Friday, December 21, 2012

Healing

On Tuesday, the snow turned to rain, and the rain brought fog. The gingerbread boys went back to school. The youngest participated in an Ellis Island immigration simulation. The children dressed up in historical costumes, chose a name and a country, and with a lucky draw ended up in first or second class accommodations. The rest were shuttled like cattle into steerage.

The outline of a boat was taped off on the gymnasium floor. The children crowded together into the "ship," and one of the teachers read letters from passengers until they reached Ellis Island, heralded by the principal, who was dressed as Lady Liberty. After eating a snack of bananas, which is what immigrants at Ellis Island were given, they were sent to processing for medical, legal, and psychological questioning. You were assigned to be a Special Inquirer, asking the children questions such as, "Are you married? Do you have any money?"

At the end, the children performed choreography to "Coming to America," taught by the PE teacher. You stood there in costume, with other costumed parents, with such mixed emotions. Love for your gingerbread boy, gratitude for teachers, sorrow for others, pride for country, dismay for our society.

On Wednesday, you woke up not thinking about the awful thing, though it flitted through your head multiple times during the day, always accompanied by tears. You taught the eldest gingerbread boy to sew that night, in between making gingerbread cookies and cutting homemade marshmallows. He needed a costume. A whale costume. A whale costume with laser eyes. A whale costume with laser eyes AND stilts. If you can pull that one off, anything's possible. Maybe life will go on, you think.

On Thursday, you went to the temple. As you headed towards Boston, you drove past a mini-cooper with a vanity plate saying TUMNUS. Your eyes were drawn to it -- did it really say TUMNUS or are your eyes playing tricks on you?

Yes, it really said TUMNUS.

How funny. How ironic, since you've been living in Narnia the past week. The license plate reminds you that there was more to Narnia than winter. There were true friends and good people. There was Aslan.

When you reached the temple, it was quiet and calm, an atmosphere you've desperately needed in the past week. You walked from one area of the temple to another, and a woman greets you. "Merry Christmas!" she said, smiling as she opened the door for you.

You're momentarily stunned. Yes, Christmas. It's the end of December, isn't it? Christmas is next week.

You looked up at her. "Merry Christmas!" you replied.

On this solstice, winter's only starting, but the days are getting longer, and Christmas is right around the corner. Perhaps Aslan is even on the move.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Haunted

You are haunted by this enormous bad thing. Mercifully, you are given the gift of a snow day, one more day to keep the gingerbread boys home, away from wagging mouths that might take their innocence. You know you can't protect them forever, but from this, you must at least try. It is too horrific for adults to process, let alone the twelve-and-under crowd. Oh, they know something happened, but they are ignorant of the details. You pray they remain so.

You yourself have had nightmares about it; your usual nightmares never connect to reality, but spring forth the strange brainchild of a cross between a post-apocolyptic read and a snack that brings on unimaginable weirdness.

But this.

This is pain. This is grieving. This is scraping the edges of a possibility too awful to contemplate.

Even in your deep faith and knowledge of an eternal life and a loving Father in Heaven, you are stunned by this. Caught in the abyss between nightmares and sleeplessness. Caught in the web of societal pain that seemingly knows no bound.

You hug the gingerbread boys, and feel guilty when you snap at them for behaviors that should not be tolerated. You think, what if this were to happen to them? What if the thread of their fragile life were to be clipped--snip!--just like that, and you were left with the memory of your discipline, your irritation, your lack of patience towards them. The weight of your own long list of faults nearly suffocates you. You feel the burden of how you just don't meet your own expectations as a parent.

You decide to go for a walk. Some exercise will do you good. But you find yourself at the corner of the next street over, the corner where the crowded pine trees grow. Covered with snow, they look exactly like Narnia. And you find yourself thinking that it's always winter and never Christmas. Even with Christmas just eight days away, it feels like it will always be winter and never Christmas.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gratitudes

I am thankful for warm slippers, for the feet within them that walk and run and dance. I am thankful for toes that give balance. I am thankful for nail polish, and even more thankful for nail polish remover. I am thankful for knees that bend and for hips that hold me together. I am thankful for bellies and babies and babies' bellies. I am thankful for my gingerbread boys who were once within my belly.

