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This morning I wake up to find a song shared via forwarded e-mail via Youtube which stirs up feeling that take awhile to untangle..from my swimming buddy via his, close friend of his and of the woman who used to be his wife, now gone. All of life is like that these days, midlife full of memories and connections to untangle and sort through. This past weekend I was in Western New York for a class reunion and to introduce my beau and swimming buddy to the places I grew up, hometown, parents’ birthplaces, Letchworth State Park and its gorges, high school friends and a relative or two. Not one of us is getting younger, and with each passing year, there is opportunity for struggle as well as triumph, and both show through. Two weekends ago I was in Western, New York with my kids, no beau, as he was with his own kids in New Hampshire, celebrating a past birthday, on a delayed, long-promised trip, and my kids were due to be in Texas during the class reunion weekend with their dad and stepmom and his family there, and when the family picnic date came out it made sense the kids and I would be do a visit home that weekend instead. Its like that these days, family trips come in many forms. Last weekend it was me and my gal and my guy in Northampton, skipping our trip to Ashfield to keep things simple, missing the swim in the lake and hitting the pool in Florence just before we left, rain drops coming down and only us three in the water at one point, taking over the diving board and talking about our jumps.

With all my hopes and dreams for summer swimming, things of late have petered out. The last four weeks I’ve logged two short trips to the local MDC swimming pool on Thursday morning and evening with my daughter, a quick drip in between chores or after work to break the heat, and two trips to Richard’s pool in Florence, one with only Richard and one with him and my gal, not a single dip in lake or pond or ocean, no fresh water for me. I could use a long swim in deep water, more than laps across the pool, and I’m hoping this weekend to be in Ashfield Lake again, swimming with my guy and my housemates there, kids off to Woolman Hill, where I used to be, won’t be this time, where they’ll likely jump off rocks and swim in a river with friends who used to be mine, but who I now see mostly dropping kids off and picking them up from events where I no longer belong. This time the kids will drive their dad’s car, stay on their own, be looked after some by various adults, mostly look after themselves. The problem with this, as my daughter explained, is not having food for snacks and Saturday lunch, and of mooching off others when they are at the river. To solve that problem, I’ve asked her and her brother and dad to make sure the kids bring some groceries, another way it seems they grow up too soon, but of course they can do it, as I can, manage this separation in weird stages phase of our lives, when our family combines and reconfigures nearly every other day into some new shape to which we try to adjust as each of us carries on.

Tonight is day care graduation, which I now want to call our Moving On Celebration, as this round we have only one true graduate heading off to school, and even he is not heading off to kindergarten in the traditional sense, but to a Sudbury school in Colorado, where there aren’t any grades, and the other two are heading to preschool programs, one in town, one far away, and the third one to be celebrated is Alice in her retirement. It’s another mix of tangled emotions as we round out a tricky year of shifts, of my return to full time life at WFDC after several years of working on the charter school and trying out the idea of a career there, then at SVS, where I worked a year, going to school three days a week with my children, balanced with two days running and working in the daycare, a full life I enjoyed, but which at times wore me out, of Jen moving on to another school part time and staying with us two afternoons a week, of Alice’s retirement and our summer working with a sub, my son’s gal Michaela, who stepped in at a moments notice and has been a fine example of how to do it right, a pleasure for me and Liana to get to know her as a young teacher learning more about the little ones we love, and of our year of working with infants and toddlers and twos, very few preschool-age children in the mix, first infant we have taken in many years leading to another young one this summer, taken on when the first one was away, and soon to be the year we begin to work with Anne, our new hire, middle aged mom of young kids, returning to the work force more substantially after time away from classroom teaching, easing her way in via Jen’s coop program, where she’s worked as a parent helper and a sub, to our place where she’ll become our next WFDC teacher.

