I've been excessively nostalgic this spring. It's a consuming sickness I feel each year--when school winds down, when nature comes alive, when my birthday arrives and I add another tally to "years lived." Another year. Another season. Another spring. 

Come May, it'll be three years since I graduated from Purdue. The Spring 2011 semester was my last, my best, and my favorite semester. I think of the time my friends and I spontaneously went on an ice cream run during dead week, dodging study groups and final papers. I think of eating at Olive House and Khana Khazana, the restaurants that left me open-minded and less picky. I think of rain showers and my Italian instructor's red tights, of one last fountain run. And I even think about the time I met Ty at the aforementioned Khana Khazana. He had missed my birthday party the week before, and, feeling guilty, he offered to meet me for Indian food. It was his gift to me--a night out.

That was the same day he gifted me Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue. And the same day he presented me with a sonnet he had written about Quark, the it's-gonna-crash-it's-gonna-crash-it's-gonna-crash-oh-God-oh-damn software we used at the student newspaper.

Three years ago, we were just friends.

Three years ago, I would walk by Windsor Halls, stride past the clusters of daffodils that dotted the grounds. Today, the yellow blossoms scattered about my neighborhood remind me of those early morning walks. Today, the honeysuckle lotion I slather on before leaving the apartment is the same lotion I would slather on before heading to my theater appreciation class.

As it were, Ty and I stopped in West Lafayette yesterday.  It had been more than a year since either of us had been on campus. We ate at a dining court, for the heck of it, and visited a friend at his dorm. We walked around for a bit and each picked up a copy of The Exponent. To me, campus still felt like "home." I had expected campus to feel like my visits to my hometown--a sort of living memory, like the overgrown swing set your dad still has in the backyard of your childhood home, or the vacant lot you would drive to after dark in order to sneak cigarettes. You know, like the fond memories of times you've outgrown.

I was completely surprised.

Sure, there are new buildings and different faces. But the sidewalks were the same, and the dining court was the same, and the weather was still beautiful, and the bell tower still chimed the hours and half hours, and it was home. 


On Friday, I went swing dancing. I slipped a vintage dress over my head, a sheer dress with a floral pattern. As I waited for Hans, I patrolled Shelby and Prospect streets. Back and forth, back and forth, I walked. My footsteps lead me around the block, but not away from anxiety. Finally, there was Hans, in a blue shirt and a bow tie, his long hair teasing the collar of his shirt. Inside the theater was a cache of suspenders and spats, flouncy skirts and ponytails. Twisting, turning, keeping time. I couldn't do it. Not me. Not that time. But, still, I was asked to dance. One of my partners was an older gentleman, a white-whiskered man whose guidance was passed with a thick breath and a firm tongue. And then there was a man named Patrick, who, to his credit, was far more patient with me than I was with myself. Discouraged, I grabbed my denim jacket, tried to fight childish tears, and allowed Hans to walk me home. That was Friday.

On Saturday, I went on a ten-mile bike ride, half of which involved pedaling against the wind. I read. I sewed. I called my mom. I went shopping on the east side, for flowers and craft materials. I saw Hans once again. We joked in the car, laughed about who knows what, and ate po-boys at Papa Roux. That was Saturday.

On Sunday, I read Rainbow Rowell's Attachments. I devoured it, that book. My eyes raked across each page, vacuuming words. It had journalism. It had Omaha. It had email. It had relationships. It had references and subtleties to the metro area, to Sokol Auditorium and the World Herald and Sweet 98.5 and even 96.1's Pillow Talk, which I can promise that I, too, listened to. Oh, that book. When I finished it, I set it on the coffee table and stared, not ready to let go. Not ready to let go of Lincoln and Beth and all those words that reminded me so much of home. So I called my mom again. And I talked to Ty. And I sewed some more. And I went outside and planted the herbs and the flowers that I had bought the day before. And, later in the afternoon, I buried a bird. I had found it just outside the building, sideways and with stiff legs that were bent, held tight. It was dead, but I ached. Ached and tried, desperately, to remember the small poem that my mother used to read to me. It had appeared in a book of children's prayers, and had even featured a funeral for a similar creature of flight. But I couldn't remember the poem, and I couldn't find a shovel, and I couldn't let the dead bird alone, not with a trail of ants. And so I made a cardboard coffin and scooped the bird into it and brought it to my yard and, between the bushes, dug a hole with a garden hoe, asking God to Please forgive me for pestering the worms. And when the hole was big enough and deep enough, I placed the box in the hole and covered it with dirt and leaves and it was buried. That was Sunday.

