Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Monday, May 12, 2014

Found: 1985

Husband and I have committed the next two weeks to going-through, straightening-up, purging the house of Stuff. I have been anticipating and dreading this time ever since we decided to do it. There’s too much of it in the house, this Stuff, and it is part junk, part treasure. Deciding which is a big job I would kind of like to continue avoiding. I am sustaining myself with fantasies of Order, and some kind of clean efficient spareness that is probably impossible, considering the five of us seem to be part hobbit. I also promised myself  a new project: sharing some of what I find here on the blog.

On June 10, 1985, I went shopping with my mom. I bought a bracelet, an O.P. shirt that showed a bit of my midriff, and a fabric-covered blank book with lined pages. I probably wore the shirt twice, if that often, because with the exception of two bikinis the summers on either side of my freshman year of college I did not feel comfortable baring my midriff. I have no memory of the bracelet. The book, however, came back into my life recently, tucked into a box of things my mother purged from her own home.

The summer of 1985 was the Summer of Penicillin, the Summer of Tonsillitis That Would Not Shake. Within 36 hours of ending a ten-day course of antibiotics, without fail, the tiredness and fever and sore throat would return. Finally the doctors gave up on ten-day courses and I swallowed giant pills daily for two months straight: at Confirmation Camp, at Norwegian Language Camp, on vacation, at home. I learned not to gag on them.

The summer of 1985 was also the summer I went on a diet, the summer I (first) dreamed of having the perfect tan, the perfect body, perfect hair. The summer I scared my parents with my dieting and perfectionism. The summer I read a book about a girl with anorexia that for some became a how-to manual but for me was scary enough to be a life-saver.

I wrote in the journal for seven months.

I thought about boys a lot, or at least wrote about them: I still like ____ a lot. But so does X, and Y, and now, since I’ve told Z I like him, she says she does, too. That’s depressing. X and Y are part of W’s group…and I’m not. I don’t have a chance against girls like them.

I turned 13. I wrote about it six days after my birthday, and one day after surgery to have my tonsils removed: Besides that [the boombox] I got a unicorn notebook, bubble bath, bath oil beads, a Perlman tape, a Tears for Fears tape, bath crystals, 4 pairs of earrings, bracelets, paper dolls, three lolypops [sic.], a Butterfinger, a jump rope, a Chinese yo-yo, two purses, and two stuffed animals, 50 dollars, and a 10-dollar gift certificate to Debbie’s Dollhouse.

I got philosophical and sent unwitting messages to my 41-year-old-mother-self:
That (social) part of my life is better now. But I have trouble getting along with mom. I realize that grownups aren’t really perfect. Nobody is's just at different times of life people can conceal (and see through other people’s) faults. As a teenager I can see most faults, but I can’t conceal my own very well.

I was mystified: I want to see “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “That was Then, This is Now,” but they’re both rated “R” and Mom’s prejudiced against movies like that. And—I guess all the boys I’ve liked I’ve only liked as friends. I’m confused.

My last entry was January 18, 1986. It was long. Started with an update about a boy, descended into confusion about boys in general. I resolved to talk to my mom about it. And then this:  PS—I guess I was worried and insecure about the dance too, and everything was fine then…Bye.

And then blank pages.

The dance was fun, I remember that. And the PS--I still talk to myself that way. The PPS is not actually recorded in the book, even though it is written throughout the pages: Dear 41-year-old-mother-self, Listen more, and be gentle. Maybe most things are fine now, too. Maybe “bye” isn’t necessary anymore.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I've Been Up To

(Besides taking pictures)

I find teaching a difficult thing to write about, but I daily feel my brain churning away at the mystery of it all. I start to feel a little lost when I take too long a break from it, and I feel consumed by it by the middle of each semester. I dream of having a secretary to handle the details—scheduling, snacks, fundraising. But the actual teaching part—being part of and witness to so many lives, so many struggles, so much growth—I am all at once thankful and stretched and puzzled and energized and drained. The Violin Project, especially, is intense—7 kids and several wonderful volunteers and I—we have spent many hours together. The time and work are turning into something special. (Much of our year together is in pictures on our Facebook page.)

