and social justice) I felt compelled to share my experience. I hope that, in reading this, I give you at least one of four things: 1) knowledge to take with you, 2) a framework for your own experience if this resonates with you, 3) a place for contemplation and discussion about how we can better the world going forward, 4) an affirmation that the work you are doing on yourself (whether it be from a place of privilege or from a place of oppression) is important and brave.

The podcast begins with the interviewee, Elizabeth Scott, LCSW, CEDSS, highlighting that the purpose of the conversation is not to center it around privileged white people, but rather to acknowledge the ways in which we are implicitly taught racism and the importance of breaking from this model so that we can bring justice and equity to those who are oppressed. She then goes on to describe my personal experience in an eerily accurate way (picture me listening to this podcast with my mouth open, wondering if my therapist had secretly been disclosing what I have shared with her in our sessions). She says:

“Over the years of working with many quite privileged white teenagers, I’ve discovered that underneath their eating disorder and the ways that their self care is disrupted, there is often a terrible guilt and self loathing. And when we explore more deeply, they have so many conflicts about the excesses they enjoy, the privilege, the money, the education, the lessons, the training, all of the freedoms they enjoy, while they are really sensitive and in touch with the suffering in the world. So these are women who are attuned and sensitive and who care about the world and who can’t reconcile their own privilege.”

I mean…ok…wow. If there’s a word that comes up more than all others in my journals (except “grateful” of course) it’s “guilt.” I’ve tried to move beyond the phrase “I hate myself” but that was certainly a staple in my high school journals. But other than knowing I am a “sensitive” person, I had never been able to make sense of why I hated myself so much and why I have never been able to shake the guilt and shame. Scott goes on to present the answer in the form of a metaphor perfectly apt for someone who spent their whole childhood playing sports: children’s soccer.

“We win and we get more. We win because we are extra good, extra special, which is … training our kids to numb themselves against the loser, and teach us this competitive model of self-worth that is inherently problematic and fragile because we have to always be above average in order to be eligible for our privilege.

So these kids, as I did myself, produce a drive to be “more competitive, more supreme, more perfect, in order to make sense of the fact that things are really unequal and we can see that they are.” As I listened I started to understand how my perfectionism and competitiveness (both traits which lent themselves perfectly to an eating disorder) have been ways of trying to reconcile the inequality I saw with the privilege that I had. It was this constant desire to have “earned” the privilege, to fight against the idea that there was something inherently bad about me, to – in Scott’s words – “balance the equation, or not take too much.” And, more importantly, I saw how this idea itself – that I always had to be above average; this competitive model of self-worth – is white supremacy. We take the parts ourselves that we hate and we project them on to others. Racism quite literally developed as a result of white people afraid of being less worthy than other white people and projecting that violence and hate onto black and brown bodies. (Quick note: you might be reading this and think to yourself, “Sounds like capitalism!” which…yes…but that is for another time.)

Everything Scott talked about felt like holding a mirror up to myself. And it became perfectly clear to me why I developed an eating disorder (and anxiety, depression, etc.): “Many times people with eating disorders are just the most obedient to what we’ve been taught, which is that we must always be special and supreme and apart from ‘those people.'”

Growing up, I don’t think I understood who “those people” were. In fact, in my community, there were so few minorities that the only people to whom I ever compared myself were other privileged white people! But the fact remains that I had internalized this cultural and societal message that I had to get rid of the “bad” parts of myself, the parts that I didn’t want, the parts that didn’t make me eligible for my privilege. The same parts that white people have tried to get rid of for centuries and have instead projected onto black and brown people.

And therein, of course, lies the biggest impact of all of this: “people who are in black and brown bodies are dealing with a tremendous amount of negative projection and violence. It’s a violent idea, to take what I don’t like about myself and push it on to your body, and to destroy you to get rid of that part. It causes this toxic violence to be internalized into their bodies, and they have to endlessly shovel this anger and criticism out of their own bodies.”

I return to an interview with Toni Morrison who (of course) puts it perfectly: “Despite (and because of) its lofty delusions, white supremacy makes things worse for everyone, white people very much included. It succeeds because the belief in “whiteness” as a category of specialness covers up deep-seated insecurity and doubt.”