Now it’s time to start my day, first a trip to the vet for my kitty and me, so long as I can get her in her crate and out the door on time, then chores around the house to prepare for the graduation/moving on event, tidying the yard, counting heads for pizza, laying bright clothes over the counter on the back porch to make a buffet table for the offerings families will bring, sweeping off the porch and looking for paper goods, setting out some chairs. The families and teachers will do the rest today, and Richard when he’s here. My kids are back from Texas as of late last night, won’t likely make the party as they used to do, disconnected from this group of kids and families, living their teenage lives of work and friends and travel and adventures about time balanced with quiet time at home and in their rooms, most likely staying at their dad’s until the weekend, avoiding another shift. Alice’s husband will be with us. Afterwards they’ll celebrate on their own. Liana and I, who used to have our children in the group when we first began our work together thirteen years ago, will tidy up the day care and the yard when the families go home, maybe with some help, though so far, the only line on the sign up sheet not to be filled is for the clean up helpers, families of young children knowing, I imagine, how long the day will be and how much they’ll need to get their small ones home to bed, and Richard will be here for the first time, to see what this graduation/moving on ceremony is all about, and then we’ll all start the day tomorrow, work or pleasure, on some level it would be nice if they were all the same, if the divisions between paid work and retirement, between work and leisure were a little bit less clear. Some days for me, that’s true. Yesterday, for example, we paused on our hot and humid walk to the park beneath a big old tree at Matignon. There in the High School parking lot in the middle of the day we felt the breeze. The children removed their hats from their sweaty heads and we all looked up at the leaves blowing in the wind and felt the cool air come down to cheer us up. It worked and we waited there to share the spot with Liana and her group and later when we were walking home and talking about something or other, one two wondered if someone we were talking about might be enjoying the breeze. Memory is like that, rooted in experience that returns, whether good or bad or tangled up or in between. I remembered that breeze and it’s remembering last night at Sharing Circle as we sat in the community room at Quaker Meeting on a hot night and the breeze came in the window as we closed, and I remembered it this morning when I woke up and the heat had broken and the breeze came in the window, and I could see the leaves moving in the trees outside, and I was inspired to write this morning, in part with that memory at the core, and even though I lost the thread in the beginning of this piece, it found its way back to me, the cool, cheerful bounty in the world, which finds us often in our moments of struggle, and echoes on in memory long after that.

Here’s the swimming song. Hoping to return to fresh water this weekend. Wish me luck. Now time to deal with Frances the Cat.

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Today got better. Must remember that. Take a walk. Go out in the sun. Read a novel. Eat delicious food. Drink coffee. Visit with friends. Rest. Hang with young kids. Do yoga. With a friend. Talk afterwards. Eat chocolate, and veggies, and garlic.

All these things help. They take the sad and lonesome and gray away. They give back energy where things felt low. This past weekend, at the advice of a 96 year old, I watched a great segment from 60 minutes on living past 90. Many of the ideas above prove true. Drinking coffee and wine extend life. As does keeping weight on, versus getting thin. I’ll see if I can find the clip and share it here. I watched it on a DVD the 90 – something had sent away for in the mail, 90’s style.

This evening, while eating dinner and tidying up, I listened to a podcast on mindlessness and mindfulness. Much of the same stuff could be taken from that. Paying attention matters. Living life in a language of caring for ourselves cares for us. Listen to the podcast if you can. Take care of yourself. Might as well. Who else will?

http://www.onbeing.org/program/ellen-langer-the-simple-act-of-noticing/6332

 

 

Today I’m home from Northampton, home from Amsterdam, from the tiny town of Giethoorn, Holland, all homes for a time. When I arrived yesterday morning, debating dropping off Richard’s car at the shop or coming home first to drop off my bags, Ben Harper and his mom were singing to me on the radio, and I chose home first, shop second, so I could take a listen. Here’s their song for you, youtube style:

Some days I do wonder where home is, especially days when it’s just me and the cat here, even more so when the cat is here on her own, poor Frances girl. Home is with my kids, wherever we are, with my beau, wherever we are, with my friends and family, wherever we are, in the day care here, or making my way from home to Northampton or here to LeRoy and Pavilion and Attica, New York, where I grew up, walking around Somerville and Boston, on the campus of the Healey or Sudbury Valley Schools, in the living room of the Charter School Founders Group, at the park with my day care buddies, all those places are home. Still the house is here, home to me and my kids and my ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, current guy for over twenty years, and it’s got its own vibe, is a hard place to imagine leaving, though these days I do spend time wondering if and when and how.

When I come back from other places, where I’ve mostly lived with a few things, clothes, books, computer, phone, I wonder at this four level house of stuff. I’d just as soon be rid of lots of it, but the memories are imbedded and the time and energy it takes to sift through those is time I’d rather devote to living.

Monday Richard and I walked in the woods of Mount Toby, a place I’ve never been, a place he’s walked a lot. At the top there is a fire tower, which we climbed, hoping to be let in by a worker who drove ahead of us on an ATV and was too busy working when we were up top to let us have a look from inside the tower. Instead we sunbathed at the base of the tower, a ritual of Richard’s climbs, new to me. To have the earth warm enough below us to lie for half an hour, faces to the sun, was a new pleasure, first time for me this spring. Walking back down the mountain, we passed a group of older women hikers, seeming to be in the same spot they had been when we hiked up, halfway up the trail, but this time they were split in two, one group walking down the mountain further up the trail, the other group waiting down below, one of whom commented as we passed that one of the members of the slower group was getting “you know what”. All I could imagine was old.

Richard is fifteen years older than I am. Getting old is something we think about a lot. For now, though, we are hiking, enjoying a fine life together. Halfway across the Atlantic, up in the air with Aer Lingus, tears came to my eyes, out of the blue, as I imagined Richard at 96 like his mom, me at 81, like the parents of my good friends Laura and Dave. I figure he’ll be a fine old man. I don’t’ count on dying first. Life will have to go on. Until then, though, I’m pretty happy hiking, drinking maple milk and tea and sharing salads at the Book Mill cafe, browsing the shelves of new and used books after wards, going home to Richard’s Northampton place for a quiet Monday night on our own after a busy weekend of socializing in Northampton and Somerville, after a week apart while I was traveling, before heading back to Somerville on my own. We don’t make big plans to plant a garden or remodel the house. We don’t buy furniture or make children. We aren’t building careers or even a social circle. We’re holding on, keeping things going, trying to sort out life in two cities, one small and one big, mixing up our family and friends little by little, trying to figure out retired and working, older and younger, his kids and mine, two/three homes, much older mom and not so much older mom, both dads gone.

When I was in Amsterdam, I thought I would visit the Ann Frank House. We didn’t, for lots of reasons. Richard’s parents came to the US during the Nazi era, lost many members of their families, their homes and livelihoods, and started fresh here, supporting both sets of parents, building new lives, bearing and raising three sons. Its a story I’m interested to learn and join, one as a descendent of German emigres I feel I ought to know. Today a friend liked a Humans of New York photo and story that made me smile, happy that as the subject said, “You can’t kill a people with hate. There will always be someone left to to carry on”..lucky for me that Hilde and John Brunswick carried on, to make the man I love, giving me another chance to try and make a life that’s not so on my own. Here’s the HONY, so you can see and hear the woman as I did:

