holding on/letting go

I wonder what Billy Collins would think about the fact that I had to muscle my way around a rack of paperbacks to access the Poetry section in our local bookstore. Like the Poetry section was small to begin with and then they parked this rack of trade paperbacks in front of it, the implication being …

SONY DSCWho buys poetry anyway?

SONY DSCI was there to buy a book of poems for someone who has cancer. The efforts of the bookstore to hide the poetry and to thwart my intent were in vain, and I came away with the right book of poems in my hand.

SONY DSCI don’t really know this person well enough to choose a novel for them, or even nonfiction, but I know that words can be a lifeboat. So I went for poetry by Billy Collins because the first time I read him, it was during the course of one bath and I was surprised to somehow find myself in cold water, in the almost-dark, and turning the last page of the book.

SONY DSCIt was total poetic gluttony. I was a little ashamed that I didn’t show more restraint, and quite wrinkly.

SONY DSCI hope it was the right choice of book.

SONY DSC{oh my goodness, look at him.}

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SONY DSCI wrote this poem before I knew for sure he was going away. But I already knew. Holding the poem was like that feeling of knowing you’re pregnant, but when you can’t tell anyone yet.

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here’s a portrait of the two of us.

~Curator~

Since this has been my life’s work,

the work that I have strived for the hardest,

loved the best,

the work that has brought me to tears and frustration,

baffled and inspired me,

this work of wonder and miracles

(sometimes all in the same five minutes)

it’s no surprise that I’m terrified.

You were difficult,

pushing every limit,

imperious,

enamored with power

so early.

You may have had some notion

coming here

that you would be a boy prince.

It’s possible that you faced this disappointment

every morning when you woke,

expecting a room of courtiers and satin slippers,

but getting us regular people instead,

the make-your-own-bowl-of-Cheerios sort.

So you really made me

the parent I have become.

As a small person,

you were the Zen master who

switched the tender backs of my knees

every. minute. of. every. day.

to be sure I was fully present,

paying attention,

alive in each moment,

because

YOU

WERE.

Sometimes I just wanted to space out,

tune out.

Have a thought.

But you were there to help me elevate my practice:

work to art

work of art

art of work

heartful work.

I don’t take credit for who you are,

because you were yourself

right from the first moment.

Your eyes were wide,

taking in the panoply of adoring grandparents

and one uncle,

all present at your birth.

You arrived into all this love

and have kept your

eyes wide open

ever since.

But I will take some credit

for the short life you have lived

which has been imperfect,

full of mistakes,

hurt feelings,

the wrong things said and made up for,

angry words,

funny,

loving,

ridiculous,

morning Mom Songs,

zesty word play,

and

“numbers like roads

since there are so many ways to get to each one”

great books shared,

poetry,

debate,

ideas,

Invisible Poker,

“You never forget your first Miss Hannigan,”

amazing and wonderful adults,

laughter,

warmth around the dinner table,

and lavender footbaths

when you were at your worst.

So:

You.

You who made my dream job possible.

My best work and my life’s work.

I’m sending you out,

out there into the big world

of salmon pants and tortoiseshell glasses,

the world of big ideas and some very smart people,

your people,

who will expand your mind and feed your heart

(I won’t say soul because I don’t want you to vomit)

and they’ll finish the work I started.

The waves of panic

hit my heart with your old familiar relentlessness,

mostly in the small moments alone in the car

or late at night

when I can’t keep them away.

Because I know you are ready to go.

Postscript 3/9/15 on the Occasion of his Acceptance:

You’ve outgrown us.
–And I thought we had two more years,

but it’s now.

You’re going.

Just this week,

when we had that kerfuffle about your missing boots,

via text message,

I thought:
This is how I know we’re done here.

