Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowball Earth

"From what I've tasted of desire/ I hold with those who favor fire," said Robert Frost, but today is a snow day. 

#Snowzilla, the biggest snow on record in Baltmore, top 5 in D.C., has ended. We are digging out or, if you are a ten-year-old, digging, in a snowbank with a spoon because what's better than a prairie-dog-ish system of snow forts connected by tunnels from which you can pop out with snowballs -- BAM! BAM! BAM! -- and pelt your neighbors?

So what your mom freaks that you took a silver spoon to dig into the crust of the snow. What does a soft metal have to do with you? What does heirloom  have to do with you? You are the future; you'll have Bitcoin and memory chip algorithms implanted in your brains. You look at the spoon, surprised that she's upset by it. This thing? 

She tells you to come in. Come in? It's snowball earth out here. 

And she's all: "Did you remember to take the fur liners out of your boots, sweetie, and dry them on the radiator?" and it's like not even English, but you do it. You are an exchange student in this country called childhood.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Left To Their Own Devices

Today is a snow day today in preparation for the #Jonas #Snowmageddon2016 #Snowpocalypse  #Connecticutconfetti #NewHampshirecocaine #Yankeeslush that's forecast to come tonight and all day tomorrow.

My kids are chewing their own paws off, they're going bonkers; they don't know what to do. For the next four days they're unscheduled, unbridled, school-less, probably in unbecoming snow pants. It's freaking them out.

It's sad.  They seem pinned like specimens to the cloth of free time.

My son mumbled under his breath, "I wish I knew what to do." He then gave me a hangdog look, as if his not knowing how to occupy himself was my fault.

Buddy, I want to bark, I had a Kid-E microscope with a bee wing embalmed in something toxic that used to occupy me for hours. When I was your age I was never "bored.Figure it out, son.

"Pick something up and look at it closely," is what I recommended.

With a great deal of drama in slow motion he slid from the couch to the floor and lay there. "I knew you were going to say something unhelpful like that," he said into the carpet, "Mom."

Children, so scheduled, so gorged with activities that when faced with the opportunity to do whatever they want, they freeze like defenseless baby deer in the grass waiting for their mothers. They go boneless. They go Dali clock.

I waited. I wanted to see what would happen.  Eventually, bumpily, punctuated equilibrium-ally, they figured it out.  They dumped all the Legos onto the floor and added my plastic horseshoe crab models and began to play Indoor Sandbox Or, Let's See If She (Mom) Gets Mad When She Steps on Sensei Wu Figurines. Fun! My extreme un-helpfulness paid off!

This is what freedom means.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

International Klein Blue

It's January and the mid-Atlantic landscape is seriously erring on the side of dun, grey, ochre, puce, tan, and of course, beige. I need a visual palette cleanser. We're supposed to get a blizzard of snow. Oh, great: white.

We need prompts like International Klein Blue, the color (above) that Yves Klein invented.

He liked blue. Also monochrome gold. (He also made paintings with  "a nude model pressing herself against the canvas under his direction." See here.)

Look at it. The blue. That blue brings up all my issues. Why did I abandon marine biology because I was bad at math. So what? Who lets math get in the way of anything, is what that blue seems to be saying. That blue points a finger at me. When your ship will come in is up to you. In large part. Not wholly, but in large part.

It's the opposite of timid.

But it's not aggressive. Let's call it assertive. Strong of will. The blue that belongs on the outside of a shield, as a crest. Something rampant. Get out there. Do. Though you feel you are dragging your head around. Though recently the arthritis has spread to your hips. We all operate on hinges.

It also reminds me of my mother.  She is never without blue.  A sapphire ring. An oceanic multi-toned scarf. "Dragon shoes" is what she calls her shoes with the iridescent (yes, blue) scales on them.

Blue is shorthand for sad. "I'm blue," we say, stifling some melancholy, touching an old hurt the scar of which has turned some pale shade, but this isn't.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cashmere Has Softened My Thinking

You say "cashmere," I say "snob." 

You say "cashmere cardigan," I say "Insufferable. Asshole."

Then I got one  -- a cashmere cardigan button-up with mother of pearl buttons -- at the consignment shop I frequent (because I am always on the hunt like a fox for jeans) for the rock-bottom price of $3.00 ("never pay retail" is my nom de guerre) and It was my time. It was my moment.

Dear patient reader, the words soft and warm have never been applicable to me emotionally, bodily, or philosophically. But they are now.  Wearing something warm and soft so close to the skin has affected me. 

Instead of, "Did you do your math homework and return the Lego you stole from your friend Roman?" I said to my son, "Come here, lambchop, let Mama love you.

It's a nice change; I just can't take the thing off. 

If I take off the cashmere cardigan I'll snap back into angular shape, don one of the many Puritan linen overshirts that were my stock in trade and that chafe the cheeks; the fabric itself a reprimand. Now that I've had cashmere kiss my collarbone, I don't want that anymore. 

I want to louchely lounge on the couch eating ganache, I want to say things like "Whatever," and "Que sera sera," and mean it. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fur Is IN

I've never been at the bleeding edge of interior design, with succulents all in a row and pyramids of twine balls, more like I started and then left uncompleted an entire wall of my old apartment in Somerville because the color I'd chosen, Nacho, was in the light of day, day-glo cheese, and now I am suddenly in with my lambskin. FUR IS IN. This not meat for a debate.

It adds "texture" and "softness" and "animal-spirit" to any room, and goodness knows "animal spirit" is what I need being in January even if it is faux.  (Like I said, I'm not getting into an argument for, or against, fur, you fox trappers, you.)

Look around, everyone has fur (or faux-fur) throws, artfully strewn. Throw pillows. Things under their feet. There is so much fur; I feel like Lucy inside the wardrobe, before she gets to Narnia.

Unlike her, I'm going to stay in that closet. Because I prefer to be toasty.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Plowing The Field

You can't keep plowing a field. A field has to have time to fallow, is what I told myself. But really what was happening was that the weeds were creeping in and I felt powerless to pluck them out, or squish the Colorado potato beetles.  Sometimes I forget the signs. I think I am suffering a terrible mortal illness. Malaise, which comes from the French.

Not writing is one of the signs.

I start thinking my writing desk is SO FAR away. It seems like it would take a person ages to reach it. Ages of ice.


I know what happens in the classic ecology study of Old Field Succession. The field relentlessly re-becomes forest.

So I'm back out here in the field, back in the saddle, with sweat and a scythe trying to get an edible harvest from the stony ground and trying to lasso the cows that are all over the place. This is a metaphor. The metaphor is drawn from agriculture and animal husbandry.

It would be easier to be a cowboy, than to write.  (And you get chaps.)

Sometimes I consider the hundreds of things I could do besides writing. I have a little notebook for this purpose, and I call my sister who is very generous with her patience. Let's see, I say, licking the pencil, There is storm water retention -- someone needs to work on that. 


Cataloging marine invertebrates. 

Inventing shit. 

But I just can't quit digging for roots and tubers with my trowel and a sharp stick. And I just got a gig blogging for Scholastic.