Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We have another storm on the way, though this one will only clip Maine--meaning that we'll get a couple of inches instead of a couple of feet. Still, I'm supposed to be driving north for band practice this evening and then driving back home tomorrow morning, and I do not want to travel for all of those hours in any amount of snow. So I may chicken out and stay here.

I got back from my Poetry Out Loud gig around 7 last night, to find Tom whipping up a glorious and weighty meal of parmesan-breaded chicken breasts and scalloped potatoes. It was enjoyable, for a change, to be the one coming home late to a bright kitchen.

Today I'll be prepping for band practice and then teaching a high school class and then, ostensibly, girding my loins and driving north. I wish I didn't have such a sinking feeling about the weather.

My class should be fun, though. One of the kids at the high school won the state Poetry Out Loud competition, and I expect his friends will be giddy about it. I don't know this young man personally, of course (otherwise I wouldn't have been a judge), but he was impressive onstage, combining an old-fashioned sensibility (he chose to memorize poems by Du Bois, Byron, and Stephen Crane) with a compelling physicality. And he's an immigrant, which also makes me proud.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

From my study window I can glimpse, through the bristle of roofs and fences, a freight train slowly rolling through the neighborhood. It is strange to live so close to the tracks. I wonder if we are on the right side or the wrong.

Yesterday evening, as the chicken and rice soup simmered, I lit a fire in the woodstove, sat myself on the couch with a cup of coffee, and instructed myself to write. And oddly enough that bossiness worked: my housework essay underwent a sudden burst of progress. While nowhere close to finished, it now seems to have a more purposeful arc, and I am slowly figuring out how to insert my narrative voice and an imagined third-person character in and among the historical details. But slowly remains the operative word. Writing this essay is like wading through molasses.

[FYI, the soup was magnificent. First, I made broth (a half-dozen unpeeled garlic cloves, half an onion, a carrot, a pinch of dried sage, and two dried hot peppers, boiled it up for an hour and then sieved and pressed out the solids); added diced potatoes, carrots, and chicken breast and simmered for half an hour; added a cup of leftover cooked basmati rice and a handful of spinach and heated through; added, off heat, a maceration of fresh basil leaves, diced fresh tomato, minced garlic, fruity olive oil, and grated parmesan. Served with a toasted baguette and a salad of sliced radishes, capers, pecans, and greens.]

Monday, March 19, 2018

This week I am back to busyness. With no snowstorms in sight, I'll be heading to Waterville for the Poetry Out Loud finals tomorrow, then teaching on Wednesday afternoon, then driving north for band practice on Wednesday night, then rushing home on Thursday for class prep, and then teaching again on Thursday night. I suppose this is how regular people live, but it seems like a lot of uproar to a homebody.

Thus, today I will wash sheets and clean the oven. In the meantime, I will also think about mothers and sons. Last Friday, as I was talking to the men who showed up for the community writing session, I understood how ubiquitous that link can be. A young man from the American South; an older man from the Democratic Republic of Congo: both spoke yearningly of their mothers, as if there, in that connection, lay the soul of their loves and troubles. I, the mother of sons, could not help but worry and rejoice and worry. I do not know the future of my own tremulous link, only that it will continue to vibrate. Every day I miss the presence of their bodies in my empty rooms; their laughter, their huffy complaints, their outrage and their patience. And then the phone rings, and I answer, and even through the crackling ether, I feel our line trembling again.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

It's 10 degrees in Portland this morning, and the furnace is sighing and groaning in a January state of mind. Yet the sunlight speaks of spring. I am sitting here on the couch thinking of making more coffee and of eating breakfast, but mostly enjoying doing neither of those things. Yesterday we ran a few hardware-store errands, watched a little basketball, walked out after dark for dinner and beer. And now we have an unstructured Sunday ahead of us.

This sunlight is making me long for the garden, but there's no chance of that. Fortunately I have some store-bought daffodils for comfort, and the yellow looks lovely against the grey walls. Here, in the following sloppy photo, you can see the old stone jar and the top of my granddad's Victrola (don't worry; the stripe on the left is just sunshine), which was in the western Pennsylvania farmhouse he bought in 1969, when I was five years old: the place I have written of so often--where all the furnishings were redolent of 1910, and everything was faded and dusty and cheap and inconvenient and ugly, and fated to become more so over the years . . . and yet I loved it so much, even more than my Harmony land.

I think I will have to write about it again. I feel it looming over my housework essay, though I thought, with my Millbank piece, I might have managed to say what needed to be said about the place and its stuff.

Still, it comes back to me, year after year, decade after decade. The place is woven into my synapses and does not forsake me.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

I've spent the past two weekends on the road, so I am very pleased to be going nowhere today. But there will be no gardening. Though the sun is shining  brightly, the temperature has dropped precipitously, and I do hope my exposed tulip shoots will weather the cold snap. Mostly the yard is still covered with snow, but a large patch of south-facing front garden has reverted to bare ground, thanks to reflected house heat and a dryer vent, and it's given my bulbs a perhaps too-enthusiastic start. It's a good thing they're tough.

Still, I'm going to think about gardening. I've almost finished filling out my seed order, and today I'm hoping to reorganize the tool shed so I can squeeze my wheelbarrow out from behind Tom's lumber pile. Inside, I'd like to solve our window blind problem. I'm hoping we'll get the freshly painted guest-room door installed.

Little by little this place pulls itself together. Someday we might even get the dishwasher out of the living room.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Last night I came back from class so happy. These essay revisions that my students have submitted are good. It is wonderful how much their confidence and control have advanced since their first drafts, and I feel all the joy of a proud teacher . . . though I didn't do any more than create a space for us to think out loud about what they were doing and trying to do.

And then Tom and I sat on the couch and ate mangos and watched a ridiculous Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, and meanwhile my son texted me nonstop about our NCAA bracket competition, which, believe it or not, I am winning. So all in all, it was an enjoyable Thursday night.

This morning I'll be doing class prep and hammering away at my own essay, and then this afternoon I'll go into town to work with whomever shows up for support at the volunteer writing project. And then I think I'll be sitting on the couch watching basketball. It appears to be my motherly duty.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

It appears, for a change, that I might actually get to teach a class tonight. And if you want to pretend you're there with me, you can read the essay we'll be discussing: E. B. White's Death of a Pig, one of the finest considerations of the human-animal relationship ever written. I'll be rereading it myself this morning, here in my little blue room, sitting in my yellow armchair beside the window, lifting my head now and then to gaze out over snowy fences and toolsheds and packs of self-satisfied squirrels.

Speaking of self-satisfied, today is Ruckus's fifth birthday, and so far that fathead has celebrated by clawing up the couch and threatening to drink paint water. Once he ate a tack, just to see what I would do. And yet here he is: enthusiastically healthy and as vain as a Kardashian. Apparently if you're a cat, it's excellent luck to be born on the ides of March.