Monday, February 23, 2015

Middle of the Road

Angela Farmer in Nepal, 1985: photo credit here.

Angela Farmer has done it again.  A yoga teacher who focuses on the feminine aspects of darkness, mystery, and cycles in her work, Angela considers her classes to be not a workout but a "work-in." At least, this is
according to the luminous talk I listened to last week.  Maybe her bio says it better when she writes: "For me, Yoga is a journey each day down into my underworld - not knowing what I shall find..." 

She has a British accent, a Dutch husband, and lives in Greece.  I could listen to this woman for days.  See below for my crazed notes scribbled while her words piped into my headphones.

My first ever Sut Nam Bonsai post (!!) was inspired by Angela, so it is perhaps fitting to be returning to her now at a time when my life feels very full, sort of confusing, and ripe with cycles old and new: all true things about the period that birthed this blog.  The idea that every hour is actually new really resonates with me right now, and not just because my life is tied so closely to a young being who learns a new trick every day. 

I have this (totally not original) theory that people like children so much because they remind us of the children within ourselves; they bring us into the present in ways that by-pass years of therapy and meditation; they are still blazing in the gorgeous God/starlight that is within us all, but without the accumulated samskaras and dross that keep the rest of us from seeing that light sometimes.  It is also true, however, that such presence is available at all times, to everyone, and I am sort of fascinated by this truth right now.  My days wobble and contract and blossom so wildly lately, and what is true one day is not true the next.

I had to stop reading The First Wives Club because - speaking of dross - it started to suck.  Perhaps you already knew this, though.  Note to self: finish consuming creative work before wading into public discussion of it

I have picked up The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story, by Julia Reed after delighting in her 2014 effort, But Mama Always Put Vodka In Her Sangria!  This earlier book of Reed's is saving my mind, one hijinks-stuffed page at a time.  A columnist for Garden & Gun (a Southern lifestyle magazine that is more about the gardens than the guns, I swear), Reed's work is gossipy and glib, erudite and glitzy, and generally makes me feel closer to home.  She also wrote for Vogue and Newsweek, jobs that put her firmly in my mind with other writers who successfully bridge North-South culture divide; writers like Roy Blount, Jr., Jane Borden, my dad, etc., who feed me when I am underexposed to loveable, crazy people and the kind of everyday glamor that sometimes only people in the south can pull off.

Speaking of everyday glamor, my mom is coming to visit and it is my birthday this week!  I plan on bathing properly, eating well, and fitting in an exotic errand or two while we have trustworthy childcare close at hand.  I'll report back soon!  Unless it's all a disaster - then I'll just post a picture of Sam.

With love,

Friday, February 13, 2015

Into the Woods

It's almost Valentine's Day.  Yesterday was Sam's ten-month birthday and the only person who wished her a Happy Birthday was the lady in front of me in line at Meijer.  The woman had a two-month old at home and was remarkably cheerful.  She helped me unload my cart (bananas, lampshade, college-ruled notebooks - a variation on the time my friend Sumanth ran into Tim and I buying bananas, cheese, and donuts in grad school).

I wanted to say hello because I missed you guys and because February is one of my favorite months.  Is it childish to have a favorite month?  Don't answer that.

Also, now that we live in Michigan and can expect a more normal spring than ones in, say, Colorado, where it invariably snows in May, we are now closer to winter's thaw, so close I almost taste daffodils.

Where have I been, you may ask?  Besides at Meijer buying bananas?  Well, I've been painting our foyer, pouring over design books like some cliche of a house-wife, writing while Samantha naps - usually on my lap like a fleece-wrapped baby Jesus - and reading here and there. 

I'm currently in the middle of Olivia Goldsmith's The First Wives Club.  When Tim saw it on my nightstand, he says he thought to himself, "Oh, Kara's into beach reads now.  Okay."  I checked it out from the library on a whim, just to see what the story was all about.  I haven't seen the movie but it's always caught my eye, so here we are down the rabbit hole of my associative brain.  I ended up reading the first 100 pages of it in one sitting which sort of surprised me but won me over enough that I will probably finish it.  This piece calls Goldsmith an author of "pop-feminist novels."  What the heck is that?  The phrase leaves me uneasy.  Like, what would be the male equivalent of this category?  Anyway, I like this humongous book with its Manhattan setting.  Goldsmith's frosty-lipped Adele-like glamor shot on the back is excellent and makes me think there was once a glory day for novels (and authors in black sweaters).  It makes me imagine readers sinking their teeth into her book like a big piece of cake. 

I also revisited Meghan Daum's squirrely, bubbling works after listening to her interview on The Other People podcast.  You might remember her early-aughts collection of essays, My Misspent Youth, with its turquoise, blurry cover.  (What you might not remember is pouncing on that book in St. Marks Bookshop one snowy night, but you might have, like I did.)  Daum has a new book out called The Unspeakable which tackles among other things her decision not to have children.  She says our country is still not ready for women who make this decision.  I haven't read the book so I can't be in conversation with her ideas fully, but I've been contemplating this statement a lot. 

At first, I disagreed, or thought I ran in privileged circles because I never felt that I had to have children.  But just because something isn't true for me doesn't make it untrue.  Also, the fact that I wanted to have a child perhaps disqualifies me from weighing in heavily on the subject.

In the interview, Daum says that a society with a variety of roles for women is best for everyone.  This, I definitely agree with.  I remember a friend with a small child once saying that she enjoyed my company because she honestly didn't care for other people's children that much.  She didn't mean it rudely and she didn't want to sound like a snob.  Now that I am a mom, I keep thinking of this woman.  I adore other children but am up to my eyeballs in my own responsibilities.  I just don't have much energy left for anyone else right now.  To hang out with other moms feels like a mirror I can't handle: I know my life is chock full of chaos.  I know my hair is on end.  I don't need someone to show that to me.  I need someone to rescue me from it.

Being a mom gives new meaning to the phrase, Dig deep, which I always equated with pithy high school sports moments or pseudo crises of faith.  Not so now.  Being a parent gives me the, er, constant opportunity to assess my priorities.  The most helpful practice I know came, I believe, from Miranda July in an interview I can't find now, and it is to several times a day, just give up.  Surrender completely to the fact that my life is out of control. 

That's not a very cheerful place to land but it helps me see what matters.  It helps me see what's in front of my face which is usually a pajama-footed being with a halo of strawberry-blonde hair and a pile of books she is plowing through like a digger truck on steroids.  Giving up helps me understand that my dream for this moment may not be what this moment holds but when I let go of that dream, the air can come back into my lungs. 

What else can I tell you?  I liked this article about choosing a narrative voice, by one of our most peculiarly named writers, Dinty W. Moore.

That, and I love you, truly.  May your February be full of Valentines, even if you have to send them to yourself.  In my experience, some years, those are the best ones.