Monthly Archiv: April, 2014
Hawk’s View: The personally crafted paradise of Boy two and Girl two. So named, I am told, because when you are in it (4 or 5 feet off the ground) you see what a hawk sees.
More quirky things from the kids, or a few things the fly on the wall observed lately:
Intense voices followed by absolute silent and a lot of clicking. Then a voice would yell that the time was up, followed by more intensity. Some cheering, some shouting. What in heaven’s name, I wanted to know, were they doing? Boy one held up a calculator.
I am so good at this, you would not believe, he said. It’s a game. You add one as fast as you can and try to see how high you can get before the time is up.
We do it all the time, said Boy two. It’s great.
I have not been tempted to try the game.
Girl one returned from walking grandma’s dog with the following sentiment:
Walking Jasmine is so nice. I can sing the whole time and work on my songs. The bad part is that she can’t tell me how good it is, but the really great thing is that she can never say she hates it.
And on nice quirky, one of Girl two’s bedtime prayers:
I pray for Syria . . .and what’s that other country?
Sudan. And I pray for Mom’s friend . . . what’s her name again?
Her name is Stephanie, but I don’t really know her.
Yeah. I pray for Stephanie . . . but mostly I’m going to call her your friend because I can’t remember her name . . . Please help the people with their big rain and help all the people in the world that have bad bathrooms to get good ones . . . I think that’s a good prayer, do you think that’s a good prayer? I think everyone should have good bathrooms.
Giorgi (officially Pier Giorgio) roughly pronounced like Georgy but with a softer G, like Shzorgy. We’re making up the pronunciation part as we go, but we like it.
Filippo (officially Filippo Neri) Pronounced Fill eee poe with the accent on eee (I think I should get a job with a dictionary pronunciation guide)
These two little lads were the Easter surprise, which couldn’t arrive until after Easter but are here now! We named them after two men whose individual stories we loved, both of whom happen to be saints and both of whom happen to be Italian. This was the Catholic heroes naming go round. Someday we’ll get ourselves a little John Wesley or an Amy Carmichael. Then again, a writing theme awaits some day. I think I could use a C.S. Lewis and a George MacDonald around here.
“Extra family is coming for Easter brunch,” I announced.
“That’s great!” said Girl one. “I’ve been planning an art, fun and games day as a special surprise for Easter. I was hoping there would be more people.”
“Wow,” I said. I changed the subject.
“You guys will like your Easter surprise,” I said another day.
“You’re going to like my surprise too,” said Girl one. “Want to see the tickets I made?”
“Sure.” Sigh. Did I have to pretend something which involved art and standing up, during time I reigned over (includes all holidays), was fun?
“Art fun and games day! money gos to poor countries,” they said.
Not for spelling lessons? I thought.
“Tickets are five cents. I’m selling art after. I’m raising money.”
“Sounds nice. But it’s ok not to raise money on Easter. You can just have fun,” I said.
“I know I don’t have, I want to. I counted and I can raise $1.30 for poor countries.”
Easter came. Brunch was eaten. Girl one gave us our tickets and announced our teams. She was either oblivious to my reticence or simply confident in her ability to overcome it. She directed my team to the craft station, which Boy two was running for her. She ran the games station. She would tell us when to switch.
At the craft station, we were given twigs, tiny dried leaves, and cedar leaves. We were shown a model that used these elements to make a mock fire with a cooking pole above it and fake meat roasting from the pole. We were to follow the example and make our own. There would be a prize.
The craft took a few minutes at best, but honestly, it was fun. Their ingenuity in creating a craft from nothing delighted me. Building a fire, and adding flames and meat was hardly stressful.
At the game station, a large lid from a plastic tub had been inverted. At each corner of the improvised game board, a player was given half of a plastic egg. Each player in turn, flicked their plastic egg at another player’s egg. If they knocked it into the hollow ring around the lid, that person was out. The last egg standing won. Girl one encouraged those who got out and complimented those who survived. It was simple and it worked. It was fun.
I thought about it a lot afterwards. Why had I been so sure she couldn’t do it? She promised me everyone would like it. Why didn’t I believe her? What if it’s not just her? What if generosity of heart means believing that all kinds of people can do things I don’t expect? Should the benefit of the doubt be free?
An Easter story because love didn’t need my belief to pursue me with its gift. An Easter story because for a moment love cracked me open, slipped past what I thought I knew, and whispered in my ear.
