Archive for the ‘Assorted and Sundry’ Category
Louisa by Isabelle, grade 5
• Melted at the artwork and poems created by the three classes of fifth- and sixth-graders who welcomed me to the Greater San Diego Reading Association’s annual Authors Fair.
• Read aloud the last chapter of The Prairie Thief to a roomful of eager fifth-graders. Such a delight. I so seldom get to read the end of the book to a school group—I don’t want to give anything away! Exceedingly fun to discover the teacher had been reading the book to the class and saved the finale for my visit.
• Had a marvelous time swapping book suggestions with the kids during the Q&A after my readings. Hot tip: they are loving The Unicorn Chronicles at the moment.
• Tried out a new voice for Fox in my Storytime at Carmel Valley Public Library on Saturday. Gotta keep it fresh, you know.
• Wrote my tail off all day yesterday.
• Rejoiced with the gang as our monarch butterfly emerged from its chrysalis this morning. We missed the big entrance but not by much. Later, when it was ready to fly, we took it out to the milkweed patch in the backyard, and it rested there long enough for Rilla and me to sketch it. I had just finished adding watercolor when it soared away to the cape honeysuckle, and from there out into the blue. Bon voyage, little dear.
Yes, aphids galore
Ours is in bloom this very day, as it happens
“Our Christmas cactus has predictably bloomed each December for three decades and some years when it has been colder for longer, as is the case this year, it often blooms more than once a year. Our Christmas cactus is alive and growing 365 days of the year, most of which it is rarely seen by me but only looked at.”
That’s Owen Swain in his post “Blooming Cactus / blooming an illustrated life / and, what I learned in Sketchbook Skool.”
In his drawing of the cactus, he includes a quote which sent me immediately dashing for my commonplace book (which is to say, this blog).
“While drawing grasses I learn nothing ‘about’ grass, but wake to the wonder of this grass and its growing, to the wonder that there is grass at all.”
That. Yes. Exactly. Or at least, I suppose I would say I learn something about grass when I’m drawing it, I learn something about everything I look at closely. But that kind of learning is implied in the quote. I get what he means by ‘about.’ And yes, the waking to the wonder of a thing by observing it quietly, moving your pen along its paths, or by writing a poem about it (“This grasshopper, I mean—/ the one who has flung herself out of the grass,/ the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—/ who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes…”)*; even, I daresay, by blogging about it—the combined act of observing, pondering, and then expressing, in word or line—these endeavors shift your relationship with the humble object; they awaken you to the wonder the thing actually is.
The very first revelation that struck me about drawing, way back in college during a too-brief foray into sketching, was the passage in the Betty Edwards book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in which one of Betty’s students mentioned that after she began trying to draw faces, “every face I looked at seemed beautiful to me.” I have written before about the enormous impact that statement had on me, not just in relation to drawing but to an overall view of life.
The drawing lessons taught her to really look at people, and when she did, she saw beauty everywhere.
I know I’m going all over the place here, but in my mind these things are all connected: this way of really looking, really seeing, noticing what is interesting and important and even beautiful about things many people whisk by without noticing. And what I can do for my children is refuse to fill up their lives with things they must patiently endure until a better moment comes. I can savor the moments as they happen, and give them the time and space to find what’s interesting and beautiful in every face the world shows them.
As I was writing that last sentence, Beanie appeared in front of me with a big smile and a present: a bracelet made of safety pins linked together, each pin shining with green and blue beads. “It’s for you, Mommy,” she breathed, so proud and excited. “Jane showed me how.” How patiently (the good kind of patience) she must have worked to slide all those beads in place.
I never noticed before what a work of art a safety pin is!
I’ve written so many times on this blog about how my approach to education is to keep the focus on the process, not the product. The lesson is renewed for me every time I take pencil in hand and try to capture the lines of a thing on my page. In the end, it doesn’t matter at all how my drawing ‘turns out.’ The magic is in the doing.
*From “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver
Rose, stretched out on Beanie’s bunk reading Paradise Lost. Beside her, the bluebook she writes compositions in for the Spanish class she’s taking the community college, and a battered paperback copy of The Wizard of Earthsea.
Beanie, sitting on Rilla’s unmade* bed, drawing a sketch of Rose. Beside her, her Journey North Mystery Class chart.
