It was roads becoming rivers, homes becoming boats, sky becoming midnight dark in the mid afternoon. It was the whole city in front of the tv watching Jim Spencer cover the weather. Tornados to the west, to the north, to the east. Cropping up. On the ground. Sweeping through. It was alarms going off in the studio and in the house. Johnson City, get in your safe place. Marble Falls, get in your safe place. Cedar Creek. Bastrop. LaGrange. Never before. And the rivers overflowed and downtown became a flood and dumpsters floated on Lamar. And one young guy in cowboy boots clung to a fence outside the football stadium and the whole city watched him being rescued in a boat. And Jim Spencer led us through. Don’t worry, he said. Put as many walls between you and the outside. Turn up your tv. You will be okay.
May 25, 2015
So I find myself on the other side. Weeks of work and travel and endings and goodbyes and then that long day that culminated in a standing ovation for our students who had finally finished, who had done it all and wore caps and gowns and red medals I placed around their necks. It was over. The hugging and the racing and the planning and the doing. At my desk in the next morning I was bleary, puttering through simple tasks, talking nonsense with Amelia as we struggled to stay in the office long enough to look respectable. And then I headed home. By the mailbox, gulf fritillaries hovered near the Gregg’s mist. The air was thick, the winds gusty with another storm blowing in. And yet this butterfly landed on the lavender flower and stayed. And then, when it had its fill, it fluttered away.
May 19, 2015
Occasionally, it happens: the moment I would like to freeze, to stay inside for good. If this was all there was, it would be enough. Sunday, reading on the deck, the day breezy but mild, jasmine climbing the purple wall. Enough. Of course, soon Chris was late getting home from a mis-timed movie and I worried he’d died on the highway, and soon I was on the highway myself, off to a dance lesson where I am learning to stand tall above my own feet when I turn. Mortality has been on my mind lately–my own, those I love. I don’t want to live braced for disaster when there is no disaster. Here. Enough. A time between losses, as my friend wrote in a poem years ago, a poem I have carried inside me. This week I learn of her own deep loss. This week I am between. By evening we were on the deck again, eating white beans with roasted fennel and tomatoes. Chris noted the bugs eating the tree, the ladder propped against the wall for the leaves he didn’t clear from the roof. Come back, I say. Here. Between. Everything as green as it will ever be.
May 3, 2015
We meant to solarize the garden. We meant to spread the bag of mulch that is now split open and disintegrating into soil. We meant to plant the trumpet vine that with all the rain it didn’t get might have climbed the fence and burst into bloom. Oh, intentions. Oh, grand ideas. I meant to write 30 praise songs for the month of April, to sing and sing about the large and the small, about my life and other lives. Instead the month hit me with a headache that lasted for weeks, with doctors’ visits and house guests — each worthy of its own praise song — and the poetry contest that wouldn’t quit. We meant to keep water in the birdbath so that the fat pigeon that alighted this morning would have something to drink. Instead it investigated and flew away. Spring, my favorite season, came on headstrong and insistent this year, rain and sun and everything racing to outpace each other. My head said slow. My head said calm. And it kept coming — the garden and the birdbath and the songs I didn’t find the time to sing.
May 1, 2015
Praise the long days of April, when I can finish up those final emails, make the drive home, change my clothes, hustle across the traffic of Riverside, and still have enough light for a walk. Praise the boardwalk, which sometimes feels like it was built just for me, me whose six-word memoir might read, Loves to walk beside the water, who carried a Wallace Stevens quote tucked into the front of her journal for a year, Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. Praise how for these 45 minutes I can leave behind the HVAC installers up in my attic, failing again, and the budgets and questions of program outcomes and who really deserves an A in the class, and just move my sandaled feet forward. Praise Anne Lamott’s long ramble about turning 61, which I read aloud to Chris before bed, in which she reminds us, If you want to have a good life after you have grown a little less young, you must walk almost every day. There is no way around this. Praise how many writers I can carry in my head, their voices coming at me when I least expect it. Praise the health that allows me to be here, the slice of time between things where I can breathe, and all the pauses I make so often for skyscrapers glistening in the distance, for rowers gliding by in sync, for colorful boats awaiting their next paddle.
April 8, 2015
Praise the boy in the pew in front of us, his blue glasses held to his head with a strap, his bow tie and blonde bowl cut, praise how he rolled and wiggled through to communion, when his parents finally carried him away. Praise the girl in the white polka dotted dress, with her turned-in toes and messy hair that gave Chris a lump in his throat for a past so far away. Praise the children who took over our house for the afternoon, who made obstacle courses out of hand weights, bouncy balls, and an inflatable balance disk, then ran in circles around the couch. Praise their laughter from the den. Praise their joy at an egg hunt, at guitar strumming and piano banging and tapping the side of a mesh strainer to rain sugar onto a cake. Easter asks for the spirit of children, for baskets of plastic grass and cascarones cracked on the head. Praise a holiday that revels in glory, in youth. Praise our house afterwards, the confetti on the porch, straw on the carpet, the dozens of seeds pulled from out-of-date packages that were tucked into the soil by small hands. Who can say? They just might grow.
April 5, 2015
Praise the name of the restaurant I will never open, where cannellini meet garlic and sage, garbanzos meet spinach, borlotti meet stout kale and hang together with roasted tomatoes and bacon. Praise the way beans wait in glass jars in the cabinet, patient and imminent, prepared for the someday that just might come tonight. I soaked black-eyed peas all day, then gave them three minutes in the pressure cooker. In the pan they joined the deep deep green of spinach and chard. A little salt, a lot of garlic, and a flurry of lemon zested over the pan. Praise the freshness of spring. Praise earthiness, simplicity, the drizzle of olive oil over the top. Praise that first bite, when I said, “I could eat nothing else all my life.”
April 2, 2015
Praise the Swiss chard, as long as my arm, its stalks bright and rainbowed in red, yellow, green, its leaves fanning boldly from the baskets. Praise the people who came by to gush at them, to ask their name, as they sat on my office table displacing books and papers and one more manila file. Praise these simple images of abundance. Praise deep green and light green and feathery cress that peppers the tongue. Praise farmers and soil and hands that cut leaves from the ground so that we may eat, so that we may revel in the promise of a new season, so that we may imagine the many things we will cook.
April 1, 2015
Most days slide by on the calendar without much to say for themselves, and it’s true that I’ve made it my intent to celebrate in those days the small things — feet on the coffee table outside on the deck, the perfect Spanish tortilla, bluebonnets dashed with unexpected pink. But some days stand out on the white pages of dates. Today, for example. It’s the day I sent my friend Jane the latest draft of the poetry manuscript I’ve been working on. That deadline kept me going. And on this day 11 years ago Chris and I met for the first time. We shared a plate of fajitas and began the conversations that’s been going ever since. We’ll celebrate tomorrow, when I don’t teach until 9pm. Tonight we connected late, when I got home, talking as we often do at the kitchen table. Some of it was funny, some of it dark, but all these years later our appreciation for each other is undimmed.
March 31, 2015