December 1, 2016

What I've Been Into - Autumn 2016

Hello world,

What an autumn, huh? In Minnesota, the weather has been fantastically long and glorious. We didn't have our first frost until just before Thanksgiving. That meant a lot of time outside, and some grateful leniency with how long we had to rake up all those millions of yellow leaves. And also, there was the election in there, which threw everyone I knew for a loop, no matter which side of the political line they landed on. It's still something many of us are sifting through, and the mess has been hard to see around at times. But it all keeps moving forward, doesn't it? I'm holding as many people's hands as I can.

As we crest into the holiday season, however, I've decided to focus on how very much I have to be thankful for. Did you know that there's a lot of research on how practicing intentional gratitude on a daily basis actually has positive effects on one's health? It's no shock to me, but I like knowing there is science behind it. My family's biggest point of gratitude is, as I alluded to in my last post, the promise of a new child who is due to join us in April. Being parents is not easy, and my husband and I are nervous at how another wee one will complicate our already busy lives. But our son has brought us so much joy. We feel a sibling is one of the most lasting things we can give him, so -- April, darling. You will meet this new little companion in a few short months. We will keep working on being patient. :)

Hope each of you are doing well in your respective places. Let us remember that where there are words and a way to connect them with the hearts and minds of others, life never has to feel lonely. And that, indeed, is something for which to feel grateful. 

Merry (early) Christmas!


Books and Journals: 

  1. An American Childhood by Annie Dillard -- Although slow in places, the overall effect of this memoir was gorgeous and moving and take-up-your-banners-in-defense-of-place inspiring. The last section of the book? I felt like I was in the middle of some orchestral finale.  
  2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman -- A student left this book for me at the end of last year. I've heard great things about Gaiman's writing, and I used to teach a class on mythology, so I thought this one might be right up my alley. But -- ehh. I stopped half-way through. I think it was a little too male for my tastes.
  3. Love Warrior by Glennon Melton Doyle -- I encountered Doyle's Momastery blog when I was a new mother, and I've appreciated her authentic voice ever since. This was the first actual book of hers I read, and although much of the content was not surprising, I read it quickly and with feeling. We are all just doing the best we can.
  4. River Teeth, Autumn 2016 edition -- One of my essays came out in this literary magazine, and I then had the pleasure of reading the other fantastic work within the same edition. Great narratives -- about driving rigs down a remote Alaskan highway, about twin children who almost drowned (tears, people), and a fantastic and complex ender by Alex Lemon called "How Long Before You Go Dry" that I had to read in pieces and digest, digest, digest. Brava, River Teeth!
  5. Upstream by Mary Oliver -- A collection of essays written by a poet. Yes, please. The first essay "Upstream" is worth the cost of the entire book, although I also loved her musings on her relationship with other writers and thinkers like Whitman and Emerson.
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time, Oedipus the King, The Scarlet Letter, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and various essays and poems by Thoreau, Emerson, Douglas, & Dickinson -- all curriculum rereads.
TV and Movies:
  1. Bloodline, Season 1 -- We learned about this show from some "series you are probably overlooking on Netflix" lists, and we were not disappointed. There is strong acting in this family drama, and although we won't continue into the second season (it was becoming too much of a cop show for our current interests), we were glad we found the first. And I miss it now, like I often do when I finish a good book. 
  2. Black Mirror -- This had been dubbed a modern Twilight Zone. I can't comment on that, as I never saw TZ, but in any case, many of these episodes penetrated deep into my head and kept me thinking for days. Each one is its own mini-movie, so some episodes are definitely better (and others distinctly weirder) than others, but they provided great fodder for conversation between my husband and I after our boy was in bed.
  3. 13th -- A look at how the 13th amendment, which made it illegal to own slaves, in many ways led to the injustices existing in our current prison system. A stark, take-your-breath-away, infuriating documentary, but one I think everyone should watch.
  4. Mockingjay - Parts 1 and 2 -- Because it was finally time to know what my students were so upset about two years ago. :)
Find and Arrow Signs:
  1. "Don't Turn Away" in River Teeth, Autumn 2016 edition - In the ways of the internet, somebody has made a PDF thingie of the hard copy version of this recently published essay of mine. If you get a moment, I hope you check it out. It's short and weird, and easily one of my favorite things I've written lately. 
  2. "Spring Forward" in The Fourth River -- This is an old blog post revamped. Thank goodness for this little Landing on Cloudy Water space. Though I am barely here anymore, it still serves as a voice in the back of my head reminding me that I can write whatever I want whenever I feel the need.
  3. Healthy Kids Running Series -- Our son participated in the 50 yard dash in this running series at the beginning of the season, and he LOVED it. I wasn't sure about the six week commitment initially, but our guy was so excited for all of his races, and as expected based on all the running he does around our house and yard, he's pretty darn quick. :)
  4. This article from The Washington Post was fascinating: Minnesota as a top place to raise a family, yes, but also how "geography is destiny." 
  5. Soup. Always soup in the fall.


