Things to Write About

I want to write about the turtles.  Griffin and I were out on our afternoon walk yesterday,  stooped by the side of the pond.  When I picked my head up, there they were.  Three turtles sunning on some rocks across the pond from us. We walked closer, spooked two of them into the water, but watched the one old geezer for a while.  We sat quiet and still, hoping that the other two might come back.  Eventually we got up, brushed the damp grass from our legs, and marched back to the car.  That last turtle hardly moved to notice us. I want to write about this, to think about it and remember it.

I want to write about Renee getting her ears pierced. She knows it, too, and keeps asking, “Mama, did you write about me yet?” Oh, girl. I want to write about her bravery, her courage, her choice.  It’s been probably nine months in the works, this idea of pierced ears.  She’s been scared, aware of the hurt, the logistics of this thing.  She researched, asking friend after friend about their experiences.  And then she decided she was ready.  That morning, she cried at the pierce.  Then it was over.  It’s already taken the form of a story, much like the stories Renee’s friends shared with her, like the stories the women in the piercing shop told.  I want to write about the bigger picture, about choosing hard things, about Renee being fearfully fearless.

I want to write about Kindergarten Kickoff.  Griffin, the youngest of my gang, is getting ready for school kindergarten.  The school does a nice job of transitioning the little ones, giving them lots of opportunities to see the school, meet the teachers, see the classrooms.  But it’s still just a waiting game of time, and he has just three short weeks left of preschool.  It’s been a heart tug as each of my kids has made this slow climb, but it’s especially emotional with him, my last.  I want to write about this very mixed time, this holding tight and then feeling suffocated; this letting go and feeling unmoored.

I want to write about spring break, about those magic moments when all three kids are gelling.  I want to write about the privilege I have to bear witness to this.  I want to write about hosting an Easter celebration, about gathering family in my space. I want to write about the slack line, about balance. I want to write, again, about following the kids into the freedom of fun.  I want to write about the chainsaw, about yard work, about investing in our house, our home, our family.

I want to write about the weird weather, the indecisiveness of this season.  Sunny and hot, then chilly and damp, and back again.  Dressing in layers, ready to peel each off in response to whatever the day may bring. I want to remember how the forsythia started to bloom early this year, then took a beating when we got a dumping of snow.  They continue to stretch forth, bigger and thicker every year despite, but the yellow bloomed less fully this year.  I’m drawn to the sunshine, outside almost always, and so very susceptible to the darkening mood that comes with the clouds, the rain. I want to remember this discomfort – the ambivalence even in this landscape around me.

These are mostly just notes to me. I want to write about all of this, to come back to each of these things that strike something in my heart.  Big swooping life changing things, and tiny small heart-pauses.  And I will, I’ll come back around to these things, mine them for deeper, more polished treasures.  But here’s where I’m leaving my little scribbles for now.

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That’s a Wrap

It hasn’t been easy for me to find time, or energy, or words, or creativity inspiration or motivation or whatever this year to be present in this space, to think and write and share life. But as 2016 draws to a close and I’m peeking into 2017 I thought it was worth taking note of how I’ve been shaped by this past year.

I actually really relish the new year for this prescribed reflection.  And to really reflect, thoughtfully, about the year, I need to remember what this year held.

In 2016:

– Mark got to show off his work to the whole family when we took a trip into the city to see the luxury apartments at the top of Liberty 2.  Big, big project for him; hard, hard work.  To see it in person blew me away.  The view from the 57th is probably worth the steep price tag of these apartments, and to think it was he view every day for a long time.

– We had one lone snow storm, though it was colossal.  Two feet, plus, of snow, all at once.  We shoveled, and shoveled, and shoveled.  Then we played.

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– Mark learned how to brew beer with Mike, our brother-in-law.  It’s challenged their creativity and problem solving in the ever-evolving process, and given them a whole new level to find connection.

– My cousin, Jess, turned 40.  Again, another moment to pause and reflect, to honor and exhort.  Above all else, to celebrate.

