Archive for April, 2010

Sugar and Spice

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

mood: ebullient | drinking: water
bean_shoes1

…and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of. So they say.

(Although I remember being a little girl and I wasn’t always sugar and spice. There might have been a puppy dog tail or two thrown into my recipe.)

From the moment that plus sign appears, you find yourself wondering who this new creature will turn out to be. And “Boy or Girl?” is right up there at the top of the list of questions. It’s certainly the thing people most want to know, right after they ask you when you’re due.

Finally, we have an answer. The Bean is a bean-ette.

I made the ultrasound technician check, twice, to be sure there were no beans and frank hiding anywhere. She was quite positive in her diagnosis, though. “No suprises,” she assured me, “It’s definitely a girl.”

This whole time, I’ve tried very hard not to want a girl over a boy. Because what if Bean turned out to be sporting a penis, and then later he found out that his mum actually wanted him to be a girl? That would suck.

But let’s be honest. I’ve been stashing away girl stuff for a very long time now, just in case. I really, really wanted to have a daughter. bean_dress

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Bean will turn out to be the kind of girl who will even be interested in the trinkets and goodies I’ve been saving for her. But maybe, someday is good enough to go on for now.

The day before the big reveal, I wrote this poem to capture how I felt before I knew the answer to the gender question. I hope someday Bean will like this, too…

Heirloom Tomato
(week 19)

Wishful thinking will not change
the tint of your eyes
the grain of your hair
the Xs or Ys of chromosomes.

You already are whoever
you are going to be.

In a windowless room at the office
I lay on the graying carpet
and let a woman string a ring
on a strand of my hair.
She held it motionless
above the mound of belly
where you swim.

If it swung in a circle,
you would be a girl.
Perpendicular, a boy.

In my impatience to meet you
I have imagined a whole wardrobe
of bright cotton dresses. I have drawn up lists
of names. (The page for girls is longer.)

Your aunt has entered birth dates
into gender calculators,
all of which predicted
you will be my daughter.

But today the ring swung
in a line, not a circle.

I want you to know, now,
before we inspect you
with sound waves,
that you are loved
exactly as you are.

-Lo, amazed.

Turn off Twitter

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

mood: hungry | drinking: not yet

mt_tam_trail

This article dovetails nicely with my previous post. Written by Anne Lamott, it was published in the April 2010 issue of Sunset Magazine…

Time lost and found
-Anne Lamott

I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit. This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief–and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions–that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.

This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity–cell phone, email, text, Twitter–steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life. That a close friendship is worth more than material success.

Needless to say, this is very distressing for my writing students. They start to explain that they have two kids at home, or five, a stable of horses or a hive of bees, and 40-hour workweeks. Or, on the other hand, sometimes they are climbing the walls with boredom, own nearly nothing, and are looking for work full-time, which is why they can’t make time now to pursue their hearts’ desires. They often add that as soon as they retire, or their last child moves out, or they move to the country, or to the city, or sell the horses, they will. They are absolutely sincere, and they are delusional.

I often remember the story from India of a beggar who sat outside a temple, begging for just enough every day to keep body and soul alive, until the temple elders convinced him to move across the street and sit under a tree. Years of begging and bare subsistence followed until he died. The temple elders decided to bury him beneath his cherished tree, where, after shoveling away a couple of feet of earth, they found a stash of gold coins that he had unknowingly sat on, all those hand-to-mouth years.

You already have the gold coins beneath you, of presence, creativity, intimacy, time for wonder, and nature, and life. Oh yeah, you say? And where would those rascally coins be?

This is what I say: First of all, no one needs to watch the news every night, unless one is married to the anchor. Otherwise, you are mostly going to learn more than you need to know about where the local fires are, and how rainy it has been: so rainy! That is half an hour, a few days a week, I tell my students. You could commit to writing one page a night, which, over a year, is most of a book.

If they have to get up early for work and can’t stay up late, I ask them if they are willing to NOT do one thing every day, that otherwise they were going to try and cram into their schedule.

They may explain that they have to go to the gym four days a week or they get crazy, to which I reply that that’s fine–no one else really cares if anyone else finally starts to write or volunteers with marine mammals. But how can they not care and let life slip away? Can’t they give up the gym once a week and buy two hours’ worth of fresh, delectable moments? (Here they glance at my butt.)