Last week my students performed with our community string orchestra. Everybody worked hard, prepared well, played beautifully. 

Non-blog writing:
A couple of projects that have needed more than I’ve been able to give. It was good to give them more of my time, even though they are not yet finished. The bit of momentum behind them is encouraging.

On the blog:
There are a number of new titles on my Music Resources: Picture Books, Etc. page. There are so many good books out there. Let me know what I've missed!

Oh—and making stuff:
These are slow-moving projects but I refuse to give them up completely. At the very least they are good for the soul.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014


My definition of the word keeps changing. For example:

1. Middle is downstairs, pouring melted chocolate into little plastic molds. She found a book at the library earlier today, and the Candy Paints recipe has captured her entirely. The third act of "Madame Butterfly" is playing on the radio. “I like this,” she tells me, when I ask on my way upstairs if I should leave it on. “I can actually tell when she’s sad.” “I like it too,” I say, meaning all of it, the whole scene before me. It is perfection.

2. Earlier today, at the library—Youngest’s excitement. Finding BOOKS! About anything, about everything. About DINOSAURS, and SHARKS, and Encyclopedia Brown, and even though early in the visit she has to remind me, “Mom. I like non-fiction,” by the end there are a number of slim sparkly fairy books included in her towering stack. She is breathless and using her best Owen Meany voice and wants to check out books all by herself, JUST GIVE ME MY CARD MOM. We're trying to help her learn appropriate library behavior, but in this moment her behavior strikes me at the same time as absolutely perfect.

3. Oldest. Having never been one myself, I still think boys are mysterious. And I wish being thirteen did not seem to require such frequent anger with everyone who is not thirteen. But then Oldest and I get to talk about things—life and music and current events and technology and, even more fun I think, technological design (he has exquisite, expensive taste.) And I love liking him so much. I like talking to him. I like how he surprises me. I like his friends.  And I think this is exquisitely good. I think maybe it is its own form of perfect.

4. We are standing around the dining room table, painting chocolates and making a mess, beautiful and colorful. Chatting. In the background, a radio interview about the Super Bowl tomorrow. And suddenly, Youngest pipes up. Apparently she has been listening. “I don’t know why they think Quiz Bowl is dangerous.”

Everything that says about our family—that seems perfect, too.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Light, 12/20/13: Poetry

It’s messy, all of it—the all-day misty rain that threatens to turn to ice in a few hours, the fact that Middle spent the last day of school before break lying on the couch miserable with strep throat and missing everything she had looked forward to all week. The list of goodies I still want to make before Christmas (sandbakkels, anise kringle, peppermint meltaways, more fudge, more toffee, more rum balls—is there time, though?) the presents to wrap, the presents to buy still!, the cards I haven’t even thought of sending. The fact that I still, after a month, haven’t figured out how to add or remember a 20-minute nebulizer treatment to my morning schedule. The muscle under my left eye that has been twitching since mid-November.

I can step back and look at the big picture and know that it is Good. Really Good. But holy crap is it messy, and yes I have my head in the clouds most of the time, but my feet are still slogging through the mess. And slogging doesn’t lend itself to feeling graceful or light or—I don’t know—successful at walking the path one is on.

So when Youngest asked me at breakfast this morning, “Mom, does poetry matter to you?” her question was light itself. Because yes it matters, and I love that she asked.

She is reading a book called Poetry Matters. “I learned that you can write poems about anything. Even about your life!” she informed me. 

Now she wants a new diary, in order to fill it with poems about whatever she wants.

I can’t decide: sometimes poetry seems to be light itself, other times it seems like a holding up to the light. That I can’t decide makes me think it is both.

