february 1: decompressing
This is the first week in ages and ages when I had just a normal workload, not a bananas one. And I felt a bit like a cat in winter, prowling the house trying all the doors but balking at walking through any of them. Last weekend I had actual free time and no idea what to do with it—or rather, too many ideas, a bewildering array of options and a seeming inability to commit to any of them.
(I used to be like this as a kid whenever I came home from the library with a pile of books. Couldn’t pick which to read first, and sometimes it would take me days to make the choice and commit.)
What lovely thing to do first? Handwork? Read? Paint? Take a walk and bumble around some of the artsy shops on Hawthorne or Alberta? Tidy up the houseplants? Write a letter? I had to make myself a list, not a to-do list but a Fun Stuff list, with checkboxes and everything. I’m 100% more likely to do something if I’ve given it a checkbox. (But only if it’s my checkbox. Other people’s checkboxes, especially the homeschooling kind, send me running.)
I did wind up reading, quite a lot actually because I’m still working my way through the YASF Cybils finalists. (Two to go. Reading’s on the fun list tomorrow, for sure. Of course, so is all the other stuff. The question is: will I DO it instead of waffling between options?)
(Answer: yes. I’m determined to Have Some Fun. Or else Do Nothing Much At All, which is just as important as Fun Stuff. But I am putting my work away for the weekend. Housework doesn’t count. I like mopping floors, and we’re overdue.)
All right, enough browbeating. Here are some things that are working well these days:
• My morning ritual of reading poetry and writing…hmm, writing things that will grow up to be poems when I come back to them. The bones of poems, or maybe just the marrow. The pluripotent stem cells that will become poems, eventually. (Hmm, there’s another poem there, actually.) I get up at 5:30 or 6—alarm is set for six but I often wake up early and then I can’t wait, cannot wait, to get back in the chair to read and write. I turn on the electric kettle, the studio lights, the warm blanket because I am a creature without much in the way of natural warming abilities.
I do a few stretches in the kitchen while I wait for the water to boil. Then I curl up in the gray chair with the red blanket, the turquoise mug, the green notebook. I start with poems: this week it was Rachel Zucker’s Museum of Accidents, which smashed my heart into smithereens, I’ll never be the same; and Olav Hauge’s The Dream We Carry, who is full of quiet surprises. Then I write for a while, until quarter of seven when Huck pads in, pajama-clad, and climbs into my lap under the warm blanket. He always stops to turn off the overhead light (there’s no convenient place for a lamp next to my writing chair), so that the window goes from glassy reflection to backyard view. The sky is perfect today, he whispered yesterday morning, settling in. It’s been a sheet of gray lately but yesterday it was five or six shades of blue fading one into the other, almost green where it bumped the neighbor’s rooftop. The bare arms of the trees, the morning flights leaving PDX, the rumor of sunrise just beyond the garage. These are good moments.
• The Wee Free Men, which has been deemed utterly enchanting and is the first thing we want to reach for when we begin our homeschooling mornings together.
• The “pick one chore today” list on the family chalkboard, when I remember to write it!
If you’re on Instagram: I accidentally invented a new hashtag today and you are welcome to play along. In Stories, I posted a stack of the books that Beanie, Huck, Rilla, and I are reading (we were the only ones home at the time) and tagged it #ourdayinbooks—and later discovered that tag had never been used before. I wrote a post about it, and now others are joining in the fun. If you’re not an Instagrammer but would like to play, feel free to share your list or link here!
Melanie Bettinelli says:
I’m afraid our day in books will be quite boring since it was a museum day. Empresses of the Forbidden City at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. Lots of riches for the eyes and beauty for the soul. But we listened to Peter Duck there and back– a nice long two hours round trip there and back so lots of Arthur Ransome soaking in. Dom is loving Arthur Ransome so much and the kids adore sharing it with Daddy.
Then our bedtime story was Patricia Polacco, The Art of Miss Chew, which is an especial favorite around here. Kids who struggle to read and love art…. Patricia Polacco is our hero.
I’m doing a Facebook read along of The Brothers Karamazov and read a few chapters of that. And a little nibble out of Andrew Langland’s Craeft about sheep farming.
We listened to a bunch of episodes of the Daily Poem podcast while I was making dinner: The Road Not Taken and St Crispin’s Day Speech and Annabel Lee and Shakespeare’s Sonnet #18.
So wow I guess a not very bookish day still contains quite a bit of books and reading and listening.
We just finished Farmer Giles of Ham yesterday and I’ve been thinking about what to slot into that spot in our reading loop: some fun light fiction that everyone looks forward to before we jump into the heavier meat of historical novels and history and science and geography and such. Maybe it will be Wee Free Men. Or maybe Tom Sawyer. I’m noodling.
I love this: ” writing things that will grow up to be poems when I come back to them. The bones of poems, or maybe just the marrow. The pluripotent stem cells that will become poems, eventually. ”
I’ve been doing a lot of that recently too: laying out skeletons of poems that I hope will get fleshed out. That’s actually a lovely metaphor, come to think of it as one of my poems is about Lazarus and another the tomb of Christ. Lots of mouldering bodies here that I hope will one day have some life breathed into them.
On February 1, 2019 at 9:38 pm
Flowers!! Well, we’re under the snow and ice, flowers one day!!
Oh, ‘our day in books,, what a lovely idea. If I can I will write up a little thing to post tomorrow … I’ve been doing pretty well with my intention of writing up and posting regular BookLog posts. I get a few of those up per month, sometimes weekly. …. Of course, noting what I have read, as opposed to a ThisDay all of us reading, is a bit more static. Books! How I love nattering on about books, and reading other peoples’ thoughts and notes and natterings 🙂
On February 2, 2019 at 5:16 am
What a lovely post, and I am very excited to hear that you are writing poems!
I very much like the idea of “our day in books.” Mine so far has been curled up on the sofa with an old Julia Quinn novel after a long and sleepless night. Have you read any Marie Phillips? I just finished The Table of Less Valued Knights and it was hilarious.
On February 2, 2019 at 2:48 pm
Happy, satisfied sigh. There is nothing like the minute noticings of everyday, domestic life. xo And I’m so glad that you have free time opening up.
On February 2, 2019 at 3:15 pm
Karen Edmisten says:
Ohmygosh, I didn’t know Rachel Zucker, and I just jumped over and listened to her read some of her work and now I must get one of her books. Thankyouthankyou! 🙂
On February 5, 2019 at 6:17 am
We are reading Inch and Roly! One of the joys of being in the States and finding your books in the local library.
And, How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten?
On February 12, 2019 at 11:59 am