Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

I beg your pardon, I hear my disease answer in reply to my many charges leveled against it—of trespass, hijack, squatting, invasion, vandalism, anxiety, psychosis, psoriasis (of the mind), catatonia (of the spirit), a Gordian knot (of my reason), poisoning, pollution, warping—I did not grow in you uninvited by the way you lived and the life that you were given to begin with. I started in you with time and from time. I opened my eyes thanks to you finding the combination to unlock my presence in you by the way you lived your life. I had no intention to riot against you, my host, upon whom I depended for sustenance and a quiet life—which is all I ever wanted. I did not intend to finish you and me in the process. As long as you lived on, so would I. As long as you left me undisturbed, I would keep quiet and dormant in you until the end of your days.

You see me as spikes, barbed wire, and broken bottles, all cutting edges in you, and you forget that you set me going, turned me on and cut me loose in your body. I did not expect it. All your talk, reading, and tree-hugging company, and demonstrations for good, signaled to me that I would not have a hectic life that charged to a rapid end for my host and for me, but that I would be in a quiet place, unseen and ignored and quite content to amble to an octogenarian’s crawl and walker decked with tennis balls for a snail’s mobility, staggering brakes and watch-paint-dry stoppage. I could see it when you meditated or did your yoga or ran or lifted weights or ate greens, lots of them, with poker-faced enjoyment. I stopped thinking of a day when I would be free to run to my end and in the process, bring about yours preternaturally early. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

We hug across the gearbox console. I tell her I love her very much and she tells me she loves me too. I drive around the block of her school for her red face to clear and for her to stop hiccupping with upset. I beg her to forget everything bad that sprang out of my mouth. That I am a fool at the mercy of my diagnosis. That I lack the necessary control to be a proper father to her. She says she wants me to be her dad, none other, and that she loves me and she will be fine in a minute or two. She offers me my soaked handkerchief. I tell her to keep it in case she needs it again. She says that she is fine. We have never been closer and with such intensity—thanks to my cancer. We are late for the start of her school day. I tell her if she feels bad just call me or text and I will leave work and pick up her in under ten minutes. She says she will be fine, really. That I shouldn’t worry. That she feels better. She asks me how I am doing. I tell her I feel better too. We part with a brief lock of eyes and hurried mutual I-love-yous. Thank you, cancer. I called you a f*cker for turning up uninvited and ruining what was supposed to be the party of my life. Now I thank you. You turn up the intensity in my routine domesticity.

Touching her was like taking a drug.

From the moment Ally was born, pushed out of Sam’s body (nothing could be more common than motherhood and yet nothing about it could ever be banal), Ally became Sam’s sun, Sam’s primary concern. She felt a directedness and a purpose and a meaning she had never experienced before. Another way of putting it: it was the least fake feeling she had ever had, the most earnest. Did all mothers feel this way? Did fathers feel this way? No, yes, doesn’t matter. On some level, it was Ally and then there was every other human on the earth. At first it was physical. The need to hold and feed and comfort. That was the best part of being a mother, answering that need. It was so simple and complete. Sure, there were times Sam longed for sleep, times she felt positively enslaved, but all it took was the head on her chest, the hand clutching at her, Sam’s own hand supporting the plump, perfect back. Touching her was like taking a drug. The back, the foot, the leg, the little arm; the lips, the ears, the toes, the perfect tiny nose. The thighs, the dimpled knees, the lines of fat at the wrists, the tapered, padded fingers with the tiny oval of a nail. Look at her. The eyes, well, they were the same always, the same today. Large, heavy lidded, dark brown, wide-set, extravagantly lashed. What a beauty she was and is. Even at the height of her adolescent awkwardness, Sam had found her profoundly, significantly beautiful. Was it “true”? Did others see her the way Sam did? It didn’t matter. What mattered was that Sam had felt this abiding love for sixteen years, and it was the best thing she had ever felt or would ever feel.

— Dana Spiotta, Wayward: A Novel (Knopf, July 6, 2021)


Notes:

And she said Yes!


Our Rachel, with her fiancé Andrew who proposed last night.

Thanksgiving Morning

Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Photo: DK, home, Thanksgiving Day, Nov 26, 2020. 55° & Rain.

Truth

Have you ever held a three year old by the hand on the way home from preschool?…

You’re never more important than you are then.

— Fredrik Backman, “Anxious People: A Novel” (Atria Books, September 8, 2020)


Eric Kanigan @ 4 years old. He used to clutch on to his Momma’s hand, tears welling up, before he released her on his way into pre-school. 26 years old now. Still clutching on to his Momma. 🙂

Lightly Child, Lightly

DSCF1450

For him, love of art is inseparable from love of the outdoors—not raw wilderness, but the landscape of a dirt road cutting through a barren landscape, abandoned boats lying on a shore, an orchard or (a theme he returns to several times in his work) a church in the woods. My father possesses a pure love of light, and trees, the curve of a hill, the angle of a barn roof—shadows and colors. Weekends, as early as I can remember—age five or six maybe—we head out to the horticulture farm of the university with our walking sticks. Now and then, my mother and sister come, but often it’s just the two of us under the experimental apple trees sketching a field of cows or a stretch of abandoned railroad tracks. Sometimes, walking along the path on our way, my father stops so suddenly it seems as though he’s been jolted by electrical current. He points his walking stick toward the sky. “Look at that, chum,” he says. “What?” “See how the light hits that branch?” he says. “Study that cloud formation.”

