Monday, June 22, 2015

Ebb and Flow

This season. Rain and more rain these days, after several years of drought. Countless hot days ending in a deluge. There have been eerily-colored sunsets, and rainbows, and mammatus clouds creeping across the sky as the light fades. Even tonight I spent dinnertime with one eye on the sky, watched everything grow dark too early. When we came up from the basement later the house was dark and the sky was yellow. By now all is cool and quiet and our power is back on, but I have to wonder about tomorrow night. It is starting to seem normal that the dark would hide storms.

Saturday night the road that passes by our house—a main road through town—looked like a stream, the sheets of rain that hit the pavement mimicking a current. An hour later the rain had not stopped and the road-stream was still there, except the current had shifted and was flowing uphill instead of down.

A summer like thiswith the preponderance of rain, everything soaked, off-balanceseems to be a time to know oneself well and also to feel like a stranger inside one’s own body. There is an acceptance and a tension to it all. Often enough there are storms hiding in the dark, but then sometimes there is quiet. The air is heavy (will my lungs ever, ever feel normal again?) but everything is green life everywhere. There seems to be a promise in all of this that things do notcan notstay the same.

The days have streamed past along with the rain, and we are getting closer and closer to the day we take Oldest to music camp. (Six weeks long, and a big deal. I am unprepared for how much I will miss him, for how proud I feel, for how much I imagine he will learn and experience.)

The days have streamed past and writing has felt slow, stagnant. In reality I think it has just been different. There has been a lot of editing, and re-writing, and submitting of work (a promise to myself this year that I would put myself out there, beyond this blog.) The goal has been to constantly be waiting to hear back about something, so that there's always a sliver of hope, so that I will develop a certain numbness to the rejections. So far, so good on those two counts. Maybe there is improvement in my writing, as well. I have to remind myself that I believe in at least the possibility of improvement, and that I believe in what I am trying to say.

There has been a change, too, in what and how I am being pulled to write. Ideas I want to follow. It is hard to know what to do with that, other than pay attention and try to work with it. My discomfort with social media recently—there’s probably a connection. I am tired of the kind of self-consciousness it brings, tired of feeling like I must be either consumer or consumed. I don’t want to hide, exactly, but I want to work, or maybe hide in order to work. I don’t want isolation, but privacy. To feel a little freer, to let roads turn into streams, and to allow streams to change direction, flow uphill if they like.  

This, maybe, is summer in general—ease and unease, work and play, rain and drought bouncing off each other, always changing. Beautiful in its way, but never quite what you expected.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Wandering, Not Aimlessly

This weekend we spent a fair amount of time wandering as a family. It reconfirmed my—what should I call it, my mission? —as a treasure hunter. There is joy in this work. Every time I start to think it is a rosy-eyed, easy thing I am reminded how much wandering is necessary, and dirty hands, and muddy feet. Always an act of faith, and a blessed thing as well. Because every time I think the supply of magic might have been used up I am proved wrong.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hello again—

Front door opens—
sweet scent of cut grass.
First time I noticed.

It is summer, officially, even if the calendar doesn’t agree, even if the weather itself doesn’t agree. The steely clouds and cold temperatures make me feel like I am at a camp in the north woods of my home state, and the air holds the same yearning for warmth. But that in itself is a sign to me of summer.

And it is truly summer.

Kids are out of school. I forced them to stop on the front porch for a picture on the last day, even though we were running a little late. They still stun me with their beauty, with the fact that we belong to each other, with the fact that they are growing and growing. I am convinced the picture itself was beautiful, but it did not turn out—I’ve maxed out the storage on my device of choice and when I went back to look at what I’d captured after getting everyone to school there was nothing there but black. I haunted Facebook that day, full of regret, but in the end there were my kids, older and wiser, even without the smiling visual proof of having made it through the year. 