I am thankful for lungs that breathe in and out and the air that fills them. I am thankful for a heart that beats, but even more thankful for a heart that feels. I am thankful for my dominant left hand and the wedding ring it wears, and still more thankful for the man who placed the ring there and who reminds me every day how he loves me.

I am thankful for a back and shoulders and arms and wrists and fingers. I am thankful for ears that hear and eyes that see. I am thankful for a nose and teeth and taste buds. I am thankful for cinnamon and cilantro and cumin and cayenne and chocolate. I am thankful for rice and bread and pasta. I am thankful for hot water and hot fires.  I am thankful for soft pillows and soft words. I am thankful for music, especially when it comes by the hands of one of my gingerbread boys.

I am thankful for traditions, both religious and secular. I am thankful for the words that are within me. I am thankful for the words that I stand upon. I am thankful that the world is full around me, and that there is beauty and goodness in it. I am thankful for you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Things I Love About Autumn in New England #4

Sometimes, the best thing about autumn in New England is the promise of what's to come: a roaring fire in the fireplace, a blanket around my shoulders, a good book, and a cup of something warm and sweet. There might be rain outside or grey clouds. The leaves might be falling. But sometime in the future, the world will be covered in white snow and crystal ice, with sledding and ice skating under brilliant blue skies. When the cold has permeated my soul, it'll be time for sugaring, then after that the leaves will unfurl again. They will green and grow providing shade and shelter until the time comes for them to turn yellow and orange and red. And when that time comes, I shall be sitting on the sofa, wrapped in a warm blanket with a good book and a fire roaring in the fireplace.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Things I Love About Autumn in New England #3

#3 Turkeys.

On my way to the airport last week, I had to stop my car as a rafter of turkeys crossed the road. Did you know that "rafter" is the correct name for a group of turkeys? They could also be called a gang, but we have no gangs around here.

There were at least ten of them.

So why did the turkey cross the road? 10 points to whomever gives the correct answer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Things I Love About Autumn in New England #2

#2 Farm Stands.

I have a favorite farm stand that sells corn almost exclusively, and for good reason. It's the best corn around these parts. This farmer knows his corn. But most impressive? He knows how to grow corn in rocky New Hampshire soil.

It's the perfect addition to quesadillas, a traditional New England food. Really. Didn't you know the pilgrims ate quesadillas when they left the Mayflower? No? Ok, I'm kidding, but it does go well with lobster rolls, or as we like to call them, "lobstah rolls." It's the perfect base for corn chowder (chowdah), or corn bread, or corn waffles.

Just down about a mile from him, is the apple orchard, where a bushel of seconds (good for making apple butter) is only $8. New England thriftiness goes hand in hand with farm stands. Thrifty or not, we eat well.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Things I Love About Autumn in New England #1

Some people send out a daily gratitude in November. I find that life is too harried then. But it's not now. It's autumn in New England, people, and it's glorious, so for the foreseeable future (or until I become buried in downed leaves) here are the things I love about autumn in New England.

#1. Yesterday morning, I heard church bells ringing at 8:00 am. Aren't church bells the most wonderful thing? They make me feel like I'm part of a community, being summoned to worship on a Sunday morning. Church bells make me think of best dresses and hat pins and pot roast and apple pie. I imagine some kid pulling the bell rope, flying up and down with the movement of the bell. Voices lifted in hymns. Prayers and praise and pews.

