Quiet has many moods

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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. But those days are the exception now, not the norm.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Notes:

Empty Nest (and fully tethered)

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One child in Detroit, working.
Another, in New York City, working.
And their Dad,
at home,
tethered to gadgets,
and to them,
is reading.
And here it comes…
[Read more…]

We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light

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To curl up with children and a good book has long been one of the great civilizing practices of domestic life, an almost magical means of cultivating warm fellow feeling, shared in-jokes and a common cultural understanding. Harvard professor Maria Tatar has written of its origins in medieval fireside storytelling, “before print and electronic media supplied nighttime entertainments.”

Certainly in the modern era there is something quaint about a grown-up and a child or two sitting in a silence broken only by the sound of a single human voice. Yet how cozy, how impossibly lovely it is! Unlike tech devices, which atomize the family by drawing each member into his own virtual reality, great stories pull people of different ages toward one another, emotionally and physically. When my children were small, I would often read with my eldest daughter tucked in by my side, the boy draped like a panther half across my shoulders and half across the back of the sofa, a tiny daughter on either knee, and the baby in my lap. If we happened to be on one of our cycles through “Treasure Island,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling classic, my husband would come to listen, too, and stretch out on the floor in his suit and tie and shush the children when they started to act out the exciting bits.

“We let down our guard when someone we love is reading us a story,” Ms. DiCamillo says. “We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light.”

~ Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Great Gift of Reading Aloud

Saturday Afternoons. In Memorata.

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Eric, our 21 year old Son, joins Zeke and me on the bed. He’s texting. I’m reading. Zeke’s napping, his paw twitches. The TV buzzes in the background.

Kanigan Men, never have much to say to each other. Yet, he did come in, and sit with his Dad and his Dog. As Heithaus would say in ‘Insides’: …Between words – white space and breath, the air moving without sound…all the fecund stuff inside us that finds thought and voice and sound.’

Eric continues texting.

New York Times: Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children: “Texting looms as the next national epidemic, with half of teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month.”

Eric pauses from texting to look out the second floor window and down the street. Three houses down, a neighbor is playing catch with his five year old son. 15 years ago, that would have been Eric and me. On the street, in the hot mid-day sun in Miami. I can hear the ‘clop’ of the ball hitting his mitt. His cheeks are flushed. His hair matted and wet. Wonder if this scene is taking him back? [Read more…]

Riding Metro-North. Day 1 for (My) Workin’ Man.

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Thursday morning.
We’re on the 8:01 a.m. train to Grand Central.
Eric is seated across from me.
His head is leaning against the window.
His eyes are closed.
His body is swaying with the slow turns of the track.

I look. I take a long look. And I’m rolling back 17 years.

He’s clutching his Mother’s right hand, scooching to keep up, his oversized blue backpack bounces up and down.  Mom let’s go of his hand.  He looks back.  His lower lip is quivering. His arm reaches back for his Mother while his Kindergarten teacher welcomes him into the building.

Blink.

And so, here we are. Father and Son are commuting to Manhattan. Day 1 of Son’s first paying job.

I take inventory. From bottom up.

He’s wearing his Dad’s hand-me-down black, plain-toe oxford shoes.  45 minutes earlier he asks: “Do I need to polish my shoes?”  College student with a 3.95 GPA is looking down at the dust and scuff marks.  He doesn’t bother looking at Dad. 21 years of co-habitation and 21 years of absorbing sharp nips and tucks of Patriarchal coaching, instinct tells him that it’s a bad decision. Dad grabs the shoes and cleans them up. “Can I borrow your socks Dad.” “Take what you need.” [Read more…]

It’s the alpha female who really runs the show

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Excerpts from “Tapping Your Inner Wolf” by Carl Safina:

[…] If you watch wolves, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that perhaps no two species are more alike behaviorally than wolves and humans. Living as we do in families, we can easily recognize the social structures and status quests in wolf packs. No wonder Native Americans recognized in wolves a sibling spirit.

The similarities between male wolves and male humans can be quite striking. Males of very few other species help procure food year-round for the entire family, assist in raising their young to full maturity and defend their packs year-round against others of their species who threaten their safety. Male wolves appear to stick more with that program than their human counterparts do.

Biologists used to consider the alpha male the undisputed boss. But now they recognize two hierarchies at work in wolf packs — one for the males, the other for the females.

Doug Smith, the biologist who is the project leader for the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project, said the females “do most of the decision making” for the pack, including where to travel, when to rest and when to hunt. The matriarch’s personality can set the tone for the whole pack, Dr. Smith said.

Or, as Mr. McIntyre put it: “It’s the alpha female who really runs the show.”

Clearly, our alpha male stereotype could use a corrective makeover. Men can learn a thing or two from real wolves: less snarl, more quiet confidence, leading by example, faithful devotion in the care and defense of families, respect for females and a sharing of responsibilities. That’s really what wolfing up should mean.

Carl Safina is the founder of the Safina Center on nature at Stony Brook University and the author of the forthcoming book “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.”


Photography: FragileHeartxxx

Riding Uptown. Solo.

