thank you brian Doyle

Brian Doyle passed away Saturday morning and I've found myself crying in the bathroom over a person I've never met. I've read his essays for the past four years and they've resonated with me more than any author I can name. Brian Doyle found the heroes in tragedies like 9/11 and Sandy Hook, he shined a fog light on people who might have gone nameless, parading their miraculous courage, giving hope to the hopeless, reminding us that there is always light even in the midst of crumbly, bloodied buildings. His essays catch me mid-afternoon watching my children play beneath the trees. I've watched his readings on YouTube over and over, finding something new and transformative every viewing. He can make you laugh and weep in the same sentence, he can summon a song from a quiet crowd of strangers, he wrote in length about the human heart, that wondrous “wet engine” that drives us forward, urging us upward. He taught me the freedom of a run on sentence. He is not afraid to reveal human imperfection but always buries it with the power we have to do better, to be good, tender, laughing humans. I know I'm one of many transformed by his work, his passing has shown me the unstoppable power of humility and goodness, how drastic and permanent it is, how it will always, always win. Like the last lines of one of his best essays we truly have "walked out of the woods changed men." Thank you Brian Doyle, thank you for every word.  

Some favorites:

A Sin

Pop Art

Dawn and Mary

Leap

Joyas Volardores

Advice To Myself: Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the 
refrigerator and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead 
foaming up in the gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first what is authentic, then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever, 
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life 
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything 
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience 
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters 
this ruse you call necessity.

-Louise Erdrich

a practice in writing; my blog manifesto



I will not write about our outing to the pumpkin patch. But I will describe the hole in the shirt of the man who sold us a bike, his grease-stained fingers, the gray dog at his side, the skeletons of rusty bicycles outside the garage, the 50's Schwinn still unboxed beneath his tool bench, the way he grumbled when describing his son who had no interest in restoration, the story of the purple bikes, male and female, and how he brought them together, the endless racks of collectibles with their own collection of dust.

I will not post the details of a perfect vacation but I'll tell you about crying in the airport, independent bookstores, first symphonies, sushi, breakfast sandwiches, the loss of my pelvic floor. I hope to post a great deal about beauty and not the brand that comes from an expensive purse, or curling wand, or eye cream but the brand I found in the white-haired widow walking her dog, 84 years old and spritely, her perfectly manicured Tudor for sale, a face full of soft wrinkles, her watery eyes when she said she'd lived there all her life.

I will not describe the details of my daughter's birthday party but I'll write about the raggedy bunny lying limp and mangy on the stairs, how once we made a plan to get rid of him but couldn't follow through, how he's been thrown and spilled on and tripped over and still has a warm bed to sleep in every night. I will write about the magic and misery of watching a newborn turn into a one year old–a vast and rapid miracle.

I will not write about our perfect weekend. I will explain the yellow light that poured out of the restaurant door; a beacon against the line of gray buildings. I'll tell you about the waiter on the stool playing the viola, the crispness of his white collar, the shine on his shoe, and how the melody floated through the doorway like a gift for the dreary.
  
I will not always post a picture. But I will take time to give my words value. I will pay attention to my stories and the stories of others and sometimes I will succeed in giving them justice and sometimes I will not. I will keep writing despite an imperfect sentence or underdeveloped paragraph.

I will not post on a schedule. Sometimes I will disappear from social media all together because privacy is necessary and because the real work demands it. I will not post every day, but I'll post a poem that struck me, that I feel demands a reread, a pathway in the brain, any space it can find to breathe. Sometimes I will write my own and sometimes I will share it. Sometimes I will keep it to myself.

I will work and share and discuss because I owe a great deal to the women who have poured over their computer in the dark morning with a cold piece of toast by their side and an unyielding willingness to share their words and their process. Their work has both bolstered and inspired me. The connection allotted from the internet is an incredible blessing and I will always defend it.

I will not tell you how to dress or what to buy but I will show you the sameness of our longing, the depth of our resilience, I will write about work and sleep deprivation, mothers and fathers, dirty dishes, Beethoven, the scars on my belly. I will write about heroes in parking lots and ripe mangoes and lullabies. I will write about the holiness of commitment. I will attempt to write about love. I will write about blossoms and October. I will write about us.

the saddest secret


E.L. Konigsburg died last month. Do you know her? She wrote about 20 books for children, won two Newbery medals and before it all, taught science, pursued a graduate degree in chemistry, and mothered three children. And she waited until all three of them were in school before she started writing.

