Tuesday, May 11, 2010

on beginning a semester asking 18-year-olds to write about love

A rant scribbled in my notebook in Starbucks, last September at the beginning of my first semester of teaching. 

If love is so great, and love is what everyone wants, then why doesn’t everyone run out and give as much love as they can? If God has provided everything we need in this big gorgeous creation, and endowed us with God’s likeness and spirit, why do we fail to love? How could we? What prevents us from love?

A drop of oatmeal falls cunningly between the wires of the spiral notebook of my journal, and I can’t easily reach it without destroying my journal—my only journal handy here at Starbucks. Already I’ve drawn quizzical arrows, corrected spelling and in short I’ve broken the spell of that intense question from the class I’m teaching. In all likelihood I’ve broken the spell because I can’t bear another round of another day of confession of my sins of omission. How do I not love thee? Let me count the ways.

The oatmeal gives me something to do. I think of the box of tea to buy, here at Starbucks. I think of the beautiful faces I dropped off at the school door. I think of school’s opening assembly. I don’t know my own work schedule yet—I hardly know anything.

How do I reconcile love and parenting—brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth, are those shoes too small? Really? That seems impossible—they are still so beautiful, so perfect for you. Except they are not perfect, now. Did I take time to kiss the girl-foot, before it grows into a woman-foot? Not today. Brush your hair. Pack your lunch. Don’t tease me for making a wrong turn, I need coffee… Three hours later the coffee has grown cool, and the brew I’ve chosen is bitter and dark against my favorite oatmeal second breakfast.

I love Starbucks. I love oatmeal. I love the classical music playing this morning. In order to love these students I need to go to Staples for a giant sticky pad, on which to write Shakespeare, Donne, Browning, I Corinthians 13.

An informal baby shower emerges in the small circle of cushy chairs: three couples, two infants. Packages of baby gear are sorted one-by-one. The group talks excitedly in a mix of English and some Asian dialect—I hesitate to guess. Rattles are demonstrated. Baby bottles.

How mercilessly easy it is to love infants—simply put aside all else, and pretend you exist only to make the child healthy, whole, settled. Only live for that smile. I cross the “l” accidentally and spell “smite,” good heavens. How they smite us with love, these small and delicate creatures! How motherhood smites the self for a few years, until there is nothing left but the stump of Jesse. How blessed are those of us God gifts to grow again, smitten, decimated, and ready for what’s next.

Monday, May 10, 2010

snapshot from a year ago: some things different, some the same

Culling files on my computer, I found this abandoned post from last May.

Every few minutes I get up to restart the clothes dryer or answer the phone, to restart the music and try to figure out who turned it off? I’m the only one home—it must’ve been me. Where did the coffee go? I must’ve finished it earlier.

I’d like to be slightly unconscious because I am writing but in truth I am fussing, futzing, worrying, fretting over this thing and that thing. It seems like a month since I’ve started a new story, too busy revising my thesis to consider much else with my writing time. And the writing time shrinks in this month of May, full of school events and little league evenings and a precious few beach days, a few walks to keep me from becoming stiff, a few trips, blessed ones.

In July I will read a portion of my thesis aloud, on the day of my graduation, and I’ve known for six months what I will wear (a perfect dress, waiting in my closet), where I will stand, what I will read. The afternoon will be hot and rainy, as all August days in Santa Fe’s monsoon season. I was thinking yesterday, how I entered this masters program shaking and feeling certain I didn’t belong with these amazing writers. I was thinking how I leave shaking in a different way, knowing I belong but now I will need to live up to this masters program, to live up to the hope others invest in me.

And of course I am also shaking because I’d hoped to teach part-time at the college level, and the nearby colleges are eliminating adjunct professors just now, trimming budgets. I will need to work, but how? What?

I can’t worry because my thesis needs a little polish, and I have five more books to read, and kids will be home from school in two weeks. I must worry because we need a bigger place to live.

Meanwhile I found an ad on Craigslist: a woman is seeking a yarn-spinner to make two pounds of fiber into yarn. Two pounds of fiber fills two grocery bags, and might be enough fiber for a sweater. The fiber is dog fur, and several web-based companies offer to process “chiengora” dog fur at $10 per ounce—I might be able to do it for less, I can’t say yet. If processed at $10 per ounce, or $160 per pound… what grief brings a pet owner to this level of commitment?

I miss my mother. It’s her birthday next week and I miss her hard and furiously.

Funny, the teaching job worked out like a charm. The thesis was fine, as such things go. I've since edited half of those pages, cutting one essay by a third, and adding to another by a third, so those 100 pages offered good work-in-progress. And the dog yarn? I've spun two batches of it, and I hope to spin some more soon. The woman knit fur-mittens and felted them in my washer, thick firm mittens with a gorgeous tan haze like mohair. 

Friday, May 07, 2010

spring schedule

I chaperoned the middle school dance and the 4th grade trip to the wildlife sanctuary. (Wildlife sanctuary/Middle school dance= synonyms?) Wowed 3rd graders with my looms and spindles. Nurtured a toddler through a crisis over a puzzle piece. Introduced kids to chicken biryani and cheered when my kid snagged a grounder at second base.Taking my other kid to a wool festival to pet sheep. BRING ON MOTHER'S DAY!

Also: Edited a story and will submit it by 9 a.m. Wrote a fan letter to a writer who is new to me (read Valerie Weaver-Zercher's Philo-Lilac in Orion, this month, swoon! I'm sure some of you know her in person, but you really must read her.) Decided that I can start the new job next week, because a day off is okay, today. Really.

Have I mentioned this is the most beautiful spring I can remember? Early, warm, and such an embarrassment of green.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

patience, dear readers

I started to post a story last week, from my graduate thesis-- then I realized the thing was too intense and involved too many people I haven't checked with. (Sorry.)

I've been asked to finish an essay for an anthology of food writing, and I'm revising like crazy. I print a big stack of pages of all the ways I've rewritten this story, and I cut and tape and color code; then I rearrange, cut a lot of subplots, ask myself what's really important in there, and generally obsess, at length. That's what I've been doing in my writing life, besides filling spiral journals.

Will post some smaller snippets of writing, soon!

Lilacs are starting to bloom, and the sun is hot today, so off I go to the beach. Meet me there? It is surely time to soak up some sun.