College Bound

I’m not quite sure how this happened. One minute my friends and I were pushing our babies in strollers, the next minute we’re taking those babies on college tours. Earlier this week I took some family photos for friends who are actually dropping their daughter off at college this weekend…

Family photo 2017 closeup 2Jeff and Kat 2017Dad and Claire 2017 full lengthClaire and Mom 2017 closeupAndrew and Mom 2017 1Claire and Andrew 3Dad and Kids 2017IMG_5000Dad Claire Mom 2017 2

Good luck & Godspeed

A Day by Emily Dickinson

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, –
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
“That must have been the sun!”

But how he set, I know not.
There seemed a purple stile
Which little yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while

Till when they reached the other side,
A dominie in gray
Put gently up the evening bars,
And led the flock away.

Countdown to V-Day, Pt. 3

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Sometimes love is complicated…

A poem and a song:

Batman’s wife, who once had a youthful dalliance with The Man in the Yellow Hat, is having an affair with Robin…

Call Me Jezebel

Hurl your stones and call me Jezebel.
You have no idea what a living hell
It is to be married to the Prince of Darkness.

Would it kill him to leave one lousy light on, I think
As I grope my way to the kitchen for a drink,
Praying I don’t wake that damn butler, (“His Highness”)

I could swear today I saw the old toady look at me and sneer,
As he purred – sotto voce – in his beloved master’s ear.
Then off He swooped – all dark glamour and leather menace,

Gunning the engine of that sleek monstrosity –
A monument to selfishness and impracticality,
Bordering on sheer malice.

How are we supposed to fit a car seat in that thing?
I asked him once, but that was in the beginning…
Before I gave up buying lamps and looking for windows to open.

So maybe I was a fool for trading in the sun for the moon:
The boy next door, who came to call on me one afternoon
Yellow hat in hand, tall and slim and soft-spoken.

Dazzling in his golden wholesomeness, he asked me to wait for him.
But when he ambled back, with a pet monkey peeking from under his hat brim,
My chiropteran Lucifer had long since swept me up under his black wing.

They tell me he still lives alone in that fairy tale house of his,
But can you blame me? Who wouldn’t be suspicious
Of a grown man who shares his bed with a monkey? In traitorous spring,

I’ll admit, I called him, one bitter, lonely night
But when he answered, half-choking with delight-
I hung up: on him, on a life half-lived, half-loved, then lightly betrayed.

He was the bright peddler of my fondest, callow dream,
Too soon outgrown and cast downstream.
But sometimes I used to wonder, should I have stayed?

Until the night I saw a boy with a bird’s soul and name.
(A harbinger of my Spring?) He was awash in moonlight and aflame
With reverence for the Devil himself: my husband.

Dynamic duo? Hardly! He suffers the boy to trail starry-eyed in his wake,
Chirping sophomoric punchlines that would make your teeth ache
Like a mere sidekick: Sancho Panza or Doctor Watson.

But it’s this bejeweled bird who casts the unjaded, vital glow
That fleshes out and deepens his black shadow
And in so doing, animates the demon’s chiaroscuro!

It’s true I chose him for a ripe and gratifying vengeance
But in his guileless, openhearted innocence
I found light and sweet consolation…Oh, I know

It torments him. He weeps and talks of betrayal
I cover his mouth with my own – to no avail.
The words I whisper fall glib and hollow.

I tell him we are necessary to one another,
Each to each: an unholy trinity. (Father, Brother, Sister? Mother?)
This tripartite union is our shared lot. It is our fortune.

Not for me the storybook house with shutters and flower filled window boxes.
I’ll live out my life here, in a mansion built over a cave, breathing air foul and noxious,
Befitting an unworthy chorus member in a gothic cartoon.

I’ve relinquished the sun,
Sold my soul to the moon.
But I’ll never give up my starlight.

Girl Crush:

 

 

Two things happened today…

This morning we (finally) signed the papers to buy our house!

IMG_5854We hope to host family and friends here for many years to come.

(PLEASE! Let’s not move for AT LEAST another twenty years, my husband begged).

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Our house has been referred to as The Old Rectory in real estate documents we’ve seen, because it was originally built in 1920 for the minister of the Presbyterian church around the corner from us.

One day my kids discovered another name on an old sign hidden behind some foliage:

IMG_5853This fall we discovered why it’s called Leaf Land:

IMG_7006IMG_7048Leaf Land it is!

The other momentous occasion that happened today was my son’s graduation from middle school. I thought for sure we were going to miss it, but our attorney was able to meet with us earlier than expected. We raced over to the school straight from his office, expecting only to see our son waiting for us in front of the school. Miraculously, we arrived just moments before they started calling out the names of all the graduates!

I can still hear the wistful tone in my dad’s voice as he held my oldest son in his arms for the first time. You’re not going to believe it now, he said, but in the blink of an eye he’ll be grown and out of the house and you won’t even know how it happened.

