Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Learning to Speak

1. Yes, I am convinced by now that God speaks—all day, all night—in a stream of beauty and oddities, in kindness, in the words of friends and strangers, and also in pain, in shake-up, in freak occurrence—anything that cracks the veneer we seem so fond of. There was a time I could not pray words, at all. Had nothing but some kind of silent reaching, and looking, and listening, hoped that what I had could be enough. If I could see one beautiful thing, or enter into a phrase of music that reached for heaven, or hear words from a friend or a book that touched the rawest, hurt places, I could take that personally. Maybe God was not silent. Maybe I could listen more carefully. Maybe I could learn better the language I was hearing the most. It is a delicate, difficult language—

2. We visited Oldest at music camp and after four weeks finally got to hear him talk and talk. It was the most comforting wonderful sound. I took pictures of him, even though he did not want me to—couldn't help it. Mostly I took them from the side or behind, but in one picture he is looking straight at me, part pained, part perplexed. Why, Mom? When we hugged him goodbye (two more weeks) and left I was not crushed—only because he told us things. At the parent meeting on the first day of camp, we were given advice: You are not doing anything interesting. There is nothing going on at home, you are not having an amazing vacation without your child. You do not need to encourage homesickness, and your sons and daughters need to focus fully on what they are doing here. I am trying to follow this advice, remembering that “We miss you” gets boring, anyway. I send texts and pictures: oddities, funny happenings, shared memories. Translation: I love you. I am here, always. Recently it dawned on me what language I am speaking.

3. It is a tricky one, this language. Delicate, difficult—language of giraffe’s eye, seed fluff, spark—language of lifted veils and torn curtains. Language of accumulation: snowflake-upon-snowflake, word-upon-word, phrase-upon-phrase. Tear-upon-tear and kindness-upon-kindness. The stars speak it fluently, also the very old, and the very young. And trees, their arms forever lifted. I am only learning, the syllables clumsy on my tongue but also round, smooth. Phrases catch in my head, circle softly, carve deep. I hear them in dreams, they fall at my feet. Listen, and listen. Finally venture a word here and there, cringing at my own accent: beads of honey, hints of salt. 

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Into the Wind and Back

I have been on vacation. Enjoying family and friends, conversation and quiet. Birch and pine trees, and the cry of loons, and camp songs. I reached the top of the climbing wall I wasn’t strong enough for last year. I went out one afternoon, alone, in a kayak—set my eyes on an old friend of a landmark and did not stop paddling until I reached it, promising myself an easy return trip with the wind at my back.

Working the kayak
against waves, against wind,
baptized over and over
with each roll of water—
cross-rhythms of paddle and wave,
cotton-cloud and spray:
this is all,

The trip back is longer—
I cannot find my rhythm.
Over and over
my thumbs catch
between boat and oar.
Only the splash of water is familiar,
drops gleaming warm
on my arms, my legs.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015


1. I texted Oldest at camp this evening about the storm that blew through before dinner:

Both Dad and I called out to the girls (from different parts of the house) to go to the basement at the exact same time. We lost a few branches and the roof lost some shingles, but otherwise everything was fine. The girls found this guy on our window afterwards—thought the storm blew him in, maybe.
Hidden deep within those words, or not so deep, were other words. Silent. Tucked into the memory of the other moths we have found as a family: luna, prometheus, sphinx:

I miss you. Your absence is exactly what it should be and I can handle it, but there is this constant ache.

2. Last week I visited the city that will always feel like home. Spent time with old friends and new, visited as many favorite places as I could. Showed Husband where you could get bakery samples big enough to double as dessert. Walked and talked and explored with a friend from high school and her young boy, noticed how much of the time he kept one hand touching her as he explored the world.

Underneath: companionship. Veins of it running deep, silent sometimes—even for decades—and yet they are there.

3. Found this the day before we left for home. I appreciate a gentle subversiveness. Underneath is a story: the impulse(s?) to leave one’s mark, to surprise, to change things.

I am doing my best to pay attention.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Now that I'm on vacation and can finally think—

There is much to be said
for taking note of how things land,
for finding weakness and strength
in all the wrong places,
for taking the universe
but not that last conversation.

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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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