Wednesday, November 28, 2012


So far, so good, with my new routine of Early Arisal (isn't anyone getting that reference to Hedy Larue? She was also not yet accustomed to early arisal.) This morning, it was 5:30, and the ideas began to burst in my skull, and up I got. Coffee. Candle by the icons, lamp by the chair, silly sleepy cat that should have stayed on the bed blinking at me in confusion from the arm of the couch across the room. Journal. Pen. And ... begin.

I spent a lot of time doing exactly this, when I was a kid. I wrote. I read. This morning, I looked - and questioned. See ... I'm reading Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project (which I highly recommend), and she says that someone once shared a trick with her - a way to figure out the answer to, "what is your passion?" or, "how do you play?" or other similarly intended queries. What's your thing? One way to find the answer is to ask yourself what you liked to do when you were ten years old. (me: read. write. sew.) Another way to find the kind of pastime you, yourself, actually enjoy is to "do what you do." Don't look for motives or zing or "passion," but look instead at behavior. (me: read. write. sew. cook.) And then, be happy with that. Stop looking everywhere else for all the things you suppose you "should" enjoy, and just enjoy what you enjoy. Do what you do. Love what you love.

Well, I love books. A rather bemused visitor to our student housing apartment years ago got it right. He had been with us for, maybe, half an hour, when he commented, "You guys don't just love reading. You love books. You love the books themselves!" We do. I do. I love the way they feel and smell, and I love the way they sound when I turn the pages. I love propping them open, several at a time for reference while I'm doing a project, and I love stacking and restacking, shelving and reshelving, endlessly arranging them as the primary design element they have always been in our home. And I love the way they're made. Most of all, I love endpapers.

Covers can be beautiful, and a gently mellowed cloth cover is the stuff of bookish-ness itself, but endpapers are camaraderie. Endpapers are the meeting place of friends, and the openness of free conversation. The stuff we already agree on, and understand together, and refer to without needing to belabor the point. (All of these images are linked to their sources. Go ahead - click on 'em.) Nothing. Nothing more wonderful than the map of the story, the touchpoints of the narrative - the uber-illustration - the meta-metaphor.

Of course, there are endpapers that are merely beautiful, and not metaphorical. These are the crystal goblets for water at the table and miniscule bits of clarity for the sherry or the port. These sorts of endpapers are more mood than map, and they have a bit of understated high class - the kind you know when you see it if you're the sort of person who sees such things. These are the endpapers that hearken to a day when a book was not in every house because it was not a think picked up from the display at a supermarket. Books, expensive, more rare, more precious, had endpapers like this in the olden days.

The Junior Instructor, Book 1, let you know about the wondrous possibilities by putting a traveling circus just inside its cover, and there's no wondering about boredom or long passages of incomprehensibly boring narrator's voice once you've peeped behind the cover of the book about Kit Carson.

But my favorite ones are maps. Diagrams of houses and grounds, or maps of where they were when they all went there, and how they all got back again.
This morning, while I was writing in the darkness before the sun made the black sky into the blue-gray of light on this November morning, I realized that I have begun to make endpapers of my own. Probably, if I can talk about it intelligibly, I will say a lot more about this - about the narrative (and Narratology) of a story (or a set of stories) about me (or the parts of me - or the people I know - or the ones who live with me and have not yet been written). But for now, I am in the fireglow warmth of the discovery of endpapers, materializing during the quick ballpoint scribble on a Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Up Hill, in the Dark

I'll be older, and I'll remember this day someday. I won't have thought of it for awhile, but one cold night in late November, I'll say to myself, I'll say ...

I remember that day, when,
in the aftermath of procrastination born
of pressure and responsibilities and it's okay, I have a little more time,
and really, I had to wait until all the money had been
collected and handed to me anyway,
well, I finally mailed those boxes.
The candy canes for Sierra Leone - the present we sent
to the school children
with the rest of the donations to follow.
Our offering to those we love in Africa had finally been sealed up
and labeled and stuck with forms and prayed over.
Please don't let them all be broken when they get there.

