All posts filed under: motherhood

Yellowstone canyon | edge of evening

Postcard from now: canyon

Like the diaries I tried to keep as a child, the blog seems harder to come back to the longer I leave it. The gap between the ‘I’ and I myself growing until it is like the Yellowstone canyon we looked out over in the summer —not particularly wide, but deep, so very deep. * Walking into town one morning last week, I waved at a playground acquaintance walking in the other direction. You’re alone! she called across the street. Yes, I replied. I feel very alone. You’ll have to get a job! she shouted. Yes. I will. She too was alone, I later noted. But, yes, she does have a job. * (The waving. A tick that I can’t seem to stop. I greet everyone with hi and a small wave, as though I think everyone I meet is two-years-old.) * There is the usual question of what the normal week might look like. First there is the week when the older two go back to school. Then there is the week when the …

Astrantia Roma | edge of evening

Solstice in three parts

A couple of weekends ago I went to Bath with friends. We were there to celebrate A-M’s 50th birthday. I remember, so clearly, trying to leave the house for her 40th birthday party, at a community centre five minutes up the road from our Colliers Wood flat. T was a little under two weeks old. I was sitting on the bed feeding her and each time I thought that she was finished & I would be able to slip out, a blush of pink would rise on her face, clouding to red & a curl of displeasure would appear around her mouth, before she again began to cry & I again began to feed her. Late, sometime after nine, I did slip out and felt all the strange vulnerability one feels out in the world postpartum, without an obvious pregnancy or a tiny baby to signal to people that they shouldn’t knock into you, should treat you with an exaggerated care and concern. I must’ve stayed less than half an hour. A decade later and …

elderflower blossom | edge of evening

Gone camping

It sometimes seems to me an enormous act of hubris, the planning we do for the coming year in those short December days after Christmas. But plan we do. Sitting on either end of the sofa, sipping coffee. Alone with a notebook. We talk of holidays and milestones; dreams and desires; the simple things that we would like more or less of in the months to come. They’re not usually grand plans. Some new meals in the rotation; early nights in January; a plan to spend more evenings reading or playing the guitar. Yet, still, I wonder if the Gods are watching. The small but persistant thought: just let us all still be here this time next year. That is the baseline, the everything, the true extent of my ambition. This year, we did make bigger plans. Shifts in the balance of our days; a move towards a more equal share in the work of home and the work of the world. And then we backed away from those plans, postponing but not abandoning, in favour of …

Of Woman Born, Adrienne Rich | edge of evening

Of Woman Born

I don’t know why I thought I could get away without reading Of Woman Born. Its canonical status felt off-putting; its age (it was first published in 1976) surely meant it would be dated, unnecessary. But still, it was always there. It was reading, and loving, Rachel Zucker’s Mothers, itself interspersed with quotes from Rich’s classic, that finally pushed me to read it. And, of course, I was wrong. Reading Of Woman Born, during long February evenings on the sofa as B played acoustic guitar beside me, I felt it cracking open the very ground I find myself standing on. As Rich writes in her 1986 introduction, “Some ideas are not really new but keep having to be affirmed from the ground up, over and over. One of these is the apparently simple idea that women are as intrinsically human as men, that neither women nor men are merely the enlargement of a contact sheet of genetic encoding, biological givens. Experience shapes us, randomness shapes us, the stars and weather, our own accommodations and rebellions, above all, the …

Postcard from last week: the weeks/the years

I think that the weeks are rolling by. Then I start to think that the months are rolling by. The weather is cold, mostly grey, and it’s hard to reconcile with the fact that it’s May. There are still flowers on the magnolia, hiding behind the soft flush of new leaves. The wisteria, which we planted last spring, unfurled leaves of copper-tinted green which were all frazzled in the heavy frost last week. The budding leaves of the hibiscus too are curled with frost damage. The lawn, each year narrower than the year before, has been bolstered by new turf along one edge. The other side is patiently waiting its turn. The new grass is growing thick and lush, several shades darker than the rest of the lawn. We went to France for Easter. Early one morning, I climbed out of the bedroom window & down the stone steps to the garden to go for a run. As I left the thick walls of the house my emails came through and I found myself looking at the Pip-Pop’s school acceptance. …

