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Showing posts from 2013

Pictures of a life you'll never know

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The part of Philomena that was most meaningful to me was the way she periodically runs through home movie pictures of the son she lost to forced adoption. They are flickering images of a childhood she was never a part of, glances of a boy she only imagines. This hit me because it is exactly what happens when you have lost a child. My first son, Calvin, was stillborn nearly 13 years ago, and I still see flashes of the boy he might have been in my mind, in certain postures of his living siblings, in the faces of the growing-up-so-fast children of friends. A long time ago, I stopped trying to compare suffering, but I am pretty sure that women like Philomena Lee, who were hidden from the world in the shame of their pregnancy then had their children taken from them and never knew what happened to them, had it much worse than me.

In the movie, we eventually see that the images she has been "imagining" are actually drawn from a reel of images from her son's life with his adopt…

Venue of Vultures

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On the way to a walk by the river, I saw a venue of turkey vultures trooping around on the banks of the Hocking. I thought at first they were geese. There are a lot of geese here, as everywhere. But geese don't have red heads, and geese do not have a 7-foot wing span. There were perhaps 12 or 15 birds. Most of them were hunched in a familiar vulture pose, but 4 or 5 of them had their wings fully extended to catch the sunshine. (Venue is the collective word for vultures on the ground, according too the kind people of TrekOhio, who also note that the Latin name for this bird, "Cathartes aura, means either golden purifier or purifying breeze." Let us respect the carrion eaters for they purify our world.)

On the walk itself, the only birds I saw were geese, robins, and grackles. Is it an illusion that when I was a kid Canada geese and robins were truly migratory? I recall the wonder of the first robin of spring. Was I just not paying attention all winter? I know the living …

Insomnia in Plaid

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My sleep patterns are disrupted here. However there's a fireplace in the sitting room that makes being mysteriously awake at 3 a.m. seem like a luxury. Thursday night, I read on the couch and talked to Bette, the aging bassett-retriever, until I fell back asleep at dawn. Hoping for a repeat this morning, I got up in the dark and came downstairs to find it was nearly 7 and my mother was up with a computer in her lap.

It's no surprise that my sleep is off. It usually is. I don't conform well to the 8-hour sleep schedule, and I fantasize about a life where I can both be a productive member of society and sleep whenever the whim strikes me. My friend Harris pointed me towards the idea of "second sleep" or "segmented sleep" when I complained of this in the spring. There is historical documentation to support the idea that pre-industrial people (i.e., those not beholden to the factory clock and the world it created) tended to wake in the night and made use o…

Oh, hello there.

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It's been a while. I've been teaching full time this fall and managing to write some non-blog writing (see below) and trying to tend to my home life at least a little, and so this space has been neglected. I have missed it. I recently told my friend Karen, who keeps a lovely sketching blog, which also sometimes is neglected, that we should make a pact to rededicate ourselves to this funny enterprise.

And so here I am on Boxing Day at the Donkey with a bag of books and a computer. I just finished writing thank you notes to students for holiday gifts. I am planning to see a very long movie about a "greedy, strong, and wicked worm" later today. Each day of vacation is supposed to include reading, writing, exercise, school prep, family time, and good food. I've accomplished three and a half of these so far.

Reading: A Separate Peace by John Knowles, brushing up for school. I have a bunch of other books here too. More on those as the days develop. Have you read Separa…

The Mantis, the Apatelodes, and the Parisian Cat

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Well, David's play opened in NYC.

Meanwhile, here at home we've had a praying mantis lurking around our front door. I guess the kids have seen it a few times. I got to see it when O started to go outside and exclaimed, "Oh! He's back, and he's looking at me." I went to find out what he was talking about, and there was the bright green mantis, on the threshold between the wooden door and the screen door, with its head swiveled and tilted as though it were wondering if it might consume my child. I used a stick to pick it up and transport it outside, fearing to try to pick it up with my hands. I'm not squeamish about bugs in the least, but that creature demanded respect. And even when I offered it the stick the first time it leapt forward at me in a most alarming way. Then when I had gotten it onto the planter on the stoop, it stretched itself out bizarrely, extending its front legs along the rim of the planter until they were completely straight and then j…

