Saturday, February 27, 2010


I bought another new notebook the other day.

It had to be just the right one: sturdy cover, college ruled, recycled paper.

Upon its now-blank pages I will write a story. A story about mothers and grandmothers and loss and acceptance and tolerance and pain and self-reliance and self-evolution and ethics and independence and the past and the present and moving forward.

This is not my story – it's the story. But it wants to drip out of my pen, slowly over time and between the cracks of life.

The characters are knocking down walls in my ego, constructing their own blueprints, and begging me to breathe inky life into their two dimensional lungs.

And I promised I would.

So I'm committing my intentions right here, hoping that these words will solidify and keep hope from sliding out of my heart.


I'm writing a novel.


Okay, I haven't started yet. But I will. For myself. No matter how long it takes to drag out and pin down and mock up.

You can read it if you want, but give me a couple years, okay?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Non Lenten reflections

I eat meat on Fridays – or whenever I want. I eat between meals – or at my stomach's directive. And I didn't give up anything for Lent.

I don't consider myself Christian, at least not today. But I feel profoundly connected to Something right here – Something within, above, and all around. So even though I'm not observing Lent in the ways of my spiritual past, the season prompts me to do a little inner spring cleaning.

The day still freezes my breath, but each dawn births a sun stronger than yesterday's. The Thaw promises itself in lengthening days and penetrating rays; my soul accepts Spring's Oath of Return, arching upwards to break out of iced-over ruts and rise – alive – out of the dead of winter.

I light a candle with this rebirth intention, watching the flame illuminate a soft arc of space. I say a prayer – not the Dear God, please bless my family prayer I once used – but a non-verbal offering. I gather all the energy from the corners of my body, mind, and soul into a warm center. I breathe it in: tasting it, absorbing it. Then I exhale, sending it Out, intending it to knock and be received.

So if sometime in this pre-spring season, a ball of white light hits you in the face? Hi. That's me. I'm aiming for your center, but I'm still learning how to toss.

Monday, February 22, 2010

the schedule.

As a child, I always wanted to know what to expect.

When are we going? How long are we going to be there?

Can I bring my book?

My family teased me about this quirky need for a stone-laid schedule, and I always retaliated with a scowl. I never appreciated criticism in any form, but I didn't say I needed a schedule, okay? Just tell me what's going on!

I still like to be in the loop. It bugs me when John goes downstairs to shower and doesn't return for 45 minutes. What were you doing down there, anyway?

He laughs about forgetting to submit his itinerary in advance.

I, of course, scowl.

I like structure. I like order. Especially, I like to know what to expect.

I'm in charge of things around here during the day, so rather than melt into a puddle all over the house, I'm slowly constructing a schedule for myself – a lattice to lay over my week.

Monday is Baking Day. Up to my armpit in flour and dishes, I arrive at day's end done but accomplished. Tuesday night is yoga night. My night, goodbye. Early mornings I work, evenings exist for yoga and writing and reading and couple time. I do dishes after lunch, laundry on Sundays unless we're traveling. Tuesday is Craft Day. I still need to dedicate a Cleaning Day but my soul recoils. The kids want a Library Day, too, so maybe Thursdays? Between the cracks I shower and think when I can.

Many monkey wrenches upset my good intentions: sickness, laziness, kids waking early or resisting bedtime, tantrums, unexpected plans. But I'm flexible – this is not a schedule set in stone, but a trellis to climb when I can.

I'm finding a sunny, warm view up here. And I think I can expect more flowers from a climbing clematis than from shaded ground cover…Well, that's a metaphor I would expand, but I must knead the dough. Oh wait, Ruthie is up from her nap. And Eliza is throwing a fit. And Claire wants a snack. And the phone is ringing. And the dog needs to go out…

Thursday, February 18, 2010

clearly a mumble

leaky faucet my pen drips rust colored ink viscous and patterned with coffee grounds staining the sink

miserable wrench yanked through corroded crumble tap yawned no floody purification just coughing up empty reservoir remains

seeking new source not collected in compile all there or not but scattered to scavenge

condensation on the mirror sponged and saved frost on the window scraped and stored sweat on my skin soaked and preserved breath in the air fleetingly frozen captured and cupped one swig of water left in the glass. siphoned. stolen. mine.