November 24, 2016

I Will Show You This

Littlest One,

It is snowing outside. Last week the grass was green, my begonias still vaunting their soft pink petals. And tonight, your brother asleep, the night a quiet dark, I watch the way the white changes everything over into something new.

You do not know yet, the way things fall at different speeds.

You do not know yet, the way a cup of hot tea can calm.

You do not know yet, the feel of soil between your fingers.

You do not know yet, the sound of singing.

You do not know yet, the possibilities of a daydream.

You do not know yet, the scent of wood smoke.

You do not know yet, the pleasures of the body.

You do not know yet, how humans can disappoint.

You do not know yet, this snow softly falling, this apple on my tongue, how beautiful and fragile it all can seem.

I have tried to guide your brother. “Look,” I tell him. “Look up, look low, look there, look under, smell that, touch this, listen to that crow that chickadee that owl. Breathe deeply. Do you sense how it feels, on the inside?”

I will do the same with you. I am not the loudest, Baby, I am not the bravest. There are others who lead more boldly. But I will offer you what I know is good. I will bring you into this imperfect world, and I will demonstrate for you the way I pray: with my attention.

It is snowing outside. You are warm and safe and probably sleeping, sucking a tiny thumb, stretching small limbs, pressing in the quiet dark against the only home you have ever known: me.


There is more for you to see. Every day will be new--not perfect, but worth it. I will show you.

November 12, 2016

"Spring Forward" in The Fourth River



Because sometimes you need to think not cold but warmth.
Because sometimes you need to think not dark but light.
Because sometimes you need to think not fall back but spring forward.

Here's an old essay, friends, that I first tapped out right here in this space that has, in the meantime, become a newish thing, a reminder that we can find a balance between two unsteady places.

Visit the most recent online issue of The Fourth River, and once you open the PDF, read the other wonderful stories, essays, and poems, and then find my essay "Spring Forward," on page 96, at the very back.

Thanks for reading. And believing in the transformative power of art. It is what will save us. It is what always has.


August 31, 2016

What I've Been Into - Summer 2016

Hi Friends,

I'll be saying this with a sigh, but O Summer! 

I am already deep into classes with my students, and where it does feel good to be back with young minds talking about things that matter, summer is a particular treasure. We were everyday outside, at parks, at beaches, in lakes and rivers and streams, up to our armpits in our garden flowers. We also spent a lot of time with family and friends, at cabins, birthday parties, splashpads, and swimming lessons. My boy learned to fish. He wanted to fish every day. He would spot the earthworm wiggling into the hole behind the branch and grab it, lift it up, study its perfectly spaced indentations. I watched his body lengthen, and I listened to him tell me stories, and it is a little astonishing to me, that I have been in this world for three and a half years with him, and he is still articulating things with the lift of his eyelashes that I hadn't known existed. I am a proud mama, a happy mama, a mama thankful for a season in which to love him in every stage of light.