The post office was almost ready to close
and the lady was all alone without a helper
and still, she said she'd put the boxed in
before the truck pulled away to take them.
I got them packaged in the library and carried them
across the streets to the post office
just in time
for dark.

And it was cold out.
And windy.
And there was just enough blue moonlight
to make the white line at the side of the road
visible. Just enough light from the occasional car
to show my flapping white cloth bag.
But I wasn't worried about the cars.
In know my road, uphill, up and up the hill,
and I began to breathe in rhythm with my determined steps,
and put my face further into the hood of my red coat
so that the cold would not pull my power away.

At the bottom of the driveway I did not step into a pothole
and I did not trip on rocks or snag a branch as I walked by.
The dog barked once.
I answered her, and she came down to meet me
on the glow of the pale leaves
and the black and silvery gravel.

And through the dining room window
I saw the warm and yellow light of the fire in the pellet stove
and then I saw a little spark come from the stove pipe
and our ridiculous big dog pranced around in the cold and the dark
and I was home.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Suddenly I See

See that kid? Yeah. That is exactly how I feel sometimes. Exactly. Sometimes, it's just (((clang!!!). Sometimes, it's Suddenly I See, and the curtain goes up and the music starts, and ... kapow! Lights!! All at once, a thing that was in shadow is completely, clearly, crisply right in front of me.

That's what I got this morning when I was trying and trying to find words for why Recollected Life isn't what I'm writing anymore. Gradually (the work part is never "suddenly"), I remembered the dependable path. What does this feel like in my body? When did I feel like this before? Oooooh, yeah!! This is the moment when the kids are done with school work, and they burst out of the house and leave me in the quiet and slight disorder of the end of the school work time. This is the moment at night when they're finally asleep, or the moment of rare oddness when someone else has them for the day and the car drives away from me with them inside of it, and I go back indoors and look around and see the things they've left behind and feel ... feel ... this. That. There. Then. Recollected Life was that thing.

Funny, how every painful and wonderful moment after the era of babies is always compared to that era. Once, when I was a teenager, my mom was in the hospital. On the way back to the car after visiting her, my dad said (to himself, mostly, but out loud), "All this trouble, and we don't even get to take home a baby." Now I know what he meant. Babies aren't easy, but the reward is right there, crying or laughing in your arms, and you know what you're supposed to do next. It's obvious. It's imperative. It's a baby. And that, there, then ... it's not my life anymore. They drove away, those babies - in their own cars!, and here I am.

This is the quiet I soak up like a dried out houseplant someone put near the sink for watering and then forgot. I love this quiet. I exhale into this quiet. This is some of the lasting nostalgia and still, a little, of the sharp, bittersweet pang of no more babies. This is bereavement without loss, this is a mourning conclusion and a welcoming openness. This is the party for the weaning of the child, and I am sometimes, still, the weeping mother, smiling at the well wishers, knowing that the other mothers' looks are full of sympathy for me, even while the congratulations are in their mouths. Or ... I was that mother. That's not this. Hardly ever, anymore. That's not here or now. That's what Recollected Life was. That's why I needed a new blog. That moment (which lasted, apparently, for five years! Labor goes a lot slower when you're giving birth to yourself!) - it's over. Recollected Life was that moment, and now I'm done with that one. I'm through. I'm here. Now. And - those shoes somebody left in the way? Nobody's going to carry those shoes back upstairs but me, and this is only fair. They're my shoes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Less Muscle, More Strength

Thanksgiving Day, 2012, and after only two previous days of my plan of Early Arisal (a la Hedy LaRue), I was up and writing and praying and taking the turkey out of the fridge to come to room temperature (a little trick for even cooking that I'm very glad to know), and I saw that the dishwasher had not been run last night. I put in the soap, and hooked it to the faucet (I'll know we're really done remodeling when I have a built-in dishwasher), and started it up. The coffee was done. Since the dishwasher was hooked to the faucet, I needed the sprayer for rinsing the filter holder ... and so that's what I did. And this little bit of narrative isn't going anywhere slapstick.

