Thursday, May 15, 2008

A gift given

Several weeks ago I gave a friend a tin of oatmeal raisin cookies I had made. As always, I made far too many and was happy to share. Her family enjoyed the cookies, she returned the tin a couple days later, and I put it away. Today as I was attempting to clean my kitchen I moved the tin and realized there was something inside. Instead of giving me cookies in return (which I specifically asked that she not do), my friend had put in several articles she thought I'd enjoy.
She was right; there was one article on knitting, one on architecture, and a recipe for home-made chai. All suit me quite nicely, and it was a delightful respite to sit on a stool in the middle of the kitchen and read through random snippets I would otherwise never have found. It also got me thinking; gifts given are a mirror in which the recipient can better see how others perceive them.
Once I gave my mother a necklace depicting a dancing goddess. To me the goddess reflected my mother's indomitable spirit. I don't quite remember what I wrote in the accompanying note, but I do remember how surprised my mother was. She doesn't believe herself to be the person I see. Perhaps that is a family trait -- I think of myself as rather stodgy, but the articles I received reflected someone with wide interests, a zest for spice (literally), and a certain amount of creativity.
I like how you see me. Thank you.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Here comes the rain again

The rain clouds have blown in again. From the second floor windows I watched the western mountains fade behind falling gray sheets. I was startled back to home by swirls of new seeds rattling against the window, mimicking recent snow. Silhouetted by the storm, tree limbs, still bare, stood jagged like black lightning reaching upward. I waited, hoping for thunder.
My husband and I once drove across New Mexico, racing a distant storm. He, accustomed to the overhanging green tunnels of vegetation on the East Coast, found the desert empty and dull. I, in turn, reveled at the grandness of it all, breathing deeply as if my very being had been constricted by vines and leaves and was, for the first time in eight years, finally able to expand again. I find the obvious beauty of maples and oaks gaudy and ordinary; but the hues of sand and stone and prairie undulating over a hundred miles require attention to appreciate. That day, as the storm rippled across the horizon flashing clouds pink above bright threads of lightning and blowing golden oases of sunlight across the land below, Will finally saw through my eyes.

I always have loved a storm. When I was a girl I would wait anxiously for the late summer storms that rolled through, pushing the leaden summer heat before them. First the leaves of the cottonwoods would shiver over silver like can-can dancers throwing up their skirts, then tendrils of cool air would slip past, until the rain broke and I would make my way slowly to shelter, stomping momentary puddles whose mud oozed between my toes, to finally sit at the edge of the porch under the mist of deflected rain and count the number of times the thunder crossed the sky.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My personal blessings

My first child was conceived right around Sept 11, 2001, and as I carried him I carried also the burden of knowing I was bringing a child into a world where such horrors could happen. I often wondered if we were doing the right thing. However, at night when I woke to the shimmy of Sam's personal tango, a popular song whose refrain was "everything's gonna be all right" played in he back of my mind, and I took comfort in that message. I often find reassurance in the random lyrics of song.

Months later I watched him sleep, stretched out on a lambskin on the living room floor, and I saw a conversation play out on his unconscious face. First a smile, then an intense look of concentration, and finally a silent laugh that spread to the ends of his fingers. I believe even now that he was talking to angels.

I think my sweet boy is a new soul. He's never been through the wringer. The responsibility of guiding him to adulthood, helping him find a road with maybe a few less bumps, is daunting. But having him in my life is such a blessing. As I once told my friends as we despaired, I have a daily reminder of all that is good in this world, no matter what darkness lurks at the edges of our reality. Thank you my sweet boy, for always showing me the light.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The taste of a pear

Years ago a character in a mostly forgettable movie asked someone to describe the taste of a pear. I have pondered that question for years, never quite satisfied with the answer I come up with. Color descriptions are obvious. Red is hot or spicy or loud. Blue chills and darkens to ice and loneliness. Green is picnics on just-cut grass. Descriptions of scents are basic -- musky, or flowery, fresh or stale, even just plain bad. Whey, then, is taste so difficult to describe? Why is every unfamiliar meat described with "tastes like chicken"? Perhaps because taste is so personal, so ephemeral. Or maybe because it is sensual -- the only one of the five senses that happens only when you take some object inside yourself. But none of that answers the question: What does a pear taste like?

After far too many years of pondering, I recently had two epiphanies, and I'm wondering which sounds right to you? And if I haven't gotten it, what's
your answer?

A pear tastes like the first kiss with someone who makes your heart race. It starts soft, sweet, and tender, but before you pull away it catches, changes texture and becomes more assertive, perhaps messy, and requires two hands and a laugh as you look upward and stop for a moment to savor before you lean back in for more.

A pear tastes like dawn on a mountain top. You're not quite sure what to expect, and you look out and see glimpses of what's coming and you take a lightly perfumed breath inward. Then suddenly it's light and everywhere you turn there's something new and it's all lovely and you begin recognizing the shapes around you, and each one is delightful and familiar and yet somehow new.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

She's crafty!

Now that I am not part of the corporate world, I find I make projects for myself. This week -- repairing the seats of the dining chairs I inherited! Tearing them apart I found cotton batting, grass (for padding) about seven thousand tacks per seat, and disintegrating burlap webbing. Each one made me sneeze (and itch) for hours, but I'm feeling mighty proud of my work. They are actually more comfortable than before! Now I just have to motivate myself to do the remaining four (out of six). Perhaps I'm taking credit a little early. Anyway.

Before & After

This week's flowers

Pink tulips were the first flowers my husband ever bought me. No wonder I like them so.

invisible wings

Yesterday my little girl was swinging on her belly and she overbalanced and scraped her faced across the ground before she recovered. I was inside, and then outside before the first scream segued to the next, only to laugh as she spluttered dirt out of her mouth and shrieked at the indignity of it all. After much cuddling and tentative face washing and several attempts to put a bandage on just the right spot (all were eventually torn off as ineffectual), she forgot she was hurt.

In my mind I have a long, long white wall, on which are hung many "Bad Mommy" plaques, one for each lapse in judgment or self-control or completely unavoidable incident which damages my children. I did not award myself the Bad Mommy yesterday, although one could argue that letting my girl play alone outside, unsupervised, was a bad choice.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The bell

We gather slowly, pulled like the tide from our jobs or homes or errands, bringing whatever we were holding when the time came--small children, dogs, briefcases. We enter the asphalt courtyard like supplicants, gazing almost longingly at the pale edifice of the school building, then shrinking from the brightness, turning away yet unable to withdraw. In summer clusters of people find sparse shelter in pools of shadow under the three trees; in winter they line the leeward walls, humbled by cold wind.

The mingle of people grows, each quietly intent on the individual business of waiting. Early in the year there are tentative glances, like at a high school dance, but the connections become stronger and after a few months there are hushed groupings: of neighbors, class parents, awkward strangers drawn into proximity by common experience. Still--through the light conversation that passes the time--eyes glance at windows or doors, expectant, hopeful.

And then the jarring shrillness of the bell, the old clapper style that beats relentlessly on a dome and seems to go on forever and as it echoes away we all sway backwards under the awesome wave of children that erupts from the school. The shrieking joy and pulsing energy seethes, rushing around parents who stand like stones at the edge of the sea, gulping the air as if we could somehow recover our own youth if we just breathe in their essence deeply enough.

Slowly we collect our children and their daily flotsam--papers, jackets, half-empty lunch boxes--and we trickle away, leaving the pavement unmarked except for the painted outlines of games we no longer know how to play.