And on Monday, it rained.


A few years ago, I interviewed for a resident assistant position. The interview was an hour long, and was held in a small room in First Street Towers, the newest and most luxurious of the Purdue University residence halls.

"Okay. One last question, Dawn," my interviewers said. "If you were a candy bar, what candy bar would you be, and why?"


My answer was quick, and my interviewers nodded with mild surprise. "Why's that?"

"Because I like to make people smile, and I want to make sure everyone is okay and happy," I explained. "Buuuuut ... I undoubtedly have a sassy side."

I grinned, my interviewers laughed, and I was satisfied.

What I've found through five years of blogging, however, is that making people laugh through an online platform is much harder to do. How many times have we seen our friends and followers say, "I'm sorry; the sarcasm must not have come across"? Sarcasm has to be crafted into wit and cleverness. One-liners have to be relatable, and not insulting. And, sometimes, an entire conversation has to be shared in order for the context (and, more importantly, the tone) to be understood.

And, sometimes, it's just easier to add an extra layer of quirk.

Ty has described me as genuinely quirky. Others say I'm sarcastic. Quick. Goofy. Even the phrase "sassy pill" has recently entered my vocabulary, after a friend accused me of taking one before an Instameet.

In person, it's easy to make a joke or a retort. It's easy to act out a situation using voice, gestures, and language. You can roll your eyes. Or make others stare blankly. You can run into walls--whether on accident or on purpose--and get a laugh. You can be the awkward one, the one around whom others don't have to feel embarrassed.

But, honestly, I don't know how to translate my humor into a blog post. I don't know how.

Lately, I've begun to wonder if this blog exhibits only a part of who and what I am. I am Dawn. I am in my mid-twenties. I'm an Iowan by birth, an editorial assistant by trade. I'm emotional. I'm a daydreamer. My heart is most attached to books, wisdom, nostalgia, and the poetics of everyday life--a "hello" from a stranger, a gentle rain falling into my open palms.

But I'm also hyperbolic. And I laugh at my own awkwardness. And I just ... I don't know how.

A few of my favorite bloggers include Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), Allie Brosh (Hyperbole and a Half), Mara Wilson (Mara Wilson Writes Stuff), and Una LaMarche (The Sassy Curmudgeon). Each individual has her own sense of humor, and her own way to share it. I envy them all--for their honesty, their use of swear words, their innovative descriptions, and even their self-deprecation.

Una can construct an entire post about the science behind chocolate mini donuts. She also titles dopey fashion poses, "Third World Toilet" being my favorite. And Mara? Mara makes me think, makes me wish, and makes me envious, for she is my age, with a clear amount of skill and wit. Allie never fails to make me physically laugh; whenever a new post would appear, Zoë and I would simultaneously text each other. "There's a new Hyperbole and a Half!" we'd exclaim. Allie posts with a creative urgency that intrigues us all, leaves us all wanting more, more, more. Alot more. And then there's Jenny. Author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened and blogger of anxiety, taxidermy, and conversations about giant metal chickens.

They're good.

And me? 

