Dull roots with spring rain

Something so hopeful about newly-sharpened colored pencils.

Petra was cheerful this morning, taking off her jacket as she stepped into the chilly air. "I don't mind the wind," she said, handing (of course) her jacket to me. Go and be free, kids. But hold your own jackets. Throw away your own wrappers. Find a place to put down your own empty cup.

I, on the other hand, was disproportionately annoyed by the cold morning, the chilly gusts of wind, the slate gray sky. And, truth be told I was already ready to be annoyed. I stepped into the NYC morning in the wrong "place" mentally. No calm music this morning. Just didn't bother to put it on. Even though I know it helps my mood, the kids' moods, everything. Even though putting it on consists of pressing a button. No free-writing either. Meanwhile through Writer's Boot Camp I'm pushing others to make sure they get to that free-writing first thing every morning! No excuses! 

Excuses, excuses. Here are some: 

  • Unexpected company last night stayed until after the time the kids usually go to bed. 
  • The "throw everything into a pan and cook it with rice" plan Alex had—meant to take 1/2 hour—took over 2 and a half and the rice still wasn't fully cooked at the end so meanwhile he made a whole second dinner on top of it and served it and then served the original dinner and there was a massive, incredibly frustrating mess and an enormous pile of still-undercooked but otherwise horribly soggy and mashy and over-cooked (spinach/corn/beans) left late last night and all the plates and everything the kids said they wanted but didn't eat.
  • A planned escape into my new writing spot in the bedroom last night (inspired by Sarah's post about her writing space on One Blue Sail) derailed by the kids' insistence (no, by our giving in to their insistence) that they sleep in our room. Ditto for planned escape this morning before they woke up. 

Wally said he can't be cheery because of the cherry trees. Then he smiled, pleased with the poetic effect. Oh, and one of his closest friends from school, his "turn and talk" partner, the one who has been at every table every year, spent almost every recess with him, is moving. Yesterday was her last day at the school. He was counting down all day, "This is her last science class. This is her last time eating lunch with us." Torturing himself. She'd been sad earlier in the week and last but wasn't crying on the last day. Had seemed to disconnect or accept or just maybe braced herself for getting through it. He couldn't understand that way of coping. He processes everything dramatically and openly and literally and non-symbolically and without need of transference or projection. (Apples. Trees. Near each other.)

Wally and the friend are the two last names called for everything in class (alphabetical by first name), always #29 and #30. 

"So now it will just be 29 by itself!" he says, trying to wrap his mind around how that could be, just dangling out there.

She is moving to Beijing, so there is no consolation in seeing her again any time soon, if ever (though maybe in Alaska, her mom joked good-naturally yesterday, as we both took the same cruise a day apart last summer). In fact they are moving back to Beijing, making the goodbye on this end feel that much more final.

Meanwhile my childhood best friend Heather (I've mentioned her a bunch of times on this blog in the past, for example here, and she used to comment as Roo and Moo) is coming tonight with her two sons.

The reason they finally "got it together to come" she reminded me by email today is that they coordinated the long train ride with homeschool best friends who are moving to Iowa. 

So there are these close friends of our kids moving away. And we are getting together because of one of these moves, having lived now over two decades apart. 

I have been thinking lately about the poetry game Heather and I would play in my backyard. We would pick a subject and write poetry on the spot and then read it out loud to each other. And then we'd give each other grades. And she'd always grade me higher than I'd grade her. On every single one. And I'd exclaim, "You keep giving me such high grades!" And she'd say (and I am telling you this because it says so much more about her generous spirit than it says about me) "I can't help it. You're so good."

I wasn't—not at poetry. But I loved the game. Loved to slow down and try to immerse myself in every moment, stay awake.

There are a few things I can do each morning—put on calm music, freewrite, yoga stretches if I'm really going all out—that can set such a positive tone for the day. Skip those, and it takes me hours to get back on course. 

This morning after dropping off Wally first, for a minute I thought Petra was right that it was a beautiful day. The sun was making its way out as we rounded the corner to her daycare. The air felt gentler, everything lighter, daffodils defiant after the last snow had first left them looked rather ravaged.

But the sun quickly retreated. The gray returned. Here to stay. A gray April day. Friends moving away. T.S. Eliot told you this about April. And yet here are the lilacs out of the dead land. 


  1. This highly mobile society is really a strain on us all - When I was a younger wife and mother there was a period of a few years in which every one of my best friends moved away one by one. Some of them were married to my husband's best friends... and it's not easy to just find new ones somewhere.

