March 2013


My gal and I dyed the eggs after all, in the company of our visitor from Spain who arrived just past seven and fell asleep before the eggs were done. Tomorrow she’ll have to find her basket full of candy before we take her to the Cape to celebrate with our family.

Aren’t our golden eggs pretty in the dark?

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This morning’s Writer’s Almanac poem is just right..an unusually shaped poem which fits my current understanding of Holy Saturday, that waiting and wondering through a hard time, searching for mystery and light, resurrection.

I’m listening my way through the day with Lucinda Williams and her friends on Pandora, awaiting the arrival of a two week visitor from Spain and my children, Easter Sunday with extended family tomorrow. Today, though, is a day of quiet and work and solitude.

Midmorning my gal calls, home from a week away with her stepmom and step cousin to Harry Potter World in Florida, only  a few texts from her all week to let me know she is happy and she loves me, but this morning, she wants full on FaceTime, and in spite of her call last night and the reminders on both our e-mails this morning from AT and T that she is nearing her data limit, we Facetime while I wash dishes and she shows me her nail polish and we pick out the sweater and shoes she’ll wear tomorrow, plan the usual basket hiding tradition, to be cleared with her dad, who has never been much for even this secular tradition of Easter.

For the first time in many years I didn’t color eggs. I wasn’t in the mood in the day care early in the week. The school wasn’t the place to do it. Home on my own it seems a bit silly. That’s ok. I’ve had lots of years to color eggs, will have many more. The golden egg dye in the box on my counter is possibility enough for now.

Here’s the poem, to give you an entry point to the holiness of waiting. Spring will come.  For a person sleeping erratically, the poem helps with that, too.

SATURDAY

Mar. 30, 2013

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

 LISTEN

Spring

by Jim Harrison

Something new in the air today, perhaps the struggle of the bud
to become a leaf. Nearly two weeks late it invaded the air but
then what is two weeks to life herself? On a cool night there is
a break from the struggle of becoming. I suppose that’s why we
sleep. In a childhood story they spoke of the land of enchant-
ment.” We crawl to it, we short-lived mammals, not realizing that
we are already there. To the gods the moon is the entire moon
but to us it changes second by second because we are always fish
in the belly of the whale of earth. We are encased and can’t stray
from the house of our bodies. I could say that we are released,
but I don’t know, in our private night when our souls explode
into a billion fragments then calmly regather in a black pool in
the forest, far from the cage of flesh, the unremitting “I.” This was
a dream and in dreams we are forever alone walking the ghost
road beyond our lives. Of late I see waking as another chance at
spring.

“Spring” by Jim Harrison, from Songs of Unreason. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

At last I am home from a long and busy day. Late in the day I felt myself steeped in sorrow. I wanted to get in my van at the end of the school day and cry, but instead I listened to music with my son as he fell asleep on the drive home, and my throat closed up. I realized at some point that today is Good Friday, and I began to wonder if the old emotion was returning. Perhaps, perhaps not.

I found my way to a special Friday Somerville Quaker Meeting just in time, after dropping off my son and releasing some of my angst with him, perhaps against my better judgment. To my great relief, the Meeting was lovely. We got to know one another, shared some tea and bread, shared parts of our day and other thoughts, some about Good Friday, Easter, belief, questioning, spirit, politics, culture, affiliation, finding home, all things I have been craving to talk about so long and didn’t know how or with whom. After many years alone in the spiritual desert, I find myself here in the midst of folks who think much like I do, or who at least welcome me where I am. That is a great relief.

At home, however, I find the cat desperate for some attention, the lights out, the dishwater in the sink from morning. My children are with their dad. There is no one else at home. Even though I spent the day with people, my son and his friend this morning, the kids and staff at school all day, my son again on the way home, then the Quaker folks for  the evening, I have not yet learned to live without sharing the day with someone dear, nor saying good night. That perhaps is the place I find myself when I come here.

Hello, how was your day? Good night, I’ll see you in the morning. Such simple words people who live with companions take for granted and those who live alone must either learn to live without or ask of themselves or what? Someday, perhaps I’ll learn not to need them, but for now I’m searching for a way to get them back.

