Tuesday, February 8, 2011

and that was january . . .

(with footnotes*)
(and endnote**)

{click on pic to embiggen}
*footnotes(or just skip to the end for **endnote)
  1. Blissy sunshine on bedside books (Rumi, Barbara Pym's Excellent Women, and A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell, each miraculous in their own way).  Because I am the birthday girl: a whole morning reading in bed, not these, but Pym's An Unsuitable Attachment and Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee, both miracles of literary clarity and human confusion.
  2. While daughters bend over books and keyboards readying themselves for re-entry into what is now their real life, I contemplate the comforting shapes of containment.  As if I could.  As if I would really want to.  By contrast, the image that stays with me the next day is Eldest, striding into the airport, hair swinging, scarf flung back, laughing over her shoulder at the young man, my friend's son, who happens to be travelling with her.  Watching her I am suddenly joyous.  And the rest of the day, buoyantly and curiously light and free myself.  As if a world were opening up for me somewhere, beyond my expectations.  I am in fact immeasurably happy - filled up and overflowing.  Happy in a way I haven't been for a long time.  Maybe it is the prospect of a whole month ahead of the Unexamined Life? 
  3. Tonight we open the last pomegranate of the season - no more until next autumn - Persephone's fruit.  Gma W used to send these to me when I was a little girl.  She grew them, my mother's mother.  It made Demeter's story resonate strangely with me when I read it - knowing pomegranates only as a private fruit no one else ever ate in my 1970's suburb -  the well-taped cardboard box that showed up around the end of October.
  4. I do not actually bike (this picture from last week) but I consciously mourn the biking, shivering all day at the unheatable HELP pantry, missing the fine inner fire that warms me for hours afterward when I do put rubber to the road.
  5. Among other things, seeking recipes for galette des rois - Kings' Cake - for tomorrow's last possible day of Christmas  - the traditional 12th Night - and the final excuse for leaving up tree and lights to shine as long as possible into these long northern winter nights.  I settle on sliced pears and frangipane in a rough puff pastry crust.
  6. Twelfth Night: Whoever gets the fava bean in their piece of cake is king for the evening - YoungSon was sure it would be him.
  7. Reading The Strangest Man: the hidden life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo - at last I can make some kind of rudimentary sense of string-theory and begin to wonder why I am reading lately so many stories of sons and mothers.  Not wonder why - notice that
  8. A long wet walk today - hills for six and a half miles - pain only at the very end.  Dog loves the long hilly miles.  I am beyond glad to be more and more back on my feet again.
  9. Before family prayers - Fritz will leave the next  morning for a half-week away in Arizona for work and already the children begin to miss him.
  10. The Chinook - that weirdly wonderful sudden warmth that comes for a week or two most Januaries. I shovel gravel, mud, and wood chips all day - re-imagining order out of this void and formless while sweating behind the wheel-barrow.  YoungSon comes home on his bright yellow school bus and helps rake gravel smooth.  We see small improvements.  We take a breather, he plays with Dog, I watch them in the sunshine.
  11. Spanish, the study thereof, for beginners.
  12. I have come full circle - Perils with Pigeons Redux- but like most sequels nothing happens except the expected. Dove released, on schedule, and I'm $20 to the good for an hour's standing in the rain at a stranger's graveside.  Maybe the curse that set off this bout of blogging in the first place is finally wearing off?
  13. After months (a year? really?) of workmen in the innermost chambers of my house, my domestic powers are returned to me.  I would have shuddered to have foreseen how much that matters to me: Ham, Mashed Potatoes with Garden Confetti, Baked Pears.
  14. Police procession for slain chief of police Ralph Painter of Rainier - we stand and watch the cars pass  for 45 minutes before making our way to Portland's Union Station to meet a friend who had ridden in on the train.
  15. Winter Ball.  The girls cook dinner here, floating candles and flowers in small glass bowls, everything and everyone looks, behaves beautifully.
  16. Our good old Cat takes a turn for the worse.  I hear him outside, a pained and horrible mwror, but when I open the door he is lying on his side at the threshold and responds not at all even when we pick him up and carry him to his bed.  We bury him a day later up on the hill, by the wild cherry.
  17. To celebrate MLK Day: we Take a Buddy to the Beach.  Rain on the way, and we peer anxiously through wet windows, but sunshine (dampish but determined) triumphs at the coast.  We see a hang-glider dismount with the setting sun.  We climb on the wreck of the Peter Iredale.  Son walks Dog. Daughter walks Giraffe (kite) as well as Friend.  I walk with Camera.  We  eat a picnic in the car - pita, hummus,  tangerines, peapods.  We talk loudly, laughing with the neo-wannabee-hippies in the VW bus parked next to us.  We are all happy.
