Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Monkey Bit Is True

Short fuses tend to run in my family. Take this example: we are driving away from McDonald's when Indy thrusts her hand into her Happy Meal bag, pulls out a toy, and immediately tosses back her head in the screaming, wailing, red-faced grief of a Mafia Don whose son has been killed by the Don's own hubris. The cause? They have given her a toy with wheels instead of a toy with over-sized eyes. Of course, I begin to display my hard-won parental wisdom by raising my voice to a volume to compete with her's and saying, with robust enthusiasm, STOP SCREAMING I WILL GET YOU ANOTHER TOY WHY CAN'T YOU JUST STAY CALM???? I then go on to scream, WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS SCREAM AS A FIRST RESORT before bursting into laughter because at least I can see the irony in my own embarrassing humanity. Dear daughter, do as I say and not as I scream.

This is a strange time in my life. My husband, head brewer and come-lately media mogul, is going gray from the stress of his job. He took this position looking like Obama of 2008, and here three months later he's already the wizened Obama of 2012 and so probably, secretly, a socialist. He rises hours before the rest of us, works late, and turns in around 8:30 pm. I have stopped giving him grief for being so early-to-bed, somewhat out of compassion but mainly out of realization that this gives me a good 90 minutes alone with the remote. He works weekends, he works holidays. On Thanksgiving morning he will leave us and fly to Vancouver, where it just so happens they film my beloved Supernatural, and where I have always wanted to go (since the moment I heard he was going there). It's not like he's going to have time to hang around the set like an estrogen-pulsing fan girl but still, I'm jealous. This is a small town, no matter how many times my mom insists that no self-respecting small town has a Wal-Mart, and he gets "recognized" in the grocery store even though we both know I am the one that was supposed to be famous. While he does all this glamorous labor, I putter around the house like a retired poet. I clean the kitchen, I tinker with my novel, I go for walks in the woods. Lest you think I'm some kind of slave-driver, know that I do 90% of the child care, 70% of the meal making, and 100% of the yoga. I also spent a morning planting baby spruce trees, and I've been meditating to boot. Look, I don't mean to be prideful, but I'm just saying: you could pretty much call me Oprah.

It's strange times and short-fuses, that's what I started out to say. Noah's insane hours preclude me from having any reliable time to commit to a job, so I float along here and try not to pressure myself into becoming a Stepford Wife, which would just make me bitter (especially since I can't afford the Valium). It's hard to feel like I'm pulling my weight, even if I am doing enough yoga for the two of us. Don't worry. The girls and I will go to our friend's and neighbor's house on Thanksgiving, and I will be all right, although I will miss Thanksgiving with my family and their bouquet of firecracker-short fuses. I might actually FORGET it's Thanksgiving if no one smashes a plate or throws a drink or claims there is a monkey dancing inside the turkey (love you Grandpa may you rest in peace). My family will miss me, but it will be enough for them to know that here in Brevard I'll be drinking cranberry mimosas, complaining about how much I hate Thanksgiving food, and not helping out too much in the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Horn Dance

We live in a shady glen here, surrounded by trees, but if I press my face to the  glass in the front and back of the house, I can see the hills. If I am mindful, I remember to look at them in the morning, when they are blue and gray, or frosted, like today. In the afternoon they are naked, drastically different hills from their lush and wanton summer selves. Across October, they spent a few weeks turning yellow and orange. Then one morning I woke to find all the leaves had dropped, except the red ones. Now they display fantastic tangles of bare branches and tufts of peacock-shaped crimson, a somewhat Suessian landscape, gray lines exploding with rainbows of red. In the late afternoon the sun wraps the hills in gold and crimson, the long white trunks luminous and glowing, anyway, in the dying light. If I bend down and peer through the arch of trees, I can see the pale cornfield two houses down. Today it is tipped in frost.

 I love these autumn woods far more than I loved them in summer.

Yesterday I stood gazing at those hills, at my neighbor's tree which was, indeed, copper like a trumpet call against a bright blue sky. I was thinking about worth. I'm not feeling worth much myself these days. Moving for my husband's job has brought on a bit of role confusion I did not anticipate. I got a job of my own and then had to turn it down, because getting a brewery up and running is placing extreme demands on my husband's time, and he can't commit to being home with the girls in the evenings nor on the weekends. I'm not making any money off my writing, which I set out years ago to do. I want to feel worthy. I don't want to get a job. I want to experience all the world at the same time I want to hide away from it like a hermit in the forest, alone with stories and poems.

