Oh, month of March -- I greet you with an ambivalent heart. After all, the snow still falls outside the big window in our little kitchen – that relentless lake-effect sifting that isn’t a storm, it’s a state of mind. Still, I tromp through the crusted drifts to our forsythia bush to cut twigs to force into clustered canary blooms in windowsill vases. The twigs are rough bronze on the outside but fierce green within. Dead? Or Alive? I’m forcing them – and myself – to remember what hope looks like.
A few weeks ago, I was one of a half dozen guests invited to speak to a class of teenagers working through a Unitarian Universalist curriculum called “Our Whole Lives.” The cute acronym for this program is OWL and it’s a multi-staged, holistic sexuality course that invites young people to think about their development and relationships in rich and nuanced ways. Don’t worry; nothing I’m about to say is more than G-rated. Our discussion was about the ways people creatively map out their lives in a culture that often seems to offer few alternative pathways.
Here’s a tale of a feminist mother’s fantasy gone off the rails. Spoiler alert: I am that feminist mother. And the fantasy was the plan to give a talk at an academic conference with my own college-aged daughter and a friend at one of the hallowed sites of herstory – Seneca Falls. All good. In theory.
As we kiss summer goodbye and head back into our homes with their clanking furnaces, cozy blankets and pie, it’s a good time to consider the connections between our houses … and ourselves.
Some of the biggest ideas in home-building right now are quite … small. Tiny, actually. It seems like everyone, suddenly, is talking about tiny houses. And yes, that’s actually the term – not downsized, not small, but … tiny. The average size of a house in the U.S. is 2300 square feet, and tiny houses are about 400 – and sometimes more like 70.
If you groove on the idea that “it’s the journey, not the destination,” long-distance train travel is calling your name. There are more efficient ways to cross the Rockies and Sierras, sure, but it’s hard to beat the enchantment of Amtrak’s California Zephyr if you want to get from Denver to San Francisco. Our family boarded the Zephyr last week, and we still feel bewitched.
In this summer travel season, when many of us return to places filled with personal history, here’s a meditation on the space-time continuum. The whole topic of revisiting is saturated with regret – witness E.B. White’s classic essay, “Once More to the Lake,” worth rereading in spite of his melancholy theme that returning to the lake of his youth is shadowed by loss. The adult E.B.
That’s me … trying – ugh, so thunkingly – trying to remember how beauty works. I used to be able to play Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 72, Number 1 in C minor as if it were second nature – easily, beautifully. I’ve felt hungry for its sadness and sweetness in my fingers these days, so I’ve cracked open my old music book. Muscle memory is carrying me part of the way back to the song, but it takes more effort than I expected. My muscles dimly remember, but my fingers are stiff, and a decades-old injury from a delicatessen meat-slicer has left my middle finger numb at the tip and fumbli