drop and dribble into my jar clearly mixed ink for this quill

cap it don't spill

Saturday, February 13, 2010

walk in this stream

february freezes the light setting the sun slowly tonight unwanted snow strangely satisfies icing the landscape imitating sugar but just cold on my sock foot crunch so loudly hardly hear geese celebrate in symphony or cacophony opposite the dog who sniffs and bounds through joy reveling maybe more than me but for basic reasons no metaphor just the breath in my lungs the wind sculpted snow drifts motion frozen the sap stilled in tree veins waiting waiting waiting for the thaw alive quivering anticipating ready to spring secret visitors leap here and there on errands tracks snowshoe prints take me off the marked path through shadowy silhouetted trees now from an insideout angle beautiful bare as memory sees them fully leafed no trace of that next season so buried in the cold sky my eyes lift to first twinklings no wait that's an airplane but that that that yes not of this world wanting to remember this scene with words that stick in my pen frozen in the inky blackening sky above feet off the snow on naked sidewalk magic shatters on cement leads me home.

Monday, February 8, 2010

So. Much. Stuff.

Where did we get all this stuff?

A rather probing question from the 3-year-old perched beside me on the couch, analyzing her panoramic view.

Toys and appliances, pictures and curtains, books and shoes, food boxes and furniture, papers, papers, papers. Each item is the cover image to its own story – origin, journey, and acquisition.

Some of these stories are very short, contents thickened only by bare facts: The couch was made in Canada, sold in Madison. We bought it with our Obama money. Two men delivered and set it up. The end.

Other narratives read longer, imbued with meaning and memory: The wooden box by the door, home to our hats and mittens? My mom stenciled the sheep on there. She used to collect sheep knick-knacks when I was a kid. She was also really into stenciling. She used some fabric from our old living room couch to upholster the box's lid. I remember jumping on those couch cushions, using them as "rocks" to cross the hot lava that was the living room floor. I can't remember when I asked if I could have the box, but it was probably one of those scenes Mom is famous for – you casually compliment a shirt she's wearing and she sends you home with it.

Sometimes useful, sometimes pretty, sometimes just clutter, stuff fills our living spaces. We use it, we look at it, we shuffle it around. But mostly, we hardly consider it – our stuff blends into the backdrops of our lives.

But what will happen to all of this stuff? Much of it will be used up or handed down, grown out of or grown sick of. Much of it will disappear as today becomes ten years from now, purged into the landfill or given over to Goodwill.

And we will get more.

Whole to replace the broken, fashionable to replace the outdated, sized up to replace the too small.

But what if we had to take it all outside and pile it in our front yards? Would our personal mountains elevate or embarrass? Then add to that pile all the stuff we ever owned, even if disappeared long ago into the great void of oh, we got rid of that. We'd each have our own chain of mountains.


I feel proud to say that we work hard for what we have. I feel privileged to say that we have everything we need.

And I really like getting new stuff, too.

But I'm not proud of our use it up, throw it out society. Of the more, more, more mentality that inevitably envelopes our kids.

Unethical? Irresponsible? I think so.

And I think we can make some changes.

I'm not proposing that we buy nothing, but I think it makes sense to think harder about every purchase. Do we need this? Can we use something we already have in a more creative way? Do we have to buy this new, or can we find it second-hand? Can we create a memory or honor a special day by doing something rather than getting/giving something?

Because really, our stuff illustrates stories that have little to do with the solid state.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Play spaces

As we buckled back into the car after visiting friends for a playdate, Eliza, – then a young two – cast us in our roles for the rest of the day: she would "be" the little boy we visited that day, and I should assume the role of his mother. This surprised me somewhat, as Eliza reacted to the friendly advances of her playmate with fear and bewilderment. But she carried this game throughout the day, and as regular playdates continued, Eliza's comfort level around this boy increased visibly. At first, she cringed or cried when he wanted to share her toy; now, she willingly hugs him goodbye. Perhaps simple familiarity produced this change, but I think the pretend play – "being" the little boy – helped her work through her emotions. She processed the past and practiced for the future by playing in the present.

We all need such metaphorical play spaces.

Safe spaces.

Spaces free of criticism and unbounded by standards of convention and perfection.

My notebook is my play space. Here, I can reel in the day's events and emotions; here, I can cast my line into tomorrow's water. Occasionally, I catch something really interesting – a fish with rainbow scales, perhaps – but I also dig up bottom-lurking sludge. Sometimes my line sinks deep; on other days, I only wade in the shallows. Regardless, writing loosely – unfettered by expectations – elucidates pattern in my tides of thought and helps me navigate currents of emotion. I, too, process the past and practice for the future by playing in the present.

What is your play space?