    1. Somehow my response to you seems to have gotten lost? And I wanted to say that I so appreciate the way you zoomed in on the bigger--not sure if "theme" is warranted in terms of what I wrote, but for lack of a better word--here. It's not easy--especially when you've found the rare combo where all members of the families get along! It is one thing if that is the only job you can get, but if you can take your pick, but another if you choose to leave for one job that you don't need. It's something I think about often--what we are valuing, what we are choosing--when we move about so casually and freely for jobs. Where was I reading about that...the massive changes once companies started moving people about...I think it was in Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam, the breakdown of communities...

  2. Such a beautiful ending! "I was already ready to be annoyed. I stepped into the NYC morning in the wrong 'place' mentally." -- oh, I have days like this. It makes writing near impossible. Hope you were able to stay kind to yourself <3

  3. Kelly thank you - "lilacs out of the dead land" - along with the title, from Eliot's The Waste Land.

    Yes - recognizing all this helps me to be kinder.

  4. First I must pluck this sentence because I love it so: "He processes everything dramatically and openly and literally and non-symbolically and without need of transference or projection." My best friend who lived next door since birth moved to Ohio when we were seven and I was so heartbroken about it. Her departure, however, sparked my passion for letter-writing. Perhaps Wally will write to his friend in Beijing? Is snail mail correspondence even a thing anymore? Or will they just keep track of each other on Facebook I suppose?

    And the childhood game of making up poetry on the spot and grading each other and your friend always grading you higher feels like its own little poem.

    I know the exact day last week you're referring to. My migraines mimicked the weather, a storm that wouldn't relent, low-lying stratus clouds smothering the entire week. So when that break in the weather finally came--that spot of sun--it was such a relief. Then, from the windows of a math classroom, I watched the clouds return, and with it, another migraine, as I administered quizzes to ornery high school students. Today's sunshine and birdsong and buds on the maple feel like a gift!

  5. Oh thank you Sarah for pointing out that sentence - for understanding it. Yes absolutely to real-letter-writing. In fact Wally started this: swubblepenpals.com and has been happily sending and receiving real letters for a few months.

    It is so gratifying that you understand too about that little poetry game and grading me higher.

    I'm so sorry about the migraines. How terrible. And the fact that you can carry on with the ornery high school students is beyond impressive. Here's to more bird songs and sun tomorrow. (BTW, I keep checking at OneBlueSail, hoping to see you there.)

  6. Especially when reading the paragraph "This morning after dropping off Wally...", I had a very pleasant feeling that I was reading a book... and not "just" a blog post. :)
    The temperature this morning -9C (16F). Spring is so very slow in coming this year.
    Happy Easter/Passover!

  7. That's such a nice thought Sara of the Woodland Garden. Thank you. Wow! So cold still where you are. Anything sprouting up yet? Happy Easter/Passover to you too.

  8. GretchenJoanna -- my response to you somehow got lost. I've posted it as a direct reply above to your initial comment.

  9. Replies
    1. It is amazing. The whole thing, but that verse especially beautiful.

  10. Ah...can never make any of it hold still, can we. This week I got a phone call from my childhood next door neighbor, she, the mother of my little playmates of those days. She still lives in the house where she raised her family and she still remembers the years where the neighborhood was one in which each house held a known entity...the kids were in and out of almost all of them. I am so glad to still be her friend.
    Tell Wally that I believe that when a friend has to move on, the love they shared with you stays with you and his for her can travel with her and it will all just make him a better friend for the new people he hasn't met yet.

  11. I love hearing about your continued friendship with the mother of your childhood playmates. I can easily conjure up the scene of you and your friends racing around in and out of all the houses. I love your advice for Wally, Jeannette, and will pass it along to him now!

  12. I love every bit of this post. Wally's heartbreak makes me ache. The poetry game. The excuses, yes, to all of this. Petra and her beautiful cheeriness. And that Eliot quote. I'm so far behind in reading your words, something that I always look forward to, and yet one of the things I let slip away in the chaos. It feels like summer now, a really warm May day. My lilacs have come and gone, and it's time to plant veggies. And your words, this unraveling of hearts and memories against those still-raw days that just so recently left (I hope!) feel like poetry, a story, yes, like Sara commented above.

  13. Amie! You make me think of that line from a Cranberries song: "You will always understand." Do you know it? I like how you phrase that: "One of the things I let slip away in the chaos." I love the honesty of that. Lilacs come and gone now. Those raw days...so recently left...and yet, on this summery day, feels far away.


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