  18. Running for the Hills: growing up on my mother's sheep farm in Wales by Horatio Clare.  Another son and his mother, but this mother is not the central spider of Strangest Man but more like the immoderate and tardy mother in Lee's autobiographical Cider with Rosie. (And so I want to identify with her more?)  Such a gift to a mother to be seen like this - unsentimentally and yet still with utter fondness.
  19. And at midweek, at the midmost of the month, I step out one morning and realize I am at the other side of the fairy tale's East of the Sun,West of the Moon - that nursery geography for Dreamland.  With day and night at either shoulder - moon setting on one side, sun rising on the other side - east of the setting moon, west of the rising sun - going into Day, not Night.  So the fairytale is finally set on its head, completed, worked through?  Maybe I've finally mastered all the impossible tasks, washed the blood from the shirt, maybe I've worked my way  through the troll-queen's castle, have faced her and her machinations down, have cried and sung loud enough to be heard, maybe I've finally saved the prince from his encasing ice and now we can go home? Maybe it's a day newer than ever before.
  20. And so I decide, now that my life is beginning again, to tackle the things that keep me from doing what I want to do, the things I can do something about - such as the weight gain since taking on the caretaking. 
  21. Domestic disorder. But this is just the messy part of making progress - in particular, paint remover for the front door.
  22. Also - Training the dog - who is the son's dog in the morning and the evening, but mine in the meantime - the hope is she'll be a nice foot-warmer for the Writer as well as deer-discourager - slash - daily personal trainer with an insatiable enthusiasm for hard hill walks - slash - egregiously ADD pre-schooler frighteningly fixated on unattended wool gloves.  We practice heeling - at least one of us does.
  23. I will fix my entire life in fact!  I revisit the schedules and schemes from that time of my life when I ran the house instead of it running me - readjust, reassign responsibilities so that I'm not trying to lift this piano alone. Minimal though unavoidable groaning from the crew. 
  24. In celebration of their return to regular, scheduled chores, I reprise my role as Breakfast Queen - blueberry pancakes and no one sleeps in this morning.  Even oatmeal is not despised when there are apples and raisins and plenty of cinnamon.  The minutiae of the mundane  - but  it is almost frightening to realize how a week of good breakfasts changes all of us.  Maybe the secret to happiness really is this small? - solid breakfasts day after day, exercise in the fresh air, a regular eight hours of sleep.
  25. Endorphins!! Ooo! I feel so good! Just like I knew I would!  Yes, she went swimming.  Yes, she knows she needs this in her life. 
  26. Early morning gravel and the start of the restoration of a provisional Eden.
  27. Vegetable dreams - Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes, Rubine brussels sprouts, Veronica castellated broccoli, purple carrots, yard-long red beans, Nero di Toscana kale, Alvaro Charentias melons, winter squash - Sweet Meat, Red Kuri, Marina di Chioggia   - and lettuce . . . Dazzle, Montecito, Devil's Tongue, De Morges Braun, Flashy Trout's Back, Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed, Merveille des Quatres Saisons . . .
  28. The utter peace of a day well-spent. Rise wth sunrise. Mid has no school.  Together we clean here, cook and clean at Gma's, make copies and grade at Young's classroom, then take Young early from school for basketball practice, teach Mid to drive stick-shift - whiplash!! laughter! - then all of us to Portland for library, look for a Spanish New Testament, and Trader Joe's has unsulphured dried apricots to restock our supply! Singing in the car. Home again, evening, watching Young's choice, swashbuckler Prince of Persia, with a picnic of bread, cheese, steamed broccoli on a blanket on the floor. Private study and early to bed.
  29. Eight miles with the dog - she does well - tongue flapping from her toothy grin as she looks up for approval when she puts herself back in her place at my heel. And then Son's basketball games where he does well - his secret smile while his dad recounts his victories. Joy in their own motion afterwards.
  30. This picture should have been a white crane  - my favorite local tutelary being  of the air - beating its wings against a background of faded grasses. I saw one, in passing, while in a hurry -  and then further down the road the whole flock, feeding amid the blond winter reeds, there were so many they looked at first like snow lying on the marsh - and meant to return and wander the paths there on foot later in the afternoon on my way home.  But when I passed again it was dark. I am struck how the camera, while it reveals, also limits not only what we see , but what we will remember.  Like writing too.
  31. Success!  Dog comes every time I call her throughout the morning - when I let her in, she returns over and over to her Place when reminded,finally settling and sleeping by the side of my desk, then walks the home hill with slack leash all the way down and most of the way up.   
This is, of course, a whole month's worth of the kind of status update/ personal trivia that is and is not my daily life.

