Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea


A few weeks ago, we spent a weekend away in Maryland, and I walked with Tyler's Aunt. We talked about the miles Little O's stroller must log. We talked about my elusive writing 'career'. She asked if I had read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea. I hadn't. And so, she loaned me a small book, so love-worn, it had been broken in two. The pages smelled of must and old furniture and, like many old books, its pages hadn't faded, but instead deepened, to a rich, sandy brown.

Not my usual fare, this inspirational essay. I don't always love books of grand proclamations or extended metaphors. And yet...

It's a book from 1955 about being a mother. Or a woman. Or a person. Or one.  It's a book of quiet but astute observations and questions. Of being whole and of being half. A book written far before the simple movement of today and, perhaps, representing it better. It's about the sea's gift. A shell.  Its polished, or unpolished, or barnacled, outer un-gleam. Its true center, our true center, found alone.

I'm not doing a good job of explaining it. But it exists and hundreds of thousands, according to the course, creased, jacket copy, have found solace in it. 

I did too.

I'll share my favorite piece of it. It starts with a quote I've heard many times. But where it goes is far more interesting than the oft-repeated line. I have always dreamed awake, in the very late night, have always felt compelled to stir in the dark. Maybe now, I better understand why.

... good communication is stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after. Before we sleep we go out again into the night. We walk up the beach under the stars. And when we are tired of walking, we lie flat on the sand under a bowl of stars. We feel stretched, expanded to take in their compass. They pour into us until we are filled with stars, up to the brim.

This is what one thirsts for, I realize, after the smallness of the day, of work, of details, of intimacy -- even of communication, one thirsts for the magnitude and universality of a night full of stars, pouring into one like a fresh tide.

And then at last, from the immensity of interstellar space, we swing down to a particular beach. We walk back to the lights of the cottage glowing from the dark mist of trees. Small, safe, warm and welcoming, we recognize our pin-point human match-light against the mammoth chaos of the dark. Back again to our good child's sleep. 


Monday, October 20, 2014

Celebrating Lenny Lee!





Today a bunch of us in blog land are celebrating the incredible Lenny Lee who turns the big 1-5.

To Lenny, my birthday 'twin', (yes, I am honored to share my own birthday with him) I hope this year is as special as you are.

I send you a bright, happy, orange-pumpkin-spooked-out-cow birthday wish. I'm so lucky to call you a friend.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Puzzle



These days, I sit uncomfortably with the blank page, shifting in my hard-backed seat, taking the laptop to the bed, balancing it on my knees. I sigh. I let my gaze wander, toward the clock, the window and the light of the streetlamp, broken into orange-streaked pieces by the bamboo shades. I delete more than I write. This is possible. To erase the words before letting them find their way. 

There are books in piles on my nightstand, on the floor, stacked in the too-stuffed bookshelves, each bookmarked somewhere in the middle. They are as restless as I am, as unfinished as the stories that sit in my journals and hard-drives, in my heart and head. 

I scold myself, I tell myself, I am losing time. I am losing so much time. I'll waste a whole life. Never tell a single story, never share it, never see it on a shelf or in a store. So obsessed with how I spend my late-night hours, how I waste them, staring into space, writing nothing but sketches I erase, rip up, and I begin to hate myself, sick of and angry for being less-than. Than what? Than who I expect to be.

In the day time, I sit on the floor with Little O and his wooden puzzles. In one, the pieces are set behind little closed doors. There's a cookie jar door and when you flip it open, there's a puzzle piece of cookies. There's an oven and, inside, a turkey piece. I flip them open. He smacks them closed.

At first, he does not understand how to use his finger, how to guide it toward the hole, to open each door. He only knows how to slam it when I open it. Over and over again, smacking it shut, so the little door hinges rattle closed. Look, I say. Look. But no. He does not want the puzzle piece. He does not want to see what is inside. Again and again, he slaps it shut and waits for the next moment he can smack it back in place.

Yesterday, I did not want to sit with the smacking pieces. I set him down. I walked away. 

I found him, moments later, with an open door, a cookie piece in his hand. He marveled at the piece, had this way of lifting his arm and hands like a child with a slow paper airplane woosh, arm up, gaze up, and I marveled at him, at his first instinct to take what he has finally found to the sky.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Space Of Our Own


I've missed this space in recent months. I miss how it fills me up and allow me to share my words/myself and meet so many amazing readers and writers.

This is the only place I can share my words, who I am, and who I wish to be without harsh judgement. Maybe others judge in private, in which case, that is fine with me. They move on. They stop reading. I never know.

Though it has never happened to me, some might judge in public. And if they did, I would simply delete their harsh words right off this page. It's my space, after all. But trolls ... they don't seem to come here. I thank them for staying away.  

I choose what I wish to write about. What the border looks like. The template. The photos. I choose the books and writers I want to read and celebrate. There's no editorial calendar. No one waits with a deadline and a finger wag. There are no request for revisions or stamp, stomp, DENIED.