“Keep the door open, there’s more where that came from.”
I checked on the girls. They just got haircuts so they look like goats, but they really are 2 of our 3 pregnant sheep. Lily had two little football players last year. Looks like she might again.
Molly (black) and Jasmine (the visiting poop connoisseur) were happy to get to the woods.
Guess the deer have had it with winter coats too.
Light like this always makes me think of Narnia. The kids and I call these woods, “The magic forest.”
Spring’s forest pools delighted us
I saw my first snake, small but happy for for sunshine. He was ok with being watched but said, “See ya later,” when the dog and the camera came out.
My childhood was the age of records and tape cassettes. We didn’t listen to the radio, so popular music was only vaguely known to me. I loved whatever we had, the Carpenters, Roger Miller, and the Gaither trio. I almost wore out our Keith Green cassette. Green was killed in a plane crash at age 28. This gave his music an added mysticism to my young mind. The tragedy fascinated me and tugged at my own sorrows both. There was something untamed in his gravelly voice that I loved. I sang all the songs on the tape, but my favorite was Rushing Wind.
Rushing wind, blow through this temple, Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breath your breath upon me: For I’ve been born again
I must never have actually read the words. For the last 30 years, I’ve been singing, “Rushing wind, Lord,” (instead of “Rushing wind, blow . . . “) Close enough. Rushing Wind sang in me when I was happy, depressed, angry, hopeless, excited, worried, wondering, sad, and inconsolable. It was the kind of thing to sing when the tears were all spent or worse when I couldn’t find them. I fumbled for something in the heavy dark of empty. I mouthed the words, my voice would crack, and I would sing until I found my voice again. It was a prayer and an anthem both.
A plea for help.
Please, I’m not ok. Let me feel something. Anything. Tell me it won’t always be like this. Don’t leave me here alone.
And a declaration.
I accept. By circumstances I would not choose, I will allow myself to be altered, the dust of me blown out, and another breath breathing into my own.
I have a picture of an afternoon, my teenage body leaning against a tree, knees tucked up against my chest, the wind tearing madly around me. I had gone to the woods hoping that I would be able to cry, or to feel ok again. My sad was accustomed to strict exterior management. When I wanted to give it voice, it often remained silent, and I was left with numb. Then and now, I would take tears to the vastness of nothing any day. But tears were not to be. Neither did joy find me. In the bombastic wind my song came and so I sang. Rushing wind, Lord through this temple . . .
Hope found me in the wind, that day and on countless others. I still ache for wind when I don’t know which way to turn. I picture myself on a hill, the barren trees wild with wind. And the wind still calls forth my song. Spring agrees. The cry for new life never does grow old.
Rushing wind, Lord through this temple, Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breath your breath upon me: For I’ve been born again
Winter doesn’t melt to green here, it melts to mud and lots of it. The creeks are high. Every low spot in every yard we pass is a temporary pond. It isn’t as pretty as the springs of my childhood. (Those were smorgasbords of colour and life, flowers falling over themselves to burst forth.) Here it is a smattering of hardy souls determined to see the light. The rest is newly thawed mud. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nuances of brown with hints of grey and light green are home now.
Easter Sunday was cool, 13 C/55 F but apparently warm enough. After a day of feasting and celebration, we walked outside to find shirtless boys, and girls in shorts and tank tops. The sprinkler was set up on the edge of the pasture. It was 1/5 for sprinkling people and 4/5 for making more mud. Mud generously rubbed on chests, legs, and cheeks, sculpted, stirred, tossed and kicked.
The snow is gone except for the odd pockets hiding in the shade. Tulips and daffodils have sent word via healthy green stems that they are coming. Even the dogs are craving mud. Mud equals spring.
There is a lot of spring tracked through the house these days. I generally fail to bless its indoor apparitions. Outside I thrill to my first sight of clover in the grass and yearn for more, soon, more, please. I forget to bless the mud. To be patient with its secrets. Mud, brown and grey and black and dull. Mud with gravel, living things, dead things, and heaven knows what smeared through and growing in it. (Around here we have a pretty good idea some of the ingredients in the mud but best not to discuss since I’ve already said the children play in it).
No one gives gifts of mud. At least I’ve never gotten one. But in the mud of which I quickly tire, all the life I long for is preparing to green and grow and come forth. Plain old, nothing special mud. An eyesore, a removal chore, and the stuff of life. The birthplace of colors, beauty, food, and us, where only kids and dogs have the good sense to revel.
