lizards everywhere

We found a lizard in Margot’s room, and now I see lizards everywhere. I always forget to shut the door.

I don’t notice the alligator lizards until they are right in front of me. Earlier this week, I did yoga outside and found myself nose to nose with one. He looked at me, and I looked at him. And then all at once, he slipped away. I couldn’t hear a thing.

In the house, they aren’t so quiet. After he escaped into the living room, I opened the back door, hid in the kitchen, and heard the trip trap of lizard feet on the wood floor. I think the lizard found his way home.

(But still, I nearly spill my coffee when I see the tassel of a rug in the shape of a tail.)

excellence

checking the olives

I have friends who read parenting books, which is fortunate, because I don’t. You would think that as a writer, I would remember that books (including parenting books) expand our experience. But I forget.

So it is fortunate that I have friends that don’t forget. Yesterday, one told me about a book on teaching children to read that talked about modeling excellence. It talked about this beyond reading, modeling excellence in setting the table. Complimenting excellence when things were done excellently. Etc.

This seemed like a great idea for at least two hours, until I tried it, and felt like a total ass.

Maybe it’s just this week, maybe I’m in a laissez-faire sort of mood (I am). But really, I don’t care in the least about excellence*. Not in myself. Not in my children. And I know this is a weakness, because I see those who value excellence and the things they are capable of. My husband values excellence. Thank goodness.

But I don’t. My children will have to learn about it from someone else, at least until I am more inclined to fight my nature. I think that’s okay.

This morning walking home from Reed’s school, we stopped and sat a while to watch a swarm of ants and let them crawl on our fingers. The sun was already hot. Maybe this mood will pass, and next week I will feel entirely different. But today I feel like there is enough excellence in the world. I think there is plenty.

 

*I do care about good habits, and will happily keep my closet neat if I am reminded that putting things back carefully folded is a tidy habit. But telling myself to have an excellent closet only ends in retaliation. I don’t know why little shifts in posture and language matter so much, but somehow they always do.

caught up

Afternoon at the beach

Earlier this week, I read Anthony Bourdain’s tribute to Jim Harrison. Since then, it has stayed in my mind.

To the very end, ate like a champion, smoked like a chimney, lusted (at least in his heart) after nearly every woman he saw, drank wine in quantities that would be considered injudicious in a man half his age, and most importantly, got up and wrote each and every day — brilliant, incisive, thrilling sentences and verses that will live forever. He died, I am told, with pen in hand.

 

Our neighbors dug up their lawn, and in the dry dirt, five small house sparrows washed themselves with dust. When they flew, their were little indentations where their bodies had been. I don’t know where they are now.

Today I got up and bought eggs at the market. And a chicken and a bag of strawberries and all the stone fruits I can’t bear to say no to. Today I made strawberry ice cream. Today I got up and talked with my son and held my daughter and smiled at my husband. Today I wrote sentences neither incisive nor thrilling. And today I read, again, the poem that Jim Harrison wrote, that Bourdain closes with:

BARKING
The moon comes up.
The moon goes down.
This is to inform you
that I didn’t die young.
Age swept past me
but I caught up.
Spring has begun here and each day
brings new birds up from Mexico.
Yesterday I got a call from the outside
world but I said no in thunder.
I was a dog on a short chain
and now there’s no chain.

theory #62

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In writing, they say there are plotters and pantsers.

Or they say, for some writers, writing is primarily an act of creation. For other writers, it is foremost an act of discovery.

And that’s more interesting.

But no one wants to hear about writers. And if they do, they don’t want to hear about the act of writing.* It’s only interesting when you think that maybe everything is either  primarily an act of creation or discovery. We all are creators or discoverers. Of our lives. And days. And dinners. Not one-or-the-other, click this box or that, but a sliding scale, more here than there or somewhere in between.

Last month I tried to write a children’s book. I couldn’t finish; I already knew the ending. And I sat at a table in high school with a girl who knew she wanted to be a nurse and get married when she was 28 and have her start her family when she was thirty, and then she did.

And maybe none of this means anything at all. But maybe we all are primarily either creators or discoverers. Maybe we plan. Maybe we go with the flow. And maybe it’s not because we are “Type A” or “Type B,” or a “J” or a “P.” Maybe it’s just because we love to create. Maybe it’s just because we love to discover.

