Wednesday, March 31, 2010

442: page turning again

A week has drifted by, a full, plump week, with poetry get-togethers, a calming inside of me, a return of a husband who spent seven days in California, a cold that has ripped through my students, my friends, my Ryan, a putting away of knitting needles and return to the page.

As I age, my attention swings more and more pendulously: for months, all I can think of is the workings of my body, the frustrations therein, and then, I wake on a Saturday morning, not even stepping foot into the Loft offices, and poetry has filled me again, up to the brim, and all I want is to settle into a comfortable chair, or, perhaps, on the sunniest of days, on a blanket in the yard, and read until the world slips away, until I am fully ensconced in that new and fresh place.

I just started The Echo Maker by Richard Powell, who is visiting our campus in two weeks (and I will be photographing the event). I'm only a slim trail of pages in, but the language is lush, on the tails of the Miep Gies memoir (which was so sweet, so tender, which was written so plainly, and made me cry on more than one occasion).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

441: doula

The journey to doula continues. My certification packages arrived in the mail last week, and I've organized a small bookcase in our house just for the thick copies of natural childbirth and lactation consulting books, the doula guides and postpartum tomes. I'm working on a little space on the internet for doula-ing, prematurely ordering business cards so I can find my three lovely women who will allow me to rehearse those doula skills (or rather, get free doula services) for certification purposes. I saved the classes until late May, just after the semester cools off, because I thought, perhaps, I ought to remember I am still getting an MFA, after all. Remember poetry? Ah, yes. That. (I still love it, still exchange poems with my dear friend weekly, am going to join in on Eireann's challenge for April, am reading those slips of books in the mornings, when the sun is slanting just right, and I don't want to neglect it. That, or my beloved students, who are the kindest, sweetest collection of students a person could want!)

The embedding is disabled, but I urge you to sneak on over to YouTube to see this remarkable birth (don't worry, you can't see any of the naughty bits). It's actually a friend of a friend's birth story, which involved a faster labor than expected, a midwife out to dinner, and a husband waiting outside for the midwife's car to drive up. Turns out, she had the baby in her bathtub, alone.

Here's a screen shot (I'm now the naughty one):

My own body enjoyed the glories of yoga this morning, though the twists and rising and falling cause my hormones to wrench, my body to object. I feel sore and at peace, though I did spend a bit of time on the phone with my husband, weeping a bit at the two steps forward, two steps back of everything. I don't usually get so flattened by this process, but there are moments when I feel broken, feel punished, feel as if I may have done something wrong to deserve this, feel as if I'll never be well again, never be able to look back and say, Oh, that was the journey, and now here I am.

But: he has promised hiking in the evenings, long walks with the dogs, more exercise, and I may have convinced him to shift his own diet too.

One last thing: have you seen The Boys Are Back? It's a sweet story. Makes you fall in love with the family you have, makes you appreciate whatever it is that can make a home feel full.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

440: Ai, 1947-2010

I just learned the poet Ai passed away on Saturday, which is sad news for our community. She was only sixty-two.

I first encountered her work in her Selected Poems when I was an undergraduate. She was a visiting writer at the Loft (back in spring of 2001 or 2002), a mentor for Kathleen (my "boss" at my internship in the creative writing offices, so to speak). I saw her when Louise Erdrich did an interview with her--Ai's personality was buoyant and quirky. When her cell phone went off, she answered it, telling the person she'd have to call them back because she was at a public interview; the crowd, I think, found her charming.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I encountered The Killing Floor, a gorgeous, gorgeous book of persona poems from the perspective of murderers. It is an early book for her, not nearly as sprawling as some of her more recent poems, and I admired her use of language and voice. It's on a draft of my MFA booklist (a list compiled by MFAs at the end of their time here that is supposed to reveal influences in the manuscript and include a range of genres and time periods).

I'm surprised to find so little in the newspapers about her death; surely her contributions to literature were significant enough to warrant blurbs in larger presses. She was a writer of influence for me, truly.

