Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homeward, Angels

Woke up in the wee hours this morning to drive Noah to the Greenville airport, where he caught a flight back to Colorado. I have spent my life living in the shadows of Longs Peak and Mt. Evans, in a state shaped like a square and divided by one sharp line. To your left are the mountains, to your right, the plains. I would call the Rockies majestic, though I've heard people here call them imposing and intimidating. Say what you will, they were always there to guide you home. You have to be very silly to be very lost along Colorado's front range, the mountains a long backbone along the curve of the earth, due north to due south. Facing forward like good soldiers. I had to move away from them to realize what a compass they had been to me. Now I live in a place where nobody knows where west is, not really. You can't even trust the setting sun, because of the lay of the hills. At five in the morning, in the very dark, we drove an arduous road through the thick woods over Cedar mountain. I dropped my husband at the airport, held him close, kissed him goodbye. Then, girls in the back, I turned and headed west, or north, or sometimes south, to home. The sun was coming up and from the flat earth of Greenville I spotted the soft rise of the Blue Ridge mountains, peaking up like the bounty of mother earth, who was never told she should be ashamed. Home, I thought, and began to cry. All those years at the feet of towering giants and then, another range starts calling me home. I skipped the taxing curves of Cedar mountain for another road, a different route. There are simply more directions here than there are in Colorado. We passed the Look Homeward, Angel cemetery, but of course you see the inherent issue. I thought how I was the opposite of Bob Dylan, the antipole to a rolling stone. I do not lack direction home. Rather, my paths are many.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wild Nights

Dinah Fried's Fictitious Dishes: The Catcher in the Rye. Artist's website here. Used with artist's kind permission.

Most mornings here in Carolina are misty and gray, but today the sun broke autumn light through the trees, a rosy dawn. Driving the girls to school I was groggy and dry, having last night put on my butterscotch cowboy boots and leather jacket, caramel, and gone to a cozy restaurant, where we sat at the big oak bar and I ordered a vodka martini with extra olives. I'm reading a book in which they keep drinking olive martinis, and I'm hopeless against things like this. I was in the mood to feel glamorous, so I did. As the night wore on some friends arrived, coworkers of Noah's and their companions in town for a bike race. One man from South Africa who has moved to Atlanta, one man from Atlanta who has moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and of course me, missing the west and going backwards against all hopes of my ancestors. The vodka was so cold and pure, the drink of flapper-haired girls from a jazzy age, of women with black eyeliner instead of stockings, but here I am, a different self and a different age as well, so I enjoyed raising that clear, sweating glass to my glossed lips and taking neat sips of the stuff, swiveling the olives for fun. I had enough to drink that I texted my friend about British accents and knowing what to do in my next life, and then I fell into bed and rose hours later to a crisp and chilled Carolina morning, my toes cold beneath the bedsheets. At the school drop-off line, just as she stepped out of the car, Indy, in pigtails, said "Mom, guess what? Oh never mind, I'll tell you later." But she won't tell me later. She won't remember, she is six-years-old, her socks slouch unevenly and paint smears her wrist as she runs in the school doors to a life I don't know. She won't remember, she won't know that once on a night in September her mother wore a leather jacket and drank vodka martinis in a bar, when her skin was still smooth and her hair was dyed cinnamon, that she gazed adoringly at her husband, who told her she was an endearing drunk, and later a man from another universe bid her farewell with a kiss on the cheek.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What is Left The Daughter

Last night I saw this picture of my daughter, Ayla, almost eight years old, and I thought, for all the worrying our society does about raising strong girls, the truth is that girls are born strong and all we have to do is not mess it up.  Then this morning Ayla woke with black charged thunderclouds around her shoulders, probably because I put her to bed last night with them, having reached some sort of a breaking point, my nerves all red and raw and glowing and after she lingered far too long in the bath, in the brushing of the teeth and the homework and the picking up her toys, I finally snapped "forget it, forget it, just go to bed". I told her I loved her and tucked her in, but today she rose from her bed stomping and shouting and near tears. So last night I'd planned to write a post full of optimism, soothed by the knowledge that this is my daughter: coltish and charismatic and born with an intrinsic understanding of how to balance her beauty with her strength, her supermodel pose in soccer cleats, a tiny Tavi who bosses around the boys. She knows how to balance them because they are both hers, she was born with them, she has claim to them each and she knows how to wield both and all I have to do is not mess it up. Then this morning happened, these storm clouds that might be my daughter's dominant trait and I worry about where they came from. Were they bestowed to her by fairies, did she inherit them through my blood, did I give them to her in her early years, a bushel of rotten apples, milk laced through with arsenic? Was it something I did? Is their any horror like realizing you have somehow passed the worst of yourself to your own tiny child? I don't know what to do about them, I only know they are the single most troubling element in my life and I would give anything to take them away from her, except it seems like the one thing that might ease my daughter's troubled spirit is the one thing I can't give. I am not a fairy godmother, I cannot give, nor be, perfection. But having inherited genetic tendencies toward depression myself, I know that if you let it, your pain will teach you to follow the sun. May she never forget how to wield, may she never lose her sovereignty over herself, may she learn, like the wanderers, the orphans turned heros, may she remember the myths, when her spirits feel gnarled and broken like tree limbs, may she turn them back skyward and follow the sun.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Mermaid and The Lion

