Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Getting Lost

The Waterfall

for May Swenson

For all they said,
  I could not see the waterfall
    until I came and saw the water falling,
      its lace legs and its womanly arms sheeting down,

while something howled like thunder,
  over the rocks,
    all day and all night -

like ribbons made of snow,
  or god's white hair.
    At any distance
      it fell without a break or seam, and slowly, a simple

preponderance -

  a fall of flowers - and truly it seemed
    surprised by the unexpected kindness of the air and
      light-hearted to be

flying at last.
  Gravity is a fact everybody
    knows about.
      It is always underfoot,

like a summons,
  gravel-backed and mossy,
    in every beetled basin -
      and imagination -

that striver,
  that third eye -
    can do a lot but
      hardly everything. The white, scrolled

wings of the tumbling water
  I never could have
    imagined. And maybe there will be,
      after all,

some slack and perfectly balanced
  blind and rough peace, finally,
    in the deep and green and utterly motionless pools after all that

-Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems Volume One, Beacon Press © 1992

We went away for a week and when we returned, a book of Mary Oliver poems tumbled into my hands, reminding me what I always need reminding of: to slow down and take no small part of my day for granted.  

When we returned from vacation, I felt off schedule, full of glorious calories and habits and pleasures, but anxious that in all my goofing off I had lost some essential rhythm to my writing.  By the end of a week away, I had adjusted to the idea that sometimes chaos follows a family with a young child no matter where they go.  Just because there were other adults around didn't mean I could slip away from my daughter any more than I might leave her in a room by herself at home. 

Once I hit that plane of acceptance, I felt ready for wherever the days might lead.  Incidentally, they led to duck-feeding, tons of walks, parks with swings and playgrounds and sandboxes, and short, delicious mornings with a Nell Freudenberger novel.  While the pace never really slackened, it came eventually to remind me of the grace a character finds during a flood in Louise Erdrich's stunning novel, The Last Report On the Miracles At Little No Horse, in which a woman is swept away in a tumble of mud and churning tree limbs, and spit out down river to make her life anew.  

After a week back home I feel finally (finally!) grounded again.  I can locate my mind and hear its deeper currents.  To me, this is everything.  It's why I need the outdoors so much.  I don't have to scale mountains or backpack through pristine valleys to get a hit of nature's giant tuning fork.  Sometimes a piqued chipmunk squeaking from my front stoop is enough for me to pull my head from whatever crazy thoughts it's cycling through and root my soul to the earth again.

My desk is in the dining room, and has been for some time now.  For the most part, I'm okay with this.  Whereas Virginia Woolf grew up in a Victorian household that prized needlework as the pinnacle of a woman's creative work, when I have a room of my own, I sometimes get lonesome.  I prefer to spread out and inconvenience the house I'm living in.  Like a dog, I pull out all my toys, impressing no one but myself, and forget about everything only to discover it an hour later when I walk into a room and see the mess - or the beauty - I have made. 

But but but.  Sometimes when I think about what really makes me happy, very little compares to getting lost in a task.  I can sort of write anywhere - at my desk, in a car, in a coffee shop, in a bed, but sometimes I dream about having my own spot to truly make a mess with my art supplies, like the studio space in Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, where a pot of coffee is always on and it's a little dingy and there are trays of papers and boxes of rubber stamps and I can just be grimy and concentrated and left alone in my cave of wonders. 

This isn't what my desk in the dining room looks like, if you can believe it.  I have a big, polite IKEA desk that drives Tim a little crazy because while we are not fancy people it's probably one of the cheapest things we own.  It has a big surface area, though, and that is the point.  Samantha has discovered its charms lately, too; she loves to climb up to standing in front of it and shake it like the dickens.  Shake-a shake-a shake, like an alligator rattling its prey, she tries to bring down the house with that thing, banging it against the dining room wall. 

I am secretly delighted that Tim is vexed by my piece of crap desk.  It's also not going anywhere anytime soon because I am still mastering the art of eating vegetables and I am not adding desk shopping to my list of things to do this fall. 

I did buy a gallon of beige-y paint for the dining room and am committed to hanging the lovely chandelier we bought when we moved in, which we left sitting in the basement for a year like jerks.  Because I get sad when I see online pictures of rooms lovingly remade by joe schmoes who don't have a design team to make things pop in their photos, I am not going to do the whole before and after thing.  I am not a design pro.  I am a woman who collects feathers.  Just know that I've got a buzz saw cranking over here - or wish I had a studio that housed one, and maybe a jump suit to wear, too - and I'm intent on making a few updates because updates make me happy and I've finally discovered that I can change a room instead of moving to a different state every time I need a little flair in my life.  Progress, people! 

On a related note, 
WeWork, a company that rents creative coworking space around the world, inspired this post.
  I am somewhat obsessed with solitude but after having a child, the idea of renting space outside my dining room is pretty enticing.  On days I need an extra boost of focus, I zoom up the street to my favorite coffee shop.  Some days, though, I can't face the rows of tables or anymore time sitting down.  If I can't have a mechanic's garage converted into an art studio, I would kill for a cloistered spot outside my home.  Wherever I go, there must be crayons and music.  Must!  Chipmunks and a yoga mat are great, too.

Speaking of music, did you see who has a new album coming out?  Look at all that gold!!  Yes, please.  As already mentioned, I'll take the jumpsuit, too.

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