What I've Been Into: Spring 2015

Good morning,

It it raining here, lightly, and the view out my window is an ecstatic shaking green. I am three floors up, and yet I do not see the sky, I do not see the ground: just trunks and branches and leaves, close and middling and deep. What a scene to wake to! As ridiculous as these last months have been, these trees are saving me. Have saved me. Are already old friends. 

I see now I'm going to have to write about them. Later. Soon. Graduation for the seniors tonight. And then: summer.

Spring was a new house. A new roof. New floors and carpets and paint and cabinet liner and drawer pulls and towels. It was so much more space, these large open rooms that echoed even with our whispers. It was windows, light streaming in through the then bare branches. It was one holy morning when the buds popped open, and everywhere was suddenly yellow green and green yellow and holy holy holy. It was worrying about an old house with holes and trusting a new world so very able to fill it up.

It was also my first AWP conference, where I remembered myself as a writer. It was Wild Turkeys. And Ecotone and Orion and The Sun. It was Sigurd Olson, those photos of him in a northern Minnesota river. It was some sadness and loss, some giving over, some promises I promised myself I would keep. I haven't yet. But I keep saying the words.

It was my students. It was my colleagues. It was my family. All the words we said to each other, all the stories we told, and the stories we watched unspool behind us. The mother with the pots of food. The father with the deep reading voice. The mother-in-law with her hands, cleansing and blessing. The father-in-law on his knees, laying down boards. The brothers and sisters and the sisters and brothers. The new nephew. The first nephew, blood-brothers with my boy. My boy. My boy with his squishy hugs, the way he loves so intentionally back. My husband: all the ways we are imperfect and held up by hope.

But mostly spring was, as I should have expected, about growth. All the metaphors. All the discomfort. All the disruption. 

Nothing is in the same place as it was back in February. Even the trees take up different sets of space in the world. They reach and they reach. How wide and improbable and lovely is the way they stretch open their arms.

  1. Where One Voice Ends Another Begins: 150 Years of Minnesota Poetry edited by Robert Hedin -- I taught a two-week May Program class on Minnesota writers and our arts community here. It was so refreshing for me (and hopefully the kids, too!). A bonus was having writers like John Jodzio and Joyce Sutphen visit and talk to the kids about both their work and what it means to be a literary citizen.
  2.  Fiction on a Stick: New Stories by Minnesota Writers edited by Daniel Slager 
  3. Coming Back To The Body by Joyce Sutphen
  4. The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories, 1978-2008  by Louise Erdrich
  5. The Norton Book of Nature Writing edited by Robert Finch and John Elder -- My second May Program class focused on nature writing. We read, we took walks, we visited local gardens, and we did a lot of writing. "My nature girls," I called my group of 12 sophomores. They were wonderful. So crazy that I get paid to spend my days like this.
  6. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau edited by Bill McKibben
  7. Ecotone, Orion, and The Common -- Fabulous literary journals that found their way into my classroom.
  8. Wild by Cheryl Strayed -- I'm about half way in. It's good, and funny, and full of a kind of adventure I dream about some nights, but it's not great. At least not yet. I listened to Strayed speak at AWP this April, though, and I liked her, so I'm definitely going to finish.
TV & Movies:
  1. House of Cards, Season 3 -- A bit slow in parts, but -- so is ice. Ice cold. Methodical. Who rule the world? Girls.
  2. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1 -- For whatever reason, we don't gravitate to comedy series that often, but I'm glad someone recommended this one to me. Light and full of laugh-out-loud moments. That scene in the first episode with the bottled water! Tina Fey is fantastic.

Articles, Essays, & Posts:
  1. "Discovering the Universe of Home" by Paul Gruchow. He feels like a kindred spirit to me. I used part of this essay in class, and the whole time I just wanted to reach into the past and hug this man.
  2. "Through the Windows of Brimnes" with Bill Holm. I'd like to hug him, too. And spend a long time talking over a drink or two. Irreverent and right on.
  3. "Little Mexican Boy Dancing" because my two-year-old self is flat-out in love.

Finds & Arrow Signs:
  1. AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference -- It strikes me as a rite of passage for any writer. Plus you brush shoulders with old friends from grad school as well as literary heroes like Louise Erdrich. Win, win.
  2. Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary -- I took my nature writing class here and it was magical. The best part was being able to identify some wildflowers that have also been growing in our new yard and finally figuring our their names.
  3. Noerenberg Memorial Gardens -- We journeyed here the last day of class, sat by the shore of Lake Minnetonka, and read our writing. More cultivated than Eloise Butler, but still beautiful, still serene. And irises! Those are coming up in my garden, too. 
  4. Belle Boggs -- A fellow high school English teacher and a lovely writer; she gives me hope that both roles are possible.
  5. Estate Sales -- I've recently gone to my first few and have found them fascinating. Things are things, but they also populate our lives, are the tools we use to define the boundaries of our homes, and are the touchstones of hundreds of stories. I go for the $1 scarves, but also just to look. 
  6. Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail -- This fantastic trail is just down the road from our house, and we've already spent considerable time exploring by foot and stroller. We're in the market for a Burley for El so we can travel a bit farther this summer by bike, too.
  7. Spring + our land -- Moving in, and then watching the earth come alive on our small patch of it has been one of the most enchanting events in my adult memory. I am learning the names of things, these things I am now the steward of. And these names are sticking with me. Finally. And amen.


  1. Reading this post, I realize how much I've missed your introspective and profound style of writing about the world and life and those we love. Lovely, Emily.

    1. Thanks, Audrey. Life is busy! But hoping to get a bit more time for writing this summer. Hope you are well!

  2. Hi, I found your blog through Robin MacArthur's Woodbird blog -- and I'm particularly excited about your reading recommendations. As a rural Vermonter, it's gratifying to read working mothers writing about the world, infused with such love for the natural world. Yes.

    Brett Ann Stanciu http://stonysoilvermont.com

    1. Thanks so much for leaving this note. I love connecting with other people interested in all the things you mentioned above. I'm following your blog now, and although I'm in the blogging world much less these days, I see you have a book coming out--hooray!--and I will do my very best to enjoy the story you've crafted very soon and add it to my "Things I've Been Into" list. How exciting. :)

  3. I simply love reading what you write. This slice of life, so introspective, so joyous, speaks volumes. It's so interesting to understand how others navigate through life. What you write jogs my memory. The business and excitement of early family days. The pace of it all. I remember being tired and energized simultaneously. Thanks. Beautiful.


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