This is the first proper newsletter. It's about passing.Here's the link to the original on patreon.
Hi y’all :^) Thanks so much for being interested in my newslettering, I really super appreciate it!!!
For this month’s newsletter I’m endeavoring to investigate the word “passing” through a few different other words, while at the same time folding in what I’ve been up to and thinking about lately.
(also it looks like Patreon's text editor for making posts is quite limited when it comes to formatting, so if this looks really weird in your email client, that's what's going on! Sorry if that happens, I'll be fiddling more in the future to make things as pretty as possible!)
Passing = transition (linguistically)
On a linguistic level, passing feels connected to transition. When we were in Albuquerque, I was working on the idea for a short film that investigated the morpheme “trans”. I filled pages in my notebook with words containing “trans” and their sprawling definitions. I arrived at the idea that reading these aloud could serve as narration, and it could pair with video of a trans person going about associated actions. These two parallel streams would intersect free-associatively. They might get on the bus while I was explaining “transport”. “Transgender” was deliberately not an included word, I think I meant for it to serve as a kind of present absence.
The scene that sticks in my head was them crossing a crosswalk. Visual diagramming, along with the narration, would elucidate that one of the definitions for “transit” was “An imaginary line drawn between 2 objects whose positions are known.” I was interested in the fact that this could read as a connecting or a dividing line. It would’ve looked something like this:
In retrospect, my biggest takeaway from the project is more about the experience of being in transit not necessarily having a direction or arriving at a destination. It’s not that I’m on the train so that I can get from A to B, I’m on the train for the pleasure of being in transit. And isn’t transition just transit made into action?
Passing = crossing
Another definition for “transit” was astronomical, where a celestial body passes between the viewer’s vantage and a distant, larger celestial body. The closer body seems to pass across the further one. There is something about this astronomically unlikely alignment that does feel like gender to me. In the moment of these three bodies making a line, there is an awareness of the bodies’ movement. Their spinning and twirling and circling in the darkness is briefly made visible and legible.
A societally legible gender expression is the same kind of tiny little glimpse at the machinations of a swirling array of barely visible bodies. I’ve found that in quarantined isolation my gender expression has changed considerably, and I think that’s because I’m not spending as much time thinking about passing. I’m not worrying about the optics of being understood, I’m just trying to be comfortable. I’m spending most of my time in leggings, skirts, turtlenecks, sweaters. I light a candle and sip my tea. I buy myself nice underwear.
transition, crossing, Passing (away)
Making this into a definitional triangle, transition is crossing as well as passing. Let’s imagine the triangle is equilateral and pointing to the right, like a play button. I think passing would be on that corner, pointing to a way out of being transitory. Passing away makes the word into an exit, while highlighting the past part of passing, that glint of backwards-facing-ness.
Passing away is, of course, a phrase that means death, and I think the relevancy of the phrase in this moment goes without saying. I’m thankful that personally, only one person close to me has passed away since last March. My grandpa died, but it was no surprise and unrelated to Covid. Its ambient hovering threat hasn’t manifested that close. Olivia and I have lived increasingly insular lives, and I think some of that distancing is successfully built defense. But I know that it’s also just privilege, and chance, and circumstance.
Also included in the last month-time is the passage out of 2020. Even though I kept telling myself that the causes and effects of our collective sufferings weren’t contained by the calendar year, I still had this feeling after the 1st of shedding some great burden, like I was emerging fresh for something new. I started using my new planner, which has been serving me beautifully. Even with the coup attempt on the 6th so quickly plunging me into the reality of our suffering as part of a long continuum, the planner has been a continual respite and place of return. The days keep passing and we keep on going.
Passing through (passage > tunnel)
Let’s come back to being transitory. Passing through conjures that connected word, passage, which makes me think tunnel, and that sure has felt like January to me! For four weeks before the 20th, Olivia was on break after her first semester of her grad program. I took some time off from work too, and because of that, time started feeling really streaky/smudgy for a while there. Someone in the Sewing Circle told us about how they had started using the term “couch melting”, and that has felt like a perfect description for how we spent a lot of that time.