What I am sure of is that poetry has a whole lot to do with the messiness of life, and about pulling bits from the mess—whatever bits you choose—in order to  bring them into the light or to shine light onto something else. I like that they do not need to be large, and honestly, I’m not sure they even need to be put into words always. It is the finding, and holding up, and sharing that are the important part, and how personal-but-also-outside-of-yourself that is. It is life-giving.

Look back after a while, and see what accumulates.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Yours To Do With As You Wish

I bought her a diary at the book fair. It has a jeweled lock, and came with two perfect tiny golden keys. And it’s for writing your dreams. She adores it.

So I can understand why a well-meaning adult would look at it and say, “What did you do to your new diary?” I almost asked the same thing.

“I made the moon blue.”

I don’t know how much she’s heard about blue moons. She’s perceptive, and well-read, and pays attention to all sorts of things you don’t think she’s paying attention to. But clearly blue moons are special.

*     *     *

I loved the idea of a diary, myself. I loved the small book, the perfect tiny golden lock and key, the lined pages waiting to be filled.

I just hated filling it. I could last two or three days, maybe. Over many years I collected journals and notebooks, “All About Me” books that came as gifts, scrapbooks. Ruined them by writing on one or two pages. Abandoned them all.

The one exception was a vinyl-covered notebook, pastel pages climbing with flowers, that I filled with poetry in fifth grade. Filled. But that one never counted.

It turns out I have no patience for trying to recount my day. I do not want to provide a timeline, or a blow-by-blow, I do not want to provide captions. I have never been able to keep up with photo albums or scrapbooks or memory boxes or anything else. The things I want to keep or remember are stuffed in boxes or drawers or stacked in piles in closets I hope you won’t ever get a chance to open. I felt guilty about it for a long time.

Then, maybe because I still wanted to be somebody who kept a journal, I read A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries, by Thomas Mallon. I drank this book. It was full of people and life and writing, and that, maybe, is even better than a tiny golden lock and key. The best part was that it introduced me to the idea of a commonplace book. Like a scrapbook, a commonplace book is a collection of the kind of thing I’ve always written down on scraps of paper, the things I carried in the back of my planner, or left sitting on my desk or dresser: quotes, ideas, notes and letters, lists, books I want to read. That could be my journal. That was my journal, unformed and ungathered. All I needed was that definition, and suddenly—freedom—a whole world unlocked.

*     *     *

During graduate school I worked in a small shop that sold handpainted Italian ceramics—dinnerware and serving bowls and dishes. It was an upscale shop, and I was amused by the people who would come in—people who knew how to do things right—who expressed concern over how they could use the dishes they were thinking of buying.

“Now this bowl—which one is this?”

“That’s the salad bowl. The larger one is the pasta bowl.”

“But what if I want to serve pasta in this smaller one?”

“Well, you can do that. It’s your bowl—use it however you like.”

I was aware of a certain freedom I had, not knowing or caring what size bowl I used to serve food in. I still wonder if, after buying both a salad bowl and a pasta bowl, the people who asked ever felt the freedom to use the bowls the way they saw fit: a gnocci with pesto side dish in the salad bowl, maybe, or a colorful pile of fresh fruit in the pasta bowl.

I wonder about all the things that didn’t count because they didn’t fit the definition. I wonder about all the treasures I looked right at but never saw. 

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

On Mystery and Folded Paper Flowers

“When we are stunned to the place beyond words, we’re finally starting to get somewhere. It is so much more comfortable to think that we know what it all means, what to expect and how it all hangs together. When we are stunned to the place beyond words, when an aspect of life takes us away from being able to chip away at something until it’s down to a manageable size and then to file it nicely away, when all we can say in response is “Wow,” that’s a prayer.”

Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow

*     *     *

I watched a girl recently, drinking at a water fountain on her way out of church, 11, beautiful. I watched a boy walk past her slowly, watching her. After he passed and as he walked down the hall he turned repeatedly to look back at her. When he got to the door outside he stopped, waited, went through. He waited again, holding the door open, while the girl and her family wandered, so slowly, down the hall toward him. He held the door for one person, then another, and finally the girl and her family, even her little sister, who was walking even more slowly than the rest—in the opposite direction, even—and her mother, who saw exactly how long the boy had been standing there and was trying to hurry the little sister along.

