Thursday, July 9, 2020

A massive thunderstorm roared through here last evening. One moment we were sitting outside visiting with our friend Lucy; the next, the sky was black; the wind was sharp; Lucy was flying back to her car; and we were running up and down the street calling the cat, an exact reprise of Auntie Em screeching for Dorothy.

As it turned out, all we got was a downpour, not the car-damaging hail that was forecast. So this morning the garden looks pleased with itself. The new blossoms on the sunflowers loom handsomely in the post-storm fog, and the tomato plants are sprouting with tropical fervor. I'll try to remember to take some photos for you when the mist clears out.

Today one boy is going on a bike ride, the other on a socially distanced date. I have to go shopping (ugh), and do some desk work. Yesterday I managed to finish two small editing jobs; maybe today I'll get another one done.

I'm still reading Barchester Towers; it's about all I can focus on right now in the House of Uproar. All spare minutes involve chatter, game playing, food prep, dishwashing . . .

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A quieter morning today. Everyone but Tom is still asleep, and I am sitting in my accustomed couch corner with my white coffee cup and a small bubble of peace. The air feels thick, as if storms are on the way. Yesterday afternoon I mowed grass and netted the blueberry bushes and harvested our first handful of green beans. The garden is stepping into high-summer gear. Tomatoes and peppers are swelling; blueberries are beginning to redden.

Yesterday the boys rode their bikes to the fish market and came home with two mackerel and two trout. Tom grilled them over the wood fire, and we ate them with freshly made carrot-top pesto (a new venture for me) and a salad of roasted fingerlings, chickpeas, green beans, arugula, and herbs. Dessert was mango and pineapple ice cream.

Today the boys have a long trail-bike adventure planned, and meanwhile I will edit, and Tom will go to work, and we'll meet again for take-out barbecue in the evening.

I have a poem draft, carved out of a prompt I gave Frost Place participants last Thursday, that I'd like to look at. That might not happen, but maybe it will. I feel as if poet-life has leaked away from me quickly since the conference. I've had no break at all, just a breathless leap into the the next demand. Next week's trip to the woods is wavering before me like a daydream.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

This morning, my house is overflowing with boys: frying eggs, splashing water, clomping in and out through the doors, laughing and chattering. As a result, I am writing to you from my bed, hours later than you might have expected, because I literally have no quiet place to go to. This is the best I can do, and I can still hear every word they say. I'm so happy to have them here, and I am so worried about how I'm going to get any work done.

In a half hour I'll shut the bedroom door and try to concentrate on a yoga class. And then I'll move on to editing; maybe by then they'll have rushed off on their bikes, and I'll snatch an hour to work. It's toddler schedule all over again, only with giant 20-somethings. 

In other words: you'll hear from me when you hear from me. I have no idea when I'll find a minute to write.

Monday, July 6, 2020

James will arrive this evening. In the meantime, I have two meetings today, plus stacks of new editing to address before I vanish into the woods on Sunday. Apparently I have jumped straight from the rock to the hard place, job-wise. Ah, well. Not complaining, not complaining. Yesterday I scoured the bathroom floor; Paul washed windows; Tom worked on the countertop. Today, amid job stuff, I'll prep the welcome-home dinner (fire-grilled shrimp and steak tips, stir-fried bok choi, farro, pineapple ice cream) and try to calm myself down with occasional doses of Barchester Towers. Working with both boys home seems nigh on impossible, and yet I've got to do it. Somehow I managed when they were little.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

This morning, well before dawn, James drove out of Chicago. He'll stop overnight in Pennsylvania, and arrive here tomorrow evening. We are all excited. So many months apart and worried, and finally we'll be together.

In honor of his arrival, I'm reaming out the Zoom room today, aka the pandemic classroom: our tiny back room, home of the TV, and my conference webcam, and Tom's record collection, and the foldout futon, a room with which some of you became very familiar over the course of the conference. Now, for a few weeks, it will be James's bedroom, and little Alcott House will burst happily at the seams.

Paul is going to wash windows; I'm going to scrub the bathroom floor: that's the kind of day this will be.