Our Houses are Such Unwieldy Property

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I tried to write a post on our way home from Maine, about road trip eating and the rules, pitfalls, and pleasures thereof, but it ended up sounding really stiff and distant and I got so far past my 20 minute rule that I just gave up. Let it suffice to say: UTICA GREENS! Who knew?
Since we returned home Sunday night there have been things I wanted to record - like the small lavender dragonfly with the bright blue rump I saw one day this week - but it has been so crazy trying to settle in. Sunday we went from the highway directly to a party to see friends who moved away a startling 3 years ago and were only in town until early Monday. It was good that we went, important to see them, but it meant starting the week with a pile of luggage and no food (not even coffee) in the house. And then, getting David out the door to the Fringe in NYC (NYT plug; David's blog) and all the other stuff of life. Meanwhile, our house has been a complete disaster to the point that it was making me panic…

It's good when you lose track of the days ...

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There's been a beguiling mixture of rain and sun here.



There was a parade in there somewhere too.

Reading: Finished Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. A random descriptive passage (chosen from many that are equally evocative):

The heat in the kitchen is breath-sucking. There are two small windows at either end of the huge tacked-together room, and stable door, which leads off to the back veranda where the dairyman (surrounded by a halo of flied) labors over the milk churn (milk spits into buckets, cream chugs into a jug; both are in danger of going off before the can reach refrigeration). The fridges, unable to compete with the heat, leak (they bleed actually: think watered-down blood from the defrosting chunks of cow) and add a fusty-smelling steam to the atmosphere. The aroma here is defrosting flesh, soon-to-be-off milk, sweating butter, and the always present salty-meat-old-vegetable effluvium of the dogs' stew toiling away on the stove. (280)
Writing: Progress on …

Fritters and Fizzes

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Second full day and the rhythms are being established. O loves to play human bellows with the fire, which burns each morning. He got his fishing in with his grandmother, and went kayaking and boating with his dad. Z went kayaking too and says that we should make it a goal to kayak every day. a good goal. She is also enchanted by the How to be the Best at Everything book David picked up at the library sale. (That was a useful library sale!) I continue to read and write, and got lots of time on my rock (will post pics of which another day)..

For breakfast David made peach fritters (Connecticut peach dish #2), and they were good.

We were joined in the afternoon by summer friends Michelle and Bob and their son C, who will keep us company and drink cocktails (see below) with us for several days.

And my father in law was heard to utter this: "The end that's in the middle is I don't know why."

Reading: The Fuller and also The Odyssey. The latter out on the rock.

Writing: Ye…

There is really not much going on

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The difficulty with being in a place where there is really not much going on is that there really is not much going on. I happen to love this about the cove, and I think ZandO do too really, but the first day was a bit rough.

O wants so much to do the things he wants to do - fishing and Risk, mostly,  and kayaking - that he has a very hard time letting anyone else do what they want. Z, the socialest of sociable animals, is anxious for her summer friends to arrive on the weekend, and keyed up about the possibility of seeing her a best friend from home as she passes up the coast (this complicated by the fact that we get no cell phone reception here -- again, not something I mind on my on own). All this makes her less than gracious, and she also gets fed up with being the default playmate for her brother, in predictable and irritating ways. And David has things he wants to do too, and wishes the kids would run off and entertain themselves more. I am confident we will all find our rhythm…

The Day We Arrived on the Cove (and ate in diners)

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I was on the dock crabbing with Orson as soon as we unpacked the car. I saw the colors in the water first, then looked up. 


A strange half power outtage at Falk Manor drove us out for breakfast (that and the fact that we wanted to take them out to thank them), which we procured at the S&S Dugout Cafe in Southport, on Liz's recommendation.

They make their own delicious sausage -- a  fresh pork patty with spices. David and I had the hot, which really is hot, along with the house speciality fried mashed potatoes, rye toast, and two eggs over easy. Harris had the sweet, which really is sweet. O had a fine BLT, and Z had another house speciality - rare roast beef on a poppyseed roll.

