You don’t know where you’ll find the exotic. At the ball fields, empty on an August Sunday morning, a clatter. Look up. On the backstop, where hundreds of fly balls have bounced away toward the field, parrots. We lean against the fence like anxious parents at a game. We watch.
August 30, 2015
Of the weekend, we will say nothing, we did nothing. No movies, no dinners with friends. No parties. We didn’t change anything about the house or about ourselves. We went nowhere of note (a coffee house, the library). Time tiptoed along. We walked far in the mornings and witnessed others walking far, or running or paddling or pushing strollers loaded with dozing kids. The heat held off until noon. The house stayed cool. We lay down on Saturday afternoon and woke up three hours later stunned to find ourselves in the same day. We sat at the kitchen table yawning, the room as still as if it were morning again, as quiet.
August 29, 2015
After my last big trip* I came home and wrote myself a note. It said: Vivé, no one cares what shoes you wear. My intention was to hang it somewhere I’d see it when I prepared for another trip. My intention was to fend off what I’m doing now: frantically searching for the perfect pair of travel shoes. You know the ones: versatile, supportive, attractive, able to go the miles. (A pair of good shoes not unlike a good man, it turns out.) When I spent a year traveling I brought a pair of Timberland lace-up boots, matte black, waterproof or close to it, and a pair of Birkenstock clogs. That’s all I wore for a year. I don’t remember the search for those shoes, but I am sure it was equally fraught. These days with the internet it’s possible to read lists of the best travel shoes, watch punchy videos about why a cork footbed or bendable sole will change your life, seek images of a pair worn with pants, worn with jeans, worn with skirts. I fall over and over again. Shoes for me are the ultimate seductresses, calling me to a passionate affair though often fizzling out at first touch. The two options on my feet were worn over cobblestone streets by others who raved of their performance. And yet, for me, not so much. I remind myself, Vivé, no one cares what shoes you wear. Oh, but I do. I wish I didn’t, but I do.
August 26, 2015
*When I write “last big trip” I do so with an awareness of the great fortune of being able to use that phrase.
Some days are noteworthy only in their lack of noteworthiness. Granola in the morning. Old pajamas, the cotton worn soft. The computer monitor on the dining room table you know you should move. At the office, there is a spot open in the parking lot. At your desk, nothing pressing. The whole day, nothing pressing. Scratch a line through an item on the to do list. Scratch off another. Drive home through the neighborhoods and rest on the carpet while your husband sautés broccoli. Notice how fat the cat has gotten. Writing circle. Words on a page, written in marker, take you back to the french-fryer at Wendy’s when you were 15. Close the notebook. Listen. At the end of the day, nothing much happened. Exactly as you had hoped.
August 25, 2015
Mostly we saw her like this — through the crepe myrtles tending the pool that no one swam in. It shone blue past the fence, a filter occasionally spraying a jet into the air. Come over any time, she said when we moved in. We never did. But we waved through the trees, talked in driveways, rolled down car windows when passing by. Then a neighbor banged on the door, Mrs. Duckworth has died. Emergency vehicles swarmed the corner. Her son found her by the pool. She fell last night. I keep thinking of her lying there while our a/c unit clicked on and off all night, while the traffic on Riverside roared and we fed the cats and checked the doors and cleared the last crumbs from the fudgy chocolate hearts I bought for a friend’s birthday. We didn’t know. Don’t think about it, says the neighbor. After we finished talking on the porch, we went back to our days. Chris to his nap, me to my crossword, the neighbor to whatever was waiting for her at home. What else should we have done? I thought of the time I came back after a month away and she called over the fence, I missed you! I thought you had left. It was sweet. It was nosy. I got up and stood by the back door. Gloved men paced around her pool, collecting evidence. Then they pulled away, cars filing down the street. The water was the same blue as ever. On Riverside, people got on or off the bus. I sliced some potatoes into a bowl. Someday it will be me without whom the world goes on.
August 23, 2015
Begin here: thirty adults, strangers to each other, seated around a circle of tables. Where do you begin? A few chapter of Mike Rose. Plenty of nerves. A hearty dose of courage. Four questions that end with, What do you believe today? Belief, then. Begin with belief. It all unfolds from there.
