Someone took my week and replaced it with a millisecond. To be fair, Michael’s did try to warn me: Halloween decorations on sale in August. Is it Christmas there yet? My nasturtiums still believe it’s summer, but the poppies know the truth.
I’ve found it suits me better not to announce or necessarily even plan my occasional breaks from social media, but rather to let them happen organically and reflect on them afterward. This one wasn’t a total break, since I did post snippets to IG Stories almost daily, and I spent a little more time on Twitter than usual. (Which still isn’t much. I have to take Twitter in carefully timed microdoses these days.) But for two weeks, no Instagram grid posts, no captions, no FB, no Bonny Glen, and I put my Patreon on pause for the month of August.
None of this (except the Patreon pause) was planned; I was just busy elsewhere. WB had surgery at the end of July (went well, good recovery); Jane moved home from California around the same time. This weekend we celebrated Rose’s 21st birthday. (!) In between: work, long walks, a book or two, lots of embroidery. A small party where I found ‘my’ karaoke song (i.e. one I can nail). Or maybe that was before the surgery; late July and early August melted into each other.
I took Holly Wren Spaulding’s free mini poetry challenge this past week and welcomed her infusion of gentle insight into my morning creative practice, a practice which continues to be the most satisfying and nourishing gift I can give myself: this quiet, screen-free dawn hour, alone with a few good poems, a notebook, a fresh pen. I spent a lot of time with Kimiko Hahn this summer—Mosquito and Ant; Toxic Flora; Narrow Road to the Interior. Also a lot of Japanese haiku in translation. Huck wakes during the end of my writing time and staggers sleepily into my studio to snuggle into the gray armchair with me, tucked under our poppy blanket. We read poems and watch the sky change. Even when I’m tired, it’s delicious.
I also spent a lot of time in the garden, enjoying the late-summer lushness! Hummingbirds in the hyssop; bees industrious in the fennel and coneflower. A few tiny strawberries, a handful of cherry tomatoes. Asters spangling the porch wall with blue stars. A strange crow with a coppery head raiding the suet feeder each morning. My neighbor’s asparagus bed now a forest: airy green treetops festooned with apple-red berries. An abundance of small noticings. A necessary quiet.
June and July were mighty full months for me & my gang. I hardly ever travel, but this summer I’ve made three separate trips! The Brave Writer
staff retreat in Ohio (I’ll be teaching two sessions of Comic Strip Capers
this fall); a big family wedding in Virginia Beach; Lynda Barry’s Writing the Unthinkable workshop
; and then back to Ohio for the Brave Learner Conference, where I was part of a panel with Julie Bogart, her mother Karen O’Connor, and Dottie of enchanted art table fame! AND THEN, back here at home, we wrapped up July with a long-anticipated event: a (minor) spinal surgery for the 15yo. (It went swimmingly and he’s recovering well.) And in the snippet of time between the conference and the surgery, Scott drove to San Luis Obispo to move Jane to Portland. She had an Americorps position at the university that wrapped up last month, and now she’s HERE. All my chicks back in the nest for a while. Color this mama hen very happy.
As for me, I spent the days between conference and surgery on a housecleaning spree. (Channeling Mrs. Ray expecting Betsy or Julia home from a trip, you know.) I get organization frenzy every summer. And my poor garden, oof, after two months of neglect it needed some serious TLC. When it’s too hot to clean or garden, I’ve been embroidering a lot, catching up on Cozy Blue Stitch Club projects.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to look at my grid today and realize it’s been a week since I posted? I’ve shared tons in my Stories, so it didn’t feel like that much time had passed. But it has! I had hoped to take a little down time in August, but I’m seeing that wasn’t entirely realistic. The multiple trips left me feeling like I could use a vacation, but now I gotta catch up from the trips! Fortunately I love my work. 😄
How about you? Enjoying a low-key summer, or suddenly feeling like fall is peering at you through the window?
We spotted the first crocuses of the year this week!
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!
I posted an explanation on Facebook today:
A wee reminder. If you are looking for my discussions of books, art, nature, pop culture, homeschooling, and joyful family life, you’ll find that at my blog and on Instagram.
