April 2011


Just finished a great morning with kids and Liana in the out of doors. Lots of forsythia, dandelions, weeding, digging, planting, watering, uncovering, collecting in the yard then a picnic breakfast on the porch and a long, drowsy/energizing walk through the neighborhood to the wild area along Alewife Brook, where we climbed, found and carried and tossed and watched sticks down the water, rolled, lay, lounged, climbed, balanced, caressed, and barely wanted to go home, which we did at last, for lunch..and now off to the school via bus, more outside time with big kids, more outside time after nap with all..

Happy Spring!

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This morning, our first morning together after a week of April vacation, I have a small group at lunch, one three and two fives. Somehow we get on the topic of my ex-husband and his wedding. Now I remember..

According to one five, who did not go away for April vacation, “We take our vacation before day care vacation” but who had gone to Disney World a few weeks ago, “All girls are princesses inside. All boys are princes inside. All women are queens inside. All men are kings inside” or something like that.

Then the conversation turns to who is a princess. At the end of the list, the five says, “Even Maria is a princess.”

Her friend, the other five says,” Actually, she’s a queen.”

I wonder what sort of queen I am, imagine myself the queen of the day care (where of course, Alice and Liana are co-queens, however that might work in Disney’s imagination), or the queen of my family (where I wonder how my children will feel about that new title).

As I am wondering, the five adds that my husband is then my king. When I tell the kids I don’t have a husband the five wonders about my ex, wasn’t he my husband once?

“Yes, he was, but he’s not anymore.”

“What happened?”

“We got divorced.”

“What is divorced?”

“It’s when you decide not to be married anymore.”

“Well, he can still be your king. You see him, don’t you?”

“Yes, sometimes. But he’s getting married to someone else”

The children want to know more. Who is he marrying? When is the wedding? I tell about Isabel’s flower girl outfit and accessories, as one of our April vacation adventures involved collecting things like golden sandals and a white sweater with rhinestone buttons, fresh white capri leggings to go under the turquoise dress, and a trip to her dad’s to get the dress so she could try in all on. (Life is weird. I’m grateful as I talk with the children, remembering the early days when Eric moved out how tearful I would feel in these conversations, that I don’t feel tearful in this one, that I can answer the children’s questions, that my case study of divorce does not involve losing my home, or other things I must have had in mind in the days two years ago when things were falling apart.)

As we talk, though, it gets trickier.

“Is that what you’re wearing to the wedding?” asks my five, pointing to my jeans, pink t-shirt and sweater with notable rhinestone button.

“No,” I reply. “I’m not going.”

Which throws the five for a loop. “Then why is Isabel going?”

“Because he’s her dad.”

My five wonders, after a short hesitation during which she seems to be searching her mind for words, “Is she still part of him?”

“Yes.” I reply, admiring her words.

Then, after another short hesitation, “Are you still part of him?”

And this is where it’s hard for me to answer. “No.” I reply.

“We got divorced.”

“What?”

“Divorced.”

“It means we’re not married anymore.”

At this point, my three comes to the rescue, breaks the ice. “Yeah, vorced. My baby brother was “vorced” once, too. When I was six.” This same baby brother also went to Disney World, according to the story my three shared when we talked about the five’s trip to Disney World earlier in the morning. As far as I know she’s an only child, but who am I to say what goes in her story?

The conversation moves on. My fives and three eat, pour soy sauce, share pineapple and rice and broccoli around the table.

Five or more minutes later, my five wonders aloud, “Maria, do you believe that C. has a baby brother when she was six?”

The other five says, definitively, “No, that is definitely not true. Because she is not six. Or she is not seven.”

