Thursday, July 24, 2014

home again

The day after returning from a long trip, all I ever want to do is sit like a bump on a log, maybe read a novel, with all my bags still packed and my fridge still empty. Maybe it's travel fatigue; maybe it's a desire to preserve that liminal space before jumping back into normal life; maybe I'm just exceedingly lazy. But it's my consistent experience after travel, warring with just a touch of drive to whirlwind around until everything is unpacked and tidy again.

But in our three weeks away, M learned to pull up on everything, which means piles of travel gear around the house are an invitation to disastrous exploration. And she's not as content with leftover chips for lunch as I am (or maybe she would be--but she shouldn't be). So: we are doing the laundry, emptying the suitcase, filling the fridge.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The tabernacle of reading. Childhood summers, the breeze sucking cotton curtains flat to screens then whipping, puffing them back away into the room. That particular still heat, demanding still limbs, still voice, but oh, the mind running, wandering, deepening into some Other Place. The cool library, the stack of books stretching from lowered palms to stabilizing chin, the repeats, the new finds. The languid mornings, the solitary afternoons, the delicious car rides long enough for a full chapter, the flashlit nights. The scent of ink and glue.

Welcome, July. Welcome, stack of books. I have missed you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

a desk

The days speed by to a soundtrack of lawnmowers and prairie wind, traffic edging over the 30km speed limit outside my window because the sun tempts drivers to propel themselves faster into the summer.

Just think! Summer! After six months of snow! Warm breezes, luxuriously long days, watermelon!

My life right now is all piles of books, nap time focus, glasses of water, chocolate wrappers. It is beans and rice, chicken puree, sweeping the floor three times a day. It is cuddles, long walks, introducing tomato plants to the fresh air.

My maternity leave is ending. It could last longer--blessed Canada--but I have serious work to do prepping new courses for next year. The symbol of this shift in life seasons is a proper desk, set up in front of the bedroom window. This was Josh's desk in Chicago, and it spent nearly a year in storage, but now the aesthetics must bow to function: I must have a place to scrawl my annotations, stack my folders, plot my lectures.

I do these things with sweet potato smeared on my knuckles and chickpeas smashed and drying into the shoulder of my shirt. But still, I do them.

How do we discover ourselves in the interstices of Before and Now and Later? How do we craft identities, fashion lives, out of recollections of who we were, and are, and want to be?

Daily practice, probably. Mixing up the bread dough. Sitting down to the desk. Popping back up again when called for.

Friday, March 28, 2014

five-sense Friday

hearing: traffic whirring by; upstairs neighbours talking (which surely means they hear baby's wake-ups in the night...poor neighbours!); slight hum of the computer, like a kitten in my lap only less wiggly

smelling: old snow, melt, mud; fresh bread cooling on the counter; cinnamony tea

tasting: said tea; extraordinarily garlicky hummus for lunch; almond muffins

feeling: almost uncomfortably warm in the car when the sun shines across my arm; the cool at the back of my neck when I put my hair up; the sandpaper of my knuckles

seeing: slanting slats of late afternoon light on the carpet; a twig-like tree out the window, just barely bending in the wind; the jade plant's very pleasant round bauble shapes, like a head of curly hair, framed just so by the window; baby toys scattered, now that said baby can take them with her while she rolls around

Friday, February 21, 2014

five-sense Friday

tasting: the chocolates from a heart-shaped box left on the table by my sweetheart a week ago (see above for photographic evidence of my gift to him)--biting into one at a time to see what's inside, then going back to finish the ones I like best, because I am apparently twelve years old; rooibos chai; roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes with embarrassing quantities of ketchup

hearing: classical radio; laptop hum; baby sighing in her sleep; a work truck beeping as it backs up somewhere; relative quiet, as the children are on break from school and therefore not screaming and laughing on the toboggan hill across the street during recess

smelling: tea spices; fresh air from my new collection of houseplants

feeling: cold creeping up my arms; a sore back from bad posture while I feed the wee one; steam dampening my nose above the mug; excited for a weekend

seeing: bright afternoon light; daffodils grown too tall for their own good; surfaces in need of dusting; four partially eaten chocolates winking at me with a come-hither kind of a glow

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"i believe" (write ALM)

(writing while she sleeps, to get my writer muscles back in shape)

I believe…

-- in chocolate

-- in praying and working for peace in my home, my neighbourhood, my world--and that reconciliation is often harder than violence

-- in the arc of redemption, in observing the ongoing tension between entropy and development with wide-eyed, utopian hope that beauty and goodness will win out in the end

-- in water process decaf filling my cup, and cold glasses of water, and milky red tea, as the antidote to doldrums and aches and most everything

