when the decorations come down from the attic, time goes both ways at once

Every year when the decorations come down from the attic, time goes both ways at once…

All day long I’m surrounded by reminders of nearly a quarter-century in this house. Who I am and who I’ve been, and who everyone else I love has been…

Then the Christmas boxes come down from the attic, and time extends backward even further, beyond this house, and forward to a future in which the broadest outlines are already clear though the details are still unknown. Getting down the Christmas decorations is always a reminder of eternity, that unfamiliar space where past and present and future exist simultaneously — a space I can enter, even figuratively, only at Christmastime.

Here is the ornament in the shape of a baseball player from my husband’s boyhood years. Here is the little felt-covered drum my mother helped me make from a paper-towel roll. Here are the blown-egg ornaments my high school Secret Santa left in my locker and the gold-and-silver Benson & Hedges box a college friend hung on the tree in my first college apartment. Here are the metal lapel pins that proved I’d paid for admission at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the only “decorations” I could scrounge up when I was in graduate school. Here are the twisted-tin icicles my husband and I bought at a craft fair the year before we got married, already looking ahead to our own first tree. Here’s the little marionette Santa my mother-in-law won as a door prize at a Parkinson’s support group just before what turned out to be her last Christmas.

Most precious of all are the homemade ornaments from my children’s preschool years: messy, often unrecognizable figures — is that an archangel or Medusa? Rudolph or Popsicle-stick conceptual art? We hang them on the tree every year, ugly as some of them indisputably are. They remind my husband and me of that brief time in our family’s life when there was still someone at home small enough to jump up and down, clapping with glee, when the Christmas tree lights came on for the first time, even if it was only a test and the lights were spread out across the floor or still tangled together at the bottom of a cardboard box…

Last year when I packed up the Christmas decorations, I set aside our oldest son’s homemade ornaments in a separate box. He is on his own now, and I know the day is coming when he will have his own tree to decorate, his own holiday traditions to establish. He didn’t put up a tree this year, so his father and I are still keeping them safe, but we are also ready for whatever comes next.

For now those ornaments are back in their old familiar places, hanging alongside all the other reminders that the people who are gone from us are never truly gone, that the little boys hopping up and down with excitement are still somewhere inside the grown men who can set that homely angel in her place at the top of the tree without even straining to reach.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “The Christmas Time Capsule” (The New York Times, December 24, 2018)
 

Photo Credit

Running. With Turtlenecks.

Christmas morning. I’m running.

35° F, feels like 26°.  Wind cuts, it’s wet, akin to wind coming off Lake Michigan in Chicago, the Windy City. It penetrates the bones. I shiver.

I pull down the zipper on my jacket, and reach for the zipper on my running shirt.  I zip it all the way up. This blocks the wind but triggers another, deeper, pain point.  The moisture wicking fabric on the running shirt wraps snugly around my Adam’s Apple. Oh, God. No. My hand instinctively claws at the shirt to pull it away, offering temporary relief, but no more. The shirt snaps back around my throat.

I scramble to unzip the jacket, to unzip the shirt, freeing my throat. The cold air swooshes in. But at least it’s free. Can’t have anything touching the Adam’s Apple.  We all have our tics. This one is mine. Raye speaks of a Medium calling for a new Puppy in 2019. I believe her, but don’t believe in Mediums, Tarot Cards or any other woo woo, but I shudder to think what the Medium would say about this Adam’s Apple thing – some horror in a prior life.

In his story titled “Little Birds“, Simon Van Booy describes memories as “Each year…putting a new coat over all the old ones. Sometimes I reach into the pockets of my childhood and pull things out.” So this triggers a pulling out of a thing. My little bird. With its broken little wing. [Read more…]

Saturday Morning

I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.

Peter Matthiessen,  The Tree Where Man Was Born


Photo: Lukas Holas. Quote: via Schonwieder

Running. With *$!# Management.

6:58 a.m.

First day of Winter. Temperature: 61° F. Repeat: 61° F, on December 21st. Paradoxical? Global Warming? Heti whispers: “Not everything has to be so heavy all the time.” Whoa Sheila, try walking with me in this Head for a few yards.

I step on the scale anticipating a bad outcome…and expectations are exceeded on the high side. Now Sheila, here’s some real Heavy.

