The place I want to get back to is where in the pinewoods in the moments between the darkness and first light two deer came walking down the hill and when they saw me they said to each other, okay, this one is okay, let’s see who she is and why she is sitting on the ground like that, so quiet, as if asleep, or in a dream, but, anyway, harmless; and so they came on their slender legs and gazed upon me not unlike the way I go out to the dunes and look and look and look into the faces of the flowers; and then one of them leaned forward and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life bring to me that could exceed that brief moment? For twenty years I have gone every day to the same woods, not waiting, exactly, just lingering. Such gifts, bestowed, can’t be repeated. If you want to talk about this come to visit. I live in the house near the corner, which I have named Gratitude.
Once there was a man who filmed his vacation. He went flying down the river in his boat with his video camera to his eye, making a moving picture of the moving river upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly toward the end of his vacation. He showed his vacation to his camera, which pictured it, preserving it forever: the river, the trees, the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat behind which he stood with his camera preserving his vacation even as he was having it so that after he had had it he would still have it. It would be there. With a flick of a switch, there it would be. But he would not be in it. He would never be in it.
The grasses in the field have toppled, and in places it seems that a large, now absent, animal must have passed the night. The hay will right itself if the day
turns dry. I miss you steadily, painfully. None of your blustering entrances or exits, doors swinging wildly on their hinges, or your huge unconscious sighs when you read something sad, like Henry Adams’s letters from Japan, where he traveled after Clover died.
Everything blooming bows down in the rain: white irises, red peonies; and the poppies with their black and secret centers lie shattered on the lawn.
Last night, we had our first FLX Literary Society meeting in our library. There were five of us, which felt perfect, since four of us were introverts. This idea has been brewing ever since that episode of What Should I Read Next podcast where Tiffany talked to Anne about her Literary Society.
Tiffany was flooded with DMs on Instagram of eager readers, like myself, who wanted to know more about Literary Society and how to start one of their own. Thankfully, Tiffany graciously gave us some guidelines in her Instagram highlights and was very encouraging to those of us who wanted to take her idea and run with it.
So I did. I asked a few friends if they would be interested, started a Facebook page, and set the date for our first meeting. And last night, we met and shared all of our bookish thoughts with each other.
Alan went first and talked about 11/22/63 by Stephen King, which he just finished, and also about King’s Dark Tower series, which he loved.
Susan shared a few Shel Silverstein poems from A Light in the Attic (Somebody Has To and The Little Boy & The Old Man as well as an original piece of her own writing. Susan is a witty, funny writer and we all can’t wait until she has a blog of her own!
I talked about The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton, that I finished earlier in the week. The writing in this book is beautiful. I wanted to read whole passages over again just to listen to the those words. Her writing reminds me a bit of Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow. The stories in this book are centered around a house in the English countryside where a ghost resides. Many characters from different time periods are all connected in some way to this house. The ghost’s narration is interspersed with third person POVs of the various characters in their various time periods. It was an ambitious book to take all of those people and find a way to connect them to the house. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio version.
I also shared about The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, a book about a gay young man growing up in Catholic Ireland during the fifties and sixties. And I talked abut She’s My Dad by Jonathan Williams, a book I’ll share more about in a review next week, and about the most bizarre book I read in 2018: Convenience Store Woman a story told from a socio-path’s perspective by Sayaka Murata.
In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.
I Wake Close to Morning
Why do people keep asking to see God’s identity papers
when the darkness opening into morning is more than enough?
Certainly any god might turn away in disgust.
Think of Sheba approaching the kingdom of Solomon.
A long time ago, a dear friend of mine had the habit of cleaning her home on Mondays. When I asked her why she chose Monday as her cleaning day, her practical answer was that Mondays are a day that no one looks forward to. So she felt that getting the cleaning out of the way paved the way for a happier outlook for the rest of the week.
We all have places we want to go in our lives: personal goals and dreams that we are reaching for. But we have to do the hard and tedious stuff first. It’s necessary! Whatever it is you don’t want to do right now (and these are on my list this week): call the insurance company, get a new social security card, find a way to make a wireless printer work with my new 5G connection…just do it. Quit procrastinating! Use Mel Robbin’s 5 Second Rule if you need to…Make that dentist appointment, finish a sewing project and ship it, declutter the back room, clean the bathroom…just pick one and do it first thing in the morning. I promise you will feel better knowing you did that hard thing first.
In her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis shares a pretty clear message: you have to do the work and be the hero of your story. No one will do the hard things for you. Dreams are important and you need them, but, as Rachel says, you can’t live on hope. To make those dreams a reality requires a lot of uphill effort. In her podcast episode 72 about the daily practice that changed her life, she tells us we should write out our dreams, like it’s already reality, and then begin to reverse engineer what it will take to get you there.
So make your list and eat a frog first thing tomorrow morning!
