poems


Yesterday as we walked to and from the park on a day which was unseasonably warm due to the hurricane off the coast, we talked for the second day about the weather. One three said, “I looked out the window this morning and the weather tomorrow is going to be very rainy.”

Another three replied, grinning widely, “Yes, and we will wear our rain boots, our rain pants, and our rain coats!”

Before long, another three exclaimed, “I wish it was winter!”

A woman alone with a long driveway and many feet of sidewalk to shovel, this had not been my wish. “What will you do when winter comes?” I asked.

“Make one hundred snowballs!” exclaimed the three with the winter wish.

“Yeah! We will make snow men!” called the fourth three with glee.

“We can make snow people, and balls and throw them!” chanted the group.

“Yes, we can make all kinds of things out of snow,” mused my three who started this conversation. “We can even make…snow mushrooms!” And this girl, these children remind me that yes, each day this world is born anew.

***

This morning I wake up in the quiet house, two of my three children sleeping here. The light outside my windows is an orange I am not sure I’ve ever seen. i wonder if its the hurricane making that light, check the weather, see indeed it will be a rainy day, worry about my son and daughter driving through he worst of it, think of my other son and his gal, parted ways yesterday, and the hard day they must both be having. In the Writers’ Almanac, there is a poem about prayer, and I’ve been thinking about prayer, again, since my beau and I’ve been struggling all this past month, and worked it over in my mind all this past weekend, throughout my Silent Retreat for Quaker Women, through the night I thought my love and I were bound to part. So this  morning, I feel differently about those in the women’s circle and in the weekly Sharing Circle I attend every other week at best, who offer prayers when the suffering is deep, when a hard decision looms, when a baby is born. I imagine doing the same myself, thinking I could offer a “prayer” rather than “good thoughts.” We’ll see.

This same morning, when I check my phone for the poem, I try to update my apps, as my battery is low, and I think that might help. Instead I end up with a Pandora channel singing to me, first Halllujah by Kd Lang, then something else that feels modestly religious, and I wonder on the word divinity, offered to me several years ago at retreat, as a way back in, I think, when god and religion and most words with spiritual meaning felt loaded, off-putting, not for me. Divinity I could wonder on. Mystery, too. Grace. Transcendence. Spirit. Even Soul, to some extent. There I found the surprise of childhood prayers coming back to me as I walked the paths, rhythm of the prayers in sync with my own steps, with my breathing, with my heartbeat. I spent time in a small hand built chapel, wondering on the meaning of the cross, found the heart shaped stones left there, the heart shaped hole in the acorn on the path more relatable, but still, the cross was everywhere, challenging.

******

Later yesterday on our walk home, the children held out their arms and began to wonder if they would get a sunburn because their parents had not applied sunscreen to their delicate skin. One child who told us her parents had put the sunscreen on walked in confidence. I realized aloud that we were in that same spot where the sun strikes our arms so strongly when this conversation happened the day before, walking home from the park, around the corner from the tree shaded lot where we play, beside the tall cement buildings which are home to the elderly and disabled people who bless us each day as we pass. On the other side of that same building is where the children remembered winter. i realize now as I write that in winter that side is where we always pause to put on the extra clothes, the wind and cold there is so strong. Winter side and summer side of that building never struck me so clearly as now. The children are sensors. I was once reminded that they are windows to the divine. something like that. The wonder of them does amaze.

******

After talking about the sunscreen, my small three said she was going to invite me and her other small three friend to her birthday party. It is dawning on me in stages that these people who I’ve known since they were one or two will soon be four, and that is a different place, four, where most of us begin the lives we can remember. But for now they are three, and talking so much more than last year, and I’m invited to the birthday party, where, my three tells me we will make apple dolls, and her family will save them to dry for one or two days, then give them to us to keep at home. My other three, who was also invited, says, “Yeah, because we love Maria” and I think about the other three who asked me why I didn’t come to her birthday party, who told me she would have liked the teachers to be there. A compliment and a burden to be thought of that way.

At forty seven, with teenage kids and a long distance beau, and a whole adult life to live outside my day care life I rarely accept the invitation to a child’s or a family’s party. Its not that I don’t feel welcome, but that I feel I have permission not to go.

*****

The same three who told me gleefully they would all wear their rain gear and who asked me why I didn’t come to her birthday party also asked me, early yesterday morning over breakfast, “Maria, why it isn’t it a Richard day?”

We were sitting in the kitchen, in the same place where last week, over lunch, my four turned to me out of the blue and asked, “Maria, do you have a partner?”

