Further Up, Further In

psx_20160512_125110Recently, I went back and read the first post I ever published on this blog, and it reminded me why I started blogging in the first place. I’d just come back to the U.S. after living in India for three years. I was grieving. I didn’t know how I was supposed to be in this new/old culture. Writing helped me to bear witness to the confusion of repatriation and to the eventual clarity that time and distance gifted me.

After a while, cultural commentary/navel gazing snippets morphed into other kinds of posts, some about homeschooling, some about learning how to be a stay-at-home mom without losing myself completely. And then there were updates about the new global adventures I ended up on, ones I didn’t see coming.

But then I wrote a novel. And another one, and then one after that. I still blogged, but it felt different, like digging in a sandbox without a shovel. This summer I attended an enormous writers conference where I thought, This whole fiction writing thing isn’t beyond my reach after all. And I didn’t blog once.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle,

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…come further up, come further in!”

He gave these words to a noble character named Jewel, and he wasn’t talking about writing, but about Aslan’s Country. Still I resonate with them when I think about writing stories.

Which brings me to this: I’ve been thinking I need to step away from blogging. It’s been enormously helpful for me to write about what bubbled to the surface of my brain these last few years, but now my brain is full of fiction. I won’t delete this space, but it may gather dust. Or, who knows, I may come back to it one day when I need it most. But I suspect I’ll probably just keep writing–and living–stories.

Thanks for reading. It’s meant a lot.

Advertisements

A Hundred Poems (A Thousand Decisions)

Some time ago I mentioned that I undertook a challenge to write a poem every day (weekends off) for as long as I could.  I did this because I wanted to improve my ability to choose just the right words, and use them in unexpected ways, in my writing.  Since creating poetry is like weight lifting for the writer, causing her to focus on form and the tiniest decisions, I decided it was worth the effort.

Six months later, I’ve written a hundred poems.  They are not seasoned or breath-taking.  They are attempts.  But I’m celebrating, regardless of their merit, because six months ago, I had written all of five poems, and showed them only to my children.  There is something to be said for putting one foot in front of the other, of being brave enough to allow oneself simply to be a novice.

This is my celebration.

 

 

On Being the Audience

I grew up on the stage, playing my first violin recital at age three. I vaguely remember the corsage on my shoulder being bigger than my face at the time, and that I got a white ribbon afterward.  Everything else is a blank–including what I played, which was likely three notes.

At six, I switched to the cello.  From then on I performed, year after year, in venues as diverse as they were plentiful.  It got to be a thing where I felt a little nervous before a performance, sometimes, but usually only if I found myself queued up in an endless stretch of fellow recital-bots.

Weddings, office parties, tours?  Not so much.

It was probably good for me to have started so young, to have learned from an early age how to use the energy we call nerves instead of letting it use me.  There were crash-and-burn moments, of course, when my bow hand shook so violently it cut audibly anxious paths across my strings. But in time I got less nervous about getting nervous.  Or else I got numb.

Flash forward.

My kids started taking piano lessons this semester.  For one reason or another, my husband and I did not emphasize formal musical instruction with them for several years.  For one thing, we wanted to see if they actually wanted to put the time in to practice before we made the commitment.  We homeschool, and practicing an instrument felt like one more thing we’d have to “encourage” if it didn’t go well.  Then there was the fact that we lived for three years in a remote place where we couldn’t secure music lessons.

But we’re in the States now, and they really wanted to learn how to play the piano, so we let them.  The only problem is that they’re 14, 13, and 11.5–old enough to be self-conscious.  So I had no idea how they were going to handle their upcoming recital.

Who am I kidding?  I had no idea how I was going to handle it.

In the end, they did very well, though my daughter was shaking so bad she had to steady her hands before she began her piece.  They didn’t crack under pressure, didn’t goof up, didn’t get up and walk out, or nervous-burp, or barf.  Believe me when I say that those things are fairly common, and that I’ve seen enough recital train wrecks to have lost my innocence forever.

So they played while I cried in the audience like some kind of unstable Tiger Mom.  And, yeah, I aged a couple of years.  But the thing I learned is, they’re really going to be OK, after all.

And so am I.

Life Cycle

DSC_1123

I was young a few days ago, and there were things I didn’t know, so the soil under my

feet felt especially warm

and smelled like hope.  And this richness lined my mind with its fragrant crumbles,

made me believe that there are things worth saying, and that

there is some way

of saying them.

I’m not young today (this is how things go),

and the dirt isn’t black

anymore, but medium brown,

and we are both leached.

And I do wonder, now, if there’s any point in speaking fragile things

when the sun is high and

mid-life and

killing like this.

But I am not old yet,

and there are still things I don’t know.

The Muse

DSC_1401

This is one of those days when words don’t fit.

Sit and wait and tap and think

but silence sits under too-bright images (those blurs one sees

on the way to the beach) and there’s the painful, everything pulse,

which is less peaceful than the nothing.

What does one do at a wasteful time such as this?

She looks at dogs.

~For my niece, Maddy, who is a writer.

Why It’s Good To Be Bored

images

We finished up our math curriculum for this year, and our co-op ended for the season.   We’re still here, though, and it isn’t summer.  It’s no surprise that the kids (and I) are feeling a little–do I say it?–bored.

The weather is mostly beautiful so we go outside a lot, several times a day, at least.  And we’re still reading together in the morning, a Psalm, a few Wendell Berry poems, a chapter of a novel (Les Miserables, the story that never, ever ends).

We’re still making it to jujitsu a couple of days a week.

But the only writing the kids are doing is in their journals, and here I’m going to admit something:  I don’t check that writing.  My excuse to myself is that it’s private, and I shouldn’t.  I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that at least one of my kids is doing nothing but cartooning in his.  Well, cartooning and writing one word over and over to fill up space.

So, to sum up:  we aren’t doing math at the moment, we’re shamming with writing, and our co-op classes aren’t meeting so we’ve lost steam in memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution. (Yeah. We did that. It was kind of like this.)

And now we’re bluh.

Every last one of us.

What I’m going to say, though, is that I think it’s good.  I think it’s good to be bored for a little while, as a palate cleanse, as a way to sort through old thoughts and usher in new ones.  And, yes, boredom feels a little stretchy, like a Pilates burn up the backs of our legs.  But it eventually settles our brains and allows them to do something wonderful–to deal with things we’ve shoved into our dusty mental attics.

Boredom brings up things we need to face.

So, at least in the short term, I’m OK with my kids dinging around, picking weeds out of the backyard, mixing them with water from the hose, and crushing them into “potions.”  It’s good to have nothing to do but to look for perfect sticks and leftover mouse bones.

Because that’s when a different kind of work begins.