Wednesday, March 4, 2015

whatever we lose(like a you or a me)

Last week I went to the store for groceries and when I came home the bananas slipped out of the bag and landed in the snow, and something about that image of brilliant tropical fruit on a snow bank filled me with such wild longing. Today I went to the store and brought home bananas and I ate one standing at the window, sun pouring over. Things in their place.

Now there is sun on my toes and on my shoulder and pouring over the keyboard. Child emerges with the sun tangled in her hair and a white tank top slipping off a brown shoulder. Today is a long blue day. Small rhythms. We will stretch, play, listen. I am so thankful.

I love our latest poetry memory, for while we are in Florida:
maggie and milly and molly and may
E. E. Cummings
maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

The Piano Tuner
The redeeming qualities of this book are it's setting and truly mystical sense of faraway lands, legends and curses, the entrancing qualities of music, beauty, a search for something one cannot name. The writing is dreamlike and haunting. And yet the plot did not match the setting and prose. I was irritated by the main character- by his inexplicable choices and what felt like forced tension of the story. I suppose I am meant to notice the literary devices, and be left pondering what happened or what was fantasy. But I just didn't connect with the character enough to really care.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What I learned in February

Winter, you are lovely but I have my limits. We wintered valiantly. We fled joyfully.

I mastered hot chocolate and crispy oven fries. We drank dozens and dozens of cups of hot drinks. I can make hot chocolate faster than it takes the kids to get their boots off.

Writing fiction will scare the bejeezus out of you. I've reached the point in my novel that suddenly feels like standing in a room with no clothes on, and I'm running for cover. I'm not sure I have the guts to expose myself, or if it is time for a rewrite, or just to put it away for a while or maybe forever.

I learned the very best way to weather a long, long, loooong stretch of being home inside with small people for manymanymany days: The Chronicles of Narnia on audio, radio theatre version. Best investment we ever made. Best cure for February evenings. 

I learned what I want in a kitchen. (Want: a good window, plenty of lighting, a place for the Kitchenaid, a charging station and mail drop that is out of sight. Don't want: Formica).

Here is the kitchen before:

and now:

I learned never to tell my children about something they will anticipate more than four weeks in advance. I heard about going to Florida All! Day! Long! for weeks! and weeks! They began packing in January. The anxiety level of the entire house was through the roof for weeks. There is something to be said for anticipation but oh, my word.

I loved February for the homesteading and all, but I will admit: we ran out of steam. Homeschooling is hard in February. There was so much arguing and complaining. We usually can maintain a pretty steady pace but by the end I was lonely and the kids were bored. My self-talk: Everyone wants to quit in February. Also, so long as we homeschool, we will hit the road in some form or another at this time every year. A change of scenery is part of the curriculum. 

We did a lot of interior house projects like painting and Jim stuffed insulation into every crevice of the house.  

I began to make art again. The kids are old enough now not to eat the oil paints, and there is a spot in the basement just right for painting, and I am remembering how energizing and addictive it is. I love the meditative process of art making, and I am constantly finding new metaphors. Like how much good art I've covered up and lost by trying to perfect it, and how art- and life-- grace- beauty-- is as much about knowing when to pause as it is about effort.

And that was our February. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

the big homeschool perk

We leave for Florida soon. The girls can talk of nothing else.

It feels so indulgent, I feel so spoiled rotten- we will stay for nearly three weeks this year!

(This is the flip side of September when I jealously look at all the back to school pictures every year ;-). )

My parents winter in Florida and we visit them every year, but this is the first year in which we are taking full advantage of having no children in school, and making a good long trip of it. While we are gone, my brother and sister in law will be installing my new kitchen!

I can hardly believe it. I am as excited as the kids.

I'm glad we waited until this late in the season to travel. I enjoy these dark mysterious months, the winter storms and hibernation. And the anticipation of leaving it.

I have no agenda.
My original plan was to claim the early morning hours each day to write, head down, finish the manuscript. But I am putting it all away. This year I'm entering vacation with palms up, fists unclenched.

I'm looking forward to experiencing the greater part of Lent from a new place. Change is good for the soul, and I am in a place of listening.

We will bring along the books and have a few hours of lessons in the mornings. My only goal is to exercise- which hasn't happened in oh, about five months.

One book: Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
I loved this book. I got it on sale on my kindle app, and read it at night when I couldn't sleep, or early in the mornings before I got up. It was especially appropriate during these dark weeks of winter. It is a book about the night, about darkness and how we avoid it, the mistaken assumptions we make about darkness as something negative.
The dark night is God's best gift to you, intended for your liberation. It is about freeing you from your ideas about God, your attachment to all the benefits you have been promised for believing in God, your devotion to the spiritual practices that are supposed to make you feel closer to God, your dedication to doing and believing all the right things about God, your positive and negative evaluations of yourself as a believer in God, your tactics for manipulating God, and your sure cures for doubting God. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

prove all things

If I would die early one thought comes to mind: the closets. The seasonal clothes. The this and that which only I know where it belongs or how to sort it. I imagine the house gradually becoming buried beneath clutter because nobody but the mother knows just how much of her life is given to moving things from one place to another. That is pretty much all I do. Move things.  

I know the impending doom of clothes that don't fit or coaxing a child out of out-of-season clothing, or finding that one lost shoe if I'm not organized. If died young I'm pretty sure I'd come back from the dead to make sure Jim remembers to toss out the leggings with holes in the knees and to label the bins.

Which is why it has given me such irrational satisfaction to move into a small house.

The theme of our winter has been to pare. I've pared the heck out of everything we own, and I just keep going. I can't believe how much we've drug from house to house that we don't need. Even still I'm finding one more box which can be reduced and divided, one more shelf to condense. I could die at peace now knowing my family will be able to find the birth certificates, and the tent under the steps, and the warranty for the couch.

It isn't just the house.

I've been over-analyzing and scrutinizing my life like it's a little house with no storage. To correctly order my affections.

Every night I ask myself, what meaningful work did I do today? What was meaningless? What to keep, what to let go?

There are a lot of things which can take up a lot of a life's space, and I love to yes. It is my first inclination. Being a stay at home mom came with this burden of guilt for me, so I felt like I needed to be very busy, and I had to say yes to everything. I regret the hurry. I'm finally realizing that I don't have to allow it all into my life. I can say no.

I want to pay attention. I want to live with my whole heart and not a thousand distracted, fragmented pieces.

It began with our summer of rest and maybe I am learning how to live from a state of rest. I am the most relaxed mom I've ever been this winter.

Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.
1 Thess 5:21

Saturday, February 21, 2015

what if I quit?

It would be okay, of course. 

The world will continue with rivers of words. New and lovely books will stack upon one another. I will eventually run out of long evenings but never of long books.

Quit. I hate the word. It nags at my edges. 
Like the branch tapping at my window all winter with her brown, dead leaves. 

The trees haven't quit, losing their leaves. 

It is okay to let go. 
New life will come.