These kids know how to make me stop and think. I answer the best I can. “Richard has a home in Northampton” “I don’t know if I have a partner. I guess Richard. Who is your mom’s partner?”

The conversations move on quickly. “Today is Wednesday. Wednesday is a T— day. My sister comes for after school today.” “C– is my mom’s partner.” C— is his dad.

***

Friday afternoon my new three told me she has two moms. “So do my kids, sort of,” I replied. “They have me and a stepmom.”

“What?” she wanted to know.

“They live here with me and also with their dad and stepmom in another house.”

“Why?” she wanted to know. Harder question.

“That is the way our family is.” and she was happy enough with that, though puzzled if I had to guess. Turns out divorce and remarriage is less on the radar of these kids than two mom families.

Later, as I was helping her with her shoes, this same girl asked why it was Z–‘s day that day. “Its a Friday,” I replied. “That’s a Z– day.” and I realized they had connected that day, Friday being their only overlapping day. She had fallen at the park and needed a cuddle, was crying in my lap on the bench when he came over to talk.

“Why doesn’t she talk?” he had asked me.

“Oh, she does,” I replied. “Once you get to know her you’ll see.”

Then we had talked quite a bit. She had stopped crying and soon they went off to play.

It is a surprising window into their little selves, into their little souls, if I may, when they begin to talk.

My new one has begun to say my name. “Ria” I carry her on my hip to check the pasta on the stove, talk to her about our meals, ask her what she likes, cut her apples when she says, “Cut it up!”, offer her pieces as I work at the counter and she watches and talks to me from the high chair.

Later, when I’m changing her diaper, another three comes to visit and the one says my name, causing the three to remark. “She says your name.”

“She’s learning how to talk. She’s learning who we are.” And I think, it does feel good for a child to learn our names.

Later, in the yard, the baby calls to Liana over the gate where Liana is emptying the compost in the side yard, baby calling Liana “Ria”. “I’m Liana,” greets Liana. I recall out loud how our other one calls Liana by name, and uses Liana sometimes for other adults here, realize that the kids attach a name to us as caregivers and may universalize it until we all become more real. At the park, the one had come to me calling, “Ria” and my friend Macky had said, “Yes, that’s Maria. Is she your person?” And I had been pleased to confirm that “Yes, I am her person.” Attachment happens that way, small steps.

Here’s today’s Writer’s Almanac poem, in case you, too, are musing over prayer, or meaning, or transcendence or grace, or any of those other thoughts that are so hard to put into words. I can’t say I understand the poem, but that in a way, is what I like. More mystery. More to figure out.

LISTEN
Prayer
by Carol Ann Duffy

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer—
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

“Prayer” by Carol Ann Duffy, from Mean Time. © Anvil Press, 1993. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

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Today I am feeling a bit quiet inside. The sky outside is gray and I’ve forfeited my day care spot this am in favor of walking my daughter to carpool and time at my desk. I am looking online for something to make me feel connected to the world, and sure enough, I find Mary Oliver there waiting, in the form of a poem about death and dying which feels new, as so often her poems are about bears or bees or the love of her life who is dead and gone. This time the poem is about a neighbor and the neighbor’s family circling round during the neighbor’s last days. It reminds me first of the story my widowed friend has shared about his wife’s dying. This in turn reminds me of the time of my dad’s illness and death, when we were circled round, and now as I write, it reminds me of another friend’s bout with cancer and his wish for circling round. It also reminded me of another friend’s mother, who has just received a dire diagnosis, and my sister, who is part of the circling.

This is life, all this circling. Parker Palmer uses the term “third thing” to describe how a poem or song or piece of art can act as that connection point between our lives and the lives of others, between our inner experience and that of the outside world, between unknowing and knowing. I can’t describe it exactly. I might need a poem. Enjoy today’s from Writers’ Almanac. I haven’t shared one for awhile. It’s been a bit of a hard week here, struggling myself with the need to do the circling and to be circled. Enclosed, held, found, surrounded, not lost, all things we can provide in our work with children which we adults also need. Time to wake the gal with a hug and tea and toast and a walk to carpool, a way of being her small circle, then to get down to business with the day care administration, a way of encircling not as pleasurable as the baby holding and toddler and preschool caring and conversations with parents and caregivers I might have ben doing downstairs, but restorative in its own way of a sense of calm and peace in my world.  As Mary Oliver says in her poem below, the desk work is part of “everything that can be fixed,” like the renovations my own parents did to our home when my dad was sick and the phone calls and visits and meals we each provide when things go terribly wrong. The caring comes on many, many levels. The challenge for me is to see it in all its forms.