After that, peach picking, of course! We left Connecticut with 2 pecks of freshly picked peaches crammed into the back of the car and dreams of pies and cobblers and fritters and salsa dancing in our heads. There was heavy rain on the Mass Pike, but all else was uneventful. We probably bought too much…

Maine Vacation days 1&2 (not yet Maine)

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Friday I finished my tenure at a job I have been working hard at for a year and a half? Two years? Five? Depends on how you count it. I stayed late to try to leave things as neatly as I could. After 11 I turned out the lights and whispered goodbye and thank you and good luck, and I drove home crying with the windows open to the humid night air. Crying because of endings, because of change, because I made this happen and I hope I have done the right thing. In one month I will begin the next thing.

Saturday was packing and shopping and attending a theater people wedding. And Sunday was the long drive to Westport to see old friends in their new(ish) house.


Harris I have know for ... 24 years? ... Liz for what must be nearly 10. I was very very pregnant with O, in an elegant black prego lady dress, when I stood in their wedding party 8 years ago. Little Z tossed flower petals and after the revelry had worn her out slept on two chairs pushed together near the coat closet while we danced in…

They Both Trick You.

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On several occasions recently I have said or done something, and David has said, "Are you going to blog about that?" (See, I am using him to do a sideways I'm-so-sorry-I-haven't-been-blogging pose. Nonbloggerasana. He's going to hate that.)

If I recall correctly, these included: my joy over realizing I could turn the raspberry ice cream I had just made into ice cream pie, the duck and kale spaghetti dish I invented, the pea pod slaw and Z as veggie crusader, my emotional reactions to Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, and the "my city is beautiful" conversation I had with O.  I will write about that last first, and try to fill in the rest below.

A couple weeks ago, O got to visit what seemed like 100 different cultural institutions as part of a weeklong camp. This included the new MOCA Cleveland giant black crystal of salt building, which I have not yet visited myself. On the way down to camp the next day, he was telling me about how much you can see of …

Random Monday

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Very long day at work, but a large chunk of it was at a meeting room in the library. I picked up a book about the origins of The Odyssey (which I will be teaching in the fall), because it was enticingly arrayed with the James Joyce books out for Bloomsday (fun looking article about which here).

At the library I saw a woman wearing white capri pants with a large widely spaced floral pattern in clear toned pastels. I'm not much of a pastel person, but this print was unusual, the quality of the color was like someone had taken crystalline animation cells and transferred them to cotton. I would like to own these pants. Better yet, I would like to have a summer dress with this fabric. Something self-consciously demure, sleeveless with gathered shoulders, a round neck, and slightly cinched, softly pleated waist, knee length. And I would like a pair of ice cream pink shoes to wear with it.

I also saw a woman with earrings that were giant dusty red paisleys. I want those too, for a diffe…

Fawns and the Face of the Obvious

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I like those moments I don't know that I am going to have and then find myself in the midst of -- well, I like the moments like this when good things happen.

This morning, sleeping over at the in-laws in Lakewood, I woke up a little before 5 and my lower back was stiff and I couldn't get back to sleep and I knew I had reading to do, so I got up and snuck downstairs to make coffee (of course, I roused my mother-in-law anyway, but she said some kind things about toast and went back to bed). My intention had been to sit in one of the wingbacks in the living room or upstairs in the recliner in the big room where we sleep, but then I realized there was a screened in back porch and it was a cool morning in June.

I took my coffee, the manuscript I was working on, and an aqua blue afghan outside, where it was still dark but the first birds were beginning to sing. I read while the morning bloomed. Every time I looked up from the page, I could see more of the yard and hear more of the …

The living is easy.

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Kids finished school for the year, summer is upon us, and it was a good week for light. 
On Monday morning I had a phone call to make first thing, but there was no reason I had to make it from a desk. I decided to stop and use my cell from the Shaker Lakes. As I approached the turn in at the west end of the lakes along North Park, I could see glimpses of the water through the trees. Then for one moment, I could see the lights on the footbridge over the dam at the end of the lake still glowing orange in the brightening dawn, big and soft in the humid morning air. On the surface of the water the reflection showed as bright twin smudges stretching all the way across the lake. (When I got out of my car, I saw two sleeping mallards balled up on the dam and out on the water what I think was a female horned grebe diving for breakfast.)
On Thursday late afternoon in the misty rain, as I descended Mayfield Road from the high point at Taylor, a mile's length of wet pavement dipped and rose i…

Electrified in-home storyteller

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Questions: How much TV do you watch, and how do you manage that?

