Friday, November 22, 2013
We've been sick, one a week this whole month, another dropping as soon as one gets better. Ugh, the exhaustion! Thankfully, it has felled us all and hopefully the next virus won't be for many months. I did feel well enough to get out to see an old friend, well, that a might be an overly optimistic description of our relationship, but I have an inability to keep enemies. The whole process drains me so I just move on and never see them again or when we reconnect, and I act as if no bad happened, because I've learned it doesn't matter, if it ever did. I've made too many mistakes and unintentionally hurt people along the way to pretend I am better than anybody.
Anyway, this friend, she was a colleague and eventually my employee when I was promoted. We were both going through major stuff in our personal lives when we met, in fact, we do not know each other outside of the parameters of complete crisis and transformation. At the time, she was in the depths of her alcoholism and spiraling downwards quickly while I was emerging from a painful divorce and clawing my way back into the light. There was a middle ground between our paths, one where we recognized the broken bits in the other. There we formed an odd trust and source of comfort. Reminds of Rilke's epistolary advice, "Do not assume that he who seeks to comfort you now, lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours. Were it otherwise, he would never have been able to find these words."
She finally started AA, but I left the company shortly after, and lost touch with her until she invited me out. We shared a lovely breakfast, chatting and laughing as easily as ever. She was there to honor the program's step of amends. When she read her apology letter to me, recanting all of the instances where she let me down or took advantage of my kindness, all I could think of was, this is the hundredth time you've apologized to me. I accepted her apology, but more importantly, told her I had forgiven her long ago. I had forgiven her every time she screwed up, not because I am some incredibly good person, but because I knew I couldn't do anything to save her and to bear a grudge or ill will would have hurt me, not her.
I was glad to look her in the eye and say,"all that is past and gone, clean slate." I truly meant it, but later that evening in bed, all of the memories, the grievances, and terrible situations played out in my mind and kept me awake. I tossed for awhile, trying to re-compartmentalize those few years of the complete bs all of us at that job dealt with. When my mind wouldn't stop spinning, I opened my laptop to write and in my feed was a post that simply stated 'If you call one wolf, you invite the whole pack'. This proverb was well timed and as I pondered how meeting her again brought back to me the whole pack of characters and events we dealt with, good and bad, their emotional grip loosened. The fangs and fear faded back into darkness, again memories and nothing more. I slept soundly.
The next day, my son was freaked out by what he thought was a bowl of blood and guts in the fridge. I laughed and explained they were pomegranate seeds in their juice. He listened intently when I recanted the myth of Persephone, having being tricked into tasting a ruby pip in the underworld, which eternally bound her to Hades for half the year. When she walked the earth, life and light returned, but soon enough, she would have to retreat back into the depths; death and darkness blanketing everything. He found this most interesting but when I offered him a seed, he refused, exclaiming he preferred the light to the dark, thanks. Me, too, baby, me, too.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
We went for a walk today, into the woods, and found strung high above our heads, the skull of a deer. At first glance, coming across a thing like this, your gut tells you it's a warning. But, on closer inspection, the quiet, the utter silence feels more like a beckoning, a call from somewhere within; a remembrance perhaps. But, of what?
I'm not sure what is going on in the world in general, but in the small corners of my social network, people seem frazzled. Things breaking down; computers, cars, relationships. Even a few nervous breakdowns posted right out there for all to see. People are on edge or exhausted, overworked and under-rested, about to snap. It feels as if everyone is taking in a tremendous deep breath and holding it with no exhalation in sight. I'm feeling this energy, too, mine in the form of some inexplicable need, a weariness, a restlessness. Change is coming, the leaves are falling, the light is different, the stars are brighter, our souls that much closer to our surfaces.
Standing there, beneath this beautiful creature, I realized there is nothing I can do to anticipate what comes next and I think this is the lesson. To let go and be open to what awaits. Trust this incredible universe, trust myself, and be patient. The answers are on the way, the decisions will be made in their own time, the right path marked, as with the leaf strewn path beneath the skull. There is nothing to fear. I believe these set backs and hold ups are happening for a reason. It's time to stop holding on to the rope of the boat that brought us here and step fully onto the new shore.