Rain patters on the roof, bangin’ on the gutters. I flip open the Dark Sky app…it’s calling for heavy rain for the next two hours. 

“Severe weather alert: Coastal Flooding.”

Well, maybe that might work – a flash flood to drag me along the highway, scrubbing the cheese, gingerbread cookies and peppermint chocolate gelato off these bones, and cleanse me of this mood while it’s at it.

I pause as I put on my sneakers. Maybe it’s best to wait for the rain to let up, and run later. Who are you kidding? Get your a** out the door.

I’m out the door. I run. With Me (M), and me (m).

M: What’s with the mood?

m: I don’t want to get into it.

M: Blog title? Anger management? Angry about what? 

m: Hard of hearing? Pick a topic. I’ll find an angle.

M: Root cause? [Read more…]

Morning Light


Stephen Howard, Morning Light (Tree Island Series), Oil on Board, 800 x 800 mm. (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

“Born in Masterton, Stephen Howard lived in Christchurch, New Zealand for several years before relocating to Auckland.  Howard paints New Zealand architecture and landscape, but manipulates the subject matter to give an atmospheric sense of strangeness. Contrasts are his thing – a tree against the repetitive patterns of an apartment block, a pale concrete building with a dark doorway and rust over the door. Howard seldom depicts a single place. He takes buildings out of their original context and re-imagines them in a way that questions reality, rather than reflecting it. His work is contradictory in that the organic forms of his colour field works are achieved by calculated attention to detail and the building up of many layers of paint. Howard has been exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland since 1978.”

See more of his incredible art here: Parnell Gallery.

The horses do not lower themselves without reason

The horses do not…
lower themselves without reason…
Ask a woman
from Ohio about actual horses
& they will be able to move,
sometimes without their body,
to places that feel like everywhere
now that they’ve been there…

~ Darren Demaree, from “Emily as Every Time I’m Asked to Write a Poem…” in What Are Birds Journal (Issue 1.1)


Notes: Poem: (via Boston Poetry Slam). Photo: Anna Attlid (via See More)

 

Running Away. From the Salt Benediction.

 

We have a bad situation here. (Very)

One needs to take personal accountability. Yet, if I could, I would, find anyone, anything, to blame. 

The digital Nokia scale (Nokia Body Cardio WiFi Smart Scale in Black) was a Christmas gift from the kids last year. The gift wasn’t a subliminal message, but a blow with a blunt instrument. They see it, I can’t hide it. Man boobs. Pooch maturing to hang belly. And everything else, sliding, down, down, down.

So, for the next ~320 days, the morning ritual is the same. Step on the scale. Step off the scale. The Scale wirelessly sends the data to the iPhone app. The app fires off a notification:

“New weight measurement available.  Stepping on the scale every morning and opening Health Mate regularly will help you stay on track.” 

Right. Right.

Tuesday:

Nokia alert: “Good job. Your weight is up only 0.3 lbs from the day before.” Monday. Box of chocolates from colleague as a holiday gift along with a thank you note. A constant beckoning presence on my desk, a siren call. I put the conference call on mute. Pop a chocolate covered caramel in my mouth. Close my eyes. Let that blessing melt down my throat. [Read more…]

Saturday Morning


Photo: Shutterstock via Newthom

Increasing awfulness from rock-bottom bad

I’d brought my computer, but maybe I could actually just not turn it on, and the dreary growth of little obligations that overran my screen would just disappear; maybe the news, which—like a magic substance in a fairy tale—was producing perpetually increasing awfulness from rock-bottom bad, would just disappear.

~ Deborah Eisenberg, Your Duck is My Duck: Stories (Ecco, September 25, 2018)


Notes:

Toast

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What do we need to know about a person in order to like them? Before she wrapped her leftover buttered toast inside a paper napkin, I didn’t know whether I liked her or not. Then, when she wrapped up her toast in the napkin, I suddenly loved her. Before she wrapped up her toast, she had been making an effort to show herself to be a sophisticated and an impressive young editor from a respected magazine. Then, when she did that, the performance dropped; not only was she underpaid, the gesture said, but she really liked toast. She liked toast even more than she liked being admired.

~ Sheila Heti, Motherhood: A Novel (Henry Holt and Co., May 1, 2018)


Portrait: Sheila Heti

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