I don't want to come off as self-righteously anti-TV. I like TV. I don't doubt that we are in a much-vaunted (provide your own links here) new Golden Age of Television. Great, great writing and acting is happening on TV regularly. I do not doubt this. And how cool that our electrified in-home storyteller has gotten so good at its craft. Humans are story animals; this is good news for us in that sense. I understand something really epic happened on Game of Thrones last night, and I admit that I wish I were following GoT so I could participate in the afterglow. But I don't know how to make room for it. I already don't have time to do so many other things. I perceive that most people both watch more TV than I do and have cleaner houses. This feels like a paradox.

David and I manage to watch one, maybe two shows at a time. Last week, discovering that the British hospital comedy Green Wing was available on Ne…

A place of dangerous wonder. Or, the alembic of me.

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Every once in a while, I get a bee in my bonnet about this quote from Emerson's Nature: "Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic of man," but I can never remember the word "alembic." I think and I think. "Limbic?" I wonder. "Lambic?" And knowing that it means somethin about straining or distilling I go on a search for synonyms of these words or I try to comb my way through Emerson until finally I find it. (An alembic is a kind of still used in the Middle Ages.)

I think I first encountered the quote in an undergraduate classical rhetoric class, but why my professor brought it up I'm not sure. Perhaps the point was the rhetoric was part of the distilling process? I'm not sure that's what Emerson was getting at, but I'll go with it.

The quote occurs to me when I am trying to figure out why artmaking matters. This can be a position of despair. Human ugliness overwhelms me and I wonder what possible good art can do in th…

Contagious and outrageous.

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I was knocked out on Thursday with a stomach bug/food poisoning/something yucky. Friday, I felt totally human again. Now, on Saturday, I am coming down with a cold. Z is a day ahead of me in the cold, and she is miserable; more so with the knowledge that there is a sleepover party she may or may not make it to tonight.

During the same time, I got to go to Z's school choir concert, for which she wore a sheriff's costume she has had since she was 4 for the Village People number, and I got to go see an amazing and delightful play. There is a Happiness that Morning Is by Chicago playwright Mickle Maher, in production through tonight (! get your tickets now!) at CPT, is simply a joy. My friend Brian Pedaci does some of the best acting I have ever seen him do, and he is matched by his fellows, Deirdrui Ring and Matthew Wright.

The play is a comedy in verse about two Blake scholars forced to apologize for having sex on the lawn ... but that doesn't even really describe how outra…

Thor Enchanted - important lessons in comparative literature

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As a family, we are slowly consuming the Avengers movie franchise. Last night, we finished watching Thor. When Thor's pals "Sif and the Warriors Three" show up to try to bring him back to Asgard, Z exclaimed, "Oh, so this is like Enchanted."

Mythical being cast out of their own world arrives on Earth through a magical portal to find themselves baffled by ways of the mundane, other creatures good and bad from the mythical world come in search of the outcast, hijinks ensue.

Yes, Z. Thor is just like Enchanted. (This sounds like something some of my friends would have written undergraduate seminar papers on.)

Reading: One of the things that Annie Dillard meditates about in For the Time Being is how we think about or fail to be able to think about tragedy on a large scale. A garment factory collapses in Bangladesh. A tornado causes "atomic bomb like" devastation in Oklahoma, leveling neighborhoods and schools. Outside my window the goldfinches serenade th…

O Overwhelmingly is 8

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"Mom? Have I ever told you I'm proud to be your son?" said the new 8-year-old this morning. It kind of doesn't get any better than that, right? Nice to get this the day after one of the most successful, and least planned, kids birthdays I have presided over.

The day began with a fishing trip, during which we caught a lot of trees. And once, two in our party caught the same fish at the same time. Poor fish. The day ended in a glitzy restaurant in Little Italy watching our goofy and multi-talented friend Tim play stand-up bass in a doo-wop band. We were with Leah, who was overwhelmed by the fabulous weirdness of the whole scene. Also, I had amazing parking juju. In between the O got to play with friends, play with a Legos, play with a new video game, and eat his favorite dinner. Z got to go to the Hessler Street Fair with one of her favorite people, and see a friend on stilts. I got to putter around the house, tidy a few things, and continue the Great Book Rearrangeme…