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He left to find a place to work with Internet access; I set to work, moving with purpose to forget about the frigid air. Warm water on my stiff hands. Washing counters, dishes, floors, tables, walls. Then I called my son: Let's feed the birds; they've had it rough, too. So we sat outside in the warm sun, filling feeders and pushing greasy suet into the wire holder. I couldn't bear to go back in: Let's pick up every stick and branch. He laughed and laughed: Another one! And another one! The most happy I've been in quite a while.
Somewhere I heard -- on the little blue radio, I guess -- a comparison of storm behavior to how people acted after 9/11, and I can tell you that's complete garbage. After 9/11 people drove gingerly, carefully; treated each other with respect; there was a softness about things. In this aftermath I've repeatedly almost been hit by cars running through intersections to save their gas, no one has patience for anything or anyone, and a woman in the local grocery store was yelling at the meat guy about how he didn't have any steak for her. Everyone has lost it.
Two amazing birds in the same place: the back street in Northvale, back from the bowling alley, the perfume factory. Swampy wetlands, a pond next to the road, many trees to hide animals and birds, where they can be stealthy and muck about. Out for a walk, something short and stout, and I quickly stopped, froze, waited. Very near, standing in low water: amber head feathers, white stripe by the eye, thin legs. Yellow-crowned night-heron. Later, from a tree branch to the pond, a blazing dive, right at the surface, then up quick with a kill: belted kingfisher, sharp bill.
November Cut-Up Poem No. 1
Past poplar, birch,
gathering Douglas fir, thick pine
from the top, within reach.
Delivery to the local tavern:
ice like diamonds, camel leather
chairs with nail-heads, stars.
Cover the slate-top table,
the black granite. Line the
wine shelves with branches,
garland the kiln-dried hardwood.
The vibrant woolen kilim woven
of needles and sap, now twice
the wear. Breadboards with gold
burlap ribbon, wet footrests.
Barwear and bottles, the stemware
rack, mercury glass, medallion plates.
Twigs intertwined to wreath. Skiis
by the fireplace: the broom, shovel,
poker, the iron screen. Outside
the sleigh, covered with lights.
“Are you sure you’re reading that right?”
“I don’t know. I think so. I mean, I’m holding this the right way around, right? I’ve never been here before.”
“I’ve never been here before, either, remember?”
“Didn’t we navigate this once years ago?”
“Not like this.”
“Okay. See? These lines? We have to wait to get across this passage, then we can move on ahead, over here.”
“What’s that legend for?”
“In the corner.”
“Yeah, that clarifies the colors. Indigo blue, for uncharted territory.”
“So that’s where we’re going.”
“Into the blue.”
“It looks like it.”
“Could be fun.”
November Cut-Up Poem No. 2
He insisted the sofa at first,
its rolled arms, white cushions,
but that was only polite veneer.
In the end, the sleigh bed,
the large, gentle curves.
I rise early morning:
Birds alight on leafy branches,
hemlock and pine: birds in shades
of red and ivory, precise stitching
as if vintage linen, corners
and pleats, cross-woven,
a dimension to their design.
Some with ticking stripe, mahogany stain,
flax, cotton lumbar, hints of blue,
tapered legs, graceful lines and
elegant castings, strong as steel.
A goose, the neck and head in an iron finish.
in the paddock, four horses eat tawny hay in heavy clumps. i like the small one, espresso fur with a muzzle of cream. another has tall ears, a long face. luckily this small one is a donkey: 3 and 1. i find great safety in odd integers.
if there was 1 lamp and 3 chairs and 13 hangers, if everything was aligned just so, what would there be to adjust? what would keep the car from a bone-crushing accident, keep the hearth from throwing a spark to the rug, keep the country breakfast ham from lodging thick in the throat?
I watched the new
Big Bang Theory
tonight. Sheldon was recording another podcast episode of
Fun With Flags.
This was to be the first in a series on the flags of
and in this episode his guest was Wil Wheaton. Wil was there to talk about the flag of the United Federation of Planets. The flag was a nice blue, and when Wil held it up I suddenly had a memory about flags: a first meal out together at the local IHOP, flags from all different nations hanging from the restaurant ceiling, a quip about them, then laughter.
My girlfriend's birthday today. We spent most days of middle school summers together, talking
Battle of the Planets
playing D&D, hours and hours on Atari, reading the latest
We'd ride our bikes across town; wander the banks of local streams; play tennis with old, loose-stringed wood rackets at the high school courts. We had a low-grade rivalry over everything. Who could draw better. Who would win the board game. She had more book smarts: went to Dartmouth and Harvard grad. I was more socially aware: knew cool kids, dressed the part. Happy birthday.