August

by Mary Oliver

Our neighbor, tall and blonde and vigorous, the mother
of many children, is sick. We did not know she was sick,
but she has come to the fence, walking like a woman
who is balancing a sword inside of her body, and besides
that her long hair is gone, it is short and, suddenly, gray.
I don’t recognize her. It even occurs to me that it might
be her mother. But it’s her own laughter-edged voice,
we have heard it for years over the hedges.

All summer the children, grown now and some of them
with children of their own, come to visit. They swim,
they go for long walks at the harbor, they make
dinner for twelve, for fifteen, for twenty. In the early
morning two daughters come to the garden and slowly
go through the precise and silent gestures of T’ai Chi.

They all smile. Their father smiles too, and builds
castles on the shore with the children, and drives back to
the city, and drives back to the country. A carpenter is
hired—a roof repaired, a porch rebuilt. Everything that
can be fixed.

June, July, August. Every day, we hear their laughter. I
think of the painting by van Gogh, the man in the chair.
Everything wrong, and nowhere to go. His hands over
his eyes.

“August” by Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems: Volume Two. © Beacon Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

This morning I wake up in the motel bedroom on route something or other, just outside the town of Malone, New York, having driven here from my brother’s place a half an hour away, closest town with motels, and think of my brother and all he manages in his life in the country, after I look at pictures on my iphone, trying to choose some to send, iphone my young nephew commented upon when we arrived yesterday in the garden outside his home, asking me if I like iphones, wondering if mine is slow like his mama’s, and the wifi here at the motel is ‘why bother”, spotty at best on the laptop in the room, though lovely by the pool, no connection other than data on the iphone, and even that is slow, as my young boy says, but he found beans for us to eat outside his front door and we had more for dinner he and his grandmama picked, and swiss chard his grandmama grew and picked and cooked, along with the CSA and farmer’s market and Whole Foods veggies I brought along to cook with the asian condiments in their fridge, including Thai curry paste and Eden organic sesame hot oil..

I woke up looking at the pictures of the tractor with the hog, the boy in the garden, the chickens by their coop, the garden growing high on ropes attached to trees pounded into the ground by my brother, the boats grounded on the sand bar in the middle of the lake, thinking about the city girl and the country boy, lying in bed while my children slept and my boyfriend far away read the NY Times and my brother probably did the same with yesterday’s papers, NY Times and local, brought home by his wife from her job at the store, and I talked to myself in my mind about how easily I am overwhelmed in the city.

Here is what I thought. My brother and his family care for three pigs, two beef cattle, a handful of chickens, a cat, many dogs, and I am overwhelmed by a cat and her fleas. My brother in the country has many acres, a garden all around his house, animals living in front and back, and I am overwhelmed by trimming my hedges and taming the weeds. Nature is the wildness you can’t tame at the borders of your home. We decide how we feel about the plants between the bricks on the front walk and the plants we find along the edges of the road. They can be weeds that need pulling or wild edibles or bouquets for the table. I fall in group one. Grandmama in group two.

My brother lives on an unplowed road at the end of a long drive. He has no garage nor a barn to house his vehicles, of which there are many, including a small tractor stalled out with a pig in a crate in the bucket on the front when we first arrive. He plows his way out whenever it snows, while in Somerville I live less than twenty feet from the street with sidewalks and a three car drive and city plows and I am frequently overwhelmed by snow.

Yesterday we spent the day on a sand bar which we reached on two boats, one a party boat rented by my mom and driven by her beau, another owned by my brother, driven by him possibly since age six. On an enormous lake ringed by expensive cottages, this was the only public beach, shared with us by no one until the campers arrived, having so much fun my sister and daughter and I wondered if my daughter might like to join them next summer, so much so that my sister used her iphone to investigate the camp in the pouring rain under the canopy of the party boat as we returned to shore. Ten thousand dollars for a summer for my girl to play in the indoor gym, to ride kayaks to the sand bar, to lay on the self-same beach where we had just been playing or ten thousand dollars for a home on my brother’s road, a place no one much wants to live. The contrast is remarkable, the way the rich and poor live. Why no public beach on the whole entire lake?, I ask my brother. Because this is the North Country my brother says, a statement he uses often to describe the wild, forgotten place he lives. No one gives a *@!.