White supremacy is hurting us all and that applies explicitly to mental health. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that rates of anxiety and depression continue to grow, do you?

But where does that leave us? Where does that leave me in my quest to heal myself so that I can heal others?

For white people, Scott says this: “Learn to be brave. Learn to turn towards [your] fears and turn towards that which we don’t want, and integrate it, in the same way you would integrate trauma. It’s a trauma to constantly be cutting ourselves off with scissors [trying to remove parts of ourselves we don’t like]. So the work is similar: … integrating how to inhabit our bodies with all of our parts … and for people of color, it’s having the support and protection to be free of those projections. For white people it’s about being brave…and [facing] the parts of ourself that we fear…rather than projecting them.”

A big part of my work, then, is to be brave and to practice self-compassion rather than self-loathing. It is to accept and integrate all the parts I fear or dislike in myself rather than try to push them away, or worse, project them on others. It is a radical act to accept myself as I am. It is a radical act to accept and to love my body. And it’s only when I stop being paralyzed by self-loathing that I am motivated to act, to change, and to have time and energy to dedicate to helping others.

Thanks for reading and listening. Again, please reach out if you want to talk.


Link to the podcast on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0vss46ZREPajaJCNFKuk7b?si=MoCJA8U4TLmfu47OPobQng.

I Still Don’t Know How To Change a Tubeless Tire

When I bought my gravel bike it came equipped with “tubeless” tires. Even though I had ridden plenty of miles by that point, I had no idea what tubeless tires were. (For the non-cyclists reading this post, knowing what tubeless tires are is irrelevant to the rest of the story.) So, when I needed to have my tire changed earlier this week, of course I was unfamiliar with how to do it. I spent a while watching instructional YouTube videos and started to grasp the basic concepts, but because it was my first time and I didn’t have the right equipment, I took my bike to the shop to get the new tire put on properly.

I have always been intimidated by other cyclists and insecure about how little I know about bikes in comparison. The first time I changed a flat tire by myself it took me almost three hours (to be fair, I later learned that my tubes were particularly difficult to remove from my tire). I have spent many hours sitting on the floor rewinding instructional YouTube videos on my laptop in futile attempts to adjust parts of my bike.

When I arrived at the shop and told the bike mechanic I needed help mounting my new tire he rolled his eyes. “Sure. What kind of tape do you want?” he asked patronizingly. When he thought I was out of earshot I heard him say to his colleague, “Ha, she didn’t even know what kind of tape she wanted.”

I meekly watched as he changed the tire; I was eager to learn so that I could do it myself next time, but all I could think about was how shameful and stupid I felt. I thought back to a time in college when I had asked a question in a grad-level math class and some PhD dude in the front row turned around with an “are you serious?” look on his face, making sure I knew he had turned around just to see who could have asked such a stupid question.

I didn’t ask questions in math lectures after that. My grades suffered but I convinced myself it was better to be stupid in secret than risk being so in public.

Looking back on the math class and my experience at the bike shop I am filled with anger and frustration both at myself and at those men. Why hadn’t I been secure enough to be OK with the fact that I didn’t know everything? Why hadn’t I been strong enough to keep showing up and asking questions even when I felt judged by others? Why are there people who need to put others down in order to feel superior? How many people have been dissuaded – myself included – from an interest or passion because others made them feel they weren’t worthy of it?

On the other hand, I find myself filled with gratitude for the many people who have not made me feel that way: the cyclists I have met (you know who you are!) who are patient with me when I ask a question to which I should already know the answer, the TA who never rolled her eyes when I showed up week after week to her Office Hours, the boss who encouraged me to make mistakes and let my voice be heard. If it hadn’t been for those people I probably would have stopped cycling a long time ago or decided not to pursue the math degree with which I graduated.

How can I be a person who never makes another feel inadequate? How can I be open and welcoming and non-judgmental of other “beginners” when I am the “expert”? How can I encourage others rather than tear them down? We all have to start somewhere.


Last night I sat reading on the couch next to Thomas. I came across a passage in my book that described a disease with which I was unfamiliar; I asked him how it operated and what the symptoms were. Apparently these were answers I should have known because, before he answered my questions, he said, “Are you serious?”

