Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Rightful Names of Things

"Say I wedded the place I love, late at night and alone, one pledge, one ceremony not to be repeated. Say I cut the clay with a sharp spade and planted there a slip of weed; say I buried my shoes, the soles slick from much walking, split past repair. Mark a line on my body and let the blood run down, for marriage calls for something more than a gold ring; marriage calls for the blood of a woman. The question is not, How much will it take? but How much will you give? Say I turned the spade and the earth was red already. Not the first lover, not the last. And so every day I pay my due, calling things by their rightful names, taking into my body the elements (water, light) of life, every day falling more deeply into dept."

Joni Tevis, "The Wet Collection"

Late January we grow numb, find resentment in the earth. Stay inside and forget to watch the sky. Complain about the weather. We love to complain about the weather, no matter the season, but mid-winter is the highpoint of our weather banter. How we hate the lack of control we have. The way the weather can change the day, change our plans, make us stay home; and yet, don't we love to stay in? It's too cold, too much snow, too gray, too wet. I must stay in. I'm falling into a deep depression. I've had enough of winter. Oh, bother!

Hah. I partake of course. But I also love the way we are wed to land here in the north. The sky is blue today as it was yesterday and my body sings. When the sun is gone, the body curls in on itself, is silent. I started reading Joni Tevis again last night. My husband and I in bed by 9pm. Her words, the "rightful names" of each thing, returned my wings to me. I flittered away into the night. I slept long and hard until the 5 am wake-up call of Moses. Then lifted from the strangest of dreams, I curled my body around his --almost two-years-old-- and smelled his hair and shushed him back to sleep, and tried to think of the word for the feeling I had, the feeling so common to parents. Oh bother, darling boy, waking me from my dreams, and so soon you will no longer want my comfort. So soon you will know the rightful names of things and speak them like magic. You will wed yourself to something or someone, kiss me goodbye and be gone. Yes, Every day I am falling more deeply into dept. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Snow in winter in Vermont. At the coffee shop, a gaggle of girls. Oh, might they be twenty-two? How lovely. "In Nepal," the blond one says, her hair in spirals, a pink flannel shirt. And, "I want to be busier, to learn how to grow tea." I covet this comment. I adore you for your lack of business, for your joy. To grow tea, yes, we should all learn this! The discussion turns to living at home and how she relies on her mother for dinner and feeling lazy.

Do I remember this time? Yes, of course. But what did I want then? To travel, yes. To be alone and not to be alone. To speak of my love for so-and-so with my girlfriends as though the affair with so-and-so really existed for the purpose of gossiping with my girlfriends about it. To walk in the rain with Laura; she, wearing a pink coat, carrying her umbrella, discussing boys. Go to tea with Hillary after sitting meditation, discuss books--our bodies smooth and taken for granted and instruments and also terrifying. To smoke a dozen cigarettes with Georgia while discussing the minutest details of our weekly horoscope.

The girls talk of Spanish minors, practicums, of animal psychology... advanced nutrition and bio-chem. They speak of the future easily as though it will all come to them. They are not depressed; they are certain. The blond wears Buddhist beads and took a semester off of school, despite her parents' displeasure. "Doesn't it feel wonderful to donate all that old stuff? Just get rid of it, you don't need any of it." And, "I'm going to start treating my bedroom as my apartment."

I love these women, but I was never one. I was, I will admit, a disgruntled, depressed person, a neurotic, sarcastic, insane person. It's fine. I'm better now. But how lovely the world is with these girls in it and how I hope to have a daughter someday, who is nothing like me. Who is whatever way she wants to be. God knows her father would love her no matter what and would never say the word "should" to her. I am the one with a mouthful of "shoulds" though long ago, Georgia forbid the word and I have since tried to rid myself of it. And long, long ago, Jenny and I met in a Paris suburb, drank wine, drank giant cups of hot chocolate and fresh French bread and dreamed the dream of Paris, of Spain, of Italy and the south of France... these places we go when we are young and again when we are old. Places where silence dries in our mouthes and blooms in our minds into something firmly our own. We cried as we left each other in Switzerland, across the tracks, looking through the windows of our separate trains. It is good to remember.

Two Girls by Francesca Woodman 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On the Brink of Emotional Suicide

I haven't been writing for weeks. The holidays always do this to me. I think I'll be getting lots of work done during the semester break and I end up watching Downton Abbey with a passion that sort of scares me. I feel tired and deranged after traveling to see my family in Minnesota and returning to Vermont. I miss them, I miss Vermont, I miss them. I have the obligatory conversation with my husband about how I want to move back to Northern Minnesota and live on Perch Lake Road, preferable between my two sisters' homes, and less than a mile from my parents'. My husband finds this strange. He says, he can't move there. But I go on imagining my sister and I out cross-country skiing on the lake, Moses playing at Amma and Grandpa's with his cousins, a small cabinesque house with a wood-burning stove, deep in the woods where I sit at desk overlooking a sea of pines, with not a care in the world.

Northern Minnesota

Of course, this is fantasy. When I am there, I dream of Vermont. All those organic eating, Prius-driving, composting, pickle-ing, chicken's in the backyard, over-educated liberals! I go back and forth, literally and figuratively, between the two states, unsure of where I belong and what I should be doing. But in a way, I've always loved to long for what I've left behind, what might have been. Not because I've ever felt like I've made a misstep in my life (I have), more because I am a sappy nostalgic and live deeply rooted in my mind, in the fantasies there of.

This is about writing. My lack of writing. If I stay away from my work I begin to lose perspective and  become intimidated and confused. I mostly feel like I can't actually write a story, that I don't actually know what I am doing, and should give up. Do people doing other work feel this way? I am doubtful. But this psychological game of "why am I doing this?" is deeply ingrained in the process of the artist, at least in my experience. So many women give up their art when they have children because how is it possible to raise children, run a household (even a tiny apartment?), work for money, maintain a decent relationship with a partner (not to mention friends), and do one's art? Others realize, as one Facebook post pointed out, that giving up one's art is a form of "emotional suicide".

So here I am on the brink of emotional suicide at 7:15 in the morning typing away knowing that Moses will yell "Mama" any minute and break the spell of it all. Hah. You see, such drama! What a life I lead.

I am back to hacking away at a story I've been working on for months that still feels wildly unformed (also, I am not sure that I should even be focusing on stories).  It has enough drama to be a novel but it shall not be. I've begun rewriting it from scratch, which means I don't look at the first drafts, and I've done about three paragraphs in five days--Stephen King would not be impressed with my progress, but I have to admit, I sort of am. And, there it is, "Mommy, Mommy..."

Burlington, Vermont