When we arrived yesterday, we had not slept much. Late in the afternoon we realized we had better make a trip to the grocery store before we crashed. Tonight we arrived home late after a night of deep sleep, which didn’t end until near noon for four of us, me included, a midday of eating delicious Dutch food for breakfast, croissants, nespresso cappuccino and latte, muesli with yogurt drink, and then a long, rambling, wonderful walk through Albert Cuyp Market, many neighborhoods, a visit to three museums, the Hermitage, the Rembrandt House, and the Van Gogh, open until 10 on Friday night. So, on our way home, we hoped to stop at the grocery for a re-up. The only sad news on our very secular Good Friday was that the grocery closed at 6 instead of 10, so at home we were left with rummaging..chocolate hazelnut spread on a croissant for my gal, chocolate bar with hazelnut for me, a pot of roibois tea made with the new found boiling water tap, leftover baguette for our young friend, stroopwaffles left by our host for three of us, and a salad with hardboiled egg, tomatoes, english cucumber from the store, cheddar from the day care fridge, brought across the Atlantic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil from the cupboards here. It was a fine ending to a fine day. Now it’s officially day three, past midnight in Amsterdam, and Bob Dylan is on my mind, his Amsterdam lyrics ringing in the quiet spaces, of which there have been few, racing bikers and motor scooters and fast cars, even a zig-zagging street sweeper cleaning a figure eightish park the fear in our day, the scenes and people and art and newness of this other world taking up all five senses and more since we woke up this morning, steep and narrow stairs greeting us right outside the bedroom door, confusing shower taps and light fixtures and toilets and outlets and hardware reminding us that we are not alone in the world as Americans, that others have their ways and we might as well adapt, appreciate, soak up whatever we can as long as we’re here, green salad as close to home as we’ll get, and eggs and vinegar and oil, even the lettuce head was enormous, the tomatoes sold in cups that look more like frappucino cups as much as anything else.

Good night world. Six thirty at home is twelve thirty here, and my goal is eight am wakeup to restock the pantry for the next two or three days of the Easter weekend..not knowing what we’ll find on Easter Sunday and planning to be out all day tomorrow to visit the Keukenhoff Gardens with the tulips we flew across the ocean to find.

 

Turns out it’s not Bob Dylan in my head singing about Amsterdam, but Michelle Shocked, who was a favorite of mine once upon a time, about the same time as Bob, so perhaps that’s why I’m confused.

This youtube doesn’t do it for me, but it’s the only one I find here in Amsterdam, not far enough from 5 am to justify more looking. Enjoy:)

 

This morning I wake from a wonderful dream. In the dream I had been on a sort of vacation . The vacation home was shared by many people, all who shared the love of reading. In the home were arranged many collections of periodicals. Gradually, I found my way through them, at the guidance of guests who had visited previously (I was new), and under my own powers of browsing and engagement. I could not wait to read and read, worried I was hoarding too much material in my small corner of space, leaving the place untidy.

When I wake I am energized. I had stayed up too late last night, lost on the internet, not on Facebook or WordPress, but in a world of exploration not too dissimilar from the vacation home, though in the dream the journals were stacked neatly in alphabetical order in cozy spots around what felt like a large living room (an image that carried over, perhaps from my reading and listening on the internet, to a living room as a metaphor for the way teachers learn best). Some collections were vintage, others current. Friends were there, including Kathryn and Al, but mostly I was in new territory, exploring on my own in the midst of others who were also exploring. Before I woke up there was talk of a large meal. The feeling was festive.

This morning when I wake up, this is how I feel about my new project, not overwhelmed, but invited in to a world I want to know. The words of David and Frances Hawkins, and those who study and preserve and carry on their work are on my mind. I think of a piece I wrote here a long time ago about living as though everyone matters, and the observation in a film I found on the Hawkins’ life, the words of Karen Worth, I think, who spoke at the Lesley Pre-Institute, about David Hawkins’ interest in each person and their contribution, no matter their station or education or position in life. And I think of John Dewey and Reggio Emilia, and the blog post which perhaps has had as many readers here as any of which I have been proud, John Dewey and Reggio Emilia, Friends in My Mind, and I think perhaps the Hawkins’ are one of the missing links, friends of Loris Malaguzzi, who has been inspiring the Reggio Emilia approach many years, and friends of the early Open Classroom, grounded all three in the works of John Dewey, my intellectual introduction to this world, discovered in Mann Library at Cornell many years ago, when again I could not put the ideas down, was awakened by their power.

