Saturday, December 18, 2010

Peace alights

In 1862, Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union ranks in America’s Civil War. Later that same year, on Christmas day, Charles’ father, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sat down and penned “Christmas Bells.”

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on Earth, good-will to men!

Longfellow goes on to describe how the canon fire thundered and drown the church bells’ declarations of peace…

And in despair, I bowed my head

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong

And mocks the song

Of peace on Earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep

God is not dead, nor does He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail

With peace on Earth, good-will to men!

These verses ran through my head tonight as I hoisted my 34-weeks-pregnant frame into the bath.

Peace on Earth. Peace on Earth, good will to men, I sang and ran my fingertips over my globular belly.

In looking over this last year, I see now that I have been in pursuit of peace, which is foolish. Peace is just the sort of thing that settles on you once you have finally had the good sense to sit still for a minute—or have collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Peace alights. It doesn’t give chase or even own a pair of running shoes.

Peace on earth. Peace on earth, good will to men, I sing to my unborn son…A prayer and a declaration, if only for a moment.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cocoa and Corn Chowder



My poor, neglected virtual square footage.

Today, over a bowl of soup, I sat down in the middle of the floor and considered this place. I moved the furniture around, with hopes that this space will be alive and welcoming and once again serve as my retreat.

Tomorrow, I will be twenty-six weeks pregnant. Twenty-six. I have told myself that I didn't want this place to become The Daily Bump and then I excused my own absence.

But the barefoot truth is that I have been hiding. I cannot be accused of failure if I am merely holding my breath. And every obstinate toddler knows that holding one's breath changes the game entirely.
I still write nearly every day, stacks and stacks of Moleskine journals bursting with witless revelations and the daily drivel of a writer-in-hiding. But I feel like a pyjama-clad gypsy, crouching in corners, scribbling observations, and moving on with no sense to be made of any of it, really.
I want to go home.

I want to return to a familiar place and feel the warmth of knowing you're in the right zip code, a brightly lit corner with a window facing west and soft pillows, should you need them. Where you can make the most outlandish proclamations or sit quietly and examine the seams of things. Where there is a quiet hum from the bustle of good intentions and piping hot pots of chocolate and feet propped up on the furniture. This is home.

So, welcome back. Scoot that stack of books to the side and have a seat. The over stuffed chair by the window is nice. There will be talk of belly laughs and belly flops and big, round bellies in general; of leanings and aspirations and inspirations and failures and heartache; of cabbages and kings. And sometimes we'll sit and admire the view. And cake. There will be cake.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Huffing Grace

Sometimes grace presents itself with fanfare and feathered hats and neon arrows blinking on and off while cancan music blares in the background. And I find myself wide-eyed, slack-jawed, shuffling along in the direction of all the shiny things.

Sometimes it pushes itself up through the hard earth and looks as though it could use some tending to, a little protection from the cold and then in the middle of a pea-soupy fog it gathers all the courage it has, opens itself right up, and positively glows from the inside out through the gloom.

Sometimes gratitude and generosity are equally easy to come by and difficult to ignore, big bosomed, swinging tassels to a catchy tune. I can’t help but bob my head and sing along.
Sometimes the fog rolls in and it’s hard to see beyond my own discontent.

Here’s what I’m learning: It’s so much easier to be randomly kind when I am in a good mood. When things are feeling oppressive or budgets are tight or we are running low on chocolate, I sprout a large, deciduous horn from my head and dare the universe to mess with me and then I hibernate for several days, safely tucked away from the fan fare and any stray sequins.

I’m getting to know myself well enough to note the onset of Antler Season. It has been my intention of late to step outside of myself and feel my way through the fog, to note the tender mercies unfolding around me, and to soothe the itch on my scalp with a poultice consisting of, but not limited to: a pinch of patience (with myself especially,) a piece of acuity, and a smidge of perspective…and a cup of tea.