– My own birthday initiated a “Supper Club” with dear friends that are just like family to us.  Super thankful for the mostly once-a-month chance to connect with people who have been part of our lives a very, very long time, but who live too far away to be part of our everyday lives.

– We cheered Tobin’s rugby team into playoffs, and our hearts broke when they lost in the semi-finals.  The grit and heart and sportsmanship that these women display in inspiring.

– Emily graduated from Temple.  Not only did she graduate, but she was the speaker for the School of Education graduation!  So many big feelings on this day.  So, so glad to watch in happen.

– Mark and I celebrated 14 years of marriage.  We took a hike, just the two of us, and had a mediocre super-expensive steak.  We keep walking, one foot in front of the other, to the 15 year mark. Some days are better than others, but they are our days, and trade them I would not.

– We traveled, and traipsed, and traversed.  We adventured and explored.  Camping at Hickory Run, beach time in Avalon and Long Beach Island.  Setting out to the mountains of Vermont.  Like most adventures, these were all punctuated with moments of true glory and joy, though sometimes it was real work to get there (Looking at you, six hour car drive.  And you, too, thunderstorms).

– We had small adventures, too. Taking local hikes, playing and sliding and climbing at Kids Castle, tasting fresh-off-the-conveyor belt potato chips at the Herr Factory, making our own art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

– By far one of the highlights of this year was the giant 200 foot Slip and Slide down the hill at the Connetts, with my bible study women and our families.  I love the ingenuity and creativity that made it come together, and the spirit of fun and play.  What a gift to have the freedom to be silly and brave, together with my family, but also with these grown women that are dear to me.  But, oh the bruises I had the day after!  My body is not as resilient as those of the kids.

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– I attended Hippocamp 2016.  I don’t even know how to talk about this, honestly.  It was such a stretch for me to say yes to this writing conference, to take the time and money away from the family and do something that was so clearly just for me.  But I am so glad that I did.  I felt like a grown up.  A person with interests and opinions and a brain of my own.  Mary Karr signed my copy of her book, and took a picture with me.  I came home with pages of notes, validated and inspired to write.

– I’ve continued to be on the reading panel for Hippocampus Magazine, as I did for part of last year.  I’ve taken on increasing responsibility with Hippocampus, and now also serve as a copy-editor for the press side of things.  Turns out, I really love the behind-the-scenes business of what makes a literary magazine, and I especially love the online community of readers as we hash out pieces.  There is brave, life-affirming art being done in these quiet places and I’m honored to have a small part in giving breath and space to this art.

– In the Fall, Grant began third grade; Renee, first; and Griffin, pre-k.  I cried when the big kids climbed the school bus steps, not because I’m sad that they are growing up, but because I truly miss their company when they are gone all day.  And so does Griffin.

– We made dreams a reality by enclosing our front porch and adding space to our family room.  This project certainly will carry into 2017, but I am proud of our vision and our bravery to commit to this house, to this space.  I’m proud of my do-it-all husband, and the amount of time and energy he has poured into our home.  It’s a happy home.

– There was the the disaster of the 2016 election. I rode a roller coaster of emotion that day and the days that follow, and I’m proud to have saved my Hillary Clinton yard sign.  We at least have each other, people.

– I took on a chairperson role in the Angel Committee at the elementary school.  I’m super thankful for my co-chair, Danielle.  We made a really good team, and I’m really proud of the work that we did – organizing the food drive to make Thanksgiving baskets for families within our own school community, and the gift drive to so that these families can be blessed at Christmastime.  I’m thankful for the generous spirit of our school, and I’m proud of our work.

-Mark has continued to lead in his work, I think surprising even himself when he steps out of his comfort zone to tackle new types of construction projects.  His success caught the eye of his big boss, which is always a good thing.

– We continue to deepen our roots and relationship in our own small community.  Often it’s been by investing in the relationships inspired by the kids’ own friends.  I love that I almost never go to the grocery store without running into a familiar face.  We now know our neighbors on our road, which is kind of a miracle considering the busy road we live on! And an old, old friend moved close enough to be considered an almost-neighbor (at under a mile away, I think it counts).

Something that stands out to me about 2016 is how important our relationships are and how we continue to prioritize them above most other things.  Whether it’s committed family time, date nights, backyard barbecues, or impromptu play-dates our time reflects our desire to see and to know each other and the people in our lives.  I hope we continue in this vein in 2017.

Another thing that is less obvious from this list, but obvious to me as I look back on our pictures and stories of 2016, is our continued love for being outside.  Our backyard, the woods, camping, hiking, playing soccer, sitting on the sand next to the ocean, exploring tidal pools in the back bay, bundled up in cooler weather – it remains our happy place, the pure drug of fresh air and vitamin D.

A list of events and accomplishments, even one as diverse as this, only gives a certain two-dimensional picture of the year.  It’s helpful to look at these black and white, concrete things to get a sense of growth and find appreciation and gratitude for where we’ve come.  But it fails to color-in the nuance of our emotional, mental, spiritual, psychological energetic growth and challenges, which often don’t match up to the more black and white picture of things.  This is where I get to do my own deeper thinking and reflecting.  I have felt a sort of psychological itching and discomfort this year, and I think I’m on the edge of some sort growth spurt, something like a cocooning before a metamorphosis.

Cheers to 2017, friends.

{If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve said about previous years, check out: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015}

 

 

 

Our Old House

I’ve told you before about our house – this sweet cape cod house, nestled high on the hill, tall trees towering over us like giants, nesting crows cawing to us like rowdy neighbors.  This house has been home to us for over ten years, now.  Ten growing, stretching, becoming years.

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Six weeks ago, I took a sledgehammer to the cinderblock wall of our front porch.  I was surprised by the weight of the sledgehammer, heavier than I expected.  The heft of it made it hard to cock back for a good swing.  But I did, over and over, knocking a full row of blocks to crumble into the front garden.  I smiled with satisfaction, then handed the sledgehammer back to Mark, leaving him to do the muscle work.  The kids and I put gloves on and, careful to avoid the men at work, carried block and pieces of house away and into the dumpster in the driveway.

The porch was coming down.

Mark and I have talked ’round and round this house for years.  For years, the conversations have spiraled in and out and around the options – moving, building, adding, sacrificing, surviving, thriving.  And we landed here, on this day, with sledgehammers and gloves, knocking down to rebuild.  Our awkward, paint-peeling red front porch was being re-purposed, given new life, by enclosing it and making it part of our living space.  Addition.  The former exterior wall was coming down, doubling our family room, our main living space.  Subtraction.

Because this project has lived in Mark’s head for close to two years, the details have been nailed into place meticulously, delicately.  Each phase has gone well, with limited surprises.  That first day, porch demolition day, the kids and I hung around enough of the day to see many exciting things happen, but knew well enough to mostly leave Mark and his friends to their work.

The transformation has been breath-taking, and life giving (and also patience-pushing, and time-consuming).

We’re living in the middle of a construction zone. I have to stand on a ladder to flick the switch on the plastic cage covering a single light bulb to light the family room.  The exposed stucco of one former exterior wall is just looking for knuckles to scrape.  There is dust and dirt everywhere.  And bugs.  Lady bugs and stink bugs find every hole from the outside and come in to check the place out, too.

My carpenter-husband still has a day job.  Family responsibilities still tie us up, pulling us away from this space, away from the next thing on the list.  It’s a work in progress, like anything else in life.

I’ve told the kids no to play dates for fear that the exposed insulation, the sharp edges of metal, the rough-hewn surfaces would be too hard to explain, to difficult to keep kids safe.  I’m not sure where all the toys have gotten to, things boxed up and cast off into every corner of every room.  I’ve hesitated hosting friends for dinner because the space is unfinished, and disorganized.