That surprise lingers through the first days of summer vacation—that we made it. That the kids are older. I have tried noticing it day by daythat they are growing, that we are getting through each day in one piecebut it only ever comes as a surprise. This happens with my students, too. You go along steadily, both expecting and not-expecting change, and there—suddenly—it sneaks up on you: these children are taller. Their hair is longer.  They are figuring some things out. There are things about them I know better, now, and other things I don’t. I sense changes in myself, as well (when I remember, I am taller too, maybe.) Like that scent of fresh-cut grass you always but never noticed. I love these surprises and will keep looking for them, all summer long. And they will keep being surprises, no matter how hard I look.

Happy summer to you. I wish you many surprises, as well.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

These Moments

1. Last week: my students performed, 35 of them, 3 Bach minuets in 5 parts. It meant everything to make sure everyone had something significant to contribute to the whole, regardless of where they were in terms of age or development or ability. It worked. And we all got to be in the middle of that big full sound. I posted a video here, on the Violin Project page.

2. Over the weekend: Middle’s confirmation of faith at church. Immediate families stood with the confirmands at the front of the church during the ceremony, and extended families, friends, and supporters were asked to stand with them from their spots in the pews as the pastors prayed for each individual. I didn’t know it at first but the youth of the church stood the entire time, for each of the kids in front. When I turned around and saw them all standing together at the back—it cracked my heart open. The next day a friend told me that she, too, had been standing for Middle. Knowing your child has people—that is beautiful. Seeing that fact—that is exquisite.

3. We had an impromptu photo session Sunday afternoon, the kids all spiffed-up, in the front yard. Things have not changed. Posed family photos are as hard to get as ever, and I have a fabulous series of pictures along with dialogue no one will ever let me share publicly, plus one “acceptable” picture that will eventually make it onto Facebook.

4. Oldest, who has been wearing glasses since he was three, got contact lenses today. I’ve seen him without glasses plenty of times, but this was different. I was witness to him seeing his world differently—an echo of the day we walked up to our front door, him in his first pair of full-prescription glasses, stopping, bending over, taking in this world he hadn’t realized was around him.

5. Youngest, these days, always wants the radio off when we are in the car. “Let’s talk,” she says. She is a good foil for the introverts in the family, inclined as they are to hide by the end of a long day.

I told more than one person that I was afraid of this month, going in. But here we are on the last day of April, and everyone is still all in one piece, even with the Easter Sunday emergency room visit. It has all been good, rich stuff—performances of all kinds, all five of us, and so many other things—I’ve been trying to hold these moments that have risen up in the middle of it all inside of me, and time just keeps barreling forward. How does one do this life thing? How does one not do it?

Which brings me to next month. I’m going to take a break from the blog. There are projects waiting for me, asking for their proper time. A transition from school days to summer days, also asking for its due time. And honestly, some dreaming to do. I will see you in June.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Excuse No. 24

late for
many reasons.
This afternoon 
it was because I 
could not find my keys,
but then also because of
 the cardinal sitting on a cluster
of lilacs—balanced perfectly
right on top of the blossoms.
He was pointed straight at the
driveway, straight at my car
as I got ready to pull out.
Cheer! Cheer! Cheer! he
called, just like in that
book I read as a child.
To not stop for a
moment would
surely have
been rude.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

On My Mind

I have been thinking about the power of transforming something, and the power of re-telling a story.

I have been thinking about this, and making more flowers.

I have been thinking about the heart—the meaning—of a poem, hidden in a cluster of words at the heart of the larger poem. (Poet Helen Frost was one of six authors and illustrators Middle and I got to hear speak at the Children’s Literature Festival at Truman State University Friday. I am still floating a little bit.)

I have been thinking about how mixed in with the rain that fell outside the dining room window yesterday were tiny white petals from our flowering pear tree. And mixed in with the raindrops clinging to branches out the back kitchen window were tiny green leaf buds.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Holy Monday

You don’t always, but on this particular day off you wake up without the alarm (it was turned off, to allow for the richness of sleeping in) at almost exactly the time it would have gone off on a regular school day. The light is lavender, the air saturated with spring. Since you are awake, you sneak downstairs, fill the bread machine with butter, egg, milk, sugar, flour, yeast. You will make Resurrection Rolls a day late. This is becoming a tradition, almost, not managing to get them made in time for Easter. Last year you bought a roll of refrigerated dough, in desperation and even though you hated the compromise, but in the end it did not help. The tube sat in the refrigerator door until two days ago. You are determined to keep your promise this year.