When they got outside her mother asked, “Who was that boy who held the door for us?”

“Oh, that’s __________,” the girl answered. “He hates me.”

*     *     *

Folding origami lilies one afternoon with Youngest: we went step-by-step, following diagrams, creasing and unfolding, bending and folding. To her it must have felt like a wrestling match with her square of construction paper. She held up the flat, angular folds after every step. “This doesn’t look like a flower.” She agreed to keep going, though. In the end each of us held a paper flower between our fingers.

Such mystery in all those folds. So much of the process hidden in something that looks not a bit like what you’re trying to make.

*     *     *

I keep coming back to this: how tempting it is to just try to get things down to a manageable size. How little we see, especially when we think we know. How much time we spend with the thing we’re working on during which it looks nothing like what we’re trying/hoping/struggling to create.

I shy away from mystery. I try to insulate myself from it, knowing it can have painfully sharp edges. I try to fashion my world so it can fit in a nice little box, because I fool myself over and over into thinking that that’s what I want.

And then those moments happen—the ones that knock me off my feet, or shake me up, or give me the tiniest glimpse at the beautiful wildness I’m actually living in, and I realize that’s what I want: to live in that mystery—more than what I’m trying to make for myself, more than anything I could imagine. 

Alleluia, Amen.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Medley: 9/29/13

From What Charlie Heard: the Story of the American Composer Charles Ives, by Mordicai Gerstein, Frances Foster Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002:
Charlie grew older and became ill. He had to stop writing music. He and Harmony lived in the country. He had hundreds of pieces of music that had never been performed, all on paper, all silent. Charlie continued to send his music out into the world. But few people had anything encouraging to say.
“If only they would open their ears,” he said to Harmony, “they might open their hearts.”

Watching the face of one of The Violin Project students while I read this book to them Friday afternoon: I wish I could share with you the concern and intensity with which he listened.

“’Every one of us has an artist in us,’ he says. ‘Really, some may be asleep and some are fully awake, you know. So I think I have a kind of commitment to waking up some people in whom it is asleep. Teaching—my work is still teaching.’”



It rained this weekend. We were glad.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just Words

concatenate kän-`ka-tə-nāt v: to link together in a series or chain
battue ba-`tü n: the beating of woods and bushes to flush game; also: a hunt in which this procedure is used

Two definitions I can’t get out of my head. They’ve been floating in the background since they appeared, one after the next in my Word a Day calendar,  during my first two days of sickness.

They’re not really words I want to walk around using. But their meanings seem to have their own soul-sound, separate and more gentle than their spoken sound. The meanings, and the timing of them, linger.

to link together in a series or chain

Do you do this? With books, for instance? One leads to another, which leads to another, and you look back and find they have been stepping stones across a river of despair, or lack of faith, or confusion. Or with music—one song, one composer, one album leads to another and you find your taste, your self, who you want to be?

the beating of woods and bushes to flush game

Maybe at one time or another you have felt yourself—mind, body, and soul—working on something. Waiting for some answer or insight. But it can’t be forced. It may be years before you can look back and see it. Or, maybe more accurately, years before you can look back and see it better. Always, maybe, it will be through a glass darkly. And still you find yourself beating at things, hoping something will come fluttering out into the light.

They’re just words, but they’ve been talking to me about a process. Being sick has fed into it, too. I feel both like I’ve been chasing something out and like I’ve been following a path, linking light to light, insight to insight, to get myself where I need to be.

That’s where you are right now. Physically and otherwise. That’s you.

I feel like I’m writing to you from some foreign place, friends. Today, day 10 of pneumonia, is the first day I’ve noticed a real difference in my breathing. And I still need to rest.