Every single day I feel like it’s all going much, much too fast.

I swear to you this happened a few months ago:

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Preschool

And this? This was yesterday:

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First day of elementary school

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Slow it down a little, please!

 

Genealogy

In the book of Genesis
There are lists of begats,
But no poetry until
Eve is knit from Adam’s rib.

In ancient Egypt, Ra whispered
The secret names of our ancestors,-
Divine afflatus made flesh by
Incantation, sweat, and tears.

Or perhaps it was Prometheus
Who fashioned our forebears out of clay,
And the sacred breath of Athena that
Is preserved in our lungs to this day.

Some say in a kingdom oceans away
The crowing of a white rooster led a king
To the baby in a golden box perched high in a tree –
Whose adoption marks the origin of my lineage.

Doesn’t everyone’s story begin with a miracle?
With efforts of will or imagination?
In living we participate in the act of creation,
And our roots spread wherever we plant them.

 

Crocus

Today the sun shone for the first time in days. Most of the snow has now melted and my beloved crocuses are pirouetting all over my yard. Oh joy! Thanks to Daylight Savings, there was just enough light when I got home from work today to take some photos.

The first thing I planted in the yard of our very first house was a variety of purple crocuses. For seven springs I loved watching them come up through the grass. I think I’m so fond of them, because of the way they intrepidly shoot up right through the snow to announce that spring is just around the corner. When we moved to our current house, I couldn’t bear to have a spring without them and so I planted them by the handful again, all over our new front yard. I know I’ll do the same when we move to our next house.

It takes a certain amount of faith to shove crocus corms into the earth in the autumn. There’s something quite miraculous about the fact that within these hard, brown kernels are hiding gorgeous silky flowers that bide their time all winter long, just waiting for spring to come sashaying up out of the mud.

In her poem The Crocus (1858), Harriet Beecher Stowe compares the miracle of the crocus with the miracle of the Resurrection:

Beneath the sunny autumn sky,
With gold leaves dropping 
We sought, my little friend and I,
The consecrated ground,

Where, calm beneath the holy cross,
O’ershadowed by sweet skies,
Sleeps tranquilly that youthful form,
Those blue unclouded eyes.

Around the soft, green swelling mound
We scooped the earth away,
And buried deep the crocus-bulbs
Against a coming day.
“These roots are dry, and brown, and sere;
Why plant them here?” he said,
“To leave them, all the winter long,
So desolate and dead.”

“Dear child, within each sere dead form
There sleeps a living flower,
And angel-like it shall arise
In spring’s returning hour.”
Ah, deeper down cold, dark, and chill
We buried our heart’s flower,
But angel-like shall he arise
In spring’s immortal hour.

In blue and yellow from its grave
Springs up the crocus fair,
And God shall raise those bright blue eyes,
Those sunny waves of hair.
Not for a fading summer’s morn,
Not for a fleeting hour,
But for an endless age of bliss,
Shall rise our heart’s dear flower.

In The Year’s Awakening Thomas Hardy ponders the mystery of nature’s unerring ability to detect the shifting of seasons. The “vespering” bird and the crocus are the canny heralds of spring:

How do you know that the pilgrim track
Along the belting zodiac
Swept by the sun in his seeming rounds
Is traced by now to the Fishes’ bounds
And into the Ram, when weeks of cloud
Have wrapt the sky in a clammy shroud,
And never as yet a tinct of spring
Has shown in the Earth’s appareling;
O vespering bird, how do you know, 
How do you know?

How do you know, deep underground,
Hid in your bed from sight and sound,
Without a turn in temperature,
With weather life can scarce endure,
That light has won a fraction’s strength,
And day put on some moment’s length,
Whereof in merest rote will come,
Weeks hence, mild airs that do not numb;
O crocus root, how do you know,
How do you know?

1910

Alfred Kreymborg describes the wonder of the changing of the seasons when “the first small crocus” banishes winter to the grave:

Crocus 

When trees have lost remembrance of the leaves
that spring bequeaths to summer, autumn weaves
and loosens mournfully – this dirge, to whom
does it belong – who treads the hidden loom?

When peaks are overwhelmed with snow and ice,
and clouds with crepe bedeck and shroud the skies – 
nor any sun or moon or star, it seems,
can wedge a path of light through such black dreams – 

All motion cold, and dead all traces thereof:
What sudden shock below, or spark above,
starts torrents raging down till rivers surge – 
that aid the first small crocus to emerge?

The earth will turn and spin and fairly soar,
that couldn’t move a tortoise-foot before – 
and planets permeate the atmosphere
till misery depart and mystery clear! –

And yet, so insignificant a hearse? –
who gave it the endurance so to brave
such elements – shove winter down a grave? –
and then lead on again the universe?

