“Lars and the Real Girl” : on Perspective and Precipitation

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“I was hoping winter was over” Lars says.

“No,” Margo replied, “it’s just a thaw. Winter isn’t over until Easter”

This morning as I drove through the slush left over from the snow accumulations of the Midwest snow storm everyone called “Hercules,” I was struck by the balmy feel of the day; 34 degrees and a light sprinkle of rain was falling. It was a quick turnaround for us, the snow only living on the ground about a week or so. It was a thaw. We’ll get another cold snap, another snow, before too long.

Not long ago, I watched the film, “Lars and the real girl” twice in a week. I’m usually late to the table when it comes to movies. We don’t get out as much as we used to and when we do get out my husband and I find ourselves drifting through the crowded list of “things to do” and “things to see.” We often have to throw a (metaphorical) dart at the board to decide what gets our attention at those moments because there is so much out there. It must have been the dart throwing that led us to miss this film back in 2007 but then a few months ago, Netflix began to  suggest it to me. I ignored it but Netflix was persistent and then one night when Dave was out I gave in and watched it finally. I drank in the quirky of it, the lovely of it, the wonderful package of it all when taken together. When Dave got home a few days later I insisted he watch it. “You’ll love it,” I said. I sat and watched it with him and he did. I might watch it again tomorrow. I love it that much. Really.

And a line from the movie came back to me as I waded through the melting snow, through the pond sized puddles on my patio, through the shrinking blackened icy snow banks that resided still between the curb and the sidewalk. It’s just a thaw.

Sure enough, the weather’s meant to grow colder this week. Snow is forecast again reminding me that winter is still going strong here in the midwest. It’s strange how our perception of things changes depending on how far out we look from the window or the dashboard and the calendar. In the middle of grief or fear or even joy, it’s hard to know that the seasonal cycle of life keeps rotating for as long as we breathe. It’s hard to remember when the snow falls that it will also, eventually melt, giving way to soft earth, warming sun, trees budding and blooming.

It’s just a thaw but it’s a thaw when we needed it most. Maybe that’s what the momentary winter thaw is for, after all.

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If Anne Lamott was my friend

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If Anne Lamott was my friend I would make her tea when she came by unannounced. I would not offer cookies because I would have already eaten them myself after the kids were in bed the night before. She’d be understanding about that because “who needs more cookies anyway, right?” she’d quip, smiling. Still, I’d feel bad about it.

I’d spread honey and butter on toast to make up for it. It’s no cookie but it’ll do.

The tea turns out pretty good. The conversation, even better, except for that five minutes in the middle when we both go to dark places. I’d feed some insecurities, she’d feed some insecurities. They’d race around the room a while as we watch- helpless, astonished, afraid. We’d wonder in those moments if the world is worthwhile, if the fight is merited, if the struggle productive, if we are worthy participants at all in this whole “life” thing.

I’d offer more tea, more honey and butter on toast to make up for it. It’s no cookie but it’ll do.

The insecurities fade a little, stopping and swaying like sleepy toddlers resisting bedtime- wobbly, woozy, whining. They stop short around the kitchen island one last time, buckling at the knees not because we have convinced them that they are tired but because the sun has shifted, their circadian rhythm winding down, heartbeat slowing,

rising,

slowing,

and then an exhale,

and then closed eyes and then we carry them softly to the couch. They will awake. They always do. And we will walk alongside and we will nurture and we will hope they feel better, do better, mature into whatever healthy insecurities grow into later. Successful lawyers or professional football players, maybe.

 

fotos: friends

308422_10150422813081667_1626045117_nI have a two-part interview of one Sarah Masen up on the Image Journal “Good Letters” blog this week. It led me to this foto and I felt all kinds of sad, grief stuff for having left Nashville and the tremendous beautiful people we are now missing and then I was able to circle around the block and park in front of grateful once again, thankfully. I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the pieces on Good Letters and ultimately to listen to (and purchase) Sarah’s work. She really is remarkable and I’m not just saying that.

 

gravity, gravitas, gratitude…

Well, it’s my birthday.

I’m 45 years old today. What a strange feeling it is, growing into myself.

By way of reflection, then, I guess I’ll write about this birthday thing.

I recognize as I sit to write today I am carrying this shifting perspective. I spent most of my young life looking forward; to becoming a teen, to becoming a driver, to becoming a voter, to become a (legal) drinker, to becoming a graduate, to becoming a parent…all the life happenings in the first third of our life are looking forwards it seems. The road is always ahead of us.