Last night I finished a wonderful book by James Hollis, and in it he talks again about Jungian ideas of how we operate in the world, and he calls us to find our true purpose in life. Somewhere, there is a purpose in here for me. Exploring human dignity as it relates to learning and education is at the core for me. It’s not an accident that the schools and schools of thought that interest me in education were born and reborn in progressive eras concerned with human rights, with equality, with the idea that each of us is a valued individual existing within the whole, that each of our contributions and lives and inner selves matters.

Today when I interview a new family with a small child, I want my house to be clean. I also want my walk and driveway to be shoveled and my kids to get off to school with a travel mug of green tea and a napkin laden with warm buttered toast. I have to stop writing here to do those things. That doesn’t mean I have to stop thinking. Thank you Frances the cat and Jonah and Isabel for spending last evening on the couch with me so my mind could rest and prepare. The rest of the evening was inspiring, all the way til one am, and on through the night and into my dreams and again at seven am, when my mind woke to a dream state and carried on, giving me some insight into where I’m headed and what I might do.

One takeaway from last night is that the first step in the way forward, as David Hawkins knew and wrote, is Messing About. Somehow I thought I had to know how to tackle this project without doing that. Nonsense. As David Hawkins’ fellow traveller Eleanor Duckworth must have known when she wrote her famous book, The Having of Wonderful Ideas, we aren’t given them, we have to come to them, not only on our own, but in the company of others. I had forgotten momentarily how easy it is to join these friends in my mind. On the couch and on the internet and in books is a great way to start. Eventually, again, I’ll find my way out in the world to engage with them again in real life. But for now, this is a place to start. I’ve ordered a documentary that was made last year about the lives of the Hawkins’. You can watch a trailer here:

Video released 1/6/13 about David and Frances Hawkins, trailer for documentary:

http://vimeo.com/56861701

Others are on the trail, too..perhaps someday soon we’ll meet. For now, I’m happy messing about and dreaming and wondering where I’ll be next, an idea from James Hollis’s book last night as well, that not knowing where we’re headed is sometimes scary, but the only way to go through life fully engaged and making meaning. We must be open to possibility, even on days like yesterday, which start off slow. Now it is really, finally, time to shovel the walk!

P.S. The other thing David Hawkins said which I found inspiring this morning was that he could not understand how people can separate feeling from cognition..the quote was quite marvelous, possibly shared by Karen Worth..about how feeling informs cognition and vice versa, but said more eloquently. I’ll find it and record it in its’ full glory, soon! Good to be feeling it again, for sure!

There have been a few of these dark stormy days the last few years when I’ve found myself at home alone. This is new for me, mother of three. I’m not a big fan. Being still and quiet has it’s own rhythm and lots to say. A quiet dark day outside brings the quiet and dark inside. Not a comfortable place to be, but one I figure we all must walk through to get to the other side, dark into light being one of those metaphors plenty of poems and novels and religions use to teach us to cope.

All day I wondered if I could write my way out of the house and out of my funk. I wrote with friends over e-mail and facebook chat. That helped some. Now it’s even quieter, with the friends offline, I have my Pandora to keep me company. The Avett Brothers and their friends have sung for me all day long. Introduced to me by my son the music buff, they make this old lady proud to like them, feel sort of young again. Their energy is good, their lyrics barely register, just keep up the pitter patter in the background I imagine others keep the tv on to hear. I am not a tv gal, at least not in a house alone. I only watch shows in the company of others. Feels too lonesome any other way.

The thing about being in a house alone for me is that I feel mighty sorry for myself. I feel like a spinster. Like I had my kids too young. Like I must not have worked hard enough to keep my marriage together. Like I am dumb for dating a man an hour away whose kids need him a lot. Like no one on earth will help me shovel the mountains that come down from the heavens to put me to the test. It’s lousy to feel it all, even lousier to write it for the world, but here I am, getting it out of my head and onto the computer for you all to read, so you will know that not only you, but I have a dark side. The jealousy, the sadness, the loneliness, the anger and resentment, the sorrow and regret, the grief and disappointment exist, and when we slow down, especially if we are terribly busy people, all those dark emotions appear to look us in the eye and put us back to bed to contemplate the world. That is the way it is for me. Some of you will say it is not true for you. Others will know. You’re the ones I’m writing for just now. Another day it will be for the happy crowd who love to look at flowers and admire the creativity of children and teens, for those who make art or poetry, for those who walk in the woods or delight in the produce of local farmers, who are amazed at mushrooms and who smile and smile and smile. Some days that is me, too. I imagine we all have the whole mix. How else to be human, to survive all we are dealt in a full, long life.

