It’s time to talk about my hair again part two: Ecstasy

My friend Rachael Hanel wants to start a green cemetery but she’s not sure how. Here she is in a regular one.

rachael's habitat

“Green cemetery” meaning  “…as natural as possible in all respects. Interment of the bodies is done in a bio-degradable casket, shroud, or a favorite blanket. No embalming fluid, no concrete vaults.” (Courtesy of, a good starting point for the biodegradable-curious.)

Rachael gets the mechanics of it, but she’s like, what about the politics? How do you convince a community to zone for this and fund it when most believe embalming is more respectful, more beautiful?

My answer to that is a) sex and b) my hair. Politics follow pleasure and vanity, so the key to making natural burial politically and socially desirable is sexing up the notion of decay. Los Angeles mortician Caitlin Doughty gets at this in her essay on natural burial. In it, she says:

caitlin is lovely

If we work towards accepting, not denying, our decomposition, we can begin to see it as something beautiful. More than beautiful— ecstatic. The ecstasy of decay begins as disgust and revulsion, the way we feel when we imagine ourself as a corpse. But disgust and revulsion turn to pleasure as we use that feeling to realize we are alive now. We will someday be dead, but today blood pumps through our veins and breath fills our lungs and we walk the earth.

I’ll do us the favor of translating that into women’s magazine language and say that hey, ladies, if we all anticipated decay the way we once longed for hips and first periods, we would feel really good about grays. We would feel excited and great. We’d be, like, did you get yours? I got mine. My mom said to hide it but I’m not.

Because gray hair and all the other stuff happening right now, to me and my friends, means things are unfolding as they should, that we’ve made it this far, we’re about to get the rights and privileges entitled to a woman of this age and stature.

I’m not sure what those are but I also wasn’t sure at thirteen at some hotel pool in Wisconsin, when I was leaving the pool area in a green one-piece that had a single shoulder strap, just one, I don’t know why my mom let me buy it but thank you, and I turned around and this one kid and his friend were still looking. And I was like, ok, I don’t know what this is but it’s something.

I would very much like to do my part to elevate decay to that same place. My friend Claudia Danielson has been onto this for a while. Here’s a shot from her series titled “botanical benediction.”

claudia's decay

This is a hotly inevitable flower. Delicate and yet far more sure than you are, right now, of anything. Does not care what you think. Does not care if you’re looking. Pink whether it’s the pink you expected, or not.

And here’s me on a day I showed up at Claudia’s studio in a sad state, really distraught, about what I don’t remember but it was bad. The kind of ache that makes decay sound a little like a vacation. I went on and on about it, and Claudia was like, hey, before you start feeling better, can we shoot this?

ann's decay

I like how the eyeliner is really pretty worthless up against the pores and split ends. I think my chicken pox scar has never looked better. And I like to think that by growing out my gray and making some art with it, I’m advancing Claudia’s work and Caitlin’s mission and Rachael’s vision, and possibly saving the world from so much matchy-matchy casket + collagen + embalming fluid + L’Oreal box color.

You guys. Stray gray hairs are the new green strappy one-piece. I’ll be over at the decomposing hotel pool. Feel very free to join me.


What an editrix wears to the acknowledgment ball

It’s official! With this week’s arrival of my copy of Christopher Fisher’s A History of Stone and Steel, I am the most-acknowledged person in my writing world. Chris acknowledged me among his critique buddies. It’s a very macho book.

faith hope bootsThe University of Minnesota Press recently released We’ll Be The Last Ones to Let You Down, in which I’m acknowledged by author Rachael Hanel who is a hot boundless thing right now. So by association, what she said here makes me feel kind of boundless as well. Not as on-fire as the display font at the top, but like the rule underneath it. Well-spaced and ready.

gravedigger's daughter saysLast fall saw the release of Amy Stockwell Mercer’s second book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Eating Right with Diabetes: What Will Work, in which I’m delighted to be acknowledged among Amy’s personal-and-private storytellers.

amy's womenAnd proud to have written the foreword, which the publisher let me sign like this:

oh what like i ever get to use MFAI don’t know if any writing programs name this as a goal, “get acknowledged,” but I think they should. It feels great. I think it would make a good category at the Minnesota Book Awards. “Most Acknowledged.” I would win the inaugural award, of course, and would strive to wear something appropriate.

what the editrix wearsSomething “taut and luminous” per the blurb on Christopher’s back cover, “macabre and lyrical” as the Star Tribune said about Rachael, down-to-earth yet bold yet low-carb for Amy, which is what she is and how she writes. I  would accessorize with a few harsh but hopeful pieces for my writing friends who are just one bleeding red edit away* from a gorgeous published page.


*Call me.

Ann’s Fashion Tarot: Death

It’s the opposite of shopping season, today, for you. It’s your time to purge.

The regular Tarot Death card signals a loss or an ending that makes room for something new. The kind of ending that’s like, hey, I just can’t do this anymore. Because I think I want to do something else but you’re in the way.

The Fashion Tarot Death card commands you to go get some Steelsacs and spend a couple hours in your closet, and take a harsh look at everything and be real about what’s dead to you. If you haven’t worn it in a while, or you have but it failed to make you happy, or it doesn’t fit so it’s just hanging around taunting you, it goes. Put it in the bag. Get that bag to Goodwill or Salvation Army or your sister’s house or whatever as soon as possible.

This is not an easy card for a lot of reasons. You might not know where to start. You might get rid of something you’ll miss. Death is a tough one but it’s the only way to make space for what comes next. And what comes next is going to look amazing on you.

Death is sponsored by Rachael Hanel, a gravedigger’s daughter and author of We’ll Be The Last Ones to Let You Down.

Tomorrow: Temperance.