New and Old

This afternoon I’m going to the Salvation Army with stuff to donate, particularly clothes that Joseph has grown out of.  He’s probably in the middle of a growing spurt right now, currently in the last days (or months) during which he will be shorter than me.  I’m great at getting rid of things, giving things away.  I’m almost too good at it.  Sometimes Silas has to keep me in check and save things before I donate them.  I could just donate it all.  Less things that have to be dusted and fixed and kept track of and washed and put back where they belong.

So I thought I should do something new to this blog as well, and put a different picture as the header.  I considered the Christmas picture that we took of the four of us, but it wouldn’t crop to the right dimensions.  So I looked back at old pictures.  The kids when they were little.

It makes me think about how our whole lives are always part of us.  That’s something we can never clean out or give away.  Every moment of our lives is something that stays with us, and we are an ever-expanding garden of all the different moments that have been planted over the years.  So I chose an old picture, of my little children.  The littleness and innocence of their past is not something that goes away just because they are bigger and more complicated now.  Our own childhoods are still with us too, the good and the bad. I’m trying to help Julia see that too, gently, that the pictures of her looking like a boy are still part of her, not something that she needs to shut out or avoid.

And so we go on into the new year, and whatever things it will bring.

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Convergence

One of my great fears in life is of moments when everything difficult converges.  It happened yesterday.  It was the morning of my student recital, the long-awaited time when the weeks of lessons, of plodding through mistakes and repeats and practicing with my young musicians finally blooms into a beautiful performance in front of their parents and grandparents and everyone gets tears in their eyes and claps and everything is good and right and beautiful.

Joseph and I had been practicing a recorder and guitar duet for months.  It was so beautiful.  I was so happy and proud to play it with him, every time we practiced.

He woke up Saturday morning with a cold and a not-so-great attitude.  “I can’t play,” he said. I encouraged him to get up anyway, take a shower, maybe he’d feel better, please please please.  Maybe you can play anyway. “No.”

Julia woke up with an existential crisis. “Being transgender is against God. I’m going to hell.”

One hour to go before the recital. I’m sitting with Julia discussing theology in very frustrating circles that go nowhere.  Joseph is in the bedroom moaning.

But the recital happened anyway.  Without Joseph.  I clapped for my other lovely students who had not woken up with a cold or an attitude.

And one of my greatest joys in life are moments when everything good converges.  That happens too. For my family, it seldom happens in the moments when you think it should.  It probably won’t happen on Christmas eve, or any of those special times.  But it will happen.  Which, I suppose, is appropriate for the season, since even the birth of Christ didn’t converge under festive circumstances, but out in a stable during a hectic government census. And that was the greatest convergence of all time.

Autumn at last

During the summer in Fresno, the sky glares down at the dusty ground and seems to say “I dare you to grow, or live, or even breathe!”  And most of the plants, and the people, by long habit, simply put on sunglasses and, (in the case of people) stick to the air conditioning, or, (in the case of plants) wait for the end of summer in a near-death, drought tolerant sort of way.

But now it’s November.  The air is cool.  Rain has cleared the air.  The summer has burned itself out, the plants have said “Ha!” We have very patient plants, here.  Huge eucalyptus trees, rosemary, sego palms, things that wait. And now they are drinking in the rain and breathing and feeling pretty good.

It’s the time of year when people come out of the air conditioning and enjoy the company of the plants again, and the sky and the air.

So my creative need to arrange the things around me has spread to the front yard.  After three Saturdays, the shovel and I have improved the front yard just a little bit, I think.  I have endured the comments of passersby.  As I was digging up dead bermuda grass on the first Saturday, an old man walked by and said, “You like your yard dry, huh?”  I smiled politely, and said silently “No, I hate my yard dry.  What kind of silly comment was that!”  On the second Saturday as I was digging up more dead bermuda grass, a young couple walked by and the man said, “Nothing like good old fashioned home improvement!” I smiled politely, and supposed he said that because I was using a shovel, and not some noisy power tool that would have chewed up the sod a lot faster. But I was happiest, later that evening, when I saw an old man pushing an old woman in a wheel chair, and they stopped to look at the flowers I had planted.