SummerSpace

SONY DSCAs promised, if belatedly, more photos from that idyllic evening on Penobscot Bay…SONY DSCSo I’m waiting tables this summer, a new experience for me. And because I like to keep people happy, it’s immensely stressful work because there are so many factors outside of my control. People have been fabulous and patient (new restaurant), and generally lovely. I’m a service person, through and through; it’s something that is a deep part of who I am. SONY DSCI have the house to myself for a few weeks and am enjoying a quiet life and very rare trips to the grocery store. I’m also building a quilt. Sylvan’s Turning 13 Quilt! It’s been two years since I have sewn anything!!! It’s amazing to be back. And I am exploring a new-to-me sewing machine, a true machine, an old Singer from the 1950s which glides smoothly along and is an absolute pleasure to work with. The part that makes me crazy is the placing each square part: it is always impossible (can’t have two same fabrics touching, need an overall balance, etc) and I spent about five hours getting it right (enough). It’s so nice imagining my cozy boy snuggled up inside it…that’s what carries me through the agony of placement.

SONY DSCSONY DSCBut here it comes with a new sense of reality: we have the date when Jonas will be heading off to school. I was typing it into our digital family calendar: “Take Jonas to School.” And then a tiny and very very  mean voice in my head added: …AND LEAVE HIM THERE. (Then I cried.) This happens to all mothers! This isn’t a unique event, in fact it’s absolutely mundane. Every day, forever, mothers have been sending off their children into the big world, and let’s take a moment give thanks for our extreme good fortune that I am sending him off to boarding school and not to fight in a war or to make a new life in a new country. This is how it was always going to be, it’s a part of the job that I signed up for, and this is one way I know I have done it well. SONY DSCSONY DSC—–

6/19/15

The Last Ride

Sometimes you don’t know when it’s the last time

so the occasion slips by unnoticed.

The last time you fell asleep in my arms,

cried in front of me,

needed a reminder to take a shower.

 

It was our last ride to school this morning.

Our playlist was two songs framed around

a biology concept litany,

timed to the length of our commute.

First, “Lilac Wine” by — surprise, I never would have guessed!– Miley Cyrus.

Then cell respiration,

photosynthesis,

acronyms,

words and vocabulary,

a few

of which I recognized,

like hearing another language.

Your voice, reciting,

next to me in the passenger seat,

and me,

just listening to the sounds of your words.

 

Sharing the space with you,

our proximity

was fleeting.

Once, you were the listener:

drinking in all those words and stories spoken

by me to you,

and you were the one making sense of a new language.

 

The final song of our last ride,

“More” by Usher,

is one of your classic pump-up songs.

(More is what you always wanted: more of the world, more time awake, more of everything, stories, time, dessert, information, from your babyhood right to this moment.)

“More” delivered us right to our usual parking space

under the windmill.

Your timing was impeccable.

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Summer Report 1

Summer is just rolling right along in typical breakneck fashion. Here are a few images of what we have been up to. 
Photoshoots on the porch with these rockstars. Dang.

Oh! And THE PORCH.

This porch sometimes impedes my ability to motivate myself to do anything productive. Because you sit out there, screened from the bugs, enjoying shade and pleasant breezes and the songs of birds like this one that I recorded (hermit thrush).

Remember last summer? No relaxing porches for us!

Three hands were needed to tie this hand-made bowtie.


Oh and our anniversary! Sixteen years together! We celebrated with a beautiful dinner at Salt Water Farm in Rockport. We enjoyed lovely company as we overlooked Rockport Harbor—and I had a delicious piece of halibut, so beautifully cooked and presented (no photo, what on earth was I thinking?) in a broth of sorrel with shaved radish and chive florets. Our well-informed server reminded me of Kevin Kline in French Kiss (except with no mustache)—trailer is here.

Well, but it’s still Maine (this was late June), and here I am waiting outside in the blowing, chilly downpour for a concert to start. Silly me, I thought when I finished this Birthday Knitting project (yarn from Madrona, pattern is the Gaptastic Cowl), that I wouldn’t be able to wear it until the fall. Foolish!
(More on this fabulous summer moment later… It needs its own post.)