Now I need to wake my middle son, asleep in the motel, who is going to meet my brother along with his two cousins for what will be a useless for catching fish but fun with Uncle Dave sort of adventure, fishing at nine, when real fishing is done near seven. The seven o’clock adventure was shifted forward so we wouldn’t be too tired for the fair this afternoon and evening, the fair we’ll go to at four to keep from having rides suck all our money, to ride the ferris wheel and the roller coaster, if that exists in that lovely lit up world we passed the last two nights, to eat fair food, hopefully offered by the local VFW or agricultural organization, rather than the traveling midway folks, to visit the animals and to cap it off with the demolition derby, which is the main attraction for my brother and his boy, and possibly to take a last ride on the lit up ferris wheel with my gal just before we leave as we did last summer when she and I and middle son did our Canobie Lake adventure, where we spent a day riding every single coaster til it closed.

Here’s the Writer’s Almanac poem for today. I’m getting a head start on the next time right now. How about you? More photos after I wake my son, if all goes well.

 LISTEN

Next Time

by Joyce Sutphen

I’ll know the names of all of the birds
and flowers, and not only that, I’ll
tell you the name of the piano player
I’m hearing right now on the kitchen
radio, but I won’t be in the kitchen,

I’ll be walking a street in
New York or London, about
to enter a coffee shop where people
are reading or working on their
laptops. They’ll look up and smile.

Next time I won’t waste my heart
on anger; I won’t care about
being right. I’ll be willing to be
wrong about everything and to
concentrate on giving myself away.

Next time, I’ll rush up to people I love,
look into their eyes, and kiss them, quick.
I’ll give everyone a poem I didn’t write,
one specially chosen for that person.
They’ll hold it up and see a new
world. We’ll sing the morning in,

and I will keep in touch with friends,
writing long letters when I wake from
a dream where they appear on the
Orient Express. “Meet me in Istanbul,”
I’ll say, and they will.

“Next Time” by Joyce Sutphen, from After Words. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

This weekend I took some time to clear the many messages accumulating in my inbox. One of them was from my mom, a story from one of my father’s three remaining siblings, shared with her on his 90th birthday, a celebration for a man who was once one of ten children, a son, a husband, twice widowed, a father, who became a grandfather when my own father, his brother, was becoming a father to me, who is now a great and probably great-great grandfather. I was not there for that party, nor have I been to many of those family gatherings, other than funerals and family reunions, now sparse, in a few years. Instead my mom shares the stories with me, often via e-mail.

The story she shared over e-mail which I read this weekend was about my father’s family, beginning with the death of his mother, followed shortly after by the deaths of his two siblings. Then, the rest grew up, on a farm through the Depression and beyond, til some went off to work, some went off to learn to fight, some went off to marry, some eventually went off to college, and all came back home to celebrate their father’s birthday, until he was ninety six, whole large groups of Wests getting together to honor the man who held on, through my childhood, until I was a very young woman. Now, as I write this many years later, I am stunned to realize I was in my early twenties when my grandfather died. I realize this because one of the stories I tell myself is that the house where I am living is in part my house because of the money my grandfather left me when he died, three thousand dollars if I remember correctly, which came to me because my father was long gone, and which I put into this house as a piece of the down payment, along with the money my young husband and I had saved from being frugal like he my grandfather was, a skill he must have come close to perfecting while raising first ten and then eight children alone on the farm.

So, this morning what I wonder on is which of the stories were not shared because my father’s mother died when he was six years old, and which stories were not shared because my grandfather worked too hard, which stories were not shared because my great-grandmother died when my mother’s mother was six years old, which stories were not shared because my father died when I was six years old, which stories my children will not learn because we live far away from my place of growing up, because I don’t do a good job of keeping up with certain folks, because I work too hard, because of the others gone from our life for reasons I’d rather not say.

When I share the story my mother’s e-mail story with my friend, new to me since April, he tells me a two line story shared the day before by his ninety five year old mother, who he interviewed in the presence of his niece, who works for CNN and held a camera while they talked. His was a story of Nazi Germany, a place my  German family never knew, having arrived in this country in the 1870’s. In my friend’s mother’s story, as in my uncle’s, there is tragedy and in my response there is horror, and I realize now, we have managed to contain both in our e-mails and our filming, and I wonder if these stories were told when I was a child at the dinner table of my grandmother, or in the living room of my grandfather, how they would have been different.