I am thankful also for books, of which I read more this summer than I have for a while. I will let my descriptions below stand for themselves, but let me also share that I led a book discussion on The Round House yesterday with a group of students. And Louise Erdrich, the author, happened to be sitting next to me, too. It was strange, how quickly it became simply about books--how we both loved them and believed in their specific power to tell the stories that need to be told. Still, Louise Erdrich was sitting next to me. I won't forget that. Fuel for something future.

I hope you are well, friends, and that you also had summers full of what you chose. Here comes another school year, and another autumn, and another winter, and another set of changes that I can faintly foresee, and yet how freshly they will arrive. There is always something new. Let us embrace it.



Books: 
  1. The Crucible by Arthur Miller -- I read this play about the Salem Witch Trials (and indirectly about the Red Scare) in a day. So creepy. But also so good. 
  2. The Wild Gardener by Martha Hellander -- After taking my students for the second time to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden just a few blocks away from where I teach, I stumbled across a plaque dedicated to Butler, the garden's original creator. It mentioned she was a teacher of botany in the early 1900s who often brought her students into the wild for study. My curiosity was piqued. I found this biography, and read it with a notable degree of interest. Butler was an incredible women who contributed greatly to the history of Minnesota.
  3. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert -- My first true summer book, and what a massive, impressive book it was. About a female botanist in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and also about so many many other things. It's the longest book I've read in a while, and although I felt myself reading quickly over some of the historical details, by and large, I was wonderfully engaged.
  4. The Death of Jim Loney by Jim Welch -- A goal for my North American Literature class is to incorporate more Native American texts. Loney was a possibility. I didn't love it, but I wonder if that's because I can't relate to the extreme disenfranchisement that Jim Loney's character experiences? It was so sad, so dark. But maybe -- yeah -- exactly right. (If you have more suggestions along this line, I'd love to hear them.)
  5. LaRose by Louise Erdrich -- It took me a while to get into this one, but the braided stories eventually hooked me, and I found myself desperately rooting for Maggie.
  6. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf -- The turn-of-the-century women of Butler and Gilbert's Alma made me want to revisit some of the classics. I didn't love Mrs. Dalloway--it often felt like work reading the pages--but I was reminded why it made such an impact, and some of the passages did strike me as brilliant.
  7. The Awakening by Kate Chopin -- Swept away by this one. I remember reading this when I was in high school or college, thinking about how very old Edna was. And now her character is my age! A good reminder at how interesting it can be to reread books at different times in one's life.
  8. Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan -- Another turn-of-the-century female character, but this time about a women in small-town Minnesota written by a well-loved Minnesota author. Not my favorite read of the summer, but I enjoyed how Sullivan was able to tell the story of an entire life--and a growing nation--in one book. 
  9. Half Wild by Robin MacArthur -- This one was extra extra fun to read because it was written by a friend from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a place person, in all the ways I appreciate my place people, so reading her stories was a delicious dip into the Vermont woods and its folks, a reminder of what I loved about my time there and what I love about people, no matter where they call home. If you're hankering for some solid short stories, friends, check this collection out.
  10. Mindsets by Carol Dweck -- A nonfiction psychological/self-help book I read for school. We talking a lot about the growth mindset this past year, so the information wasn't particularly new, but it was helpful to slow down my mind and really think through how I can make Dweck's research an even greater contributor to how I structure my classroom and the feedback I give to students.
  11. The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey -- Another summer reading book for school. There was some great information here, for teachers and especially parents. I believe in this research whole-heartedly. We must allow our children to make mistakes when they are young. How else will they ever learn to work through struggle and find the lessons in the challenges?
  12. The Round House by Louise Erdrich -- As I said above, I lead a discussion of this book with a group of students who read it over the summer. It was a reread for me--one I first devoured while I was home with my infant son--and even the second time through made me grab at my heart when Joe and when Cappy. Uh! Cappy! Erdrich is such a talented story-teller.
TV & Movies:
  1. Narcos, Seasons 1 -- This was recommended to us by a lot of people, and where the history of the Columbian drug wars was interesting, I was kind of give-or-take half way through. I think this was because the voice over drove me crazy. And also, don't start a series talking about magical realism unless you are going to live up to that literary greatness, a la Gabriele Garcia Marquez.
  2. Concussion -- One of those movies--when I still watched full movies regularly--I used to sit back, think about, and enjoy. I was happy to find it now.
  3.  Jason Bourne -- This movie will forever stick with me because of how old it made me feel. I really liked the first JB movies, but this one was so non-stop-action that at one point I had to close my eyes, shake my head, and just laugh. After, my husband turned to me and said, "I feel like I just went to the gym." Oh, Hollywood!
  4. Mad Men, the final season -- The show lost some of its luster for me a while ago, but I'm a sucker for resolutions, no matter how ambiguous.
 Finds & Arrow Signs:
  1. "How it Slips Away" -- An essay of mine up at Two Hawks Quarterly. It's a sad one -- dreams deferred, I suppose -- but it was fun to write. Check it out, if you want!
  2. "I Am Still Here" in Hippocampus -- I wrote a specific post about this essay, but do give it a read if you haven't already. I'm humbled it seems to have resonated with a number of people, especially fellow Minnesotans who remember Jacob Wetterling.
  3. Gotham Writers Workshop --  Although I intended to take a class at The Loft in Minneapolis, the ones I was interested in filled up before I got my butt in gear, so I decided to take a chance on an online course through Gotham out of NYC. It was on the (gulp!) novel, which, yes, was something I began this summer. I'm happy with what I came up with so far, and I suppose this means the class was a success. I liked the online format more than I thought I would, too, so that was a nice surprise.
  4. An intriguing piece from The Guardian about women who walk: "A tribute to female flaneurs: the women who reclaimed our city streets"
  5. This article from The Washington Post was fascinating. Minnesota as a top place to raise a family, yes, but also how "geography is destiny."
  6. Nutella and marshmallows. I blame Bre. 