Seems like an awfully big title. Last two nights I’ve slept again, deeply, even napped at the end of long work days. In the morning I’ve woken to light and birds. I’ve been reading about Love, listening to words about god, wondering on it all, in all the forums where I live, home, day care, solitude, meeting, conversation, school, nature. It’s all around, we’re in it, is what I’m trying to understand. The now is it and within the now is the mystery we seek, connecting us to the everywhere and everyone and everything, is what I hope. Sounds bigger than it is. I have to slow down to let it in. Seems that was a process that both found me and that I’ve sought, and I’m still working at it. Waking to sunrise in the city or birdsong outside my bedroom, allowing the dreams time to shift to the daytime thoughts is one way to do it, my substitute for meditation. Quaker Meeting helps, where others sit with me in quiet, slowly begin to share what comes, marvel as the mysteries are one by one revealed and contemplated. Being with kids helps, too. Tuesday’s quote of the day, which I’ve been wondering how to write was this: Jesus’s birthday is on Christmas. The Easter Bunny’s birthday is on Easter. Halloween’s birthday is on Halloween:) Halloween is turning five!

Begin with the serious, shift to the light. State the known, follow the questions. Kids know.

I don’t really know what I’m saying here, except I’m thinking and feeling a whole lot again. I feel raw and broken open, consequence of many things, in part separating from the one I thought was holding me together and making my way again without a partner. It is an unmooring experience, unpartnering, venturing into the loss, searching for the safety net, trying again. Remaking home, remaking dreams, remaking self are life’s work made larger in moments of great loss and/or change. For me, these things take enormous energy, so much that I have learned to accept the loss of sleep, loss of appetite, loss of weight, loss of productivity and concentration and to wonder on them rather than to worry.

When I wrote to a good friend after the breakup of my marriage several years ago, she asked me how I was feeling and I said “unmoored.” To me, the experience of being unmoored was frightening, overwhelming, strange. Her reply made me reconsider. “That’s good,” is what she said, meaning, if I remember correctly, that being unmoored is the only way to find someplace new. It doesn’t make the experience of being unmoored any less intense to think of it as good, but it helps to accept the state as necessary in making great change, and to feel it as an opening to something new, rather than a release into an abyss. Unmoored implies, when I think of it right now, being adrift at sea, being bouyant, held up, as a ship floating in the water, not as a rock sinking to the bottom. In being unmoored, the experience of finding the water is key. Being held up comes in many forms, most all of them some type of love and connection, whether to the birds who come each morning to sing, or to the sun who comes each day to light the way, or to the friends or children or strangers who smile and look me in the eye, or to the inner life I discover when I slow down enough to listen.

Now it’s time to start the day. I have a sort of desperate need to write myself through these phases, but also the desperate fear that the writing is too personal, too unformed, too ambiguous to be let out. Perhaps it is. Forgive me if it’s so. I haven’t yet found another way to get the ideas out of my head and into clearer form. Enjoy the day. Live it where you are and see what you find. I’d be curious to know.

Here’s the book I’ve been reading on Love, in case you’re curious enough to read it, too.

The Art of Loving, by Eric Fromm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Loving

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Loving-Erich-Fromm/dp/0061129739

For awhile now I’ve not been sleeping much. Dreams have been sparse. Last night I wrote here about wishing for a dream. This morning I woke at 6 from a dream of abundance. When I opened my eyes, even though I hadn’t slept much, I felt rested.

After dinner last night my son was talking with me in the kitchen. The night before I had been exhausted, after a hard day at work, a very long day before that. Last night was Friday night, a quiet one with me and my two at home kids, time alone, time cooking, time sharing food that was mostly good, a new chicken dish I invented with basil, olive oil, capers, fancy salt and ground pepper and lemon zest, baked, then broiled, roast cauliflower done just right and some boxed rice that could have been better, prepared with a glass of my favorite Reisling on the counter, bottle sitting in my fridge for weeks. As I talked with my boy, it occurred to me to remind myself out loud of the importance of starting each day fresh, of going to sleep knowing rest will help, dreams will come, and tomorrow will be a new day.

And then we had some time together with his sister watching Glee, our guilty pleasure, and time alone settling into sleep. Also over the kitchen table I tried to tell my boy about a book I got at Porter Square Books this week, where I had gone Monday evening to hear a young man read from his first novel and ended up perusing the shelves and finding more books, the fiftieth anniversary edition of The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm, and three slim red journals, in which I intended to write dreams and private thoughts, have so far written only one. In telling my boy about the book, I realized again how little I know and how curious I am to know more, how much conversation helps to put boundaries around and give shape to both. My boy, as a sixteen year old with a curious mind and a willingness to amble, talks to me about music in the car on our way to school, about politics and current events and things at school and thoughts and ideas he’s exploring and he listens and is curious about things I wonder about, too. I hadn’t thought of myself as a mother of teens, and I really hadn’t thought of myself as a mother of adults, but guess what, at 46 I am both, and it’s enlightening.