-- in intergenerational friendships

-- in education, and the power of conversation and the printed word

-- that art is the answer to many problems, both private and public

-- that Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life (a belief that comes to me not through logic or the rational mind but through a deep, abiding sense of things: I have been wooed by a Lover, soothed by a Comforter, challenged by a Holy Fire)

-- that Christians are often the reason folks (justifiably!) dislike Christianity

-- in the restorative power of cotton sheets

-- in reading as a spiritual exercise

-- in the restorative power of an old fashioned glazed donut (always nutmeggy cake; never those feathery yeasted puffs of air)

-- that Love is stronger than Death

(thanks to write ALM for the inspiration)

Monday, February 10, 2014


Maternity leave is a wonderful time for reading (also for baking)--after the first month or two of "What do I do all day with a baby at home and will I ever regain use of my hands or eat breakfast or drink a warm beverage while it's warm or wash my hair again?" To be fair, M is NOT a baby who requires constant holding--she's very into her freedom of movement and exploring the world. And now that she will sleep in the daytime without being worn (alas, for only 40 minutes at a clip), things have evened out a bit.

I started with nighttime reading to keep me awake while nursing her: All of a Kind Family, the whole Little House series, Madeleine L'Engle. Children's books promised large enough print for the dim light and engaging stories. Also, the ones I chose were all lightweight enough to do little damage if dropped on a dozing babe.

Reading during daytime nursing (while holding a babe rather than lying next to her!) developed a bit later, and stronger light let me branch out into smaller print. I've been making good use of the library. I also read while bouncing on the exercise ball (no rocking chair soothing for this baby) and, when I'm kind to myself, during those micro naps. Here are a few of the books I've gulped down:

Lovely prose. Lovely meditation on the sweet shape of an otherwise unremarkable life, the redemption at work in otherwise unremarkable interactions.

I didn't love it. I wanted to love it. It was irreverently funny and (I think) honest and made me feel (appropriately) uncomfortable about lapping up another novel about poor African kids. But it just didn't hang together for me. This is probably partly because I read it after Someone, which is so quietly warm, and Bulawayo's debut novel is like its cover: harsh and a bit discordant. I know this is on purpose. I should probably try reading it again in a year or two.

Disappointing, honestly--it felt like Bauer wrote her memoir too soon after the events transpired, so the narrative lacked a narrative arc, a coherent sense of motivation and movement. The book is supposed to be about a young woman's struggles with faith (and sexuality) in NYC, but it didn't manage to convey her motivations for any of the dithering she did in either category.

This was a hard book, but beautiful. Walker is a poet, and her prose sings accordingly. I expected the book to be a bit more about Alzheimer's (a concern in my local community), but it was really more properly the author's own pilgrimage through her own memories of childhood and her relationship with her family members--a worthy topic of its own. I especially resonated with Walker's recollections of her childhood fundamentalism and her drift away from it.

I do love memoirs by poets. Mary Karr's Lit is a phenomenal account of her descent into alcoholism and her climb into daily sobriety, laced with a quiet admission of the role her conversion to the Roman Catholic Church played in that ascent. This book was beautiful and painful and gripping.

Not for the faint of heart! Gordon's "Utopian Divertimento" is irreverent and full of scenes that I'd definitely blush to teach. But while a lot of its reviewers took it as a fun diversion, I think it's as serious as Gordon's other work in exploring gender and work, familial relationships, religion and art, form and content. I put it down once before I decided to finish it, but I'm glad I did.

Bauer's memoir disappointed me, but her novel did not. A fictionalized imagining of a relationship between characters patterned after Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, this epistolary novel is stunning in its dealings with faith, love, mental health, and writing.

I haven't read one of these Christian Bookstore Novels in a long time, though I gobbled them up as an adolescent. I read this one because it was on the list of reads by writers who will be participating in Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing in April (I was hoping to attend this year, but it looks like I'll have to wait until 2016). It is exactly what you'd expect it to be. 

I'm only 60 pages into this one. Solnit's prose is haunting. I will keep reading. 

There have been others, too, but my memory fails me at present. It's funny how many books I've been reading about treacherous mother-daughter relationships, especially since I'm now the mother in one such dyad and find my own mother so absolutely wonderful. I'm loving the memoirs by poets. I'm loving novels that keep me looking forward to night wakings.

Of course, I've also been reading more parenting books than I care to admit (mostly on sleep! oh, sleep!). I tried to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, but the library hardcover edition was just too heavy to hold (the physicality of books is more real to me than ever these days). I've not yet read The Goldfinch, The Flamethrowers, The Luminaries, The Interestings--all the hot books of 2013 beginning with "The." Should I? 

What are you reading, friends? What are you hoping to read?