E.L. Konigsburg died last month and she was my muse.

The worst thing: finally deciding to write her a letter a little too late.

So, I reached out to a fellow blogger and together we are honoring our favorite storyteller. Head over to Elizabeth's blog to find out more about our endeavor, The Konigsburg Collective. Elizabeth gives an eloquent and telling introduction about what makes this author so different/important/honorable. We will be rereading and reviewing her books one month at a time.  It starts with, From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Maybe you've heard of it...

P.S. Elizabeth's blog has been an inspirational favorite for a long time, you might find yourself lost in her words for a good afternoon, and I wouldn't blame you for a minute.  

small thoughts on 2012 and beyond




Dear people who still read my blog, I am filled with a pestering anxiety to record the happenings of the last wonderful and occasionally tormenting year with all three of you. But then that all begins to seem overwhelmingly wasteful as we are finally saying “goodbye 2012 and good riddance!”  And yet, some remarkable things happened in 2012 so we can't disown the poor year entirely.

In 2012, we moved to the South (having never lived in the south and having never spent time there this was an adventure) the husband started a new job (same company new position).  After a few months Claire was successfully potty trained and accident free, phew. Then there was that foggy few weeks we were pent up in a dingy hotel with an active two year old where we spent way too much time with play dough, and I may have developed a nervous twitch. Oh but then we moved into our first house and it was glorious. We had ourselves the sweetest little red head, yes she is a red head and I am in love with her.  And for the grand finale poor Markus underwent TWO major hip surgeries within TWO months...that is a lot of hip surgeries even in the hip surgery world. He was so rocking the Mr. Bates/Dr. House limp and cane. He has become such an expert in the pain department he could endure terrorist interrogations without a flinch

Despite 2012's wrath of the unexpected, so many great things happened to us last year that cannot easily be written or explained. They are things you can't see or hold, things that happened deep inside us that made us stronger, and wiser, that made us look at our children differently that made us look at each other longer, things that made us appreciate this little brick house with fervor.

We have been welcoming 2013 with deep breaths because it already feels calmer, lighter, airier.
And if it isn't.... we will be okay,
that's what was great about 2012.

reading

I currently have three books doing splits on the floor beside my bed. Each one gets a little break from the carpet at night time or during nap time. I am reading Kate Morton’s,

The Forgotten Garde

n

and it’s lovely so far. I’m obsessing over

The Poet Laureate Anthology

that I scored at a book store going out of business. Apparently, Maxine Kumin and Anne Sexton were dear friends who “started most mornings with a call to each other. They would greet each other, then put the receiver down on their desks and speak across the house or room during the course of the day, trying out a line, reading a just- finished poem, venting about the length of their children’s naps.” I just about mail ordered my own literary BFF, after reading that,

sheesh

.

Sometimes I feel so far behind with books, there are a million masterpieces waiting to be read, one hundred novels I could start at once. But I have to take it slow and enjoy what’s in front of my nose. When I finish a book I like to close it slowly and hold onto it for a minute, a small tribute to the author who was brave enough, or honest enough, whose talent or humor, or experience allowed them to write that first and last word.

Because for me, in that moment when the book is still warm and the last line still etched in my brain, I've found my own little scrap of courage. And the hope that one day I won't have to go looking for it anymore. That is why I

have

to keep opening and closing and searching and thanking God for words.

image

ticket for one

Only for Harry Potter would my husband and I go see a movie all by our lonesome. But you see, when babysitters are scarce and a historical saga is ending, you just have to make sacrifices. And it was well worth it. I'll always remember seeing the final Harry Potter by myself with nothing but a bag of m&ms, and all the gratitude in the world for a woman who wrote a little story on a napkin.

image

on a sunday with you

Land really is the best art.

-Andy Warhol

I’ve wanted to pay closer attention to my surroundings lately. When we left Idaho, one of my regrets was not taking pictures of our favorite places, like the dock where Mark proposed, our favorite local restaurant, or the park where Claire first played. The city we live in now, while occasionally dappled in spray paint, still has its own unique beauty. I want to remember the smell of summer flowers, remember how the air feels against my body, and how the heat burns my cheeks. I want to remember our Sunday drives, orchard after orchard, and the palomino horse that stared at us through the sun. I want to remember how the deep, blue lakes sat like thick blue stones in the yellow earth and the little fruit huts with paint peeling off their sides. I want to remember what it felt like to pull off the road at twilight and walk into the trees, thinking at that moment - this new country felt like home.