No one tells me my words aren't funny enough or commercial enough or interesting enough. (And, hooboy, I know I've written some posts that have been real doozies.) Though I've tried not to, I've probably said stupid or uninformed things throughout the years. But I own them. They are mine.

My revelation, today -- and it answers a question others have asked me, a question I've asked myself, why do you bother? why do you blog? -- is that there is no other writing space in the world where this is the case. Maybe a journal but, with a journal, there's no opportunity for someone to whisper, or maybe shout, yes or me too or I understand or I don't or have you seen it this way? and it opens my eyes to how you and I fit together in this world, whether we're linking arms or laughing or nodding or wondering or pointing one another toward a new understanding.

This isn't me signing off, it's me signing in. Maybe it's the glop of love hormones from baby boy, but it's me saying thank you for reading my words and for letting me read yours. In this small corner of the universe, we have a space that is all ours. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brooklyn Bridge


I found this miniature Brooklyn Bridge along the sidewalk yesterday.

It made me happy to stand above it and look down.

Monday, September 1, 2014

September and finding my place


For me, it's not about the new year but September. September is when I begin again and make a fresh start. In the northeast the school year begins after labor day and, when I was a girl, new things came with that start: a new teacher, a first day of school outfit, a new book bag, and blue-lined notebook pages, blank and ready and eager.

We'd rearrange our desks in a new classroom and, with the new set up, our friendships would adjust themselves accordingly. I'd find myself in between the quiet girl or the cool girl or the gross boy who finger-pinned and flipped his eyelids and these people would become my day, my week, my year. 

We are, I think, whether we like it or not, creatures of proximity. I wonder who and what I will align myself with this year.

I know I'll make a new start with a novel I've been dreaming. Since Little O's birth I have discovered I will always make time for writing in all the hours between everything else. I'll let go of sleep or television or cleaning (the dust...my floors...you would be appalled.) 

What I do need to make time for...is the paying work. Or I should say, I need to find that work. Work that fulfills me, gives me a paycheck, and allows me to spend a majority of my week with my son. I don't know that such work exists but I have given myself this year to find it, a luxury I planned for, but a luxury still, and I search and wonder and interview and let the world evaluate who I am and who I could be, how I might be useful or useless and the hours fade and the days fall into one another and I wonder where I'm headed at all.

Having a child, leaving my job, I find myself outgrowing the life I once built. My work. My apartment. My neighborhood. My city. In so many ways, I'm caught inside a life that no longer makes sense for me. Maybe this is what it's like to grow up. I don't know. 

Looking out into my future, seeing a long, wide expanse of unknowns is not easy but, I guess, it's a part of moving forward. Moving on.

It's September and my notebook is open and blank and the world rearranges itself around me. I look forward to finding my place inside it all. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thoughts on Nest by Esther Ehlrich

I loved this book about a young girl who loves birds, who searches for them, spots them and spouts out their facts, a girl whose name speaks a bird's earliest sounds, Chirp.

Chirp dances through her life in Cape Cod. She watches, as if through binoculars, as those around her try to cope with a year of change. Her mother, a dancer who taught her to see the world, its lilaacs, its stars, and its graceful swan boats, has been diagnosed with MS. Her sister flits between childhood and adolescence. And her Dad, a 'head shrink', who is always asking questions no one wants to answer, can not pull his own wife from the grips of a chronic depression.

Chirp deals with it all as she knows how, searching through the beauty of nature, mimicking the graceful movements of a loon's dance, slowly coming into her own as she discovers that the world her mother has opened her eyes to see is beautiful, yes, but also prickly and unknowable.

I'll call my own personal summer, the summer of the loon. A bird I had never heard of until I learned about it while visiting Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, where my husband spent his summers as a child. We searched for it on Rust Pond but I never saw it or heard its call. So, its presence in this book was even more beautiful to me, imagining its bob and sway through Chirp's eyes, how it lifts off from land and sea. I hope to see it some day.

I loved so many things about this book. Chirp's voice; authentic and pure. A sadness that is handled with subtlety and grace. It does not shy away from hard topics but it also lingers in the magic of walking through this life, eyes wide open to the world and the people we love. Its rhythm brought me back to my own childhood obsessions: swimming and trees and poems and fireflies and riding my bike in a perfect circle in the rain.

Some scenes I imagine as if they happened to me, so masterful in the details and how they convey the feeling of being alive. This one, in particular, made me catch my breath and nod. I was that girl, dancing with my friends in just this way:

When I start whirling in circles, Sally copies me. Our hair's whipping around and the room's spinning. We're bonking into the beanbag chairs. Watch out! We're shiny silver balls in a pinball machine! Sally takes the hem of her T-shirt and sticks it through the collar and yanks it down so it turns into a T-shirt bikini top. I turn my shirt into a bikini top, too, and now our bellies are out. Our bellies are out and we're wiggling them. We're wiggling our bellies and we're wiggling our hips and we're wet with sweat and when David Cassidy sings "I think I love you," we know he's singing to us. He's got to be singing to us because we're just so filled up with everything good and bright and shiny that how can he not be crazy in love with us?