Here on FB, I write (since 2016) almost exclusively about current events and policy. (Occasional book-related announcements, and sometimes quips that later make their way into a real post elsewhere. But 90% policy discussions and political commentary.)
If you prefer my rhapsodies about pine siskins and Betsy-Tacy books, they’re still happening, just not here.
It was HARD to pick just two items for rhapsody examples. 🙂 It’s a long list, my enthusiasms. Fountain pens, Pacific Northwest skies, Cybils books, Lisa Congdon, Cozyblue Stitch Club, sketchbooks, Creativebug, Scott Peterson, poetry, Ritter Sport Bars, Portland adventures, Journey North, Chronologically LOST, the northern flicker at my feeder this very moment, Holly Wren Spalding, Small Meadow Press, raisins raisins all we are is raisins, the Snoopy cast album, the Bravewriter Arrow I’m writing (Harriet the Spy this time), historical fiction, cherry cobbler…you Bonny Glen readers know better than anyone what lights me up. I could link almost every one of those off-the-top-of-my-head items to a post (or many posts) here. I won’t, because that takes too long.
(The WordPress SEO plug-in is constantly yelling about my failure to include internal links. It also berates me for writing long sentences. I laugh and ignore it. I can’t remember the last time I looked at traffic stats for this blog.)
When I was assessing my lapses here last fall, I realized I knew exactly how I wanted to use this space—the way I always have: a chronicle of my enthusiasms and the hilarious or thought-provoking things my kids say. Those are the things I want to remember, and to lavish words upon.
Two years ago, when I became compelled to do some writing about policy and advocacy, I decided Facebook was the best space for that—the place where I seem to connect most directly with the largest number of people. (I have more followers on Twitter, but I seldom tweet anymore. My FB connections are almost always people I actually know, and therefore the chances of a real discussion are higher than in the Twitter flood.)
A while back, I started compiling these little happy lists—the sorts of things I’ve been posting here in the past couple of weeks—in my notebook at first, and now spilling onto the blog. Two years in a row, I had the Flow Magazine “Tiny Pleasures” page-a-day calendar (I miss it!) and it was easy to jot down two or three or ten tiny pleasures of my own on a planner page. But I write to share, and I believe in habits. It’s a habit worth cultivating: recording those little happy lists here where we can talk about them. I mention something, and you mention something back, and next thing you know, Isabella Tree’s Wilding is on my nightstand waiting its turn…that’s what I always loved about blogging, those sparks flying back and forth.
It does feel, sometimes, like half a picture, or an indulgence. Serious and dangerous matters require our urgent attention. I’m doing my best to further discourse (especially around practical policy solutions) and spur compassionate action. I’m…just not doing it here. My kids love to tease me about my passion for containerizing. Show me a jumble and I’ll give you a nice basket. When things heated up after the 2016 election, I realized I needed online containers, too, in order to maintain balance and composure. In order to do the work, but not be consumed by it. In order to keep noticing and celebrating the many riches all around me—those pine siskins, this beautiful book. The way Scott keeps me supplied with specially extra-caffeinated cocoa so I can get up before dawn to write. The way the sunrise begins with deep blue, not the pink or gold you expect. The delight of seeing Bean and Rose walk down the street to have lunch at a favorite café. The broad expanse of crocuses that will bloom in Wilshire Park only a few weeks from now.
The happy jolt I get—still, a year and a half after the move—every time I see Klickitat Street on a sign.
So. Little happy lists here, and serious policy discourse there, and occasional light snark on Twitter, and whatever it is I do on Instagram. (It’s seasonal, I guess? My Stories tend to be a mix of day-in-the-life homeschooling glimpses and Portland adventuring. My grid is 85% swooning over nature. I guess it’s like when I sweep everything off the counter into a pretty box to be sorted later. People who’ve helped me pack for a move know what I’m talking about.)
Do any of you compartmentalize your social media this way? I’d love to hear what balance looks like for you. I know some of you don’t do FB or IG at all, and with Facebook especially I see the wisdom in that.
As a postscript I’ll add that lately, my favorite thing about this blog is clicking the ‘related posts’ button at the bottom. It keeps tumbling me into moments I had no memory of, and I’m grateful for the archive.