Yesterday, I spent much of the day in the garden. I harvested garlic and shallots, and hung them up to cure in the shed. In their place I sowed late-season greens: lettuce, arugula, chard. I thinned the overcrowded kale bed, and moved kale transplants into flowerbeds and among the okra. We may end up with too much kale to eat, but the plants will be pretty well into November. I am a proponent of edible landscaping: not only because I love a kitchen garden but also because it removes the stress of "have to eat it all" when I end up with a bumper crop. No, I don't have to eat everything. I can just look at it, like I'd look at a flower. So now I've got curly, red-veined kale dotted among okra and sunflowers and zinnias and cosmos.

As a restful break, I've been reading Trollope's Barchester Towers, but I've also been reading Stephen Graham Jones's Mongrels, a creepy book about werewolves and transients--not at all what I would usually turn to, but Paul was assigned it in a class focusing on Native writers, and he told me I should. I am always very interested in books by Native writers, and always very repelled by horror novels about werewolves, so all I will say is that this is not one of the books I'll be reading when I'm alone all day in the Katahdin woods. It is a book to be read safely at home.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

I had such a delightful not-doing-much day yesterday. Paul and I spent a large portion of it watching Hamilton, which we have been longing to see since he was in high school. Then I went outside and tore out bolted lettuce and fading peavines, pruned tomatoes and transplanted okra. Today I'll plant new crops of lettuce and arugula, maybe some more fall staples like kale or collards. Meanwhile, Tom is beginning to cut up Corian for kitchen countertops--a slow but thrilling process. To think: in a few weeks I might be cooking on an easily washable surface. It's an exciting prospect.

In other news: while I was immersed in the conference, the boys were confabulating. And when I emerged, I discovered we had vacation plans. Tom had snagged a campsite at Baxter State Park, home of Mount Katahdin. So in a week we will be heading north into the woods. Even better, my older son will be here to join us. He has been getting regular Covid tests and things look good, so he's planning to drive east this weekend and join our family circle.

The four of us, in the woods. The boys, of course, are dying to climb Katahdin, and I am dying not to climb Katahdin. This creates a perfect scenario. The three of them will spend a day climbing, and I will spend a day reading and writing and playing music by myself in the woods. I cannot wait. No Zoom meetings, no phone messages. A stack of reading: difficult books, comfortable books; poems, prose. My son's mandolin. A notebook and some sharp pencils. Naps and walks. And then, at the end of the day, my beloveds by a campfire. It sounds like heaven.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Last night I posted the following on my Facebook page, and I want to reprise here, for those of you who may not have seen it in that forum.
Today marks the final day of the 2020 Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching/Writing Intensive for Teachers: Online Edition. This year's conference stands up there as one of the most challenging teaching gigs I've ever undertaken: five long days immersed in unfamiliar technology; working to support participants who, like me, were filled with dread about the world and their vocations; who were exhausted and angry and frustrated; who were struggling to find space for their inner lives, their creative spark. But we did it: we figured out how to be human, to share our love and our wonder, to write and cry and revise and ponder and laugh. We may be separated, but our community holds fast. I am so incredibly grateful to the participants who brought such magic to the conference. I am forever indebted to the faculty who shared their brilliant questing minds with us. Thank you, Didi Jackson, Angela Narciso Torres, and Cleopatra Mathis, for your devotion to your art, for your camaraderie and your friendship. Thank you, Jaime Allesandrine, teaching fellow extraordinaire, who brought us laughter and courage every day. Thank you to my partners in this endeavor--staff members Kerrin McCadden, Maudelle Driskell, and Jake Rivers--who believed in this program, and in our teachers and poets; who made this event so rich, who made me feel so secure. I value you beyond measure.
The conference was exhausting and at times scary; almost always awkward; filled with conversational  blips and chokes due to video and audio lag. Nonetheless, it still worked . . . and worked well, in its own crazy needful way.

Today, I hope to sit with the poem draft I wrote during yesterday morning's session. I hope to hang on to the sensation of kindness and goodwill that blossomed through my screen all week long. There was magic, despite everything.