I've had the luck over the last few months to meet some incredible people through blogging. Two of those people I want to talk about today are Elizabeth at a moon, worn as if it had been a shell,  and Eric at Pressure Support. Elizabeth and Eric both keep wonderful blogs and both happen to be parenting children with special needs. Elizabeth is mother to the ethereal and dreamy Sophie. She chronicles her life in Los Angeles with Sophie, her husband, and her two dreamy-in-the-other-sense sons, writing about the everyday with wry wit and insight, and the hard stuff with breath-taking poetry. She also posts lovely pictures of Los Angeles which make me sigh and think some day, city by the sea.

Eric is father to the sweet and stalwart Liam. I'm newer to Eric's blog, but he writes about his family's life in Rhode Island with passion, clarity and honesty that is approachable and refreshing. He and his wife are warriors for their son. Reading their stories of confronting the challenges their children face has humbled me many times over.

Elizabeth recently created this video using the input of many other people doing "extreme parenting", as she appropriately calls it. Watch the video, which is stunning and gorgeous, and then please check out their blogs. Not just because they give voice to a group of people we don't hear enough from, and not just because they are parents to children with special needs, but because they are writing about the challenges of their lives with incredible beauty and grace.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Direction I Go

I was almost too nervous to watch the game last night, because if we don't take Peyton Manning all the way to the Super Bowl, I'm going to feel personally responsible. I don't know if it's because I'm the oldest child or because I was raised to fear authority, making me nervous and formal around anyone who owns anything, has a job that requires a uniform, or was born before 1960. Needless to say, I will never be hiring entrepreneurial male fantasy strippers. Look, this is not the direction I intended this to go.

On Saturday here in Brevard there was the Mountain Song music festival. It just happens to be put on by an old friend of Dale, of Dale's Pale Ale fame. We saw Dale riding his bike on the way to the fest, and since then every time they see a cyclist, my girls shout, "Hi, Dale!" It's not my fault they're stupid, I didn't drink beer when I was pregnant. I stuck to wine coolers in the third trimester only, so we're in the clear. If the baby's gonna get brain damage from a sparkling beverage named "Peach Malibu Fuzz", it's the baby's own fault, I say. I may have just lost half my audience.

I am tired of going everywhere without my husband. I almost didn't go to Mountain Song. Then my new friend Amy called and said she was there, and she was stuck with her kids as well, so we might as well be stuck together. In the end, I got to see Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, and then stand in the rain with a bunch of other parents, our kids recreating Woodstock in the mud while we told each other how much we'd like to JUST SIT DOWN for more than 2.5 seconds. I drank two Dale's Pales Ales, drove my kids home, bathed them and fed them cookies for dinner and then fell into an enchanted sleep. I dreamt of a strange labyrinth that I've visited before in my dreams and was out solid until twelve noon, which is how I know the Peyton Man-child visited me in my sleep to make sure that I was rested for the game, which would last until nearly midnight eastern.

 My skin in this photo is brought to you by Picasa's "Orton" effect. 
This is a full disclosure blog, after all.

Indy's eyes are brought to you by 
her mother's first-trimester offering
of salt and bone.

