All posts tagged: motherhood

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 …

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 …

all the books | edge of evening

All the books

Ten years ago this September, we went on holiday to the south of France. We were staying in a remote barn about an hour from Carcassonne. We got lost on the way, famously going the ‘wrong’ way — or at least the long way — round a mountain, on a road so narrow we couldn’t turn back. When we finally reached the road the property was closest to, we bumped up a steep and twisting 2km unpaved track in our rental car. Parked outside the stone barn there was an ancient yellow Citroën 2CV which looked like it might never make it back down the track. The barn was owned by an actor who lived in Barcelona & she’d furnished its open-plan room simply but perfectly: a low double bed, two desks each beneath its own window, a small sofa and armchair in the middle of the room, & a kitchen in one corner. There was a woodburner in the centre of the room & the September evenings in the mountains were cool enough for us to use …

3, 6, 9

3, 6, 9

Although everything I write is, in its way, about them, I don’t write that much about them here. Partly this is because I thought I’d only just given you an update about them, but it seems two years have passed since this. So, here we go. There was the annual beautiful chaos of T’s birthday party a few weeks ago. Thirteen girls this year, plus the two brothers. Craft inside — ceramic pens on birds, hearts & mugs — then pizza at the table at the bottom of the garden. Spontaneous French skipping, then pass-the-parcel and the crazy ‘chocolate game’. T threw her arms around each of her friends as they arrived at the front door and her delight, as always, reminded me of her sitting on the step waiting for the first guest to arrive at her second birthday party & her total joy when the doorbell went. She looked ridiculously beautiful in her own inimitable style — wearing one of her dresses from our wedding last year over three-quarter length leggings, her long hair clipped …

Love by Clarice Lispector | edge of evening

Short stories: ‘Love’ by Clarice Lispector

A series of posts highlighting the very best of my short story reading. 3. ‘Love’ (‘Armor’) by Clarice Lispector translated by Katrina Dodson, from Clarice Lispector, Complete Stories published by Penguin Modern Classics. I’ve tried reading Clarice Lispector before, but I’ve never managed to relax into the beautiful strangeness of her sentences. Then, yesterday, I read her short story ‘Love’ translated by Katrina Dodson & I fell completely under her hypnotic spell. “Ana’s children were good, something true and succulent.” What a perfect and delicious sentence. ‘Love’ is, on the surface, a simple story: Ana, a housewife riding the tram home with her string bag of groceries, sees a blind man chewing gum, and this encounter somehow throws her into a crisis — The knit mesh [of her bag] was rough between her fingers, not intimate as when she had knit it. The mesh had lost its meaning and being on a tram was a snapped thread; she didn’t know what to do with the groceries on her lap. And like a strange song, the world started up …

In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower | edge of evening

In Certain Circles

Whether the expressions so recently shown on her face belonged to the luminous quality of her eyes, or to the shape of her mouth, or to her nature, neither Zoe nor her mother yet knew: she was only seventeen. Zoe had awakened in this square stone house on the north side of Sydney Harbour, and learned soon afterwards from her family and their friends that she was remarkable. There was a big garden. There were people of her own size for company. At the end of the short street of old houses in long-established gardens was a white curved beach with rocks, rock pools, very small waves, shells, pebbles, fine sand. She swam before she walked. In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower Sometimes you read a book which contains answers to questions that you haven’t yet fully articulated. I’ve just been sitting on a bench in the garden, beneath the magnolia, with a riotous racket of birdsong going on all around me. I went out there to leaf through In Certain Circles, to remember why I loved it so. …

Apricot blossom | edge of evening

Full & empty

The days at the moment are both full & empty. Full of things that I want to explore intellectually; empty of definite appointments, except those imposed by the after-school carousel of swimming lessons and football practices and ballet classes. Full of time with the Pip-Pop — walking hand-in-hand to feed the ducks, watching him try to master the balance bike that his big brother used to whiz around on, helping him to hold a pen, watching as he tries to write words with magnetic letters on the fridge; empty of constraint, since most days we are free to do whatever we want to (between 9 & 3, which is obviously a large constraint of its own — and together, also a constraint worth mentioning). It’s good to be back in the rhythm of school this week, but it’s also terrifying to realise that the only thing that normally makes me feel ‘busy’ is the scaffold of the school day. Last week — of course a week of rain — with all three was lovely in …