August 20, 2015
Tired and exhilarated, hopeful and relieved, I arrived home from orientation with a hankering for gelato. It happens every year, the big ramp up for the day, the breathless rush of running it, the sense of miracle when it all goes off smoothly. Students arrived brimming with hope. They were surrounded by supporters — alums and advisory committee members and ACC staff and case managers and me and Amelia and Irene, all of us greeting them with all of our enthusiasm. They sit down cautiously. They listen. Across their faces flash fear and excitement, uncertainty and eagerness. Afterwards, tables returned to their places, pizza boxes stacked next to the trash can, paperwork filed back in our bags, I want to celebrate. My first year, I planned to meet Laurie and Mario and Chris for a margarita, but I-35 was a parking lot and by the time I got down south, the gathering was over. Perched on the upper deck of the highway, I cried. This year I arrived home and Chris was waiting for me in his pajamas. When I said gelato, he sped to the bedroom and changed back into clothes. But it was nearing 10 and the places were closed. I ate some chocolate and watched tv to wind down. So on Wednesday, the week half over, the next big class day ahead of us, we got that gelato. Chocolate paired with olive oil, a bench outside to watch the hip young world of East 6th Street pass by, we took it bite by bite.
August 19, 2015
(Written in writing circle 8/18, spool pulled from a jar on the table.)
It is my grandmother’s thread—wood spooled, pastel colored, beeswaxed, 19¢, fast to boiling, a term I imagine on a standardized test of the past. In my linen closet, on the floor, in a shoebox for shoes I forgot many years ago, a box of thread. Needles in packaging with fonts from the fifties. A pin holder like a bright ripe tomato. It’s still where I reach when a button needs reattaching, a hem tidied. My grandmother’s thread, though she died when I was 10. My grandmother’s ring that I wear next to my own wedding band.
So much on this spool I don’t understand. Belding. Size 50. Mercerized cotton. Driving home the other night, Chris says it must be hard to be young and keep up with all the new terms. We were talking about FOMO, his new discovery that describes so many of his life’s decisions. No, I say, it is hard to be old and keep up with the new terms. It is hard to be modern and keep up with what came before. This thread, bubble gum pink, no baby doll pink, no ballerina pink, this thread cotton candy, sunset, ball gown, the color of the homecoming dress I wore at 17.
There is a kind of capable in it for the woman who knew how to read its codes, who chose it understanding its size and shade and kind of cotton would help her create what she intended to create. She knew what she was doing, the woman who pulled this thread from the many and paid her 19¢ and brought it home. She could have been my grandmother, who disliked her lumbering body but used it to tend the new mothers in the maternity ward and stop at friends’ to check in and bathe her own cranky mother-in-law in tar to tamp down the eczema. My grandmother was capable, was strong, knew what she was doing when she did it.
August 18, 2015
The folders will be filled and stacked and carried and laid out, one for each seat around the big table. Inside a blue sheet with phone numbers, policies and forms to complete, assignments, a bookmark, a poem. We begin the night with Mary Oliver declaring again, Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life? It is orientation, and around the table everything buzzes. They are here for the first time — excited and nervous, beaming to be seated there, peering at the door. You have earned your place, Amelia tells them. I had never been to college, Irene says. Now I am enrolled for six hours. My office is right down the hall, adds Adrianne. We want you to succeed, I emphasize. Empty pizza boxes at the back of the room. The kids singing songs down the hall. I hold up the books. Plato. Shakespeare. Anne Lamott. I am so excited, someone blurts out. I don’t want to talk over anyone else, says another. The room is too hot, then too cold. The markers are fresh. With seven minutes to go, Amelia says, Stand up! Turn around! Shake it out! And then we settle in before going. Afterwards one then another steps up to say thanks and see you Thursday. And J reaches for my hand. Thank you for making us feel so welcome, she says. And I remember again that’s all that matters.
August 17, 2015
You look at the week ahead like a patch of ice you will cross but not without sliding a lot, not without a stumble, a fall, a spin that takes you in the wrong direction. And not without looking upward to be dazzled by the scenery. But focus. Balance carefully. Look ahead. Students and registration and phone calls and pizza and stacks of books and rosters and child care and parking. Somewhere in the midst of it, writing and exercise and eating. You care a lot about eating. So you head out early Sunday to the store and spend the afternoon listening to podcasts while you chop and stir and simmer. Veggie stew. Vats of salad. Jerk marinade. You ponder containers for carrying it all, seek the missing cap for the water bottle. Then fill a canister with granola, this one cooked with only nuts, toasting on low heat until the house smells golden. If you’re lucky, it will fuel you to the other side.
August 16, 2015