Though church bells aren't specifically autumn things, or even New England things, for some reason, autumn is the time when I most often hear these bells, and New England is the place I associate with church bells. Every town around here seems to have a trim white church with a cupola enclosing a cheerful bell, and when it's time, those bells ring for all they're worth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hearing Voices

On the way home from the cemetery, I heard your voice in my head, the Brooklyn-made-tangible voice, the one with lots of glottal stops and dropped endings. I tried to listen to that voice, but I couldn't make it say anything--all that I heard was sound and laughter. No meaning, just sound. Still, there you were. Your voice was in my head, and I played it over and over again, so you'd never be gone. Any time I wanted a visit, I'd just have to shuffle through the soundtracks in my mind until I found the Brooklyn-made-tangible one.

We walked through the grass to visit other graves, other voices I carry within me. I hit the play button on those soundtracks, and heard other voices, and saw other faces, but your voice is the strongest. Your laughter was always the loudest, your spirit the most present.

It'll be some time before we meet again. You knew that though. You'd always say, "See you sooner," then you'd point to the sky, "or later." That was how you said so long. We'd turn to leave, and you'd say, "See you sooner...or later," then chuckle.

So long. See you later. And until then, I'll hear your voice in my head.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Possibility

Once upon a time, you stood upon an empty stage. Space surrounded you: stage left, stage right, upstage, downstage. Just you and the space and the lights and possibility. You longed to fill the space: the air with music, the stage with dance. The dance was for you and you alone, regardless of who might be there watching. There were no rules, only technique, and the technique had been drilled into you so often that your muscles retained it in their memory. The dance was automatic.

Once upon a time, you stood in a wide open piazza, bordered by tall buildings, a fountain, a tower, cafes. People and pigeons traversed the bricks, unchoreographed, uncaring. You longed to join them, to become one with their movement and their language, indistinguishable in the mix. You looked like one of them. People would even ask you for directions. But the words tumbled in your mouth, strange and broken. They were unruly birds, these words, flapping their wings and flying away before anyone could know what they were supposed to be or do. Deep in your heart, you knew you were an imposter.

Now you sit before a blank page. You climb up onto it, walk from edge to edge. You peek over the side. It's a long way down. There's nothing here to hinder you, nothing to make you pause. You turn around, staring at the snowy expanse before you. It's rather scary, all that openness, all that possibility. You lie down on it, roll around. Wish for some sort of texture or geographical feature. A path, perhaps. A hill to climb, or even just an unruly bird to keep you company.

But there's nothing there.

Just you and the blank page and the hope that some quintessential part of you remembers what to do.


Cross posted at Quirk and Quill

Friday, September 7, 2012

Summer Vacation


Where I Went on My Summer Vacation
  • Lost River Gorge
  • Polar Caves
  • Fuller Rose Gardens
  • Hampton Beach Sand Sculpture Competition
  • York Beach
  • One Stop Fun
  • Rumble Tumble
  • Galway Lake, NY
  • Charmingfare Farm
  • Freedom Trail, Boston
  • Christa McAuliffe Planetarium
  • Whale watch
  • Fort Foster, ME
  • The Butterfly Place
  • Darien Lake, NY
  • East Aurora, NY
  • Letchworth State Park
  • Genesee Country Museum
  • Jello Museum
  • SEE Science Center
  • Hershey, PA
  • Butternut Farm
Things I Did on My Summer Vacation:
  • Spelunking
  • Climbed a rock wall
  • Had my face painted in melted chocolate
  • Rode a Ferris wheel
  • Bought a brain jello mold
  • Jumped waves
  • Saw a sunspot AND a solar flare from a telescope
  • Was a human landing pad for butterflies
  • Climbed 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument
  • Finished a manuscript
  • Saw hump-backed whales
  • Ran with zucchinis
  • Fed goats
  • Did a full wheel in yoga
  • Listened to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Star-Spangled Banner, and Pomp and Circumstance on the piano about a billion times
  • And last but not least, chased a chipmunk and a snake off my porch, but not simultaneously.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Never Say Never

While watching lithe young bodies dive into pools with barely a splash, whip around uneven bars, and swim lengths of a pool keeping a pace that makes you breathless, you realize that you'll never be an Olympian. That makes you think of all the other things you'll never do, never be.  You'll never be Miss America, dance with the Rockettes, or get a Ph.D at Oxford.