There are three things I don't know: I don't know how humans survive the things we do, I don't know why my blogs always sound so melancholy when the heart of me is stupidly idealistic, the third thing I forget. This morning I woke early and went down the hall to find my husband gently waking our daughters, who were nestled into bed together. Moving here has bonded them, I think. They can often be caught hugging one another, fondly cradling and stroking each other's flushed pink faces. Behind them the morning sun shone bright through the window, over the white frosted grass, and backlit them all in heavenly light. For three nights in a row, I dreamed of paths. One through a thick forest of bracken and bramble, one through sinuous brick streets of an old European city, one through canals overgrown with weeping trees and low-slung magnolia. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am a Gemini. There will never be a singularity to my nature. I have a twin that dwells in me. When I proclaim this to my husband, he keeps a straight face.

When my dad was here I told him about my guilt over my decorative, garage-sale antlers. Guilt that an animal had to die, to sacrifice this blood and bone, so I might adorn my house. My dad told me this wasn't necessarily true. He told me that in the deep of winter, deer actually shed their antlers. They drop them in the forest like offerings, unconcerned, unburdened, and grow new ones again come spring. The people of long, long ago would walk through sleeping forests, gather these things that nature had surrendered, take them home to fires and turn battle-bone into a sacred dance.

Lay down locked horns and dance.

Here is why my blogs sound the way they do: everything is so beautiful it hurts.

Monday, November 5, 2012

View From Above

Four years ago, on Election Eve, I was in New York City with my dad. We were calling it Obama Eve and joking that if we left our shoes by our door, in the night the Obama Child would come and fill them with hope and health care. I was giddy, my whole generation was. In Union Square Park someone was hawking shirts--Orcas for Obama, Polar Bears for Obama, Eagles for Obama. I bought the one that said Wolves for Obama, thinking its message would be clear. This was when Sarah Palin was hanging out of helicopters shooting rifles at wolves. Wolves in Support of Obama. Of course, there is a second interpretation, one I did not intend. On Election Night we left the city, we got on a plane. The stewardess treated us to free tv so we could watch the election results. Obama was winning. Everyone was happy. Hope and change were on all the lips and in the air. We knew, for awhile, that we can make our world new. We hadn't forgotten, yet.

I had just seen Manhattan for the first time and it was too soon to leave. I don't know what will happen in this election or the next. I know how expectations lead to despair. But I also know that late one autumn I spent three days in New York with my dad. I looked at art until my eyes bled. We drank Smithwicks and ate cheeseburgers at a bar in Hell's Kitchen before walking to the theatre district and watching Daniel Radcliffe strut naked about the stage. I know everything is wrong with the world. But listen: the leaves turned late that year in Central Park and were waiting for us, comforting crimson and gold. A Chinese immigrant stopped to give us directions in the metro station, rocking his pig-tailed toddler in her stroller. The city was full of marvels and I could have stayed forever and tasted them all. Obama was winning. Manhattan was life, the universe, the whole raw oyster with the pearl. We boarded a plane.The next morning I woke up in Denver: jet-lagged, a mother, the world the color of straw. I sat stunned with my coffee while my daughters made their noise and mess. I woke up, Obama was elected president, everyone was talking about moving forward but all I wanted was to go back. Not back in progress but back geographically and back in my spirit. No matter what happens, I want to stay in the place of hope and possibility. Forever.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ode to the Oyster

Last night we went to something called an oyster roast at a house up in the woods, with a real bonfire, this time. Someone put a trough over the fire and was pouring oysters into it, where they steamed and hissed and grew fragrant under the wet towel layered above them. When the oysters popped open, they were dumped by the bucketfull across a plywood table with a hole cut in the middle, and everyone just crowded around and dug in, shucking them open, adding horseradish and butter and cocktail sauce, and eating the roasty, smoky shellfish by the dozen. The last time I'd had a chance to eat oysters raw I was pregnant and young enough to be fearful, so I declined. That was eight years ago on a wet and cool night in southern California, with Christmas and sea storms hushing down through the palm trees. This night, by the fire in the mountain air, I had a hankering to slurp an oyster raw but I couldn't get my hands on one. I surrendered. We were talking about truth and how to tell our stories. Then I saw Noah at the table, cracking a live one open. It's for you, he said, prying apart those stony, flaking shells and quickly slicing the muscle away. He handed me this rough and sandy stone full of quivering pearly mass. I adorned it with butter and a squirt of hot sauce--quickly--and then tipped it down, into my mouth, where the outside layers sloughed onto my lips but inside--