Rilla and Huck in a corner of the living room, in the midst of a litter of Legos, deep in some complex game. Their tones are urgent, their faces serious. Vast, capricious forces are afflicting a host of small plastic people with a series of grave disasters. Rilla shoots a glance at her fellow demigod, brow furrowed.
“Nobody likes my jokes,” grumps the smaller deity. From the kitchen, I chuckle.
“Ha!” amends Huck. “At least Mom appreciates them.”
Wonderboy’s at school, Jane’s away at college, Scott’s in the back room writing a comic book, and me? I’m just soaking it all in.
*Recently overheard, Rose to Rilla and Huck: “Listen, there’s something you should understand about Mom. If she sees you’re in the middle of a really good make-believe game, she will never interrupt you to make you do your chores.”
February 19, 2015 @ 8:58 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry
1. Journey North Mystery Class! Tomorrow is Week 4. I love this project so much. We’ve been doing it for ten years now—hard to believe.
2. This old post that Scott dug up from his archives for, I suspect, the sole purpose of making me melt.
3. Discussing “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” with Beanie and friends (yesterday but I forgot to include it).
4. A great editorial letter.
5. The other day I was cutting back the overgrown pumpkin vines and harvesting our little pile of pumpkins—far more than we had any need for. A neighbor happened by, walking her dog. She stopped to chat about the pumpkins—she said she’d enjoyed watching them grow—and I urged her to take a couple of them off my hands. Today she returned—WITH PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE. Somehow I think we came out way ahead in this transaction.
1. Leaving the house early yesterday morning, I spotted a pair of goldfinches feasting on the seeds of my basil—yes, another herb I forgot to pinch back, and now I’m glad
2. Pink milk and candy hearts
3. Saturday night ritual: art time with Rilla while the older girls watch TV with Scott (after the early-to-bed boys have conked out). This week, we binged on Cathy Johnson videos. Oh, I just love her, murmurs my girl.
4. Weeded the front-yard flower beds. Began, at any rate, and made good headway. After I mowed the other day, I discovered just how much is in bloom. Nasturtiums, coreopsis, sweet alyssum, snapdragons, viola, milkweed…Ellie said it’s okay to talk about my flowers, hope you don’t mind.
5. Set up a new palette and spent a good while testing colors with Rilla.
6. This one’s a Big Happy: today I finished the last empty page in my very first complete sketchbook. I started it on August 30. Have drawn or painted almost every day since (even if only for a few minutes). Feeling pretty chuffed.
1. I forgot (again) to pinch off the cilantro and it went (again) to seed. Every year I do this, and every year I glance across the yard one day and feel a rush of joy. I never think to put it on the list if you ask my what my favorite flowers are, but truly: cilantro is my favorite, even above milkweed. Unsophisticated blossoms, insubstantial at first glance, but blooming with such exuberance, beckoning the bees, mingling sociably with the sunny marguerites. Oh, I love them.
2. The stack of homemade Valentines on the kitchen table, slivers of colored paper confettied all over the floor
3. The sight of small boys in bright hats running up a green hill
4. Got the lawn mowed
5. Thought I had to make a health insurance phone call and then did not have to make it
February 6, 2015 @ 4:35 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry
Automated voice answering system: What form would you like?
Me: Driver’s license.
AVAS: Sorry, I didn’t understand you. What form would you like?
Me: Driver’s license application.
AVAS: Sorry, I didn’t understand you. What form would you like?
Me: DRI VERZZZ LIE SENSE
AVAS: ::beep boop boop:: Thank you. I am sending you ‘Power of Attorney’ form. Is that correct?
AVAS: Sorry, I did not understand you. Let me transfer you to one of our customer service representatives. ::beep boop boop::
New robot voice: All of our representatives are currently busy. Your wait time is one and a half hours.
Me: MAIN MENU! MAIN MENU!
AVAS: ::click click:: What form would you like?
Me: DuhRYVerrrz LIIIII SENSE
AVAS: ::beep boop boop:: Thank you. Your Disabled Veterans License Plate Application is on the way.