Immediately my mind went to, “Why did you ask that, you should have just Googled it and avoided yourself the embarrassment.” I almost responded by saying, “No, nevermind, I misread the passage.” But – in a moment of bravery and resilience sparked by my earlier reflections – I said, “Yes, I’m serious. I don’t know and I asked so that, in the future, I can know.”

One small step for Maddy…one giant step for refusing to perpetuate the cycle of shame!!!!!

P.S. The best part of my bike shop anecdote is that, as I was biking home from the shop with my new tire…it deflated. Turns out Mr. Condescending had not mounted it properly and I had to get it redone by someone else.

A Lil Holiday Gratitude

I’m a sucker for gratitude. Some of you probably want to vomit every time you see yet another “how to practice gratitude” infographic but developing a gratitude practice over these past ~5 years has undoubtedly had a positive impact on my life, and so I will continue to preach the gratitude gospel. (Ooooooh, I like that: “gratitude gospel.” Nice lil alliteration for ya.)

As someone who is prone to picking myself apart, beating myself up, and focusing on my flaws, a gratitude practice provides an amazing respite from thinking about myself all the time and all the ways I am wrong or bad or stupid or worthless.

Before I get too on-my-soapbox about gratitude and how it’s changed my life for the better, I want to share the gratitude prompts I responded to in my journal this morning. Because it’s the holiday season and things are kind of hard I’ve been spending extra time in the morning on my practice. (Fuck- I hate the word “practice.” It makes it sound like a freakin’ chore or like some fancy-ass routine when really it’s just taking 30 seconds to acknowledge some good shit in your life…I don’t wanna be the “practice” person…like, I don’t even do yoga…)

A Person I’m Glad to Have in My Life
The best part about this prompt is that I could answer it with one of 30+ people because I am forever blessed with the most amazing friends and family. Hella gratitude!!!!!! But for the sake of being more specific today I’m going to answer with Thomas because I had an extra moment of gratitude for him last night. I was listening to a podcast on which two women (probably about my age) were discussing how many guys they had been on dates with who told them they were “too much,” or who had ended the relationship because the woman’s aspirations for herself and her career were “unattractive.” I’ve heard that sentiment expressed many times in many places: that a woman is told she is “too much” and she then carries that insecurity around with her eternally, or that a woman has diminished herself to appease a man. In listening to these girls talk about their personal experiences with men like this I thought to myself, “How lucky am I to have a partner who has never made me feel that way.” Thomas supports me in any dream I have for myself and, if anything, he prefers when I’m *loud* because – his words, not mine – “someone has to keep the conversation going.” Anyway, I’m thankful I found a partner who doesn’t make me feel like I need to diminish myself because I’ve felt that before and it sucks. And my wish for all women (and everyone else, really) is that they surround themselves with people who never make them feel that they need to be different.

A Future Event I’m Excited For
Visiting Leslie in London. This is a totally nebulous event, by the way – there are no plane tickets booked or dates decided (for obvious reasons) but it makes me happy to think about a time in the hopefully near future in which we are in London together. Activities include: jogging around various London parks, drinking wine, watching dumb TV shows on the couch, admiring flowers, eating my “favourite” white chocolate Milky buttons, drinking coffee, watching sunrises and sunsets.

Some Positive News I Received Recently
That I will get to lead another support group in the new year for those in recovery from eating disorders! (For the past few years I’ve led community support groups for individuals who can’t otherwise afford treatment, and I was selected to lead more groups in the coming year! Woo!)

A Memory That Makes Me Smile
I have been thinking a lot about previous Christmases and how lucky I’ve been to spend so many of them with family and in amazing places. This year Thomas and I are celebrating in Berkeley and of course we both miss our families (stay tuned for how much of an eight-person meal the two of us can eat) but instead of being sad about not being able to be with them I’ve been remembering the wonderful times we were able to spend together. Two years ago we spent Christmas with Thomas’ extended family in Belgium and I have the best memories of the dinners we ate together. I remember in particular a dinner we had at his grandparent’s house and – after Grapa was extremely generous with the wine, as usual – dancing in the kitchen with Thomas’ dad, uncle, and grandparents to Dire Straits. A lot of the time I spend with his family in Belgium is marked by me feeling stupid for being unable to understand the conversations being held French (why didn’t I pay better attention in high school!!!!!) so it felt amazing to connect with everyone through music (#theuniversallanguage). I have a picture of that moment, all of our teeth stained red from the wine and cheeks flushed pink from dancing, and am grateful to have this memory to carry with me.