In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver
|Look, the trees|
|their own bodies|
|are giving off the rich|
|fragrance of cinnamon|
|the long tapers|
|are bursting and floating away over|
|the blue shoulders|
|of the ponds,|
|and every pond,|
|no matter what its|
|name is, is|
|I have ever learned|
|in my lifetime|
|leads back to this: the fires|
|and the black river of loss|
|whose other side|
|none of us will ever know.|
|To live in this world|
|you must be able|
|to do three things:|
|to love what is mortal;|
|to hold it|
|against your bones knowing|
|your own life depends on it;|
|and, when the time comes to let it|
|to let it go.|
Friday, October 18, 2013
|charcoal and acrylic on paper by Heather Fox, 2013|
How true and timely is this sentiment. There is a great need, sharp like thirst, to carve out time to purposefully lose myself in some form of creative work. I find it centers me, brings me back to the present, and keeps me from becoming stressed by the what-ifs of the future. We find ourselves in this strange waiting place, not really being able to do much about our move, yet knowing everything will need to be done at once as soon as an offer is accepted. My family and I sit on the edge of flux, dipping our toes into the idea of what we want out of the next decade, but unable to really give weight to one option or another.
I used to believe you had to have a long range plan. Then I learned from others that kind of thinking traps and defines you. When the time comes to live out your grand plan, you make endless excuses not to go forward, reluctant to leave the city of your comfort. Maybe you feel the plan isn't so grand for you after all or regret never living for the present all of those years. Maybe you turned away from what could have been an amazing new path, for fear of failing or losing (imaginary) ground toward the big plan. I find life fits better when you make small immediate decisions, execute them as well as you can, and be equally delighted by the unexpected positive or negative changes. All works out in the end anyway and usually for the better. As long as the journey doesn't kill you, there is always a tomorrow.
Now, what will you do with your tomorrow? I'm going to a fall festival in the mountains and then to the big pumpkin patch, and possibly a waterfall picnic. The rest, the next big steps, will arrive when they are ready, and I won't boil the water for tea until they knock at my door.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
My love, how long has it been since we've enjoyed the soft indulgences of company? Far too long for my tastes, as you know how deeply I adore you. For one so lovely in all the graces, you are maddeningly unpunctual. Hide from me much longer and I will begin to take offense. Such a child of summer you are, delighting in the long shadows behind the house until well past time to come home. Shame on you for making me wait, there, by the windowsill, hanging by a cobweb of a hope. Was that you, in the gloaming? Could it possibly have been? No, again, no, for whole seasons, no; you toy with my affections.
You, my dearest Autumn, are no more than a cat meandering through my garden, dropping half gone offerings on my doorstep. Reminders of how truly enamored I am with your presence, even if it is only in the vague awareness you might deem exist to me once more. I gather these scraps you leave, fill the corners of the my home with them. I am mad, you see, after all. A bedeviled woman with bowls, platters, and jars spilling over with your little artifacts. You give me life, you must see, how you do! Your cool touch, your particular scent, your secreting the darkness ever nearer, cocooning my soul. And when you leave my side so soon? How I tremble, how dark and empty and dead the entire world becomes. The unbearable bleak of the proceeding days is lessened only by the coy promise of your return.
Promise is such a torturous affair, plunging one into the depths of hope; a prison, a cruel, key less cage. But, my selfish love, I write most fervently to you now, for I feel you coming. I hear the distant padding of your step, feel the shift in the air at dawn, and there, in my kitchen, balanced between east and west windows, I am enchanted by new shadows come to visit. In the mornings there comes a stillness, carried on the back of eastern light, silhouetted with overgrown hedges, filtered by the dirty streaks of thunderstorms now passed. Light like this comes creeping, blanketing the dusty corners, shyly at first, then growing so bold by end of day, my home seems engulfed in fire and ashy warmth.
