Small Talk

Last evening, an elderly doctor I was introduced to asked me how I survived childhood.

For folks who don’t know me, I’m small — I mean, really small. I’m a smidge over 4’8″. Technically, I’m tall for a dwarf.

Only as an adult did I realize my smallness, to some extent, defined my habits. Teased in elementary school, I was ridiculously shy. Find me sitting at a school board table, and I can be fierce and demanding, the playing field innately leveled.  In a crowd, I instinctively gravitate towards the kids.

Once upon a time, I know I cared tremendously. Now, being small is such a minor thing, a mere curiosity.

My job requires I ask questions of people — sometimes reflective questions, sometimes difficult ones. But this one? Like anyone else, I know people who have had terrible things in their childhood. But smallness? I skipped school sports and went to the library a lot. Could have been worse.

Here’s some Alice Munro….

‘The thing is to be happy,’ he said. ‘No matter what. Just try that. You can. It gets to be easier and easier. It’s nothing to do with circumstances. You wouldn’t believe how good it is. Accept everything and then tragedy disappears. Or tragedy lightens, anyway, you’re just there, going along easy in the world.

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Cat’s work day

When Traveling Through a Storm….

Here’s one good reason to read:

Captain Bligh, in his ill-fated, famous Mutiny on the Bounty story, sailed from dreary, oatmeal-eating England to Tahiti, lush land of coconuts and little clothing. He naturally headed across the Atlantic to curve around Cape Horn, situated way down at the bottom of South America. But the ship, plagued by fierce winter storms, was unable to navigate that Cape. Instead, after weeks of battling fierce weather and sailing backwards rather than making headway, Captain Bligh ordered a change in course around the Cape of Good Horn (at the southern-most tip of Africa), adding over 10,000 more miles to the Bounty‘s journey.

In the midst of the sleet, snow, and wind that eventually turned him back:

Bligh could note that blue petrels and pintados, “two beautiful kinds of bird,” followed their wake. – Caroline AlexanderThe Bounty

When to turn? When to change direction in a life?

Remember this: in the harshest, most ungodly conditions, note unexpected beauty, following your travels.

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Hope Cemetery/Barre, Vermont

Birthday Present

For my birthday present, my teenage daughter painted a portrait of her younger sister. Beyond the gesture of a gift, the painting pleased me immensely, as it captures my younger daughter’s level way of gazing at the world, a steadiness she exhibited since very early childhood.

This painting also illuminates my teenager, decidedly and unselfconsciously off-center, without glitz, deeply attuned to beauty. When I first became a mother, 17 years ago, I lived in a world of my own expectations – of what I wanted for my children. Oh naive woman, I think back to my younger self. Relax. Worry less. But, as a new mother, I had no idea I would someday receive this gift of windows into my daughters’ souls.

The truth is that life is hard and dangerous; that he who seeks his own happiness does not find it; that he who is weak must suffer; that he who demands love will be disappointed; that he who is greedy will not be fed; that he who seeks peace will find strife; that truth is only for the brave; that joy is only for him who does not fear to be alone; that life is only for the one who is not afraid to die.

– Joyce Cary

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Inner Lives

With the kids at school this afternoon, we gathered goldenrod galls. On an old board, I cut the galls open with a knife somewhat too dull for the work. Inside, we discovered the hidden world of the larvae, curled up in its spongy nest. All winter, these miniature creatures have lived in their solitary round homes, steadily growing, with a single shaft of light illuminating their passing days.

50 weeks – 50 weeks! – are needed to create this fly: roughly 350 days. Then, those that survive the winter, those that are lucky enough to be passed over by chickadees or curious children, live for two weeks: perhaps 14 days.

Our children, intently curious, good-humored in a light mist, have a life cycle fortunately (generally) so much different. How many long days and night have gone into my mothering? I wouldn’t begin to count. It’s not a mathematical equation.

Nor was it really mathematics we explored today beneath that rough covering. It was life.

BLUEBIRD

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there…..

– Charles Bukowski

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Photo by Molly S.

The Civility of Vermont

 

Like anywhere else, Vermont has its share of injustices, but also a steady practicality. People generally lend a hand in need, to friend or stranger.

This afternoon, the girls and I took a teenage friend on a steep walk. Why? she inquired.

Because it’s fun, I answered.

On a day like today, full of sunlight, the grass beginning to green even in March, with no bugs and no ice, what a joy to be human, and not a machine.

We are born with some things in our veins…

Virginia Reeves, Work Like Any Other

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Montpelier, Vermont/Photo by Molly S.

 

 

Inner Life

A number of years ago, visiting an elementary school with my daughter, I asked the teacher about the school’s philosophy. He told me every child has been brought into the world for some particular, unknown destiny, and so the whole child needs to be educated to fulfill that destiny.

Destiny and children? When my first daughter was a baby, even then I believed a rich inner life was invaluable. I’m not the kind of mother who bought stocks or purchased a life insurance policy.

Today, I drove through New Hampshire. In the backseat, my younger child worked mightily at her inner life by reading Harry Potter. My nephew, at 11, leaned forward between the front seats, and we passed the time by talking about being present. We are here, he said, and even when we’re up there, ahead, we’re still here. If you think about it, we’re always only here. Only my father enjoys this trend of conversation, so we talked about him, too.

In the mirror, I looked at my daughter with her sun-streaked hair, her tiny blue earrings, so immersed in this book, the first book she’s carried all day, the first I’ve seen her enraptured in pages, deep in the world of imagination.

That’s something, my nephew said, this always hereness. I like it.

A summer river being crossed
how pleasing
with sandals in my hands!

– Buson

Bee on elecampane by Molly S.
Bee pursing its destiny on elecampane by Molly S.