Month: January 2015

Calm Things

[T]he goal is to create a world, a window, a threshold. The goal is to get at something real, pared down, honest, to make a connection, a place in which souls can meet. To make something honest, I have learned, create an illusion. Calm Things by Shawna Lemay For the past six months my evening routine has been made a million times more wonderful by a nightly visit to the poet Shawna Lemay’s blog, Calm Things. I find that transition hard, the shift from nagging about tooth brushing, changing the littlest one, warming milk and singing songs, to being alone for an hour before B gets home. There’s so much action, so much adrenalin, & often more than a little frustration in that last half an hour of my day with children. Frustration that someone won’t put their pyjamas on, or someone else has forgotten that they need to practice the clarinet, or someone else has lost the special toy they can’t sleep without. And then someone is calling me back because they’re thirsty & …

Wanderings & wonderings

Earlier in the month, our customary January picnic for B’s birthday. Another year, another Iron Age hill fort. This year was much, much colder. The pushchair, wheels jammed with mud, was abandoned half-way up the path, and collected again on our way back a couple of hours later. Whenever I think I might be safe to be let out into the countryside, I make a mistake like this. Who would try to push a Maclaren buggy up a very muddy hill? In our defense, we’ve just given our Phil & Ted’s — perfect for muddy walks — to a friend, desperate to rock her newborn to sleep in her living room. Anyway, mistakes were made, but fun — of a very muddy kind — was had, & the Pip-Pop proved himself to have some very sturdy walking legs. From the top, on a clear day, you can see the Isle of Wight. We couldn’t see that far, but the wind buffeting us up there was so strong that it sounded very much like the sea.

Between longing and regret

I live here in the realm of predictability. Each day goes by a mirror of the one before, a rough draft of the one to come. The passing hours bring variations in the sky’s coloration, the comings and goings of the birds, and a thousand almost imperceptible things. from Consolations of the Forest¬†by Sylvain Tesson (translated by Linda Coverdale) A quiet start to the year’s reading: a journal of six months spent in the Siberian wilderness. Tesson’s account of his life in a log cabin on the shores of Lake Baikal is full of vodka, cigars, reading, and drinking sessions with Russian fishermen. Strangely, I liked him more once he was master of two dogs, Aika and Bek. And here too the days are passing with rhythm and predictability. A new balance — waking early, writing in the quiet of the darkness, watching the moon wane — and sleeping early, dreams full of Twin Peaks. Here’s Tesson on his dogs: The dogs twine constantly around my legs; in me they have found someone who responds …

Rereading: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

“If I could see my mother, it would not have to be her eyes, her hair. I would not need to touch her sleeve. There was no more the stoop of her high shoulders. The lake had taken that, I knew. It was so long since the dark had swum her hair, and there was nothing more to dream of, but often she almost slipped through any door I saw from the side of my eye, and it was she, and not changed, and not perished. She was a music I no longer heard, that rang in my mind, itself and nothing else, lost to all sense, but not perished, not perished.” I first heard of Marilynne Robinson on a Saturday afternoon in the late spring of 2003. I was reading the Guardian — as we did in those long ago pre-children days — when I came across an article by Paul Bailey about a novel of ‘eerie beauty’ published in 1981 by a writer who in the intervening decade had written several non-fiction books, …

Reflections & intentions

The weather is mild again. The little ones are back at school. The Pip-Pop cried after we’d dropped them off and were walking to town. ‘Popsy go to school too, Mumma. Popsy want school.’ I feel jet-lagged — waking a full three hours earlier than I was by the end of the holidays. Through the loft window the sky is a dazzling turquoise and the clouds — fat and white with heavy gray bases — are racing by. If I think back, without looking, at what I read last year these are the ones I loved: Crossing to Safety, The Lowland, Leaving the Atocha Station, Light Years, A Suitable Boy and Daybook. And for this year I have a few projects in mind. I’d love to read/re-read all of Penelope Fitzgerald & Michael Ondaatje. I’d like to continue with my pencil in my hand, and I want to continue to start & end my days with a poem. T (seven & a half) is leaving me far behind her. At breakfast she told me the …

Last/first

Mornings beautiful for their encrusting of frost. Afternoons reading on the sofa. Silence at the turning of the year. Thinking about effortless effort. A year of something small: page after page of days in black ink. The company of friends, and the first year that T has been awake at midnight — tiptoeing down from the double-bed she was sharing with her friend and her friend’s little sister to stand wide-eyed at the pictures of the fireworks on the Thames. 1.30 & I creep to the loft ready to bring her home & find her and her friend both lying on their tummies, reading. Boys heavy with sleep and warmth as we carry them home. Starting the year a little jaded. I read Paddington stories, while B cooks a roast. The year ahead hazy with possibility. It will be the first year in seven that we haven’t had a child under two or been expecting another. That is something to marvel at. Moving to the next stage with grace. Never to forget how lucky I …