Thursday, December 31, 2009

392: beautiful year, november

I turn thirty and am surrounded by some of my absolute most favorite people in the world--so much so that it is even a little overwhelming. We go to a vegetarian restaurant I've longed to try, and a week or two later, I receive a handful of text messages, telling us we had good timing--Cafe Brenda is to close. Despite this, I enjoy my autumn pie, my cranberry juice in a wine glass, my good good company, and finally kissing the twenties good-bye, which is more of a relief than anything else.

There's more hiking up Memorial Bluff, more celebrating of the fall colors, more of Penelope and Zephyr romping through the bracken. This is the last month Penny can come home without limping, and in December, I take her to the vet for x-rays, which come back inconclusive and are sent off to Rochester for further inspection. We joke about taking her to Mayo.

I make plenty of washcloths, as usual, and begin to learn how to felt.

We actually spend a weekend preparing the garden for spring--tilling the soil, mixing in leaves and compost, emptying the worm bin save the few worms that are left. I buy a composter and Ryan assembles it in the garage. We talk about getting a CSA share in the summer.

Thanksgiving is spent in Michigan this year, where my grandmother is in a care facility recovering from a broken hip. She has since been cleared by the doctors to go home, but her physical therapist has kept her into the new year. I head up the meal execution, but find there is no possible way I could have done so without the great help of my husband and two parents. My mother worries over my medication-sickness, but I assure her it's all part of the charm of my disease, and I will be better soon. My father smashes a deer on the way to one of our nursing home visits, and I forgive him.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

391: beautiful year, october

It's a big month, MFA-wise: so much so that I have to hibernate a little after. But for now, there is the MFA road trip....

... Meryl's first public reading ...

... Adam Zagajewski coming to town for the Twin Cities Book Festival, and after driving him about, dinner and lunch, an interview for our lit magazine, a manuscript conference that really elevated me ...

... Anne Carson(!) coming to town with a gorgeous performance ...

... and a hike with some of my favorite people in the program.

This month so much was about keeping up with reading, about writing so many poems, about making our way up the small slopes of Minnesota. The colors are gorgeous, striking. I bring my leaf identification book with me on my daily walk. We use birch branches for fetch.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

390: beautiful year, september

To celebrate the end of summer, we invite our nearby friends to our home for our annual wine tasting party. Because of some partner's working shifts, we end up with two parties--one with a Spanish theme, and the other second group of MFA friends and partners with a local theme.

More Hay Creek, more chasing balls, more summer. I forget, sometimes, just how summer can be, how it lingers and teases.

I get an internship with the creative writing department, I get trained in teaching freshmen composition, I start the second year of my MFA.

When I get to the State Fair, I think: This is my last year, but then the animals charm me. This year, I go with Kelly, the only person I've ever gone with steadily, and we bring along our husbands and I bring my former student too. We pet pigs, eat honey ice cream,

I get a tattoo. A really big one.

And I meet Maxine Hong Kingston. I also drive Jim Shepard around, part of my internship, to MPR and lunches. I'm schmoozing with authors. I'm writing more. I'm feeling a bit more comfortable here in the program.

Monday, December 28, 2009

389: beautiful year, august

Last year, Ryan and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary by visiting my grandmother in Michigan, and this year, we travel to Austin, Texas, to visit my sister. We discover the joys of migas and grackels, chicken shit bingo and ostrich cowboy boots.

I attend Bread Loaf. I'm on cloud nine.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

388: beautiful year, july

We keep hiking at Frontenac. The dogs keep rolling in fish carcasses.

We enjoy Colville in the summer. This year, there are gorgeous flower beds and vegetables, all in an interactive garden next to the updated playground equipment with squishy footpaths.

There is a small reunion of some of my high school girlfriends, three of whom are full-fledged mamas. Their children are charming, and it's good to spend time with families, updating one another on small accomplishments in life.

The garden is getting tangled, and we burn Ryan's father's tongue on hot peppers. I catch toads, which Zephyr and Penelope dutifully sniff and drool upon. I start a new blog, one that has actually stuck.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

387: beautiful year, june

Ryan and I go on our annual end-of-school-year camping trip with or dear friends Lane + Angie + Chad. It rained the entire day on Saturday, and we kept ourselves beneath tent flaps; I read The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon and tried to keep myself from rushing to the bathroom (that would be bout of flu #2, thankyou). Sunday the skies cleared and we were able to enjoy the falls. I love sleeping outside, and I love any time spent with this cluster. Cherries have come into season.

I spend half the month in New jersey, but the only time I leave the confines of the white house in Toms River is when we go to the shore, which is resurrected in a poem by my friend Colleen later in the year. I go out east strongly believing I will come back no longer wanting children, prepared to grow old with a series of golden retrievers, but then: look at how sweet they are.

Christian has his first birthday, which is essentially spent in the Nelson's garage, watching him smear frosting in every crevice of his face. This is followed by a rousing game of four-square while the birthday boy sleeps. I'm glad to be home, to feel the Minnesota sun and examine the Minnesota green.

