Sunday, April 28, 2013

free association

(This is me reading the newspaper on the train from St. Louis back to KC.  It felt so lovely to be reading the newspaper on a train, for some reason.)

I have no idea what I am going to sit here and write about.  Usually, I have an idea that I have been mulling on for awhile.  Often, I start writing about that idea and then go a completely different direction than I thought I would go.  Many times, an idea comes to me while I am sitting still and quiet during church.

But today, I have no idea what I want to say. 

I am sitting on my side porch.  It's the first time I have written out here since...pretty much forever, it seems.  I thought winter would never end, but perhaps it has, finally.  I hope. 
I hear the crack of a bat hitting a ball as kids across the street play baseball.
I see green--thank God--and white blooms, and red tulips, and the corpse of last year's garden, which someday, someday, will come to life again.

I also hear my son in the front yard sobbing because Matt can't make him a rope swing that will propel him across the yard and onto a platform where he can than push himself down a yet-to-be created slide.  He is swearing, between sobs, that if this masterpiece of a creation becomes a reality he will never, ever need to play a video game again.

My house is a little bit messy.  I need to pick it up before my weekly date with Mr. Selfridge and a friend and a bottle of wine. 

I need to wash sheets. 

There is a wasp buzzing around the windows inside my porch.  This makes me a little nervous.

Jack is no longer crying because Matt has propped a very tall ladder against the very tall maple tree in our front yard.  Jack has climbed up the ladder and is now standing on a perch up in the tree.  This makes me very nervous.

I am sipping a Diet Coke.  I try very, very hard to be healthy.  I religiously dump fruits and greens into my Blendtech every morning to make myself a green smoothie.  We eat pastured eggs and chickens and grass-fed beef.  We devour vegetables and fruits from our garden and our CSA.  But I can't give up Diet Coke.  I just can't.  Sigh.

I am excited because the essay I published last week over at Practicing Families about our relationship with our Old German Baptist friends is going to be re-published on the blog at Mennonite World Review.  Some day I want to be a writer, you know.

I am feeling pretty good today.  My insides feel pretty quiet, mostly calm. 
As long as I don't close my eyes and imagine Jack falling out of that tree, I'm OK today. 
I'm peaceful today.
I would say I am almost happy today. 

Maybe it's the sunshine.
Maybe it's the green.
Maybe it's the porch.
Maybe I'm just getting a little break.
Maybe I will wake up in despair tomorrow.
But for today, I am inhaling...exhaling...inhaling...exhaling...inhaling...exhaling....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

On Melancholy and Song Lyrics and Poetry

P.S.  I know it's weird to start a post with a P.S., but I feel like the postscript in this post is perhaps more important than the original post (which I published last night, and am now adding to).  First of all, when I read this post today, I rolled my eyes at myself a bit, so know that I completely understand if you roll your eyes a bit, too.  I kind of don't even want to re-read it, but it's there, and I don't think I will be deleting it.  So here's the postscript: yes, I know this post is kinda melancholy, and it is true that I am going through a bit of a rough spell right now.  But here are some more truths:

On Saturday I went shopping with my mom and Amélie, and we had a lovely day together.

Matt and I sat out on our front porch yesterday in workout clothes and robes (nothing sexier than robes AND tennis shoes being worn at the same time), and we chatted and laughed at ourselves as we sipped smoothies made for us by our daughter and her friend. 

Jack lost another tooth this weekend, and as I watched him grin up at me with toothless pride, my heart melted into a puddle of pure, absolute joy.

My friend Jeannine came over last night, and we watched Mr. Selfridge and sat out on our side porch with Matt talking way, way too late.  But we were having such a good time that I didn't notice how swiftly the time was passing.

So, what I say below is true, very true, but what I have written above?  That is also true, perhaps even more true.

This week I thought I was going to write about the Amish (technically Old German Baptist) wedding we recently attended.  I would like to write about that experience, and maybe I will soon.  I am going to be posting about our relationship with our Old German Baptist friends over at Practicing Families on Wednesday, so stay tuned for that. 

Today, however, I don’t really want to talk about a wedding.  I want to talk about poetry and song lyrics.  Do you ever get a poem or a song in your head and you can’t quit chanting or singing or mumbling those words? 

Sometimes, Matt tortures me with a song we sang together in our high school ensemble.  I won't be so cruel as to torture you today.  Amélie often walks around the house singing an Abba tune, and sometimes I hear Jack in his room humming the Star Wars theme song.  I always seem to have a song in my head.  In fact, I catch myself humming my way through the grocery store.  I can’t help it.  It's a little embarrassing.  A lot of times, a song gets stuck in my head because I have had it on repeat or because its tune is catchy.  Sometimes, though, there’s a deeper reason. 
Lately, I have had both a song and a poem in my head.

The song I have been singing is "Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers.
The story of the song doesn't relate to me all that much.  But there's this line in the song that I can't get out of my head. 
It's better to feel pain
Than nothing at all.
The opposite of love's indifference.
Matt and I actually argued about that song on our way to the Old German Baptist wedding.  We both liked the line, "The opposite of love's indifference," but he didn't agree with me that, "It's better to feel pain / Than nothing at all." 
He would rather feel nothing. 
I would rather feel pain. 
We're different that way, I guess. 
The other lines that keep running through my head are from an Emily Dickinson poem.  Here is the poem in its entirety:
After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Here are the lines that keep echoing in my head:

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;


This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

This morning, in fact, I was digging through the refrigerator for some yogurt, and I caught myself mumbling out loud...

