Tuesday, November 25, 2008

oh, sad news: the house we wanted was pulled from the market. disappointed.

but that means more months with the bay window, which is currently being pounded by rain.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

winter twilight

I forget the shortness of these winter days until I look up from the chores and my work, startled by the dwindling light. Church and church school pass in a flourish of cold sunlight, then lunch passes without me taking a moment to sit in the chair near the bay window overlooking the harbor. 3:20 finds me raising the shade in my bedroom—the last hint of direct sunlight streams through the upper corner of the window above my bed. I close my eyes and face directly into the sun, letting the glow work its way through my eyelids. By 3:29 the sun sets lower than the ridge of nearby houses, and I pull the dusty shade back into place.

By 3:40 the light no longer falls on the harbor. Soon the peninsula on the other side of the harbor will flush with warm rose-tones.

Each day is filled with its regular concerns, getting children to school on time, practicing violin and viola, Madeleine’s Native American project, Brendan’s thank you notes for birthday gifts, making sure children eat well and dress warmly. I’ve yet to find the big bin of heavy winter clothes and the outdoor temperatures are astonishingly low for this time of year.

And we are learning the ins and outs of home-buying, home-wishing, house need. We found a good house, quite possibly the right house, and are pulling together resources, learning our way around. No one is sure if we will find our way soon enough—the sellers may pull the house from the market.

Two weeks of graduate work until the end of the quarter (at least 30 pages of writing, academic writing plus creative writing), with Christmas shopping imperative, and each child has missed a day of school in the past two weeks. Laundry piles up, Christmas treasures stack up, the advent calendars and candles and mittens are still somewhere in the attic. I spend my time researching mortgages, real estate, and how to keep my small part-time job.

I will cry the day I leave this window for the last time. I will cry if that day doesn’t come soon: we need more space.

But today my glimpse of sea is blue, darkening, and filled with boats, with a wee little bit of light. There—there comes the rose-pink lights of winter sunset, lining the trees and the curves of granite, and the roofs of the houses. Next the windows across the way will glimmer like squares of fire.

I’ve been tired and tense for days. I referee one more argument about lengths of turns and toy ownership rights…

A bath is poured. Madeleine’s project is moved to a desk in another room. The squares of fire across the way change to winter pink. Evening stars emerge. I turn off the reading lamp to watch the light for one more minute or two, before we hunker in for the dark hours. 4:35, sigh. Miles to go, this evening.

Next Sunday the Advent Lantern comes out of its case. Miles to go, before then.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

signs signs everywhere the signs

I found this photo as I was doing some research on a house I crave.

Massachusetts' city limit signs are this shape.

(The house I crave has a creek, a little woods, and a distant view of our favorite beach. It is small and tidy, with cool neighbors. And a fireplace.)

We are looking at a house-- sorry to be so busy. More news later. But pray if you'd be so inclined.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

how to write in your own home

Do not look at the clock, the calendar. Do not look to see if the cell phone is turned on.
Do not notice broken objects requiring attention. Do not wonder why your daughter’s piggy bank is on the dining table before you.
Do not wonder about anything but paper.
Do not listen to the cat no matter how hard he rubs against your ankles.
Do not waste any time being angry, annoyed, exasperated with marbles.
Do not notice the pajamas you are still wearing.
Stop drinking coffee. Now. That last cup disappeared without hardly passing the tastebuds.

Imagine sensory blinders that dull everything but the warmth of the sunlight streaming through the window (do not look at it, do not wonder about a walk) and memory. Become more alive to memory than to this particular day, hour, minute, the cat batting the marble across the wood floor, finding an abandoned Pez dispenser and wrestling it under the edge of the braided rug, his favorite game, returning to the marble. Do not think about how old and dusty and ugly the braided rug is, how it needs to be replaced, how you’d like even the most threadbare oriental rug. Under no circumstances should you think about that little colonial for sale in your dream neighborhood, and the horrific list of to-do’s surrounding THAT question.


Okay, go get dressed in something— there’s an appointment in an hour, an appointment you intended to cancel but you can’t find the phone number, can’t find the paperwork at all from the last appointment. While getting dressed pick up every single marble wedged under the heater AND the one your cat is using to make all the noise. Shake off the sluggishness. Move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and the clothes from the dryer can go atop the laundry basket, hidden behind the couch with every single stray object that’s been left in the living room and kitchen. Everything is out of sight. The surfaces are cleared so you can think, remember, fall into that trance, if there is time before the appointment.