Lying in bed at night, I arrange furniture in my head.  I pick paint colors, wonder about flooring.  Change my mind a hundred times. Throw out every thing we own and start again.  I’m eager to make the space feel like home.  I envision the holiday gatherings we’ll have here, the turkey on the table, mismatched chairs gathered from other rooms, holding our loved ones. I see the kids on their bellies playing board games, warming themselves by the wood stove that will eventually go in the corner.  There will be space enough.

I get so caught up in my visioning, my dreaming and hoping and planning, that what I really want is the big “ta-da” moment.  The emotional equivalent to pulling the blindfold off to the drumroll for the big reveal, your hand over your mouth as you gasp in amazement.  I want to hold out, to wait, until it’s polished and ready, to welcome you in.  I want to give you the before picture and have you walk right into the after, finished and topped off with mood lighting and delicious smells coming from the kitchen, the big impressive sweep of change.

I don’t want you to see the work-in-progress. It’s not that I want to hide our hard work.   I’m not embarrassed by the grit, the mess.  That’s not it at all.  It’s that it feels unimpressive to me, less dramatic.  Seeing each step along the way, walking through the back door because there are no front stairs yet, there is no “ta-da” moment, no drama of the reveal. But reality is not always dramatic.  It’s work.  It’s the work of sledgehammer and saws.  It’s the work of hundreds of trips to the dumpster, another run to Home Depot.  It’s the reality that depends on the strong backs of good friends.  Friends that have shown up each step of the way, to pound hammers, to sweep floors, to share tools and expertise.  The reality is that the each step of the way, we are dependent on this community of people.

So maybe each step of the way I need to open my doors, my house, my construction zone to my people.

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Here’s what I think: you want to see the work in progress.  Are you dying to see what it looks like, now that the wall is down?  Maybe you want to help brainstorm what to do about that light fixture, or what color you like best for the walls.  You want to know what went in to building this space, shaping our home each phase of the project.  When you come to the dressed-up table, with its candles and jewels, you’ll be able to look around and know what it took to build this space.  You’ll see my fingerprints in it, maybe even yours.

Less dramatic, sure.  But absolutely real.

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The kids have begun to have friends over again.  We’ll celebrate Renee’s birthday with family here this week.  So welcome to the hard work and the mess – won’t you come in and see?

Hi.

Knock, knock.  Anyone home?

I know, I know.  It’s been a while.  Ok, more than a while.  Are we still friends?  Will you still listen?

Man, my mind has been busy.  I’ve written a thousand times, in the car, in the grocery store, pushing a kid on the swing.  Sometimes just to say, this.  This is beautiful.  (Sometimes to say I am a mess, a mess, a mess).  But how would you know, friend?  Because it hasn’t been here, in this space.

The words in my head have not made it very far.

There’s writing, and then there’s writing.   I have lost track, really, of why I started this blog to begin with, and I’ve become frozen by this idea that my words here need to be big, important, and polished.  That I need to say SOMETHING.  But really, really, what I was doing here when I first started writing this blog years ago was noticing.  Paying attention.  Writing it down.  Trying to understand it.  Telling you about it.

Instagram is hugely popular, maybe for this reason.  I don’t know, I’m not on Instagram.  But I get the sense from those who are that it helps them notice.  Pay attention to the world.  Notice the beauty.  Notice the broken.  Notice that the broken and the beautiful are often the same thing.  By taking a picture, hashtagging it and sharing it across a social network, it becomes noteworthy, and holds a record. Maybe even begins to make sense of something.  Now I’m sure that not everything Instagrammed is beautiful or particularly noteworthy, but that’s where it starts, right?  With turning the lens to something, focusing in, framing it somehow to make meaning. Sharing it with the world.

Photos aren’t my thing.  Words are.

This is exactly what this blog did in the beginning.  It gave me a way focus my lens, a frame with which to see my beautiful, broken, tiny world.  It was a way to record moments, small moments and big ones, so that I could go back and see.  See the journey I was on, note it’s wanderings, connect the emotions with a greater arc, imbue them maybe even with a sense of meaning.