Every year or two I am reminded that I have a Listography account where, for brief spells, I have experimented with logging various kinds of daily notes. In truth, I have these ephemera all over the place—an old Typepad blog, a for-a-little-while side-blog here at WordPress, dozens and dozens of paper notebooks accumulated over the years…sometimes I wish I’d been consistent and kept everything in one place. One shelf of notebooks stretching back through all the years (not leapfrogging over so many), or one lovely Listography archive like the one Sue writes about in this post, which is what nudged me to check in on my own page. Now of course I know that this blog itself is my most consistent record, and here I have captured much of the stuff worth capturing these past ten years.
But as Sue of Mouse Notebook writes, there’s something particularly nourishing in the daily practice of noting things that made you happy.
Exactly five years ago I began the practice, at bedtime, of writing a list of five things that have made me happy that day. It has been so good for me to do this, to look for the small beauties of life as well as remember the big, wonderful things. I now have over 1700 searchable entries recording snippets from my life over the last five years, which feels like a priceless asset.
Her lists are simple and direct and quite wonderful. I don’t know how I came across her list-page (via Lesley Austin, perhaps?), back in June 2010, but I was moved to follow her example:
Inspired by Mouse’s lists of things she liked today. I’d been keeping something similar in my paper notebook, but this might be a better place (baby keeps running off with my pen).
And reading on, I see how many things I captured that I would have forgotten, had indeed forgotten until this moment.
I see I kept with the daily notes barely a week, and then picked up again a year later for a handful of days. Interspersed with the ‘happy things’ lists are collections of links and book titles for various projects I was immersed in. Those have been fun to revisit, too—I’m laughing at the tentative summer reading list from June 2010. I’d be embarrassed to confess to the number of those books I have actually managed to read thus far—though, of course, the list of other books I did read would outstrip that one, thanks in large part to my Cybils-panel stints. (“So, huh, this is like four summers’ worth of books,” I noted at the bottom. Oh 2010 Lissa, you optimist.)
I love that I collected a list of rabbit trails inspired by my immersion in A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, which I’ve reread twice since then! The sight of that jolly face on the jug makes me want to pick the novel up yet again (though it is anything but jolly).
Other sticky-notes there are collections of links I would probably just save to Diigo now, so they’d show in my sidebar. Or Evernote, if they were for me alone. Neither of those platforms (convenient and multifunctional as they are) can touch Listography for visual appeal, though. The look of those simple sticky notes was what drew me to Listography when I already had a perfectly good place to collect ephemera right here at Bonny Glen.
I played a lot of pennywhistle in the summer of 2010. Never got very good at it. By fall I was busy with other things and never circled back around to it (yet). Beanie has recently picked it up, though, and is already far better than I was.
By far the best notes on that page are the lists of happy moments from a handful of June days, a year apart. Planting sunflower seeds with the littles, rolling a ball down the slide, salt water taffy sent by Scott’s brother Jay…I’m glad I captured those. And Sue is right—imagine a list like that kept consistently year after year. What a treasure.
And look! Five years ago I was wanting to memorize all the monarchs of England—and this year I did it! William, William, Henry, Stephen, Henry, Richard, John…
A short one today, to help me get back in the swing. I miss my old blogging rhythm, when it was the first thing I did after switching gears from kid-time to writing-time. Spending half an hour writing about the kids was an excellent way to help my brain transition from one mode to the other. But now I’ve altered my workflow so that I jump right into time-sensitive tasks first thing, and blogging is my reward at the end of the night. Trouble is, by then (by now, that is) I’m running dry. All the things I meant to write about all day long are misting away. Some of them I’ll get to, eventually. Others: poof.
The pile of books to talk about: immense! Soon, soon!
Sarah shared this link to an interactive map of Middlemarch. I swooned. And then made it the wallpaper on my laptop. Every time I shut down tabs, I get so happy.
I finished an absorbing book (Going Clear) a couple of nights ago and have been in my usual post-satisfying-read state of restlessness, unable to settle on the next one. Which is silly, because if you assigned me a book to read I would suddenly have a dozen titles I was absolutely PINING to devour immediately. I remember how as a kid I would come home from the library with a dozen books I’d wanted to sit right down and tear into on the library floor, but once home I’d find myself unable to settle on which to start first. Option paralysis, my lifelong affliction.
I can hear Scott reading Rilla her bedtime chapter of Watership Down. Maybe that’s what I want to pick up next. It’s been too long.