Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Manifesto for Tuesday Morning

Expand, expand, expand.

Never grow tired of sunrises
or frost on windows
or talking to children.

Drink ginger tea
because a friend told you to—
only leave the tea bag in the cup,
just leave it
and let it all turn spicy and rich
and drink that goodness all day—
long after the cup itself is empty.

Enjoy the silence.
Enjoy the noise.
Learn how to seek out
both, and when.

Remember that these three things
are braided through it all:

Follow those strands through,
trace their path
with your fingertip.

Breathe deep.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

A List for the Middle of the Night

“Mommy, give me something to think about,” she often asks when I tuck her back in to bed in the middle of the night. Bad dreams have this way of haunting. They need to be crowded out with other thoughts.

You are swimming in a pool filled with chocolate—sweet, smooth, thick.

You are walking through a field of flowers, never-ending. Every flower is a different color. Every flower is a jewel, cut paper-thin and glowing in the sun.

You are a mountain climber who cannot fall. You can climb anything, anywhere, as easily as walking up the stairs.

You have the power to shrink or grow to any size. What will you do? Where will you go?

You have the opportunity to spend one day being somebody else—thinking their thoughts, feeling their feelings, doing what they do.

You find a magical pair of shoes. They will take you anywhere in the universe.

You live in Upside-Down World.

Your pet mouse is a fairy in disguise.

Your pet mouse is a spy in disguise.

You own an invisible car. Only you can drive it.

You get to spend one night in the biggest candy store in the world.

Instead of walking you have to fly.

Your best friend is a flying horse.

You are the most famous dancer in the world.

You are the most famous whistler in the world. Your whistling, in fact, has magical powers.

The whole world voted and made you queen for one year. What will that be like?

You are a star, watching the world from above. What does that feel like? What do you see? What do you know that nobody else knows?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More than Enough

Tuesday morning:

“There are a whole lot of people in this world whose job it is to make you feel discontent. Our economy is kind of built around all of us feeling like we don’t have enough. Ever.”

I don’t know if he really heard me. I got the “I know, I know,” but really he was too angry about all the limitations of his unbelievably-amazing-and-perfect-six-months-ago birthday present.

Did I get across to him how much I struggle with it, too? Did he hear me say that we each have to find a way of looking around us and seeing enough? It is part, I think, of the daily battle.

*     *     *

We took Youngest off gluten and dairy a week ago on a what-if whim, hoping to find relief from her constant stomach aches. She has gone a week now with only two stomach aches. Figuring out new ways to eat has been a challenge, but we’re trying to just go with it. Gluten-free loaves of bread from the grocery store—no, dairy-free cheese substitute—no. Expensive, plus she won’t eat them. My plain old corn bread recipe with two straight substitutions—yes. So we’re rethinking food. Trying to focus on what works while being honest about all the “nos” we’re coming up against.

There’s something very familiar about this path.

*     *     *

Also Tuesday morning:

In the face of way too much to get done, a black bean chocolate cake recipe. (A magical recipe—here.) The scents of chocolate and orange and vanilla and coffee all around.

Sibelius 5 playing over and over, so I can absorb it into my soul and mind for rehearsal tonight.

The memory of last night’s wind, and the way it made the bedroom shades poof out when it blew especially hard. Through the glass, storm windows and all. (Thankful for you, old house—I actually really like you this way. Thankful for you also, down comforter.)

The field of frost flowers and grasses on the window.

The Queen Anne’s Lace behind the house, nothing but skeleton now, arms still held up to the sky, open to gather what comes.

The moments, suspended, when everything—in spite of everything else—felt like more than enough. This is how I will fight.

*     *     *

Wednesday evening, now:

I’ll be honest: today was a long, tired, tiring day—one of those days in which time and chaos and humanness simply overtook everything else. Finally I have the chance to post what I wrote yesterday. And I will. Because even though the only thing I can think of to do in the face of today is go to bed, yesterday’s more-than-enough still counts.

That, too, is part of the fight.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Second Look

So somebody stuck a pair of googly eyes on the ketchup dispenser at Culver's. I took the picture because it was whimsical, because I loved the happiness unexpected. Because if our family is at Culver's it means we are on the road and some combination of tired and hungry, regardless of anything else, and seeing this cut into that mood.

But since I took the picture it has kept speaking. About whimsy, yes, but also about generosity. About how there's a lot of power in being able to share what you see, and even more power in doing it simply. About "Show, don't tell," and surprise, and seeing, in general. 

There's a whole story behind this that I'll never know. And the person who did it will never know how it lived on in my imagination. But there's a connection now, and regardless of intent or anything else, when I look at this picture I will forever see a work of art.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Heat Signature

“Mom, look!”