Late morning I went to get my hair cut. After I walked in, Laura greeted me, gave me a hug, ran her hands through her hair. "I needed a change!" She smiled. She went from dark brown tresses to shoulder-length, bright blond jags. "I love it!" I said, and I do. It is much more her personality. Made me think about my sister and her shorter blond hair, her pixie cuts throughout the years. I've never considered going blond: I'm just not that person, and I'm fine with it. Give me brown with a little red, serious but scampish.
Well, I would have been at the opening, I’m sure of that. The beautiful ocean scenes, the Great Barrier Reef. Then the Aboriginal segment, and the Harbor Bridge. And fireworks. Lots of fireworks.
- It was a nice ceremony.
Beautiful! Then I could have seen the U.S. softball gold. That was amazing. What a comeback. And swimming: Ian Thorpe breaking his own world record? That was nuts. I could have gone to a lot of events, you know?
- You could have.
Could have seen the opera house and beaches.
- But you didn’t go.
No. I didn’t go.
I have an idea for a young adult book. I have two characters. Three, actually. Well, four. I have thought of four characters. And I know part of what motivates the main character. And I know what keeps the reader reading. But I don’t know anything about these people. (This is all so new to me.) So what do I do. Start writing, yes. Character studies? Outlines? This isn’t even the book I wanted to write. I have three books in mind before this one. This happened because I read a lot of YA as my work. That genre. Damn.
There’s a field I drive by every Monday night. I think it would be good for watching meteors. It’s got nice grass, and it’s very open, and it’s nearby. But it’s close to the town hall, and down the way from village stores. Then there’s Darlington, up close to the New York border, by the mountains. I’m sure that would be better. Less light, darker skies. There’s even a college campus up that way, with wide stretches of lawn, sports fields. One day I’ll ignore the excuses I make for not heading out and just go, just drive and gaze.
Why the world should stop worrying about everything:
1. All the borders between countries can be electrified with the touch of a button. Shhh.
2. I know the proper use of scare quotes.
3. The moon is made of cheese.
4. I have a passkey to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
5. Robert Kirkman can keep us all safe. He wrote the book.
6. I’ve memorized the Toll House Cookie recipe.
7. Walt Disney is starting to thaw.
8. Stonehenge is adding a megalithic Starbucks.
9. I’m a jet fuel genius. I can solve the world’s problems without even trying.
I often felt that some of us would soon be told we wouldn’t be needed, that the amount of work for the pages wasn’t enough to justify all of us. But it never happened. I kept shelving books, pushing the wood trolley through the reference section, the children’s section, the new fiction section, memorizing titles to take out later. After that, there were new books to cover: stiff, clear plastic to wrap around the hardcovers in a specific manner—the way a map folds up only one way; then that yellowed tape made of strings to keep it in place.
Singing with the group after weeks of missed rehearsals: the storm closing the center, people tired and not ready to come out and resume. Tonight we were not good. Perhaps too tired to hear the harmonies, to sing on key. Only one song sounded decent, and we forgot parts we used to know well. I still fear that the group may fold. One tenor, one bass. Those who don't sing can't really understand, but to be missing other parts and try to sing your notes within the whole of the song, it's very difficult. What to do, what to do.
Today is the birthday of my middle school best friend. We were inseparable then, regularly fell asleep on the phone late at night and picked it up again in the morning, we talked so much. Roller-skating to Joan Jett. Playing Zork. Washing the thick white fur of her Samoyed, Sam. Séances with Diane, who swore she had special powers. Then later, pot roast dinners watching
Insulin shots for Trixie. Ramapo visits. Even later, the fish dinner at Joel’s, when she told me about that married guy at the gym and her tattoo, when I wondered who she was anymore.
So I had a poem accepted in a startup review. Praise from both the poetry editor and the chief editor. I’m happy. But now I have to keep it going. Revise more. Send more out. I have few poems left that I feel are worthy of going out for others to read. So I have to write more. About what? A mix of new experiences? A mix of emotions and nature? Of distant stars and late nights and the smell of lavender in someone’s hair? Open windows and closed eyes? A mix of computer keyboard clicks and falling into dreams?
Sometimes we’d go to the country club, catch a ride up with Jenny in her white Prelude, newer and somehow cooler than mine, the moonroof cracked to keep us awake on such early mornings. We’d stumble in, kick loose rocks on the dirt path, scuff up our boots. They’d head off to their stand; I’d go pick up mead for the day. I’d take the long way back—shaded fields, under the lush trees, over the kissing bridge. Then the spell would break: the guys in jeans wheeling kegs on squeaky hand trucks, mixing up lemonade, firing the gas grill.
Tonight I saw Orion for the first time this fall. I make a mental note of this every year, catching sight of the belt over the trees: Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. Other things I note: When I see the first robin of spring. The varied birds that come to the feeder (written in a notebook I keep by the window). My dreams. The different license plates I see as I drive (written in a tiny notebook I keep in my purse: once I get all fifty states, I can start again). Anything I buy (written in a notebook for budgeting).
