Archive for ‘Home’

The Poetics of Reverie

August 13th, 2016


“Even a minor event in the life of a child is an event of that child’s world and thus a world event”
― Gaston Bachelard

I borrowed the title of this post from one of my favorite writers, French phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard, because that’s what I feel I’m in the midst of right now. I’m on the 67th day and the second notebook of writing down 100 childhood memories, a project I’ve embarked on with a faraway writer friend, a project that has no purpose, no lofty goal, no intended outcomes. The memories themselves are not as important as the side roads they take me down. I find myself drawing diagrams of the house where my soul was sheltered and nurtured and maps of the small town I grew up in. The rudimentary maps I dash off lead me to want more detail, more annotating of sacred spaces where insights or illuminations or wounds occurred. Some days I wish I had a whole wall on which to draw that map. Here is where we gathered bittersweet and milkweed pods. This country road is where I lost my virginity in an old blue Chevy. This fireplace is where my brothers and I huddled the day my father abandoned us. Here is the creek that would one day flood and drown two of my cousins on the same day. Just down the road is the old church where the farmers stood around outside in their clean white shirts and Sunday trousers while the women and children worshipped inside. This field is where I rode the hay wagon with my grandfather and ate sugar and butter sandwiches that my grandmother packed in a brown paper sack. I’m swimming backwards in time, and I need a map to lead me to all the forgotten memories and names and scars. A map that exists in child time, that never changes, where the brick schoolhouse has not yet been demolished, a Walmart is still in the future and I am always on the verge of becoming.

Canned Enlightenment

November 24th, 2014

sardine 2 web

This time of year, I always think of Thanksgiving dinners at my grandmother’s house with the long table spread with a lace cloth and set with her best china and silver. Even though I now own her china, I’ve never achieved that level of civility in my own domestic life. In fact, I’ve spent the last decades eating many dinners at the coffee table while I read a book. According to all the experts in women’s magazines, this evidently takes years off the life expectancy of a single woman. I plead guilty to cutting similar corners in many areas of my life. Yes, I wish I didn’t want to take a short cut to the middle of a labyrinth instead of a making a slow contemplative circuit. I wish I’d been practicing inner peace  all along instead of waiting to cram for it right before the exam. And I wish I could go back and have a re-do on those make-shift meals with a book in my lap or eating sardines out of a can over the sink. But those sardines! Peeling back the lid, seeing the symmetry of the way they’re packed, partaking of the bones and flesh of each little fish has its own beauty. Even when I eat them straight out of the can, I’m saying “thank you” with every bite. Thank you for the sunshine-colored olive oil they’re swimming in, thank you for their silvery shiny bodies, thank you for the taste of the “wine dark sea” or the stormy Atlantic I imagine was their home. A pause to praise regardless of the plate.

Friday Night in Fridaville

April 28th, 2013

web ghosts

I’d forgotten how a Friday night alone feeds me with something I can’t get in a bar or restaurant. Tonight, I made a bison burger and slaw from scratch. Added a couple of glasses of Malbec and an all-Sinatra playlist and I could feel my soul curl up like a cat in a patch of sunlight. Alone but not lonely. Remembering but not regretting. Sometimes it feels as if I rushed through my life, with one crisis or passion or loss piling onto another so fast that I couldn’t stop to assimilate them. But when there’s no work or man or worry to distract me, all the ghosts come to the campfire. The ones I loved, the ones who slipped through my fingers, the ones I struggled with, the ones I didn’t fully appreciate, the ones I never made amends with — their stories elbow me, demanding attention, asking for someone to remember them. I have a barely born hope that their stories will begin to come through me someday.

Moody Board

April 9th, 2012

I realized this weekend that my mood board is so clogged with old clippings, ephemera and photos that it’s like an archeological artifact. Part of the problem is that I’m so attached to all those poems, drawings, trinkets and other bits and pieces that I can’t bear to take them down or figure out what to do with them. But more troubling is that the board has become a kind of decorative element and has ceased to be really inspiring. And even more upsetting is that my entire home “office” has become just as nonfunctional. It’s never been where I write — I do that on my laptop in bed or in coffee shops or on the couch — but it’s become a playroom that’s never played in anymore. How do you keep your mood board fresh and your work room functional? Can’t decide if I need a life coach or a room coach.

Time Lines

November 7th, 2010

I have all my appointments on my iPhone, with Alerts and Second Alerts and Alarms and Birthdays and it makes me feel quite nuts because it’s all so kind of Invisible. Everything seems to be happening at once in a very overwhelming way. Is it because I’m too old to keep a digital calendar, too structured to have my dates floating in the ether? I know that time is not linear, that all kinds of things from the past invade the present, blur the lines between Was and Is, that we cycle around and around, committing the same sins, hitting the same sensitive spots over and over in the great return. But when it comes to “Dentist–Nov 10” or “Logan’s Bday, Dec 28” I have to see it all laid out before me like hopscotch time. I crave the white space of open days when nothing is required of me except to dawdle, dream or wander. I need to cross off accomplishments, cancel activities on a day that is too full, put a star sticker by exercise, draw a heart around special events or anniversaries of the heart, doodle a yellow sun on a day I’m really happy, glue oddments and ephemera to the page. That’s the calendar I tape to the inside of my front door so that I can see it first thing in the morning when I leave for work and last thing when I’m locking the door at night.  A little roadmap that gives me the illusion of control, order, security and writes a shorthand short story about my life.