But here the narrative shifts. It was noon on Sunday and a gorgeous day. 65 degrees and sunny, a cool breeze coming down Cedar Mountain. Let's get some bagels and go for a drive, I told my girls. Two hours later, we were not on a drive. I was on the phone with my husband, telling him that Ayla had colored a balloon with blue Sharpie and then managed to transfer that blue Sharpie onto the couch, the coffee table, the white breakfast table, and my sweet yellow vintage chair. Maybe the Malibu Fuzz got to her after all. It's a beautiful day, I told him, and I'm too mad to savor it. I knew that day I would drink my first pumpkin ale. I wanted him there to make green chili, to cheer on Peyton, to splash with the girls in the stream and show them bugs and mushrooms and spiderwebs. Also I was covered in bug bites, scratching and scratching. This seems pertinent.

Here is one of my unfortunate traits: the desire to prove my fearful heart right by stubbornly remaining unhappy. A black pit had settled in my chest. There was much of me that wanted to stay home, keep the girls in their rooms, miss the glorious day. I don't know why. I'm learning to resist that part of me. A deeper wisdom said to go, and so we did. I read in a book recently in which the author said that happiness is a place you either arrive or you don't, by happenstance. I know this to be untrue. Happiness is a thing you choose, and I have to keep choosing it. Despite all the fearful whisperings. Despite what I have to prove.

Up in the woods, the moss covered trunks gripped the earth like witch fingers with the claws dug in. There is so much that children must do, in the forest. They must step barefoot into golden water. They must go down the beckoning paths. They must gather acorns and yellow leaves and arrange them on rock-altars, offerings for spirits in the trees. I imagined what it would be like, to live in this world of river and leaf and stone, rather than the world of car and bank and parking lot. Good god, the day was like a peach from the ice box. Cool and sweet and dripping with rosy heaven.You have to let the world break your heart, split you open. You have to let the blue sky heal it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I don't know how we spent the morning. The day before, we'd gone to the farmer's market, which is called the tailgate market, and bought chorizo breakfast tacos and lemon chess pies. We'd seen our new neighbors and new friends, walked around looking at the tomatoes and squash and corn, which we didn't need to purchase, because our neighbors had been leaving them on our doorstep regularly. It seems that everyone here grows gardens, and grows them with great success, western North Carolina being a rain forest, a fertile crescent, where I am told one can grown nearly anything. I want to grow coffee beans. I want to wear a panama hat and cradle green coffee beans for roasting in my soil-covered hands, but look, there goes my movie self again. Not me. Never me.

I probably cleaned the house, or laid listless in bed with a book. I am easily overwhelmed. The weight of the day's tasks often crush me and I curl up in bed, happy and hating myself by turns. I don't remember, but in the afternoon we got in the car and drove a direction that might have been north to Asheville, where Noah was flying in to see us for the first time since we'd moved, four weeks before. As we drove, the valley opened up and I could see the sky. Everywhere was green. We were bouncing with excitement. We were minutes from the airport when Noah texted to say his plane had been delayed in Charlotte and he didn't know when another flight would leave.

Since moving to Brevard four weeks ago, all the vestiges of my former life had vanished, washed away by the daily torrential rain. All the places I knew were fifteen-hundred miles away. The landscape had changed like an old-time theater prop and all my routines with it. All the people I knew. The places I used to drive to and past, the place we used to go for coffee, for beers, for a quick dinner. The faces I used to see around town, the parents at school drop off, the sounds of the neighborhood, the hue of the sky. My husband was gone and for four weeks I had lived as a single mother, making friends alone, going to parties alone, arriving at strangers' houses invited but alone. Everything was changed and it is no wonder, no wonder I lost my sense of self.

So you won't blame me for what I did next. I spoke to Siri, oracle to my slouching Odysseus, and she guided me to Starbucks. The girls asked for a "Frakking-cino" and I indulged them. I ordered a chai and we parked in the shade of a maple tree and pushed all the doors open. Just an hour later, my movie self would arrive to pick up Noah in white lace and aviators and Noah's movie self would tell me how proud he was of everything I'd done, alone in the forest. In reality the sight of him would bring tears to my eyes. Tears that were happy and releasing a bit of the strain that had been keeping me up at nights and waking me at dawn.

But first, while we were waiting, Ayla climbed into the front seat. Two days before, I had walked out my front door and smelled that gorgeous soft-apple scent of fall. Now the breeze that blew our hair to our faces was teasing and cool, and the light filtered rich and golden through the trees. Everything different than the day before. Do you feel that? I said to Ayla.

She closed her eyes and scented like a lioness. "Mmmm," she sighed, so deeply content. "It makes me feel like everything good is going to happen."

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