I think part of my fear lies in intimidation; although I greatly admire the blogs above, their popularity reminds me that I am just one person, a small person whose humor may not be understood. I find laughter in my own awkwardness, for instance, in my uncanny knack for tripping up stairs, running into walls, and cutting my lip on DVDs. I'm also the girl who openly detests pants, spiders, and potatoes that have grown eyes. (By the time a potato has grown eyes, it no longer looks a potato. It looks like a star-nosed mole. Personally, I prefer my tubers to bear absolutely no resemblance to rodents.)

But, for as much as the above blogs intimidate me, they also inspire me. They give me hope that, hey, you know, I can figure this out.


Sort of. Kinda. I don't know.

I mean, even if I don't, even if all I am here is a twist of words and imagination, at least I know I can always share a photo of me in a cat sweater.

Have you ever felt challenged by this same issue--that you would like to express more of "yourself" on your blog--be it humor, knowledge about black and white movies, or memorable moments in your relationship--and don't know how? 

What is your greatest fear in trying to express your humor or your whole self? 

Do you have any favorite humor blogs?


Just two miles from my apartment is Garfield Park, a 136-acre haven on Indy's near-south side. Garfield Park is Indy's oldest city park, and is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Though, to me, the Park is still unexplored, it has a fair number of paths, playgrounds, shelters, and picnic tables, and, during the warmer months, is host to a variety of events held for the public. Within the grounds is the Garfield Park Conservatory. The Conservatory was built in 1954, as a replacement for the original 1914 structure. The Park was renovated in its entirety in 1997, and--according to the Conservatory's website--the renovations included "the introduction of the permanent rainforest theme ... that still exists today."

The Conservatory features special exhibits throughout the year, including a spring bulb show, an orchid show, and a holiday poinsettia show. The most recent exhibit? The whimsical Gnome Away From Home, where "garden gnomes from far and wide [gathered] at the Conservatory for a tropical vacation!"

As I had never visited the Conservatory before, and as it was a beautiful, warm, Sunday, and as, after a couple of rough days, I needed a smile, I decided to make the five-minute drive to the Park. Just inside the Conservatory was an easel with information concerning gnomes, which have been popular garden decorations since the early 1800s. The sign also stated that, for many decades, Germany led the world in "gnome production and appreciation." And, to touch on the mythical side, I learned that gnomes are reluctant to interact with humans, can move through the soil as easily as we do through air, and that they are believed to have knowledge of the future (in addition to hidden treasure).


Tuesday was beautiful. Windy, sure, but cloudless and sunny. Daffodils had already opened to the sun and displayed--to the other flowers, I'm sure--a mocking cheerfulness. Yes, Tuesday was beautiful. Wednesday, however, was dark, soggy, and rumbled with lightning and thunder. It was the first of three days in which Indiana was submerged. We joked that if "Frozen" was the indicant of our never-ending winter, that newly-released "Noah" was the forecast for this year's spring. Between the pockets of clouds and rain, though, I took a walk through Fountain Square and Fletcher Place, acknowledging that soon, yes, soon, there would be more than daffodils, more than yellowed grass and tumultuous skies.


Tuesday was windy, sure, but the sky was cloudless and aglow with the lowering sun. It felt like spring, for once, and the Cultural Trail was alive with its usual array of runners, dog walkers, and bicyclists. There were the rowdy teenagers, set loose by their parents in hopes that they would find an appropriate amount of mischief. The hand-holding hipster couples, with skinny jeans and uncombed hair, in want of a drink or two. And there was girl with the red coat, straining to keep pace with her dalmatian.

And then us.

Five of us. Six, really, if you counted Otto.

From Fountain Square, we walked northward--past Fletcher, past English--and when we came to the tracks, we followed them toward the city. We were parallel to them--on them, even--with our shoes and, in Otto's case, paws, creating a cacophony of graveled footsteps. And even lower than our feet, below the bridge, was the steady, humming rush of the Interstate. And though the five of us were relatively quiet, lost in our own reflections and creativity, there was still some sort of unspoken camaraderie. Pettiness? No. No, not right now. This matters instead. 

For more images from our photo walk, visit Anna Zimmerman's blog post here.
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