Later Youngest will help wrap dough around marshmallows, and then you will dip each dough ball into melted butter and then roll it in sugar. The sugar and butter will cling to your fingers, salty and sweet. You will lick them once all the rolls are dipped and rolled, no one watching, as if you were still five years old.

Yesterday was good, and you celebrated. But it did not go the way Easter was supposed to go, exactly. In the middle of everything necessary for the day for your family—in the middle of the best clothes, sunrise service, breakfast at church, easter egg hunt, baskets of candy, dinner with family day—there was Youngest’s fall, and a horrid gash in her knee that looked unrepairable, and the E.R., and stitches because it was repairable, after all.

There was a time you were proud of your strength around blood, and your calm in the face of an injury. That, though, was before you had children. Your children’s injuries shake you to the core. It is not so much the blood itself as it is the fact of injury, the fact that you could not stop it, the fact that you could not convince your child after she laid eyes on it that she was not dying. It is not so much the stitches themselves as it is holding—laying on top of—your child while she gets stitches, and, more than that even, the way you absorb the fear and hurt into every cell of your body and try to hold it there, away from your child, even though you know that’s impossible.

Later in the day on this quiet Monday, when she is feeling her woundedness especially deeply, you will show Youngest pictures of Japanese pottery, cracks and breaks filled with gold, stronger and more beautiful for having been broken. Kintsukuroi. Isn’t it beautiful? She cries at the thought, but she also points out her favorite piece. It is exquisite.

Later still in the day you will hide yourself someplace quiet to make paper roses from old scrap paper. It is right to make something beautiful from what is cast-off and unwanted. It makes you dream of making other things. After so many days of looking and seeing and taking in, in the middle of exhaustion and anxiety over things both small and big, making something seems like the proper response. So much inhaling—now is time for the exhale. Without the release you are not actually breathing.

Yesterday was meant to be holy, and it was, in the way that Easter Sunday always is. It was also holy in the way that something broke through all your plans and expectations and made you see it all in a different light. But today too is holy, and maybe even a high holy dayset apart to exhale, set apart to ponder these things while making sweet rolls, while everyone else is asleep.

For now, it is still early and you are alone in the kitchen. In the oven the marshmallows begin to melt, making toffee at the bottom of the pan, leaving the inside of the rolls hollow, empty. You could give a lecture while the kids eat, but that kind of thing doesn’t usually have the effect you’re looking for. You will probably have to rely on faith that the way these things all work together will work itself slowly into their hearts—that this sweetness, and the story of the empty tomb and how light cracked apart solid darkness, and how the intertwining of failings and promises and scars and love leave us marked and beautiful—these are all wrapped into the day after Easter because they are all woven into our Everyday, worn on our hearts and bodies, hanging in the lavender light of another new morning.

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Found, Day 46

My parents found each other so quickly
7 weeks from meeting to married
and over Winter Break at that—
that there was confusion afterwards.
When my mother wrote her new name on the
chalkboard for the Freshman Comp class
the students wanted to know
what happened to the teacher listed in the catalog.
“She got married,” was the reply,
and when they thought that was too bad
she told them “Not at all—it’s me!”
A friend who hadn’t seen my father
for a while wanted to set him up:
“There’s this girl you have to meet.
You would like her a lot.”
“That’s funny,” Dad replied
after hearing her name,
“I married her last week.”
And sometimes this is proof to me
that there’s no such thing as a wrong turn—
that no matter which direction you choose
you will find yourself
in the right place for your story.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Found, Day 44

his morning we had windows open. I enjoyed deep breaths of air heavy with near-rain, and found it had been months since I had breathed exactly this kind. Did the time flash by or crawl? The feeling and scent of it is joyful.