I admit, I had no grief for the end of my 20’s. Angst had been my watchword until that point and it never really looked good on me anyway. Leaving “29” behind was a relief.

My 30’s found me parenting for the most part. Distraction and sleep deprivation were at the top of the laundry pile so I wore that on a daily basis. My 30’s were comfortable and well-worn, hopeful yet utilitarian in some ways. “39” came and went in  a whirlwind, a wonder, a wandering.

And so, I did not mourn at 40 although I know that many people do. I still felt, at 40, I was forward facing and I embraced 40 like a sweater when the chill comes. Those extra pounds that my hormones suggested were neatly woven into that sweater, the wool was warm as it was itchy, a constant reminder that I was no longer 20, no longer 30. I admit, wearing 40 with some aplomb meant hard conversations with reality and expectation. It may have been at 40 that I realized finally that I’d never be a rock star but that’s a story for another day.

What struck me most about turning 40 was the response of my body to the basic reality of gravity in particular. The pull of the planet on my physical self was so gradual and so constant I had barely realized it.  I fought against it for a while. It’s a little crazy making so 40 was the year I made peace with planet Earth on this sneaky assault and offered myself some grace.

Today as I consider turning 45 I find I am filled with gratitude.  The road ahead is, as always, uncertain, maybe dangerous or monotonous or poorly mapped but it’s my road even so. In some ways perhaps the only way for me to cultivate this season of gratitude is to be willing, finally, to look back and see where I’ve been, to acknowledge the pull of the earth, the heaviness of time and the richness of life lived so far and move forward holding all of this and my shifting perspective in the pocket of that wooly sweater, close to my heart.

At 45 I catch myself pondering that perhaps this is midlife and this is where the perspective shift comes in. In a conservative estimate, half of my life is spent; some of it invested, some squandered, some saved. And that draws me back to the heaviness of time, that fleet-footed behemoth, that noble currency. I’m lost and found, floating, swimming, running and resting and I feel this shift finally from the near constant facing forward. I see myself standing at a crossroads the path behind me so clear I can see deep into the past and remember well where I’ve been. The road ahead is uncertain, exciting and always daunting. There will be some hills, some valleys, roadside attractions, tourist traps, detours and divine appointments and rest areas too, I hope, with clean facilities and decent vending machines. I’ll take it.

Update #3: Pumped up kicks…

I confess that I don’t actually know what Foster the People are talking about when they say, “all the other kids with their pumped up kicks” in the lyrics to their song. As best I can figure it’s about angst and I get that. I was a young adult once.

I also confess that every time I hear the lyrics all I can think about are the Rockettes…in a kick line.  Of course, now you have THAT image in your head to refer to when you hear the song next time. You’re welcome.

This has nothing to do with a kickstarter update but it’s fun to think about.

Today as I watched Miles on our 2nd story back deck I panicked  a little when he placed his foot on the bottom rail and draped his elbows over the edge of the top rail. The thought that came to me is “I have to trust physics here.” By that, I mean I had to trust that this little boy did not have enough weight in his arms to propel him over the edge while his feet rested on that bottom rail. I had to remind myself that this was not life and death and that while I may find a moment of panic in watching things unfold, that we were both safe and happy and breathing in the warm spring air.

So, all this to say that we have about 20 days left on funding “Reflections from the Glass Factory” and I don’t feel any degree of panic.  I’m trusting physics here.

I so appreciate the early support of this project. It is humbling indeed!  I hope you’ll take a moment in the next few weeks to post on your Facebook wall, to send up a Tweet or an email to get the word out for the book!

The Missives book is now ready to head to the printer and the manuscript for the Mrs Metaphor book is resting comfortably on my hard drive; bones waiting for flesh, flesh waiting for clothing. It’s up to us to sing it into flesh, to wrap it in clothing by getting the funding!

Thank you all so much!

Angela

To donate to the Mrs Metaphor book through Kickstarter

please check out our project page here:

MRS METAPHOR: REFLECTIONS FROM THE GLASS FACTORY

Kickstarter is a funding platform for independent projects. Money is raised for a length of time but a project WILL NOT be funded and no money will be collected if the FULL AMOUNT of the goal is not reached!

Never Swim Alone…

For the next 6 weeks I’ll be reposting pieces I’ve written over the years. These are a few examples of essays that will find themselves expanded with fresh air and correct punctuation then placed lovingly into the book I hope to publish through Kickstarter. If you like what you read I hope you will share it any way you can so that the book can become a reality! It’s time to flex those social media muscles and get the word  out, friends!