At which point the three says, “Yeah. I am not even six. It was when I spoke …and she goes off telling about a place she lived where people speak spanish then the conversation turns to languages the children speak, including chinese for this bilingual english-spanish speaker, and I wish for a tape recorder and more time and I think of the conversation with my boys who listened to a podcast about thinking in young children which they told me about and wanted me to hear, and I wondered all morning on that conversation as the children spoke of wearing black and white “like long ago”, of whether Ben, my sixteen, was older than me, and confirmed when I said no, I was older than him, that he was taller than me, though, right?, when they were mischeivous and defiant and then miraculously orderly and compliant, and in all the myriad ways young children think and wonder and talk and behave like young children that I missed while we were apart. It never ceases to make me happy when we’re together again.  Holding my three at breakfast in her bare feet with her loveys tucked under her arms, or snuggled up against me on the couch reading books, I think, and tell the children, who seem to feel the more special for it, my kids are too grown for that. I miss it in lots and lots of ways. We all giggle imagining my teens in my lap and later, my three tells me my biggest boy, her sometimes babysitter, does fit in her car, did I know that? Amazing the stuff kids know and notice and want to share.

Last night near bedtime, our cat Arlo returned from the wilds. He’d been gone nearly two weeks. We’d plastered the neighborhood and internet with Missing posters, walked the block calling his name. I even thought I saw him as I washed dishes yesterday morning, only to go out to the back porch and find another black and white cat responding to my “Here, Kitty, Kitty..”

But last night, our neighbors of snow shoveling comeraderie knocked at the door to ask if we were the ones looking for the cat, said there was one that looked like the poster tacked to our front tree, meowing in their driveway, had been there the day before, too, they said. My gal ran down the stairs and around the corner so fast she tripped and skinned her knee, came back carrying the kitty in her arms, brought him to the food dishes, where he gulped down as much as his emaciated body could hold. He’s thin, but shiny and eager to be in our company after so many days away.

Near bedtime, which due to cat and doll house and sleepover adventures, ended up nearer to eleven than to nine, my boy was playing a familiar tune on the guitar. He smiled when I asked what he was learning..ah, yes, another tune for Porchfest, The Cat Came Back, a favorite of the day care crowd many years running. Here it is on youtube, in case you want to join us singing it on our front porch, Saturday, May 14th.

We’re also working hard on Porchfest Tree House fundraisers. The gals have made some lovely aprons, posters, organizational charts to keep track of lemonade, yard sale, apron, painted flower pot, and other chores and goals for raising funds that day to support the Tree House Project. Today my gal and I went to the bank where she deposited another eighty some dollars raised by the after school kids over the last few months, bringing the total to over 500 dollars, more than half way to our goal.

My computer was mashed in my sister’s minivan sliding door on the way back from our April Vacation road trip to Washington, DC. Thus, I am off the computer for the week, other than intermittent turns on this old Mac Mini set up in my son’s room, off limits most of the time. Not much blogging, or e-mailing, or scheduling or budgeting, or film screening or charter school organizing this week..probably good. Off to boil and blow and dye and decorate the Easter eggs, triple batch of yeast dough rising in it’s bowl on the counter for soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls, and dinner rolls..busy afternoon.

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate. Happy Spring to those of you who can sense it even in the cold and rain. Happy Rejuvenation or Redemption or Rebirth to those who have the need or inclination. Happy chicks and eggs and bunnies who love new life. Happy chocolate, fancy eggs, family dinner, time with those you love for those celebrating in that way. Something for all this season, if you can stay open to possibility.

Yesterday on facebook, my friend commented on a link posted by one of her friends. This friend of mine is a highly creative, seems proud to be eccentric type. She’s also as kind and compassionate and grounded as can be and that as much as her creativity, is what draws me to her. My daughter, however, is a creative soul, and in her three years of having this woman as a parent helper in her classrooms, depended on her in some way for access to a world not normally present in traditional school.

The article is called The Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People are Eccentric. Here’s a link. I recommend it, as you can imagine.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-unleashed-mind

I read it last night before going to sleep, my girl beside me, begging me to shut down the computer. I read her the title, told her it was fascinating and I wanted to finish, a rare treat of vacation for me, the finishing of an article someone has commented upon and which I want to read. I asked her if she thought she was creative and eccentric and she said yes to creative, wondered what eccentric means. When I said it means you aren’t afraid to be different, she said yes, turned over, and went to sleep.