August 11, 2016

"I Am Still Here" in Hippocampus Magazine

Taking a break from my plant-focused summer to point you all to a recent publication of mine in Hippocampus Magazine. It's a very short essay, called "I Am Still Here," which focuses on my immediate reaction twenty-some years ago to the abduction of a neighborhood boy. As one would assume, the events surrounding his kidnapping haunted me as a young girl, and still do. For me, writing is generally a matter of trying to figure something out. This boy's case has now gone unresolved for decades. I doubt I will ever stop writing into the center of that night, not at least until some closure is reached.

So: there's that. Not flowers or bouncing summer grasses. But one of my earliest memories of understanding the necessity of story, and how upturned and unstable things can feel without one.



Also, as a result of this essay, a young woman from a college in Massachusetts read it, and asked for a short interview for one of her classes about publishing. I'm including my responses here because I find these kinds of insights from other writers interesting, and because the happy truth is, friends, though I have not been here on LOCW much, I have been writing more consistently this last cycle of seasons than I have in years. And that means, yes, I can take questions like these and answer them and not feel like a fraud (at least most days).    :)

  1. How much of your time do you spend writing?  This would have been much more difficult to answer before I had a child. Now that I do, while teaching a full course load, I have to schedule in time to write. I give myself permission to write for three straight hours one morning every week (for which I wake up extra early). I tend to set these hours aside for new writing. I fit in revision in the creaks and cracks of my days. This set-up would have seemed paltry and pathetic at an earlier part of my life, but now it is the only way I get creative work done, and because of that, I cherish those hours, and I get right down to business. 
  2. When you were submitting to literary journals/magazines, did you have anyone edit your work before you submitted it? I've received feedback on early drafts from teachers and mentors, but I've never worked specifically with one editor before I've mailed work off. In the past year, though, a colleague and I have established a monthly swap where we each send each other new work and give the other one feedback. This has proved invaluable; she always has excellent recommendations of where I can strengthen and pare. 
  3. How do you deal with rejection? I try not to think about it too much. When a rejection comes in, I sigh and doubt, but I've learned there really is no better next move than pressing delete on the notice and diving back into something creative. I'm never going to entertain or intrigue or move everyone. The important thing is that I continue to enjoy the process of writing. If I'm doing that, my work will find an audience eventually.
  4. How do you measure success as a writer? To me, the fact that I'm still writing new work and publishing it while working full-time and parenting a small child is success. The sane thing would be to quit and take up cooking. But, no. Writing is an integral part of my identity. Those three hours a week refresh me, and keep my sights set on what is possible.