We turn to Hay Creek on weekends to tire out the dogs. We pull our first strawberries from the garden. We're happy summer has finally burst into full bloom.

Friday, December 25, 2009

386: christmas glimpses

On sofa: Sue, Jimmy, Megan, Jack, Sean, Jim
On floor: Ryan with Zephyr, me with Sassy, Eric with Penelope. (Chance around the corner)

This holiday:

- I learned I need to figure out how to work the white balance on my camera. These yellow photos have to go, and I still hate using the flash.
- I have decided Jimmy and all his energy really ought to come home in my pocket. I adore that kid. And Jack too, but Jack's only just now emerging.
- Waking up to a three-year-old jumping on your bed, shouting, "It's Christmas, Aunt Molly!" is the best way to wake up with only four hours of sleep. (I'm quite serious, by the way, so Ryan should take note: next time you want me up before I want to get up, jump on the bed and shout something wonderfully exciting.)
- The oak leaf made from a beer bottle was even more beautiful in person than on the etsy page.
- Some of the sweet things I loved giving my nephews: these rainbow wood blocks, this construction plate and vroom-vroom utensils, this crash car, this crocodile clacker, and this sweet wooden truck.
- Spending Christmas with little kids is the best way to do it. That, or on a big trip, like Ireland or Hawaii or New Zealand.
- I need to stay away from the sugar cookies.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

385: beautiful year, may

We went to the Minnesota Zoo for the first time with our dear friend Mike. I fall in love with the Canada geese especially, the ones fiercely guarding the nest.

First Hay Creek trip of the season, and already the world has burst into green. I'm shocked and thrilled, trying to spot other instances of growth, of colors that aren't the same as dirty snow.

We go to Duluth for a wedding
, and the next day we appreciate the sun on the lake.

The semester ends, and I witness my first thesis defense. I realize I have a lot of reading to do. I survive another bout of the flu, a smaller one this time, and I'm sad to say good-bye to many of my classmates for the summer, though the relief at the end of this semester overrides much else.

I've finished my first year of an MFA.

Ryan and I travel to Missouri to visit our friends Dan and Tracy, where I feed carrots to elk, eat pulled pork barbeque, and continue my book-a-day of poetry in May, a project that I'm repeating this December.

I take my first letterpress class, fall in love with the Vandercook, settle for a Kelsey platen, and buy my first press. I love wood type the most, though I suspect lead will be my type of choice, sturdier and swifter and able to survive the broadsides I'd like to one day print.

When planting this season, we find lettuce from last year, wild patches of it, and have salad for dinner. We plant strawberries and peppers and squash and ease our worm bin outdoors after the last frost.

We begin Frontenac hikes, which are torturous, but gorgeous. On our May hike, we spot bald eagles, deer, bumble bees, and wild turkeys. Ferns are out now, a plant I love in its pattern and intricacy.

We go to farmer's market stands, bring home the first produce of the year, make plans for summer trips. I survive my month of poetry and turn to novels in June.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

384: beautiful year, april

I start the month fulfilling a promise to Kelly and watch her son for two evenings, one day, and I come away from the experience haggard and uncertain of ever wanting my own children. This solo-parenting is miserable, but I soon realize things change when it is a part of your own growth and change, and not a sudden trial-by-fire, not of my own flesh and blood. A sweet boy, but I know nothing amounts to the love a parent can have for a child, and I'm glad to learn the lesson of sacrifice a little early.

In our first hike of the year, we are surprised by a prairie fire on Barn Bluff. I run up to take photographs as it approaches and find myself a bit caught, getting out of the precarious situation just barely. The dogs and we have soot in our hair, in our nostrils, everywhere It's a beautiful and terrible sight, this renewal before growth.

I'm able to watch the cedar waxwings eat last year's crabapples from our trees. They're small, like cherries, and withered. I take so many shots that floor me, so close to the birds, such a change from years ago when I couldn't capture anything wild. A few days earlier, I found one of the birds on our storm doors to the basement; it must have broken its neck somehow.

Two of us get violently sick: Zephyr, whom we suspect has gotten into the compost, begins this awful shaking that appears neurological in nature. Ryan has to drive him an hour away, a drive where he vomits in the car so much that we have to have it detailed. The vet gives him activated charcoal, which makes him belch like an inked squid.

I'm also sick, the sort that has everything coming out both ends, often at once, humiliated and sweating in the upstairs bathroom. I cannot remember the last time I felt so awful, and looking back, I wonder if H1N1 was rearing its ugly head just yet.

Is this beautiful? This month has been difficult, for certain. The survival is what makes it resonate.

At the end of April, the daffodils rise up out of the loam, their sunny heads bobbing as I pass them on my way to campus. The semester is almost over and though there have been many high points, I'm mostly relieved. After two writing conferences, jury duty, and what will soon be two bouts of the flu, I'm ready to close down the running tally of failures in the classroom and begin again.