I make haste, tidying the garden, harvesting the last of the peppers, tending the pumpkin vines, sweeping the clippings from the stones, all the while trying too hard to pretend the air is not so humid. How these cage bars rattle in my heart, compressing my lungs, my ribs paining upon waking! My love, my dearest, I beg you return to me, for then, and only when I feel the lightness of your breath across my lips, filling my lungs with your crisp and heady scent, shall I be free again. Come home, my love, it has been long enough. For if I cannot know you again, I humbly pray the ether I've departed to inhabit will be nothing but an endless season of you.
Though lovers be lost, love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
And death shall have no dominion.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
|photo by Dylan Struys|
My Father-in-Law, whom the kids call Opa, visited us from Belgium for a little over a week to meet his first Grandchild. What a week! Eating. Drinking. More eating. Even more drinking. Laughing, roaming, long afternoon naps, exploring, etc. etc. etc. Plus it happened to be the first week of school for the older pair and by the time he was safely aboard his long flight home, we were all merrily exhausted. In fact, it seems to have taken me days to get back in the normal routine, and I know exactly why.
I miss the temporary routine with Opa around. I enjoyed his quiet morning ways, waiting until after I had accomplished the mad dash to the bus with the kids to come downstairs. We'd sip coffee, eat bread with preserves and cheese, chatting, and being entertained by the baby crawling around to get into one peril after another. They would play together while I cleaned up and at some point, Opa would disappear. At first I was bemused by his unannounced exits, but he was never far, maybe out walking the neighborhood or upstairs playing guitar. Dylan worked a few half days and when he would arrive home, he'd ask where his dad was, and I'd have to honestly (sheepishly) answer, "I have no idea." He nodded and mentioned his dad is a wanderer. After a day or so, I was used to losing him in the crowded street market, in a store, in the park, or in the house. He would silently amble up to us again much later, as if he had never been gone.
Tolkien wrote, "Not all those who wander are lost." I cannot imagine a more apt description for Opa. He has traveled the world, from one film set to another, and the stories he shares are incredible, but yet, delivered humbly and without guile. He takes in stride differences in cultures, some suit him more than others, but he is rarely openly negative about them, he simply understands things are different. He speaks many languages and delighted us with an acted out explanation of the difference between 'wandelen' and 'lopen', depending on if you speak Dutch or Flemish. Equally wonderful was his amusement at all the American stereotypes being proven true at every turn. I imagine I'll be amused when I visit Europe as well. We got along famously and I am so grateful to feel at home in the company of all of my in-laws. And the baby? As you can see from the photo, she adores her Opa.
Since his departure, I've been busy, but a good busy, drawing, knitting, reading, while the little naps. I'm gearing up for the cool weather knitting to begin, already have baby leg warmers on the needles and the wool for her tunic is winging its way to me as I write. I also have the inclination to make myself a new cowl and eventually stitch a baby quilt. The thought of autumn brings out my cozy creative side. We'll see how many projects I actually finish. I find the pre-fall knitting plans are similar to the pre-spring garden plans, but oh, how lovely it is to fill my thoughts with making things rather than worrying about things.
Monday, August 12, 2013
So, we snuck into town, dropped the baby off with her Moeke and Auntie J, and drove all over creation. We stopped in Marietta Square and had an absolute blast at the farmer's market. I loved it! In an area of only a couple city blocks, I managed to take at least one hundred photographs. Marietta Square is a great place to hang out on the weekend, people watching, petting rescued greyhounds, chatting with strangers who treat you like they've always known you, and houses the most charming selection of oddball shops and cafes. We could easily see ourselves living here. After a croissant (worthy of a cheap Belgian cafe according to Dylan, which is high marks for pastry made stateside) at Sugar Cakes Patisserie, we toured the area to check out houses. Trusty apps at hand, we soon discovered the same depressing fact we discovered on our recon mission to Decatur, another wonderful city with a happening square, the houses are too small for a family of five, too expensive to be worth it, and the schools rate just shy of 'might as well not go to school at all'.
