Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Too much in my head

I am having to write yet another in a series of autobiographical essays in this school/scholarship/candidacy process. I know that it is a genre that I need to master for reasons beyond the moment, but I hate it. I hate it. I am not good at self-revelation in a vacuum. Ask me any direct question, and I can answer at length, but I will size up my answer as part of a dialogue rather than a soliloquy.

I met someone the other evening who shares (no, exceeds!) my interest in growing things, and we had a multi-hour conversation about fruit trees. In fact, we closed the neighborhood coffeeshop. While we were talking about jujubes and cherries, I was on confident ground, but when he asked me about my experience at seminary, I started hemming and hawing. So many conflicting emotions, and no way to do justice to all of them. There is too much going on in my head; that's one part of the blogpost title, but I also live too much in my head these days, and not enough experientially. It seems to me that I need to do a little metaphorical trepanation, let some of my demons out and some fresh air in.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Monday, Monday

Reverend Mommy passed along a little bit of wisdom that just charmed me: Monday was officially the gloomiest day of the year. I guess I had a bit of a delayed response; my gloomiest day was probably Wednesday or Thursday, but I'm happy to know it's not just me and my broody northern genes.

Without a compass

I have been reading The Golden Compass aloud to Progeny, who is not quite seven.

I'm smart enough to know that this is not really appropriate reading material, but we were led here by a slippery slope. First he saw the ad for the movie while we were at another movie, and begged to see it. I reasoned (rightly) that he would be so entranced by the armored bears that seeing the movie would not occasion any emotional or theological difficulties, so we went to see it. Also, I should mention, we have read all the Harry Potter books, bowdlerizing them in the early years, but increasingly less now. And I have a Bruno Bettelheim-like regard for reading fairy tales to children in their original form.

After the movie, inevitably, Progeny prevailed on me to read the books, which I effectively dragged my feet about for a while, but eventually I caved, and we're gobbling up chapters (that would be a truly egregious pun if I had meant it). I am trying to trust myself to come up with the right answers (or the right questions) when we come to the hard stuff. It's helpful that Pullman draws in the concept of intercission slowly, and through rumor (and of course Progeny already knows about it from the movie). It's harder to figure out how to talk about Dust, and why the Oblation Board is so afraid of it, and how this connects--and disconnects--with my own beliefs about the institutional church.

I tell you, I'm trying to trust myself, to stay loose and observant and responsive like a fighter. Like Lyra.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blogroll, please

I've been spending much of my blogging time lately at other people's blogs, especially those with a simplicity flavor. Please visit some of my new finds, at right.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Corridors of Breath

I just said goodbye to five days of company--talkative company at that--and I have nothing left to say. In an effort to shame myself into writing more, generally, I am hereby attaching a poem from my once-upon-a-time master's thesis, which will blow my pseudonymity for the approximately six people still alive who have read said thesis, should they happen to be reading my blog and yet not know it's my blog. C'est la vie. This poem is based on a passage from Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams, one of my all-time favorite books, and it is dedicated to him, and my friend Phil.

Corridors of Breath (Solveig at Tule Lake)

Solveig awakes in silence
the uneasy drift of wild grain and rice
the language she holds in her mouth
breaking down like a fine clay

One marsh hawk hangs for an instant
over the distant internment camp
It is an old story, like winter
like a boy gazing through wire
at the snow geese returning

And a knot of teal rises and churns
along the shoreline, the sound of wings
against wings, against air
They are not at home here
They are at home in motion

And now a chiaroscuro of the geese
against black water, their voices
incongruous, the sound of metal filings
But what does she know of birds?

There is a language she holds in her heart
spilling bead by bead into the blood
She is learning to read an alphabet
scrawled in willows under early snow

And the noisy punctuation of snow geese
in formation as they roll into a headwind
seamless movement bringing thousands
to the ground, gently, like falling leaves

For days she has been listening

Thursday, January 17, 2008


* Progeny was home sick yesterday from school, so we melted down the myriad candle ends we'd been saving into one giant pillar candle. My experience is that said pillar candles never burn as well as commercial ones because you have to get the wick perfectly centered, and I am not meticulous enough to do that well, but Progeny thought it was great fun anyway.

* While he was amusing himself with books on disk (briefly), I planted two apple trees before it started snowing.

* Company's coming tomorrow, so I should be cleaning house and/or planting the other four trees. Instead I am blogging. And reading blogs.