Despite my own weeping growths and self pity and exorbitant time spent in my pajama pants, there are things that have blossomed around me in the earliest whispers of spring:

· A friend of mine was the recipient of a coffee purchased for her by an anonymous benefactor in the SUV in ahead of her at the coffee shop drive-thru. It absolutely made her day.
· A friend who sits on the Board of Directors of a local non-profit donated a large sum of money to the organization so that it will be able to write grants on a grander scale.
· Another friend of mine picked up a few things for my family at the Asian market on her way over to my house. Just a few things that she thought we’d enjoy. And we do. (Have you tried Bubble Tea?)
· My daughter’s 7th grade class is taking a series of field trips to local charities as a volunteer workforce.
· A restaurant I happened into while traveling encourages its patrons to commit random acts of kindness in lieu of tipping.

All of these serving as reminders to push my way through.

I had the incredible thrill of meeting Anne Lamott on a particularly pea-soupy evening last weekend. She spoke to a room of 200 or so of us. She was genuine and lovely. I was particularly marked by her authenticity. Anyone who has read any of her work knows that she is not overly concerned with coming across as optimistic and not at all sugar coated. She spoke to us about the drug situation our children are going to be facing as they come of age. (And that the best dope is in the middle schools. And it’s cheap because they are middle schoolers.) She talked about writing and honoring your artistic nature. She talked about how hard it is to be a teenage girl in this culture and when she learned that I have two daughters on the cusp of teen-dom, she looked me in the eye and said, “Pay attention. Make the rules. Be very clear.” And then she told me to have them make their beds every day.

She also said, “The grace of God is either glue or WD-40…or fresh air,” and this is the corner of the evening that I have pinched off and keep in my pocket to finger throughout the day. When the inside of my rib cage gets itchy and my neighbors’ dog is barking for the 6th straight hour and I’m entertaining the idea of goring the next person who crosses my path, I remember to breathe. And then I set off (in my pj pants) in search of gumball machines.

What are some of the ways you have been uncommonly kind even when you’d rather have stuck your foot out and tripped someone than sprinkled a little grace?

*****************
This was originally published on The Women's Colony. I just wanted to make sure it made it over to my place. Hopefully I'll be back here soon with more mind-numbing insights.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Redemption

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.
-Nadine Stair

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Incessant

-Synonyms: relentless, never-ending, perpetual
(according to Dictionary.com) I keep reminding myself that seasons change, despite winter and her impotent grasp on things lately. Spring is just biding her time. She'll uncurl the folds of her dress soon enough. Right?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Conjuring Camus' Invincible Summer

I must admit that I have not entirely fallen in love with the spring snows in this high mountain desert. I have been known to let a few expletives slip when raindrops lose their heft and start to flutter to the ground on feathered wings in late April. Damn. But snowfall has a way of softening edges and charming even the crumudgeon-y-est of slumbering sun bathers. It is lovely.
And when it looks like that out...it looks like this within.
Lovely lunches...Castles built in front of fireplaces...
Layers and layers of spring piped into the warmest piles and optimistically displayed on my kitchen table.

****************

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
-Albert Camus (1913-1960)


Domestic (A Project::8)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Aloft

"...Oh, tie me to the end of a kite

So I can go on, I can go on with my life

Everytime the wind blows stronger,

I will feel my spirit rise..."

-from Kite Song, by Rosie Thomas


Domestic (A Project::7)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Driving Through

The afternoon sky was strewn with billowy clouds quilted to the unfiltered blue of the afternoon. The hills roll over and over one another in straw colored tumbles tied together with knots of barbed wire fence, moving in a solid rambling gate. You can almost feel the earth exhale and the trees stretch their bare fingers as a warm spring day settles into the calm of evening.

The gentle, constant pull of the earth from one season to the next has been a comfort for me, even when I was small. An intentional waltz and if I were paying attention, I may get asked to dance. I suppose this is why it's so important to me to wear sensible shoes.

**********

In the heavy, gray days of late winter, I forgot how to dance, entirely. I have been a steely-eyed passenger, lashed soundly to the ground as I consider the places I've come from. Someday I'll let those stories loose. Someday. For today, I might just run barefoot through the early whispers of spring here in the thin air.

