Forest for the Trees

sebastian-unrauConsider this a love note to the man who squirms when I write about him.

My husband, he notices stuff.

When I watch movies, I easily suspend disbelief. That’s what I’m there for, to lose myself for a while. I grant shows and movies a wide latitude in terms of accuracy or probability. Precision in writing is one thing, but for movies, meh. Verisimilitude is in the eyes of the beholder.

Not Lance. He won’t appreciate my bringing this up, but he grasps that remote control and uses it frequently to pause a movie and point out its failures (of facts, of reasoning, of continuity, of imagination) until I’m forced to confiscate it if we’re to have any hope at all of reaching The End.

venn-of-marriageSometimes, though, what he notices and what I consider interesting overlap, a marital Venn diagram of the occasionally like-minded.

Like the locations of where many sci-fi movies are filmed. O Canada!  (Truly. Something to do with the variety and proximity of landscape and architecture, mixed in with financial incentives.)

I don’t consider myself an incurious person, but I never used to think about where a movie was filmed. It exists as a setting in a movie and I believe in it and there it ends. Thanks to Lance, I wander more.

Then there are the forests.

There will be a scene set in the woods, and he’ll say, Look at the trees. 

And I will blink at him.

Look, he’ll repeat. They’re all the same size. They’re planted.

Turns out, the forest primeval is dwindling. “According to the World Resources Institute, as of January 2009, only 21% of the original old-growth forests that once existed on earth are remaining” (Wikipedia).

This has ramifications for biodiversity, for the health of our ecosystem, and impacts the climate as well.

Who knew scenery had so much to say?

Thanks to Lance, I wonder more.

 

 

 

 

World Enough, and Time

A photo by Jeremy Thomas. unsplash.com/photos/jh2KTqHLMjE
*

My daughter, when trying to go to sleep last night, asked me to hold her. “I want to be tangled like a knot,” she cried. As if that’s a thing to want.

Wrapped up in those wants and big emotions, she’s more articulate than I can manage.

This world is tangled, knotted by history and just as intractable. Those of us who need a little context should read this piece, “It’s Not About Race,” by John Metta, and try on a new perspective.

And if you haven’t registered to vote yet, what are you waiting for? Our fellow citizens need our vote and support now more than ever. Every voice counts. Raise yours against the orange buffoon of hate and ignorance. There’s no surer way to make a difference than to keep him from the Oval Office.

Fire and Ice

Robert Frost
*
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

About that stress fracture

7 years ago...
7 years ago…

There’s nothing the universe hates more than a whiner.

Especially when they’re whining about what’s actually their good fortune. As in, I’m not in great pain anymore — I just feel ludicrous on crutches. 

So I have a stress fracture. Not the best thing in the world. Not the worst either. If I keep the weight off of it, my leg will heal. If I don’t, it won’t. Action, meet Consequence.

But honestly, this stress fracture seems like a pseudo-injury — no stitches, no cast, no gaping, seeping, or even visible wounds. I feel like an attention-seeking middle child clopping around on my crutches.

Not being able to move my body through the world with its customary ease is hard to take, but I’m trying to bear up. I don’t want to be that person. However, like many of you, I’m more comfortable helping others than asking for help myself.

There’s an egotism about it, a whiff of martyrdom. As in, I can take care of things ten times better than anyone else can, on crutches with my hands tied behind my back.  And blindfolded.

Plus, it’s selfish. Helping others feels good, and when you don’t let others pitch in, you’re denying them that heart-two-sizes-too-big sensation, the chance to be an everyday hero.

That’s what I told myself, anyway, when a couple dear mom friends rushed to the aid of my 4 year old popping a squat at the playground (“I just had to go, Mama!”).

And when another wonderment brought groceries to me and the kids while my husband was away for the weekend.

It takes a village, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Whatever my numerous flaws, I hope I’ll always have the grace to recognize and be grateful for my village. Thank you, friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The more things change…

Was it a blink for you?

img_2804
Now we are four

Though they’re older (hello, preschooler, 2nd grader, and 5th grader!), this past long weekend was still spent catching vomit in buckets all weekend long.

I admit there’s less spatter and clean-up involved now that the kids are older. They’re pretty amazing about running for a bowl and not letting it fly where they stand. No small mercy, that.