* I am still mulling over an article from the NYTimes Magazine. No Impact Man has a post discussing whether or not collective action can be moral action (or more accurately, whether the article's author thinks it can). Anyway, it's all tasty food for thought. I'd love to hear what you think about either the article or the discussion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Clutter fly

Of all the simplicity-related topics that circulate through my social circle and community, I hate the decluttering conversation the most. It gets bandied about most frequently in January; you know the one I mean--

"I sorted and gave away 50 pounds of old clothes this week."
"Oh, that's nothing. Partner and I are going through our basement and freecycled two couches, three chairs, a lamp, and an armoir."
"I told my kids they're not getting another toy this year unless they give three away."

I'm not sure why this brings out the curmudgeon in me. Certainly no one thinks that decluttering is actually a bad thing, even dyed-in-the-synthetic-fiber materialists. Maybe it's the relative certainty that the 50 pounds of clothes will be replaced in time with other newer, clothes, that furniture will be drafted for new decorating purposes, that grandparents or friends of the family will augment the toy stash until the ratio goes up rather than down.

Now for full disclosure. I am the worst clutter hypocrite in the entire world. Several years ago, I gave away the most rococo kitchen gadgets I owned (electric tortilla maker, anyone?) and have managed not to replace them with anything too awful. I do keep--and use, several times weekly--a bread machine. In the summer, I make smoothies with a blender. Other than that, I've reformed. In every other aspect of my life, however, I am a hoarder. Scraps of fabric must be saved because some day they may become a quilt. I buy books and hold on to them forever because, hey, they're books. Books aren't really material; they're ideal. I have a tendency to fall for the newest organic growing panacea (mycorrhizal sprays, micronutrient soil tests) and justify it by saying "It's not for me; it's for the earth." Oh, please.

If you are beginning to see why I find decluttering a painful subject, don't tell me. In any case, I have slowly begun to reclaim my bedroom (aka the bowling alley), which has been the stash-everything-when-company-comes room for so long that the boxes I use to throw things into madly are in boxes which are in boxes. There is no organizational principle. My friend L. says this is because I am a "creative messy," a term I think she got from some organizational guru or another. If you or someone you love is a creative messy like me, please tell me what has worked for you in terms of, say, being able to find your financial documents at tax time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Too cool for school, or anything else, for that matter

Monday has arrived. I moved the trees, still in their box, into the entryway last night because it was supposed to get down to 30, which it did. With wind chill, it's about 22. Not so good for planting trees, either for the trees, which would be shocked after spending the night in 58 degree temps, or for their planter, who is feeling somewhat stove up in the cold. Yes, I used to live in Minneapolis. Why do you ask?

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Did I say the fruit trees were coming later in the month? I must have meant yesterday. Holy cow, it is the middle of January; I'd better get the garden in. /sarcasm. However, a friend of Progeny's is coming over in a few hours to spend the weekend with us, and I foresee that the help of two six year-olds is too much help. The trees will just have to hold it together until Monday.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Seed season

I am having a happy day, and it inspires me to think I may be able to plunge into the discipline of maintaining this blog a little more regularly. Seed catalog season is always a hopeful time for me anyway; maybe I love the idea of the garden even more than the thing itself. By late July or August I'm usually hot and bored, whether or not (perhaps especially if) the garden is producing well at that point.

I have six fruit trees coming this month, and I'm signed up to take a series of (sub)urban beekeeping courses a little later in the winter. (Ha! Winter! It's 51 degrees here today.)

My Simplicity group is talking about food this year, and I am going to make a concerted effort to eat more locally grown and less-processed food. I find this is more of a challenge with Progeny around, since he would happily eat nothing but McNonFood and balks at anything that was once grown in the ground, but we need to bloom where we're planted, and I'm currently planted in a household with a six year-old.

Since I'm making this grandiose gesture toward transforming my life, inquiring minds may well wish to know how I did with my last year's resolution. The answer is not so well, by one measure. I did not nearly make my goal of driving half as much as the previous year. However, I did shave off nearly 5,000 miles (which I achieved mostly by not leaving metro Hotlanta) and got a used car that gets better gas mileage. I haven't done the actual calculations, but I'll bet my carbon footprint took a big dip. (I also got a new furnace and a new tankless water heater, which were not exactly voluntary purchases.) So on the balance, I am happy with my progress but not feeling particularly self-righteous--always a danger when I meet my goals!

And while there are lots of interconnected reasons for buying locally (I'm sure you'll get to hear me pontificate about them), a big one is saving on the cross-continental and even global energy costs of catapulting one's food around. So I'm looking forward to this year and this garden. May it be a happy one for you too.