Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The sound of flapping wings

It feels like a crime saying this, in this the age of gratitude and happiness projects, but life feels really stupid sometimes.

Shame on the person who wakes up in the morning and thinks,

My life feels stupid.
Time to make the donuts. We do the same thing every day.
What is it really all about?

But, honestly, I do wake up feeling that way sometimes.

Don't you?

I even felt this way, possibly even more, when I was a professional snowboarder. I spent month-long training camps at the same slopeside hotel--usually the Breckenridge Hilton-- eating, sleeping, training, watching video of myself training, working out, eating, sleeping, repeat.

Not only that, but I put on the same uniform-- first layer, speedsuit, ski pants, fleece, jacket, boots, helmet, goggles, gloves --day after day. I rode up the hill on a chairlift. I rode back down through a race course. I checked my time at the bottom, then rode back up and came back down the course, seeking a new line that would improve my time by three tenths of a second. If my time was less than 6% slower than the boys' time, I was within range.

Why do I always see symbolism in things?

The only difference between then and now is I had a coach telling me how I was doing, urging me on, bolstering that which needed to be bolstered.

I bet you never imagined that something as seemingly glamorous as a competitive sport career could feel like factory work sometimes. And the product is you.

But still, now that I've been "domesticated," the same sorts of things shake me out of my stupor and put life back into relief. It's usually art or nature.

Like this morning, on my gray walk, when that lone Canada goose flew, directly North, over our heads and flapped determinedly into the distant gray sky, calling, forlornly, to someone, anyone, wait for me, as it flew.

And, voilá, life was unexpected again, and I was remembering the number of times we were startled from our stupor  by a flock of massive, honking swans flying just above the rooftops of our sleepy French village, so close you could hear the rhythmic pumping of their fluid wings as they flapped their way towards an instinctual destination.

That was a beautiful thing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good dream, bad dream

I dreamed I got out of bed in the middle of the night and went into the bathroom to put water on my face.

As I looked up, groping for a towel to wipe my face, there, standing at the sink right next to me, we don’t have two sinks in our bathroom, was Ian, looking just like himself in one of the plaid flannel shirts
I bought him, stretched tautly over his deliciously- broad shoulders, and blue jeans and his blue eyes.

He was just standing there, casually looking into the mirror, as if he had been there all his life. 

I screamed and threw myself at him.

“What are you doing here,” I shrieked. “How did you get here?”

“I wanted to surprise you,” he said, as calmly and evenly as he says just about everything.

I should have known right there that this was a dream because surprising people, or planning anything ahead of time, is not Ian’s style, but I wanted so much for this dream to be true I ignored all of that.

And I held him, just held him, until I woke up and he was not here.

Damn.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The antidote to Britney Spears



Dear sporty college girl we saw at the Middlebury hockey game last night,

You appeared out of nowhere, resplendent in a baggy T-shirt, shorts, and running shoes, wired for sound with earbuds in your ears.

My daughters and I spotted you at the same time as you sprinted the row of stadium steps--casually down, swiftly back up again in a surge of power-- propelled by ambition, visibly strong legs, and, I’m guessing, your playlist.

You were oblivious to what was going on around you-- the women’s hockey game, the regrettably small number of spectators, me and my family.

My girls were mesmerized by your motion--the very vision of you moving, muscles flexed, through the crowd. As you ran past our seats and continued on your lap around the stadium, my youngest, Isla, left her seat and jogged to the stairs in a perfect emulation of you.

She wasn't chasing you. She was being you.

She ran up the first flight, then hopped down again, then up the second, tripping only once on her dress, then back down again. Then, as she headed into the third flight, she looked up to see you coming back down on your second lap.

Startled, she  jumped aside and you smiled at her as you passed-- the smile of a young girl who remembered being an even younger girl. She chased you up your last sprint, her short skinny legs, clad in stripey tights, no match for yours, yet undaunted by the competition.

As you disappeared around the corner again for another stadium lap, she followed you this time. All the way around.

I watched her from my seat. She looked so small at the other end. She fell again, and bounced back up. She moved so swiftly. So determinedly. This, my child who normally whines if she has to walk more than a block.  And you, so far ahead of her, with no idea, still,  you were being followed. No idea the part you were playing in my child’s fantasy. No idea what an inspiration you were.