Last night I had a glass of wine with a friend from the Czech Republic. She is a poet and a writer, a lover of poems and literature. She is also a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, and a wife. When we get together we talk about all these things, how they fit together, how they almost do, how they don’t. She tells me about her writer’s group. I tell her about my wish to write. We wonder together about lots of things. One thing she tells me which I remember this morning is that she is writing a piece about her experience growing up in Czechoslovakia, about her brother, a sort of memoir in poems. Then later in the conversation, just before we leave, I ask about her mother, when she will visit again, and then I ask about her parents, how happy they are, how they met, what their early life was like, and my friend tells me stories about her family which will stay with me always, or until I forget. She also tells me about writing poems by hand in a notebook, something I’ve thought to do, but have not. Later we are talking about something which reminds her of a poem she shared with me awhile back, which I want to reread now, about something new beginning when something old ends, a lovely poem by a Czech poet which she in her scholarly world to which I do not belong, has translated, perhaps published. Here it is now, in honor of the past and present, the stories shared and not, those yet to come, the poets and storytellers in our lives.

I’ll share the poem here, then write it on smooth paper, in my new notebook, the hand writing in honor of my friend and of poetry and dreams. Then I’ll pack my bags so that after a day with children, I can spend the evening and the following two with my friend in Northampton while my children are away, life moving in new directions even as we speak, or write, or read, or listen.

THE SONG
Jaroslav Seifert

With a white scarf waves
the one who takes leave
every day something is over
something marvelous is over

homing pigeon beats her wings in the air
coming back home
with hope and without hope
again, always, you are returning home

wipe away your tears
start smiling with the tearful eyes
every day something begins
something marvelous begins

 LISTEN

Anniversary

by Davi Walders

That you and I, I and you,
this twenty-fifth year after
you stamped your foot, shattered
the glass, and friends, so many dead
or forgotten, applauded in a ballroom
long abandoned, twenty-five years
of Monday good-byes, monthly wars
with stacks of bills, bags of garbage,
frozen gutters, nights filled
with pink medicines, fevered cheeks
on shoulders, the other hand reaching
for the pediatrician’s call, termites
chewing, and hours waiting
for the door to open, holding
our own daughter’s head vomiting
beer into our own leaking toilet,
that now, as mirrors mark the descent
of breasts, the tub catches silvered
pubic hair and our eyes wear pouches
and hoods, as though expecting rain,
that you and I could smell the salt
of each other, coming together after
long absence, silent, still, staring up
at the darkening ceiling, naked in a house
with empty, orderly bedrooms, the last
of dead roses and discarded boyfriends
tossed out, your hand touching mine,
our breathing slowing,
the wonder of it all.

“Anniversary” by Davi Walders, from A More Perfect Union. © St. Martin’s Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

My attention is drawn to today’s Writer’s Almanac poem by a friend who is slightly older. His girls are young adults and his wife is gone after many years together. My children are teens and one is just home from college and my husband and I split up. Two of my three day care teachers and most of my fellow day care providers at the park are dealing with empty or emptying nests. Most of those friends are growing older with partners.

In the day care, Liana and I find ourselves identifying increasingly with the mothers of our mothers. I tell stories to the young pregnant mother about how quickly the children grow up, how soon it is that the college return seems to happen. Liana talks about never seeing her high school age son while the parents we work with cannot get a moment’s break. A young dad stops by the park, overwhelmed, checking on his son crying out his first week in a nearby child care center, their second child for whom we had no space when they were ready for group care. We talk about the reality of life for young families today, and I remind him it is a stage of life. We give all we’ve got when our partnerships and our children are young, and then we look back, wonder how we did it and where they’ve gone, usually, but not always, the children, sometimes the partners.

For now, I’m still in the thick of the child-rearing, though my job now is to wake the teen who was up too late, to stop attending to my own needs for reading poetry, writing with friends, posting thoughts here, to unload the groceries I was too tired to take to the house when we arrived home at eleven last night after our last SVS staff party, and to replace them in the trunk with the tie dye supplies so I can make shirts with a young woman who was too sick to make hers last week.

Enjoy the poem, and whatever stage of life, child-rearing, and partnering you’re at. They are all fascinating, compelling, and poetry worthy. There was a piece in Writer’s Almanac below the poem about Jane Kenyon, who both wrote poems and suffered from depression, which I’d like to share as well. It’s right on. I think often about how sorry I am Jane Kenyon wasn’t able to enjoy the rest of her seemingly perfect life of gardening and writing poems alongside her poet husband Donald Hall and how weird it is to read both about their life together and to read his poems to the wife who followed her, many of them erotic. Until today, I don’t think I ever knew she suffered from depression. Life is complex, unpredictable, rich and dull, and I’m glad on another level that the poets write it all.

