Homeplace

Things my house and I have in common:

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  • mismatched
  • colorful
  • cozy
  • welcoming
  • needs some work
  • some projects are perpetually unfinished
  • leaks here and there
  • filled with memories
  • shared with my best people
  • blends old and new
  • lots of blue
  • full of found items: ground scores, curb scores, thrifts, and gifts
  • outer doors don’t always close or open right
  • difficult to heat
  • filled with books and crafts and drafts
  • stuffed with too many things

Equinox!

On an equinox, day and night are of equal length; the dark time and light time balance each other. This Sunday was the Vernal Equinox, but it also was a sort of personal equinox for me. It is a time of turning over to a new season, on levels literal, emotional, metaphorical.

There really have been no appropriate bins of seasonal clothing, no decorative seasonal garden flags, no holiday decor to pretty up this last couple of years. Since a good writer friend told me she loves my lists, I’ll list some of the events and characteristics this looooooong last season has featured:

  • Burnout
  • Panic attacks
  • Pandemic
  • Divorce
  • Money problems (see: divorce)
  • Professional rejections and disappointments
  • Missed opportunities
  • Failures
  • Cancellations
  • Health problems: mental, kidney, brain, uterine, teeth, jaws, joints, Covid
  • Treatments: surgeries (5), braces (1 set), medications (so many)
  • Overwhelm
  • Self-judgment
  • Dissociation
  • Near-total societal badness

Lots of dark in that season, and all the flashlights out of batteries at times.

BUT. I arrived home at 4 am Sunday, on the vernal equinox, from a trip. Climbing into my bed, I thought vaguely, “I made it.” And on Monday, I woke up to these sights:

What you are seeing is living stuff revealing that not only is it still alive, it is growing new stuff! And even though spring/new “leaf” (get it?)/new life metaphors are cliches, they are also true.

New light this spring:

  • Headspace
  • Embodiment
  • New love that feeds, not starves
  • Teeth, jaws and face that cooperate
  • Writing ideas
  • Energy
  • Medicines (different and better ones)!
  • Fun plans
  • Self-compassion
  • No part of my body is cold right now!

There may be a pandemic, still. Education is still full of disappointments and frustrations, both personal and systemic. So is society. And life. There may still be lots of societal badness, complete with wars and oppression and tons of harm. I even still wake up every day with joints that hurt and more ideas than I can ever finish, and I want more money.

But still! Leaves are growing! I made it.

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Mornings working from home

Some mornings I need a little more quiet time than most mornings have. Time for coffee, for sitting in my bathrobe looking at nothing, just sitting. Time for the dreams to fade and the body to loosen. Time for prayer or notebook writing or a shower or to just take a minute, or to dress or take pills or make a plan or find something I have misplaced and just NOBODY TALK TO ME PLEASE! I just need a minute! I’ll snap, or ignore, or on a good day push my own need away, not so far away that it leaves altogether, but off to the side where I can pick it up once the kids are out for the day. Sometimes I need that time and take it back during my own “work day,” sitting on the couch with a second cup of coffee when I’d normally be settling in at the computer.  Sometimes I need that time, and I take it like that, but that time spreads from a few minutes into the whole morning, spent staring into space or reading “just this one article” or researching hotel rooms for a hypothetical trip. Or the very best socks, or a thermos nobody will use. Which leads to other times when, of course, I need to make up the lost work, which in turn takes away from other time that I need to… and so I… and then I… and so I… and then I… need a little more quiet time than most mornings have.

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Anthropologists from Space

What will the anthropologists that visit us from space make of it all?

What will they make of our face masks… protection from a virus, or just adornments for our mouths, like an heirloom brooch or cheap flashy earrings?

What will they make of all these words on our t-shirts: Coke, Obama/Biden ‘08, Penn State, IZOD, 6th Annual 5k Race, It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!? Will they see advertisements, souvenirs? Or perhaps holy creeds, or clan-identifying garb? Or will they think they’re our names, like the name on a dog’s collar?

What will they make of the braces on my teeth? Will they know they were good for my teeth, badly needed and the best our age has? Or will they see a weird fashion, like big plumes on hats, or some kind of punishment for a gossip or a liar?

What would they make of the stack of books on my table? A true crime story, a feminist memoir, a history of the Maya, a novel about moms, a book of crossword puzzles, an empty journal. Will they look like instruction manuals? Orders from above? History or philosophy, of my culture or someplace else?

And what of me? Will they see me as a writer, teacher, mother and friend? As smart and strong and beautiful, blossoming? Or as a crone, or a symbol, as very young or very old? Oh, a priestess!

Maybe they’ll find our museums, but with all their labels worn away. Maybe they’ll have watched TV en route, like Mork. Or was it Alf?

I’ve looked at artifacts of Ancient Rome, a museum of modern art, and Mayan ruins in the same week, and I have questions!!

What will they think of Groot mixed in at this non-ancient Mayan tourist stop?
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From the crayon box

Akumal, MX

I know I’m not the only person who loves the brand new box of crayons, the bigger pack the better. All those tips not yet worn down, all those colors laid out in their tidy rows. And that brand-new-crayon smell!

