Archive for June, 2016

She was sure that the corn makes a sound as it grows in the field: just as I am sure that I can hear the boxwoods shrugging and stretching their leaves in the cool evening hours of spring. Whether it is merely a vestige of so many Midwestern years or a concrete memory, perhaps of some Pennsylvania summer day (knee high by the Fourth of July), I can also hear–and even feel–the sound a cornfield makes. Even just the memory of a cornfield vibrates, radiating noisy, impatient greening.

The last time we walked through Aunt Eleanor’s house. I remember the cornfield there, where I walked. I bent my head and gathered something from the grooved dirt between the rows. A coin; a shard of glass. Something meaningless. But I remember it.
It seems strange to me that I will probably never live in the Midwest again. Never say never in academia, of course, but I think that we are settled here(ish), and although one of my daughters is, like me, a rare Colorado native–a coincidence of time and space that stitches together the disparate geographies of my family–my younger daughter is a native New Yorker (the state and not the city). That again is a sort of coincidence, as we could have driven to the New Jersey hospital where my husband was born in half the time it took us to navigate the mountains, the bridge, the Hudson, the haunches of deer flashing bright in the headlights.
But are you from where you are born? Where you lived first? Last? Longest? I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m from New York, no matter how long I live here. I’ll always feel like I am from somewhere emptier, flatter–even if I don’t know precisely where that is.

384 miles from my door in Madison to the house in Missouri that was also once home; I still remember that odometer count. How different those miles were from the miles I drive here. And maybe it is the memory of those miles–and of miles across Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, the states that have been, for decades, permanently between–that leaves me standing on a porch in suburban New York, comparing the sound of boxwood leaves to the noise a cornfield makes.

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[ words ]

I am at a loss for words today. Can I still come here if the words don’t come? 

I think this is why I feel that the writing I do here is important to my work–as a teacher of writing, it helps to be reminded of the paralyzing blankness of an empty page. It all has to start somewhere; for years, my format here has begun with an image. Why have I never thought of that before as a writing exercise that I could teach? I have taught brief captioning exercises using Instagram, which is close, I suppose, but that was really a task of brevity. This kind of writing is associative, meandering–starting in a place where something matters, but you’re not sure why–and trying to get there somehow, to approach the meaning that was suggesting itself to you.

Rocking back and forth in the glider, I’m trying to type this in another stolen moment. I haven’t gotten to the meaning; it’s hovering somewhere just out of reach. I’ve been taking lots of headless selfies lately; the subject is not me and not quite her but us, these days of closeness–closeness that is exhausting and exhilarating, endless and yet ephemeral. She will not always be here, like this, but it feels like she always has been here, like this. How fast it all changes and yet how slow it goes sometimes, in the hours of rocking, nursing, needing–always needing. But such beauty; such tender beauty and such sadness at the swiftness of it. I keep thinking of the seasons, committing to memory the flowers that were in bloom and the trees that were in leaf when she came, when she smiled, when I saw the world reflected in her pale blue irises. The magnolia burst into waxy, exuberant bloom somewhere between the first and last (fourth) time we drove to the hospital; the blooms collapsed under unseasonable snow the day before we brought her home. 

The azaleas were pink and white in the first weeks of her life, viewed mostly through the bedroom window as we slept the days away in fits and starts. The alliums I nearly missed–purple spines fading to green by the time I paused to look. I forced myself to watch the peonies, to savor them; for some reason it was hard to do so, hard to look away from her and linger outside as the tight-wrapped buds unwound into drooping, silky blush. 

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Ever since the first of my babies was born, nearly three years ago, I’ve struggled with the idea of writing in this space as I used to. Part of that stems from the obvious adjustment that one, and now two, babies means in terms of time. The only reason that I can type this now is that my toddler is not home and my baby is sleeping—on me, as a matter of fact; she is wrapped across my torso, snoozing as I write at the standing desk in our living room (a wise choice; I never knew how well this arrangement would lend itself to babywriting/babywearing/babywritingwearing).

The other reason I don’t write as much is that, well, I don’t write as much. It’s no longer a requirement of my profession; when I was in graduate school, I wrote here frequently in order to keep myself writing frequently elsewhere. The words that I typed here made it easier for me to type the other words that I needed to write, and my blogging and my work wove themselves together over the years, converging in my affection for plants, dinosaurs, and miscellaneous household objects.

My job now is to teach, and primarily to teach writing, and it would be good, I think, if I wrote as much as I think and talk and organize and administer on and in things relating to writing. But it’s hard to write about your job, even if your job is about writing, especially when you’re in the first part of the tenure track. There have been many things I’ve wanted to write here about my three years (and counting) as a community college English professor, a job that I love and that I find challenging in ways that are mostly very fulfilling, but it’s been hard for me to find the words that seem appropriate to my new position. I’ve been teaching for a decade, but the last three years have moved me to a different position, and my public writing has not followed me so easily.

Yesterday, though, as my newborn was sobbing inconsolably in her carseat as I drove my station wagon back to my large suburban ranch home (how do these things come to pass?), I had an odd moment of writerly inspiration, something that has not happened to me in more than a passing moment during the last three years of my frantic adjustment to professionalism and parenthood. I spent the day with an old friend of mine (how lucky I am to count multiple poets in my acquaintance) and I think that seeing her shook loose some of the cobwebs; whatever it was, I suddenly wanted to write. And of course I didn’t get to, in that moment—nursing and diapers and piles of tiny, dirty pastel clothing were there first, when I got home—but it visited me again this afternoon, as I was walking in my garden (a wreck of weeds and determined, still-lovely peonies).

It’s so odd, but the thing that’s been inspiring me to write is this—a woven wrap with windmills on it, with which I wrap and carry my daughter. She’s right here now, bound to my chest in a choreography of twists and knots I learned though watching youtube videos. I own several wraps now, all purchased second (and often third or fourth) hand through exchanges orchestrated on the many babywearing facebook groups I now belong to (again, how does this happen?); online spaces where parents discuss and trade the ephemera of babywearing. I’m not quite sure that “ephemera” is the right word here, but then again, it may be just right; time with babies is always moving with such unaccountable swiftness (though the individual days and nights can often seem interminably long).

So, on one of these groups, I wrote a post about what I was feeling about this wrap. Windmills, of all things. I don’t know why I love this; but of course I know why I love this, standing, writing, her heart beating against mine. I never could have imagined. And yet here I am, back again and writing in the same place that I used to write before any of this came to pass.


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