A Life in Dewey Decimals
618 Gynecology & other medical specialities
372.3-372.8 Elementary education in specific subjects
551.461 Specific oceans, seas, coastal saltwater bodies
910.46 Facilities for travelers
547.0104561 Chemistry of hydrocarbon combustion
440.0147 Languages for special purposes of Romance languages
641.8 Cooking specific kinds of dishes and preparing beverages
791.34 Acrobatics and trapeze work
646.47 Construction of garments for special purposes
394.2 Special occasions
306.81 Marriage and marital status
392 Customs of life cycle & domestic life
001.9 Controversial knowledge
746.4 Needlework and handwork
616.72206222 Treatment of arthritis using acupressure
393 Death customs
This autumn I bought pumpkins up in New England weeks before Halloween, on a crisp graying day at an open field on a farm in northern Connecticut, where I could choose from all sizes, shapes, colors. Usually at least one pumpkin makes it to Thanksgiving, when I get from the attic this iron holder that looks like a turkey once the pumpkin acts as its body. This year the pumpkins rotted quickly, the largest one in the back entryway, a smaller one in the front entryway. Two others were eaten by squirrels outside. I missed that iron turkey this year.
My high school reunion is tonight, fifteen minutes from here. I considered whether to go for months. I enjoyed our last reunion, catching up with current friends, talking to old classmates. This year only one close friend is going. I love her and her partner, but would I end up with them all night? I knew I’d be tired today from hosting Thanksgiving, and relatives are visiting, and the ticket is expensive … so I decided against it. Thinking on it today, I realize that currently I’m focused on my present, and a trip back, well, it’s just not appealing.
In the headlights the doe looked like a ghost, gleaming bright, floating slow over the asphalt at the apex of the hill that is the street. I willed the car coming up the hill to stop, and it did, rather short, but the doe was allowed to pass, to jump up on the stone wall and walk onto the yard beyond. Two more deer were on the right, waiting their turn, standing at the front of the Convery house. Eventually they would make it up to my parents' house, eat away at what is left of the stubby shade plants.
I joined a few groups on LinkedIn today. I went on initially to connect with an employee at a client company. I don’t go on often, but I should. Joining these groups might help me keep in touch with what we freelancers are supposed to be thinking about.
One of the group discussions was about how to balance work: taking more, taking less. Each freelancer who posted had a different approach. One said that although she is booked solid, she tries for two new clients a month. A month!! Amazing how the term “freelance work” means so many different things.
Back when there was less going on, every so often D. and I would go to a Broadway show. The last show was the same week I realized I was pregnant. We got the ferry, then a bus, had a good time. This morning I talked to D., and she mentioned connecting for another show. Maybe
she said. But what's that about? Romance, I said. And good music. Maybe
Nice Work If You Can Get It,
she said. Matthew Broderick, I said. I've never seen him in the theater, have you? she said. Yeah,
That was good!
If I'd known in advance that this concert was to be the last at the Met, I'd have had a closer look at the Fabergé eggs, ordered Chardonnay and the chocolate dessert, taken a photo of the way low candlelight played off the wineglasses and sculpture at dinner, walked around the lobby and enjoyed the decorations instead of shuffling my sore feet in the same spot on line, taken the time to walk up close to the crèche and the Christmas tree, more often watched the singers in the beautiful hall instead of reading the lyrics in the program.
This is a fun game you can try, with the right personality combination. Person A has something on which Person B can proffer an opinion. Person A should carefully present the something, even write it down so it will be understood. Person A will halfway present this something, and then Person B should cut in and repeat what Person A just said. Person A should politely agree that this opinion seems correct, then attempt to provide background. Person B must immediately say, “Yeah,” cutting off Person A again, at which point Person A should stop talking. Rated E for Everyone.
At the antique and craft show I knocked over this large, white Father Christmas (perhaps two feet tall) that was displayed on the floor behind me. Didn't even see it! They let me continue through the rest of the show after I righted him, brushed him off, apologized. No harm done.
I tried on a crocheted winter hat, thin orange (love orange) and white stripes tightly together. Looked in the wide mirror attached to an old vanity. It's the kind of hat I want to wear, like outdoorsy models in Patagonia catalogs, but it's not me. I just look frumpy.
At the school meeting today, the teachers talked about K's progress, his great strides in such a short time, his wonderful sense of humor, his love of song and dance, his practically acting as an adjunct teacher (taking over storytime and directing the kids!), his comfort level with transitions, his socialization. Then another attending professional mentioned "that recent time on the playground," and they all looked at each other and nodded. "Um-hm!" How he pitched a fit about something (not specified) and he carried on. It must have been an impressive fit to be infamous now. That's my boy.
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