New York City, United States - May 12, 2012: Heavy traffic on busy 8th Avenue in Ney York City, USA in morning. Vast number of vehicles hit the streets and avenues of Manhattan every day. Almost half of cars are yellow taxis (well recognized city icon). Taxis are operated by private companies, licensed by the NYC Taxi Commission.

May 28th. Days short of June, yet solar heaters are blowing. 84° F, and steamy.

Sidewalks are teeming with tourists.

Mid afternoon Manhattan traffic is locked bumper to bumper, snaking up Sixth Avenue.

I skipped breakfast, had a meager lunch, and I’m longing for a sugar fix. Chocolate. Now.

Waze estimates 25  min to get uptown to the office.

My Thumbs are on the keyboard.

Should it be ‘Hi’ or ‘Hi!’?  I’m not feeling ‘Hi!’ I’m not a ‘Hi!’ type. I’m more like a “Hello” or a “Hi” guy. Or maybe it’s ‘hi’.  “hi’ makes me approachable, less prickly.  Yet, it’s hard to alter the brand, callus layered on callus. ‘Hi!’ would be inauthentic or soft, and both just won’t do. Dad’s the tough guy. There’s an image to uphold. A Brand to burnish.

DK: hi
RK: Hi!

Would have preferred ‘Hi Daddy!’ But ! is good. She’s happy to hear from me.

DK: I’ll be in your building in 30 min. I’ll buy you coffee.  Me, a warm chocolate chip cookie.
RK: Can’t Dad. I’m in the middle of something.

[Read more…]

TT*: Wow, I thought. What am I gonna do with love like this

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“I thought she was sleeping until I heard her call out from across the room, “Will you bring me a glass of water?” I did. Then in her always-sleepy tone and drawl she said, “Do you remember when you were a little boy and you would ask your mama to bring you a glass of water?” Yeah. “You know how half the time you weren’t even thirsty. You just wanted that hand that was attached to that glass that was attached to that person you just wanted to stay there until you fell asleep.” She took the glass of water that I brought her and just sat it down full on the table next to her. Wow, I thought. What am I gonna do with love like this.”

Dito Montiel, “One Night,” A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, A Memoir


Notes: TT* = Throwback Thursday. Photograph: Adriana Varela

TT*: “This is living,” he said, “huh, Charlie boy?”

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I watched the whole performance from a tiny table by the window. We’d done our business at the bank and now we each had big piece of chocolate layer cake, thick with icing. It was yellow cake. I don’t know how they got it yellow but they did and the yellow was beautiful against the warm brown frosting. We loved that chocolate cake. This was a good day, a really good day, and I knew what was coming next. My father stared for a long while out the window, at what, I don’t know, but I waited, waited for his famous phrase, sure it would come, and when his reverie broke and he returned to the bakery and our little table, he smiled at me, then looked down at his cake, and there it was, sure as rain.

“This is living,” he said, “huh, Charlie boy?”

~ Charles D’Ambrosio, This is Living. Loitering: New and Collected Essays


Notes: TT* = Throwback Thursday. Image: Add a Pinch

Mommy!

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He headed for the school still wrapped in the warmth of this bed, the taste of cereal in his mouth, tightly holding the hand just above his head, walking as quickly as he could, taking two steps for his mother’s one, his little knapsack bouncing on his back, then came the school door, the rapid kiss goodbye, the asphalt playground with its rows of maples, the clanging bell . . . at first he took shelter from the rain under the overhang, then he joined the schoolyard games, but a few minutes later they all found themselves sitting behind Lilliputian desks, quiet and no moving around, all the body’s movements concentrated on the effort of moving the pencil down this low-ceilinged corridor called the line. Tongue stuck out, fingers numb and wrist stiff . . . little bridges, circles, tails, sticks, more little bridges … he is miles from his mother now, lost in this strange solitude called effort, in the company of all those other solitudes with their tongues stuck out . . . and now the first letters are assembled . . . lines of “a’s,” lines of “m’s,” of “q’s” (the “q” is no joke with its diving, backwards tail, but it’s a piece of cake compared to the “s” with its treacherous curves, and the “k” with its spray of lines shooting out every which way), all the difficult ones conquering so that, little by little, as if they were magnetized, the letters come together spontaneously into syllables, lines of mom and dad, and the syllables making words . . . Then, one day, his ears still humming from the commotion of the lunchroom, he contemplated the silent flowering of the word of white paper, there, before his eyes: mommy.

In a voice that quavered at first, he stumbled over the two syllables, separately. “Mom-my.” Then, suddenly, he understood. “Mommy!”… Little bridges, circles and slanting sticks . . . and you could say “Mommy!” There it was, written, right there, and he had done it! Not a combination of syllables, not a word or concept anymore. It wasn’t any mother, it was his mother, a magical transformation, infinitely more eloquent than the most faithful photographic likeness, built from nothing but circles and sticks and bridges, that have now suddenly – and forever! – become more than scratches on paper.  They have become her presence, her voice, the good way she smelled in the morning, her lap, that infinity of details, that wholeness, so intimately absolute, and so absolutely foreign as to what is written there, on the rails of the page, within the four walls of the classroom.

Lead into gold.
Nothing less.
He had just turned lead into gold.

~ Daniel Pennac, Better Than Life


Notes:

 

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