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
Where our shoes land tells you where we’ve been, where tiredness overtook us or we decided, This is it, I’m in for the night. This spot below the kitchen table suggests we started talking: his brother, my applicants, the little list we keep of what hasn’t been done — car headlight, fig tree, pest control, and aren’t we almost out of milk?(Yesterday we both went to the store without checking in. The result: four dozen eggs and a line of rice crackers on the shelves.) On my side bags gather in need of emptying. On his a folded paper towel where he rests his elbow. Maybe there are houses where the shoes always land in closets or in a special rack by the front door. But would I want to live there? Here I can trace our days by the places we paused, then unlaced, realizing now I am home.
July 28, 2015
I know I am middle aged by how much domesticity roils through my writing, my photos, my discussions. Back in my mid-20s, when I worked a corporate job, I would eat lunch in the cafeteria with my older coworkers. (Sometime during that time they made a smoking room in the cafeteria, forcing the smokers into one hazy space with their cigarettes. They were terribly offended.) At lunch the talk would turn to gardens, the weekends spent mulching and trimming back, the best place to plant a hydrangea. Inside I would roll my eyes. How do I keep myself from becoming that person?
A few decades later, here I am snapping pictures of the cosmos crowding the path, the invasive passion vine that’s taken over what was once the veggie bed. I talk bathroom remodels and pest control with friends. And on my day off I make okra pilaf, jetting to Trader Joe’s to buy bacon, and read about infusing my vodkas with summer’s fresh berries. The domestic is all around me, and so often I’m like a downhome version of some celebrity lifestyle blogger, offering up the picturesque and enviable without the high price tag. Here is my CSA basket. Here the nectarines I cooked on the grill.
And here the laundry I woke to this morning, folded in front of the TV while watching an awkward and accurate movie last night. In the kitchen, cheese wrappers and ringed mugs collect on the counter. There the stain from the nail polish I spilled last week, there the half-read magazine folded over and sliding off the coffee table. The house teems with all that needs to be done. Will I ever make it through those piles? Is the fig tree dying from lack of water? What are we going to do about the tiles that have fallen off the porch? Why didn’t I plant the basil in a more protected spot?
July 25, 2015
Instead, a smattering of what life has brought my way. An old friend in front of an old painting. A wedding, a message, and century plants towering against a stormy sky.
Meanwhile, back home, the daily continues. We shave and brush and swab and spread. We read Nora Ephron’s prescriptions of marriage, shared by a friend in a wedding card. We fail to sit on the living room furniture and fail to sell it on Craigslist. (Vintage rattan could be yours.) And the CSA basket keeps coming and cornichons go into vinegar and pickling spices and we can’t stop eating them.
In Austin the rents still rise and a few places, against the odds, keep the faith.
And, finally, a spin through Waco on the way home. A wedding ring store leaves me with far too much to say.
I was awoken, to start with, by one phone after another blaring flash flood warnings at 6:15am. Rain, when the plans included a walk with a friend. But our breakfast was delightful, the highlight of a day that wasn’t big on highlights. Then jumpstarting a car. Cleaning mold off the car seats, swatting mosquitoes. Conflict. Cleaning out the fridge. Tightening the sun visor screws. Trying to make the internet router cooperate beneath the old chair. Returning the almond milk, then buying it back again when it’s clear they will throw it away. Droopy dinner and evening on the couch. And then, before bed, giving the counters a final wipe down, I knock a full container of blueberries into the black hole between the counter and stove. As I dug them out of the dusty dark, watching them roll beneath the stove that Chris lifted with a heave, I thought it was time to put Sunday this Sunday to rest.
June 14, 2015
It’s been a decade or more since the house next door was sold, then demolished. The lot was left fallow and empty, then a gigantic new duplex framed and built and landscaped and polished. This cat belonged to the old house, a blue ranch we’ve mostly forgotten. We didn’t know the neighbors, but their dog would climb stairs to the roof and bark at us from on high. The cat, though, the cat stayed behind and began prowling the neighborhood. It grew wild and mangey. It grew skinny and fierce. For years it showed up on our back porch and Chris put out food, water. It wouldn’t come close. One time Chris thought he saw it dead on the side of the road. He picked it up, put it amid the wild plants, grieved. A few weeks later it was back on the porch, peering at us through the window. This cat keeps going, through ice storms and flood warnings and the hottest summer in Texas history. Through construction projects and police helicopters and the dense traffic of Riverside Drive. It hasn’t come around our house for years, but we still see it down by the Bazaar, another place that has survived despite its unlikelihood. Here it is again, with its off-kilter gait and tuft of white and fur growing back in patches. This cat, so long a source of sadness, has now earned our respect. In fact, you might even call it awe.
June 4, 2015
I taped the poem there so long ago I forget it, though I open that cabinet door daily to grab a plate, a glass, a ramekin. Before you know what kindness really is / you must lose things. In this room where so much of life happens, where we land in the morning and in the evening, often in between, where we discuss schedules and finances and the finale of Mad Men. You must see how this could be you, / how he too was someone / who journeyed through the night with plans… I believe in poems in pockets, poems pasted into the covers of daily planners, poems on cards pinned to bulletin boards. I believe in poems wherever we place them, wherever we find them. Feel the future dissolve in an moment / like salt in a weakened broth. I taped this one in the kitchen cabinet because it was the one we needed, would still need, would always need as we went forth as human beings trying to make our way in the world. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore. I taped it there to remind us when we would inevitably forget.
June 2, 2015
Read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Kindness” here.
I call it the chute, these last few weeks of the semester with final classes and faculty meetings and graduation to plan and a four-day trip to Bard amid it all. I enter the chute and it spits me out on the other side. Truth is, there’s no time in the Free Minds year that I love more. Everything we work for culminates here. And I became fierce about quiet. Greedy. So Tuesday night, no place to be, I gather to myself cat, book, couch, silence. I hold on selfishly. Just for this moment, mine.
May 5, 2015
Some days deny my ambitions to praise. Say, Saturday. The endless headache. The event we planned and few attended. The hovering threat of rain. The kitchen needing cleaning again. It’s when I know I must praise what’s so easy to forget, the house I get to live in or the legs strong enough to carry me through the exhibit. There are daisies blooming in the yard. Remember, there are daisies blooming in the yard. Except that I am thinking of my headache, the poor turnout, how I am again on the couch watching back-to-back episodes of Chopped. And then come the cats. Praise their oblivion to expectations and existential angst. Praise how they know an afternoon on the couch is no great disappointment. Praise the simple satisfaction we feel when Cosmo, aloof prowler of closets, leans his body in and naps. Praise his curled form, his quiet purr, the weight of him leaning against my legs.
April 11, 2015