I started this blog five and a half years ago.  I hardly recognize myself in those early posts.  I had a three-and-a-half-year old, and an 18-month old.  Only two kids.  My life was small in the way teeny tiny children can make it, days divided by naps and baths and snacks.  Simple, though never easy.  I found meaning, in those small days, by opening my eyes to the smallness, letting it become bigness.

I could not have anticipated the busted-up hearts that would come.  I could never have guessed the people that would walk into my heart, my life, my kitchen or count the ones that don’t hold the same place anymore.  The things my lens focused on then are so very different from where my gaze rests now.  There are moments here that are so small that had I not laid it out here, in this space, I don’t think I’d remember it.  I would have lost that small beauty.  These small beauties all add up to tell a story, one that I need to go back and read every once in a while.

All of this just reminds me, convicts me really, of why it is important to show up in this space.  The sun rises, the sun sets, we put away our summer shorts and pull out our wool sweaters.  And with every moment we are growing, stretching, learning – honoring and witnessing the beauty.

I have three kids (have for a while, now).  8, 6 (almost, almost 7) and 4.  We are busy in ways I couldn’t have guessed five years ago.  But it’s a different pace, an awkward pace at times.  I have struggled more than I thought I would to find my stride in this awkward pace.  I have more “free” time than I did when I started this blog, but more guilt about how to use that time.  I am still just as frustrated by bedtime, and probably just as tired.  The kids say less funny things, and ask harder questions.  I still cry more than most people, and have yet to find the balance between saying not enough and too much.

I haven’t given up trying to polish up my words, rubbing down the rough edges to make them better, best.  But that’s not what this space is for.  This is where it all begins.

Aiming my lens, focusing in, seeing the small moments before they are gone.

Friend, I’m back, if you’ll have me.

 

changing landscapes

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The storm came in quickly. I remember seeing a warning for a thunderstorm at some point, but had written it off as a typical summer’s day – hot and humid and always a threat of impending doom to ruin afternoon plans. Mark was working late, which is something that we as a family have adjusted to, another familiar landscape that is changing. The kids were watching a few minutes of TV to simmer themselves into quiet after a day of summer play and swimming lessons. After finishing some quick work on the computer, I snuggled into the couch between them all, hoping that maybe it would go unnoticed if I closed my eyes for a brief moment before making dinner.

The lights pulsed, dimming and then coming bright again. I hadn’t even noticed the sky grow dark, but it certainly had. I couldn’t see any rain, yet, but knew it was only a matter of time. The wind was picking up, and I could see the tell-tale sign of the pale green underside of the leaves waving around. With the next gust of wind, the TV flickered off, and that is when the shrieks and cries of worry began. First, it was the disappointment of losing their show, but it quickly escalated to a tizzy of panic when the lights didn’t immediately come back on. Renee looked out the window just in time to see power lines dance with a wildness none of had ever seen.

Then everything happened all at once. My phone screamed at me to tell me of a tornado warning. I chased the kids, all crying, into the basement, dragging Maggie, the family dog, and a lantern with us. Passing the kitchen windows, we could see already a huge branch from one of the giant tulip poplars had blown down, crashing into one of our pear trees, where it stuck, entangled in the branches. Through the crying, the questions from the kids were rapid fire, leaving little pause for me to answer: “Is it a tornado? Will our house blow away? But we don’t live in Kansas! What’s going to happen? What about the electricity? Will we have to sleep down here? Will Daddy be able to get home? What are we going to do?” It’s in these moments of panic that I find myself most at home in my mothering. I stay calm. I hold hands, answer questions, do the next thing. The adrenaline roars through my body, and I think I know what my cave-mother ancestor must feel. Only after the storm is over do I let myself succumb to my own inner anxiety, and sheer exhaustion of mothering.