You're ok with not being Miss America. Do normal people ever really want to be Miss America anyway? And while you get a twinge about never having danced with the Rockettes, the DNA precluded that avenue. And Oxford? You've spent far too long in college as it is.

But the Olympics? The irrepressible, stubborn part of you thinks, "Well, why not?"


The pragmatic part of you thinks, "Because you're 40, you're barely 5'3'', and you have chronic shin splints."


And the irrepressible, stubborn part of you says, "You might consider it at least."


Pragmatic you says, "Really? The last time you swam competitively, your bathing suit fell down. Directly in front of the boys' swim team. Remember?"


Stubborn you sniffs and says, "That was nearly 30 years ago."


"Exactly! Thirty. T-H-I-R-T-Y. Three. Zero. Your day has past." Pragmatic you arches her eyebrows and puts a hand on a hip.


"But what about archery? Or maybe dressage? Curling?" 


"Horses have big teeth."


"Archery? You know, Amazons and all that."


Pragmatic you rolls her eyes.

Irrepressible you waits.

Pragmatic you mentally locates the bow and the target in the basement. "Fine, but if you get poison ivy, or bitten by a herd of horseflies, or get lyme disease, not to mention blisters and sore muscles, don't think for a minute that I didn't warn you." 

Irrepressible you feels the pull of the bow and hears the twang of the string as an arrow flies by.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Going Home

At 7:30 this morning, I hunkered over my manuscript while you were breathing your last breath. The moment passed too quickly, and then you were gone. Did I know? Did I sit up? Did I feel your absence in that moment?

Or did I think how I had a few more minutes until I had to wake the Gingerbread boys, and could I just make it to the end of the chapter? Did I think of breakfast cereal, or clean clothes, or something else? I'm not certain what thoughts were in my mind, though I wish I were.

How could I not have known? How could I not have taken note that the world had become just a bit darker without your light to shine?

It had been such a long time since I saw you, dear friend, and I wanted to tell you how you influenced me, how I looked to you for guidance at a difficult time. I wanted you to know how I loved you, and how I respected you.

You were one of the most gracious women I knew, beautiful inside and out. Now you are even farther away than you were before, and I remain here among the silent, mourning your departure.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

You Can't Go Back

Last year at this time, you were preparing for this:


Two years ago, you were preparing for this:


Four years ago, this: 

Before that, there were other places that called to you. Places built of stone and wood. Castles and cathedrals, palazzos, museums, chocolate shops, and tiny bakeries. Libraries, town squares, cemeteries--they called to you in almost a sacred way. They still pluck at your imagination and beg you to people them and layer them with stories.

Sometimes you have to wander down narrow alleyways until you reach a long band of road stretching out into the distance before you figure out what that story is. Meandering is something you do well. You meander like a champion. But, eventually, you have to get somewhere, so you hitch up your britches and move along. 

These days, you've been moving along at quite a pace, though often it feels like a snail's pace. But now your snail's pace has brought you to the end of the road. You're just about ready to leave one place and exchange it for another. The chasm seems wide, and the bridge narrow, and you can't help looking back to the safety of the known. Still, adventure calls you. It's time to meander elsewhere. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

You

Sometimes days come around when you don't like yourself very much. When you see faults written like tattoos all over your soul, and no matter how much you scrub, they never fade, never fall away. Faults like pride and fear and ignorance and jealousy and insensitivity. Things that make you ugly inside. Things that make you want to crawl out of your skin and into someone else's.

That desire to be different from who you are, a different person altogether, only comes at you once in a blue moon. You know deep down that you have it pretty good--besides freedom, democracy, and religion, you've got good health, enough intelligence to guide you through three college degrees, a dollop of creativity, a supportive husband, sweet children. What more could you ask for?