Here’s a little song from Pandora The Avett Brothers’ Station’s  Joe Pug’s Hymn #35, to add to the mood. I was hoping for a poem, but lyrics and a song will do. Enjoy:

I am the day, I am the dawn
I am the darkness comin’ on
And I am once, I am twice
I am the whole, I’m just a slice
Some call me gone, some call me here
None are wrong, none are near
I am right now, I am back then
I will return, don’t ask me whenI am the disappointed kiss
I am the unexpected harvest
I am the old Kentucky home
I am the son who runs the farthest
I have done wrong, I will do wrong
There’s nothin’ wrong with doin’ wrong
And I am faith, I am belief
Except for when I’m not
I am the teeth of champions
I am rust and water rotAnd I am sleep, I am breathin’
I’m the missin’ of the passin’ seasons
I am the brush, I am the strokes
I’m sickness come to the best of folks
I am renewed, I am just made
I am unchangin’
I’m a pasture fenced about the edge
I am Dakota thunder ragin’
And by my shoes and by my feet
And by my soul and wonder
I am the tracks we’ve laid above
I am the tunnel runnin’ under

I’ve not been reading. I’ve been with family and friends, working, watching TV, too much Mad Men on the tv in my bedroom, not something I wanted so much as something I could not waste, moved upstairs when I bought us a new one for the tv room last Christmas, but hardly watched til recently as I learned to be alone in the company of moving figures on the tv, not to see it so much as letting myself down as all right, company I ought to learn to accept.

Last night I was on my own after many days with my kids and with my beau. Plans derailed and I found myself at Porter Square Books in the poetry section trying to find my way home. Sharon Olds was there, waiting for me, and in this interview she validates my yearning, wishes her books would keep someone company when home alone. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/july-dec12/poet_10-11.html

I had known she had written a new book, had been pleased recently to find out in a short piece in Writers’ Almanac, which to my great pleasure lay below a poem I admired by Louise Erdrich, another of my favorite writers, whose book, The Round House was propped on the counter beside the register when I bought White Stag, two of my women waiting there at the book store to greet me, to remind me I was not alone. I held off buying The Round House, saved my twenty seven dollars for another night, also kept myself from dividing my attention. When I get a new book of Sharon Olds poems, I like to read it straight through, like a novel.

When I got home, I put the groceries away, too many as always when I thought I was stopping for just Karo syrup and maybe clementines, if they were on sale, ended up with Pim’s cookies, PG Tips and Sleepytime and Bengal Spice Tea, Moxie and Orange Dry and Perrier and too many other things I could not resist on sale with my Shaw’s card, all for me to load, unload, shuffle into the cupboards and bags of the day care and upstairs kitchen and the trunk of the van, preparing for Thanksgiving, for life with kids, for time with my guy, for day care meals, reminding me again, I am not alone.

Then there was leftover mac and cheese and cauliflower for dinner with a candle and a cat, and upstairs to read before bed, this time with ipod and work bag in hand, hoping to knock off a few chores and maybe a blog entry before we’re off for the holiday.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read or written much. I’m out of practice, out of my element again, out of of my depth, unmoored again. I needed to come home, needed Sharon Olds to bring me back.

