Getting Pink

081815(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

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Kicked Off

072815Where 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 Can Now Admit

072315This time of year kicks my ass. Interviewing applicants, twenty, thirty, forty of them, reaching and scheduling and inviting and welcoming and listening and explaining and testing and reassuring and then, hardest of all, choosing. It’s difficult to imagine a privilege greater than sitting down to hear someone’s story, the losses, the yearnings, the very hard things that kept them from what they wanted. They arrive with tattoos down their arms and onto their fingers, or in a nice blouse they clearly wore for the occasion, or with young children trailing behind to be entertained by cell phones while we talk. They laugh or fall silent with shyness or sometimes cry and cry. And it is an act of attention, of holding space, to be there with them, to really be present. And it tires. And so yesterday afternoon I stepped away early, came home, put on stretchy pants and lay down. When I woke two hours later the cat was snoozing at my feet. I ate tuna salad, cleared my in-box, watched Chopped, and went back to bed. This morning puttering in pajama pants I set tomatoes to roast at low temperature for three hours. They will turn sweet, so sweet, so slow and so sweet.

July 23, 2015

My Own Private Yaddo: Day 3

“Everyone deserves a chance to walk with everyone else.”  — “Hero,” Family of the Year

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I spend my third day wandering and remembering how wandering connects me to my creativity. Seven miles in and around the city, past the crowds and down quiet pathways. Out the boardwalk and into the city center, onto a stool at the counter of a loud diner where I read The Sun and drink coffee. Into a store or two and back out, down past the construction cranes. Then I sit with a watermelon agua fresca at the cafe of the disgraced cycling star and the story begins to come. It’s like it was when I was a graduate student, me and my notebook and a table somewhere with the music I didn’t choose piped in above. Words on paper that might become something. On a Sunday afternoon in almost-summer Austin, I am one of many women in a tank top and skirt, cap on my head, women on bikes and on foot and walking with daughters wearing the same outfits. We have somewhere to go, or nowhere to go. Later, on the Congress bridge, I help two older tourists find their way to a CVS. I walk past so much of my history up on the hill and through the streets of Travis Heights. Back home I lie on my bed, cats at my feet, looking for the first time at the paper. I’m not ready for the book review, for all the novels I may or may not read this summer.

May 31, 2015

2014: a 365 project

011715This is the book that was made from last year’s daily practice. And this is what I wrote about it on Facebook: At the end of the year, I completed a 365 photo project and then turned the whole thing into a book. It arrived today, and it offers such a sweet walk through my 2014, complete with cats and boardwalk and family meals and Free Minds evenings and Spain and spouse and flora and fauna, including an elephant seal. This post is to say that having a daily practice is such a powerful thing, even if it’s not in the art that you usually practice. It turns out this small action connected me to my days and creativity in ways I hadn’t experienced in years. I’ve got a new project cooking for 2015, and I want to say if you’ve thought of doing a 365 project, go for it. You won’t regret it.

(You can find my 365 project at (http://365project.org/vivellos/365).

January 17, 2015

Practice

011115Between dance lessons, where I struggled with the 360 turn and Chris struggled with the pretzel, we go for coffee. I stand and watch the barista bang milk pitchers on the counter top, angle the cup, and make beautiful flowers and designs in his lattes. “How long did it take you to learn how to do that?” I ask. “About two years,” he says, “and I still make a point of practicing so I get better.” It takes takes time, you see, to learn a dance move, write a story, make the perfect petals in foam.

January 11, 2015

Old Intentions

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If you came to our New Year’s day open house last year, you may have written an intention for 2014 on a tag and hung it from a branch. Maybe that intention became real last year. Maybe a new intention has arisen for this one. Here are the intentions we’ve held onto for you, still attached to their shiny ribbons.

Spending more time in my garden

Improve my voice and percussion; improve animal communications skills/volunteer
More dancing
Music from a violin
To prioritize experience over stuff
Let gratitude grow and envy recede
Clarity, peace and progress
Embrace my faults
Stay in my own hula hoop
Delve deeper into the mystery
Play with contra dance band more regularly
Good luck and good strategy
I intend kindness to myself and others
Saying what needs to be said
Be joyful, be thankful, love
Believe in myself
Happiness

If I were hanging intentions on a tree this year, I’d write: Practice. Reverence. Play.

January 2, 2015