And these words—just words, but also a presence with me in this strange place—they speak of things that are just and true:

Sometimes you have to wait.

Sometimes you have to keep making links, following the chain where it leads.

Sometimes you have to flush out what’s hiding. Even that, I suppose, takes a fair amount of waiting. 

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oh Joy

“I think it’s all done now.”

“What’s done, honey?”

“Well, you know how you were supposed to rest? Because of your cough? You’ve been resting a lot, and I think it’s all done now.”

That was Sunday afternoon, a few hours into my rest. It’s not done. (And Youngest is not feeling any more patient today.)

In exchange for being sent home instead of being admitted to the hospital for pneumonia, I’ve promised to be very, very good and rest. And, honestly, my lungs are helping me back that promise up.

Sleep is another story, due to some of my medications. Walking, laughing, talking all wear me out. Internally I am running marathons.

But I am resting. Couch-or-bed, mostly. Oh joy.

The thing is, it is so not boring.

I finished some assigned reading (from Oldest):

And some more assigned reading (from Youngest):

(I finished my assigned reading from Middle a while back):

I’ve also been (much more slowly, because it's rich and delectable and true) reading this and oh—loving it so much:


Doctor Who with Oldest.

A bracelet-making tutorial with Middle.

Coloring with Youngest.

Lunch in bed today with several guests.

Resting—Oh, joy!

I admit I’ve been dealing with deep discouragement. Getting sick is the least of it, although it’s a very large cherry on top. (And I love the cherry, by the way, fake as it is, especially if you will give it to me without the whipped cream. But you know what I mean, right?)

Here is something I know about creativity: to flourish, it often needs limits. Walls. Trouble, even, if you want to think of it that way.

Maybe beauty is the same way—the kind you want, not the kind you think you want.

Maybe it’s that way with all good things. Light in the darkness, water when you’re thirsty, warmth in the cold.



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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Crawl Inside

Last night, cleaning up in the kitchen, I caught the tail end of Bruckner 8. I didn’t know about Bruckner until college, but the first time I read through his 7th Symphony I knew I had been waiting to hear and play this music all my life. It is music I wish I could crawl inside of, especially those big, glorious endings.

I wanted to share it with you—this ending I heard at the end of a long day, after casting about with  a prayer that amounted to show me something beautiful. Remind me.

The music was beautiful. I got to crawl inside it just a little bit, and then I finished loading the dishwasher and  got on YouTube. And I found this version. The coda (ending) starts at 4:00, and the piece ends about 2 ½ minutes later, and there’s a moment when the music stops, before the conductor lowers his baton—watch his face. Do you see it? Something of a crumbling, a moment suspended between two worlds, and  finally release—it is done. He was deep inside that music. I have felt what I saw on his face, although not as often as I'd like. Making art doesn’t always work like that, not in my experience, at least. There are too many things that can get in the way. But sometimes it does work that way and you find yourself deep inside, and that is a wonderful, soul-feeding moment.

I’m thinking now of a favorite passage in Winnie-the-Pooh when Pooh gets stuck half-in, half-out of Rabbit’s hole. Christopher Robin tells him they will have to wait until he gets thinner for his friends to pull him out:

     “I’m afraid no meals,” said Christopher Robin, “because of getting thin quicker. But we will read to you.” 
      Bear began to sigh, and then found he couldn’t because he was so tightly stuck; and a tear rolled down his eye, as he said:
     “Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?”

I figure I can look at art as an escape, or a distraction, or even just background, but I know better. I think in reality it is more like water or air—sustaining, life-giving, essential. A reminder. A place to crawl inside of. Whether we are Wedged Bears in Great Tightness or not.

Next time you find something beautiful, show somebody else. And maybe tell me about it, too.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

What Did You See/What Did You Hear?

Outside I can hear jangly music—it pulls me away from what I’m reading (and I love what I’m reading) because I almost but can’t quite pull a melody out of what I hear. Then I focus on it and realize—it's the sound of an electric saw or sander. The pitches move across the sounds of cars and through walls and windows and into my room in a way that changes them into something more than just mechanical.