After the storm, we crept into the yard to inspect the damage. It’s not evident at first, but tends to reveal itself in the days following. This storm was destructive. A branch I had thought was fine turns brown quickly, an indication of its break from its life-giving tree. We spend the next few days driving some back country roads to survey the toll of the storm, the kids pointing strongly, shouting “damage!” every time they see a tree down. Some transformations are slight – the branch, still full and lush and green, that is outside my bedroom window hangs closer than it did, pushed lower and out by the storm. We spend days dragging limbs into the woods. I pay the kids a penny per twig to clean up the driveway.   The skyline of my back yard is different. Changed.

It has been a season of changing landscapes. Things that were once as familiar as the freckles and veins on the back of my hand seem foreign to me now.

It continues to change.

As long as we’ve lived in this little house-on-the-hill we have had a vacant wooded lot catty-corner to our property. We have long used these woods to cut through to the neighborhood behind us, and further still to the sports center and beyond. These dense woods have afforded deer and other animals the cover that they seek out, and the tall, thick trees have added density to the canopy that hems us in.

Someone bought that plot of land this spring. Then, just last week, they began cutting down trees, tying pink ribbons on the giant ones marked to come down, clearing space for a house. One hot morning, I opened the back door to sit on the patio with my coffee and I heard the roar of chainsaws. Thinking not much of it at first (after all, chainsaws have been roaring strong and fierce in the aftermath of that storm), I then heard the creak and crack and then the crash of a felled tree. This was not simply clearing debris. The kids and I stormed up the hill, to see with our own eyes. Dozens upon dozens trees, already down or marked as such.

I wanted to wave my hands, shout at the top of my lungs. I wanted to say that nobody had asked me! I didn’t get any warning! Tears stung at my eyes, and I couldn’t quite rationalize why. I slowly walked back down the hill, turning to look back when I reached my patio. Already, there was more sky than I was used to seeing, big holes in the canopy cover of green.

It has unnerved me, this change in my view.

Sure, I feel this grief for big important reasons, like the ecology of my intimate environment. The kids keep talking about the squirrels and the birds, and I feel swirled into the idea of growth and life and death.

But deep down I know it shakes me on a more personal level. Falsely, I had come to know this landscape as mine. These trees were my view, with my morning coffee on the patio, the backdrop as the kids run through the sprinkler and leap into the splash pool. It is what I see at night, the moon descending below the trees, when I sit with Mark around the fire pit.

But I don’t own those trees. Don’t own them any more than I own the sun and the clouds.

I came inside, to my familiar family room with its familiar piles of paper and same old furniture, and I began moving things. My desk went from one end of the room to the other. The TV is at the opposite end now. Little things, baskets of books, end tables, all rearranged. Standing back to survey the change, I realized how crazy this all seemed.

Isn’t that how it is, though? When the outside landscape changes in ways that seem so dramatic and sudden and out of my control, I go inward and insist on control in my interior space.

My scenery is constantly changing in such minute ways, too. The flowers in the front garden bloom and, overnight, fade. Grant tells me that his hair grows one millimeter every ten days. There countless ways that the things that I look upon are in constant flux – birth, growth, death, decay. Perhaps it’s refreshing to experience the shock and intensity of this present destruction. It forces me to see it for what it is, instead of growing numb to change over time.

This landscape has changed. The skyline up the hill and beyond my house is different. It will take time to learn the shape of it, but I will. It feels all wrong now – light in the wrong places, shadows drifting unfamiliarly across the grass. But it won’t always.   Someday this new landscape will feel as familiar as the veins and freckles on the back of my hand.

 

the writing life

Is it weird to tell you how hard it has been for me to write?  Because it is hard.  To find time, sure, but to choose the time, too.  Because we all know this: there is time for the things that matter.  Sometimes the thing that I’m choosing to matter is rest: to sleep a bit later in the morning instead of yanking my bleary-eyed self out of bed to stare at a blinking cursor. Of course, there are the things that matter always: packing lunches, and brushing little ones’ teeth, and paying bills.  Sometimes, even, the thing that matters most is sitting with my face in the sunshine and doing very little.