*This interview with Louis C.K. may be an exception, if you can handle rough content (and there is a lot).

 

the beginning of summer

Holding a stone, watching the kids
It’s muesli season again, every night a big covered bowl is set in the fridge for tomorrow’s breakfast. It’s nice to wake to, cool and good. The morning air is cool and good, too, and the kids get the breakfast themselves, and I hear the birds outside our open window in my dreams. But California summers are changeless and dry. It’s a long time til October.

We’ve been eating muesli. And I’ve been making yogurt like a fiend. Yesterday, I biked to the store for (again) more milk, biked without the children. I rarely shop without them, and it was strange to be at my ease, lovely. I got to look around at people, let people in front of me in line, say things like “You go first.”

A woman was buying dozens of tomatoes. She had an aging face, tired eyes, and the body of a fifteen-year-old. She flipped through Self magazine with Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover: assured gaze, toned, hairless belly. She put the magazine back.

The woman looked tired that afternoon, and maybe I looked tired, too. And around her lips were the scars of some old augmentation. I have been thinking about her. I have been thinking about the scars. None of us come out unscathed, but we’re all together, here, too.

It feels good to bike home when it’s hot, when the air is dry, and the sun isn’t too high. When you have a trailer loaded down with groceries to feed yourself and your children. There’s another batch of yogurt to make, another night of children talking and playing in their bedroom instead of going to sleep. Another night. Thank goodness. Another night.

ordinary

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Today I had to have the conversation, “How would you feel if when you asked me to do something I didn’t want to do, I started scratching your face?” and then walked home from the school playground with three kids crying about various things (someone stepped on someone’s jacket, someone didn’t want someone else holding my hand, so on and so forth).

But I also got to run, laughing, on that playground playing tag with the kids that stayed after school to play. And we went off for coffee, and the kids were lovely, and the sun was lovely, and we bought a jar of pickles on the walk home and as many apples as we could hold in our hands.

You win some you lose some.

(But it’s spring! The air is warm and blows around smelling like roses and jasmine (everywhere! always!).  And mostly it feels like we’re all just winning. All of us. All the time.)

Just Enough

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Not every day. But some days, it is good to be just sick enough to have low ambition. To be unable to process all “shoulds.” And to be well enough to enjoy it, and to do the dishes gladly while the house goes to pieces around your slow self.

And the girls shovel dry dirt. They play with the sheets you put on the line. Then they invite you to share a pot of pretend “cream tea” at the table, and you agree. You aren’t thinking of other things you could do. You aren’t thinking of anything- the sheets to fold, the floor to clean- only what good company those girls are, how Helen makes you feel cared for and Margot makes you laugh.

The Thing about Eating Outside

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The thing about eating outside is you forget about the dishes. The kids wander off to the other part of the backyard to play a game with tennis rackets and a jump rope, and you put your feet up on their chairs. They are loud, and it doesn’t sound at all like noise. It sounds nice.

And you linger. And you don’t miss the sunset (again). And you hear the church bells (somewhere), and you pick at the chicken skin and rest.

sitting at the kindergarten table

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Last week, Reed forgot his lunch box, and I delivered it and sat down at the kindergarten table. We might make a habit of it.

Why is it different seeing people someplace you aren’t used to? When I drop Reed off at school, he shakes off my arm if I put it around him. Too old for that stuff. But at lunch, sitting down with them, talking to classmates about the stuff kindergartens talk about (what sort of lunch they like, whether they keep ice cream in their freezer), he kisses me a dozen times, gazes lovingly at his sisters. Everything is so great and so fine, seeing someone you love someplace you aren’t used to seeing them.

if it’s not a hell yes

PB&J

Ashley Rodriguez wrote about this: “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” Whether it’s the best advice for me or not, I’m not sure. I say no to the stupidest things. Most often the park.

But what is good advice for me (and is really the same thing) is to put more hell in my yes. Why do I need to be so begrudging? If I’m going to say yes to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, I might as well make it a hell yes. A hell yes to walking to school without shoes on. A hell yes to the Nutcracker record (again).

Say hell yes to everything. That’s my resolution. For a couple of days, anyway.

Unless it’s a no.