This piece was one I had written a number of years ago, when we had first moved to Tennessee from the big city of Chicago. As always, big shifts show all the cracks in my psyche, it’s not pretty but I think I heal up alright in the end. I still read this one aloud as often as I can so that I remember what really matters.

Never Swim Alone

Rule #1 Never Swim Alone.

This is one of my rules. When we moved out to the country a while ago I made a list of rules for the children to help adapt to our new surroundings.  The pool on the side of the house caused me a few sleepless nights so rule #1 is Never Swim Alone.

I guess I make rules and drill them into my children because of the fear.  I could theorize that I do this to help them protect themselves out here in the “wild” but really I think it’s because I don’t want to be alone in my fear.  If they end up being wiser for it then so much the better because if I’m looking for another shoe to drop I know it will.  A watched pot may not boil but a watched shoe is bound to drop and then before you know it we find a couple of copperhead snakes living in a retaining wall near the house.

Rule #2 Never touch a snake.

Never touch a snake, never put your hand or foot anywhere you can’t see into.  Never put your face into a hole in the ground, things like that.  Every day for what seems like 6 months I say this to them.  And then one glorious day while basking in the cool breeze in back of our house my 5 year old son says, “There is a snake living in here” as he points to the crevice.  My response was basically, “HUH?”  But sure, enough, there it was.  I’ve done a little research on snakes in our area and this was one of the few venomous.  Lucky us. Never touch a snake.

We made our way inside.  We played inside until the nice man from an animal control company came to claim the snake and the snake’s surprise friend.  He asked my son about it.  “What did you do when you saw him?” asked the snake man.  “I told my mom.  She said ‘Never touch a snake.’”

There you go, consistency pays off.

It’s only recently that I have begun to notice the pattern of life becoming consistent again after the unsettling move from the city life we had in Chicago. I find that I look forward to the steady clicking of the clock, the predictable measure of a schedule.  I crave the schedule. Every morning is the same, every afternoon ordered and every evening filled with ritual and ordinary time and shoes waiting to drop.

A friend of mine lost her daughter Allison to cancer recently.  She was 7 years old. I followed Allison’s progress for most of her illness through email and phone calls and occasional visits.  Sandy and I had met a few months earlier for dinner in fact. Hearing her talk about the daily regimen of treatments, medications and tests made my head spin.  There was an order to it but each medication and each treatment was utterly dependant on how her body responded in any given moment.  They seemed to be at the mercy of this illness and then she said something amazing.  She told me she was coaching her son’s soccer team that spring.  In the midst of the struggle she was coaching soccer.  When I walked her to the car I saw the mass of soccer balls in the backseat.  How ordinary it seemed to me. Ordinary Time.

For Allison’s funeral I sent sunflowers because they reminded me of her.  I imagined her sitting across from me at American Girl place the day we met there, smiling broadly, missing a couple of front teeth and most of her hair.  She beamed with joy.  Sunflower beaming.

Some things even my “rules” will not cover.  Never get cancer. Never die young.  So many things are out of my control that to be “consistent” seems an unearthly task.  I suppose it is, in fact.  I comfort myself late at night with the thought that only God is consistent.  Words fail, bodies fail, people fail…

The truth is that I simply cannot protect my children or myself.  I cannot protect anyone it seems from the reality of life on this broken planet.  I can be as consistent as possible.  I can make rules and give instruction.  I can confront my fears and pray for release from them.  I can do all these things but is it enough?

Never Swim Alone.

The reason we never swim alone is that we might drown and no one would know we were missing.  No one would know we were in trouble.  No one would be there to go for help, to add us to their prayer chain, to bring meals when we are too tired to cook, to offer to babysit for us when we’ve been at the hospital all day, to give a word of encouragement, to send sunflowers because they remind us of someone we’ve lost, to tell us we are not alone when we feel utterly helpless and no one there to pull us up when the water begins to cover our head.

So, Rule #1  Never Swim Alone.

home…

It’s not poetry but it’s pretty close…so I’m counting this for my Poetry Tuesday entry…

I’ve been working off and on over the last year or so (as funds have allowed) on a music project called The Glass Factory. This is a rough demo version of one of those songs. I wrote this because my husband had been traveling like crazy and we had gotten into this weird rhythm. Things were working but we were missing each other and not really able to take time to connect.