I had a favorite crayon color: blue-green. It was in the 64-pack with sharpener, of course, and in the satisfyingly square 48-back too. Its color was more like turquoise than aqua. More azure than teal. Closer to cornflower than to royal blue. It was blue like a blue sky, but not like the ones in Pennsylvania. It was the blue of a summer mountain sky, late in the day over a body of water. It was blue-green and not at all green-blue, which was a crayon color of its own.

It’s one of the blues just at the horizon of a Caribbean ocean view on a sunny day. It’s not the foamy greens up close or the baby blues just below the clouds. It’s just past the second line of breakers, yet lighter somehow.

Blue-green almost like dreamy old eyes remembering. Almost like the egg of a robin, which is bluer. Almost like the muddy turquoise of my kitchen walls, left behind by the people who had my house for fifty whole years before me— but that’s greener. Blue-green like the scales of an imaginary dragon. Like a soft shirt I loved but outgrew so soon.

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“I’m getting to know a different side of you,” he said

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Which of the ones folks know is me? The one who writes, a lot, boldly? The one who has three books in progress but works on none? In one place I’m a leader, in another, behind. Among teachers, an author and friend; among academics, someone who had potential. Or still does? Senior colleague or deadwood? I can’t say.

To a regular person (do I know any of those?), in a regular town (not my college town of super-people), I’m a person who has written a book. Ok, four of them. An Author.

Which of the ones folks know is me? The one whose kids skip grades? Who throws good parties, or volunteers at church or school? Or one who cries, overwhelmed, that she can’t do it until the laundry is put away? And the laundry can’t be put away because it’s piled up; it’s un-beginnable. And I can’t wash laundry until laundry is put away, and I can’t tidy up with all this laundry everywhere, and I can’t work with everything so untidy, and I can’t tidy because I have too much work, and I can’t work because I’m too overwhelmed, and, and, and. That one? And did I take my meds today?

The teacher-writer? The full professor? The ex-wife? Wayward daughter? The program lead, the one who forgot, the committee chair, the fuckup? The girlfriend? The single mom, the MILF, the middle-aged, the grey? The extra ten pounds, the “hx hysterectomy,” the grumpy, the short kid, the bookworm, the blonde? Yes, that’s my real color, no highlights, no makeup. No filter. Except when I give in to wanting a filter. And on Zoom. Every professor deserves a damn Zoom filter.

Which one is me? The wounded kid or this take-no-shit feminist? The liberal, the radical? The Christian, the Sunday school teacher, the mom bringing cupcakes? High test scores, or self-hatred? ADHD or genius? Metal head or choir singer? Optimist?

A light under a bushel, or a fucking volcanic eruption of Big Feelings?

I had a magical friend who gave me the best gift when I was away at summer grad school in Vermont (camp for adults!), missing my female partner and sleeping with a man who didn’t deserve me. (He would write me, five years later, only to learn that by then I had married):

“Anne,” she proclaimed. You’re allowed to be complex.”

And I have been!

From my chair, Akumal, MX

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Clumps of sargassum afloat

Sips of mojito

Two marimbas playing the Super Mario theme

Wisps of cloud and dollops of cloud

Strawberry ice cream

Green coconuts on a shade tree

A spectrum of skin from burnished mahogany to piggy pink

Iguanas mating not far from a cool pool

A pelican cruising for fish, low and smooth

Magnificent Magnificent Frigate Birds

Warm sand chunked with washed-up coral

Woozy bouts of half-sleep or reading

Nothing noisy, nowhere to be

Walking home from school

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This one last year, I get to walk up the hill at three o’clock to wait at the school doors for dismissal. Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong! “Allllllll right students, please listen carefully! At this time all kindergarten is dismissed!” Then “all busers! Busers please!” “Curbside pickup!” “Vans!” And the kids stream out, almost all of them so much smaller than mine now, carrying artwork and too-big backpacks, wearing sweatshirts that say Pokemon! or Penn State! or Pegasus Power! 

“All walkers! Walkers are dismissed!” and immediately my son runs out the doors, with his glasses fogging and his long hair flying back. He runs like he’s not sure how long those doors will remain open, like they’re closing, Indiana Jones-Style, just in time for him to dodge through and maybe, if he’s lucky, reach back for his hat. He runs past me, then turns and looks. He’s waiting.

This really is the wooded path! Back in fall, when the year seemed like it would last much monger.

And we start our golden walk home, my favorite ten minutes. We go down the big hill on the wooded path. We go across the street where the guard greets us with his reflective jacket and handheld stopsign (the guard who always holds up the traffic for me even without my kid). We go past the hidden Little Library, tucked under a tree where folks in cars can’t see. We go walking or skipping or running, in coats and gloves or in t-shirts and sandals, over ice or crunchy leaves or hot pavement. We go singing or excitedly recounting recess or planning the afternoon or sullen quiet. We go home to our house on the corner on a hill; we go into our home full of love. 

We walk together home from school, just like this, just this one last year.

Resting

Eating fruit

Swimming with tropical fish

Drinking juices

Listening to waves’ mesmerizing non-rhythm

Finishing a book and immediately opening the next one

Having a bite of sushi, or an avocado

Tapping toes to music wafting over from somewhere

Stretching languidly

Noticing breezes

Feeling temperature shifts as clouds drift across the sun and off again

Breathing slowly

Drifting almost to sleep

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