Oldest had a projector set up in the dining room, shining across the table onto the drawn window shades. He had lit candles for dinner, a new small joy he’s brought into our lives recently, and their shadow—

“Look at the flames!”

“I know. That’s a heat signature. I learned about it on Doctor Who.” He started describing the episode.

I looked it up, and I’m not sure that’s exactly what we saw. However, the way my mind works, that’s okay. I learned something true.

First, the candles—their shadow showed something different. We could see their heat rising, rippling into the air. We saw how the flame took up more space—different space—as a shadow than it did as a flame. In your mind you can put flame and shadow together but you still don’t have the whole story.

Second—the idea of heat having a signature. Something that can be left behind, that identifies it's source, even. And of course, the physical side is only the beginning of it.

*     *     *

I’ve been thinking about what people leave behind. The better and longer you have known someone the more complex their signature. But a single sentence or look or gesture, left even by people who are maybe just passing through, can carve a signature deep into the soul, as well. 

“I always used to watch your thighs jiggle in dance class.”

“We! Hate! You!”

“When I had young children I did not bring them to the grocery store.”

The once-overs that said, “What are you doing here?” and “I just wrote you off.”

“He thinks you do drugs. You’re always staring off into space.”

“Well we decided we were going to let God decide how many children we have.”

“Well. You should try harder.

But also:

“You said our relationship could be about more than just joking around and you were right.”

“If you play as beautifully as you look I would love to hear you someday.” (This is especially powerful spoken by a famous violin teacher to a 13 year-old who does not feel beautiful.)

“You’re right. I made assumptions about who you were, and I shouldn’t have.”

You matter, too.”

“We’re so proud of you.”

“You were scared? Why didn’t you tell me? I thought you were just really, really brave!”

“I feel like I can talk to you about this.”

*     *     *

It strikes me that we don’t always have control over the signature, what we leave or what we carry with us. That whether it is good or bad or confusing, it continues to burn. That we can’t be certain what kind of trail we’ve left behind us.

It also strikes me that the signatures that burn warmest come mostly from people who are still a part of my life. That my handwritten signature looks the way it does partly because of decisions I made about how I wanted it to look. That I've seen a few small strokes change the entire picture, and that a true artist is always looking for ways to improve her craft.

And if you think that you somehow don’t matter, that you are not constantly touching others, you simply have no idea.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Waiting for the Thaw

Sometimes the words just freeze. It’s not a matter of coaxing—sometimes they cling to the sides of thingshard and inert, unwilling to take shape in the air, content instead to form patterns across the surface of something else.

I’ve been thinking about how brokenness—what is there to say, even? It is there, touching everyone, always, but we get good at hiding it. Sometimes it hits harder, comes out of the shadows and refuses to be ignored. It hits everyone, children included, and sometimes it hits a child you know. And sometimes it draws back and hits someone—a child, even—so hard it sends everyone for miles around reeling.

So you wait for the words to thaw.

And you pray, but your prayers cannot fix it. But you pray.

And you look for ways to help, but your help cannot fix it. But you help, if you can.

And you listen, but your listening cannot fix it. But you listen, anyway.

You try to trust the season, even while you fight the circumstances. You bundle up. You remind yourself that words may freeze, but there are other ways to speak.

Then you do your best to keep the people around you warm.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

...And a Prayer that the Light Ripples Outward

New Year’s Day: we all slept in, we remained lost in our few-days-without-schedule. Thankful, still, for leftovers as well as recent gifts of pumpkin bread and cheese curds (which, when warm, still squeak perfectly between our teeth.) Our vacation has been good.

I don’t tend towards formal New Year's resolutions. I like my lists, but they have this way of making me crazy, the more detailed they get. Better to create a framework and then allow fluidity within that—it keeps me from getting discouraged and giving up altogether. Besides, I spend a lot of time, already, processing and examining and setting goals. Sitting down to do it formally on this day seems excessive.

But still, let’s mark the day, honor the way it looks back and looks forward.

So at lunch, everybody got two squares of paper. Two minutes of (almost) silence, and then each of us wrote things we would like to say goodbye to on one paper, and things we would like to welcome in or carry with us on the other. We burned our goodbye papers in a bowl outside, and kept our welcome papers to do with as we wish, as long as we hold on to them.

This evening I folded mine into a paper crane. Maybe what I wrote will take wing through the year. The paper I started with was not a perfect square, so it is the clumsiest paper crane I have made in a very long time. I expect there might be an equal amount of clumsiness to bringing these goals into my life, so I’m calling the crane perfect. I’m also calling it a prayer.

I am counting on a ripple effect. I am hoping that the drops I start with will spread outward, gathering strength and brightness as they move. That the effort is not mine alone, and that I am not—ever—alone.  These things, too, are folded up in the prayer.

If it flies I cannot take credit, but I can watch, and thank God for the beauty.

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