HOME
It’s hard to say
having spoken to the empty chair
I’m empty too
being empty to the open air
always wonder when you’ll be right there

I don’t say
never say enough to know you’re missed
I never show
Never show you all the absent gifts
I hope you never think
we’re fine like this

so breathe deep
until you’re home
we’re complete
when you’re home
so breathe deep
until you’re home
come home
come on home

I’m running through
All the things I know I’m meant to do
I wonder too
What you’re doing in the afternoon
I hope you see
I know I’m missing too

from miles away
talking to yourself on empty planes
you’re burning fuel
Never stopping, always changing lanes
I hope you never think you’re fine like this

So breathe deep
Until you’re home
There’s relief
When you’re home
So breathe deep
Until you’re home
So come home
Come on home

©2010 adc

we begin…

this is where we begin

dark on the inside
this is where we begin
lights on the inside
this is where we begin
dust on the windows
too thick to see out

we cry when we’re hungry
this is where we begin
we cry when we’re thirsty
this is where we begin
we talk when we’re ready
when we’re ready

one
one in one million
a million to many
a million to one
just because
we think we’re ready
we push the buttons
see what we’ve become

I look at the sun now
this is where we begin
doves at my window
this is where we begin
pain in my left side
and the time moves on

talk like a lover
sing like a mother
dust on the windows
comes off

one
one in one million
a million to many
a million to one
just because
we think we’re ready
we push the buttons
see what we’ve become

lights on the outside
this is where we begin
light from the inside
this is where we begin
dust in the corners
but now we can see out

cry when we’re hurt
laugh when we’re happy
talk when we’re ready
when we’re ready

Gabriel Suit

I’m a lyric writing machine these days….dunno why. This one line has been ricocheting in my head for months…MONTHS I say!
“dressed as an angel in your Gabriel suit”

I love the imagery of it but couldn’t figure out what or who it is about. Let me know if it’s you because frankly I haven’t a clue.

The melody on it lends itself REALLY nicely to a sort of bluegrass meets “down on his luck circus performer” vibe with a little Stray Cats mixed in for good measure…don’t worry, I’ll get my talented music Shaman, Stephen Mason to work it out in the end…(and while you’re at that link pick up their new CD. It’s amazingly great)

GABRIEL SUIT

How many castles will you build around you, brother
Just to watch them come tumbling down?
I watch you stack the bricks and roll the rocks from riverbeds
It is the best show around

You may be stunning when you stand before the mirror
While the war rages on the inside
You may be running like you haven’t run for ages
Playing games with the wording of your false pride

You’re dressed as an angel in your Gabriel suit
Even so, you and I, we know better
Lay down the halo and the mask that you make
I’ll be waiting here
As long as it takes.

How many fences make it safe for you my brother
When you see them come crashing on down?
There is a rhythm in the sound that all the pounding makes
It is the best show around

You may be stunning when you see you in the mirror
While the war rages on the inside
You may be running like you haven’t run for ages
Playing games with the wording of your false pride

You’re dressed as an angel in your Gabriel suit
Even so, you and I, we know better
Lay down the halo and the mask that you make
I’ll be waiting here
As long as it takes.

How many roadblocks will you build around you, brother
Just to watch life run them all down?
I watch you place the planks and then smooth out your clothing
It is the best show around

You may be stunning when you stand before the mirror
While the war rages on the inside
You may be running like you haven’t run for ages
Playing games with the wording of your false pride

You’re dressed as an angel in your Gabriel suit
Even so, you and I, we know better
Lay down the halo and the mask that you make
I’ll be waiting here,
as long as it takes.
©adc 4/09

winter people…

I finished up the words and started a quick melody on this one last week. I love it, I really do and yet it makes me sad every single time I sing the melody. I suppose that’s alright. Maybe that’s what being one of the “winter people” means to me.

I wrote this with a couple of friends in mind though as well…other winter people I’ve found in the last 2 years. I recognized them first I think. I’m not even sure they know that they ARE winter people. That will be a good discussion one day.

Winter People

We both know
there’s always heavy somewhere
But we carry on
And yes, this is the wonder
Feel the deep dark hurt of the soul
And the wide truth
Of mirrors in our skin
Pack it up tight
a bundle on our backs
Walk a dirt road
being careful not to wander

We both know
it’s always winter somewhere
But we carry on
because we are winter people
Feel the deep dark hurt of the world
And the wide truth
Of mirrors in our skin
Pack it all tight
a bundle on our backs
Move along real slow
being careful not to let go

You’re the quiet voice
In the back of my head
Offers up, a simple cup
Because

We both know
There’s always thirsty somewhere
But we carry on
And yes, this is the wonder
Feel the deep dark thirst of the world
And the wide truth
Of mirrors in our skin
Pack it up tight
A bundle on our backs
Walk the long road
Because we are winter people

© adc 2009