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Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

days with…

In In Other Words, On My Mind on November 30, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Recently, a friend sent me a link to the amazing Days With My Father, a blog-cum-book documenting photojournalist Phillip Toledano’s time spent with his father in the last three years of life. It is at once sad, funny, poignant, and visually stunning.

Toledano’s father treasured the visits with his son and daughter-in-law, just as my dad relished the time he spent with all the friends and family members who visited him in his last days. It was such a pure enjoyment, like he knew that nothing else really mattered.

Toledano writes of his deceased mother consistently pointing out his faults, and how he now realizes  she was mostly right. It’s funny how infuriated we can all get with loved ones, how they can tell us all these things we don’t want to hear about ourselves. And sometimes they just plain make us crazy.

My friend was concerned that the site might upset me. I cried, of course, because that’s what I do. But I was glad he sent it. It was a timely message for me, so close to the holiday season and the accompanying mega-size doses of family time. Reading through the site reminded me that I need to treasure the time I have with loved ones, focus less on what might bother me about them, and more on who they really are and how much they mean to me.

thanks giving

In In Other Words on November 25, 2010 at 8:15 am

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

ee cummings

The Santa Claus Conspiracy

In Family, friends, On My Mind on November 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I’m kind of a Grinch when it comes to all this Santa Claus business. I have never brought my children to take pictures on Santa’s lap because I think it is mostly cruel — all those toddlers crying on the laps of men in red faux-velvet. I mean, I’m surprised that any of my friends would even bother asking me if I want to bring my kids to a breakfast with Santa, which is exactly what happened today.

Barf. Kill me now. (Sorry Ana, I love you anyway.)

Here’s the thing. I HATE lying to kids. I hated when I was lied to as a kid, and I guess that stuck. Whenever a kid asks me a question, I want to give an honest answer. This is proving less and less comfortable a position as my daughter draws ever closer to puberty and has already asked quite pointed questions about how her baby brother got in my belly, but still.

Santa Claus? Really? It’s not even one little lie. Cuz once you get started, you just get more and more entrenched in falsehoods. Kids are curious. They want to know things like: Does Santa take a vacation? How did Santa get so fat? Does Santa bring gifts to Jewish kids? But we don’t have a fireplace. How is Santa going to get in the house?

This last question is the one I’m waiting to come up. Last year, we lived in a house with a fireplace. The house we moved into this year? Nope. No fireplace. Not even a decorative one with resin logs and little blue propane flames. I suppose we could tell them he’ll get in through the furnace chimney, but I don’t really want to hang stockings on the oil tank in our basement.

When I was little I had a book about Silver Spurs, the tiniest elf, who could fit into key holes of homes with no chimneys. It even came with a little 45 (that’s a disc-shaped musical recording that was played on something called a turntable for any of  you out there who don’t recognize such an anachronistic term) with Silver Spurs’ theme song.

Lies. All lies. No wonder my life is so wretched.

Now we’ve got The Polar Express and the cult logic of “you only hear the bell ringing if you really believe in Santa Claus”. Right.

I try to tell my kids that Santa Claus is about magic. That Santa Claus is about being generous. That Santa Claus is a legend to remind us that even in the bleakest darkest night there is still hope to be found. And that part is the truth. That is a lesson I want my kids to learn. So if I have to pretend that there’s some guy in the Arctic circle making toys to be delivered in a manic rush on Christmas Eve to teach that lesson, I guess I’m okay with that.

 

let’s see if this will work

In Family, Food, friends, In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind, Writing on November 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

I love how my friends can ask me these simple little questions and suddenly I can think more clearly.

“Well, what do you want?” says friend.

“Hunh,” says I.

I write a list, because I’m a list maker. What do I want? What do I want to do? What do I actually want to accomplish in any given week? See, I hadn’t actually given that question much thought in the last year or so. Here’s the list.

-1-2 blog entries

-3 hours writing fiction/poetry

-8-12 hours working (for money!)

-workout 3-4 times

Not a huge list, but I have not been protecting my time to do these things I want to do. It seems doable, even with all the stuff I don’t really want to do but must do (mountains and mountains and mountains of laundry come to mind), and all the stuff I want to do and must do (cooking, loving on the babies). Ok, let’s give this a go.

a walk with my Dax

In Family, On My Mind on November 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I walked in the woods the other day with my boy. I’d planned to go alone, but he invited himself along. He showed me the spot where he and my girl were scared by a snake. He scraped lichens off a fallen tree trunk with the sole of his shoe. He pulled me through briars and moved branches aside for me. He climbed up a hill of leaves dumped there by the neighbors, then rolled back down. We left the woods and walked to the beach. It was low tide and we walked through the marsh grasses where the crabs live, he told me. On the way home I saw a dead snake on the road, all black and white stripes. “That’s like the one that scared us,” he said. “But that one’s smaller.” The sun was setting and its rays were dim and thin, and the lively wind made orange and yellow leaves fall around us like fat colorful snow. I was happy that I didn’t take that walk by myself. My boy helped me see so much more than I would have alone.

tending the wild woman

In friends, In Other Words, Writing on November 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

My friend Heather recently made a remark that reminded me of a book I read in college, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I had came across the book in my work study job, cataloging the entire library collection of the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women. The title intrigued me. Even the author’s name was interesting.

I was a biology major working in the home of the women’s studies department. I never took a women’s studies class. I had only a cursory knowledge of the history of feminism. But I read this book. Devoured it really. It served as a pivotal text for me, giving me a primal understanding of the wildness I saw in myself. It put into perspective the Wild Women’s place in the world and my life.

The Wild Woman part of me has faded since then. She’s been packed away with marriage and kids and mortgages and jobs (nothing like working in Washington, DC to shush the Wild Woman). But she’s been there, and she’s ready for a little more attention.

I see the Wild Woman in all of my girlfriends. That’s probably why I love them so fiercely. I don’t see her in all women. Some women are so meek I don’t seem to have much patience with them, and that may be why.

Heather is good at reminding me to embrace the wildness. She’d been running with coyotes — literally — in the trails of Park City, Utah, and wondered aloud why women are often compared to wild things like coyotes in a derogatory way. I recommended she read Estes. Her husband Chris got a little worried when he saw the book on her nightstand. But our husbands already know that we are not to be tamed. And whether they admit it or not, they are completely smitten with our wildness and wouldn’t have us any other way.

I started reading the book again myself, and I’ve been thinking about wildness and womanliness and what it is I want to do with this life of mine, including this here little blog. It’s a work in progress of course, but one thing I know I want to do is honor the Wild Woman. I want to protect her from the demands of soccer momness. I want to give her space and freedom to write and create without worrying about critical eyes and clucking tongues.

So you’ll see some changes around here — a new look, a streamlined list of links, some wild words. Stick around if you dare.