Monday, March 22, 2010

439: sweet singing

We heard this song on MPR on the way to dropping him off at the airport (he's spending the week in Palm Springs for a nerdy GIS-type conference, then the weekend in Tahoe with his brother), and I said, "You know, I love, love this song."

Ryan said: "I know this band... were they on a documentary?"

Me: "Dunno." Shrug, shrug, more knitting.

"Oh! They were on Ace of Cakes."

Cake and banjos. Can it ever get better?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

438: a baby shower, a farewell

This is Bailey. She lives next door. Her auntie had a baby shower yesterday for an impending son, and Bailey's mama enlisted me (or I volunteered; I can't really remember what happened) in helping with the cake. This cake, complete with fondant, makes me appreciate that favorite show of mine and my husband's, so much, much more.

Bailey enjoyed helping. (What she doesn't enjoy? Wearing clothes. In case you couldn't tell.) You can see where she helped us decorate the dining room with flour below. Whoops.

And the homemade fondant? Didn't really work out. But we tried--it tasted better than the store-bought, but it stuck to just about everything, a gluey, bluey mess.

We baked the main cake in a nine inch pan, and then made a set of cupcakes, which we had to stack. I took a bread knife and sculpted the belly. Frosting it was so difficult, since the harder crust was gone, and Ryan told me he learned from Ace of Cakes that they let it chill for a day before frosting it, which keeps the crumbs from mixing in with the buttercream.

I painted on polka dots for the dress when the ribbon Melissa wanted didn't quite work.

And another neighbor came over to paint on: "Good-bye belly, hello Mommy!" along the sides of the tinfoiled cardboard stand. She added a little ruffle to the top of the dress too.

(I didn't taste the cake though. Sugar sensitivity, remember? Boo.)

And then there was the baby shower itself, which had little ones running rampant, little princess costumes and presents spilling over into the next room. This was Heather's first baby shower, though it's her second child. Below is a picture I snapped of the family: top row is Heather and Melissa's mother, then Heather the mama-to-be in the center, with my neighbor Melissa next to her; Emma is in grandma's lap, and Melissa is holding Bailey.

And, of course, I took many combinations of photographs, which I won't share here, but I loved the moments that were especially chaotic. By the end, I was beginning to feel like a photobooth!

A week from today, Brandon and Melissa and Bailey are moving three and a half hours away, due to economic pressures. Both lost their jobs over a year ago and haven't found work since; they're moving in with Brandon's father until things begin to smooth out. I understand and respect that decision, though I'm a bit sad: I'm a shy neighbor, who will be dragged along to block parties by her husband, but prefers hibernation above anything else. It takes a long time for me to feel comfortable, but once I do, well, you'll find me in the kitchen making cakes and leaving knit washcloths on the porch and trading peony roots for strawberry plants.

So long to the Evans family; I wish you much luck in your future, and I do hope you return to our sweet town. I'm going to miss that little Bailey, who says my name in such a squealing happy voice, who willingly jumps into my arms from the little stone walk that separates our yards.

When we were driving somewhere, Melissa said, "You know? We really like you guys. We like that you aren't nosey and don't judge and bring us beer..." Yup. That's how we are.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

437: spring manifesto.

Inspired by Shari, and after observing seasonal manifestos for much too long, I bring you my very first.

This is the spring that will be spent...

:: on the banks of Hay Creek, but this year, I want to find new, unexplored nooks

:: diligently sending the chapbook out, crossing my fingers for a new home

:: finding a new way to healthy, keeping sugar sensitivity in check

:: making good on my promise to weekly yoga

:: training to become a doula

:: eating outdoors on the patio

:: finding recipes for whole grain bread and pasta

:: hiking in Frontenac park, watching the dogs romp in the Mississippi

:: starting heirloom seeds in egg carton pockets

:: watching foreign films after the sun sets

:: going to bed early, waking up early

:: letting strawberries become the focus

:: wrestling with the sewing machine and winning

:: making the final touches to have the letterpress up and running (anyone know of a good source for wooden press furniture or Wickersham quoins?) and passed on for a year's field trip