I find myself wondering—is it really just mechanical? Somebody close by is making something, or fixing something, or perfecting something. And I heard music for a moment.

*     *     *

I have looked at sunlight glittering on a lake many times and seen diamonds.

As a child I convinced myself that the dust motes I saw floating in beams of sunlight were fairies. So friendly of them, to let themselves be seen. Even now when I see a stream of light glinting with dust, I can feel the magic, just remembering.

And this weekend when green grass suddenly carpeted my part of the world—not ordinary green, but bright and deep, a color that shocks a little after so much white and brown and grey—I took that as proof not only that spring is coming, but that maybe I can hope for other good things as well.

*     *     *

It’s something I love—when one thing becomes another.

And those edges where things meet and combine—that is a favorite place of mine.

An idea crystallizes, a mind expands, a story or picture or melody works itself into a heart and then outward again into a life—these are quiet miracles, but powerful.

I hope you witness one of these miracles today. And if you are so moved, I’d love it if you shared it with me.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

'Tis the Season

Forgive me if you are tired of this music. I am not. Many Decembers of my childhood meant a chance to see “The Nutcracker,” and if I was lucky, “Hansel and Gretel,” as well. So far in my adult life I’ve had the chance to play in the pit for each of them only once, and I loved every moment. Maybe if I’d played them more I would be bored with them, but maybe not. Like grilled cheese sandwiches and butterscotch malts, I suspect some things are just good forever. In my world, at least.

This still slays me.

As does this.

(I checked.)

Duke Ellington’s version of the Nutcracker Suite was new to me (fun vintage promotional video here), but I enjoyed that immensely, as well. And look—an accompanying picture book with CD:

More Nutcracker resources here and here.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful, Day 7: This:

Walking into a pool of warmth and light, you want to stay there and soak it up, don’t you? Cold floor, cold feet—and suddenly warmth.

I am thankful for the times the words of a friend or a book or some other beautiful source have warmed my bare feet. It makes me wish I could move through life from one pool of light to the next, like stones across a river.

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Friday, June 22, 2012


It’s always been a favorite activity—listening to and watching the people around me. There is much to be learned, in a gleaning sort of way. And I’ve learned through the years that I’m not limited to the people immediately around me—listening to people’s stories through books and interviews—that counts, too. It has gotten to be a favorite form of education.

Some recent choice bits of people-watching:

Picture book biographies: Why would anybody ever think that you could graduate from picture books to some “higher form” of literature? The really good ones combine art and language, and sometimes music, too, to tell about the lives of amazing people. With the same rich-in-content-spare-in-words elegance as a poem. I’ve loved reading these to my kids recently:

Louie! by Will Hillenbrand, Philomel Books, 2009 (Loosely-based on the life of Ludwig Bemelmans, creator of Madeline.)

What To Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, Scholastic Press, 2008

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, by Melissa Sweet, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011


The “In Practice” series on  Not geared towards kids, but an adult interested in the creative process can gain much insight listening to musicians talk about their practice space, how they work, and how they interact with their art.

Talk to me—what sorts of people-watching have you done recently?

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

To Share:

• I love happening upon books like this at the library: Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art(Philomel Books, proceeds benefit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.) This is a treasure. Amazing artwork accompanies words of encouragement and wisdom woven into the personal experiences of these artists—I would suggest that this book isn’t just for children, and that you don’t even need to be an aspiring artist to gain a ton from reading it.

This blog post by Justine Musk about minimalism and creativity in a consumer culture spoke to me on a bunch of different levels.

• I heard the end of Brahms’ German Requiem on NPR recently, and realized I didn’t appreciate it nearly enough when I played it way-back-when. Because—well, just listen to it and tell me what you think.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012


I first encountered the word as a word-unto-itself because it is written in bold print at the top of page 222 in the Webster’s New Dictionary and Thesaurus, Concise Edition my mom bought for me to take to college. The idea of a jester’s hat wasn’t new to me, but the idea of the word, all the letters squished together into one thing, was.