The Art of Loving is not perhaps what is seems. I carried the slim volume to the register in my arms along with the journals with some shame or embarrassment. Eric Fromm hits that right off, reminding me that because love is so essential to being human, when we feel lacking in love in some way we feel less than and ashamed. No one likes to be the middle aged woman at Porter Square Books on Monday evening sitting in the back row of a nearly empty reading listening to the author’s mother and her book club ask question after question of the author, nor to walk to the counter with a book on Love and three empty journals. What else is a woman to do with a locavore heart and a penchant for books and words and dreams and a midlife of unknowns?

In any case, no regrets. The book is a classic for good reason, less than one hundred twenty five pages, translated into many languages, read and reread for fifty years. I trust the words will work some wonders on my heart and mind, lead me in new directions, expand my world, deepen it if all goes well. In the spirit of loving, my son let me know that Mister Rogers answered every fan letter he received,  that his deepest belief was that each person mattered in a unique, significant way. Earlier in the week my son let me know that each of the sweaters Mister Rogers wore on his shows was hand made by his mother. Another factoid, which my son relayed as I was trying to sing a Mister Rogers song about being special, was that Mister Rogers studied music. Another I relayed to him was that I watched a lot of Mister Rogers, both because I liked his show and because he was the one tv guy my mom adored. Funny to find my son at sixteen drawn to him as well.

At bedtime, my gal was listening to Tracy Chapman, to an album I listened to again and again in my early years. Tracy’s portrait on my gal’s iphone in her bedside charger and speaker combination looked so young to me I said this to my daughter. What do you mean? was her response, prompting me to say she is so much older now, and for my girl to ask how old and for me to counter, about my age, as she was a young woman when I was in college, and for my girl to say that is not so old. Only a few hours ago, I was telling her about my newest ventures into the world of online dating, laughing at myself as I danced in the kitchen to our mutual song obsession of the day 1234 by Feist and she warned me not to do that in front of any new man or in front of her with him, and then I realized who I was with and what I was saying and acknowledged it was weird to be talking about that with her and she said, no big deal, as she had learned all about dating later in life from her grandma, my mom. Go figure. She did and I did and here we are, not living the life I had planned at her age at all, with her wiser than I’d ever been at twelve.

Kids really are terrific. I feel lucky to have mine. No wonder I get down when they’re away. I’m working on that, too. Dream abundance was the starting for this piece. The dream was about money, but also about care, and about the people and events which surprise us, and often provide for us in ways we couldn’t know.

With that I am off to pay the bills, prepare the contracts, apply for the financial aid, after installing my gift of the week, a copy of the Microsoft Office applications I’ve been missing since my computer went down, more abundance.

Enjoy the sunny day:) Before I go, though, I do want to say that I am thinking about my pulling back from making change in the larger world. It’s a thread I’ve been following for awhile, and I think it’s leading somewhere, not towards indifference, but toward an inner and outer shift that just might bring me peace and possibly have a greater impact on the worlds I hope to change than all the advocating I was doing before I wore out. Live the dream, perhaps is what I mean. Not so sure…another rambling piece I give you credit for having the patience to read. The brand new novelist warned us about this approach to writing and here I am regardless.

Just reread the Writer’s Almanac poem of the day, and realize it fits with the theme of abundance, so will share it here:

Fishing in the Keep of Silence

by Linda Gregg

There is a hush now while the hills rise up
and God is going to sleep. He trusts the ship
of Heaven to take over and proceed beautifully
as he lies dreaming in the lap of the world.
He knows the owls will guard the sweetness
of the soul in their massive keep of silence,
looking out with eyes open or closed over
the length of Tomales Bay that the egrets
conform to, whitely broad in flight, white
and slim in standing. God, who thinks about
poetry all the time, breathes happily as He
repeats to Himself: there are fish in the net,
lots of fish this time in the net of the heart.

“Fishing in the Keep of Silence” by Linda Gregg, from All of It Singing. © Graywolf Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

I never write on Friday evening. It’s 7:15 and just starting to get dark. I ought to go downstairs and make the dinner. My children are patient. We get home late from school and it’s been a long day and I’ve been learning to take a break before cooking.