:: falling in love with my husband, over and over again

:: spending more and more time with my godson, my best friend, my girl friends, my family

:: reading books on a picnic blanket outdoors

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Today, the love of my life turned thirty-one, a very lovely age, I believe. He likes to spend them quietly, so we had dinner at the table, and before that, we took a hike up Memorial Buff, a striking difference with no snow on the ground. We read in bed together, but I couldn't fall asleep, so I've wandered downstairs to watch my Netflix'ed disc of Carnivale, carrying a leather-bound journal with the three graces tooled into it, where I plan to keep my doula notes. Today, I signed up for a membership with DONA International, sent an email for the May training session, and ordered the two certification packages. I'm on my way.

Happy St Patrick's Day. Kiss a leprechaun for me!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

435: there was a prairie fire

It's not quite the same as being right there, but, in fact, the view from below is just as striking. Like holiday lights, like a string of city buildings all lit up, like cottages with the best view and a little fire in the window. I wish I could have taken photographs that would have done the actuality justice.

Other lovely things:

- My poem "The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake (II)" will appear in April's edition of Tattoo Highway.
- I don't believe I mentioned this before, but the other bookend of my chapbook, "The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake," along with "Kitchen" and "Palming Earth," will all appear in a wonderful anthology on sustainable food, put together by the illustrious Kerstin Svendsen.
- Not too long ago, my dear friend got a State Arts Board grant, no small feat. She'll be headed back to Japan, perhaps as early as this summer and so deserves this good thing coming her way. ♥

- Sparrows bathing in melted snow puddles.
- Our maple + zestar apple trees beginning to bud.
- Good movies on Netflix: I've Loved You So Long, The Girl in the Cafe, and Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself.

Monday, March 15, 2010

434: forgiveness

I bought the above stone at the hospital where Kelly gave birth to her son. We were in the gift shop, searching for an escape magazine for her to read, and this stone sat on a shelf, whispering to me about a forgiveness I've wanted for over a decade. I bought it to remind myself to strive to that, what Ryan insisted again and again to do: forgive, forgive. What use is holding grudges? What use is letting the past dictate a relationship, making it more and more tangled?

A few nights ago, I watched the documentary The Big Question, which had me bleary-eyed and has lingered long with me. The film is about forgiveness, telling hard stories: the Amish schoolhouse shooting (I remember being struck by news accounts of that pervading forgiveness), the Oklahoma City bombing (where one grieving father remembers how his daughter said of a Texas execution, That's just revenge, and the father was able to make peace in honor of his daughter), and so many, many other injustices--Hopi reservations, Japanese internment camps, Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, South African apartheid with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Thich Nhat Hanh, which was the draw for me.

I've been lucky enough to find myself in the act of forgiveness, and it's spread--making peace with the past is one of the best blessings one can encounter, I believe.

It reminds me of Life is Beautiful, a film I would end the high school freshmen classes I taught with--we'd watch the film and write an essay about how other characters we've studied made their lives beautiful (Atticus Finch, Martin Luther King Jr), how the characters in the film do so, how these students themselves look to make their lives beautiful. It's a wonderful way to end the semester, to look into months of summer.

I hope this coming spring continues to be beautiful; I hope I can find ways to push forth into that beauty, celebrate, make peace.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

433: something beautiful

You can watch a live webcam of this hummingbird's nest; right now, the world is waiting for her egg to hatch.

We've had a string of warm days, making me believe, perhaps, we won't get that last dump of snow we tend to get in March. I'm not mourning it.

The snow recession has left us digging out the backyard from natural dog-accumulation (ew), and it has revealed the slender stalks of onions lingering in the garden. I have not pulled them up yet, but I'm sure something good is there. I've also started to get our composting ready for spring: filling the barrel with more "brown" compost, rotating it frequently to release some of the melted snow accumulation, bringing in the bucket for our countertop.

My acupuncture on Friday went well; we had a long conversation about my condition, and I've started keeping a food journal, given the sugar sensitivity with PCOS. Now, I am more accountable, more focused on ingesting more vegetables and fruits, cutting down on the pastas, the breads, the cheese.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


After a few months away, I have returned to the fold of weekly yoga, and I am grateful. This morning's session has the world burning a little brighter, my body much slower and more deliberate, my mind more centered.

