Thursday, April 16, 2009

Three Things for Thursday

Three reasons my blog has been post-less for almost two weeks:

1.  Easter.  Yes, it's crazy, but Easter has turned into the mini-Christmas around here, with all the sneaking and intrigue of playing Santa.   It literally takes weeks to pull off such a feat successfully, clandestine visits to candy stores, toy stores, etc.  By the time Easter actually rolls around, I am exhausted!  This year, I found (okay, set up) an email address for the Easter rabbit, so Ada and Esme could ask him whatever questions they wanted.   Of course, there were requests--a glow worm for Esme and a crib nest for Ada's baby.  The Easter bunny came through in the clutch.   And the girls were delighted.   If you want the Rabbit's special email address, let me know.  I just know he'll write you back!

2.  I am still plagued by the irresistible urge to clean and organize corners of the house from end to end.   I do each piece in little bites of 10 or 15 minutes, and the result is that it takes a long time.  And it makes a HUGE mess.  Invariably, 15 minutes into a project, I am interrupted, and what used to be at least hidden behind a cabinet door or stuffed into a drawer is now strewn about the room in piles.  I leave it there to attend to whatever urgency is calling me, and, well--it's not pretty.   Eventually it gets put back, hopefully in some order.   

All that noise about breaking some eggs to make an omelette is at least partially true.  I can say that over the past month I have made some good progress:  The study cabinet is clean, and so is our desk.  All of our camera equipment is organized, and I can actually find what I want quickly!  I have filed the contents of the inboxes (high five myself for that one!), and Ada's school records, drawings, and homeschool materials are sorted by subject and age range.  With all the "new" space, Esme now has her own little section.  That was the fun and gratifying part.  For more grungier work, I excavated under our family room couch and found some long-lost toys and an old, dried out lemon (don't ask--I have no idea, and I am as grossed out as you would be).  In between all this, I've sorted through Esme's old winter clothes, changed in some of her hand-me-down summer clothes, and organized her closet.  One night I pulled out the dvds, and now all of them--even the new ones that seem to rattle around the tv for months--they're are all filed away into huge albums.  I have to say it is calming to see the absence of junk lying around in all the common areas (at least non-toy junk).

The pantry is still calling to me, as is my own closet, and a stack of Ada's artwork that needs to be put into a binder.  But the current hot project is the studio closet, a monster that I'm battling with for the next few days.   To make space to store materials that are just getting into the way, I decided I needed a set of shelves to fit into the space under the eves.  Why not drop everything and build them?  Uh, lots of reasons.  But it seemed like a great idea.  In execution, it is taking so much longer than I anticipated.  That, and I'm suffering under the pressure, literally.   Yesterday I gave myself a massive blood blister on my thumb while tightening the bit into the drill.  Cringe with me, please.  And then I stuck myself with a splinter--under my nail.  Yes, there is a reason that is a technique used in torture.   Still, yea Kirie! I sucked it up and put another leg onto shelf one.   Only two more shelves and 12 more legs to go....
I promise to post pictures when I'm done.   Assuming you care.  Please say you do...I have spent altogether too much time on this.   And too much time writing (and talking) about it.  If you made it this far, thanks for being so patient!

3.  In the midst of the half-way projects and hopping around for Easter, and several other writing projects I'll share with you later....I've been prepping and creating some items for an online shop I'm opening in less than a week.  I've been intending to open an Etsy shop for a year, and I have finally assembled almost all the pieces to do so.   The shop is going to be called Spangletree Studio, and I'll tell you more about it soon.   Suffice it to say that I feel like a Santa's elf, sewing and painting and bending wires and sanding little's going to be fun. I can't wait to tell you more about it next week!  I'm holding back just so as not to jinx myself... 

I miss my blog.  I also miss reading my bloggy-friends. I promise to get back to a regular posting and blog reading schedule starting after April 23.    

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Whispering in my ear--Can you miss someone you never met?

A little background:

I have a thing for stories, as you might know. And as much as I like to read, I love to hear a story, too. My mom would read to me incessantly when I was little, and long after I knew how to read to myself, she continued to read aloud to me. She read, late at night and her head nodding with fatigue, through many series--Little House, the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew. It must have been exhausting for her, after long long days at work.
But how I loved it! We shared the story together, discovering it, though in a way it also seemed almost to spring naturally from her as she spoke the words. I especially loved how her voice wrapped around the characters, made the pictures move in new ways, different from the way the pictures formed when I read to myself. Listening to those stories was pure pleasure.

I still love to hear a story. It's probably why I am an NPR addict, and I am usually a rapt listener to anyone willing telling me a narrative of their life, or even what happened to them that day. I love to hear it.

So it's not surprising that I have affection for audiobooks. I may have resisted the ipod for years past its introduction, but at the prospect of hearing podcasts of This American Life, and the Moth, and StoryCorps, well--I caved this winter, and now I'm often found wearing my earbuds, a story whispering into my ears.