Joyce Maynard, At Home in the World: A Memoir 


Notes:

  • Photo: DK, 5:46 a.m., June 9, 2020, Weed Ave. Stamford, CT
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Lightly child, lightly

I want to record these first sounds of our trip together, maybe because they feel like the last sounds of something. But at the same time I don’t, because I don’t want to interfere with my recording; I don’t want to turn this particular moment of our lives together into a document for a future archive. If I could only, simply, underline certain things with my mind, I would: this light coming in through the kitchen window, flooding the entire cottage in a golden warmth as I prepare the coffeemaker; this soft breeze blowing in through the open door and brushing past my legs as I turn on the stove; that sound of footsteps—feet little, bare, and warm—as the girl gets out of bed and approaches me from behind, announcing: Mama, I woke up!

~ Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive: A Novel 


Notes

  • Photo: Common Muse (sunlight, shadow, light)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Orange

I once watched my father peel an orange
without once removing the knife from the fruit.
He just turned and turned and turned it like a globe
being skinned. The orange peel becoming a curl,
the inside exposed and bleeding. How easily he separated
everything that protected the fruit and then passed the bowl
to my mother, dropping that skin to the floor
while the inside burst between her teeth.

~ Elizabeth Acevedo, “Things You Think While You’re Kneeling on Rice That Have Nothing to Do with Repentance” in The Poet X 


Photo: Orange Peel by Alicia D’Ors

Sunday Morning

The longer my father lived in this world the more he knew there was another to come. It was not that he thought this world beyond saving, although in darkness I suppose there was some of that, but rather that he imagined there must be a finer one where God corrected His mistakes and men and women lived in the second draft of Creation and did not know despair. My father bore a burden of impossible ambition. He wanted all things to be better than they were, beginning with himself and ending with this world. Maybe this was because he was a poet. Maybe all poets are doomed to disappointment. Maybe it comes from too much dazzlement. I don’t know yet. I don’t know if time tarnishes or polishes a human soul or if it’s true that it’s better to look down than up.

~ Niall Williams, History of the Rain.


Notes:

  • Photo by Indonesian Photographer Sukron Ma’mun.
  • Another inspiring quote from same book: “The River Shannon passes below our house on its journey to the sea. Come here, Ruthie, feel the pulse of the water, my father said, kneeling on the bank and dipping his hand, palm to current, then reaching up to take my hand in his. He put your arm into the cold river and at once it was pulled seaward like an oar. I was seven years old. I had a blue dress for summertime. Here, Ruthie, feel.”

Sunday Morning

“You’re going to ask if you can marry my daughter,” Nan’s father said.

“Yes,” James answered.

“Why?”

James thought: Because she is jolly and pretty and bright, like a firefly, blinking in and out of hedges and trees. Because I imagine her in the kitchen, washing dishes, looking out the window and humming to herself, her brow knit in concentration. I imagine myself coming up behind her, putting my arms around her, resting my chin on her shoulder. I imagine her face turning up to me, bright and pale and astonishing, and I imagine her lips just before I kiss her, full and parted, almost singing the words of a song. Because I think beyond kissing her, because I think about her naked and warm under clean sheets and damp from the bath. I imagine her bare ankle rubbing against my own. I imagine her hair disheveled; I imagine myself smoothing it out of her eyes. I imagine making toast with her and eating it at a round table. When I do, I am just as crazed with passion for her as I would be in bed. There is no difference between imagining her naked and imagining her with a kerchief over her hair. 

“Because I love her,” he said.

~ Cara Wall, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, August 13, 2019)


Notes:

Miracle. All of it.


Notes:

  • Photographer Megan Loeks made this photograph during bath time that was joined by a curious feline onlooker. (National Geographic, August 2, 2019)
  • Post Inspired by: Sometimes, in the afternoons, I would get into bed with her for a nap, and she would lie beside me drinking her bottle, her eyes fixed in fascination on my body. A preliminary wave of sleep would roll warmly over us. I could feel us falling together through the bright constellations of our thoughts. Even as I crossed the line into sleep I felt her cross it too; I felt her go to sleep just as when I was a child I used to feel snow falling outside my window. Later I would open my eyes to find her sleeping head on my stomach, her body curled as if in homecoming around my side, and I would lie very still, knowing that if I moved she would wake.~ Rachel Cusk, ”A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

You’re as smooth as Tennessee whiskey

Lori shared it. I can’t let it go. A cover of Chris Stapleton’sTennessee Whiskey.