“It’s odd but true that there really is consolation from sad poems, and it’s hard to know how that happens. There is the pleasure of the thing itself, the pleasure of the poem, and somehow it works against sadness.” Jane Kenyon

This morning I wake up in the house alone. The rain patters outside on the rooves and cars and on the lilac in the yard, given to me by my mother years ago, from a bush given to her by her mother years before that, trimmed by my brother a month ago, so that the bush loaded with blooms arches perfectly over the gate to our back yard, gate built by my former father-in-law many years ago, now usable by the day care children and families as they come and go, no longer blocked by the overgrown bush, trimmed by my brother along with the rose, which had  grown up in front of the day care kitchen window, where we could see it’s blooms, rose a gift from my sister and brother-in-law when my ex and I bought this house many years ago, still blooming, trimmed way back by my brother so all the dead and lanky bits are gone, or under the porch in yard waste bags, awaiting the next day when the city will pick them up, bags put out last Sunday night by me to no avail, dragged back in by me on Monday after work, when I had given up on the yard waste pickup for the week, accepted the return trip.

This morning I wake up to dreams. I fall back to sleep and the dreams continue. In the dreams I am trying to find home. I’m in my neighborhood at the end of the dream. I’m not alone. We are looking into houses whose walls are lined with art. Liana is beside me and we wonder on one home, a long slender passage not too different from the home where I retrieved my daughter last night, where my daughter had spent the day with her friend, a fellow artist in her eighties, a staff member from school, and her other young friend from Germany, the artist about to retire after fifty years at school, the friend returning to Germany after several years at school, the artist’s husband in the upstairs bedroom, which the artist refers to as the room where their children come when they stay, husband working there at a desk, all the walls of the house covered in art and some of it has words about freedom and it’s importance, which make me think of the artist’s work at school and her art as irrevocably entwined, home ending at the back in an enclosed garden, visible from the front entrance to the back of the house through large windows filled with plants. The house in the house has one wall covered in what looks like hand made paper swirled in a light blue varied pattern like waves, the other wall hung in all sorts of framed works, like the artist’s, and in the dream, I ask Liana about the paper covered wall and she tells me yes, her mother has done something similar with a wall covered in paper of varied depth and color and she tells me how her mother has done this, a technical description which also carries the message that in this home where we are peering, the work is stronger, that we are somehow closer here to home than we were as children, that somehow we are able to judge and know.

I wake up this morning and look at my computer and find the Writer’s Almanac in the theme of Mother’s Day and there are both a poem and a history of Mother’s Day and a story about a writer who was also a mother. The poem is about a daughter whose grandmother and mother are singing a song together about a place the daughter has never been but can imagine because of the song, a place where the mother and grandmother may or may not have been, and in singing and making a poem about that place we are all there, can imagine the place clearly, and are moved to tears.

That is what mothers do. They take us to places we have never been and allow us to take the young ones thereafter.

I sent my mother gifts for Mother’s Day this year, a card from Ashfield and some flowers and chocolate ordered from the internet. Both made her happy, not so much I would imagine because they were wonderful gifts, but because I had taken the time to send them, which is not always easy for me to do, and because they reminded her of her own mother and of me and my children. My mother also sent me a card and a gift, which arrived separately as mine did to her and so after the exchange of cards and gifts by mail, she wrote e-mails and made phone calls of acknowledgement and my daughter and I on our way back from the visit with the artist made a call to my mom.

Shortly after dropping off my daughter to her dad and step mom, where she wanted to show me their new garden, I went to Central Square to buy some tie dye and silk screening supplies for school. I had spent the day with people and was ready to go home, first breakfast with my sweetheart, then a wedding for a day care family, with Liana and several day care children and their families from many years of caring. I was overfull with love. But still, in Central Square, as I parked the van, preparing for a trip to Blick and an evening at home, and Mother’s Day on my own, full of Meeting and errands and chores, accepted with as much grace as I can muster, I found a happy smiling boy of mine waving his arms at me through the van window in the rain. He was on his way home from Liana’s, where he had spent the afternoon playing D and D with friends, one Liana’s son who was once his day car buddy, after spending the morning and early afternoon babysitting for a former day care family who was at the wedding, and here he was at my window smiling broadly at me.