The definition seemed maybe a little disappointing at first:

[fōōlz’kap] n a size of writing paper 13 by 16 inches, in the US, originally bearing the watermark of a fool’s cap and bells.

Maybe it’s because I keep running into it, flipping through the fs in search of definitions and useful/beautiful/magical new words, but it turned out to be a word that captured me fully, after all.

Because what would it be like if every page that I put words to bore that mark, reminding me of the possible foolishness of my words?

There is always the danger that what I am mistaking for art or communication is really my pride, my immaturity, my blindness—my complete foolishness, in fact—screaming from the page.

Would I put words on a page like that more carefully? Would the mark serve as a disclaimer to readers, warning of the danger in thinking words could pose as truth—that they could adequately express something as elusive as a thought or feeling? Would it serve as a sort of visual caveat lector—“let the reader beware?”

It is something good to remember—the possibility that I am really only a fool trying to dress up as something I’m not.

There’s another aspect though, to a piece of paper like this, that captures my imagination.

Because what would it be like if every page that I put words to bore this mark, reminding me that there is more than one way to speak the truth?

Sometimes it’s the one dressed as a fool who can say the things that otherwise might not get said: the child who doesn’t know any better, the entertainer who’s there to console, the naïve younger son.

If I had that image right there to remind me, would the words come out more boldly? Would I worry so much about what others thought? Would I have more confidence that true things could speak out of a story, out of something beautiful or humorous—that maybe they had the power to penetrate more deeply that way?

It is something good to remember—the possibility that I might be able to say more dressed as a fool. 

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Thursday, May 17, 2012


A summer schedule is eyeing me, and there are days to fill, and I want to completely ignore the fact that I could easily fill them with laundry and cooking and cleaning and organizing.

There is so much I want to do.

I’m almost done with homeschooling, but I am nowhere near done with my children’s education—I want to focus on being the reader of books, the provider of creative space and art supplies, the encourager, the one who says, “Let’s look that up,” the listener and conversationalist, and—oh yes—the music teacher (or in Oldest’s case, the practice enforcer who promotes regular metronome use.) I’m looking forward to my new role of education supporter-and-supplementer, of focusing more on the stuff our family thinks is magical and fun, and of course I know I’m romanticizing it (I always do, that’s part of my M. O.) but that’s okay.

We could easily fill our days with all that.

But I also want to read this summer. Dickens and E. M. Forster, and Neruda, and Brontë, and Dillard, and Marilynne Robinson, and T. H. White, and Hemmingway, and Didion and so much more.

Also poetry and fairy tales and picture books, which in my mind are sort of all in the same category.

I want to read history voraciously, even though when it comes to reading history I am actually a slow careful nibbler, and an undisciplined and distractible one at that. But still.

I want to make music—I even have some music-making planned, which makes me feel like an honest-to-goodness musician again—and enjoy every second of it thoroughly.

I want to plant things, and run hundreds of miles, and have a thousand good conversations.

I want to take my kids to the pool and feel hot and lazy in the sun.

I want to take them to camp and to concerts and on picnics.

I want to play games and visit family.

I want to walk through the woods and get distracted by bugs and flowers and streams and rocks and whatever-is-rustling-in-the-underbrush and hunting-for-arrowheads and not ever worry about getting back in time for The Next Thing.

I want to write—poetry and blog posts and magical, tender stories that will touch and connect and maybe even make you ache a little.

I know I will have to be practical and responsible—at least sometimes—and I know I want way more than one summer can possibly provide.

The laundry will pile up as always, and rooms will have to be cleaned and organized and kids will get bored and I will want to say, How child? When you grow up you will see how unnecessary boredom is—how what’s lacking is time, not ways to fill it.

But some of this will happen.

I can’t wait.

Oh, summer.

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