How about you, dear friends? What have you been working on this summer? When can I read about it?

July 20, 2016

June in July





  1. Bittersweet nightshade
  2. Eastern daisy fleabane (aster family)
  3. Some kind of lovely leaf -- who knows what this is???
  4. Daisy
  5. Creeping bellflower
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. Some kind of grass ???
  9. Motherwort
  10. Clover
  11. ?
  12. Common mullein
  13. My boy, out in it all
Quite a few plants I couldn't identify this month, folks, so I need your help. What did I get right? What did I miss? Goodness, this world is a wild and beautiful place.

June 20, 2016

May in June











For those of you who have been here since the very beginning of Landing on Cloudy Water, you might remember my early attempts to learn and document the names of what I saw growing around me. First there was the snowdrop, then the Siberian squill, then the forsythia, then the tarda tulip, and finally the wild columbine. Well, a child came into my life a bit after all that, and naming him, I suppose, claimed my attention. I am happy to say, though, that he is now at the age where he wants to know what he's seeing, and that has given me new cause to do the same.

So, I bring you yet again, a series in wild identification: Plant Literate! (Although I seem to be always a month behind, and have no time for individual posts, so it will most likely happen in bursts. Ah, well. Better something than nothing, is my current motto.)

This is a doubly-sweet endeavor because what I've been learning these past months has been focused on the growing and blooming things in our yard, the edge along our driveway, and the marsh behind our house. Already most of these wildflowers are long gone with the light-blocking leaves, so who is to say how much of anything I'll document this summer, but that's half the fun, too: we'll just have to wait and see.

Here is what I've identified so far, following the order of the photos above. Please feel free to correct me if I have something wrong. I'm learning.
1) Wild ferns
2) Halberd-leaved violets
3) Early meadow rue
4) Wild lupine (this one I'm not totally sure of, as it was quite a bit smaller than most lupine I've seen, but it's the closet I've been able to get)
5) Garlic mustard (which, I've been told, spreads like crazy)
6) Sand violet (I think?)
7) Wild geranium
8) False solomon's seal
9) Dame's rocket
10) Jack-in-the-pulpit
11) Wild Columbine

We also have true solomon's seal, bloodroot, cleavers, a patch of creeping charlie along the driveway that I naively believed was just a lovely flowering ground cover (good thing someone smart advised me not to transplant it to a border area along one of the gardens), and a host of fast growing bushes and vines that I haven't even started to try to identify. I suppose that alone could keep me busy for much of the summer.

As always with these kinds of posts, I place this information here for me, so that I might come back to it next year when all these names evade me, but I hope it's helpful or interesting to a few of you, too.

It's the longest day of the year today, friends--9:42 pm just now and still light seeping in through the windows--so, let us welcome whatever this summer will be. Cheers to you all on this solstice. Isn't it incredible how much of the world bends toward the sun?


June 7, 2016

What I've Been Into - Spring 2016

Friends,

Today is the last day of school for my students, and although I'll continue through the end of the week with my colleagues in workshops and other wrap-up activities, summer has arrived. It's been another wonderful year, but I can't think of one solitary person who doesn't love these two words put together: summer break. Summer break! Oh, for a few months in which to go where the wind blows me, do what the whims insist! Perhaps I'll show up here a bit more? Or perhaps I'll disappear still deeper into this marsh that is my back yard, what with its wildflowers and ferns and maples and oaks and ash and cottonwood and beech and tamarack stands. I am rippling with contentment. Can you tell? Like the leaves. Like the air, blue and redolent, and so very very close. 