Still, you wish you were different. You wish you were more. You sometimes look around at the people you come in contact with and wish you could pluck bits and pieces of them and add these things to your personality. If you could put yourself together like a Mr. Potato Head with a body, a hat, a pair of feet, a nose, some angry eyes--you'd pick some different traits: spontaneity, strength, memory, courage, satisfaction, cheerfulness, confidence, and maybe a few extra inches of height, too.

If you could do this, maybe you could do something of real value instead of the nonsense that you do each day. But you can't pick your own character. You're stuck in your spiderweb, struggling to free yourself of one character trait, while at the same time trying to develop another. You're a package deal, a smorgasbord of insecurities and doubts.

Lucky you.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Sometimes

Sometimes you just need an afternoon spent on the hammock, cocooned together with the gingerbread boys and the gingerbread man, one foot hanging down, pushing at the ground to sway all four of you back and forth.

Sometimes you just need the sun shining down in between the unfurling leaves, and the blue, blue sky above you, and the singing of the birds, while simple thoughts flit in and out of your mind.

Sometimes nothing is better than something, especially when life has been far too full of many, many somethings and your head has been full of complexities.

Sometimes you think that a day of rest is the most compassionate gift God could give you, far better than riches or fame or success or even the ability to type really fast.

And the swaying of the hammock, and the feel of the gingerbread man's shoulder under your head and the wisp of one gingerbread boy's hair on your face and the chatter of the other gives you just enough strength to carry on through another week of somethings.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Recommendations/Lee Library Presentation

From young to old:

Elephant and Piggie series, Mo Willem
Minnie and Moo series, Denys Cazet
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same, Grace Lin (series)
Anna Hibiscus series, Atinuke
Mercy Watson, Kate DiCamillo (series)
Bink and Gollie, Kate DiCamillo and Allison McGhee (series)
Half Magic, Edward Eager (series)
Dick King-Smith (farmyard fantasy)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick (heavily illustrated)
The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman
The Secret Life of Owen Skye, Alan Cumyn (trilogy)
The Way Things Work, David Macaulay
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O'Brien
The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall (series)
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle
A Long Way from Chicago, Richard Peck (has a sequel)
Whales on Stilts, M.T. Anderson (series)
Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick
Aliens on Vacation, Clete Barrett Smith (series)
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, Uma Krishnaswami
The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud (Bartimaeus series)
Holes, Louis Sachar (sequel)
Saffy's Angel, Hilary McKay (series)
The Underneath, Kathi Appelt
Savvy, Ingrid Law (companion novel)
The Giver, Lois Lowry (companion novels)
Skellig, David Almond
Catherine, Called Birdy, Karen Cushman
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Stop the Train!, Geraldine McCaughrean
Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (sequel)
Words in the Dust, Trent Reedy
Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt
Airborn, Kenneth Oppel (sequel)
The White Darkness, Geraldine McCaughrean
Feed, M.T. Anderson
Matched, Ally Condie (trilogy)
Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer (trilogy)
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
A Brief History of Montmaray, Michelle Cooper (sequel)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Mary E. Pearson
Unwind, Neal Shusterman
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party, M.T. Anderson
A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly
The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson

Other goodies
Though we didn't speak about the following, I'm including these extras for your perusal.

Early Readers and Early Chapter books:
Frog and Toad, Arnold Lobel (series)
Little Bear, Else Holmelund Minarik (series)
Henry and Mudge, Cynthia Rylant (series)
Clementine, Sara Pennypacker (series)
The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes
The Littles, John Peterson (series)
Nate the Great, Marjorie Weinman Sharman
Encyclopedia Brown, Donald J. Sobol
Rapunzel's Revenge, Shannon Hale (graphic novel, sequel)
The works of Roald Dahl

Animal books:
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
101 Dalmatians, Dodie Smith
The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White
Rabbit Hill, Robert Lawson
A Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford

Historical books:
One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams Garcia
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Gary Schmidt
Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Twenty-one Balloons, William Pene du Bois
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, Christopher Paul Curtis
A Single Shard, Linda Sue Park

