Friday, February 15, 2008


I've been ignoring my blog. Well, I haven't been ignoring it per se, but I had some big ideas of ongoing writing projects I think I'll post and then just never got around to articulating them. . . .!

Anyway, Lyra is now nine months old. She makes jokes in her own ways. She tries to surprise me with sudden monster noises, laughs ridiculously hard at my lame physical comedy, plays a mean game of peek-a-boo, loves to be seriously bounced and jostled like a little adrenaline junkie, and will eat anything: She likes brussel sprouts. She likes lemons. She likes creamed smoked roe in a tube. She also eats great quantities of food. Entire avocados act as simply an amuse bouche for the rest of her courses. She says "num num!" when she's hungry. And she is still the cutest kid ever.

Her eating anything also applies to anything she finds on the floor, your shoes, the fuzz on a sweater. She can pick up incredibly tiny items. This, and her ability to suddenly find new ways to keep up with the cats, require constant vigilance. It is exhausting. She's acquired stranger-danger "separation anxiety" issues when in our house, but they are fine when people chill out and visit with glenn and I for awhile and she gets to see us all smiling together before she's expected to interact. She basically just watches our faces anytime anything happens or we see new people.

Lyra and I started a class today called "Sing and Sign," where we will sing songs and learn some basic sign language. We needed some fun and socializing, Lyra loves songs, and I cringe at many of the baby tunes. So this seemed like a good solution as it would occupy my brain some and entertain her. And if she learns some useful signs (Like "stop" so I don't have to scream it ever!) that's great. And, listen, I'm acquiring these really useful language skills -- so they next time you encounter someone who is deaf and you need to sing them "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," I'm your woman. Just call me.

It's fun watching Lyra with the other kids. She is a clearly super alert person. She also seems quite social. She crawls up to each of the babies and touches their faces and yells her barking hello and then moves on to the next kid. She rushes the teacher anytime the teacher has something new in her hand. When everyone sings, Lyra sits and looks at everyone and bounces up and down throwing her hands up and down with glee. Sometimes she sounds like she's singing along.

And in other news my other days of the week I'm spending more time at my studio doing some good work, and I'm getting a bit of writing done as well. I feel like I'm returning to myself again a bit. But really all I want to do lately is to play outside. Winter in New England with a less outdoors-oriented spouse is one thing, but with an infant it is just dreadful. I miss winter hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing in negative windchills...I find these things fun. I would love to try the skating rink that opened in our neighborhood, to ski into a yurt for a weekend, something. Meanwhile I have the aforementioned happy nutter to hole up inside with, so all is not lost, but it is indoors and inactive a lot more than I'd like lately.

My dad, however, is stuck inside this winter quite unexpectedly. He had a knee replaced (his second) in November to get him on the path to less pain and more mobility. He was doing really well until he fell on the ice about a month later while coming home from swimming. It was a terrible fall and he ripped his quad from his kneecap. Many weeks later he got the brace off his knee and after he stood he suddenly buckled. This week they found his quad is Not attached. More surgery, more months of recovery in his house with a walker and the TV to keep him company. If anyone has any tips for my house-bound dad to make this next round more bearable, post 'em!

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

You, Me, and We

I spend a lot of time considering different perspectives. Most creative activities require this skill. I enjoy managing groups of people into systems that play on the various strengths of individuals as well. And of course marriage requires this skill, and clearly understanding our parents or being parents does. So, as I age I’ve been attempting to expand this ability. I am aware that I am mainly only tolerant of those who share the same intolerances, and I keep trying to change this.

I believe that my key to growth is to comprehend fully that we can share the most intimate times and still our individual experiences of this reality are different. It’s hard to accept this in private, cherished relationships, but it’s obvious when you discuss the past with siblings or become a parent and suddenly have a new gratitude toward your own parents. I try and try to incorporate this into my day-to-day life, but still I struggle. I also harbor a fear that we as a people may need to have a similar reality in order to change our habits in drastic ways right now.

I had all this in mind when Lyra and I went to see the movie In the Shadow of the Moon. I always respect people who gain perspective by going away for a weekend to write, or live abroad, or spend time in serious wilderness, or have walked through serious trauma and emerged anew on the other side. And this movie offered perspective from the handful of people who have actually left the planet entirely and looked at it in its bigger context.

Facing things far out of our control, forces just plain bigger than we are, these are the things that can define our existence, point out our boundaries. People may choose to understand and adapt in different ways, but no matter what, those who look the storm in the eye are typically the people who are more likely to have foresight, who take action without being caught up in self-involved pettiness.

Those who have really lived, really love, really lost, and are still forging their way vividly forward -- well, they just have a different sort of flow. They sometimes turn to an existing construct to explain the chaos, but occasionally they articulate a new one. And sometimes this is what we need to make or save history. Of course I want to know what someone who has stood on alien soil has to say.

