The power of stuff to undo us

The Weight of Things, Part I

Look at the lovely Rosenthal platter — that flourish along the scalloped edge; delicate blue flowers draping off the rim. I have service for eight plus another smaller platter, a casserole, a tea pot (squat and round) and coffee pot (tall and slender), plus matching sugar and creamer, candlesticks.

They were a wedding gift from my mother.

Recall this: Mother is back from a trip to Germany with her second husband. They are seeing the world! While on the continent she buys an entire set of china for her daughter who, at the age of 33, is at last engaged to be married.

When Mother hands Daughter the crumpled brochure, Daughter doesn’t bother to hide her dismay. Are the dishes too feminine? Is she inclined toward blue these days? Such a fraught exchange!

They’ve been here before. A history of thwarted choices gives Daughter an unhealthy sense that she’s entitled to sour incivility. So many items ticked off! How much did Mother spend, exactly?

There will be a cost to Daughter’s wounding response and she knows it. It’s no longer a gift-giving occasion. It’s all about Mother’s hurt feelings. Daughter’s cooing and back peddling will be accomplished with a combination of guilt, annoyance, and compulsive, middle-child diplomacy. Of course the dishes will be beautiful! It took a second, is all! Of course, it was a generous gesture!

They’ve been here before, too.

Does it matter that I love the dishes now? That as I wash off the residue from last night’s dinner, I do so with care, knowing how inconsolable I’d be if the platter broke — my mother dead and gone these 22 years past. Stuff has the power to undo us sometimes.

The Weight of Things, Part II

We’ve purchased a shed in the sorry acknowledgement that our belongings have outpaced our capacity for sorting, disposal, or storage. The garage is packed: sports equipment, gardening tools, lumber, Christmas decorations, craft booth panels, two table saws, bikes and chairs. There’s beer brewing equipment, scuba gear, coolers, kayak paddles and beach chairs. At least three complete socket wrench sets, possibly more.

img_3262Now picture Son moving to Parts West with two suitcases. His entire apartment is boxed up in the garage, too. Now what? Most is too heavy to ship.

Too heavy indeed! Here are the pots and knives Mother purchased in such industrious cheer — the dish towels and extension cords, an array of spices! He’ll make curry and roast chickens! He’ll eat on Mexican dishes while looking at the spectacular skyline. Oh that view, Mother exclaimed, that view!

And then there was the dreadful pick up eight months later. Utter disarray.

Seeing these things makes for uneasy recollection. For some reason it is the contrast between the early optimism and the later despair that gets to me the most. I don’t know why. The hard questions arise, prime among them — how could I have missed so much?

I know how — because I wasn’t even looking.

It’s a little better now — maybe you can build up an immunity to memory by repeated exposure to triggering belongings. Things have resumed their status as objects. They are once again problems to be solved — sell? donate? keep?

The iron skillet is coming in the house, but — anybody want a waffle iron?

 


A Temporary Guest

“Landscape has a secret and silent memory, a narrative of presence where nothing is ever forgotten.”  John O’Donohue (this and all following quotes from “Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom”).


According to the ancient Celts, “Landscape is not matter nor merely nature, rather it enjoys luminosity. Landscape is numinous”.

To “consider yourself as a complete stranger … who has just stepped ashore in your life” is to realize that you are not “the helpless owner of a deadened life but rather a temporary guest gifted with blessing and possibilities you could neither invent nor earn”.

Have a great weekend! I am off to the garden center with a friend and not likely to have clean fingernails for awhile.

Anam Cara is Gaelic for ‘soul friend’.

Did I create a monster 

When we invited Finn into our lives, I wanted to raise him to be unafraid of the vacuum.  With all that shedding black fur, I knew I’d be vacuuming A LOT.

And so, for months I made sure that I never startled him with the cord, or bumped into him with the canister, or acted anything but super casual-cool about the noise. It worked! Look — there’s a dog relaxing on the couch while his human runs the vacuum — I was so proud.



But then one day he tossed the star toy down next to the canister and fool that I am, I flung it across the room.

You can guess the rest. Now every single time I start up the vacuum, he thinks it’s time for a game. It. Just. Took. One. Time.

(Noticing the speed of conditioning makes me fearful about how I dismiss a few less than exemplary moments of parenting (once? It just took once?)). But never mind. I can’t go there today. It’s sunny and 80 degrees out and I have the afternoon to myself.

Palm sky house

Too much blue? Added more today including at rooflines. Those are the pieces I’m considering taking off. 

The bottom dark blue floral strip came from a pair of rayon pants I bought a couple of weeks ago. 

More progress shots, just for fun. 

Another rainy day here. Spent part of the morning at a program for the 21st Annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.


The chilly season and hideous pj’s

Being cold begins to feel like an existential state. Grey day after grey day dampens the mood.

Fortunately, the plants don’t seem to mind. Up they come.



Except the newly-installed petunias. It appears that the rabbits have been dining on them.