Over the Next Hill

October 30th, 2010

Are you where you belong? If so, you’re lucky, because I’ve never lived anywhere I didn’t consider temporary. Even if I was there for decades. One of the favorite paintings I own shows an open road stretching into the horizon and pretty much sums up my ambivalence about home. I long for it but never feel I’m quite rooted anywhere, that there is always somewhere “out there” that’s my real home. My search is complicated by ruling out places that are haunted by my past, certain locations that constitute holy ground for me, where intense emotions are seared into the atmosphere, where I loved or lost, where emotional vibrations disturb the air like the silence after music. A graveyard in Kentucky, a certain quality of light on a street in San Diego, the townhouse where my marriage died, the university quad where I fell in love at first sight. Places whose soundtrack could only be Chopin’s Prelude, Opus 28 No 4 in E Minor. If I moved anywhere near those spots, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, wouldn’t be able to stop myself from revisiting the past, couldn’t not haunt them like a living ghost. So my soul is always on the road, always looking for rest, for rescue, for a place that strikes the missing chord.

Night Lights

October 20th, 2010

With the darkness closing in earlier now, I always turn on the white twinkle lights and made-by-a-friend  tin can lights on my porch when I go out in the evening. I love coming home late, driving down my street and seeing from a block away my house welcome me back like a fiesta for one. And I like the idea of  sending out peace and love via prayer flags and party lights to anyone passing by. Porch lights are signs of hope and rescue and respite in a dark sea of night and trouble and losing our way. We all need to have one turned on for us for us somewhere in the world, to guide us home by the  heart strings.

Mount Reality

July 31st, 2010

I came back from the “wilderness,” a week in and around Yosemite, to find an email that my mailbox was too full, my mortgage payments for the last two months somehow hadn’t been recorded and a cryptic letter from the IRS that I owe the government $3,000 plus for some reason that remains mysterious no matter how often I read the message. To compound my misery, I stepped on the scale to find that after a week’s worth of grueling hikes, I literally had not lost an ounce of weight. I cried for about 10 minutes (I’m a failure at everything!), went back and read my post about the 5-Year-Perspective (applying, applying, applying) and restrained myself from rushing out to buy a Frosty at Wendy’s (don’t do it!). I know all of this is fixable, and even the weight has its up-side — at least I didn’t gain any. Seems I’m just getting a larger post-vacation slap of reality than usual. Being disconnected from television, work and any responsibility other than getting to the top of the next oxygen-sucking trail meant living moment to moment instead of fake crisis to fake crisis. The real uphill slog comes when I’m home. I hope that when I wade into all this bureaucratic mess next week, I remember sitting with my feet in a clean ice-cold, snow-fed river, the color of sun-bleached grass on the hillside, a coyote pausing by the road to give me a look, the mountain half in shade, half in light — just like life.

Party of One

July 10th, 2010

I’ve been having a completely nonproductive, unintellectual weekend and loving it. Friday after work, I went to the restaurant across the street from the office and had 1 1/2 glasses of Chardonnay, talk to the bartender (who I love because he warned me to stay away from a guy I met there), and write in my journal. I can’t say that anything memorable comes out of those writing sessions but the stress of a week of work gradually fades away as I brainstorm with myself, draw, and make to-do lists for the next week. I had dinner with friends and came home and read a poorly written historical novel. Thank god for the bad historical novel writers who keep me company in my insomnia. Today, I again did nothing useful except go to the post office and take vitamins. I brushed my teeth and put on a bra before leaving the house, so I think I get some points for that. Then I spent several hours playing MahJong online, reading Vanity Fair and listening to the rain. So here’s the thing — given that “our ground time here is limited,” as Maxine Kumin noted in a poem, shouldn’t I be making stuff, thinking big thoughts or taking flying lessons? Yes, I think I should, and I wish I’d spent more time doing that over the course of my life instead of reading People and going to T.J. Maxx. But I love the “wasting” of time, too, so I’m caught up in a familiar existential dilemma. And now that I’ve finished reading VF, I’ll get right back to Buddha’s Brain…soon. After all,tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett said to Sartre.

Little Altars

April 14th, 2010

I have little pop-up altars all over my house. Some are shelves with family photos and candles, others are impromptu gatherings of  numinous images or objects. This one is in my bedroom, and the flowers have been exchanged for a little vase of fresh rosemary to remind me of people in my life who are gone or far away. I don’t go to church, and I’m never quite sure what I’m doing in this life, much less whether there’s an afterlife.  Maybe my hodgepodge of icons and altars (Shiva cheek to jowl with the Virgin of Guadalupe who is next to Frida) is just another hipster decorating pretension, or maybe my altars are spiritual lightning rods, designed to attract what I’m seeking in the way of peace, enlightenment, creativity, clarity, belonging, believing. Mostly, though, I think they’re visual prayers, the only kind I know h0w to make right now.