I showed him photos of the wedding, of my day care girl in her stained tights knees, eating watermelon with her friend, both girls in our care four years, and the girl’s parents, together over ten years, married now in one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve experienced, where another of our former day care parents played drums for a trio which made music for the bride and groom and then their friends to tango, which I admired through the screens from the porch along with their daughter and her friend and Liana, romance in their steps. Later I sat beside the groom eating my brunch as he told me the story of his week, including math class with my ex-husband, a birthday party for his son, planning a wedding, the big day, then Mother’s Day. What a way for me to celebrate, is all I can think, surrounded by the fruits of my labor, in living, breathing color, in a place full to the brim with blossoms, flower girl Liana’s and my charge, lilacs in my garden and in the wedding place perfectly fragrant and moist, watered by Mother Nature, as the gardenia in my dining room was not, dry when I got home late, needing water as I washed the dishes from my children’s and my Friday lunches, heated myself leftover soup from dinner early in the week, lit the candle, and began the quiet part of Mother’s Day, the reflection on the good and bad, the grace the goal as much as the bravado.

Driving home from school on Thursday with my children in the car I cried at images of breakfasts in bed with my small children, lilacs on the tray along with the omelette and potatoes and grapefruit their dad used to prepare, their small, smiling faces and wriggling bodies climbing into bed beside me; all those images were fresh and also gone. Today I want not to cry for those lost days, though in writing this small bit, I do, but to live in the moments I have and had and to see the mothering all around.

Now it’s time for breakfast on my own, a shower, and off to Quaker Meeting, where I expect others with be with and without mothers and children. Some will instead have decided to march with others for peace, a Mother’s Day tradition from way back. I will not be alone. My children will spend today with their father, though part of me thinks I may visit them briefly, as I’ll be in their dad’s neighborhood when I return to Dick Blick, which closed while I was showing my son the photos of the wedding and while he was taking one of us, which he sent to me via text and which I’ll share with you here. Happy Mother’s Day, in whatever form it comes.

Here’s a link to Writer’s Almanac, should you want to learn the history of Mother’s Day I enjoyed today, to put the day in historical and personal perspective, and listen to the lovely poem below that was my morning’s gift. My mom is also alone, so I should check in with her, too..Mother’s Day is not all joy, at least if we’ve lived life in many facets.

Also, I’ll share the photo of me and my boy, on Mother’s Day Eve in the Central Square lot where he smiled through my window, serendipity for sure, or good luck, allowing me a second trip to the neighborhood where my kids may get a Mother’s Day visit from their mom after Quaker Meeting and before my shopping for the day care and for school, many roles for me to share my mother love.

And, lastly, I’ll share a link to the On Being podcast in honor of Mother’s Day, What We Nurture with Silvia Boorstein (http://www.onbeing.org/program/what-we-nurture-with-sylvia-boorstein/242), a podcast I enjoyed very much before and may listen to later in the day, if I finish my errands and cleaning out the van so my third child and his gal can use it to bring his stuff back from college on Thursday. We’ll celebrate our Mother’s Day again next weekend when he’s home.

http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/#

 LISTEN

I Ask My Mother to Sing

by Li-Young Lee

She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.

I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.

But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.

Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.

“I Ask My Mother to Sing” by Li-Young Lee, from Rose. © BOA Editions, 1993. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Image

The last week and a half I’ve had a house guest from Spain. She is a lovely woman traveling the world visiting schools. She was allowed to spend two weeks at Sudbury Valley and I was asked to be her host. How lucky that coincidence. Since she’s been here, I’ve returned to sleep. In the morning we share our dreams. We began the time together neither of us sleeping much and by the second week, we sleep soundly and in the morning the dreams I remember take me a long while to savor before rising from my bed.

This morning I wake to a full and rich dream. In it I have moved my house and day care life to an enormous house owned by my friend and day care colleague Sue. The house is rambling and huge. It is my first week there with my day care and I am having a visit from a new licensor. We talk in a cluttered room and the first thing she asks me about is drugs, then standing water (the yard is covered in snow and ice, but it seems apparent in spring it will be a large inground pool, with the doors and walls of the house open to the yard. As we talk, we are surrounded by people, young children, animals. She asks me about the twenty dogs and cats. I notice there are large balls of horse manure on the counter and floor where we talk. She seems not to notice. It is an old house full of stairs. None are covered by gates. The house is so huge and so full of things living and collected, there is no way she can count the children. There are no toys, no play rooms, no pieces of child sized furniture, no closed doors to the outside. There is another level below which I consider as a possible separate space for my day care. Along that yard there are wrought iron tables and chairs as in a cafe. Inside there is an enormous open room, with display after display of knives, and a man there who seems to run a knife shop. Midway through the licensing visit, an elderly African American woman arrives regally at the door. She is the former owner of the mansion, the mother of a friend of Sue, who has handed this palatial dynasty on to Sue, who has taken me in to share the space for both our day care programs. Later Sue and Sue’s kids sit on the curb beside two school buses, eating their lunch from home. She tells me they haven’t yet eaten inside and I realize there is no proper kitchen, no tables for large groups, try to envision preparing meals. The place is also miles and miles from our homes in Somerville and Cambridge. The licensor tells me I am the first to inquire about a license in this part of the world. I have no idea how our families will reach us. Perhaps by school bus.