Next week is spring break: I have no exotic plans, but I do hope to go up north to visit my oldest and dearest friend Kelly, whose husband is a long-haul trucker and whose nineteen-month-old son is leading her to practicing single parenting. I'm hoping I can give her a little relief; perhaps she can run errands or go out, have an adult conversation in the evening that has nothing to do with the frustrations she faces in her managerial position. I wish we lived closer so I could be a pinch-hitter, pick him up from daycare at least, but alas, our geography and schedules prevent it.

Other tidbits about spring break: Ryan is turning thirty-one. We're both thirty now, and I have to admit, I'm loving this age. I feel more grounded.

Last night, as we were falling asleep, Zephyr began his Iseesomething!Iseesomething! barking, and I whispered to Ryan, "Do you think he ever gets hoarse?" "No, he's a dog." "Maybe he'll go cow instead." Gatsby, who I've nicknamed Ryan's nemesis, began purring between us; clearly he enjoys our evening banter as well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

431: natural curiosity

Being outside has been so amazingly therapeutic for me, grappling with my body, mourning the loss of young life, battling cabin fever. It's these up-close glimpses I love the most, seeing the early buds after a string of forty-degree days, examining the weft and wane of tree bark.

If you click on the image to enlarge this photo, you can see such very-small fungal growths, five circles nearly dead-center.

I tried to look up what it might be, but found nothing.

And this. Ryan and I wondered what might be living in this little burrow--what could cause such a dirt storm? Last night I dreamed we saw two brown bears, but I wasn't quick enough with my camera to later prove it. We'd certainly know if bears were wandering in our parts, and this is much too small for anything of the sort, though I love my chaotic dreamscape touched on this moment in the woods.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

430: a good afternoon

We took the dogs up Memorial Bluff this weekend.

Zephyr, in true bowling ball fashion, slammed into me as I was taking photographs of him and Penelope running with a stick. Somehow I didn't fall; I think it was the yak tracks. When I recovered, I looked at him, and he was happily panting away, the biggest dumb grin on his face. Silly boy and his gracelessness. He gets that from me, you know.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

429: seeing carolyn again

There are many good things in life, and last night, I experienced a few: dinner at a new restaurant with friends, time at a poetry reading, seeing a beloved instructor and mentor, introducing that instructor to a dear friend who loves her work.

Thanks, Sheena + Colleen + Meryl for a lovely evening. Thank you, thank you. I am filled.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Two weeks ago I was all shades of blue: the great steps I thought my body was making in getting well were reversing, stress was creeping in the background from school, and then came the news of Callen's passing, which flattened me entirely.

Ryan didn't know what to do, the sweet man. He felt so urgently helpless, would tell the silliest jokes (in the car, I said something was an abomination and he looked at me with his crooked grin and said, "That's where we live! An Obama-nation!" Wah-wah), and even came home with a fistful of carnations, so serene and stayed blooming until this morning.

I think of the color white, how it represents peace, and how I need to find ways to fill my life with that sensation: to allow my body to take its time, to celebrate the positive relationships I have, to enjoy the process of things.

At a friend's suggestion, I have contacted an acupuncturist to work with some of my woes. She and I have also begun a small conversation that includes my deeply considering getting doula training. The prospect makes me shiver with nervousness and excitement; it's something that veers so far from my passion for language, but it touches on that slumbering self, the one that loves to pick things up and look close, the one that is curious about the scientific world, and, as my internship "boss" put it, I want to do something with my post-MFA time that matters. Besides writing wee poems, that is.

Edit to add: just moments after I posted this Dina gave me a call and I have my first appointment for acupuncture, which is a week from today. She's worked with folks dealing with my particular issue before, and this whole prospect makes me breathe a bit better.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Images from the department's celebration of the release of Michael Walsh's The Dirt Riddles.

Also fun: interviews with the faculty in the PhD and MFA program.