Space

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When the cat comes to claim it, you know you’ve created a good spot.

It’s been an unusual week around here. I started substitute teaching on Thursday, and for the first time since my daughter was born, I dashed out the door unaccompanied and drove to work in the quiet car listening to NPR morning news. The work days were great, and by each day’s end I had a feeling akin to thirst for my child. To hold her and swing her in the air and drink in her laughter. The change in routine has recalibrated my energy level and sense of gratitude, and not just in a blanket I’m-so-thankful kind of way, but in very specific ways that only actual experience can impart.

In other small but significant happenings, today I graduated from writing at the dining table to writing at an actual desk. This has been nagging at me for a while, less the desk and more the space, in particular the wall. I realized I need more than my Excel spreadsheets. I need a place to stick post-its with deadlines, ideas, and pitches. I need to hang up my Dear Sugar poster and May Sarton’s “Now I Become Myself.” I need to spread out, claim a space of my own, give the work room to grow.

Now I Become Myself

May Sarton

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before–”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

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In Real Life

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On Sunday a bit of magic happened. For the first time since we were introduced about a year ago, I got to meet author/writer Rachel Federman. Rachel and I met virtually via our blog spaces through our mutual writer friend, Amie. I feel so fortunate to have these two writers in my life, and it was a dream to get to spend the day together.

I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that Rachel was on the train from New York and our paths would finally have a chance to cross in real life. I’d begun to think there was some glitch in the universe that would keep us in close proximity, never granting us the opportunity to actually connect. But then Amie pulled into my driveway with Rachel and her daughter, and there I was, hugging this person whose generosity and insight sustained me through 365 of days of blogging.

The five of us walked down to the beach, the little girls both in purple galoshes, taking turns on the red tricycle, stopping frequently to inspect sidewalk cracks and splash in puddles. The weather was spectacularly Spring-like, warm enough for short sleeves, the last of the snow melting into the muddy earth.

We marveled at the weather–it was impossible not to–and Rachel observed the eeriness of it too. The thin winter light of February and the warm, windless air of early summer just didn’t match up. Our daughters built sandcastles while the three of us talked about the beach and writing and politics and life.

Later in the evening, Amie hosted dinner and, as we stood in the kitchen talking about writing retreats, Rachel insisted on chopping the vegetables for the salad noting this was her favorite time of the evening, that first glass of wine while chopping carrots and chatting, before anyone has eaten and the energy is still high. She was so perfectly right, and her words preserved the highlight of the evening in my memory.

The night melted away faster than the last of the snow in the too-warm February sun, and I found myself saying a rushed goodbye when I realized it was so far past my bleary-eyed toddler’s bedtime. I left behind loose threads of conversation, ones I hope to pick up again soon.

The Heart of Winter

 

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It snowed! Gone, the soggy days and confused tulips. The sun was bright and the trees cast long blue shadows against the drifts. Clumps of snow clung to the bare branches. The bitter cold meant even the streets were white like the streets of my youth, winters long past. Finally, snow that sticks.

Earlier in the week we’d gone to the craft store, one of those chains full of fake flowers and holiday knick-knacks. Red hearts and doilies and paper valentines gave way to St. Patrick’s Day displays with shamrocks and glittery green top hats and signs shaped like bottle tops that read “Kiss Me I’m Irish.” A thought bloomed like a tiny crocus: winter isn’t interminable. The grey will give way to green. In a month, we’ll gather for corned beef and cabbage. The kids will circle the house screaming and laughing and we’ll walk uptown to the parade.

Every year I’m tricked into believing winter is a static state. Lulled into a myopic daze, I’m unable to see the inevitable spring.

My daughter disrupts my train of thought, darting around the living room announcing “Happy Valentine’s Day” as she places paper hearts in front of the cats and pastes a few to the window. My husband is locked in his office busy with work. I re-pot the purple cyclamen, and already six new blooms shoot up and promise to unfurl.  Winnie the Pooh sings exuberantly in the next room. As I write that sentence, I think, adverb, indulgent like a piece of chocolate I shouldn’t eat. I think of other writing advice: to use specific detail and avoid writing “dramatically” or about “feelings.” Still, I want to confide. In this static winter state I flit from guilt to ambition, malaise to joy, surrender to perseverance, despair to hope like a bee trapped in a cup softly banging against its enclosure not realizing it can fly straight up and into the open air.

We sledded down the high school hill at sunset, screaming as the snow hit our boots and sprayed into our faces. Later, my best friend treated us to dinner. The kids ate the basket of tortilla chips while we sipped margaritas from salty rims. We had one of those disjointed conversations made of snippets strung amidst toddler chatter, where every sentence begins with, “What was I just saying?” Eventually we gave up and discussed dinosaurs and played I-Spy and laughed with the kind folks at the next table who retrieved my daughter’s balloon again and again as she let it float up to the ceiling.