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer | edge of evening

The Pumpkin Eater

A womb isn’t all that important. It’s only the seat of life, something that drags the moon down from the sky like a kite and draws the sea in and out, in and out, the world’s breathing. At school the word ‘womb’ used to make them snigger. Women aren’t important.The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer I‘ve been doing a lot of rereading these past few weeks. Looking back at books I’ve loved & trying to  see them afresh, wondering always how they cast their magic. But one new-to-me book I have read is Penelope Mortimer’s slim 1962 novel, The Pumpkin Eater, now reissued as both a NYRB Classic and a Penguin Classic. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of a woman married to her fourth husband, an up and coming screenwriter (based on the author’s husband, John Mortimer) and the consequences of his infidelities and her focus on their home and many, many children. The writing is so fresh — funny and moving by turns — with wonderful dialogue and a great deal of space between what is …

Wildeve in frost | edge of evening

Four

I sometimes find myself thinking the strangest things. One of these thoughts, which occurs somewhere towards the end of every school term is, it’s always some time of the year. It sounds like a complaint, and in some ways it is, but I take comfort from it. It’s true, if it’s not nearly the summer holidays, then it’s Harvest Festival, or Easter, or someone’s birthday, or it’s Christmas. And though each of these things means that cakes have to be baked or presents wrapped or costumes acquired or fashioned, they’re also the rhythm to our year, the seasonal beat to our children’s childhoods. I just looked back at this time last year. Once again, it’s the school Christmas Fair tomorrow. We celebrated the Pip-Pop turning four last weekend. Earlier in the week one of his pre-school teachers heard me calling him Mops (Popsy/Pops/Mops — all still in use) & laughed. And I thought, oh, yes, he’s C to you. He sat down at the table earlier in the week and declared that he was going …

Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce | edge of evening

Love Me Back

I knew nothing about Merritt Tierce’s debut novel Love Me Back when I picked it off the shelf at the library a few weeks back. I’d only heard of Tierce because I’d read her widely circulated essay on money and writing back in September, in which she wrote about the financial reality that followed publishing a first novel to ‘wide acclaim’, For over a year after Love Me Back came out I woke up every day with this loop in my head: I should write. But I need money. If I write something I can sell it and I’ll have money. But I need money now. If I had money now, I could calm down and write something. I don’t have money now, so I’m probably not going to be able to calm down and write something. To have money now, I need a job. I should get a job.Merritt Tierce I remember reading that piece and feeling sympathy, but also thinking, maybe your book just isn’t as good as you think it is. I was so very …

Wildeve buds in frost | edge of evening

Talking to myself (or, go & read these essays)

After half-term & various illnesses and school events etc, Wednesday was the first day in three weeks that everyone has been at school/pre-school for their full hours. And, oh, the joy of those precious hours alone. I read so many good things that morning & I wanted to share a couple of them here — though I suspect that many of you will already have read them. * Firstly, I reread Rachael Nevins on Elena Ferrante’s Frantumaglia. I love this essay so much! I’ve enjoyed Rachael’s blog for years & so it was wonderful to read how she recognised her personal ‘frantumaglia’ in Ferrante’s fiction. Few people know about my phobia, because it is so peculiar that even I can hardly account for it; now I have a word I can use to tell the strangest thing about me, the way that my mind snags on certain objects of the world, allowing an inexplicably horrifying disorder to tumble in. “Why might you have felt that you were going to pieces?” asked my therapist after my honeymoon. Her question seemed to be beside the …

Mothers by Rachel Zucker | edge of evening

Mothers

And then I was a mother. The mother. And all my mothers could not save me.Mothers by Rachel Zucker It’s hard to remember quite how I came to be having a Rachel Zucker phase. I hung out with this poem by Jenny Browne for quite a while earlier in the year and, as much as I loved the poem, I also loved Zucker’s assessment of it as, ‘a delightfully strange poem: seductive but not coy in its disclosures’. (A dusty post-it note stuck my copy of the poem says ‘inhabiting a poem’, a phrase from an interview with Sarah Howe. Howe, I later discovered, like Zucker, was once a student of Jorie Graham.) There was a phase of internet obsession with Zucker: reading some of her poems, finding out that she’s a mother of three sons, that she’s trained and worked as a doula. That she writes about the messy, the real, the concerns of life and of motherhood: My poems have trash in them. Also: soccer balls, puke, toddlers, the New York City subway, dirty …