Domestic (A Project::6) On the road. These pictures were taken on my way home and back again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Slip

You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by. Yes, but some of them are golden only because we let them slip.

-J.M. Barrie (1860-1937)
Domestic (A Project::5)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thin Skin

There is maybe nothing so compassionate as a pear. Easily bruised but sure of itself in the state it's in.


Domestic (A Project::4)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Random and Kind

It was my birthday last week.
I am 32.


Birthday Pancakes. Yes sir.
Officially.


It's a little bit thrilling for me to write that number down and own it. Thirty-two. I'm a grown up. And I've got the numbers to prove it.


Not that it's interesting to anyone else, but from here on out, I have been driving longer than I haven't been driving.

I haven't been able to put my thumb on it, but something feels official. Some secret threshold has been crossed. I keep checking my mailbox because I'm pretty sure my secret decoder ring will arrive any day now...or maybe it's a membership card...or a license of some kind. Whatever it is, I think I'll fashion it into a broach and wear it always, even with my pyjamas, because, dude, I'm IN!

My birthday cake. Hand painted chocolate having trillions of virtual calories. 0% of which go straight to your thighs. Enjoy!

This year, to combat any age related trepidations that might have been running black-ops with my emotions, I declared the day: A Day for Kindness. I committed random acts of kindness and asked friends and family to do the same, creating much collateral damage in the form zen-like driving, positive reinforcement rather than name calling, and looks of bewilderment on the faces of strangers... Bad moods were dying and dismembered all over the place.

And I felt like I inhaled for the first time since Thanksgiving.

I bought lunch for a couple behind me in line that day. The cashier gave me up and they walked over to my table and thanked me profusely. The gentleman made earnest eye contact with me for several seconds in order to communicate how wholly thankful he was. I think he would have hugged me if he knew for certain my kindness would extend to not suing him for touching me. My face burned. It was more than I bargained for, to be on the receiving end of kindness. But grace ruled, and I only sounded like a guffawing Water Buffalo for a moment before I wished them a happy lunch.

Later, my three year old left a quarter in a gumball machine. Not turning the dial on that machine was akin to Not claiming one's lottery winnings for her, I think. But she did it. And we left a note explaining our intentions. It was such a simple gesture, but the genuine sacrifice behind it has marked me.

I've wasted 32 years not leaving quarters in gumball machines. No more. For the next 32, there will be quarters.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Endeavor...ing

A new photography project.
Introducing:
Domestic

Looking at day to day life. Finding bliss. Mining the ordinary. Contemplating beauty I might otherwise overlook.

This is an exercise in being content even as I move.Capturing moments at home. Home. And the importance of it.

Breathing the expectant air.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beauty from Ashes

When and where the journey begins is never left to the pilgrim. One can only hope you’ve left the house wearing sensible shoes. I sometimes wish I could go back to my early days of pregnancy and motherhood and yell for that younger self to grab a pair of galoshes on her way out the door.

I was eighteen the summer after graduating from high school, answering phones for a sports equipment wholesale company, and concealing the fact that I was nearly 4 months pregnant. My new husband and I were playing house in our tiny apartment. I worked as a receptionist while he went to university and worked nights.

My fingers and ankles swelled to unfamiliar shapes. My nose dictated what foods were appealing and what foods would result in the immediate and violent upheaval of the contents of my stomach. I was at the mercy of my overactive olfactory, which had apparently been harboring a nasty grudge for years and was now letting loose in its considerable anger.

At home, I perfected a clumsy saunter on rolling tides of insecurity. I polished facades. I folded tiny baby socks, stocked diapers in drawers, washed linens, and dutifully read pregnancy books. I was appeasing the prickly beast at the base of my throat who listed severely like a sailor on choppy seas and sometimes whispered, sometimes yelled, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.”