Books: 

  1. The Progress of Love by Alice Munro -- The entire collection is wonderful, but "Miles City, Montana" struck at my heart with a force.
  2. The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch -- I took a class with Yuknavitch in April, and although this book jumped around a bit too much for me, I do appreciate the way that--as she explained in class--the body is given a point of view. I am interested in reading her much acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water.  Here's her TED Talk.
  3. The Liar's Club by Mary Karr -- Started, but did not finish. A bit too similar in feel to The Glass Castle (although I know The Liar's Club came first...).
  4. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie -- I've only been hearing about this book for a decade. I'm so glad I finally made a point of reading it, because it's very clear why this is required reading for a lot of middle schoolers.
  5. Knockout by John Jodzio -- There is never a dull moment in Jodzio's fiction. His sardonic style and subject matter is generally not what I gravitate to, but he's a Minnesota writer who I've worked with in various capacities, and I have to champion his work. As I read through these stories--"Great Alcoholic-Owned Bed and Breakfasts of the Eastern Seaboard" being one of my favorites--I kept thinking, "John, how do you come up with this stuff?" Here's a cool interview he did with MPR.
  6. May Day by Gretchen Marquette -- A lovely collection of poems that center on loss: of a lover, a brother, a place. Marquette is another Minnesota writer who I have recently connected with, and it's been great bringing some of her work into my Minnesota Writers May Program class, especially  "Colossus" and "Ode to a Man in Dress Clothes." Here's another MPR story featuring her book.
  7. The Wilding by Benjamin Percy -- This was the most "male" book I've read in a long time (father, son, grandfather, hunting, war, machinery, bears), but a lot of it connects to the natural world in a way I respect and enjoy. And Percy lives in Minnesota now, and I've been meaning to read something by him for a while, so I'm glad I finally did.
  8. Of Mice and Men, The Things They Carried, Merchant of Venice, and lots of short stories and essays ("The Woman Warrior," "Memory and Imagination," "Boarding School in Switzerland," "A Clean Well-Lighted Place," "Barn Burning" "Superman and Me" (...should I go on?) -- all curriculum rereads.
TV & Movies:
  1. Nurse Jackie, Seasons 1-4 -- Addiction is real, people. This show pulled us in because of that fact. (And Zoey! Love her character.)
  2.  Interstellar -- We watched this in two chunks (parents of a young child, hello!), so maybe that was why it didn't amaze me? Decent story. Eh.
  3. Gravity -- Non-stop thrill ride, for sure. Some amazing special effects. It's interesting to me, though, that the scene that stays with me the most is when the protagonist finally makes it into a spaceship--safety--and all her racing and movement stops and she just...floats.
  4. Mile, Mile and a Half -- A documentary about a group of friends who set out to hike the John Muir Trail, and document the entire thing with film, photography, music, words. The cinematography alone was enough to keep me watching this one.
  5. Into the Wild -- I never view movies with my semester classes, but this May Program I'm taught a course called These Wild World, which focuses on nature writing, and this film was perfect for that group in so many ways. Gah. Alex Supertramp is a complex character--easy to love and hate--and that's one of the reason why his story is such a great watch.
  6. House of Cards, Season 4 -- The earlier seasons were better, but I am just waiting for all that nastiness in the first seasons to come back and bite the Underwoods in the butt.
  7. Game of Thrones, Season 6 --  Because we can't not watch.
 Finds & Arrow Signs:
  1. "How it Slips Away" -- An essay of mine up at Two Hawks Quarterly. It's kind of a sad one -- dreams deferred, I suppose -- but it was fun to write. Check it out, if you want!
  2. "Song of Myself" by Walt Whiman -- I always forget how much I love this looooooooong poem until I reread it (well, at least parts of it) in spring.
  3. "The Old Naturalist" -- A local blog run by an educator that helped me identify a few bird calls. 
  4. This article about final gifts to students (Thanks, Pat!)
  5. They Could Live With Themselves by Jodi Paloni -- I haven't read this one yet, but Jodi is another VCFA alum who is making waves in the literary world, and I am really looking forward to reading this collection of stories this summer. 
  6. This licorice + sea salt chocolate from the Icelandic brand Omnom might be the best chocolate I've ever had in my life. No joke.
  7. The beach in March -- Because: 90' and no humidity is good for the soul (in doses).
How about you? What will you be doing this summer?