--my mouth was an explosion. I shut my eyes. It was cool and slippery, with a sinewy center that resisted my testing teeth. I snaked my tongue into this creature's home and sucked it up living, with its juices clean and oceany on my tongue. Ocean water, oyster, touch of butter and spice. A living thing surrendered up in offering, that was not lost on me.

I communed with the sea.

I took it inside of me, heart, mantle, mouth. All. Never in my life had I tasted something so vital, so immediate, so vivid with the pulse of its home, the Atlantic, the gray waves, churning waters, a cleaner taste than I thought this ruined earth could possibly offer, a taste like sea spray and wind on my face, like purer green seas of different, innocent times, all of it rushing over my taste buds, a taste that goes through you, down to your groin, good god it was holy, it was sensual, it was essence of life. I shut my eyes and turned my face from the fire. I almost cried. They oyster's greatest gift is not its pearl.

Thank you, oyster.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Legends of the Fall: Part II

Is it every really too early to introduce your children to the works of Quentin Tarantino? was the question I put to my husband. He answered in the affirmative. Of course I suspected he would, but I am unsettled lately by all the things we never know. Is it possible to be sure-footed about anything? This week I took a walk through the woods and fell down four times, placing my feet wrong in the leaves obscuring the narrow path. I will leave you to draw out the metaphor.

I am feeling less superstitious, or less worshipful, about the turn of the seasons than I usually do. I have no urge to write about shedding with the leaves, to construct little idols out of stone. I am confused about many things. Why does our society sometimes view forgiveness as a weakness? Why do I move across the country in July and then not feel homesick until 9:30 pm on Halloween night, when my daughters are snuggled up safely with their father watching The Mummy, albeit with far less candy than I'd hoped?

My parents came to visit for a week, and when my mom went through the gate in the fence and climbed the green hill to our neighbor's house, she said something like, "You said bonfire. That's just a plain old firepit." And she's right. But what if the truth of the emotional resonance of a moment is better expressed by "bonfire" than by "firepit"? Our lives are less about what happens to us than the stories we tell ourselves about what happened, and a blog is a chance to create a reality. Moving to Carolina was a magic time, a time of alchemy and sometimes, I have to omit the gritty details in order to give you a feel for the holy transformation of the experience. If I tell you only that the forest is green and buggy, I rob you of the magic. If I say it is tropical, like paradise, you begin to feel the spirit of the place.

 I will trust you to infer the bugs.

What I have is the legend of what happened in October: my family reunited, my surprise baby turned eight, we celebrated, we ate and drank, (we worried about money) we wore sweaters and passed through scarlet archways. My parents came to visit, I was so glad to see them, (they drove me crazy), I dropped them off at the airport and cried all the way home. I started walking in to doorways, I wrote stories about characters (I wrote stories about my life). Say October was dreamy and sun-spun, like golden fingers of light playing with fields of wheat and straw. Say it was a month of the dark and the wolves creeping in. Light your fires and cradle them. Believe what you will.

The bugs are real but so are the apples we lifted cold to our noses and snapped, sweet-smelling and firm-fleshed, in our teeth.

Last night I lay in bed thinking about Elizabeth Aquino's blog post. (It is from Elizabeth I borrow the term unbloggable.) I was sick for home, strangely displaced and aching for, of all things, Estes Park. I thought how a small part of me was homesick for my childhood home, for childhood. I thought about how one day in the future I'll be homesick for the days I'm living now, days of small children snuggled up under flannel sheets in the dark at 6:49 am on a Thursday morning. The answer, of course, is to cherish life now, but who knows how?

I mean, really.

(While you are cherishing the thing you think you have, it is spinning into something else.)

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