Can they commit to meeting one close friend for two hours every week, in bookstores, to compare notes? Or at an Audubon sanctuary? Or a winery?

They look at me bitterly now–they don’t think I understand. But I do–I know how addictive busyness and mania are. But I ask them whether, if their children grow up to become adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress, and achievement, and then work out four times a week, will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life?

If not, if they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living in this manic way?

I ask them, is there a eucalyptus grove at the end of their street, or a new exhibit at the art museum? An upcoming minus tide at the beach where the agates and tidepools are, or a great poet coming to the library soon? A pond where you can see so many turtles? A journal to fill?

If so, what manic or compulsive hours will they give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander? Time is not free–that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for.

Will they give me one hour of housecleaning in exchange for the poetry reading? Or wash the car just one time a month, for the turtles? No? I understand. But at 80 will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did, except for mad Aunt Beth, who had the vapors? Or that they kept their car polished to a high sheen that made the neighbors quiver with jealousy? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren?

I think it’s going to hurt. What fills us is real, sweet, dopey, funny life.

I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.

-Lo, turning the computer off now.

The Elusive Muse

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

mood: antsy | drinking: h2o

rust_bird

Every writing workshop I’ve ever attended encourages you to carve out a hole in your schedule: an hour in the morning, a chunk of the afternoon, and sit there with your pen and paper, your keyboard and screen, and wait patiently for the muse to show up.

Sometimes, they say, just sitting there writing nonsense, pouring out your stream-of-consciousness rambling, will suddenly turn into something productive. Something that you’ll read later and say, “By Jove, there’s something good going on here!”

And it’s true. It works. If you can force yourself to find the time and then sit there, quietly.

But there’s another tactic that I’ve been considering, since my quiet times with blank pages have been few and far between of late. I’ve decided that perhaps you need to get off your ass, go out there, hunt down your inspiration, drag it home by the tail and make it your bitch.

Sally forth, armed with pocket-sized paper pad and tell yourself, “Today I WILL find something to write about. I will inspect every nook and cranny of my day until a whisp of an idea creeps from the corners and makes itself known.”

Perhaps I’ve decided to go on the prowl because it sounds easier, somehow, than adding another task to my to-do list that says, “Sit still.”

Perhaps I’m in denial of my need to stop moving, stop doing, just stop for a second.

Perhaps.

I’ve been so busy, for the past several years. Poetry book, cinepoems, film festivals, new job, new house, and, of course, the ever-expanding bun in my oven.

But even if I weren’t busy with all my various and sundry extracurriculars, I’d likely find a way to fill time.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how all these time-saving technological wonders have spawned such a wealth of ways to waste time.

Facebook, while a great way to connect with long-lost friends, enemies, and people you barely remember, is also an incredible time-suck. Even if you don’t subscribe to the Farmville/Mafia Wars/Vampire Attack drivel.

It’s like the more we invent to make our lives easier, the more we remove ourselves from the actual living part of life.

We had friends over recently and at one point in the evening I looked up from my laptop to see at least four of us with heads bent over computers, and the other two had their iPhones out. Yeah. We’re a fun bunch.

I’m not against the interwebs, obviously. And I’m not against smart phones, either, although my own phone remains a small, sad little phone-only device. (I don’t want to be constantly connected.)

I just think that unless we consciously unplug, disconnect and shut down for awhile, we might miss out on something truly spectacular that’s happening off-screen.

I’ve been unhappy with my poems lately. They have slowed to a trickle, and all I seem to be able to write about is the unknown little person inside me who is slowly but surely rearranging my life.

I suppose it’s not really a bad thing that my poems have such a singular subject–after all, this is a pretty monumental thing that’s happening inside me. But there are other things happening outside of me that I’d like to pin down on paper.

So perhaps I’ve just talked myself in a great big circle back to the beginning of this post. Perhaps I’ve just convinced myself to sit down and shut up and see what the muse brings to the table.

Or maybe I can do both… Maybe I can be aggressive and hunt my inspiration down one day, then sit passively by and listen to the ether the next day.

It’s worth a shot. Let’s try it and see what happens.

-Lo, who just likes to say that she’ll make something her bitch.