Realistic books:
Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
Rules, Cynthia Lord
Framed, Frank Cottrell Boyce
Millions, Frank Cottrell Boyce
Room One, Andrew Clements
Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo
Shiloh, Phyllis Naylor

Magical books:
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
The Borrowers, Mary Norton
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ian Fleming
Tom's Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce

Young Adult books:
The Amaranth Enchantment, Julie Berry
Secondhand Charm, Julie Berry
The Wednesday Wars, Gary Schmidt
The Discworld series, Terry Pratchett
The works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Great Authors:
Dick King-Smith
David Macaulay
Brian Selznick
C.S. Lewis
Hilary McKay
Edward Eager
Russell Hoban
J.K. Rowling
Susan Cooper
Lloyd Alexander
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Katherine Paterson
Madeleine L'Engle
Shannon Hale
Grace Lin
Beverley Cleary
Kate DiCamillo
Geraldine McCaughrean
L.M. Montgomery
Linda Sue Park
Joan Aiken
Natalie Babbitt

Especially for boys:
Frank Cottrell Boyce
Rick Riordan
Kenneth Oppel
Gordon Korman
Andrew Clements
Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan series)
Gary Paulsen
Robert McCloskey (Homer Price)
M.T. Anderson

Other resources:
The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease
100 Best Books for Children, Anita Silvey
500 Great Books for Teens, Anita Silvey

http://childrensbookalmanac.com/  Anita Silvey’s daily recommendations
www.goodreads.com the social media of book sharing
Link to the Caldecott list:
Link to the Newbery list:
Link to the Great Stone Face Awards:
The Horn Book, a publication about books for children and young adults
The March Madness of Children’s Books



Monday, May 14, 2012

Into the Woods


I live in the forest, where the moss bids you to look down, and the trees bid you to look up. The woodpeckers bid you good morning, and the blue jays just want you to shut up and listen, already. At nightfall, the stars lay so dense in the sky, that you can wrap yourself in them, if only the trees wouldn’t get in the way. The hooting of the barred owls lulls you to sleep.
In the woods, anything can happen; all you need is a handful of magic beans, a conversation with the infamous immortal goldfish, a drink from a clear, cold spring, the flash of a fox’s tail. If you’re lucky, you can dance with a lady’s slipper, but only in June.

The immortal goldfish



It’s the stuff fairy tales are made of.
But there’s always room for wishing, even in a fairy tale. There’s no pizza delivery here, nor is there a house built out of candy for those midnight cravings. The trail of crumbs can only lead to one of a handful of places: the river, the cemetery, the library, and town hall–or, of course, deeper into the forest. You might find a woodcutter, but more likely, you’d just find wood.
Still, I like living in a fairy-tale world. There’s always a little bit of magic and an adventure waiting out the back door, even if it’s just on a rope swing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Earworms

At the bottom of the pond lay frogs' eggs, a bluish cloud of them attached to a submerged stick. In time, perhaps you'll have a chorus of frogs croaking to add to the hooting of the owl that kept you up last night. They'll be friends for the goldfish, who is growing more mammoth by the hour. Fish is fish, you know, and a fish always needs a friend.

It's supposed to be quiet here in the forest. While it's true your thoughts aren't interrupted by sound of siren or horn, it's certainly not quiet. The rat-a-tat of the woodpecker, the hooting of the barred owl, the wind in the trees, the call of the glass bird--they all add up to make the sound of the sea, waves rolling and crashing into the window of your office until you think you'll go mad in this box full of books and staplers and paperclips, computer and keyboard.

You think you can even hear the sun as it shines down.

Maybe the honey sun will flow into your ears, into deep-down places until it comes out through your fingertips and forms itself into words.

One can hope.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Catching Seven

The youngest gingerbread boy is on a quest. A zip-line quest for his Lego mini-figures. He ties a black cord to a bamboo basket and places it atop a very high bookcase on one side of his bedroom. After much deliberation, he stretches the cord to the opposite side of the room and ties it to a castle. The Lego mini-figure crashes. Dissatisfied, he ties the cord to his bedpost. Crashes again. He asks for help.