1933

 Happy Weekend!

Looking back

First posted around this time last year…Remember Lot’s wife, who turns into a pillar of salt as God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone in Genesis, Ch. 19? As is typical of so many Old Testament stories, there are some hair-raising and incomprehensible details leading up to the fiery dénouement. Lot invites strangers into his home, not realizing they are angels in disguise. When  townspeople surround his house and demand that he send the strangers out so that they can have sex with them, Lot tries to protect his guests and appease the mob by offering up his own virgin daughters to them instead. Having thus proven his virtue with this highly questionable act, he is rewarded when the strangers reveal themselves to be angels and warn him to save his family and himself by fleeing Sodom before God engulfs the city in flames. As the family runs, Lot’s wife can’t resist turning her head for a moment to look back at her home. For this very human and understandable action, she is punished by being turned into a pillar of salt. There are many “Lot’s Wife” poems including Anna Akhmatova’s, Wislawa Szymborska’s and Gary Whitehead’s. Here’s my attempt:

Looking Back

Lot, that drunken old fool, was always bringing home strangers to feed
“You never know when you might be entertaining angels in need,”
He would simper, while I grumbled and slammed about the kitchen,
Conjuring up a feast out of thin air like some two-bit magician.
On that last day he’d been loafing around Sodom’s gates where he met
A couple of shady drifters…both of them reeking of grime and sweat
He brought them back to our house to spend the night, but seeing my hostile glare
The strangers shuffled their feet and said they’d go sleep out in the square
Lot pushed the door open wide, and loudly insisted they come inside.
I threw my hands up in despair and made our little girls go and hide.
You should have seen the production he made of washing their dirty feet
He plied them with wine and gave them all our unleavened bread to eat
By midnight the men passed out and the house was quiet
Suddenly, we were awakened by the clamor of a riot.
Outside, a menacing mob was shouting, “Send the men out to us!”
And then: Lot’s Grand Finale – a betrayal so despicable, so odious…
“We couldn’t allow our house guests to be molested…
I’ll send our daughters out to them instead,” he suggested
I grabbed a frying pan and tried to bash it over the old man’s head.
I wanted nothing more than to see that sanctimonious jackass dead.
But as I swung, one of the strangers grabbed my wrist
They dragged us out of the house and one of them hissed:
“Whatever you do, don’t look back, not even for a second!”
Sodom was ablaze. We ran as searing flames threatened.
And now? Fire and brimstone are raining down,
Destroying everything in that lousy, godforsaken town
But, oh Lord, it was there I raised my family and buried my kin
It was there where every moment of my life until now had been.
And where the hell are we running to anyway?
Could I even bear to be with Lot for one more day?
So yes, for this moment, I’ll have only myself to blame –
I turn my head back for a glimpse, and see nothing but flame
I stand rooted, transfixed – I’m forced to halt
Oh God! I’m turning into a pillar of salt!
My last words fade as my lip hardens and tingles,
So this is what comes of entertaining angels…

ECG

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ECG

The day is only halfway done, and
The man is hungry and tired and worried.
It took two hours to drive through the snow to get to work today
The beltway – a junkyard littered with cars and ablaze with screaming sirens.
He moves the wand against the child’s skin, trying to capture her heartbeat on the screen.
In this dark, windowless room, there’s no telling if it’s still snowing out there.
God, he thinks, it’s going to take forever to get back home tonight
To an empty apartment that’s too cold and
Yesterday’s congealed takeout, and

Halfway through this appointment,
The little girl is thirsty and tired and bored
The man squeezes warm gel onto her chest and tells her
She might feel some pressure, and then utters not a single word more.
Staring at the screen, he glides and presses the wand around the electrodes on her skin.
The black and white images look like dancing ghosts, she thinks
Then wonders what she’ll order at the café downstairs
Where her mother has promised to buy her a drink
Before the next appointment.

In a few hours they can head back home
For now – the room is dark and quiet, but for the tapping of keys
The man freezes images of a beating heart that exists somehow on the screen
And also inside this child with solemn eyes and black curls falling on her perfect cheek
The mother gazes back and forth from the flickering ghosts on the screen to the child before her
The veil has been torn and just for a moment she peers into the Holy of Holies
And is witness to the sacred mystery that animates each blink, each breath
She should have fallen on her knees in wonder, she thinks to herself
All through the night, on the long journey home.

I spent the first two days of this week taking my daughter from one medical appointment to another for her routine biannual checkups. (She is absolutely fine)! I’ve always been amazed by equipment such as x-rays and ultrasounds that can reveal hidden mysteries inside the human body. My daughter had an ECG for the first time, and it struck me as miraculous to be able to see inside of her beating heart. It seemed absurd that something so ineffably wondrous could be happening in a banal hospital room, and that this miracle could be translated into a series of measurable sine waves.