And a Youtube comment from J. Scott Hamilton that followed: “your voice tells us you’re a great singer. Your daughter’s smile tells us you’re a better dad.”

#1, and belongs there.

“Where is it written that a working-class widow’s daughter should to go college?” one of my uncles said to her, drinking coffee at our kitchen table on a Saturday morning in my senior year in high school.

“Here it is written,” she had replied, tapping the table hard with her middle finger. “Right here it is written. The girl goes to college.”

“Why?” he had pursued.

“Because I say so.”

“But why? What do you think will come of it?”

“I don’t know. I only know she’s clever, she deserves an education, and she’s going to get one. This is America. The girls are not cows in the field only waiting for a bull to mate with.”

I stared at her. Where had that come from?

~ Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments: A Memoir 


Notes:

Miracle. All of it.

Some transfer of significance has occurred: I feel it, feel the air move, feel time begin to pour down a new tributary. The world adjusts itself. The doctors hold the baby up over the screen so that I can see her. She is livid and blue and her face is a rictus of shock and fear. I recognise her immediately from the scan. Only I knew the secret of her tranquillity, the floating world of her gestation. She is borne off to the far side of the room, away from me, and as if she were a light I fall deeper into shadow the further away she goes. The midwives crowd around her. I lose sight of her but her cries reach me like messages. Presently she emerges clothed and wrapped in a blanket. Her father takes her and holds her. His offers of friendship must suffice, must compensate for her lack of proper passage, for the clock of experience has started ticking and won’t wait for me. Her life has begun.

~ Rachel Cusk, ”A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother


Notes:

  • Rachel Cusk’s book was named #16 in The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by the The New York Times (June 26, 2019)
  • Post inspired by: “The boys don’t wear mittens anymore. Their feet are much bigger than mine… But I still miss their baby feet, and their patter, and the piffle of childhood. I reel at a baby’s cry. I swoon at strollers. I don’t understand why all the love songs aren’t about babies. ~ Jill Lepore, “The Lingering of Loss” in The New Yorker (July 1, 2019) (Thank you Sawsan)
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Photo – Hand-in-Hand by J’ ose

to live as men for others

Many mentors have influenced me with their muscular Christianity, but Father Byrne’s method of shaping souls was different. He drew upon St. Francis of Assisi’s maxim: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” The diminutive priest was a giant in my life but made himself small so students like me would aspire, as he did, to live as men for others.

This is the phrase—men for others—that runs through my mind this Father’s Day. It’s how men like my dad and Father Byrne lived, and I’m convinced it’s critical to being a good father; indeed, a good person. Find something meaningful that is bigger than yourself and live for it, simple as that. For seeking the good of another is more than living, it is loving.

To my many fathers and to all like them, thank you and Happy Father’s Day

~ Mike Kerrigan, from To All the Fathers in My Life, Thank You (wsj.com, June 14, 2019)


Photo Credit

Sunday Morning: Evolution?

Love

is

more than

evolution required.

~ David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest For a Moral Life (Random House, April 16, 2019).  Revised from original: “I realized I loved her more than evolution required.”


Photography: Rachel @ 3 yrs old & Eric @ 1 yr

Flying North AA4650. With RTP.

It’s one of those moments in life when you remember exactly where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt.

In the old pre-smartphone days, it was the 3 am phone call, with the ring shattering the silence.  You fumble in darkness trying to find the handset praying…please, please, please, let it be a wrong number, and not something worse.

Today, it’s all about texting. And it was a text.

Yesterday morning.  11:00 a.m. Nashville, TN.  The first day of a 4-day conference in a large ballroom at the J.W. Marriott. The lights in the room were dimmed, the spots beamed down on the speaker on stage.

My iPhone screen lights up, flashing an iMessage notification.

“Please call me. Now. Important.” [Read more…]

Here I was, I thought, living.

Things were better at home when a chicken roasted in the oven or eggs cooked in a hot buttered pan… Cooking was a meditation, I thought. It anchored me in my body—here was my hand, holding a knife, slicing through celery. Here I was, standing on the black and white kitchen tile of my first apartment in Brooklyn, listening to records, making dinner. Here I was, I thought, living.

~ Sarah McColl, “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)


Notes: Image: Better Homes & Gardens – Perfect Fried Eggs.  Prior Sarah McColl posts

when the house is finally quiet

Someone is always home sick: chicken pox, strep throat, another chicken pox, stomach flu…Baby Bliss sits on her hip. It is only later that week, perhaps, when the house is finally quiet, the dishwasher humming in the downstairs dark, her husband not yet home, and upstairs the kids are asleep or at least pretending. When she is finally in the soft light of her own bedroom with her hair brushed and her face clean, sinking into the down pillows with something to read, she arrives in a moment that is her own and not in relation to anything else—not a carpool, a nursing infant, nor a man she loves. She is self-contained, not only a woman but the sole measure of her own life.

~ Sarah McColl, “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)

 


Notes:

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