My Mother’s Day gift this year was a bouquet CSA from Goldenbrook Farm. I get a beautiful, organic bouquet each week for 24 weeks—especially perfect this year when we don’t have much growing around here. These bouquets last! So usually by second week, I am re-making a smaller bouquet, and enjoying our fresh one too. Our farmer and friend Susan is a talented arranger and I am loving the colors and this gift that keeps arriving each week!

{In other news: I am waitressing—trying something new at 40!—at this awesome new restaurant here in the midcoast.}

~gentlemen’s sport~

SONY DSCYesterday, this:

~finish of the Varsity race~

Today, the victors parade through town:
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Well, OK, it was actually the Memorial Day Parade through Camden (then Rockport) with the Maine State High School Boys Crew champs, Megunticook Rowing! Yes, you’re reading the right blog, it’s not a baseball report, Jonas has found his sport: crew.
SONY DSCYesterday our guys team (one boat’s worth) were the victors at the Maine High School championships, hosted graciously by Waynflete in Portland. In the boat were three 8th graders, Jonas, and a post-grad rower. Last week they raced as novices in a regatta in Massachusetts, both boys and girls teams were winners; this week they raced in both the boys JV and Varsity races, and were victorious in both. There was a stiff cross-wind and it looked like really hard work.

When they rounded the corner of the river, it looked like they were far behind. Part of that was our angle, looking upriver, close to the finish; but they actually were behind. But our guys took the corner well and were then able to power forward and overtake the Yarmouth boat! So exciting to watch.

SONY DSC~Jonas coxed the JV race~

SONY DSC ~Tray coxed the V race~
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It’s been great to watch Jonas find his sport with such a fine organization and enjoy the sportsmanship of being on a truly team sport. Our team is so fortunate to be coached by Ry Hills — in the words of a rival school’s coach, she is “one of the best coaches in the country.” What an incredible gift to these young people! Jonas noted that coaching this club is not even a blip on Ry’s august coaching career. Learn more about this sport and Megunticook Rowing in Ry’s own words here.

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On the more relaxed row back up to the dock. It was a pretty awesome way to spend a sunny May Saturday.

motion boy redux

IMG_0919Baseball season: last year of Little League with team Lynx! We are so very very fortunate that Sylvan has been blessed with these incredible coaches who know the game, who understand 10-12 year-old boys, and who keep everything in the right perspective.
IMG_0921So much fun yesterday. It was truly a great game of baseball to watch! Excitement! Extra innings! We were down, then S. hit two in! And he ended the game by stealing home. Seriously! Does it get better? IMG_0930And also that it really was a team effort: lots of great plays and hits, so much support on the field and in the dugout. The opposition was tough and our boys worked hard.IMG_0931 IMG_0932 IMG_0933This boy. So at home on any ball field with any ball or sport or group at play. And yet here we are: Sunday night math homework. The focus is often everywhere and anywhere but here, now, on the paper in front of him. Excruciating. Frustrating. Exhausting. Sometimes there is swearing, yelling, loss of patience, tears. One time I gave him a clipboard and told him to not sit down but to pace around while he worked.IMG_0967This morning he sat down and wrote a creative short story for THREE HOURS. And it was good! Really good! That is some focus that a professional writer would envy.IMG_0969When I see the beauty that he is when he is meeting the moment, moving, playing, pursuing his writing, engaging with others, caring for small children, this is where he shines. It’s like the math hurts his soul. Yes, yes, it’s important to do hard things, push ourselves, work through it, etc. But I wish I could make it less painful.IMG_0940This 9 year-old MVP had a magnet in his glove for our balls yesterday. He was a tiny, coiled spring of energy, beaming with joy, and so fun to watch (even when he was getting us out!). One favorite moment of the day was when his catch ended an inning and he ran off the field and took a flying leap into his dad’s/coach’s arms from about 4 feet away. We all kind of fell in love with him.

~moonrise~

DSC_3252We had this gift the other night, of the May full moonrise. If you’ve been reading this blog, or in the northeast, you know what kind of winter we had: freaktastic amazeballs! It was really something, the roof-jumping and epic shoveling, sledding down our dirt road with Mr. Crafty one afternoon, and sparkling mornings when I was almost late for work taking pictures of all the beauty. And me, I’m a cozy, winter-loving soul! I love it absolutely and fiercely and I would never complain. Or move to any place without four seasons.

