Thursday, December 27, 2012


I walked her around at the restaurant last night, because she was fussy and tired and in need of distraction, and both her mom and her nana—her regular, more familiar walking companions—looked like they could use a break. She does not know me as well, doesn’t remember me from six months ago. But we walked around and looked at things together, and got to know each other a little bit, exploring.

We started with the shapes on a tall carved screen, painted bright white. Circle, square. White. She put her finger inside the circle. We looked up, touched the whiteness. We wondered together. Probably about different things, but together, nonetheless.

Not quite eighteen months old, and teething, and tired. I kept moving, kept pointing, kept talking. Look at this Christmas tree! See the lights? They’re so bright! So many shiny things!

We moved on. I pointed out more lights. Chandeliers and shades—red, green, yellow, orange—look, purple, even! Had I noticed that before?

A red velvet couch. Oooh, it’s soft. Soft red. Touch the soft red! I stroked it myself, and held her hand to it so she could feel, too. Soft, soft. She smiled. Back to the tree, and a shiny metal ornament. Hard—we touched that, too. Everything I pointed to, she looked at, all amazement. Look here! A green velvet couch! Touch the soft green! And here—maroon! Touch the soft maroon velvet!

And this is something I love about being with a very young child. Everything is amazement, and at the same time nothing is a surprise. Because it’s all a surprise. The amazement is a perpetual state—taken in stride—it is all new, all amazing, all wonder-ful. No line between fantasy and reality, because every last bit of it is fantasy. And when you come alongside and see things their way for a moment? The world expands. You realize, or maybe resolve anew, that you want to make no time for jadedness. No allowance for cynicism. No room for anything but wow—okay, sure!

Show me more.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

One Reason I Love Winter:

Strip away the green (and I love the green—both when it is young and new and when it is older and glossy and abundant; I love, too, when the colors change—the leaves blazing out with everything they’ve got,) but strip away the green and you have dark lace, delicate and chaotic, and room to see new colors—all the shades of opal and pearl and light that are so easy to miss when the green is prevalent.

That line of white just above the center of the picture? Birds, many of them. I wish you could have seen them the way I saw them this afternoon, catching the light and glowing like pearls.

I am always happy for the shift of seasons. For the in-between and deep-within of each of them, and the chance to see and hear and feel differently.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gold I Bring

A recent weekday morning. Downstairs in the kitchen there is butter out on the counter, softening, lying in wait beside a cookbook opened to a recipe for Anise Kringle. I am imagining mixing the ingredients, twisting soft dough into pretzels, the smell of sugar and butter and flour and anise seed filling the house while the cookies bake. Chances are this is wishful thinking, at least for today. There are other things more pressing today, all of them good, and I’m trying to stay focused, trying to remember that I am in fact a responsible adult.

I wish I were baking cookies. I wish there were more time in the day. I wish I could drown myself in good and beauty and not think anymore, about the rest.

*       *      *

I just started reading a book, a fitting book for the time of year I think, in which there is a character who loves color. Except love is not a strong enough word for its pull on him. Color gravity is what he calls it. He is completely drawn in by color, stops in his tracks to witness a sunrise or watch a house being painted. He steals paintings to get it. He wants not only to have it but to dwell inside of it.

Something in my mind is telling me I’m supposed to think he's strange, but the truth is, I get it. That’s kind of where I want to live, too.

I wish I had gold.

You know that longing, too, don’t you? For gold, for color, for beauty? That longing to inhabit only the precious places? To shut out everything else?

*       *       *

Yes, I long for gold. I suspect that this time of year brings out that longing even more. You go to the store and think maybe you can buy it for yourself or the ones you love. Collectively we surround ourselves with light and beauty and hope. We work hard to dwell in those places. To assure each other that this fallen world does not in fact have the power to eat us or our loved ones alive, even when the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. We give gifts, in imitation of ancient wise men—things that shine, that scent the air around us, that speak of costliness—that try to get at what is really precious to us.

And I don’t want to get lost in that. I want to lose myself in the real gold, not the physical-thing-that-really-serves-best-as-a-metaphor.

*      *      *

Because we do have gold. Sometimes lots of it, sometimes very little. Sometimes you have to look very hard for it, but oh when you see that glimmer you can’t take your eyes off it.

After Oldest was born—an unplanned, last-minute c-section—I found myself lying alone in a recovery room that reminded me of some dark hidden basement, shaking with cold under a pile of heated blankets. All I wanted in the world at that moment was to hold my baby for the first time, but what I had was a Polaroid of him in his father’s arms, somewhere else in the hospital. And I could not take my eyes off that picture—I held it with my eyes and with every cell in my body and it was pure gold.

*      *       *

I read these words yesterday, in an essay about music education. The author after making the statement, "I have also been musing about the impact of spending so many hours of growing up dedicated to, and inside the creation of, beauty" says this:

“Beauty lives paradoxically in two time frames, the immediate and the eternal; and experiencing this paradoxical reality provides essential nourishment for the challenges and aspirations of the human condition.”
Eric Booth, “El Sistema’s Open Secrets

This thought takes my breath away.

Dwelling in those places, surrounding ourselves in gold, giving it away to those who are more precious to us than gold itself—it’s good.

What I keep coming back to is that when I feel like there’s not enough, when sickness and sadness and violence and all the rest close in, I will look harder for the gold. I will point it out to others. I will make it, give it, share it, dwell in it as much as I am able, because the alternative is just too bleak.

The anise kringle eventually got made. They are good—delicate and rich and sweet. Do they make up for the fact that I gave up sending Christmas cards two or three years ago, or that it is December 20th and my Christmas shopping is nowhere near done and I am completely overwhelmed by my to-do list? Probably not. But what needs to get done will somehow get done, and I am learning to let the rest fall by the wayside.

There is unending gold to bring.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Today's Offering

A completed project—part escape, yes, but also an act of praise, a meditation, an attempt to contribute something beautiful. With fresh determination that this is a good way to live.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

'Tis the Season

Forgive me if you are tired of this music. I am not. Many Decembers of my childhood meant a chance to see “The Nutcracker,” and if I was lucky, “Hansel and Gretel,” as well. So far in my adult life I’ve had the chance to play in the pit for each of them only once, and I loved every moment. Maybe if I’d played them more I would be bored with them, but maybe not. Like grilled cheese sandwiches and butterscotch malts, I suspect some things are just good forever. In my world, at least.

This still slays me.

As does this.

(I checked.)

Duke Ellington’s version of the Nutcracker Suite was new to me (fun vintage promotional video here), but I enjoyed that immensely, as well. And look—an accompanying picture book with CD:

More Nutcracker resources here and here.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012


What a nice chewy word. How perfect that it is so physical to say, so enjoyable in the mouth.

It is a word that came up a few times in the comments on last Thursday’s post, along with a fair amount of talk about knitting and a general agreement that keeping one’s hands busy is a very good thing.

And oh, how I love words, and the intangible in general, and oh, how I love tangible.

I keep trying to get at this thought. At the airiness of words, and the desire to take life and substance and turn them into things that travel through time and space. I want so much for them to take hold and become something of substance again on the other side. It is easy to believe, sometimes, that they get to within a breath of something you can touch. And they fill—they really do. You start to believe you could live off them. Yet sometimes they make you yearn for tangible all the more.

And then there’s this—I am certain that if I had the chance to stand right in front of you, look you in the eye, touch your shoulder, maybe (there—tangible!) my instinct would be to speak words, to tell you what I’m thinking.

Because the physical realm is not enough.

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