dreamy

It was a three-day weekend for my birthday! Surprise snow day on Friday added an element of restful leisure to my life — so grateful for that!

~winter cheering up quilt is coming along~


There was time for weekend chores plus some low-key add-ins: a spontaneous dinner with friends, and a lovely afternoon snow-shoe in all that blue and white sparkle. We wended our way through a wooded path that hugged the ocean’s edge; I was on some of those old classic snow shoes, all wood and cat gut (or whatever… don’t tell me!), with such great fishy-shaped prints!

Here’s what I’m reading: Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier, for book club. And to keep the Russian theme going: City of Thieves by David Benioff about the siege of Leningrad. Good winter reading.


It’s not that I’m feeling old or morbid or anything. I’m 41 years young! It’s just that I read perhaps the most succinct and exquisite eulogy this week, about someone’s pet hedgehog. It was a beautiful piece of writing. After reading it, I truly felt I knew something about who this creature was. 

Eulogy for Myself, After Clare’s Eulogy for her Deceased Hedgehog

February 6, 2016

I don’t know many other people who loved getting into bed so much that you would sometimes shriek with glee.

You hated stepping on Rice Krispies, were indifferent to historical dates, and would rather have had another natural childbirth than vomit, but you loved red shoes, enjoyed hanging laundry on a clothesline, and watching the snow fall.

You always hoped to see an owl sitting in the tree outside your bedroom and, though it happened rarely in your life, swimming and playing in tropical waters was an immediate short-circuit to joy.

One of your special talents was knowing the exact moment when a loved one drifted off to sleep, but you incorrectly estimated the amount of yarn needed to either cast on or off in most knitting projects, almost every time.

You remembered musical tunes, not lyrics, and provided your family with great amusement singing along to the words you thought you heard.

Being a mother was your life’s work: the most difficult and most rewarding thing you ever did. Your work outside of the home called upon some of the same skill sets you learned as a mom: listening with all of your senses, helping people find things, communicate with each other, to love books, to be kind, and to clean up after themselves.

So long, you lover of hedgehogs, chubby baby feet, and pillows of verdant moss. We’ll toss a Rice Krispie on the floor and think of you.

Fondly.

sunday quiet.


Now we’re into November and you know how I feel about her. I’ve been doing things this fall, soccer games and new job and all that. Soccer is so emotionally draining to watch and it is about the last sport I would ever want to play. There’s so much anticipation of goals and then at the last minute… doesn’t happen. Such a tease. The merry-go-round of the week just keeps whirling along and apparently eating dinner every night is *still* a thing.

And you know what that means: going to the grocery store. And thinking about what to make. I don’t need a housecleaner or a chef, I just want a meal planner and personal shopper. And I love everyone and I love my community, I really do, but sometimes I count my blessings in NOT seeing anyone I know at the store. (And in case you’re going to tell me to shop at a different store, that idea is right out because I like the set-up of my store the best). Other times I see lots of friends and it’s like a party, my main way of socializing. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I have discovered a great time to shop is Sunday mornings between 9-10: only the heathens are there and it’s very quiet.
Above, we have the toothpick bridge that Sylvansanity made with his group, Rainbow Bridges (“Cross Water with Color”). Every time a rainbow appears in LA (where they are head-quartered), Rainbow Bridges donates $1000 to cancer research. They also have a non-smoking policy on their job site because the health of their workers and clients, as well as the community, is of the utmost importance. It was a great bridge and it held quite a bit of weight. If you are wondering about the hole in the middle, it was so the bridges could have weight hung on them to test their strength.

Someone gave me flowers for the library and the morning light was just perfect on them.
  

Being Thirteen and a Boy

Being thirteen and a boy
means your whole body is transforming
before my eyes.
You are visibly taller when you stagger down the stairs each morning,
hair aloft.
In last year’s school picture,
you still had a slight curve of cheek.
Now it’s all chiseled.
Someone said boys go through about five noses
before they arrive at the keeper.

And let’s talk about your brain!
Suddenly you know math facts!
6×9=54 BOOM
Suddenly you retain math processes,
and none of us are feeling tortured by your homework.
You even remember your homework!

Just this week you rediscovered baths
after eschewing them for years:
a warm bath after soccer practice isn’t so bad.
Tableau on the bath mat:
3 matchbox cars
Gumby
Poky

You remembered to hang up your towel.

So much was done.

These two: mostly brothers from way way back. They were two of the quietest small boys in their kindergarten, just sitting near each other, mostly in silence. They had some big plans recently, things to finish up in advance of Jonas’s departure. Such as the above world map, painted on Jonas’s wall. They had traced it out using  a projector earlier this year and then got down to brass tacks and painted it, over the course of 8 hours in one day.

The next day they walked from our house to his house, which are 31 miles apart. The result was a lot of blisters, but they were hardcore (being 16 and 18, respectively), and so they ran the last two miles in the dark (with flourescent shirts and headlamps). There is no limit to what these two can do, obviously, and they also made videos of both adventures which, annoyingly, are not on YouTube so I can’t share them.
SONY DSC

SONY DSC
~tiny whales on a bowtie! little Magrittes for a lover of apples!~

SONY DSCThen, there was the preparation to leave, which included the usual packing up and organizing, but also just for fun, finishing up an online AP class right down to the wire, and for extra extra fun, wisdom teeth extraction! I have a whole poem about the waiting room experience, vis a vis listening to classic rock and all the most important news (everything Tom Brady), all. morning.long.

