Living on the Mountain

Australian twins and friends from HS

The house is quiet finally. Alex asleep now, too. He went on an overnight trip with his school last night and only slept from 4 to 7, not well. He was such a city boy and only brought a light, cotton blanket. Apparently it was 42 degrees and he slept on a plastic mattress with that little blanket only. 

There are a lot of things I've been saving up to write about. Or just things that have passed through my head and I think -- I gotta put that in somewhere. But there's no frame right now to put them into. I feel like I'm thawing out from my grad school days. Like I'm not even at the point where I can look around and assess the situation and figure out what's next (other than continuing with my various little books and nonprofit work hopefully). I walk around sometimes lately and feel so light and think I can only just feel this lightness for now, this sense that it's okay to be where I am, that I'm not late to catch a train up to the Bronx, that I don't have to be guilty for working at the playground or nervous about some paper or school project that we don't have the right glue for. 

So of course I've fallen into a kind of slight stupor, where I'm just not that efficient. Partly because I don't have to be, but also because I feel like there is some kind of in-between state that I seem to need, some kind of mental transition, where I'm able to say yes to the kids tonight at 7 pm when they wanted to make chocolate molds even though it was a huge mess and then to play "Skinny Love" on the piano with Wally and then to hand cupcakes out to neighbors and read Shel Silverstein out loud in silly voices. Whimsical and aimless. I'm not writing or thinking enough about my experience. I can feel that missing piece. That incoherence. But there is also something about resting and even this resistance that maybe feels okay.  

You know how to really write you have to sink into the writing space? Not to say a muse has to visit or inspiration has to hit, but you have to let yourself be part of that blank page. You can't be toggling back and forth between screens. You can't be trying to check unrelated items off your To Do list as you go. I can't say, "Your head can't be buzzing with a million different things" because as we've all lately been saying, as moms our heads are always buzzing with a million different things. The teacher gifts, the potluck, the bday parties, the money for the field trips, the book order, the child's shoes full of holes on rainy days that need to be replaced. 

And maybe partly I'm regressing into some of my old habits. That might explain the Australian Twins that are hounding me. Not really hounding me...but trying to find me. I met them a couple weeks ago out by the river and agreed to this art project, which is apparently a real thing and kind of a big deal. But the problem was I agreed to it when distracted by Reisling and carousel music and chasing the kids around and didn't realize that I would need to meet up with them again to hand off the matchboxes and explain them. 

Wally did one he calls "Flower City" and mine is called "We live in the mountain house" (something Petra often says and also believes) but the problem is that I've tried various times and spoken on the phone with the twins at various points but can't seem to meet up with them (they need Wally there, too) and it's becoming sort of this ridiculous, ongoing, nagging thing over the past five days. Can we meet now? No. Later? Maybe in this fifteen-minute interval. Oh but then Alex is leaving and I'll have to bring both kids. You're still in Williamsburg? I thought you said you would be on West 44th.

So a question I have is: why did I agree to this when none of the other people there with me -- altogether probably at least another 15 -- got roped in? And why am I always agreeing to these kinds of things? It's not just a people-pleasing phenomenon. I think it's that combined with poor judgement, in-the-moment decision-making, and, on the plus side I think, genuine interest, enthusiasm. But I have such a hard time tempering that interest and enthusiasm with an appropriate level of hesitation or reservation. It's like I'm so put off by the possibility of being a wet blanket, that I hurl myself in the total opposite direction. That means I get mired in situations where lots of energy is spent in the service of a goal that isn't mine. I think there is a goal in the moment that's a larger one, too, one that led me to the Australian twins--the desire to embrace art, interaction, adventure. But I can so easily become scattered, larger goals shattered, by this dispersal of energy outward. 

For the first time in the longest time we spent the afternoon and evening cozy together inside our mountain house. There was a poem two years about in Cold Mountain Review by William Jollif with this line: "And you want to slow it all down,/ to rub your fingers over etched patterns" in a poem called The Songs We Live By. Petra thinks we live in a mountain house because we go up, up, up to get to our apartment and also because last year Wally always used to sing the Harry Belafonte song with the lines about coming from the fire, the water, the mountain. I haven't heard him sing it now in what seems like such a long time.


  1. Ah, that lovely picture of you all making messy chocolate molds and handing out cupcakes to neighbors and reading Shel Silverstein. Finally able to decompress after the intensity of grad school (plus work and parenting!), and taking those deep breaths and wandering into whims simply because you can. I get those spirals of energy too, though mine generally turn inward. The distracting vortex, those little cyclones that peel you away from where you'd rather be. Then I get caught up questioning it, which becomes its own little cyclone, and I have to remind myself to be gentle, let it all swirl if it needs to, because somehow when I allow that permission, it all dissipates a bit. That matchbox project looks like fun, apart from the nagging meet-up that has yet to happen. Could you text them a photo of your projects? (Not that you haven't already thought of that.) I love that Petra calls your home the mountain house. And yes to slowing it all down, rubbing your fingers over the etched patterns. I think I'll write that one on the kitchen chalkboard today.

  2. Thank you Sarah. Wandering...whims...I really like that "let is all swirl if it needs to" - I agree - then it disappates a bit. Good idea re: modern modes of communication - but they wanted an in-person meetup with a mini-interview and photo. All of that could have been conducted online...alas..I think they have no returned to Australia. Love that you have a kitchen chalkboard. I tried for a peel & stick version once. Wally was too little and covered it w/ crayon. Never worked well after that. Hope you are feeling the etched patterns today.

  3. This post has my heart. So much of it is echoing in my ears.

    "I feel like I'm thawing out from my grad school days. Like I'm not even at the point where I can look around and assess the situation and figure out what's next" God yes. It is a thaw out, after being frozen- in fear, in projects, in between home and school. Yes.

    I love that you are being/ feeling whimsical and aimless and your uncertainty about whether that's did we lose the ability to just be light? To know that it is ok to be these things? Is that just adulthood? Parenthood?
    And the matchbox project- which seems somehow magical, the beauty of tiny things, a moment captured- but that's a lot of pressure- to return it, to be a part of (another) project. And the contrast of a flower city, which reminds me of the slug you found, and Petra's "we live in a mountain house"- such a beautiful contrast between the country and the city, such a perfect way to describe home.

    You capture perfectly the impossibility of balance between interest and enthusiasm for art and projects and adventure and the lightness of being, we never stop trying to be cool, like we never stop fighting against being outside of something...

    And this...this brought tears to my eyes:
    "Last year Wally always used to sing the Harry Belafonte song with the lines about coming from the fire, the water, the mountain. I haven't heard him sing it now in what seems like such a long time."

    What a line to encapsulate whimsy and how it dissipates along the way, how we watch our children lose it too, but don't really notice it happening until it is already gone.


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