Saturday, April 19, 2014

Farm Stay, Rural PA

The farm stay vacation (2 nights in a converted pig sty, the coldest spring days with temperatures below freezing).  I look at these photographs and think how well they would suit album covers, or novel jackets.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How I Feel

like the dinner the dog ate,
and then threw up;
like a rusty muffler dragging;
like a dag of salt-grey snow hardened behind a front tire;
like a blackened banana in  a backpack
under a water bottle;
like bread toasted too long
and buttered anyway;
like an old grease stain on a freshly laundered shirt;
like the sound cats make
like ice cream left on the counter overnight;
like a stove-top espresso maker with used grounds in it
that no one can unscrew;
like a dirty cast with unravelling edges;
like a hat lost in an alley
still wet from rain two days ago;
like I need to sleep,
perhaps for a year.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let it go

Idina Menzel's "Let it go" from Frozen is clearly going to be the anthem of Clara's childhood.  She sings it endlessly, and has memorized the complicated lyrics with their sometimes counter-intuitive phrasing.  She's not alone.  I stood on Roland Avenue the other day hearing young girls singing it without being able to see exactly where their voices were coming from.  In the pool changing room?  Likewise: a young swim team of female voices attempting to "turn away and slam the door," Broadway-style.  It's pretty cool, actually, to watch zeitgeist happen and take hold.

As a grown-up, it feels like perhaps Clara, or all these young girls, are unconsciously tapping in to the anxiety and fear of change welling up in their mothers.  (Tell me, how many people, how many mothers, do you know who do not feel like recent months or years have resulted in a "swirling storm inside"?  Exactly.  None, right?)

It feels like things are changing in this world, land is sliding, buildings are falling, rain is coming, tides are roaring: Menzel voices the possibility of elation arising from chilling catastrophe. Who doesn't need the relief of that possibility?

Winton broke his arm this year, coinciding with my workplace downgrading our health insurance so that we now have medical bills for "deductibles" not covered by the insurer.  Taxes are due, and they were approximately triple what I was expecting.  Yesterday the house was burgled.

Let it go: certainly there's no holding on to material aspirations as the money streams away.

There is so much I want to cling tight to.  So tight.
I want to cling to my children and to the ways of being with them I have enjoyed in past years.  I want to cling to that and I want things to change, to move beyond this transitional time.

I feel like I am treading water in a canal lock: deep, cold, black-looking water.  The surface is deceptively still, but water is pouring out under the canal gates.  Hard to say whether hypothermia or the undertow will get me first.

There should be a clear plan or resolve to go forwards with . . .

My best hope is that it is possible that "home" and "good mother" can be made from my cupping of a child's chin in my hand and looking love at them, of an unexpectedly successful joke lightening the work of a mundane moment, of a moment of play that arises unexpectedly in the midst of whatever fresh angst the world has offered up, of a good meal, a warm blanket, a calming heart.  These I aspire to.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Books and Lowering the Bar

I just read Paul Theroux's Dark Star (a travel narrative chronicling the author's journey from Cairo to Cape Town overland).  Now I am 40 pages in to Peter Godwin's When A Crocodile Eats the Sun (a white Zimbabwean's memoir).

The two remind me that my scant contact with the African continent (6 weeks in Ghana over two visits) had a profound enough impact that my memory remains crowded with red earth, baobabs and the sound of women pounding fufu.

There is a branch of my father's family that extends deep into Namibia.  It is odd, unsettling, to read memoirs like Godwin's and feel myself at one remove from white Africa.  Only one remove for it is Uncle Harry and his family (my cousins) who reside over there.

Reading about Africa (Theroux) and about the wives/ mothers in remote African locations (Godwin . . . and also Alexandra Fuller of Don't Let's Go the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat) also makes me wish I was mothering in a remote African location in which simply surviving, and simply trying to keep your children alive, is recognized as a mammoth task.  Survival is not guaranteed in the third world.  A good mother feeds her children and tries to prevent them from catching guinea worm.

In the first world, survival is still not guaranteed (children die, children fall and break bones), but keeping your children alive is taken for granted.  Of course they will live.  You have to make sure they live, and here in the first world it is so easy, comparatively.

But here in the first world you must also ensure that your children are:
enrolled in character-building sports
knowledgeable about art and art history
culturally sensitive
globally aware
good community citizens
athletic and bookish
outdoorsy and diligent about completing their homework
bonded well and fairly to both parents
deeply connected with extended family
confident but not arrogant
and above all, and again, happy

It would be easier, so much easier, if this list could be reduced to "You must ensure your children are: alive (circumstances permitting)."