Eventually, unable to conceal my belly with loose shirts and strategically placed belts as it grew from cantaloupe to basketball to small Volkswagen, I endured an awkward meeting with my boss during which she berated me for my smoke screen of XL Gap knits and dishonesty. Her anger was raw because she felt she had misplaced her trust in me. She had hired me assuming marriage made me a more level headed, responsible candidate. This pregnancy was clearly an insult to her judgment. I drank in every word of her disappointment and set about my tasks with renewed fervor, apologetically filing papers and answering phones, while she made angry notes in red ink in my file, and the beast inside my throat warbled disapproval.

I chose not to allow his tantrums to derail my semblance of sanity. I was organizing Icons of Balance into neat lines, trying desperately to believe their chants of preparedness and common sense while my mind spun in violent circles about the days and years ahead and threatened to oscillate dangerously off course.

Storm clouds began to build and rumble within me. I was unsure of my abilities as a wife and mother. I was scared that if anyone heard those words in my own voice, it would confirm their suspicions. I would, in fact, be a terrible wife and mother, filling in my dot on the pie charts, just another pregnant teen, thrusting my baby into the pile of statistics burdening the social system. She would lose her name, her identity. She would be 0008659143. Her dreams and beauty and ideas and potential, traded for free inoculations at the health department. Ours would be a tragic but typical tale of teenage pregnancy and the plight of the children involved, worthy of an edgy HBO documentary.

Thunderclaps of fear and worry crashed inside. I wrestled with wanting more for my unborn child. I wanted a future for my husband and for myself, for our intentions to count for something. I wanted to be regarded with dignity, to be allowed to carry myself with grace. But I didn’t regard myself with dignity. I was embarrassed of my burgeoning belly and my eighteen years and ashamed that I was embarrassed. I was fearful of the shame I projected on the still developing baby in my womb, worried that she might feel the redness in my cheeks when someone remarked on the perfect roundness under my sweater. I loved her with every thought and breath and choice in a day, and was terrified that someone might inform me that I had no right to love her this way when I was still so young and unprepared to mother her the way she deserved.

All of this was a secret storm inside; my own, private tempest in a teacup. I thought that I had cleverly disguised it beneath my attention to detail. I had developed a rather industrious set of sea legs and felt that my fears were keenly concealed within my fastidious gait. Until the day I went into labor.

The doctor announced it was time to push. My clever disguise became unhinged, and the tempest was released into the room. I considered refusing to push, perhaps buying myself a few more months of pregnancy to try to wrap my mind around motherhood. But I quickly decided that I didn’t have that sort of power over my body, as it seemed to be expelling the child with or without my willful participation.

Unable to articulate my concerns between contractions, I screamed twice and was admonished to put my energy into helping the baby find her way out.

A few moments later, the doctor laid the diminutive form of my daughter across my chest. Wet, screaming, flailing her spindly arms and legs as if grasping for something to hold onto in the typhoon that was blowing her about in this bright and unpleasantly cold new world. She was scared and, I thought, perhaps a little unsure of my abilities as her mother.

I reached my left arm to cup her tiny body, gathered her flailing arms in my right hand and placed them securely on her chest, and whispered into her wet, dark hair. She quieted as her head lolled over on one side so that her nose was touching my lips. We sat there in our clandestine storm and considered one another.

She was beautiful and whole and held every possibility in her tiny, clenched fist.

She wrapped her hand around my thumb, and I was undone by her flawless, wrinkly knuckles. The grace I had needed all along to believe in my own potential quieted the tempest and flooded me.

The prickly beast in my throat was overthrown. Not by my ability; our fates had never come down to that, but by the promise that entered the room with her.
She was not swaddled in my mistakes. She was free to make her own choices, her own mistakes. She was full of her very own purpose and bringing deeper purpose to me with each perfect breath. She was the most appealing pieces of my husband and of me. She was a result of our decisions but turned over, reinterpreted. She was beauty from ashes.

*******

I wrote this early in 2008. It was originally published at The Women's Colony and I wanted to make sure it made it to my site.