It's a bit Monty Python-esque to say so, but nothing happened. I mean to say, it's the first part of the morning on Thanksgiving Day, and my kitchen is not a shambles from yesterday's pre-cooking frenzy, because there wasn't one. There are also no lists or time schedules scattered around the house or in a notebook or magneted to the fridge. We'll have turkey, cranberry sauce(s), white potatoes, sweet potatoes cooked with sliced apples, green beans and mushrooms which are not a casserole and not made with canned soup because I know how to do this from scratch now, and it tastes better. We'll have Brussels sprouts with bacon and balsamic because that's a go-to dish for us now, and we love it. We'll have roasted carrots. In other words, we will feast. And it will all get done in time, and today I see something I've not noticed before.

Less muscle, more strength. That is part of what this is is, here, now. Over the last three decades (and a little more, if we're counting culinary skills sets) I've been schooling not just my head and hands, but also my heart. I know how to do this because I've done it a lot of times. Little and big, in part and as a whole, for lots of people and for a few, every day and on holidays. This is my life, here. This is my family and my friend, here, now. I didn't swear or panic or slam anything when I started the dishwasher, and I didn't moan when I got back out of bed, realizing that I needed to take the turkey out of the fridge and get my prayers and writing done before the others woke up. Less muscling of things into their places, more strength.

Of course, I'd love for all my kids to be here, now. But I have two of them, and we'll make a phone call to the one who'll come for Christmas. Of course, I'd love for my house to be in pristine condition (and for it to be sitting on a foundation and a basement and be surrounded by porches and proper overhangs), but I love the remodeling too, and I love a husband who isn't fussing at me about the dirt he knocks into the window wells and onto the floors with every jolt of the house jacks. I have prayed (and given offerings and other help) for the many I know about who are not about to have such a lovely day as I am. For those in the paths of storms and illness, for those in the anguish of poverty, depression, homelessness. I can remember other, less fortunate holidays even in my own life, and on this day, I can allow the deeply welling thanksgivings to ascend with my humble prayers for others.

See ... that's what this is. Here and now, this, just as it is ... is good. And I don't have to force a thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Years Are Short

This. Here. Now.

“One lives in the naive notion that later there will be more room
than in the entire past."
Elias Canetti

The quote from Canetti comes to me by way of Gretchen Rubin, in this morning's inbox. It's the perfect way to start a brand new blog, when that brand new blog is all about my own "later" in which I know perfectly well there is not more room. Recollected Life took me from my last days of active motherhood, through the adventures of my fledgling adults (college, deployment, bands forming, addresses changing - again), back into the work force, and back to college, this time for an accredited, interdisciplinary, and fully intentional degree. The other day I realized why I hadn't posted for a long time - it's because I'm not there anymore. I'm here now. I'm in this now.

This is a degree nearly finished and an eye to grad school. This is an expanded and more complex participation in the work force, despite the fact that I'm still a sub. This is an ongoing experiment in food stuffs in the kitchen. This is a house sitting on stacks of cribbing, because we're finally remodeling and finishing great-grandpa's house to bring it into the modern era, and it's a project that starts with the foundation. This is a different kind of spiritual life and a newly determined writing practice. This is here.

Here is the same, only different. Still me, but with lighter carry-on, and a stubborn refusal to acquire more baggage in my life. Here, I seem to have crested a hill. Here, I get ready for later by being here. Now.

And now, today, right this minute, it's a little after 6:00 in the morning and it's still dark outside. I can hear the rushing creek and the last shreds of the watery, windy storm of the past couple of days, and I can hear the horn of the train moving through town, down by the deep, wide flow of the Columbia River. There is a husband asleep in the next room, quiet in the moments before he starts his day, and there is a nearly finished mug of coffee in the pool of light under my desk lamp and a cat draped across my knees (because my feet are up on my desk and I won't let her sit on my lap where the keyboard is).

It is the day before Thanksgiving Day, 2012. This is the day I start a new blog, about writing, and praying, and what the world looks like from this side of the hill. One thing is already clear. It's not all downhill from here. That was an optical illusion. This is a climb.