Sunday, November 29, 2009

empty shoes

My father-in-law passed away over the weekend.  He was a man of big dreams and lots of disappointments.  In the last ten years, he lost his wife, both his legs and a baby granddaughter.  Too much loss.

We're never very far away from death, I know.  But it's always a bit of a slap in the face when you realize just how close it is and just how irreversible.

The children don't understand what must seem like our callous acceptance of this horror.  The business of obituaries and services, phone calls and flowers seems as ridiculous as the idea of death itself. 

Why isn't Daddy crying, they want to know. 

He has, I say.  He will, I say.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I think there's something happening in there. . .

Will you come with me?

Do you hear fluttering?  Are those feathers?  Look what's roosted.

Sometimes when the world feels way too precarious, it's fun to live in another place, where the clean napkins strewn across the laundry room might be exotic birds who will nest and lay eggs amongst the towels and mismatched socks.  Later, the eggs hatch baby birds like you've never seen; shadows of gorgeous, melodious whispers that deliver reassurance and wisdom.

Are there any birds roosting in your house?

Monday, November 23, 2009

bits & pieces

A selection of bits & pieces that E found on our weekend walk.

With a straight face, she told me tonight that in fashion black does not go with white.  Only black goes with black.  Don't tell Black House White Market, or whatever that store is.  She is my daughter, however, and there've been many times when I've put on black pants with a white shirt and decided, no way.  White pants with a black shirt, yes.  But black pants, white shirt is too reminiscent of waitstaff or ushers or the clothes you wear for school choir performances.

Then, after we discussed black and white clothing, she told me she wants to go incognito on our little Thanksgiving jaunt.  She'll be wearing a white wig and black combat boots.  I love that girl.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


This weekend we tried to start a fire without artificial means.  Just to see if we could.  These were our materials:

We made friction until our arms ached and our fingers tingled.

You've got to give it up for our peeps in the stone age.  Yikes.  The idea that you could actually create fire seems really, utterly ambitious.  And ridiculous.  Why would they ever think that was within their power?  Friction into fire.  Huh.  

In the end, we went for a walk and spotted this blaze in the yard:

And then we rested.  Non-friction.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

sew in love

Remember that thing about my 22 year old self and what she'd think of my life?  Well, I made two more pillows this weekend and I'm still trying to get my 37 year old self to understand how it is that I can hardly imagine a more pleasant use of an evening, so I'm afraid the 22 year old is simply standing in the middle of the road with her mouth gaping open, stunned.

If only there were a writing machine that mimicked the action of a sewing machine.  You choose the shade, the shape, the length, the texture and then just push the pedal, listen to the motor make that beautiful sound and, voila, you have yourself a pretty little paragraph.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I had to smile at myself last night after I posted.  Pay attention, I told the strangers.  How much do I miss in a given day?  Tons.  But it didn't stop me from climbing on my soapbox.  Then I laughed because there was a place we went when I was in high school--an empty stretch of sand--that we called Soapbox.  There, we did all manner of things we couldn't do in crowded daylight, but it would have been really funny if we all gathered there every weekend to listen to one another's overblown rhetoric.  To open the gates of our collective social consciousness.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

that stranger thing

On a freezing February morning during the rush of commuting, a guy pulls out his violin and starts to play.  Have you seen him?  If you're lucky enough to take public transport, of course you have.  Did you notice him?  Did you evaluate his talent with any kind of meaningful criteria?  Did you applaud his efforts on that cold day?  Or did you walk on by with the rest of the world?

The Washington Post did this little inquiry in 2007 and they placed the musician (who happened to look like just a guy but who was actually one of the most famous musicians in the world) with a violin (that happened to look like any violin but was actually worth 3.5 million) playing one of Bach's most intricate pieces of music (but which may have been drowned by the sound of people's hurrying) and he collected exactly 32 dollars over the course of one hour.  6 people stopped to listen for a few moments.  The irony is that a week before, this same guy (maybe in different clothes) played for a sold-out crowd in Boston, each of whom paid $100 for the chance to hear him.

So what does it all mean?

Obviously, we need to pay a little closer attention to the world around us.  But not just so that we can spot the celebrities and get the free $100 concert.  So that we actually give one another the small gift of noticing.  Hey, you too?  You're alive here with me, cold, shivering, making beautiful music, moving toward another day?  Nice.
Why do we find it so remarkable that a famous musician can stand in the subway unnoticed, while fine, non-famous musicians do it all the time?  Why is it a travesty that no one noticed the $3.5 million dollar violin, and not a travesty that you can insure that violin but not a person who's had high blood pressure?  Shouldn't we all aim to pay more attention to one another, regardless of the price we could command at the box office?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

brown paper packages. . .

I wasn't the only relic yesterday. There was this ancient frog.

And a well-preserved squid.

Both of whom now belong to me. There was also a really beautiful piece of art that I will post once it finds its place on the wall and a lovely homemade reminder to make that list:  A table of contents for a most enjoyable 38th year.

I always did like brown paper packages.

Monday, November 16, 2009

lie down with me

Do they know that someday they will sleep alone?  All alone in some dreary place away from everyone who loves them?  Isn’t this a certainty, one time or another?  The first night at college?  The night after the end of a love affair?  The airport hotel in some faraway land?  At least they will have this memory of their mother, on her birthday, forsaking her nightly sewing in order to snuggle in beside them, if only for a moment.  Do they know?  Is that why they tug at my hem, coax me in with the warm, aching scent of their little future selves?  Are they adding to their stash?  Or are they adding to mine?  For the next time I have to sleep all alone. 


It’s Monday morning and I’m a year older.  But that’s okay.  I’m still married to a college guy.  I feel grateful that I get to be 37 years old and also not a day over 22.  It’s a little bit like time traveling.  I drive a van, fix breakfast, lunch & dinner for two adorable children, sleep beside a 41 year old man, vacuum the edges and the rugs a couple times a month—all things which my previously 22 year old self would have dreaded—yet I’m utterly fulfilled.  And yet that 22 year old lingers stubbornly within me.  Laughs at me when she sees our reflection in the minivan, rolls her eyes at the rules I’ve made up about sweets and bedtimes, and marvels at my ability to fix (and eat!) tuna salad.

I made myself a pillow to commemorate the occasion.

We have to make our own happiness in life, right?  Not sit around and wait for the party to arrive.  Besides, who could possibly guess that I'd like a burlap pillow with my age stenciled on it?

I also started talking to strangers.  Like you. . .