Lovely

lovely-blogThank you, Nicola Bourne, for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award! One of the best aspects of working on this blog has been connecting with people like Nicola, both in person and through their writing.

To accept the award you must 1) thank the person who nominated you, 2) display the One Lovely Blog Award button, 3) say seven things about yourself, and 4) nominate others for the award and let them know you’ve done so by leaving a comment on their blog. (I haven’t been able to figure out how to do this for all of them)!

 

Seven things about myself

1) When people ask me where I’m from, I never know what to say…Arlington? Charlottesville? Korea? Outer Space?

2) I have a catastrophically poor sense of direction and am constantly getting lost. Fortunately, I’m married to a freaking bloodhound, who could be dropped blindfolded in the middle of the Sahara and still manage to make his way home. I’d be lost without him.

3) I’m a night owl. For as long as I can remember, I have always dreaded the moment when I have to actually go to bed. I love sleeping, but for some reason, the decision to go to bed always fills me with irrational anxiety and makes me feel like I’m giving up. I’m out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow though.

4) I adore nature in theory, but am most definitely an indoorsy kind of person.

5) Similarly, I love the idea of pets, but it never seems to really work out for me.

6) I veer between complete shiftlessness to obsessive, single-minded fixation on whatever project happens to capture my interest at the moment.

7) I’ve always thought people have certain kinds of luck. For example, I once had a roommate who always won prizes and lotteries. I’ve never once in my life won so much as a gumball. My particular kind of luck in life has been my family.

 

The ten blogs I nominate for the One Lovely Blog Award are all written by Charlottesvillians, almost all of whom I’m lucky to count as friends…

100% of our brothers have cancer is a blog by a husband and wife team, who write about their lives with raw honesty and humor. I have all kinds of respect for them.

Amomynity is written by a blogger from Charlottesville. I don’t actually know her, but I feel like I do. I think we’d get along!

Cold is written by a friend who has just published her novel, The Bone Church. For years I knew her only as the mother of one of my son’s friends. I was blown away when I discovered that she is an amazing writer.

I went to see DeeDee Stewart’s one woman show, Dirty Barbie and Other Girlhood Tales and was utterly enthralled. The show is based on personal stories from her blog DeeDees Living Will.

For What It’s Worth (FWIW) is an advice column written by a friend and featured in the It’s Obvi blog. Her advice is always, always spot on.

A Gringuinha Grega is written by a friend who has been doing research for her dissertation in Brazil. She describes her struggles and triumphs along the way with vulnerability and infectious enthusiasm.

Jocelyn Johnson is not only the amazing and beloved art teacher at my kids’ elementary school, she is also a wonderful writer.

A Minister’s Musings is a thoughtful and thought-provoking blog written by my former next-door-neighbor, and favorite Unitarian minister, clown, magician, fire-eating philosopher.

Mothermade is “a collection of thoughts on being American, Asian and adopted,” written by my friend, who has been burning up the internet lately with a #flipthescript campaign to give adoptees a voice. Although she’s moved away, I’ll always think of her as a C’ville friend.

Riding the A Train is my friend’s whip smart and deeply moving blog about “a mom, a boy, and autism.”

 

Looking Back Again

I’m constantly looking back over my shoulder, both literally and figuratively. Did I remember to turn off the oven? Should I have said what I said, done what I did? Is my dad still standing there in the freezing cold at the end of the sidewalk waving to me as I drive away? Nowhere is this tendency to look back more pronounced than when I write. I revisit and revise things I’ve written over and over again, sometimes even decades after I first wrote them.

For this reason, trying to keep up a blog has been a sometimes painful form of self-discipline. Because the time I have to write is so limited, it’s only a self-imposed posting schedule that keeps me going. But forcing myself to write and actually post to a deadline has been a bit like what I would imagine it would feel like to have to run naked around my neighborhood. (If you happen to have read “Naked” you’ll know how unthinkably horrific that would be for me, not to mention for my neighbors as well)! I could so easily be paralyzed (turn into a pillar of salt?) by succumbing to my urge to endlessly look back, fix, tweak, and edit. This is perhaps why the literary theme of looking back as an act fraught with peril resonates with me.

A couple weeks ago I explored this theme in “Looking back,” a poem written from the point of view of Lot’s wife, who turns to watch Sodom burning. This week’s “Looking back” poem is about Orpheus and Eurydice. On their wedding day, Eurydice is killed by the bite of a venomous serpent and is taken into the Underworld. So powerful is Orpheus’ music that he is able to sing his way into the Underworld and is even able to persuade Hades to allow Eurydice to return to Earth. In most versions of the myth, in his frantic joy at finally reaching Earth with his beloved, Orpheus turns too soon before Eurydice has been able to cross the threshold of the Underworld. For this one glance, Eurydice is lost to him forever. Gluck’s operatic version of the story is even more cruel. Eurydice cannot understand why Orpheus won’t turn to look at her. She reproaches him for no longer loving her and refuses to continue on with him. Unable to bear her grief, Orpheus turns to reassure her of his love and she is lost to him again.

Here’s how Julian Barnes makes sense of Orpheus’ action in his book Levels of Life:

Of course Orfeo would turn to look at the pleading Euridice – how could he not? Because, while “no one in his senses” would do so, he is quite out of his senses with love and grief and hope. You lose the world for a glance? Of course you do. That is what the world is for: to lose under the right circumstances.
Julian Barnes, Levels of Life

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Orphée ramenant Eurydice des enfers, 1861

Looking back

When Orpheus played his golden lyre
The wild beasts lumbered and swayed
Rocks and trees drew nearer to listen
And the sirens’ ruinous song was outplayed

How could you not love a boy like that? Eurydice thought
As she danced with the Naiads on her wedding day
With flowers in her hair and a heart full of love
She trod barefoot where a venomous serpent lay

Orpheus rushed after her into the Underworld
Singing a lament so bitter and gorgeous
That Hades himself broke down and wept
And three-headed Cerberus howled in chorus

I’d like to think Persephone played a part
In pleading for the poor bride’s release
She who had also been torn from the Earth now asked
That Eurydice be allowed to go in peace

Leave now, Hades commanded, but don’t turn around
Until you’ve both crossed the threshold and see sunlight
Amazed at their good fortune they set off at once,
Orpheus in front, Eurydice behind and safely out of sight

Then what joy, what relief to finally step out into the sun
And to know this terrible nightmare is over!
Orpheus turns joyfully with hand outstretched –
Too soon! For this glance, Eurydice is lost forever.

I’m quite sure I’ll be looking back and changing this poem, but there it is for now.