Rain, rain

Has everyone listened to the viral “Reply All” podcast episode “The Case of the Missing Hit”? If not, go listen to it before reading the rest of this post. “Reply All” remains the only podcast to which I regularly listen and that episode was my initiation.

I bring this up because I am currently having my own “missing hit” mystery. This morning I woke up to the sound of rain and my brain – for whatever reason – remembered a song from my childhood. I am almost positive it was a song that existed on a videotape we had at home, and that it was some sort of episode or segment from this video that we used to watch all the time. The lyrics (sung by a woman, if I remember correctly) are as follows:

“I sit and watch the rain, as it falls from the sky
And I am glad to be inside, where it is warm and dry.”

Where is this song from?!?!?!?!??!

I just spent twenty minutes googling and came up empty-handed. I don’t know that anyone outside of my family would have seen this video – I think it was relatively obscure – but I am going crazy trying to remember where the song is from. And why, every time it rains, does this song get stuck in my head?!

So yes, it’s a rainy Sunday morning in Berkeley. And for the first time in months, my daily gratitude list included “rain.”

I never understood what that (mystery) song was talking about because, when I was ten years old, all rain meant was that my soccer game, the highlight of my week, would be cancelled. It meant that I’d have to wear a big, inconvenient raincoat to school and worry about the homework and paper bag lunch in my backpack getting wet (and no one likes a wet cheese sandwich).

But now, ~as an adult~, I have more of an appreciate for rain. Or maybe it has nothing to do with being an adult – though I no longer have to worry about my sports games getting cancelled – and more to do with being able to work from home. Because I have nowhere to be, including at an office, I don’t have to deal with the chaos of adjusting my entire daily schedule to accommodate the weather. I am such a creature of habit and routine that rain in California upends my entire day (should I brave my bike commute in the rain? Or should I test the unreliable waters of the bus? Will I have time to shower when I get to work if I’m wet? etc. etc.).

This morning I can bask in the sound and smell and sight of rain because I have nowhere else to be but at home. Better yet, I can read poetry in bed as I watch and listen to the rain fall. And better still, I can read poetry in bed about the rain and have a meta-rain-poetry experience. Raymond Carver:

Did you know that Raymond Carver went to Chico State (I am now reading a short biography of Raymond Carver)?

Thomas R. Edwards describes Carver’s fictional world as a place where “people worry about whether their old cars will start, where unemployment or personal bankruptcy are present dangers, where a good time consists of smoking pot with the neighbors, with a little cream soda and M&M’s on the side … Carver’s characters are waitresses, mechanics, postmen, high school teachers, factory workers, door-to-door salesmen. [Their surroundings are] not for them a still unspoiled scenic wonderland, but a place where making a living is as hard, and the texture of life as drab, for those without money, as anywhere else.”

Poetryfoundation.org

So really what I am hearing is that Carver is the poet equivalent of Bruce Springsteen. They both write about – and in many ways, to – the working class, whose hopes and dreams are often obscured by the day-to-day realities of work and hardship.

While Bruce explores these themes in a more lyrical and verbose fashion, Carver tends toward minimalism: simple, few words. Yet they often tell the same story of a working class person or family and, in the words of critic Geoffrey Wolff in his New York Times Book Review on Carver’s poems, “almost all of them hold a promise of mayhem of some final, awful breaking from confines, and breaking through to liberty.”

If that isn’t a good thematic summation of “Born to Run,” I don’t know what is.

The question then becomes: why am I so drawn to these stories in art? I can’t pretend to relate to the experience of factory workers or small-town laborers. I think it’s because I love the reminder that so much of the human experience is universal; that, even though I don’t work 9-5 at a factory like a Springsteen character, I struggle with the same wants for freedom and love and fullness of life, and the same fears of loneliness and broken promises and unfulfilled dreams.

“It’s a town full of losers and I’m pullin’ out of here to win.”