Me, I want to float in my big picture perspective, but I often feel dragged down by my baggage. I have a gorgeous, funny, amazing baby, yet I don’t go to sleep sighing happily. I have nightmares, I worry, I mourn losses. And I cannot stop being terrified about her survival, and as a result the speed with which we are destroying our home on the pretty blue marble.

I am looking for a perspective and some extra tolerance to move forward in the face of fear. I need to keep onward when I cannot see the way. I need to accept my life may be a a bit of a rantum scoot, so I may as well do what I can and enjoy it. I need this; my daughter needs this from me. We need balance: we need to accept the ebb and accept the flow of more than just our own lives, whatever direction we end up sailing.

The astronauts in the movie still looked completely wildly moved by their experience 38 years later. One discussed his new devotion to the religion that helped him understand the largeness of his experience, and one considered how fragile the little blue planet looked. But what struck me most was when one of the men described feeling the great vastness of space, and he felt the moon below and the Earth beyond and it was so clear that all of this, including him, was one thing. We are all part of this one thing. And he felt lucky.

This is what I want to hold on to: that together we are whole, and I am lucky to take part. People in my life this year have spoken a lot about the physical and spiritual benefits of expressing gratitude on a regular basis, and perhaps this is the same as accepting our luck.

I am lucky that I am here, I may have experienced a great deal of various kinds of perspective that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, I may struggle every day to grow my pool of tolerance. I may face danger and despair. The balance of the biology we are part of may be aging toward an end. And I do think every one of us must take action. However. despite every terrible thing, every day I am lucky.

Today I am grateful for the cold Saturday afternoons when I spread out my dad’s map of the moon on the living room rug in the sun. I would trace my fingers over the named features on the map and marvel at how we could be so familiar with such a big alien place.

I was one-and-a-half months old when men walked on the moon. I got to grow up with a generation of people who saw the image of our whole planet as one, together in a great flow of space for the first time, before it was a ubiquitous symbol. Maybe that will help us now.

Today I am also grateful for the warm Saturday afternoons when my dad rowed our dinghy The Eagle out to our boat, Tranquility Base, and we sailed to where I couldn’t see anything but blue in all directions.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Just Bad"

There have of course been about a gazillion things I would have liked to share with my mom since she died. Some are obvious: where I moved, my wedding, lot and lots about my daughter, etc. But this one we would have just talked about for weeks. Here's the story:

My mom's side of the family comes from many generations of respectable and intelligent and well-traveled Mainers with a glaring exception. My mom had a "just bad" cousin she absolutely hated. I should point out, that even as a young woman in great conflict with my mother I was aware that she had an uncannily accurate judge of character. She summed up friends and boyfriends of mine after meeting them for 20 minutes with comments that were often spot-on. And, regarding her cousin, my mom's brother noted to me the other day that everyone knew "he should have been locked up in jail or the nuthouse for at least the last 60 years." (The cousin is 62.)

I have three main memories of this guy, my second cousin. One is that at one point while my parents were traveling and my grandparents were staying with my brother and I, we had to attend his very long and very boring wedding (and I don't believe the marriage lasted too long). The other is that one time (it may have been my great-grandmother's funeral) I watched him entice my brother to pet a chained up dog at my great-grandmother's farm house and the dog barked viciously and bit my brother's outstretched hand, much to the guy's amusement.

The third is that he showed up unexpectedly at my mom's memorial, looking antisocial, wearing a chauffeur uniform and speaking with a post-stroke slur. Until then, I'd happily forgotten her cousin existed. His elderly mom had made him come; they lived together at the farm.

My mom had had wonderful memories of this farm, and I believe she lived there at one point while her mom was working somewhere else. She often told me a story about being chased by a bull there as a kid. We would visit and I would talk with the farm caretaker and ask a thousand questions "what is an ice house?" "why does that cow have freckles?" and desperately try to think of things to ask Mama Cook, my great grandmother, which always felt awkward like "what were stage coaches like?"

She would send me home with mittens and sweaters she had knit and needlepoint she had done. I sent her a letter when she was sick in the hospital about how much I loved her and my grandfather told me she asked that it be read to her again and then she died. It was a nice thing for me to hear whether it was true or not. She left me her gold watch which I still have, and it still works and it will probably be owned one day by her great-great-great granddaughter.

This week I learned that the lovely news that in May my great aunt was on her deathbed and the "just bad" cousin went psycho over who would own the farm, etc. He told his sister he'd shoot her if she even set foot there. She drove over there and true to his word, he shot her in the neck in front of his daughter and his mom's hospice worker. Her husband was shot in the hand while wrestling the rifle away. She's doing okay, the second cousin is finally locked up, and their mom died two days later. I don't believe anyone bailed him out.

Maybe I'll wind up my watch today and think about happier times at that farm.