All posts tagged: something small

Viburnum | edge of evening

As if your life depended on it

You must write and read as if your life depended on it. That is not generally taught in school. […] To read as if your life depended on it would mean to let into your reading your beliefs, the swirl of your dreamlife, the physical sensations of your ordinary carnal life; and, simultaneously, to allow what you’re reading to pierce the routines, safe and impermeable, in which ordinary carnal life is tracked, charted, channeled. […] To write as if your life depended on it: to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public words you have dredged, sieved up from dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence — words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist. from ‘As if your life depended on it’ by Adrienne Rich, in ‘What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics’ It comes back to this then: starting over. Slowly, intentionally. Choosing what to set aside and what to do. Stacking up the days, each the same as the last. I’ve found that repetition …

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 …

The capacity to work feeds on itself

My children were at that time six, three and one. Their care came first. Doctors’ appointments, reading to them, rocking the baby to sleep, car pools — all that had to be done, and done as well as I could, before I could turn to myself. Confronted by this situation, I made two major decisions. The first was to invest in myself, as needed, the money I had inherited from my family. I simply poured my capital into my work […] The second major decision was to increase my energy output and use it as wisely and as fully as I could. Again fortunately, during the years from 1948 to 1961 I had formed the habit of working in my studio almost every single day. Rain or shine, eager or dragging my feet, I just plain forced myself to work. This habitual discipline came up under me to support my revved-up schedule. I simply got up early every morning and worked straight through the day in one way or another, either in my household or …

On rituals (or, what is enough?)

I always believe that the next week is going to be a ‘normal’ week. A week with nothing out of the ordinary about it. A week when the rhythm will be just so. When things will run pretty much as they did the week before. When I nail everything kid related with grace and precision, including the swimming lesson torture, and the ballet night sting-in-the-tail that ends our week.

Pleasures elude me

It’s been a tough week. Not for any reason in particular. Just hard to regain solid ground. Hard to move towards some sort of equilibrium after the Easter break. To reconcile myself to the limited time I have to read, to write, to idle. I’ve noticed that even in my daily writing (the fifteen minutes of something small), I don’t want to be fully alone with myself. I try to trace these feelings of suffocation and constriction back to their source. They seem to be simply a rising panic, a strange desperate sense that I should be doing more. That something small is not enough. I feel like I’ve reached this point before: notebooks full of words; scraps and observations; ideas and beginnings. But nothing finished. Nothing complete. I start writing a poem in an old notebook. The poem on the page before is dated May 2009. Five years ago. Two children ago. With time at my disposal, say an hour in the evening after the little ones are in bed & before B gets …

Following the light

From painting I learned something else of infinite value to me. Most young poets have bad working habits. They write their poems in fits and starts, by feast or famine. But painters follow the light. They wait for it and do their work by it. They combine artisan practicality with vision. In a house with small children, with no time to waste, I gradually reformed my working habits. I learned that if I could not write a poem, I could make an image, and if I could not make an image, I could take out a word, savor it and store it. From Eavan Boland’s essay “The Woman Poet: her dilemma” quoted in The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long [underlining mine]. The start of another week. My twenty-first consecutive day of writing (something small, every day – I started on the last day of December). The pages of black ink an unbroken thread through my days. Mostly I feel like I’m just spilling out the detritus of my mind: snippets of dreams, stray thoughts & …

The stack

A lovely weekend. B’s birthday & we milk it for all it’s worth: dinner out on Friday; the first picnic of the year (yes, really! see the blue sky & sun in the photos!) at an Iron Age hill fort on Saturday; and a trip to a hands-on science centre on Sunday (The Biscuit: “This is the best day of my life. Ever.”). Still with the something small, every day. But the small is starting to get to me. That thread of writing weaving through the days makes me aware of how little I’m doing. What can come of it?, I start to wonder. I know that this is the practice, to feel that and just sit with it. To remember that it may be small, but it is at least something. That one day there will be time for more. Continuing the frustration, I seem to be reading about five books at once and I haven’t finished one yet this year. Meanwhile, both the literal piles of books around the house and the list …

Resolve

It’s been sparkly and bright. Full of family, food, togetherness & love, and crammed with nearly all of the Christmassy delights we could have wished for. We’ve had a fortnight of near-total bliss and I feel so very lucky. Today the older two little ones are back at school & nursery, B is back at work, and it feels a little like the real first day of the new year. It’s bittersweet: the sadness that we’re not all hanging out together anymore, but the excitement of new projects & plans. The whole year ahead, it’s shape yet to unfold. And all that I wish for, really, is that we’re all healthy, all happy (on balance), all still here next year. Which is, perhaps, a lot. I haven’t made resolutions or chosen a word for the year. Instead I’m following Austin Kleon’s wise advice: something small, every day. Which in this case is fifteen minutes of writing (truly small), every day (truly terrifying). Somewhere, somehow, the commitment to just fifteen minutes. It’s a test of my …