When I’ve been away this long, I have a hard time catching you up.  But the truth is there isn’t much to catch up on: the kids are growing, we’re marching one foot in front of the other like everybody else, through soccer practices, and homework and preschool pick up. Through making dinner, and maddening bedtime routines, and reminders to stop all the shouting.  There’s BIG STUFF, and little stuff, and everything in between.  We’re finding ourselves outside mostly, because it’s that type of weather, and we’re filthy-dirty at the end of the day. That’s life, isn’t it?  Maybe the catching up is more in my own head, because it’s never quiet, never still there.

I’m writing, sure, even if it’s not here.  There’s always something going, always an idea, or a project, or just a sentence, even.  But if I’m honest with myself, I’ve also been avoiding writing.  It’s hard work, don’t you know?  And while it feeds me, truly deeply is the thing that stirs my soul, it can be so difficult to do it.  For so many reasons.

Anne Lamott is known to have said that in order to be a writer, one has to glue one’s butt in the seat and write.  Stick it out, and do it.  This is wise in that the only way to do something is, of course, to do it.  (Here I am, glued to my seat, finding the words, tapping them out).

But to glue myself to the writer’s chair it takes me from where I’m most needed now: in my home, as the mother of this family. It is downright messy and unbeautiful to unglue something, or more accurately rip it off – I’m envisioning ragged edges and apologetic offerings. There is very little flexibility in this line of thinking.

I have found that I have a remarkably low ability to multi-task (or, more rightly, that I can multi-task, getting things done, but with only mediocre results).  I can make dinner, while helping with homework and braiding hair, but inevitably I’ve forgotten if I was at two teaspoons, or three, or that the worksheet was addition and not subtraction.  What I’m saying is this: writing, good writing, real writing, takes my entire brain.  My entire being, really.  It’s not something that I can enter lightly, or leave easily.

A room of one’s own may be the exact prescription, here.  Virginia Woolf’s observations that concentrated creativity can be groomed out of luxurious sequestering does seem indeed both and truthful, and indulgent.  If what I’m saying is that in order to think clearly, and therefore write clearly, I need to enter into time and space with my whole brain and body, then yes, there is truth to this prescription.  But I also know this: without the volume and mass of life around me, I have not little to write about.

But maybe that’s it exactly: that being a writer is so pervasive that it seeps into all these other aspects of my life.  Just as I’m a mother, always, even when I’m all by myself in the grocery store, nary a kid of mine around (this has only happened to me, like, twice) so also am I a writer, always, even when my fingers aren’t at the keyboard. It is simply truth that I can’t turn my writer brain off.  In any ordinary day, I’m forming sentences, jotting notes, describing whole scenes in mind alone . I’m paying attention to my life, seeing these ordinary things and holding them to the light, turning them around, feeling them from underneath, observing the shadows.

Maybe this whole “gluing to your seat” thing still applies, just not the way I’ve been thinking about it.  Maybe it has more to do with gluing myself to my life.  Staying here, staying in it.  Maybe it’s about escaping less, and sticking through the hard stuff.  The boring stuff, the tedium, even the straight up pull-my-hair-out hard stuff.  It’s about continuing to scribble notes on the back of a groceries lists and old envelopes, or talking into my phone while I’m driving.  It’s about noticing the sound the last autumn’s leaves make as they tumbled down the hill, pushed by the warm spring air.  It’s about noticing what is going on underneath it the surface, mining life for the truths that connect us to each other.  It’s about simply finding pockets of time to tap away at the keyboard, stringing it all together, not in a room of my own, but on the laptop at the kitchen table next to the kids who are pounding out their own play-doh masterpieces.

That’s my experience of being a writer. Glued to the seat of life, with pen in hand.

Bring it On

I was late getting out of bed today.  It was dark, still.  A bitter cold had settled on our old house over night.  I was wrapped in thick swaths of comfort and warmth, and though I knew the day beckoned, it was easier still to resist.