There is always something that can be made better around us.  In my case, almost an endless amount of things.  But that’s okay.  It’s the doing of it that is important.  The doing.  Not the finishing.  And not the relative quality, the question of whether someone else might have done it better.  Just the doing.

Before

Before

After

After

 

What to say

Sometimes I look into my thoughts, and there’s not much there of a coherent nature.  It’s mostly, “remember to do this, time to do that, don’t forget about such and such, plan ahead for that other thing . . .”

Everything I look at reminds me of something.  Water that plant. Clean that spot off of the kitchen floor.  Fill the car tire again, because it seems to have a slow leak, and eventually I’ll be sorry that I’m not doing something about that, but maybe it can hold on until . . .

And it gets overwhelming.  I guess we all know what that feels like. Makes a person want to walk off into the forest and live off of berries. The forest doesn’t want to be cleaned and it’s tires never go flat.

The holidays are approaching.  Oh dear.  Get out the decorations.  Think about presents.  Figure out what to do about the fact that everyone in our household is suffering from clinical depression, except for me and the dog, and that this will complicate the holidays.  Try not to fall into clinical depression.  Just go for the occasional sad moment here and there in stead.

Now Julia wants to know what I’m doing.  Our nest is full, and our birds are needy, and not likely to fly any time soon.

Oh, the forest!

I suppose if I continue to not get around to trimming back the various vines and things in the yard, they’ll grow to cover the house and we can live in the forest right here, maybe plant some things in the kitchen floor which will be so dirty at that point it will be fine for raising red wood trees . . . .

Got to go.

Oh Joy

On Friday and Saturday it was over 100 degrees, the sky was gray with smoke, and there were ashes falling through the air.  On Friday when I drove home from teaching lessons, something else had caught on fire apparently to the southwest, and a huge billow of dark smoke was rising into the already smoky sky.  It felt like the end of the world.

And then Monday morning, when I stepped outside with the broom to sweep the back porch, it was raining.  Not very much.  Just a gentle dripping.  And the air was cool.  It rained on and off most of Monday and Tuesday, and this morning, Wednesday, the sky is blue (yes, not gray), the air is cool, and the birds are singing.  I could have fallen to my knees and kissed the ground.  But that would be gross. So instead, I sat on the back porch and played guitar outside.

This is symbolic of a lot of things in life.  Everything usually is.  But I’ll remember it when I feel that the world is ending on other days, when parenting, and life in general, feel up in smoke, I’ll remember how suddenly the rain can come.

I recorded myself playing guitar.  I do this sometimes (perhaps so that I can watch myself afterwards to assure myself that I am actually alive and kicking).  If you are observant, you will see the ears of our dog in the bottom right hand corner.  She was listening.  She usually likes my music, although she does, at times crawl under the couch while I’m playing.

El Nino?

In the mountains east of Fresno the Rough fire is burning.  It’s now at 100 thousand acres and only 30 percent contained.  For a month or so we were hearing about it in the news, and it sounded bad and all.  But yesterday the smoke hit Fresno.  Oh my goodness.  It’s really rough.  I don’t know why it’s called the Rough fire, but it’s really rough in Fresno now.  You don’t even want to look around you, or breathe.  It’s not a pretty picture.

They keep talking about El Nino in the news.  It’s supposed to be a big El Nino this year, with lots of rain for the drought-stricken West.  Putting aside the fact that it’s going to cause landslides and flooding, and not even end the drought, couldn’t it just hurry up and get here?  Put out the fire?  Pound the smoke out of the air and into the ground, or wherever smoke goes when it rains?  Please?

I’ve lately been in the mood to write again.  The old irresistible urge has been pushing me toward my neglected notebooks, spinning ideas in my head for the plots of children’s books, and even a short story.  I’ve hardly ever written short stories, and this one seemed to be clawing it’s way out of me, refusing to be ignored.  It was set on the coast, and involved waves and fresh breezes and cello music.  Not hard to imagine why.

No one seems to be predicting when the rain might come.  Or commenting on the smoke.  Maybe we’re all pretending it isn’t happening, holding our breaths, going about our business, trying not to think about it.  Doesn’t it just make it worse to say, “Man, this is awful.  When do you think it will finally rain?”

But man, this is awful.  I hope it rains soon.