And, in case you are doing some cleaning and want to know what cleaning products and tools (and a few books on home organization/care) I use, here’s my list of favorites. In my own life, having a clean and organized environment is necessary for my mental and emotional health. I am with Marie Kondo on this–the more clean and uncluttered your living spaces, the more you will enjoy your life.
Here is where you will find some of my current sources of inspiration. I’m going to enjoy this windy, wintery weekend, listening to and looking out for the newly returned Redwing Blackbird and Eastern Bluebirds, and keeping busy in my studio making new products for my online shop and Etsy shop.
Music: Alan and I were fortunate to see The Punch Brothers at the State Theatre in Ithaca this past week. Chris Thile is the genius mandolin-playing front man whose voice can soar almost as high and sweet as his instrument. He plays and sings with such fluidity, grace, and energy that the crowd was riveted the entire evening. The rest of the band are all incredible musicians as well, and together they made it a joyful, memorable night for everyone.
Their latest album is called All Ashore.
If you are a fan of English folk singer Kate Rusby (You should be!!!) then you will enjoy Changeable Heart, the newest album by Ruth Notman and Sam Kelly released by Pure Records, Kate’s label. The singing and production styles are similar to Kate’s and made me smile!
Also, since it’s St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, here are a few of my favorite Celtic albums:
I listened to an episode on Flower Essences, which opened my heart up to the possibility that there may actually be something to them. There are so many episodes I plan on listening to, so if you’re into aromatherapy, herbalism, or alternative medicine and want to grow your knowledge, this is a good place to check out.
Rachel Hollis’s Rise podcast: The guest on Episode 87 will clear away plenty of excuses for why you can’t do something. After listening, you’ll feel fortunate and ready to take on the challenges in your life.
The Gown by Jennifer Robson is a beautifully written story that alternates between post-WWII era and the present day. It centers around women that worked on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown and although I’m only about six chapters into it, I am completely spellbound and committed.
The Heart’s Necessities: a Life in Poetryby Jane Tyson Clement and Becca Stevens tells the story of poet Jane Tyson Clement, with songwriter and musician Becca Stevens commenting on how the poems affected her life and writing style. Several poems are included at the end of each chapter, making this a lovely gift for poetry lovers.
That’s it for this weeks’ links! Enjoy your weekend, friends!
On a recent weeknight, I listened to a mystery on audio while preparing dinner. I peeled garlic for marinara sauce, breaded tilapia and placed it in the oven, sautéed more garlic with the bok choy, boiled water for gluten free pasta and my stepson, Clay’s, ravioli, washed lettuce and spinach for tossed salad, and chopped shallot and even more garlic for vinaigrette.
“I’ve been so hungry today,” Clay says as he sat down to eat. As I usually do, I put on a jazz playlist and lit a few candles to accompany our meal. Even on an ordinary weeknight, the music and soft light turns the mundane into memorable.
We talk about his school day, how his finger is feeling as it heals after an unfortunate accident in chemistry, and discuss possibilities for meals he could take with him this week for dinner during musical rehearsal.
My daughter, Ella, is in musical rehearsals at her school several nights a week as well. As I washed pots and cleaned the stove and counters and table, I made up a plate for her in case she is hungry when I bring her home. I respond to a text from my husband, Alan, who lets me know he loves me and asks how my day has been. And I think about my adult life in mealtimes.
When my son, Judah, was a newborn, like most mothers, I ate when he slept and meals were not at regular times. At six months and onward, I prepared and fed him whatever I was eating, meals were regularly timed and eaten together. At least I attempted to; he was an extremely fussy eater. We had the love of pasta & sauce, bread, and anything with chocolate in common, so in all his aversions, we always had common ground.
When Ella was born four years later, I carried on with mealtimes at regular times. Their father worked long hours, so it was only the kids and I most nights. The days melted into one another with me thinking they would never end. Well, I knew that wasn’t so, but it felt that way. My kids would always be small, and needy, and I would be the center of their universe.
And suddenly they were high school and middle school ages. They no longer came downstairs when I called them for dinner; I ate on my own many nights. At sixteen, my son got a job at a local grocery store and was away from home several nights a week.
Then another abrupt change came a few years ago, with my divorce. Suddenly I ate alone or with Alan, and only rarely with my kids. I didn’t even have to cook every night, as Alan is a good cook and enjoys it.
Fast forward to today, and I eat with my daughter, now in tenth grade, twice a week, when she’s not rehearsing musicals, with her friends, or with her dad. My son comes over maybe once a month. He works varying hours, almost full-time, and is in a band. Alan and I eat together two to four times per week, on nights he’s not working. So I’m more often on my own or with his son that’s still at home.
Some nights I love the solitude of eating on my own, with a book or my iPad next to my plate. Other nights solitude turns a tad lonely as I mull over my decisions that have separated my mealtimes from my kids’ a few years early.
But more often these days, I think of each mealtime as unique, as one of a fleeting seasonal collection that can change at anytime. Each meal, no matter how ordinary, how unremarkable the food on the plate, or how dull the conversation, is still a gift that should be savored.