So in the interim of the Great New Year’s Splash Fest of 2014 and the 2016 Labor Day Weekend of GI Labor, besides parenting the threesome, Tupelonian whatnot, and Collected Poets et cetera, I have

  • read many prose books (most recently
  • visited Seattle, Minneapolis, and LA (be glad you missed that story, this time my own GI debacle #thankyoufoodpoisoning) for AWP;
  • run a few 10ks and three half marathons, and suffered a tibial stress fracture for my pains;
  • and enjoyed the company of friends and family without feeling the need to talk about it.

The stress fracture is current news. Have I ever mentioned that we live on the second floor? Luckily my kids are the perfect age to commence child labor. Silver linings!

What I have not done in all this time, besides keep this space active, is much writing of substance.

Finding a new direction since my mom died has been a struggle. Turns out not writing doesn’t help with that either.

So I’m hitting refresh. If you’ve also been stumbling, you do the same. Let’s welcome autumn with our own grand conflagration and begin again.  Begin again.

 

2014 so far…

We’re only 3 days in and I’m already tired of this year. When will we at last be over this blessed vomit bug? For more on that, today’s post comes courtesy of my husband, Lance, from an email he wrote to a friend early this a.m.:

After working outside all day IN THE FUCKING BLIZZARD, I am very tired. I really need to go to bed. My darling little two year old (Ed.: 20 month old) is in the bed, asleep. It’s 9 o’clock, I really have to go to sleep. Marie is up at the kitchen table reading. Marie loves to read. She is reading Longbourn, a novel by Jo Baker. The book is an imagining of the servants of the Bennet family, of Pride & Prejudice. Marie is all about Pride & Prejudice. (I think the English have gotten quite enough mileage out of that particular book, and at this point I am quite sick of Mr. Fucking Darcy). Marie says, “Don’t you wake that baby!” Of course, the baby wakes as soon as I am in bed. She starts to cry. Dammit all! We all know that the baby will not stop crying until Marie brings her breasts to bed, but Marie is angry. Marie is fuming. I can FEEL her in the kitchen, fuming. She is going to finish this chapter, no matter what, and Lance will just have to suffer the consequences. His fault anyway. (Ed.: That’s right, durn it.) After twenty minutes, Marie comes to bed. Georgia stops crying. Blessed Jesus, now I can sleep.

An hour or so later, Marie leaps out of bed. Aidan is in the kitchen, crying. I get up. Georgia starts crying. Aidan has vomited all over everything in his room. His bed, the clothes, the toys, the books, the floor. His brother Vincent is in the bed next to him, blissfully unaware. I switch to clean mode. I throw out the vomit toys, I bag the vomit cloths. I clean the vomit floor. I spray disinfectant until the room smells of chlorine like the pool at the Y. Marie puts the little boy in the tub. Washes him up, gets him a bucket, puts him on the sofa. Aidan continues to vomit, the little girl continues to cry. Marie says something snarky to me, she is still mad about being interrupted from her literary commune with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I snap back, nearly insensible with exhaustion. Outside, it is four degrees and there is a blizzard raging. There, I am done. Everything is clean, the boy is almost asleep on the sofa, the little girl has given up and has curled up asleep on my side of the bed. It is then that there is another cry from the boys’ room; Vincent has now vomited all over his bed.

I look at Marie, Marie looks at me, we both say “What the fuck?” at the same time. She again takes charge of the victim, marching him off to the bathroom. I again start to clean the boys’ room. The first time I cleaned, I used a flashlight, because there is no light in the boys’ room. There is no light in the boys’ room because the little bastards have broken every light that I have placed in there. It gets hit with footballs, frisbees, knocked to the floor, or deliberately dismantled into its composite components. This time I take a light from the kitchen and put it in the boys’ room, the better to illuminate the vomit. One again, there is vomit everywhere. On toys, and books, which I throw away. (One must be merciless.) On clothes, which I put in trash bags and add to the large pile by the door. I start to move the toy chest when a corner catches the light cord sending the light crashing to the floor, shattering the lightbulb and sending little shards of glass into the puddle of vomit. “Are you fucking kidding me?” Marie is laughing at this point. I go and get another lightbulb from a light in the living room. I carefully remove the broken bulb from the socket without cutting myself. At least that goes right. I put gloves on and mop the mess with paper towels, she goes to get the vacuum. It is now midnight (Ed.: well past midnight, closer to 1 a.m., actually). We have new neighbors in the apartment downstairs. I turn on the vacuum, hoping that the neighbors will forgive us. Again I spray the floor with disinfectant. The boys are in the living room taking turns vomiting into buckets which Marie carts to the bathroom and cleans.