Guess I’ll put my window views to good use and ponder a bit more on mud today.
FYI 1: If you are a publisher of middle grade fiction, God is telling you to call me TODAY.
FYI 2: If you are in a positive relationship with a literary agent or publisher of the same, God is telling you to contact them and then call me. (Or vice versa)
54 days ago I submitted my children’s novel to yet another venue. The pattern is optimism followed by a submission, followed by fleeting confidence that This. Is. The. One. After a week or less, everything mellows to faint hopes which trickle dutifully until the rejections arrive.
This time a friend of a friend sent in a word for me, so this manuscript had at least a guarantee that someone would read it. “It may take up to six to eight weeks to get back to you,” said the woman who wrote me. She probably meant, “don’t expect a quick answer.” She probably didn’t intend a guarantee. But eight weeks is what she said.
Accordingly, I am scheduled for rejection or acceptance within 48 hours. (Any comments telling me it doesn’t work that way will be deleted. ) Rejection would fit in better during Holy week. Acceptance would go well with Easter. I’ve got decades of experience that say God doesn’t agree with my sense of rhythm. I mentioned it to Him anyway.
One of my struggling lads was stomping in gym class recently.
“I refuse. I quit. I hate it.” Etc.
I tried talking.
“I’ll be mad forever. I’m not playing,” he snapped.
“You’re going to be mad at me forever?” I asked.
“I’m not mad at you. I’m not mad at anyone. I’m mad at me. I’m no good.”
I was teaching a sport new to the class. New rules. New skills. No one was brilliant; it was hardly time to label lost causes.
“It’s just a game,” I said. “I think you’ll get it. But even if you never do, even if you turn out to be the worst setter in the history of volleyball, ever in the world, it doesn’t change anything about you. About who you are, or your value as a person. How you learn to move the ball is just fingers and leather and air. It’s not you.”
Currently, I am two people. One, certain that a publisher’s yes or no will answer important questions about me. The other, a student of underage teachers, observing their confusions and mine. The sun and the laundry mound will rise daily. Packing up tattered winter coats will feel good. And I will be me, regardless the fate of my book.
FYI 3: If you are God, I told gym class lad he was a worthy fellow with or without sports credentials, but I still helped him with his volleyball.
I find mercy in the rhythms of everyday life. My heart is heavy with news of a Dutch priest and psychotherapist, who chose to stay in danger and solidarity with the people of Syria whom he has been serving for decades, killed three days short of his 76th birthday. That was ten days ago. This week, a bombing at a Catholic school in Damascus, Syria, killed a nine year old and injured 45. My heart worries and aches for the people of Ukraine. Rwanda is observing remembrance, of the awful genocide twenty years ago, and remarkable steps toward healing and reconciliation since. Holy week marches on.
Girl two has become fascinated with St. Rose of Lima. She knows little about her, the name, “Rose,” is the focus of adoration.
“What’s Lima?” she wanted to know.
I told her it was a city in Peru, the same place a close friend of ours is from.
Girl two’s eyes lit up. “Does that mean,” she said breathless, “that St. Rose had brown skin too?”
“I think it does. Does that make you happy?” I ask.
“Yes,” said Girl two. “Brown skin is so beautiful. And it sparkles. Especially in the sun. You have to see it in the sun. I love the sparkles so much.”
Fear despises difference. Love sees the sparkles.
Spring has sprung the coils in the children’s brains. Boy two has been on a rampage of neglected duties. A few days ago he came to me with great sincerity and measured tone.
“I have a question,” he said. “I have brushed the horse and fed the chickens. I’ve collected the eggs and put away my school things. I’ve emptied the ash and practiced my piano. Is there anything else I need to do, or I have I done enough to be iddal now.” (think “little,” with no “l”)
I blink while my brain works to solve the puzzle of “iddal.”
“Is it possible that you read the word, ‘I. D. L. E.’ in a book and you are trying to pronounce it?” I ask. “Because you say the word with a long I. Idle.”
“Iddal. Idle. Whatever. So have I done to be idle now?”
Mother Teresa, who surely saw more than the average share of the world’s pain, said that “love begins at home.” We are all of us insufficient to alleviate the needs of so vast a world. It is a crisis of immensity with a place to start. The radical promise of Easter.