Let the cat play with one more marble, just for a moment. You are not thinking. You are not sinking into a trance. Do not dwell on this. Do note the pleasure of washing your face—this new bit of self-care is a little intoxicating, no? Do note the goodness of flaxseed oil on the whole grain slice of toast—save butter for something more exotic than toast. Do pour a scant quarter-cup of coffee and dress it with milk, now that you are tasting and conscious.

Now pick up the marble, and scratch the cat behind his ears, sitting in the sunny window, the place you love. Set the timer on your cell phone, for that appointment later.

Now. Sit back at the relatively empty table, listen to the quiet, look nowhere but inward. Go.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

veteran's day holiday note

The morning dawns and the boy’s fever broke last night. I wake with him tucked into the middle of my bed, my husband huddled far on the other edge. If he weren’t still recovering, the boy would shove both of us off the sides with his voracious appetite for space. He’s been fierce with his bony elbows and knees since he was a baby, and today he is nine years old.

And I have a party to plan. It’s a school holiday. I’ve promised soup, a cake made of big cinnamon buns, candles, hot cider. (Need mugs, spoons, the special candles, matches, napkins…) I sit slowly, find my wooly slippers, and move toward coffee.

“So much work to do,” is my mantra these days, so much work put off, so many really important projects to attend. The birthday party is simple, the weather crisp and cold and we need hot liquids—I can do that. We are meeting at a state park, with the intent to have a treasure hunt but if we just climb, I’m not complaining. I will prevent children from flinging themselves off rocky precipices, for the most part, and I will feed them. Everything else is extra.

Grad school writing is due tomorrow. I’m researching house-buying, of all things, though that may not even be possible. (It’s a beautiful, simple place—I’ll keep you posted.) We would miss our view, but I’d love to solve our need for another bedroom just that quickly. My to-finish list is huge, bulging with details. I finished a book last night and am still mulling it for an annotation. My daughter needs a ride from her sleepover with a friend, in an hour.

Black beans are simmering. Onions and garlic and carrots are next. The cake is all set. The box fills with stuff for the party…

And I need coffee. And maybe to get dressed.

Back to you soon.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

to make a leaf crown

To make a leaf crown: First, apply your thumbnail firmly to the base of the maple leaf, where the stem joins. The stem should tear off easily. Layer the edge of one maple leaf on top of the next leaf and stitch downward and upward with the narrow end of the leaf-stem. The needle-stem holds the two leaves side-by-side, slightly overlapped. Use the stem of the second leaf and stitch to the third, the third to the fourth. Expect to shred a few leaves—it’s best to weave crowns while sitting in an abundance of leaves, with an abundance of time, say, while sitting at the playground.

When a dozen leaves or so are joined, measure the chain of leaves around your head or a child’s head and stitch in place with the last stem. Or make continuous leaf-chains and drape them around your neck, over the fence posts and swingsets. Admire your sweet folly: we are celebrating the temporal here. Bright leaves are here for the joy of a few days.

I look up and the bright leaves turn to rust, with no leaf crowns this year, no sitting for long hours in playgrounds. Instead I arrange rides to soccer practice and art lessons, and hope for an occasional afternoon at home with children, with a pot of warm popcorn. We catch up on homework and music practice. In my childhood we took to the streets after school, meandered the long way home, applied ourselves to puddles and bicycles and roller skates and games played in quiet streets while leaves sifted down. So much is required of these children, these days. They expect more of themselves, too, than I expected of myself as a child. I don’t know what I think about it. I do my best. I fail to do my very best, to manage my patience, to organize the time. I worry. I wish they played more, outdoors. But that would be another chunk of time to manage, another set of transitions each day. When the sunlight changes in springtime, the playground will be popular again, for another year or two if we are lucky.

What other skills will grow rusty from disuse? Someday I will not need to remind these children to brush their hair, to pack their lunches. Will they remember leaf crowns? Will they look up one day and find the golds and reds have gone to rust, without much notice?

I found a bag of large oak leaves browning behind the couch. “Anyone know what these leaves are here for?”

“THERE are my leaves!” she shouted. “Oh wait, MY leaves were bright red and yellow…” We talk about the effect of being stuffed in a bag for a week, behind the couch, poor girl. The sky darkens early, but we can still see. We walk the leaves to the compost and wish them a good winter. We pick some of the last of the summer wildflowers, still hanging on in the yard, and return indoors for a vase. We start the kettle for tea, pull out the homework, and settle in for the evening.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Central Park, last month.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

more than one student in my family

Madeleine's copy book for Botany-- not for school. This is her copy for home.