Finally, I am done with the room. I have put new sheets on Vincent’s bed and he has moved back in. I unplug the light and go to the kitchen. I try to unscrew the lightbulb so I can put it back in the living room. It slips out of my hand and shatters all over the kitchen floor. We both are laughing. What else can you do? I get the vacuum and again vacuum up the shards. The little girl wakes up screaming, Marie takes her breasts to bed and the screaming stops. I muse that Mr. Darcy would have removed himself to the pub and have had the servants take care of all this. I muse that Mr. Darcy is a pussy.

Fin. Please heaven, fin.

Happy New Year!

It’s good luck if your entire family is down with a stomach bug for New Years, right?

In lieu of a proper post, and it’s been ages anyway, so who am I kidding, I resolve to write more regularly here — I couldn’t exactly do worse, so I’m practically ahead of things already.

Happy New Year, friends.

What’s your story?

“What’s your story? It’s all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.” — Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

I’m a couple weeks past the media cycle, I realize, but I’ve been thinking about Scott Simon and his mother, and the brouhaha surrounding his live-tweeting of her death. I’ve read comments to the effect of, How ghoulish/exploitative! and others more passive-aggressively judgey (All power to him, but if my mother were dying, my first thought wouldn’t be to splash it on social media…).

But my favorite response was Brian Stelter’s article in the New York Times, “Goodbyes and Grief in Real Time,” which closes with

“‘We have reached a point in the way we think about our lives where our stories of struggle and loss feel like they no longer belong solely to us,’ said Joe Lambert, founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, Calif. Being able to broadcast them, on Twitter or elsewhere online, ‘feels like a gift to those grieving in our families, our communities and as far as a tweet might reach.'”

While I protest the missing Oxford comma, this is very much in the main of how I feel.

Time was, mourning was a practice, with cultural traditions and strictures. Through those practices — widow’s weeds, withdrawal from society — your community recognized and supported you in your grief.

I don’t want to wear black 24/7, but in our isolation and privacy we’ve lost the very ballasts that can help keep us afloat when we feel as though our grief will sink us. Who could get to your door on days when you’re having trouble mustering the will to get out of bed? Or would even think to check on you? Because, gosh, hasn’t it been a while since you lost your mom/dad/sister/brother/child/dearest lovely loved one? And really, what help would I be anyway?

People don’t know. If they’ve never experienced grief, they don’t know — not how it breaks you open, nor how they can help put the pieces together again.

Twenty years ago, August 3, 1993, my dad died. Suddenly. We reeled with the shock and brunt weight of it.

And one of my clearest memories of the week that followed was of my cousins. They came over, gathered all our dirty laundry — 6 kids’ worth — and took it away with them. They returned with it later, all cleaned and folded… it was breathtakingly thoughtful.

They knew not to ask us, numb and dumbstruck with pain, how they could help. They just showed up and discovered for themselves what needed doing, and then did it, with no fanfare or calls for attention. And I’ve never forgotten.

So now we have Facebook. And Twitter. And new ways of sharing our losses, great and small. And we do. We post pictures, and obits, and the flurry of condolences comes.

This is not in any way a knock against those. I love social media, and those comments of sympathy and support help. Like cards, and flowers, they’re not nothing. Not by a long shot.

But in social media as in life, we’re not so good with the follow-up. We’re quick to let ourselves off the hook and leave it at that. If our friends don’t post about their losses, we don’t mention them. And the grieving sense that extended posting on sadness/hard days/DEATH will be seen as wallowing/attention-seeking. They post statuses of grief thereafter only on anniversaries, some holidays. As if those are the only acceptable days to be publicly bereft once the prerequisite amount of time has passed.

Which brings me back to Scott Simon.

It was so obvious when he began that he had no intimation of what was coming. He thought he was tweeting one more step along the way of his mom’s struggle with cancer. Because you always think you’ll have more time. You think it right up until the minute you don’t.

Reading his tweets, their gradual realization which reminded me so strongly of my mom’s last hours, hearing him speak about it on NPR, was tremendously moving. It did feel like a gift, this sharing of an intimate and painful time. This sharing.

It’s a verb we’ve absorbed into the internet ether, but sharing serves us. Every day on social media we’re writing the narrative of our lives. It’s a big part of how we tell our stories, about ourselves, to ourselves and others. When Scott Simon shared his final days with his mother, he allowed us to share his mother and share her loss, and share his grief.

And through it, feel our own — the grief to come, if we’re lucky, or the grief we carry already, if we’re not.

In a world that values the strong and happy over the vulnerable and bereft, nothing could be more generous.