Is this a general truth or a southern city problem? In order to give your children a decent education, you have to live in the middle of nowhere? This catch-22 is beyond disconcerting. Why is it that the vibrant (read non-strip-mall, pre-1950's homes, diverse areas with walkability) rake in some of the highest property taxes, property values, and sales taxes, yet have the worst schools? Why? Am I remiss in believing that if you are capable of paying a couple thousand dollars on a mortgage each month, your children's local school should reflect some prosperity of means? Isn't the education of a society its ultimate foundation? Why is this being accepted as "just the way it is"? An incredibly lazy assertion I've heard many times from otherwise respectable people and no four words make me seethe more. To be fair, these cities have some great schools, but they require living in the depths of the suburban desert, and frankly, I want out of that desert. Do I want inner city living? No, too congested and expensive, but do I want middle ground? Yes.
That yes is my biggest problem right now.
I keep apologizing to my husband, saying things like, "I'm sorry we'll probably end up in boringville where we have to get in the car just to get the mail." He keeps telling me to stop worrying about disappointing him, that he's happy to be near our favorite spots, even if we can't walk or bike to them on a whim (our shared vision of Utopian living). And he's right. The move, the logistics, the situation are not disappointing him. Sure, he'd like to win the lotto so private school is an option and we could live wherever we pleased, but he's not looking at this move the same way I am. Honestly, I'm worried about disappointing myself. But it seems selfish, so I reflect my personal turmoil onto him or onto the kids. Not fair.
After these past several years, I need a new start. A fresh start. A stepping away from the old and jumping head first into the new. So much of my life has changed dramatically, but so many things are still the same, still not quite right, and are holding me back. Imagine having had surgery and your wounds have healed in time, but the stitches weren't completely removed. Little bonds, little bits of once necessary security that held everything in place, but now irritate you when you notice them. I keep wondering if the city I am pining for is out there somewhere- maybe Nashville or Asheville, or why not Montreal, Halifax, Reykjavik, or Ghent? One day, I'll find the right mix. Right now, the priority is schools, but it won't always be this way. No matter where we end up next, we'll make the best of it, because nothing is ever perfect, but I'm deciding that searching for the lifestyle I really want, filled with the things that feed my soul and enrich my life, is not selfish. If anything, it is the correct path, and I need to keep going because this journey isn't over yet.
There are always moments when one feels empty and estranged.
Such moments are most desirable,
for it means the soul has cast its moorings
and is sailing for distant places. This is detachment—
when the old is over and the new has not yet come.
If you are afraid, the state may be distressing,
but there is really nothing to be afraid of.
Remember the instruction:
Whatever you come across— go beyond.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
When I was learning to knit, I would study pictures of knit garments for hours, especially when ravelry started up. I read blogs of knitters, checked out scores of library books, and probably did some early damage to my eyesight admiring the enviably even, tiny, stitches. I progressed as a knitter, confident in my own stitching, and the pictures began to look completely different. There were models, backgrounds, light, and even an odd farm animal or two during my Rowan phase. Had these things not been there before? Of course they were always there; nothing had changed except the scope of my attention. Suddenly noticing a detail you had overlooked for a long time can be disconcerting, and difficult to live down. For two years, I had no idea my car had cruise control until I was a passenger. I simply could not see the button under the curve of the steering wheel. Who knows what else I've missed all these years?! Frankly, it's a wonder my children haven't wandered off and been lost on outings. Oh, wait, that's because I'm the one that wanders off and gets lost. Oh, well, let's chalk it up to my appreciation of, rather than attention to, detail.
Scope is defined as the extent of an area or subject matter something deals with or to which it is relevant. Trying to learn better techniques for photographing food, I began to look past the subject matter and to the broader scope within the frame. I'd study a photograph and think, the cake is lovely, but what makes the whole picture so pleasing? This questioning led me to search for stylists and photographers who have no qualms with sharing their tricks and techniques. These people are quite the opposite of the Oz artists, you know the ones, the "pay no attention to the man behind the curtains!" sort. Thankfully, there is plenty of good info out there for creating backdrops, some as simple as using different fabrics, and my new favorite - foam board.
While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.
- Dorothea Lange