Monday, May 20, 2013

Desert




I've got this manuscript out in front of me like a desert and I've got to find its oases. That's what revising is. Did I pack water? No, sir. I thought this was going to be a tropical vacation. I brought my two-piece and a big sun hat. I feel my skin at this very moment getting burnt.

Years ago when I left for Israel in September, I thought I'd want my parka because, you know,  Pittsburgh was cooling down at that time and it took up so much space in my suitcase I didn't even bring shorts and I walked through Mahane Yehuda sweating in long pants like a caricature of a German tourist, a falafel in one pasty hand.

The sun felt like a thing. My only Hebrew words at that time were, "Where is the Malali family?" and they weren't even a real family, there were in my Hebrew language workbook. I'm not good at predicting the future.

I learned Hebrew. And that proved, when I came home, to be preparation for forgetting Hebrew. See what I mean? Revising, when it's going badly, is just rearranging a sand dune. When it's going well, over that dune I think I hear the tinkling of camel bells, and water being profligately sloshed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Back In The Saddle




I was on the rail at Pimlico at six this morning. Me and a handful of other horse-heads.

We got a tour of the jockey's room. I was in a room that would later be filled with people who think it's normal to go 40 miles an hour around a narrow ring filled with sand! 

I saw their silks. I saw the official weigh-in scale. I saw their saddles: ghosts of leather, designed for feather-lightness, thin as a panty-liner. And that's when it hit me. Calling one of those saddles a place to sit is a misnomer.

Jockeys don't ride like cowboys, all legs over each side of the steed, playing a sad lonely harmonica. No no, they cling to the beast like a tenacious burr.



Friday, May 10, 2013

Revision




I read somewhere that "Writing is like a honeymoon, revision is like making a long marriage work."

As a person who is long married (ten years this July! okay, not that long married, but long for Hollywood), and who is in the middle of the process of revising a manuscript the working title of which is Some Things You Shouldn't Poke With A Stick, I totally get this.

The writing was a summer evening walk in the park licking lemon ice with a handsome man with hair like a Greek shepherd's and the naughty idea to get naughty behind the swan boathouse. It was Champagne in a glass made just for it! It was Cole Porter tunes spilling out of a huge white tent put up for a wedding on the banks of the Chesapeake. It was glorious, jazz-age hedonism. I swung my pearls.

And now? The hurdy gurdy wheezes melodies that now sounds like circus music. The tigers are safely back in the zoo. I'm there under the big top, leaning on my broom.

Shuffling, dusting, tidying, cleaning up all the Lipizzaners' poo, adjusting the makeup of the clowns in their oversized shoes so that in brighter lights of day, we still look okay.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mother As Gardener




Mother's Day is about children planting marigold seeds in disposable plastic picnic cups. And, in that, planting a deeper, symbolic meaning: Mothers, like sun and water and soil, help us grow.

I ask myself, Am I living up to this powerful metaphor? It's best not to ask yourself these kinds of questions for the bar for motherhood is set Renaissance painting Madonna high. Superhuman. Icon. It's designed to make you feel bad. Even if you have, as I have, cut up mounds of apples so that the school can meet its dietary requirements for healthier snacks.

Despite my efforts, I am always falling short of a Hallmark card mother, with fancy vellum overlay and lettered in sparkling script in glitter italics:  Dear Mother. I am not this mother.

I am a far dirtier mother. I have God-knows-what-crafts-project crud under my nails because this tending of the garden of raising children requires an apron, boots, tools, and a slops bucket. And a wheelbarrow. Has anyone who has used a gardening metaphor for motherhood actually gardened? It is backbreaking work. And 90% of it is weeding.

Of course, when something blooms, perfect, inexplicable as my daughter stealing the show, hamming it up recently in lower school choir or my son's papier mache eagle that earned an award? It's hard not to have unsurpassable pride.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cavities



Let's call a spade a spade and sinuses what they really are: abandoned sink holes in our faces.  So much for intelligent design.

What a stupendously stupid design, a swim bladder over and under each eye, that inflates and deflates with air and in so doing can capture every spindle of nerve fiber from mandibular molars to jaw, to cheeks to temples, giving rise to tension and pressure like childbirth, like Zeus giving birth to Athena through his skull. 

There's a great drawing of that in D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Mythology. Zeus, on his throne subdued by agony, clutching not at a lightening bolt, but at his temples. See what facial pain can do to a God? Let alone a mere mortal.

I understand now how foxes caught by the foot in fur traps might gnaw through their own bones to escape.


Monday, May 6, 2013

The Dude Abides



Like evil twins, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis are both "invisible illnesses" although the arthritis is getting more visible: my knuckles are beginning to resemble my grandmother's, gnarled like the roots of some mythic Norse tree is how I optimistically choose to think about it.

Back in the early 80s, when my mother's friend was "diagnosed" with fibromyalgia it was considered a quack diagnosis. You were a head case. Hysterical. They put you in quotes.

Now, thanks to fMRI they (upsettingly the same "they" of yore) know it is a neurological disorder of the Central Nervous System, an impairment of the way pain is processed in the brain (if you don't believe me, look it up on PubMed) and like so many other chronic pain conditions, it mostly happens to women.

Childbirth, perimenopause, chronic pain, longer lifespans.  If there is reincarnation I want to come back as a dude.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Derby Pie



It's Kentucky Derby Day, the one day of the year I wish I were a Southerner, so I pretend to be one, taking my cues from Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, and Jessica Lange in the 80s melodrama Crimes of The Heart. Oh how I love this movie.

I say peee-can instead of pe-cahn.

I say co'cola for Coke.

I sit in the shade wearing the cream-puff-white hat I wore for my wedding and wave at passing strangers on my street: "Hiiii y'all where y'all heading to?"

When people ask me what am I doing, I wipe the crumbs of pie crust from my mouth with the back of my white-gloved hand and say, "Why, sugar, what does it look like I'm doing?"