Friday, February 25, 2011

At the Grocery Store--Some Thoughts

You always end up with a shopping buddy, someone who either started two minutes before you did or two minutes after. You are going up the canned food aisle, she is coming down. You are going down the laundry detergent aisle, she is coming up. At some point you acknowledge one another with nods and awkward smiles. Yes, we are shopping at the same time, your smiles say. You are each others' shadows for the next thirty minutes.

I always avoid getting in the same check-out line with my shopping buddy. It would be too much. We have been so intimate, our fingers touching the same cans of beans, our eyes meeting over the bananas. And yet we will never see each other again. Small talk would be awkward, painful. Impossible.


I fully believe that everyone in the checkout line is judging me by the contents of my shopping cart. They care if my meat is organic and local and notice if my cereals are sugary. They raise their eyebrows at packaged cookies (I made two dozen chocolate chip cookies at the beginning of the week, I want to tell them, and I often bake my own bread) and think well of me when they see all the fresh produce.


At the same time I understand without a doubt that no one cares what's in my cart. I am a forty-six year-old mother and housewife who drives an ocean blue Honda Odyssey minivan. I am the most invisible person on the face of the planet, and my food choices are of absolutely no interest to anyone. That's why I spend my time in line reading People and Us instead of Newsweek. You can get away with that sort of thing when you're invisible.


Last week a carton of grape cherry tomatoes was 3.99. This week it is 4.99. Which is to say, my relationship with cherry tomatoes is officially over until July, when I will pick them from my garden, and they will taste so much better than they ever did plucked from a plastic carton.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Marvelous Capacity of the Soul

(Our new compost bin, built and photographed by the Man)

"The Marvelous Capacity of the Soul"--don't you love that phrase? It's from Teresa of Avila, and I just came across it yesterday, after spending all day thinking that my soul needed feeding.

With the care and feeding of my soul in mind, I bought a CD of modern poets reading their own work--T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, Langston Hughes, et al--and have been listening as I drive here and there, here to drop off the boys at school, there to the grocery store, here and there, here and there. These are the poets who made me love poetry. Waiting to pick up Will from school a few minutes ago, I listened to these lines from e.e. cummings--

My father moved through theys of we
singing each leaf out of each tree

--lines I loved when I first read them at age fifteen, and lines that I love now.

Today I've had all sorts of thoughts about sticks. There's a North Carolina artist named Patrick Doughtery who makes sculptures out of sticks, and for awhile he had an installation about five minutes from my house. I went to look at it all the time. Really, a stick is one of the most beautiful things you can see.

Here is a video of an installation he's done at Wheaton College:

It's funny to think that sticks can feed your soul just like poetry can. But it's true. The marvelous capacity of the soul. It sees beauty everywhere.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quiet, Very Quiet

I am being quiet right now. It's a February kind of quiet. It's a reading lots of books and working on a quilt quiet. It's a writing a new book quiet.

And it's quite possibly an I don't have much to say quiet.


We are having a lovely stretch of days here in the Tar Heel State; tomorrow the high is supposed to be in the 60s. I'm a little nervous about this fine weather. What happens if you don't spend February in a funk because the skies are gray and the wind is bitter? Will February's funk come back to bite you in April?


Tonight Jack whipped out a list of supplies he needs for a school project. Do I even need to mention that the supplies have to be brought into school tomorrow? Does that just go without saying? Ah, but Jack is smart, very, very smart. In Language Arts, the students are making books about their personal heroes, and Jack has picked his grandmother, my mother-in-law, for his. So he can pull stunts like remembering at 9 the night before that he has to bring in acrylic paints and foam brushes and Elmer's glue to school the next day and get away with it.

Because it will please his grandmother that someone is finally giving her her well-deserved props for working hard all her life, for making sure her son had the college education she never had (and which she would have loved), for being the one who showed up at the sick bed and the nursing home, who took care of her granddaughters while their mother went to nursing school. And it pleases me and the Man that Jack recognizes these things as heroic and important.

So when Jack whipped out the list, we helped him find the stuff, and we didn't fuss at him.

I wonder how many of the other kids will choose their grandmothers for their heroes?


It's February, which means it's time for a little Bluegrass. Here's a video of one of my new favorite bands, The Rye Mountain Boys. Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011


(Will's Hands. Photo credit: The Man)

I am warm.

I have been warm before, but now I truly appreciate my warm-ness. Our furnace got very funky last week, and for the last few days, we have had to do a hoodoo voodoo dance to get it to run, and sometimes the dance didn't work.

Lucky things: That temperatures during the day have been hovering in the 50s. That our fire place and portable heater have provided sufficient heat in small areas. That a cool house at night isn't such a big deal, body heat being what it is. That Will runs around so much he usually has an excess of heat. That Jack had a sleepover this weekend and a day-long science fair, so he didn't have to suffer too much.

Today the furnace guys came and brought us a new furnace. The new furnace cost less than the parts to fix the old furnace would have cost. Go figure.

Being warm reminds me of something I've been meaning to tell you. If you live in a place where it gets cold, go get yourself some silk long johns. I ordered mine through Campmor; they cost about forty bucks, and they add very little bulk, so you can wear them and still snap your jeans. They have made me about as happy as a pair of long underwear can, and I wear them all the time. It's my little secret of warmth!

I also wanted to tell you that last night I started reading a book called The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge. I had never heard of Elizabeth Goudge until somebody mentioned her on their blog--was it you, Pom Pom? This book is magic. It was published in 1963, takes place in post-WWII England, and concerns a middle-aged woman who inherits a house in the countryside. I am completely enthralled.

So I am warm, and I have a good book, and my children are home, and dinner is leftovers from last night. That's all my news for today, but it's good news indeed.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Worst Thank You Note Ever

(The Man made his own camera this weekend. Yeah, that's just the sort of thing he does. This is a picture he took of our lovely and invasive bamboo out back.)

I was feeling a little glum right before lunch today. It's a gray day, on the cold side, and we've got a week of rain ahead of us. February, right?

I made a hummus wrap and sat down at the kitchen table to eat. I noticed Will's pile of Christmas thank you notes (I know, I know, we're running a little late on the thank you notes this year) and picked one up. Here's what it said:

Grammy and Pop,

Thank you for the gift cards. I don't remember what I used them for.

From Will

It is the worst thank you note ever. My children are barbarians. I cannot stop laughing.