I did get out of bed, later than I should’ve, padding to the bathroom only after checking the thermostat.  Looking out that window, I watched the light play on the snow-covered yard. It felt darker than it should be.  The blue-light of almost-dawn lay eery shadows on the snow.  The swings gave rides to invisible friends as they gently rocked in the wind.  My eyes were drawn up the spindly naked trees, stretching skyward.

There was the moon, just a few days past full, hovering like an ornament, hung in those trees, adorning the morning.  Strong, luminescent, gently glowing with fuzzy edges.

I wasn’t late at all.

*

While I love the chance to reflect, I carry little pomp and circumstance from the end of one year into the beginning of the next.  We don’t often get wrapped up in New Year’s Eve celebrations, and our New Year’s day probably looks much like the rest of our life: quiet and together, maybe seeking out sunshine and fresh air.

I’m not big on resolutions, and I’ve had a tenuous relationship with “goals” in the more formal sense.  I’m not a linear thinker, not a type-A planner.  While I may really love lists, they tend to be more suggestive than directive, and I want my lists to look pretty and include beautiful things in them, too. In the past I’ve done the whole “one word” thing – it’s been fun, and useful, and challenging, and freeing.

This year feels different to me, though.  2014 was a life-shifting, perspective-gaining year, and I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to forget the heart-swelling reality of all that was etched in my heart by reducing it down.  I’m not doing “one word” this year.  I’m not making resolutions, setting goals, making lists.

But because of this, 2015 feels vibrant.  It feels full of color and opportunity.  From where I am, with a pinky toe into it, it feels like fresh air.

*

I struggle with the notion that I am supposed to be a better person this year than last, or even a more fuller version of myself.  From my perspective, life looks to be more spiral-like, more weaving in and out, up and down, and less like a climb.  While it can be tempting to make building blocks out of our time, clicking Lego-like foundations one on top of the other, I can’t quite get myself to say that I’m always on an upward trajectory.  Sometimes I’m not. That’s where resolutions fall a bit flat, I’d say.  If last year I was going to learn Chinese, than it supposes that I’ve done that, and can build upon it this coming year, say by resolving to plan a trip to China.  Life is not as boring and fundamental as a syllabus for a class.

Sometimes, I like the version of myself from years past better than the one I am today.  Isn’t there something about innocence that we know we want to hold on to, something about the traits that we love best in ourselves before they get covered up with the cynicism of life?  I think there is.  How do you resolve, then, to take apart what you’ve built, one Lego block at a time, to create something new?

Just as truthfully, I can cringe at versions of my younger self. I’m thankful that I’m not who I once was, and grateful for every next day that I have the chance to rearrange myself again and again.

I am growing, and learning, and becoming a version of myself that resonates deeply with my soul, but my experience has felt a lot more like trial and error than a check list of things to accomplish. Sometimes it takes a dip into the past to teach me something of the future.  Sometimes its taking steps backwards, or upside down even.  Sometimes its standing still.

I want to stay soft.  I want to be teachable, mold-able, grow-able.  Less like Legos, more like Play-doh.  And this year, it means not being strung up with goals, or lists, or words, but being smushable and flexible.

2015 will have no resolutions.  I will make no check lists; I will not a choose a word.  I will not clench my hands tightly around any one thing, but lay it all in my open palms.

*

We do have some intentions for 2015.

The kids will cook more in the kitchen.  I will drink my coffee black.

Light

Be outside as much as possible.  Grow things from the ground.  Seek the smokey benediction of the campfire.  Pay attention – to each other, to the moment, to the world.  Less whining, from all of us.  Look for the light –  casting shadows through the trees, sparkling the dust motes in the family room, coloring the sky with pinks and oranges.  See it. Love without boundaries.  Take risks, big and small.  Be thankful, always.

See the unexpected moon arcing homeward, sliding down the smooth bark of the trees. I’m not late at all.