Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Underwater: Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal in Winter

Lake Baikal, Russia: The picture was stolen from a sweet little blog called Tywkiwdbi who stole it from somewhere else. I love this image because this blog began as a travel blog of a trip I took to Siberia, Russia and Mongolia where I visited Lake Baikal. It's a beautiful place. I drank Russian vodka with my dear friend Linden who I rarely keep up with these days. I do miss her. I miss traveling. I promised myself I'd return to Russia to ride the train all the way across Russia someday.

Too, these chunks of snow covered ice in sun make winter seem beautiful again. I really thought I was going to make it out of this winter unscathed by the winter blues that seem to plague everyone I know in this part of the country. It's becoming a little intolerable. I am in Minnesota visiting and they still have three feet of snow on the ground-- OK, maybe two, but it's a lot. Enough so that when walking the path to the little sauna, the snow on either side of me is knee-high. And when will it ever melt?

And, tonight I have the distinct feeling that I have been underwater for a very long time. I don't know how long. Is it days, months, years, lifetimes? Perhaps one feels this way around the time her first child turns one. OR it could be that Moses and I got the flu right after we arrived in MN and are just now feeling better. OR I could belong to somewhere else, deeper still then the fairy dreams of my childhood or the watery rivers of my youth or the dusted memories of travels to places far away. 

I hear my sister giggle upstairs in her former bedroom. These are the thoughts of the day and sleep will dissolve these feelings like cleaning out a residue. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

An Open If

If in the city by the sea you fell in love.
If violence did not happen on accident.
If the boy’s hand was cut free with a sword.
If two degrees is a destination.
If the news didn’t kill your desire to act.
If the color of the sky at dusk made you happy.
If the baby’s smile got free and chased the goat.
If war was not a form of pleasure.
If your gun was ready in your hand.
If we did not want for change.
If the body were a destination.
If you didn’t just because you could.
If the sun.
If memory is walking through the house in an old dress of your mother’s.
If your father understood why you read so many books.
If you only chopped wood.
If you were not made of water.
If you were only water, waves, and the sea.
If the hands of boys were made sacred.
If you accepted.
If you were willing.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lidia Yuknavitch: A Language All Her Own

The Chronology of Water

Reading Lidia Yuknavitch's memoir "The Chronology of Water" is like nothing else. I feel like I am moving with her across the wide expanse of a lifetime. I feel like I am feeling what she is feeling as written in this book. I feel wordless, yet embodied. I feel heavy with the pain I have yet worked through in my own life about childhood, self abuse, self destruction, self sabotage, and the beautiful madness of youth. I admit that I too was a swimmer and then a diver as a girl. Not as good a swimmer as Lidia, but I am taken back to that early love of the water. I love the smell of bleach when I clean the bathtub because it reminds me of chlorine from the pool. I return to those locker rooms and showers and muscled, yet secret "girl bodies" more beautiful than any I've since known. These were not thin or frail or undernourished bodies. They were wide shouldered, big armed, strong thighed girl bodies.

Lidia has her own language, a voice developed from both a rich understanding of feminist theory and its knowledge of the father-language, and full with the truth of woman speak. She is not a writer's writer, she does not flower on the page or relish abstraction, she cuts you and then salts you and then eats you for dinner. I feel like she understands womanhood better than anyone I've ever read. She understands girl shame and father hurt and culture war and sexuality better than anyone I've read. I identify with Lidia (and I must call her Lidia) and yet I'm a little afraid of her. The Chronology of Water is an important book.

"You see it is important to understand how damaged people don't always know how to say yes, or to choose the big thing, even when it is right in front of them. It's a shame we carry. The shame of wanting something good. The shame of feeling something good. The shame of not believing we deserve to stand in the same room in the same way as all those we admire. Big red. As on our chests."

Friday, March 1, 2013

Wild Geese

Wild Geese

Now wild geese return...
what draws them
crying crying
all the dark night?


It is that time of year in Vermont (Late February, March, April...) when the body, starved for sunlight and warmth, begins to curl inward and when bad TV as escapism doesn't cut it anymore. Walking becomes a necessary daily activity for me lest I shrivel up and slip through a worm hole.

I point out the wild geese and ducks to Moses as we walk the lake path. The shore is lipped with ice, but the lake is mostly open water. He points and babbles. As much as possible let us hold on to this cyclical sense of living, I think. Atrocities come of human want for eternal life, for endlessness, fame and fortune--the linear hope that we are evolving into better beings within our lifetimes. But as anyone who has a child understands, in the beginning, we are so tender and true, so open and filled with genuine love for the world. How could we grow better than this? Of course, there are those of us who believe these qualities are better traded for toughness, thick skins, finagling, scheming, calculated risk taking... I do not walk among them most days.

In this movement towards spring, into light, the cycle of thawing, I think of what in me needs thawing. Last night I crept into the bedroom where my son slept in our bed on the floor and knelt beside the bed. A sat in stillness waiting for my body to open to the silence. First the shoulders relax downward and back, the chest moves forward and up, the head realigns on the neck, the heart points out--an openness can be felt there, a thawing.

I was trying to remember what it felt like to be loved as a child, to will my mind to remember the way my mother's embrace felt, my father's happy laughter and playfulness. I have no specific memories of anything until I was about three or four. Mostly, my memory is watery and restless. I have one memory, actually, from when I was about two. I may have been older, but I think I was two because of the location and the way I thought about what I did. It is not the most pleasant memory. My father punishing me for drawing on the back of the bedroom door.

I remember the feeling of joy I had when looking at my red and blue scribbles, of pleasure. I believed I had done something wonderful. And then my father coming in, disapproving. Me, not understanding why he wasn't pleased. I don't like this memory now especially because I worry I will do something like this to my son...I am sure I will someday. And of course it will be what he remembers.

I sat a long time, but did not, could not remember the feeling I was searching for.

What draws the return of the wild geese? We know they are made with internal clocks, something in them telling them when to go, when to return and how to get there. We too are triggered by the angle of the sun, the length of daylight, and warmer weather, here in the north. We walk to the lake to watch the thaw and feel in ourselves a great breaking open. Our greatest pains are laid bare near the end of winter, on the brink of spring-- that here truly doesn't arrive until May. But we spend these months--as though in migration--flying back. The raw pain we have all known colors the sky; the wet smell of spring, the newness, the promise, offers reason for gratitude. If we are lucky we find it.

We love to complain about the winter and talk about the ever changing weather here in Vermont. But most of us would never leave the seasons behind for blue skies and year-round warmth. Most of us love the drama of it, the emotion, the cycle and migration.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver