Peaceful

082915Of 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

A Saturday Night

071815All those dance lessons have mostly shown us how far we are from being good dancers. The system is set up to get you to learn more, learn more, learn more. Shift from level 1 to level 2, from level 2 to level 3. Adopt the clothes, the culture. Add a move, a styling, a shift of weight you hadn’t tried. And then Saturday night we went to the Whitehorse and danced to a honky tonk band. This is what we wanted all along. A little two step, a little swing, my purse whipping dangerously around my body when I spun. The floor was concrete, the crowd mixed, and we danced all that we wanted to. We danced just fine.

July 18, 2015

These Things Far South

071115On Saturday night we sat in folding chairs beneath the trees while Strings Attached adapted the Beatles to South Austin. A little Texas Swing. A bit of Latin. A full complement of voice and instrument and heart, so much heart. We gathered in the front yard, all around us camp chairs and bug spray and tank tops, regulars settling in and kicking off their sandals. A woman in a head wrap offered massages on a portable table. People danced in the margins in their long skirts. Once there was a way / to get back homeward, they sang. Once their was a way / to get back home. Everything scruffy and overgrown, the barefoot child swept up into so many arms. This is a place I once knew. This is where Austin went when we weren’t looking.

July 11, 2015

We Had a Picnic

061315We strung the balloons. We filled the coolers with ice. We laid out plates and forks and weighted the napkins under bottles of ketchup. We cleared enough books from the shelves that nothing is left stacked, and we laid them on end on a table for choosing. We bought hot dogs sealed in plastic and sunscreen and insect repellent. We greeted Michael in his orange hat and watched him pile charcoal in a chimney for the grill. We waited. They came. They came with children and dogs and sisters and cousins. They came with memories and nervousness and for a quick spin or the whole day. They looked for people they knew. They hugged us hello and hugged us goodbye. Their children played in the water and came back slick and cool. The sun climbed high in the sky and the temperatures rose. The park grew busy and full. The hotdogs were eaten, one by one. We packed up. We thanked our volunteers, left behind a few cakes for the group behind us. We retreated to the air conditioning. We counted our numbers. We slept.

June 13, 2015

On Burnet Road, Old Austin and New

060615Behind the knife shop, where chain mail stands by the door, are the targets. Practice your skills — throw and land, throw and land. Next door, the The Pit. Across the street at Maru, tilting toward the sidewalk, they call Chris a “faithful customer.” Add a bow. Then change your angle. You’re sipping a Barolo at a wine bar over oysters. You’re eating a taco with chili aoili swirled artistically over the top. You’re admiring what the architect has done with this space that used to be so humble.

June 6, 2015

My Own Private Yaddo: Day 2

053015It’s a romantic idea, the writer at her desk behind the house all day, hammering out the work while the rest of the world keeps throttling forward. But here at my own private Yaddo, day two, it doesn’t feel romantic. I am fighting the urge to straighten the papers, vacuum the rug, spray cleaner over the whiteboard to make it pristine. Instead, I sent submissions into the ether to readers who may or may not want to read them. I ran the cranky air conditioner and waited out an afternoon rainstorm. A mosquito snuck through the door after me and buzzed my ears. My backyard studio isn’t Yaddo, even if I will it to be. But it’s where I spent the day, engaged in this thing that is sibling to the thing the real Yaddo-ians are engaged in at their cabins in the woods, romantic cabins where they surely feel nothing but productive and alive. So I finished the day streaming back-to-back episodes of Girls to see how they handled the writing workshops at Iowa. Like my day, it was way off and reassuringly familiar all at once.

May 30, 2015

Praise Song: Children at Play

042515Praise how a field, any field, means run! To the trees and back and–panting–let’s go again. Up and down on one leg or leaping like a frog or hand on the head because we are unicorns. Praise a pickup game of soccer behind the barbecue restaurant. Praise piggybacking the little kids as we sprint. Praise dusk coming on, the air April thick, parents waiting at picnic tables while the children keep going, keep going. Praise their breathlessness. Praise how fully they enter the action. Praise their dampened hair as we hug goodbye in the parking lot.

April 25, 2015

Praise Song: Napping Cats

0411151Some 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

Praise Song: Father Gregory Boyle

040415The first time I listened to him, I was planting tomatoes in the garden. This time I was taking my sore body on a loop around the lake, Saturday morning. Priest, teller, spirit, he reminds me again how deeply I believe in second chances. So praise his stories. Praise his laughter. Praise the tidbit about Diane Keaton being served by a home girl who seemed to know her face, then said, gleeful, “I know — we were locked up together!” Praise his faith in right action, in delight. What are we put here to do? he asks us. Love. Discover awe. See ourselves in kinship. Praise this one man and his voice that walks with me down this worn path: “The day will never come when I am as holy as the people I serve.”

Listen to him here.

April 4, 2015

Gathered Around

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If history is mostly the “usable past,” as David Lauderback asserted in our Free Minds second Saturday event, what will be usable from this day? I can’t know until I’m further into the future, but I might remember that we live in a time that exalts personal experience. (A blog of photos and paragraphs from my life, anyone?) Or that “Moonlight Serenade” was considered America’s second national anthem during World War II. I learned that there was once a national paint, varnish, and lacquer association, and they used Cold War fear to get people to paint their fences. And I was reminded, quite clearly, that the politics of the fear of terrorism are just the politics of the fear of nuclear obliteration, repackaged. But what may ultimately be usable to me, what might shape my future action, has less to do with historical facts and more with the mood of a room. An animated, smart facilitator. Students and community members gathered around a table. Conversation. Laughter. Connection. Because that’s what makes me return to create the next event, and the one after that.

March 14, 2015