In the dream, I realize I have made an enormous change without much forethought. I tell the licensor that as a single woman I have decided to rent both floors of my two family home and move here with my program into Sue’s house. There are outbuildings which I visit and find others visiting, too. We are all a bit lost and bewildered and bewitched by the history and wonder of this rambling place. On the outside of the buildings, as the dream ends, I find we are in a poorish community. There are a collection of red, white and blue signs, collected over years, advertising products, hung on the backs of all the buildings. The place is in an huge lot, one side which is accessed by a dirt lane and bordered by country, the other which is along a city street, across which there are plain triple deckers.

I wake from the dream wanting to rewalk the house and grounds. It is expansive and full of intriguing possibility as well as risk and foolish sense of having stepped out of familiar territory into an unknown place.

Two or three nights ago I also dreamed of moving. This time two older friends, one a day care mentor, another a mentor at school, are helping to organize a kitchen. It seems we are to share a living space. The cabinets are lovely old oak. The rest of the kitchen is pure white. There are rows and rows of open shelves above the counters and in the dream we are unpacking dishes and sweaters and arranging them on the shelves as we talk. My day care mentor has a beautiful pottery piece, green with colored dots, which seems to be a mug or vase, and we take special time admiring it, talking about it, and placing it on the shelf.

It’s time to get up and start the day. I’m curious what this new stage of dreams portends. They feel portentous, as though there is another opening in my life. Beyond that I don’t know what they mean. I am grateful for the return of dreams and for the deep sleep that accompanies them. Four years ago I began to have dreams that changed my life, accompanied by a drastic change in sleep. Then I found Gilchrist and Jung and a draw to photograph and write. This came after my son entered SVS, after I had begun to explore the idea of starting my own school, after years of intense obligation to making change in the worlds of education and care, and a pulling back to rethink life. The dreams accompanied my transition out of my marriage into the unknown, reconnected me to my dad, after years of not thinking about him, followed years of family funerals and the losses of many whom I loved.

These dreams feel more like a return to the living than a return to the dead. In them I am surrounded by people, by beloved things, not fancy, but evidence of long life layered with experience. In the dreams I am confronted with huge change, and in the case of the licensor, a challenge of my right to exist, but the pervasive feeling is that I am not alone. If anything, I am surrounded and embedded in a world of people whom I love.

With that, I have completed my mission of recording my dreams. I bought a slim red notebook for the purpose several weeks ago, but have been unable to use it. I prefer to share my dreams in the kitchen with an intimate companion or here in writing, the place I try to make a narrative or a path to follow from past to present to future, which honors the dreams and the mystery and connects them to yours.

Here is today’s Writer’s Almanac Poem. It felt right as it is about a free flowing feeling of a home and a mind as the earth warms. Perhaps the dreams are seasonal. Last time I had them it was a similar time of year. It’s also by Jane Kenyon, wife of Donald Hall, couple whose life I have admired and at times wished to emulate when I’m old, though she’s now dead and he’s now with a new, much younger woman. The life Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall lived together was to my mind from their description, not far from idyllic.

 LISTEN

Philosophy in Warm Weather

by Jane Kenyon

Now all the doors and windows
are open, and we move so easily
through the rooms. Cats roll
on the sunny rugs, and a clumsy wasp
climbs the pane, pausing
to rub a leg over her head.

All around physical life reconvenes.
The molecules of our bodies must love
to exist: they whirl in circles
and seem to begrudge us nothing.
Heat, Horatio, heat makes them
put this antic disposition on!

This year’s brown spider
sways over the door as I come
and go. A single poppy shouts
from the far field, and the crow,
beyond alarm, goes right on
pulling up the corn.

“Philosophy in Warm Weather” by Jane Kenyon, from The Boat of Quiet Hours. © Graywolf Press, 1986. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

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