A shed arrives Monday  — meaning we will be moving the last of the shade lovers from its proposed corner out back. I’ve already moved: ostrich ferns, comfry, anemone, and sedum. Some days, it’s just been too cold. But a sign that the gardening season is (finally) upon us: yesterday morning at 6:20, I ‘found myself’ outside completely absorbed in gardening. There I was moving rogue perennials around, turning the soil, and potting up a few things for my sister without having bothered to change out of my pj’s and slippers. 

These were not my usual black stretchy things that could pass for pants in a pinch. These were cheap plaid red & green flannels dotted with some nameless breed of puppy — absolutely hideous pj’s in other words, made of a cloth so awful you’d pass it by even if it was marked down to $2.00 at the Christmas Tree Shoppe (need I say these were purchased online?)



What are the most embarrassing clothes you’ve made an appearance in? 

(There WERE people out and about, in case you’re wondering). 

Liberty and zombie filters

“Who will steal your liberty and when?”

On days of incomprehensible news, I take an obsessive satisfaction in making digital collages. It could be because it’s nonverbal and provides a kind of pause in all the urgently spoken outrage. Or maybe it’s because with these photo-combos I can almost, kinda, sorta capture the truly weird and horrifying circumstances we find ourselves in.

The paper collage (upper left) is from an old Sketchbook Project called, “Questions for a 19 year old” submitted in the category, “It’s not about me”. The Pinocchio photo is mine. On the right is an unfinished collage that became a SoulCollage card entitled “Fear”. I made it shortly after the election by combining two fashion ads from Vogue.


I use two free iPhone apps: Diana photo app and Prisma.  Some of these were generated solely with Diana.

Photo of Trump came from a Sarah Jones article entitled, “Trump leaves out Comey request for more resources to investigate Russia from timeline”. It was published online on politicususa.com here:

http://www.politicususa.com/2017/05/10/trump-white-house-sends-timeline-comey-firing-leaves-request-russia-resources.html

I didn’t see an attribution for the photo.

The old Sketchbook project queries keep coming back because of their relevance. Questions for a 19 year old included:

  • What will you carry?
  • What will haunt you?
  • What will you do when she changes her mind?
  • Who will steal your liberty and when?

I don’t usually like this dark green Diana filter but it seemed fitting for today. It’s called: “Zombie Apocalypse”.

I hear pundits say we are “on the verge” of a constitutional crisis and wonder what else would need to happen for them to name it an “actual crisis”?

#silentcoup

I have a lot to say about all of this. Maybe another spoken piece next — something I wrote in class today?






Writing helps

img_7054I don’t know who I am. I don’t know how to be. I don’t know what’s next or even, sometimes, what’s come before. Even “where am I?” is a difficult question these days.

Writing helps.

If I let a few days pass without scribing my three pages, I come a little unmoored. It took a while to notice this. These unholy pauses are sometimes followed by a great volume of ink, often equal to the aggregate number of missed pages. Now I’ve instituted a ‘catch up routine’ — whenever I miss a day, I mark my notebook where I’d be had I written every day. And then I catch up.

It seems to matter.

Strangely, writing makes me feel better even when dedicated to identifying what’s bothering me. Turns out, knowing what’s bothering me even without remedy is preferable to being bothered and ignorant to cause.

Does anyone understand why this is so?

I’ll answer the above questions, out of curiosity? Can you?

Who am I?” All the labels hang like loose chads, so I’ll let Joni Mitchell’s words stand in as answer: “I am a woman of heart and mind, with time on her hands, no child to raise…”  Maybe?

How to be?” How to be with respect to writing, that is: Stay at it. Don’t let doubt in any of its guises derail you. The rest is detail: collect 18th century language; bounce between public risk and private assembly; keep assessing the story’s pace. Keep at it. Vanquish doubt.

Where am I?” I’ve lived at this address for 23 years and in this town since 1986, so it’s strange to feel like I don’t really belong here. Did I ever? And if not here, where? Having been uprooted every few years growing up, I wanted stability for my boys and this was a good town for them to grow up in. But now? And it’s not just the leaf blowers.

The state of our nation and our planet shove disorientation down my throat in a manner most vile. Is this country mine anymore? Will there be a coup? Who will take him and his cronies down and when? Knowing that MILLIONS of Americans share my shock and grief doesn’t alter the central fact of my fearful alienation. Where am I, indeed!

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Boston Climate March

I’ll leave you with Naomi Klein’s key note speech from the recent San Miguel’s writers conference. It is hair-raising in its precise measure of our perilous state but also galvanizing… perhaps the best political media I’ve taken in for weeks.

‘We don’t have four years,’ she says. ‘The planet doesn’t have four years’.

‘The entire political system has to change,’ she says, ‘We have to SWERVE.’ (What does that mean?)

‘It’s not enough to resist. We have to also build.’ How? How?

 

PS “Daily Pages” as developed by Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way“‘