And yes, these short photographed moments are no doubt the ideal form (when posted each day, not dumped like this en masse) for this particular media - a daily log of small events. Isn't that what a blog is "supposed" to be (if we were at all interested in doing what we were supposed to)?  It can be an appealing form.  My Eldest, for example, publishes a picture a day with minimal blurbage.  The window on her world while away at college is priceless to me.   I was curious to see what it would look like if I shaped my site this way.

I don't dislike this kind of day-to-day exclamation ~ when others do it. But it makes me feel despairing when I come to post like this myself - day after day of ephemera.   It was a happy month - with little reflection, much action, almost no writing.  But looking at it now, as a whole, in this form, it feels like a mask, this calendar of photogenic moments - an oppressive display of the costume that already threatens to muffle and suffocate the living body beneath.

No living soul, no wider world to move out into.  This is not what I want to be doing.


Neighbor Jane Payne said...

I liked this Emma J. I liked the snippets. I liked seeing a piece of every day. Sometimes it's seeing a piece for what it is that makes the whole so very interesting . . . and make sense. I hope you do this again and again.

Lisa B. said...

>>I will fix my entire life in fact! I revisit the schedules and schemes from that time of my life when I ran the house instead of it running me - readjust, reassign responsibilities so that I'm not trying to lift this piano alone.

I believe I have said these precise words.

I think your analysis there, at the end, gets at something. Anytime you compose--compose anything--you're doing this, though, aren't you? creating a mask? Maybe the trick is to never settle into just one mask? which you, Emma J, will never do.

Clowncar said...

doesn't strike me as trivia.

#2 and #19 in particular. I'm so glad I learned "east of the sun, west of the moon" on these pages.

Mrs. Organic said...

I love the format of this, even though I prefer to hear from you far more often.

It seems so often when we caretake that we truly lose ourselves in it, forgetting that even the caretaker needs care. I am glad to see you injecting life back into your days.

Fresca said...

"This is not what I want to be doing."
Heh. Yes.
I think I wrote that line myself just recently.

Today I spent three hours writing about something hard, which I'd fretted about for ten days. It is the opposite of Facebook. I like FB, but to me, for me, blogging is for writing, for making "space in the wider world" for the soul to expand into.

(Oh, that sounds so romantic. In fact, it can be quite horrible.)

Related Posts