These ties and bowties are from a few of his fans. I sent out a little invitation to participate in a tie/bowtie send-off and they came through! I presented them to him while he was recovering from the teeth surgery— little colorful packages and notes of encouragement. Think of all that love, living in his closet this year.
SONY DSC
This love note was written on our steps on the morning of his departure, a little art from a friend who came in the night for a last goodbye. I got teary then.
SONY DSC
I made his bed in his dorm room. No top sheet, his forever preference. His room overlooks one of the quads, so green and shady.
SONY DSC
SONY DSC

SONY DSC
~science building~

Leaving him, I felt awestruck. And as the week has progressed, the adjustment is settling in with the just three of us. Mostly the part that is hard is that I can’t read him every moment, to know how he really is. But this is the new life! Moving forward and on his own, the same way it was strange when he went off to kindergarten and there were whole parts of his life that I was suddenly no longer part of. Letting go and trusting, just some of the biggest themes of parenting.

SONY DSC
~library!~
SONY DSC
~a history classroom in the library~

Here’s a poem about our golden boy who still lives at home…


 

Last Summer Sleep

Your arm was extended in repose,

golden wrist and hand limned in that ray of early September sun.

The rumpled nest of quilts

were pooled around your sleeping form,

and I watched you

breathing in and out—

that beautiful line of your elbow and arm rising up to meet your wrist,

like Adam’s casual response to God’s outstretched forefinger.

 

God was making all the effort.

And Adam was like,

“…whatever,”

lounging back in the nude,

a bit laissez faire, if you ask me,

in the face of God’s intensity of *capital-C* Creation.

Like He was on some sort of cosmic merry-go-round

and if He didn’t put out his finger just right in that exact moment,

really quickly,

—and despite that terribly awkward position—

He might have missed the golden ring.

“Dammit, Adam, could you at least sit up? And put out your finger! Come on man, make an effort!”

 

There you were,

enjoying that last delicious sleep of the summer.

Your face was relaxed,

captured so perfectly between

teenage man-boy

and baby,

depending on how I shifted my gaze.

 

Your hair was perfect,

even in sleep.

SONY DSC

 

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.}

SONY DSC

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.

SONY DSC
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.

SONY DSC

 

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.”

Trees and Tracks

So how am I doing with the Jonas Leaving part? I’ve been getting asked this question a lot. But I guess it’s not so sudden for me, since I’ve been processing it already for about three months. Actually, now there is almost a sense of relief—he was accepted and the decision has been made. The hardest part was not knowing what the outcome would be, the stress of amped up focus (on wellness, on all the hoops for jumping through), the worry for “what if he goes?” and “what if he doesn’t go?”It hits me in the car when I am driving alone. This year, we share a commute to school together: such a gift. I have my own private DJ every day, who tortures me with Michael Bublé (hilarious, right, that this crooner is my form of torture?), but will also choose songs he knows I like in equal measure. And we always pull into the school driveway on a pump-up song, played loud. We also talk.So when that passenger seat is empty and I’m driving my usual route alone (rare, but it happens), and I have to pick out my own playlist (no one is selecting music by request), and there’s no one to talk to or process with, and no one to tell me about a computer simulation he was doing online to balance the national debt, or about how I could be parenting Sylvan better or differently, or about the conundrum of separation of church and state yet it’s OK to swear on a holy book (why not swear on the Constitution, if you please?), it’s in those quiet, boring moments that sometimes just a few sobs come out.        When we visited the school, I was almost crying too, being there and recognizing a place that seemed so right for this boy. How will it feel for our family to be suddenly three? How will it be for Sylvan to be our only? I can only take just the one step at a time right now. But since I’m a trusting sort of optimist, I think it will be like our life is: mostly great, with occasional bumps. We’re lucky. So lucky. Spring Walk Poem

I started the day resentful of the cold, the dark, of the getting up part.

Sleep just kept pulling me down like drowning back into the seductive warmth of my bed.

It was also a take-Sylvan-to-school-with-me-extra-early day — another body to feed, prepare, nag, jolly and mobilize on time.

So thank god he wore his Superman socks because we needed all the help we could get.

23 degrees felt nearly tropical, so we had that going for us. But I forgot my hat.

The afternoon, however, was gentle.

When I got home, all I wanted was a walk.

The air was fresh, the sun was warm,

and the ground eased under my feet with spring mud-softness.

In the shadows there was still that snap on my neck,

and back to hard brown ice, crunching and slick.

Every step had to be mindful, nothing certain or expected about the surface of the earth.

My feet were leading, a sensory organ,

and I was observing fine details:

the brown lace edge of a puddle

and the lazy swirls of mud water trickling in a crack.

It looked like solid ground, but with one confident step forward

my boot squished deeply into brown frosting

—a trick!—

so airy and light that I wanted to sink my bare, pale winter foot right into it,

up to my ankle,

wiggling my toes into that smooth, cold wetness.