DSC_3258In Maine we have two big seasons, winter/summer, and two small seasons, fall/spring. Having grown up in Massachusetts, just a wee bit south, I internalized a more equal time frame for the seasons; spring comes a few weeks earlier down there and fall lasts just a bit longer. So up here, things do tend to drag on a bit long, and I am always ready for summer and winter to be done. They just stay a smidge too long. And when the next season comes, it’s so amazing because we are *so* ready.

DSC_3255The other night I got into bed early to read. And as is the usual pattern, it’s like a superpower sense for my boys/husband, they feel it immediately and they FLOCK to my room. Of course, I will always put my book down and give them my attention instead: which tie goes with what shirt, did I care to know about something obscure (always), did I know where _________ is?, what’s another word for _______?, loveyou/goodnight, etc. So first came Sylvan for a goodnight; then Mr. Crafty came in and turned off the lights: “Look outside! It’s incredible!”

DSC_3247So we laid in bed, the three of us—oh, wait! Here comes Jonas to make it four! —and we looked out the bedroom window at the rising spring moon. The high clouds made a halo around that golden peach, but the halo was the most unusual shade of iridescent bronze. Each bud on the branches of the trees was silhouetted in that creamy, glowing light. And the rest of the sky was slate colored, more gray and blue than black. Every now and then there were thicker clouds that would scuttle by the moon’s face, obscuring it, and this was the thrilling part: watching the moon and colors go dark, then emerge again. All snuggled up, we took it in together.

Better than my book.

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writing from the heart

 So this writing practice, going on for 38 non-consecutive days now, has been a highlight of this winter/spring. Mostly poems are what happen when I write, even some that I have shared here. Sometimes the writing opens these doors into the past, just by giving time and attention to even one small aspect, more details come and memories that I didn’t know I had. But a lot of times, what I am writing about is the present. And I think about how the photography and poetry are just two different manifestations of the same impulse: to show you something ordinary so you see it or think about it differently.


Knitting update:
The Birthday Knitting has slowed to a crawl. I am knitting the Gaptastic Cowl which is SEED STITCH, easy, slow, and boring at best, and I have now ripped it out twice. But the third time is the charm. It’s a beautiful gray yarn (like the photo in the pattern), so very squishy and yummy, and I am not upset about the ripping out part. With so many things in life that cannot be redone, why not relish those opportunities to make things exactly how you envision them?
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the alternative education program and, as always, I found myself completely moved by seeing/participating in alt ed in action. I was there to ask them to work on writing content about their program for our high school’s website. As is typical in most alt ed programs, it was mostly boys, about 15 boys, 3 girls. (We could talk about why traditional education seems to be failing our young men…).

So we sat around this table together, 7 students, 2 teachers and me. I introduced the idea of having them tell the story of what their program is, outlining the Description, Philosophy, and Rationale, instead of having the program director write it. And I don’t know what they thought of me, but I was completely floored by them. I had written some guiding questions to get them going and shared those by reading them aloud. They had questions for me, articulated their thoughts, asked intelligent questions of each other and of their teacher. There was a high level of comfort with the process and each other. What it felt like was engaged learning at its finest, youth empowerment before my eyes, and the level of engagement felt more like a college or private school classroom than a public high school classroom. I able to reflect back to them what I was seeing and how impressed I was.

IMG_0409Yet my heart broke when the students expressed frustration at how they are perceived: as delinquents, drop outs and problem kids, pregnant girls, drug users. But here they are: showing up for an education that has not been easy, and in a public school institution that has failed them, and now they have this second chance. Do the students know how lucky they are to have landed in this program (and some who come, don’t last it’s true)? That what they are getting IS different from regular school and wow, it’s freaking awesome.

As I was leaving, shutting the door, I heard one student say: “This is exciting! As long as we can write from the heart.”