You take the cord, slide it through a hole in the lower shelf of another bookcase, and tie it off. He slings the Lego mini-figure down it via a wheel tinker-toy, and it glides onto the box designated as the landing zone. Sweet success.

Days pass, and each time you walk into the room with clean clothes or homework sheets, or even with the innocent intention of pulling down the window shades, the nearly invisible cord garrotes you. While you may be marginally taller than Napoleon, you can’t escape the black cord of death. But you bite your tongue because the gingerbread boy is seven, and he needs to be seven. Seven-year-olds do things with cords and Lego mini-figures, with marbles and blocks, pennies and feathers. You leave the cord up longer than you really want to.

This is the last time you’ll see seven, at least in your household. It’s a bittersweet thought. The time is coming when he won’t want you to wave as the school bus rolls down the street. He won’t welcome a hug and a kiss. He won’t ask to snuggle. So you’re permissive with the black cord of death stretched across the room; you learn to duck. Celebrate seven while you can, you think. Seven won’t last.

Few things in life do last. In your grandmother’s kitchen hung a plaque that said, “Kissin’ don’t last. Cookin’ do.” While you could dispute that, you understand the sentiment. One thing you know that lasts? Words. When sound waves peter out, and photos fade, words keep calm and carry on. Maybe that’s why you write.

Seven won’t last, but maybe you can catch it with words.

Maybe you just did.

*Cross-posted at Quirk and Quill

Friday, March 9, 2012

Anniversaries

It's a sunny day. She sits, laptop on lap, shutters open to the sky. Today is the blog anniversary. Not the anniversary of when she first began blogging, but the day she began THIS blog, this working, writing, personal blog.

Three years. A three-year old person, according to most developmental milestone markers, loves words and to experiment with language. They like to make up stories. How appropriate. A three-year old marriage celebrates with leather. Perhaps a leather-bound book?

She will be three today. She will celebrate with ice cream instead of leather. And with writing. Though she writes most days, today's words will be special, because she'll make them so. She'll carry the little secret inside that today--today!--she began something that is special to her, if no one else.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Survival of the Fittest

That summer day, the Gingerbread Man came home with a bag full of goldfish.

"For the pond," he said. Calling this water hole a pond is a bit generous. But there it is, surrounded by moss and ferns and springs, and you love it.

That summer you volunteered to take the compost out to the compost pile, just so you could head to the pond afterward. There was something magical about the sleek, orange bodies sliding in and out among the water plants, and the single frog who kept them company, hiding under fronds of ferns. You would hear the plop as he leaped into the water if you came too close.

By summer's end, only one fish remained. The others were surely victim to fisher cats or raccoons, or maybe even a fox. You named the sole fish Angst, and made a home for him in a goldfish bowl. His fishy antics kept you company all winter. You sat in the armchair on one side of the television, and he swished around in his bowl on the other side. Though you couldn't see him, you could hear little blips and flips, but each time you stood up to see what he was doing, he innocently swam in circles.

Must be the tides, you thought.

Made you look, he thought.

When spring rolled around again, you put Angst back in the spring-fed pond, where he was joined by a new crew, among them Goldeen, Blackie, and Cardinal. Once again, you made trips to the pond, to sit on the rock under the oak tree, and breathe in the green-ness of the place, watching for flashes of gold and orange in the water.

Time passed, the days grew shorter, and a chill settled over your neck of the woods. It was time to bring the fish in. Four hardy souls still swam in the wild waters. Your small fishbowl that housed Angst suddenly seems not only small, but cruel. The fish never made it inside that winter.

Come spring, you saw no happy flash of orange in the still waters, no sign of life at all. Had it been too cold? Did the fisher cats get them? The raccoons? You felt bad. Life is life, regardless of whether it is obtained by a 29-cent purchase at Wal-Mart or not. Visiting them had made you happy, on those days when you needed some sign of life other than the ten-and-under boy variety.