In barren fields, things unexpected grow. The world disintegrates and love is made new again. Hope, peace, joy, rise rediscovered, and renewed.
I will be taking a few days off from the blog, back on Tuesday, next week. In eager expectation and gratitude, may we walk toward the hope that is Easter. And may we be iddal long enough to hear the ballads of miracle and mystery that bid us also to rise up.
Often after dinner, one of the girls will want to know what I am doing. Are you busy now? Do you have jobs to do? they ask.
What do you need? I’ll say cleaning up the counters. Do you have something you want to do together?
A lot of times, the answer is the same. I don’t need anything, I just want to be with you.
My children have this in common. Boy one hovers, chattering incessantly. When doing homework he wants to be two feet from wherever everyone else is. He thinks of questions to ask at night, just to have an excuse to hang around where we are. Boy two likes to read nearby in case I start reading something out loud to the girls. He swears he can listen to me read one book and read his own book at the same time. I have my doubts, but I don’t think it’s the stories that he cares about. The girls are young enough to be straightforward about it. They don’t care about the doing, they want us to be together.
I keep coming back to this idea. I just want to be with you. Girl two’s voice will echo in my head for a little while and then I start to hear the way Girl one says it.
My knickers are in horrible knots right now from trying to get everything right. Coming up to Easter, the stones in my head are rolling around trying to sort it all out. I wonder if the whole thing: baby in the manger through to dying man on a cross, is the long version of, I just want to be with you.
I think about it and my mind starts drifting. I see a picture of myself in a department store (shopping for me = traumatic exercise). I have been trying on clothes, only to discover that I’ve wet myself somehow. This cannot be happening, I am many things, but I am not yet incontinent. At least I wasn’t. There is no explanation really, just a puddle on the floor around my soggy shoes. I look around desperate for what I am to do, how I am to clean it up, and then what. I am wondering if people will smell it before I can fix it. And then there He is, long hair, white robe Bible clothes and all. Standing in the middle of Sears, in the middle of Holy Week, in the middle of the pictures in my head, smiling at me.
I don’t know what to do.
It’s not Easter yet, I say.
He doesn’t speak, but I know what he’s saying.
I just want to be with you.
There is nothing to do. Nothing to worry about doing.
Me too, I whisper.
How is Arizona? Do you miss me? I am fine, the farm is AMAZING . . . but it’s really not the same without you. I have been thinking of home and how great it is. Then I was thinking that as terrific as our house is, it would be even more terrificker if we could, well. Ok, I’ll just say it. Could we get a little of the poop from here and take it home?
They’re very possessive about the stuff. Why they couldn’t spare some when they’ve got fields of the stuff is beyond me, but we’ll have to put our head together about how to get it. You should have heard the kerfluffle when they found me rolling in a mound of fresh bovine excrement.
“Grandma’s dog has crap for brains,” one of them said, but the tone did not indicate a compliment. How does that work? I mean, crap? I love the stuff. In my brain or anywhere else. Unfortunately, I had to settle for my neck, under my ears, and on my back. At least I managed to get it properly massaged in, down through all that gorgeous long hair you love so much, right on through to my skin. (Why do people use oatmeal on their skin? Moist cow plop is a hundred times better.)
The woman was on her way out the door when I found that most perfect eau de manure. At least I had the hour to let it set while she went to pick up the kids. After that it was no nonsense, time for a bath, and lah ti dah.
Only it wasn’t like home. No clucking and sweet talk. Actually, I felt pretty exposed. They do baths here outside. The water was warm enough, the day was fine, but you know what I look like when I’m sopping wet. I look naked. And I felt naked dripping out there for everybody and his dog to see straight through to my bare skin.
Luckily a breeze came up and she took me in to dry off. My collar benefited from the massage as well, but they were bitter about losing one little square foot patch of dung, so they took it away. For most everything, home is better, but for smells (and teensy, weensy little tastes) well, mother, there they’ve got us beat from here to Pluto and back. I hope you can find a way to bring some of it home for me. Maybe my birthday? The more kinds the better.
Your loving, long haired, shitzhu, lapdog, Jasmine.
p.s. I’m watched like a hawk now, so no time for rolling. My taste testing tour has been slowed down, but I’m determined to finish. So far, either sheep or horse is the best (for eating) but I’ve still got a few more kinds to try. Cat is interesting too.
p.s.s. Birthday FYI: Best rolling= WET. Best eating = dry.