While I slept last night I dreamed my creative daughter was dressed quite eccentrically, in a yellow flowered dresss with a a decorative sash around her middle, a style she loves for herself which often makes me wonder where she got the idea, and a hat of some sort, another accessory to which she is much attracted. She doesn’t seem to care at all what other girls wear. She loves colors, certain fabrics, patterns, comfort, style, not trends.

The dream was full of other images I wish I could remember. When I wake this morning, it is in a dark room and my children are asleep, so I lay awhile and dream and let my mind wander. I read somewhere awhile back, when I was having many vivid dreams and waking often in the night or early morning, that these are the creative moments in our brains. Since reading that, I have relaxed into the sleeplessness and intense dreams, wondering what they’ll bring, rather than worrying about lack of sleep or craziness.

Shelley Carson is the author of the Scientific American article. Here is the About the Author from the end of the article.

SHELLEY CARSON is a lecturer and researcher at Harvard University, where she teaches creativity, abnormal psychology and resilience. She is author of Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life, recently published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley, with Harvard Health Publications.

Reading her article, and her short bio make me wonder in the early morning hours about how eccentricity and creativity or the diminished filtering of ideas, which is what a good bit of the article is about, a supposed common link between the two, play out in the lives of my children and others I know. I think about our days in Washington, DC, where the ideas and stimulation were to us, in the words of my children beside me in the Museum of Natural History, begging to get out, Overwhelming. The ability to not filter out ideas or to let them in without becoming overwhelmed is what Shelley Carson describes as a key to creativity, and also a feature of eccentricity. She goes on to say that those who see dreams as portending the future, who are not afraid to dress as they please, who may even believe they are being directed from others who have died, or see spirits around them which others cannot, share some things in common with schizophrenics, but are not disfunctional so much as highly creative and eccentric, if they are intelligent and functional, they may have schizotypal personalities, if they are detached from reality and dysfunctional, they may be schizophrenic. Hmm.. feel I am simplifying a bit and hope you will read the article yourself and make (and possibly share) your own interpretations.

How then do I take this back to raising three very different children, to working with children in the West Family Day Care, to creating a new school? Certainly Sudbury Valley School where my children are now, is full of eccentrics, some of whom found other schools unlivable, some of whom are on a stop along the way to finding a place that works. When my middle child told me that a major difference between Sudbury and his former school was the ability to think his own thoughts at SVS, that comment stuck. How can people think genuinely creative, original thoughts if they are being told what to do and made to listen rather than being free to think and imagine for much of the day? This is not to say that all of our creative ideas come from inside, but the Scientific American article does suggest that highly creative people may be more attuned to their inner thoughts because they don’t filter out as much, and therefore have somehow got a very rich inner life. And certainly, the ability to sense and make our own connections is a key to creativity.

I also wonder about my book, In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia, which talks a lot about the rights of the child, about the need for children to be making meaning and experiencing life, to be protagonists in significant projects. The respect for creativity and individuality and the support for significant collaboration amongst and between children and adults draw me to this philosophy in a way that is very similar to the way I was drawn to the Sudbury model and which I wonder and wonder how to create in a publicly funded charter school with testing and standardization and particular curriculum that must be covered..a big fat puzzle I can think on as I drive and drive and drive..time to get on the road..many hours ahead for the mind to wander in hopes of new territory or connections with stuff already in there waiting to come out.

Last but not least, today’s poem from WA, to illustrate the poet’s openness to ideas, the unfiltered images that emerge and connect and reform brought here to you as a daffodil in telephone’s clothing..and other surprising, other-to-you images that make you think and feel and live and breath. Happy Spring, May Swenson’s way.

Daffodils

by May Swenson

Yellow telephones
in a row in the garden
are ringing,
shrill with light.

Old-fashioned spring
brings earliest models out
each April the same,
naïve and classical.

Look into the yolk-
colored mouthpieces
alert with echoes.
Say hello to time.