I think this is tricky to explain because of how vilified relaxation is in our society. I don’t want my descriptions to come off as negative, I’ve sincerely been having a great time! We’ve gotten through a ton of TV shows, as I mentioned in the last little post, and it’s been so much fun getting caught up in the repetitive banal comfort of having a cinematic universe to enter into every night. We just finished The Good Place, finally, after a looong break in the middle of the last season, and the way it finished out was so lovely. Lightly spoiling: it really felt like a fitting depiction of how Olivia and I are living in our own little heaven and all we really need is time together :^) When I’m talking about passage and tunnel, another word that comes to mind is hallway. There is a comfort inside these words, a kind of shelter.
At the moment we are still inside a long state of in-between-ness, which I’ve been referring to in conversation as a “purgatory”. We thought we were going to be moving to Minneapolis last August and now it’s been sixth months since then. But, just a few days ago, we had news! Fulbright Germany approved Olivia’s medical deferral, which means the “trajectories of possibility” have shifted into: 1) We have the strong and actionable option to go to Germany in the fall and stay there until the summer of 2022, or 2) for whatever reason we decide not to, and move to Minneapolis after this semester sometime in the summertime.
This is the kind of news that is ostensibly very exciting, and has gotten corresponding responses from the people I’ve told. But I keep noticing my mind bummering out, resisting the integration of this new trajectory. Part of it is probably that I’m having trouble trusting that it will happen at all when the possibility of going to Germany has been in various states of delay and uncertainty for so long. I was also starting to get excited fantasizing about the future where Fulbright doesn’t happen and we get to buy a car and enjoy that pleasure for our last chunk of time in Moscow. Then there’s the way that doing Fulbright means stretching out the purgatory even further. We wouldn’t be able to move to Minneapolis and start getting comfortable there until the end of summer in 2022, which is such an unfathomably far away point in time.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I tell myself that our current moment was unimaginable a few months ago, so who can say what a few months from now will be like? Going to Germany would be cool, right? Surely things will be better enough by then that we can at least feel safe enough getting on a plane to get out of here, right?
Passing through > Passing by
Anyway, I’m getting worked up thinking about it, so I’m going to go from passing through to passing by. When I came home from work on Wednesday, right in the center of each of the front two windows of the house across the street from the top of the hill up from the park were two little fake candles twinkling behind the blinds. On the day I started writing this it was foggy, foggier when we woke up. It triggered the terror of living through the smoke in September, but that is in the past. Today it’s foggy again, but wasn’t foggy when we woke up. It’s raining with the candle lit.
I’m listening to Adrianne Lenker’s most recent album, songs. It came to me in a force of return at the half moon and I let it wash over me. It’s the kind of music you can submerse yourself in, like fresh water on the forehead and a warm hand gentle on your head. I feel clear-headed listening to it, like it opens a pathway to contemplation. The perfect kind of feeling, when you can look out the window and simply consider things. Cool air breathed in through the nose. One of the items on our long-running list of things we get to buy once we’ve moved to Minneapolis is the promise of the vinyl of the album, and its sister, instrumentals. I’m finding that the more time that passes between when we started the imaginary of our home in Minneapolis and now, the more charged it becomes with the energy of our home-for-the-rest-of-our-lives. I think it’s the feeling of approaching the unknown. It’s the line drawn between “now” and “eternity” shortening.
But for right now it’s the full moon, and I’ve just gotten off the phone with Cody. He was sitting outside and kept getting distracted by birds. Among many other things, we shared the longstanding/stillstanding fantasy of moving somewhere and building a little house with enough space around it to build a few other little houses for our friends to live in. The fantasy of shared dinners, support, and courtyards. He’s setting up shop in southern California, and it’s just so funny how things coalesce in a life. The fantasy draws closer to reality the longer we keep kicking around. We just have to keep at it! It can be especially hard to fathom the joys our future selves might experience. Even though the future will probably be hard to get through, I’m excited to see what’s coming!
I'm expecting a lot of exhaustion next month, since I'll be going back up to full time at work. Hopefully I'll be able to lean more into crafting in the time I'm not working, but I'm setting the bar for myself very low. I'm already thinking about love and craft as potential topics for next month, but we shall see!
Until next time,
Attune to your astronomically unlikely alignments!