You did not buy any more fish, for your summer would be spent far, far away, and there would be no one to feed them, no one to seek out their magic. The pond remained empty that summer, but for the frogs.

Winter came yet again, and the fishbowl gathered dust and cobwebs on a shelf in the garage. Two floors above the fishbowl lay a sick gingerbread boy, a cranky gingerbread boy. Nearby was a mom, frustrated and housebound. At the end of that very long day spent inside, that mom longed for fresh air sucked into her dry lungs. She longed to stand under the comforting trees, and be a small thing, a part of the forest and the earth and the water.

That is you.

You grab a flashlight and follow the Gingerbread Man out to the compost pile.

"You mind if I go to the pond?" you ask.

He follows you as you crunch through the gritty snow. You don't need the flashlight, because the moon is full and bright, casting shadows on the blue snow. You pass by the rope swing, then go down the path veering to the right at the fork. There, two steps away, is the pond. Its surface is still and solemn, and you feel the frustration draining out of you, seeping out through your feet into the frozen ground. You feel calm just being here.

On a whim, you turn on the flashlight and aim it toward the middle of the pond.

You blink.

There, in the middle of the pond, is a goldfish, fins flickering.

He turns and dives back into his Atlantis.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Perfect Days

The groundhog brings you surprise tickets to see an open rehearsal of the Boston Symphony. The Gingerbread Man takes the day off, and the two of you drive into Boston. After a mad dash to Symphony Hall, you sit in the midst of its splendor, amazed at the sound that comes from the stage. Amazed that a conductor can distinguish among so many threads of sound. Amazed that a composer could hear these things in his mind, then write it all down in a code that you can't even begin to understand--writing it down before it flits off and away.

The sound is so full and so rich, it is nearly tangible, as if you could slice it like cheesecake and ingest it. You watch the conductor, his movements, the response of the musicians. You look up at the windows, the statues in alcoves, the lighting, the seats--all while the music lifts you and carries you around. The musicians pause several times, as the conductor takes them through a few measures, over and over again, until they're perfect.

The music stops, and the house lights go up. It's intermission, but you have to leave. There's only time for lunch, then the drive back before the school bus arrives. So you and the Gingerbread Man enter an Ethiopian cafe, and order peanut tea. When it comes, it's scalding and it burns your tongue, but it is sweet and creamy and perfect. It's the sound of the symphony made hot, frothy, and drinkable. When your food arrives, you remember that Ethiopian food is eaten with fingers. So you dig in to red lentils, yellow split peas, and spinach and potatoes with the pancake-like bread, licking the sauce off your fingers.

Feeling full and happy, you walk back to the parking garage, reveling at being in a city again, reveling in the shapes of the buildings, the pattern of the cobblestones, the lines of planted trees. And the drive back gives you more time with the Gingerbread Man. Bliss.

When the gingerbread boys come home, they are at peace. You direct them in homework, dishes, piano, and you don't even have to make supper, because you made two pots of soup the day before, and there is plenty left over.


At the end of the day, you stand by the bathroom sink, contemplating what a perfect day it's been. Perfect concert. Perfect lunch. Perfect drive. Perfect afternoon. Perfect evening. 

It gives you pause. 

In each day is some good and some bad. It's the natural balance of things. You believe this, fully. When you have a really bad day, this philosophy helps you to seek out the good in the day. You always find some. 

A tiny space opens up in your mind, a small niggle. Where was the bad in this day? Not like you want to be pessimistic and seek out misfortune, but there was none. You want to simply be grateful for a happy day, but some part of you wonders when the bad will come. When will the axe fall? 

Even as you think this, the gingerbread boy wakes up with a migraine. You sit up with him, rubbing his head for an hour and a half. You wish he didn't have this pain. You wish you could take it away. But you know that into each life comes some good and some bad. Into each day comes some good and some bad. This is his challenge for now. There will be other things in his life that will compensate for it. By 1:30, he's asleep again, and your perfect day is over.