“Daffodils” by May Swenson, from Nature: Poems Old and New. © Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

God Says Yes To Me

by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

“God Says Yes To Me” by Kaylin Haught, from The Palm of Your Hand. © Tilbury House Publishers, 1995. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Last Sunday I shared an ee cummings poem which also made the word yes into a voice of god. I love the irreverence in Kaylin Haught’s “God Says Yes To Me”, today’s Writers’ Almanac selection. It was a great way to start what turned out to be a very full Sunday, without much chance for reflection or reverance. Good to come home to it tonight and to take a few minutes to share it here with you.

Happy Sunday night. Enjoy the parallel with ee cummings, which I found last week not in Writers’ Almanac, but on facebook. Here is the first stanza, which reminds me just a bit of today’s WA poem

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

Tonight we had dinner at Busboys and Poets, so I’ll close with the Langston Hughes’ Poem on the back of our waiter’s t-shirt. Nice dinner with kids and sister and mom, finished with just the women and a decaf latte for me, roibois for the sister, chamomile for the mom, while kids escaped to other things. This poem was one of the first I enjoyed as a young teacher working with kids at the Fayerweather Street School, where my lead teacher introduced at least a poem a week for the kids (and me) to get to know.

Dreams
by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.


Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

This morning when I went down the stairs to check the status of our laundry, I noticed the door to the back porch was ajar. When I went to close it, I saw a bird, pale brown body with pale red crested head, taking strands of salt marsh hay from the nest the children made last fall atop a side table in the yard. The photo I took of a child’s hand making the nest is the one I use for the West Family Day Care facebook page. I wanted to take a photo of the bird unmaking the childrens’ nest to make her own, but when I returned from getting the camera, which had been on my dining room table overnight, the bird was gone.

Last night at the ICA, I went to an opening of two new exhibits, one on vinyl records, one on the theme of Empty and Full, which featured photographs by the artist Catherine Opie, one set of landscape photos on a sea voyage taken of sunrise and sunset each day, another set of photos taken of groups filling landscapes, including the Boy Scouts of America, with their rows of matching tents in open fields and uniformed boys and leaders, and the Womyn’s Music Festival, with their clusters of varied tents huddled amidst a forest of trees and their short haired, long haired, sometimes bare breasted women, or the Tea Party or Immigration or Gay Marriage activists, with their signs and slogans and styles of dress and postures and facial expressions.

The Catherine Opie photos captured my attention, as I am fascinated with photography and documentation and groups of people, cultures, democratic process. This morning though, as I think of the nests, I think of the vinyl record exhibit and the birds on record players, their beaks acting as needles playing vinyl records of bird song. How this will play out in my mind, in juxtaposition with the bird taking salt marsh hay from the childrens’ nest, is anybody’s guess. I couldn’t get the picture with my camera, so I’m painting one with words.

Permanence/Impermanence, the universality and ever-changing nature of home, interdependence in our world, the relationships and similarities between animals and humans, the openness of materials and the creative potential inherent in them and in all living things, the grandness of art in a museum, and in my run down yard and in a bird’s nest and song, all these themes come home to me as I look out my back porch door on my way to doing laundry and then again as I drive home from school, from a conversation over coffee with a mom visiting Sudbury Valley with her five year old son, contemplating moving homes from California to Massachusetts, rebuilding home and community, finding one that feels just right, making one that suits for now.  How lucky I am to have ten minutes to record these glimpses of the complexity of life while rain pours down on my minivan parked in the Waldorf School parking lot, where I’ve stopped for my annual tradition of collecting jewels for our family’s nest from Homespun, the Waldorf School store of lovely things, to share with my kids for Easter..life goes on and on and on and if we’re lucky, never stops.

If you can, visit the ICA and it’s latest exhibits. More art to enrich our lives and to stimulate questions to ponder on a gray and rainy day.

I’ll post the link if and when I access it on the local wifi connection I’ve tapped into or when at some point I get back home to Garrison Ave, home in the universe or home as a place, or both.