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Let's just clear the air right here.  I know it's weird to be crouched in front of one's refrigerator mumbling anything, much less melancholy Emily Dickinson poetry.  I know that. 

I remember a dark time about eleven years ago when another poet's words constantly replayed in my head.  They were the words of the poet Sylvia Plath in her poem "Elm":

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

I would wake up in the middle of the night with those words running through my head, chasing me even in my dreams. 

Sometimes, I still do feel the dark thing that sleeps in me, but I no longer believe in its malignancy.  Instead, we usually work alongside each other in melancholy, but quiet, companionship.  It's not like that time.  I don't want to die.  I am fairly certain I won't be spending any time on the psychiatric wing of a hospital. 

I really am pretty much OK. 

I don't really want to say much else, I guess.  My blog is not a confessional.  You don't need me to vomit my insides out all over your computer monitor (you're welcome for that consideration on my part AND that lovely image). 

I just want to stake my claim, my struggle, here. 

If you look into my eyes, I don't think you will see the struggle.  I can look into your own eyes and listen and talk with a presence that is truly genuine.

If you come to my house, my bed will (usually) be made, dinner may very well be simmering on the stove, I might be teaching Amélie about the life of a medieval peasant girl. 

But if a strong wind came by and whipped the covers off of my soul, you would see a girl
whose faith feels shredded
whose heart is sore
who is crouched low in the chill and the stupor, just waiting for that moment of letting go. 


Sunday, April 7, 2013


I don't feel like being reflective and introspective this afternoon, so I'm going to be newsy and random instead.  Here's what's happenin'.

This morning my son had the wind knocked out of him because he fell as he was following me down the attic stairs while snapping pictures of my wild morning hair and giggling with evil glee.  After I got past the point of being scared to death that he had mortally hurt himself, I thought that perhaps he was justly recompensed for his wicked actions. 

(blurred picture of my crazy hair, taken before nearly mortal accident)

Last Thursday night I went to see Anne Lamott, and she was just lovely and wonderful, as I knew she would be (but there is this fear, always, when seeing an author, that perhaps they are much more magical on paper than in real life).  I wrote her a little note, and I practiced writing her name on a piece of scratch paper before writing it on the envelope.  I stood in line (I was #347) to have her sign my copy of Help, Thanks, Wow, and she was kind and gracious as I mumbled something that was most likely idiotic and incoherent.  My friend Jeannine snapped a picture of us (I didn't want to pose with Anne for yet another idiotic and incoherent reason, so I made Jeannine promise she would just discreetly snap a picture). 

We are kinda sorta house-hunting.  Our super simple requirements:
Live in the city because I can't live without the art gallery, the symphony, used bookstores, my friends, and a good coffee shop.
Live out in the country because I don't think I can live without some land, some trees, some chickens, and some goats.
Basically, we want the impossible. 

We are going to an Amish wedding on Friday (technically an Old German Baptist wedding.  Same difference, basically, except that our friends sport buttons on their clothes and don't know Pennsylvania Dutch).  We are excited to see Alexander and Rosanna get married.  They got to take their buggy into town on Friday to get their marriage license, and the day they spent together (1 1/2 hours each way), was the most time they had ever spent together.  Alex was glad they had not had any more time together, since their courtship has included a no physical contact policy.  I am wondering if they will get past holding hands on their wedding night.  I am curious and excited to attend their wedding.  Apparently the wedding reception will include fruit cups, cookies, carrots, and celery. 

We saw our Old German Baptist friends on Saturday.  They invited us, yet again, to housesit for them while they attend a church conference in Indiana.  I am excited about this.  I think.  No, I am.  But I really missed a hot shower last time.  And the outhouse wasn't always pleasant. 

We still miss Leia.  Don't tell anyone, but I sleep with her collar under my pillow.  And since our Easter tree, which was adorned with prayers for her, is a magnolia tree, I get very sad every time I see a magnolia tree, which basically means every time I leave my house.  I feel like I should buck up and not be so sad anymore, but the truth is, I miss her.  Last night when I went to bed that sadness literally felt like a heavy, blanketing weight, and I curled myself up under that sadness until I finally fell asleep.

The kids have decided that our next dog needs to be a chocolate lab or a golden retriever (or some kind of mix of the two), and they want him to be named Luke Skywalker (you know, Leia's brother).  I have been obsessively checking for a chocolate lab/golden retriever puppy, even though we won't get a new dog until we are back from our housesitting gig. 

I am researching homeschool curriculum for Amélie for next year.  I think I have it figured out, which always happens this time of year, which means that I want this year to be over already so we can start anew. 

I am sending Jack to first grade next year. 
I love Jack, with my whole heart and then some, but I don't want to homeschool him right now.
He has loved his half-day kindergarten class. 
Quite frankly, I don't want to teach first grade.
And Jack wants to eat lunch at school next year.
It's a win-win for all of us. 

That's it, I think, at least for now.