The past few months I've been mining itunes for good audiobooks, and listening to a mixture of oldies and some new, more pulpy stuff. Heart of Darkness was amazing, real and thick and haunting in a way that, shamefully I admit, it wasn't before I heard it read to me. After Conrad, I wanted to go for something lighter, with the thought that it would be good to listen to while doing chores or exercising. My choice was James Patterson's Beach Road, which definitely falls into the pulpy junk pile, was disappointing and grungy.

So, in an attempt to find a middle ground, I stumbled across a mystery by Kate Wilhelm, a writer I'd never heard of before. Of course, I’ve since come to find out that she is prolific, talented, and lauded by many. I’m thrilled to know I will be able to explore her books for a long time to come.

For now, I am into Wilhelm’s books featuring character Barbara Holloway. Just as I did when I was a little girl, I still enjoy a series of stories. Mysteries are especially great in a series. While they can be cute and fun, a series can also leave lots of room for development of character and place. More importantly, they leave room for ambiguity and growth, and maybe that's why I like them so well. That, and the fact that my mom and I can exchange them between ourselves and have our own little book club.

Anyway, Kate Wilhelm's series about Barbara Holloway are like pearls on a string, each one smooth and well-constructed from the inside out, glowing. I started accidentally in the middle of the series, with The Unbidden Truth. Read by Anna Fields, it was engaging, lively, haunting. I was hooked.

I say hooked, and I mean it. As I listened, I was almost addicted to hearing what would happen next. In particular, I was drawn to this narrator, Anna Fields. Like my mother, her voice made the story move, wrapping itself into the plot and the characters so that it really did feel as though the story was being spun exactly as I was listening.

I was so taken with Anna Fields’s warm and mysterious voice and the way she gave life to Wilhelm's characters, that beyond finding other books in the series (which I did), I wanted to see what else she had given voice to.

A Google later, I learned that Anna Fields was the stagename for Kate Fleming. Like Kate Wilhelm, Kate Fleming was prolific, narrating over 200 books. And clearly, she was talented. She was asked to narrate the 9/11 Commission, and awarded honors from her peers. I also learned, with heartache, that she died in 2006, tragically trapped in her Seattle studio during a flash flood.

All of this background leads me to confess this:
In some strange way, for the past week or so, I've been feeling a certain loneliness knowing she is gone. I was puzzled over this melancholy, but I finally put a label to it: it's that I miss Kate Fleming. I know, I know--I didn’t know her at all, she is a disembodied voice in my head, and yet, I miss her. The intimacy of audio can foster that kind of connection, I suppose. I think of the way she could get inside a character, and get inside my head, and I know that the world has lost someone special.
Is it possible to miss someone you didn't know? Perhaps.
I suspect I have this lonely, loss-filled feeling about her for another reason. Because while her voice is firmly in my head, I have the sickening outside knowledge that at the same time she was making those detailed recordings, her fate was rushing toward her in a way she couldn’t know. She is stuck there in time, unknowing, but vibrant and powerful with stories each time I listen.

We are all like Kate Fleming, in a way. We are firmly in our own reality, with the voice in our own heads shaping and moving the story of our daily life forward. And it feels so permanent, like something recorded and tangible, something to be accessed again and again. But it’s not. For each of us rides on an unstoppable river--or that river flows toward us, I don't know. But I do know that the permanence of things is an illusion. Like anyone else, I shove that knowledge down each day to some hidden place so I can "get on with life." I only recognize the pull of the river again, if only for a moment, when I encounter beautiful and fleeting, something perfect and special. Something like a perfect whisper in my ears as I'm lulled into another storyland.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Because bread alone is not enough

We attended a dinner party last night. And because bread alone is not enough, we brought....poetry.

I really did bring a loaf of sourdough bread that I baked in the afternoon, but my husband and I both felt like it was a great idea to give something that would last. Plus, it was the first day of National Poetry month, and what better way to kick that off. Our Argentine hosts appreciated the gesture and the significance, and we had some lovely conversations last night.

Here is a poem that's been wandering around in my head lately. It's from Linda Pastan's recent collection Queen of a Rainy Country, which is filled with poems as rich as this one.

Rereading Frost

Sometimes I think all the best poems 
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?

At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

as you get to the top of a hill
in Colorado, say, in high summer
and just look down at all that brimming color.
I also try to convince myself

that the smallest note of the smallest
instrument in the band,
the triangle, for instance,
is important to the conductor

who stands there, pointing his finger
in the direction of the percussions,
demanding that one silvery ping.
And I decide not to stop trying,

at least not for a while, though in truth
I'd rather just sit here reading 
how someone else has been acquainted
with the night already, and perfectly.

Linda Pastan

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