May 20, 2016

Welcome

Yesterday, on our drive home, my son asked to stop at the local elementary school playground. It was a beautiful afternoon, and I was antsy from grading final essays inside all day, so I willingly brought us there. For the first few minutes, I followed him protectively as he circled through slides and ladders and bridges, dodging the older and sharper movements of the kids also there playing as a part of the after-school program. Eventually, though, I told Elliot I was going to rest on a bench nearby, and not thirty seconds later, I observed him introducing himself to an older boy sitting in the shade underneath the slide, playing with an assortment of small objects.

"Hi," I heard my son say. "Can I play with you?"


I couldn't overhear how the other one replied, and because of the age difference--I would learn later he was in second grade, easily four or five years older than my son--I felt myself again on guard, wondering if El would be able to read a social cue signaling "leave me alone," not wanting to have to intervene, but ready to.


Instead, the two of them sat across from each other pleasantly, companionably even, and I realized quickly that I wasn't needed at all.


I watched the other boy ask Elliot's name, ask him if he was in pre-school. I heard Elliot immediately return the question: Tyler.


"I'm making a motorcycle with these wood pieces," Tyler said, and El leaned in, interested.


Not long later, two other boys Tyler's size began a game of hide-and-seek, or hide-and-boo, or spy--some kind of game that instantly makes sense to school aged kids, which, I realized--amazed--included my son.


"Do like this," Tyler instructed, lining up his body behind a pole, and Elliot complied. In fact, he more than complied. He invented. He protected. Tyler was already the boy on his team.


Each time his face shifted my direction, I looked for signs of distress--those boys were bigger, maybe he was feeling intimidated or overwhelmed or--I didn't know. He was the child that just this last Christmas at a holiday concert cried half way through because the singing had become too loud for him. He was the infant who didn't smile at strangers, went serious the moment he entered a new situation, the one everybody called "observant," which I always took to mean sensitive, a likely introvert.


I expected, I suppose, among the new boys and the new games, to hear him call for his mama. 


But I understood with growing clarity that he was closer now to that pack of boys than he was to the baby who had once filled my arms. 


And he was smiling. The easy, amused smile of a boy already aware of the wonder of the next moment.


Eventually, Tyler's mom arrived, calling him to the car. Before he left, he found a multi-colored piece of paper from his backpack that he had folded into a fan.


"Here, Elliot," he said, holding it out with one hand, and then with the other, gently patting El's arm. "It was fun playing with you."


As he walked away, El called, "Where are you going?"


"Home," he said, "but I'll be back tomorrow!"


I watched Elliot watch him go, already the friendship something to be lost.


Lucky for him, the two other hide-and-seek boys were waiting--"I'm Kai and this is Finn"--and soon they were off exploring a big branch that had fallen and talking about quicksand. Later, after I'd joined them, I timed all three as they ran loosely around the school's track, Elliot's laughter ringing out over the field as he moved farther and father away.


I kept on thinking about my earlier precaution, how grateful I was to discover the kindness of second grade boys, how innocent and sweet they were: one's long hair hanging in his eyes, the other's rosy cheeks, the other's light hand on my son's wrist. How they welcomed my boy into their world.


But I realized again, of course, that Elliot had been a part of this world for a while.


That the one who needed to be welcomed was me.




May 9, 2016

April in May








I meant to get these photos up two weeks ago, but I suppose I was too busy admiring everything popping up all over our Minnesota yard. We've lived in our new house for just over a year now, and it amazes me how much I don't remember seeing last spring, but also how much more familiar everything feels. It has been an exhausting year in many ways, but my dear my dear my goodness oh my, does all this green and new and colorful make my entire being come alive.

Photo notes (more for me than anyone; I really am learning!): 
-- Blue-purple flowers: Siberian squill (early to mid April)
-- White flowers: Bloodroot (early to mid April)
-- Purple flower: Periwinkle/Vinca Minor groundcover (late April)
-- Leaves on the trees: (April, April, April, Hallelujah)

And happy belated Mother's Day!