To see more about the vinyl record, Catherine Opie, and other upcoming exhibits at the ICA:

http://www.icaboston.org/custom-html/index?item_id=19199001

http://www.icaboston.org/exhibitions/upcoming-exhibitions/

This morning I hear only the clock ticking. Yesterday I worked in the yard.  When I took out the trash and recycling this morning, I discovered the basement door ajar. I had forgotten to secure it when I finished working. I wonder if my cats are out enjoying the neighborhood. My children are asleep. I’ve collected our dirty dishes, washed the pots from yesterday’s cooking, taken inventory on the fridge, made a double batch of raspberry muffins with orange zest, double batch today at the kids’ request, as yesterday’s single batch was gone by noon. I’ve got four kids under cover, three of my own, and one a sleepover. Last night was a lovely night. Three went to the dance. The fourth accompanied me to the mall, then made it for the last few minutes of the dance, where I sat in my minivan, luxury of a single mom able to transport the masses to dances and malls, and cleared my inbox while watching my children and their school mates run and laugh and talk around a picnic table outside the dance, bring potato chips to the van door, tell me about their night, smile.

This morning as I wash dishes, I don’t worry. I think and let my mind wander. For some part of the morning, I’m with friends. And family. Living and now dead. Sometimes it’s long ago. Sometimes I’m on my own. In nearly every memory today, I’m happy. Even those with my ex-husband. I remember our life together when things were good. My taxes are in order. Today I’ll put money in an IRA, thinking even to the future, when I’ll be an old woman and hope to take care of myself and to be cared for some, too. In typing here, though, I cry.  Which is another sign I am alive.  Feeling things as they come is a luxury of a quiet house with sleeping kids, to be able to think and cook and write and clean and feel and let it all flow.

The timer on my computer tells me to get the muffins out of the oven. I do. They are gently rounded, as my 4-H training told me they should be. One has a drip of raspberry juice running down it’s crown. All are lightly golden brown. The smell is delicious.  I wish I had words to share it with you.  Sweet raspberry muffin smell is something you have to experience to know.

I think of Sunday mornings and my wondering on church. I expect this close attention to and appreciation for what I’ve got, this gratitude and peace in the kitchen, in my home, in my life, and the time to notice and appreciate it, while allowing my children to sleep after a busy week and late night, is better than church for me. What a relief to have shed the guilt of missing Mass, of the holy obligation to rules of the Church, though some part of me is there, kneeling in the pews, behind familiar families in the country church where I grew up, Immaculate Conception, what a name to lead me into adult life, chaste and holy and all about the mother and the child.

And in my twenty first century life of quiet and stillness, I’ve checked my e-mail, where I’ve set a plan for a meeting this afternoon, in which I’ll share some of my muffins with women and we’ll make a dream come true, small one, step-by-step. I’ve read my Spirituality and Practice, checked my blogs for readers, found one who writes a blog herself and shares many of the things that make me tick, including food and community supported agriculture. Though today there is nothing in our muffins that comes from local farms, there are still six pale brown and blue eggs in a hand marked carton from the Ashfield Hardware Store which I’ll continue to savor with salad. I ended my time just before writing this piece with a check to my facebook page, where I found more ee cummings and Mary Oliver, which inspired me to write, two who make me feel happy and connected and who remind me that today is Sunday and that mystery is in order, along with peace and gratitude and love. Here’s to you, in whatever way you celebrate. This morning’s readings and liturgy, from the comforts of my kitchen. Happy Sunday to you. Amen.

The pieces below were posted by Michael McKnight on facebook. He has an eerie gift for sending poems and quotations from those who speak to my heart, just when I need them. I am lucky, along with his hundreds of facebook “friends.” I don’t know who Michael McKnight is, or how he found my profile. He sent me a friend invitation and for some reason I accepted, even though I haven’t got any other facebook “friends” I don’t know. Many days, the pieces he posts enrich my day. More mystery. More beauty in being human.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~ e.e. cummings ~

 

“We do not believe
in ourselves until someone
reveals that deep inside us
something is valuable,
worth listening to,
worthy of our trust,
sacred to our touch.
Once we believe in ourselves
we can risk curiosity,
wonder, spontaneous delight
or any experience
that reveals the human spirit.” – e. e. cummings

 

‎”Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.” — Mary Oliver

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