I’ve become a mother to teens. Somehow it happened. This weekend my boy will be off both days with friends. My gal is packing her things for a trip to Florida with her stepmom and cousin. Somehow it all feels very normal and at the same time surprising. They need me so little. Our life is in many ways so quiet. We can eat dinner at 8 or 9 and we can all cope. The kids are awfully independent, can spend hours in their rooms doing their own thing. I could read a book or mess around on the computer, even take a nap, and they would be fine. I can leave for hours to run errands, just let them know where I’ll be and when I’ll return. I hardly do that, though. Being a mother to teens for me is about being around, so that when they come and go, I’ll be here. I suppose another stage will follow, but for now, this is where I am, their backup crew, cook, conversation partner, dinner companion, chore sharer. It gets to be more and more like housemates, in a way, dividing up the chores, living our lives a bit more separately than I had imagined, each of us taking more and more responsibility for ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to parent kids who were not at Sudbury Valley and who had not grown up in our family day care, who lived with me all the time with their father. But mostly I don’t. This life feels normal, which is perhaps the surprising thing to me. I didn’t imagine life with teens, or life as a single mom, or choosing to raise my kids this way, yet all these things came to be, and they now feel normal. What the heck?

It turns out that kids without preschool, without formal school academics, without traditional school structure, are very easy companions, and very easy to parent, at least for me. When I think about the times we used to struggle with  homework, about the pressure of staying organized and on task at school and the effort I put in as a parent to help my kids in traditional school, I can remember, but mostly now this way makes sense and in our day to day I don’t think too much about the other ways we might have lived. After so much of my personal and professional life spent advocating for change in the larger worlds, now we’re just living another way, and putting very little energy into making change for anyone outside our small worlds.

Feels like there is more to say. Whatever it is is so far below the surface, I wasn’t sure I ought to write. Perhaps in the morning when I wake up I will have had a dream that will guide me to figure out what is on my mind. Now it’s time for Friday night dinner, midlife single mom with teens style, served between 8 and 9 to children I’ll have to call from their rooms to eat, who will talk and laugh with me, bring me into their worlds and share mine, then retreat again to where they live while I am left on my own. Funny thing parenting. There are many more stages than those for which I was prepared.

When I was a girl there was a swing set in our back yard, something my parents bought and put together, with a small trapeze, two swings, a slide, a teeter totter, and a chair swing. We used each part often.

In our place in the country, the oldest girl tied a rope to a branch. At the other end she tied a piece of a broken wooden chair high enough that kids could grab ahold with both hands overhead and swing. All the kids, but perhaps especially my daughter, the youngest of the six, loved that swing.

This morning as I roll the recycling bins to the curb, I look for signs of spring. There is no more snow on the front garden. The lambs ear lie flat and the crocus points stand tall. As I look down the side of the narrow space between house and hedge I see above my neighbor’s yard two strands of white rope hanging from a high up branch. My daughter envies that swing, made for a small child.

In our yard, there is a tree house, made too late. My daughter raised the money, some of it still resting in the tree house passbook account for which she is treasurer. The tree house was built when she was old enough to see it as belonging to the day care, not to her. The boys were even farther gone.

When my children were small their grandfather lived with us. He installed hooks on each of the back porches, up and down, where I hung swings, first a baby swing for my daughter, then a swing/trapeze/ring setup down below which we found when my older son was small and had once inside our house, then a porch swing from my sister up above when my baby was grown.

The swing on the lower porch caused problems, so we took it down, though with some regret. The porch swing got lots of use, now hangs with one arm loose, consequence of winter wear.

What I think my girl would have liked is a swing from a high tree branch and solitude, a large expanse of grass and a view, perhaps a neighborhood of children to come and play. That was not our life and will never be. This morning as I was taking out the trash the feeling came home to me and I had to write it here before going on with my day. We have been city people, and there are things about living here that have worked and things we might regret. That has been our life and there’s no going back.

Last night I read my new book of Tony Hoagland poems, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty. He gets it and I was glad. Thanks to the guy at Porter Square Books who gave the book his blessing and caused me to pick it back up off the shelf.

Here’s one poem from the collection I especially loved. I found it on poets.org:

I Have News for You

by Tony Hoagland
There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don’t interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don’t walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others’ emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/21769#sthash.4b21mfMp.dpuf

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