Sure enough, I cried on the first page, took breaks, and read straight through, hard for me to believe that Sharon Olds was with me again, this time not in raising her children, letting them go, in connecting deeply to a partner, but in enduring a divorce. Somehow, if it was mentioned in the Writers’ Almanac blurb, I missed this bit of important information. The family Sharon Olds wrote about with astounding intimacy is broken, just like mine, and she with it, for a time, just like me. This news both comforts and shatters me. Somehow I had thought she was the model for next time around, how to do it right, how to love another so deeply that things could not possibly go wrong. Instead she’s the one who writes about her husband as he’s leaving, as she’s looking back at signs trying to see what happened, as he’s gone, across town, with someone new, even there again years later, wondering what comes next. It takes a long time to heal from a lost marriage, in Sharon Olds case, of thirty years, in my case, of twenty. We were young and in love once. Now we’re not that anymore. Life moves on, and we try to do it with some grace, while not denying the reality of hard places. Here we are, after the marriage and family are gone, new territory which even my dreams are working to reshape.

Last night I dreamed again about moving. Every night I dream and every morning I remember briefly. Often shortly after I forget. The art of forgetting is important, too, as well as the art of remembering, preserving, holding on, letting go. In last night’s dream, I believe I was sorting belongings, a project in real life I immerse myself in regularly, against Louise Erdrich’s advice, now I remember her poem, to renounce all the sorting, the cleaning, the tidying, in favor of the authentic. For me, the handling of the memories is a piece of the authentic, the lifting of my son’s school papers from the floor of the room where my mom will soon sleep, in a bedroom abandoned first by their dad when he moved his office downstairs, then by the oldest boy when he moved downstairs after his dad left for his apartment, then by the middle guy when he took over the room that was our first bedroom when we bought the house, was then many things, including bedroom for my then husband’s father, project room for the kids and after school group, space for our exchange student who arrived and left with Visa trouble, making room for my boy.

Each time the house shifts, we shift, too. Now there is more work to be done, piles of toys and small clothes in places calling for my attention, put the children to rest, say good-bye to those small moments Sharon Olds brings to life so fully in her poems, when they were small, or growing up, or gone. I wonder all the time these days how I will care for the house through this next transition, one boy off to college, one mom off to work elsewhere three days a week, only one of me to pay the oil bill, to replace the roof when it will surely go, along with many other things, porches, furnaces, van, computer, refrigerators, washer, dryer, all on my list of things which need my money and attention, which are aging as I do, who will help me do it, if I’ll stay.

Too much to think and write about this morning. I’m off to start the day, kids with their dad, beau with his kids in New Hampshire, mom on her way here today with my boy, home from college, as Sharon Olds foretold. Someone reads her poems on my blog most every single day. In that way, as in many others, we’re united. I hope she’s ok with that.

Here’s one from her book which she has published in the NPR interview to which I’ve linked above, and the Louise Erdrich poem from a recent WA which I hope you’ll like. Read them together and you’ll know me a little better in the place where I live. Turns out, the poem and the piece about Sharon Olds were in Writers’ Almanac only yesterday morning. Cool.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, whoever, wherever, however you may be.

“The Healers”

“When they say, if there are any doctors aboard, would they make themselves known?  I remember when my then-husband would rise and I would get to be the one he rose from beside. They say now that it doesn’t work unless you are equal. And after those first 30 years, I wasn’t the one he wanted to rise from or return to, not I, but she who would also rise when such were needed.

“Now I see them lifting side by side on wide medical waiting bird wings like storks with the doctor bags of like, loves, like dangling from their beaks. Oh, well. It was the way it was. He didn’t feel happy when words were called for and I stood.”

 

 LISTEN

Advice to Myself

by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich from Original Fire. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It’s the birthday of the poet Sharon Olds (books by this author), born in San Francisco (1942), who didn’t publish her first book of poems, Satan Says (1980), until she was 37 years old. She said, “It took me a long time for the poems that I was writing to feel like me, rather than feel like the people I admired and was learning from.”

Her most recent collection, Stag’s Leap (2012), came out in September.

Her advice to other writers is to be daring and take chances. She said: “I think that whenever we give our pen some free will, we may surprise ourselves. All that wanting to seem normal in regular life, all that fitting in falls away in the face of one’s own strange self on the page.”

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