She followed you up and down the three flights of stadium steps and around the stadium again. This time, on the far side, I noticed she had been joined by two more little girls, one ahead, one behind. Each running. Each inspired by the sight of you. You did another stair circuit and were gone.

Isla came limping in from her last lap, jogged straight to my seat, and put my hand to her heart, underneath her dress.

“Feel my heart,” she said, her eyes wide and her cheeks splotched red with life. 

I did.

It was thumping. Wild and steady against my hand.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The heart, at least I think that's what it was, speaks



This morning I awoke to the sounds of some unidentifiable piano concerto on VPR's classical station. (Who am I kidding. They are all unidentifiable.)

It was not unpleasant. Sometimes piano concertos are.

No. It was beautiful.

The soft plinking notes pressed the residual overnight gloom right out of the room and I realized two things: I was alone-- Isla had had a good, wander-free night. And, I felt completely at ease, a' l'aise, in my skin and in my home. My bed was soft in all the right places and firm in all the right places and warm all over. And my heart was soft in all the right places, and firm in all the right places and warm all over.

I raised my thick head off the pillow to glance at the clock. 6:10. I pushed my head back into the pliant warmth and dozed some more.

I got up to pee and stood in front of the double windows that face out to the barn. It was just before sunrise when the whole world, even the air, is soft-edged. Submissive.

The mountains, the trees, the air, the sky, the barn, the sleeping horses. It all looked, and felt, so welcome and familiar. So permanent. Unmovable.

I had a flashback of looking out our back window in France in the dark winter mornings. I felt nothing of that loneliness, that desolate sense of homesickness, I often felt upon waking up there.

"That's because this is my home," I heard my voice cutting into my reverie to say, as I continued on towards the bathroom, "and France was not."

I had spoken out loud. Or someone had.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Till the cows come home



We are still waiting for Ian.
Time.
Moves.
So.
Slowly.

Yet I am caught up in some sort of blurry twister, the kind that blows across the field, sucking up red golden leaves  and swinging them round and round in its super swirling vortex before dropping dropping them, breathless and dizzy, and moving on.

I feel as if I have tipped the scales towards overload somehow and I can't remember at what exact point I lost control. I've got a nasty cold. I feel tired all the time. Getting myself up and the kids out each morning feels Herculean. And the kids and the horses and the dog and the firewood and my blogging committments..... I never seem to be done or satisfied or finished, or ahead. I can't remember the last time the girls bathed. They don't smell too bad. And I never remember to badger Esther to practice her violin or do her homework. She is getting it done, not the violin part, but not as eagerly as she was before Christmas. She's flagging as well, I think.

And Isla, always begging me to read to her just at that witching hour when the fire needs to be started and the horses and dogs need to be fed and the dinner needs to be cooked, but first I have to clean the kitchen to find the sink and stove because I've been sitting at my computer most of the day. And I am so happy she is finally, finally into books and sooo guilty when I have to tell her, again, no I cannot read to you right now because if I read to you right now there will be no dinner to eat. There is no one here to fix our dinner aside from me. I'm all you got and if I knew how to read and cook dinner at the same time,  I would, but I don't so I can't.

I'm not exactly Demi Moore, yet, but sometimes I feel as if I can totally understand how easy it would be to just snap like that. To feel as if you are so far in over your head, or have climbed way too high and only just now, after all this time, bothered to look down and what you saw, how small everything looked down there, and how vulnerable you felt swaying up there in the wind, terrified you.

And the temptation to just let go and free fall, yield to the currents, is real and everpresent.

To let the dishes pile so high in the sink and the clothes so high on the laundry table and the bills so high on the kitchen table and to just say "screw it, come on kids, let's take the credit card and go out to eat and then go to New York City and see some Broadway shows, then let's not go to school for a week and go skiing every day instead. That last idea is kind of a joke considering the pathetic and extremely depressing lack of snow. Unless, of course, we went to the French alps....

And isn't it funny how my fantasy includes, rather than threatens to run away from, my children, so well trained am I at being their only hope at survival. But the fact is, I need them. They keep me from getting lonely, from feeling too sorry for myself. To think that Ian isn't even getting cuddles from a child is to realize that I have the better deal here. I don't care how much sleep he is getting, I would die if I had to be away from these kids that long. Die.

This place is drier than a popcorn fart. The land is crusty. Parched. Brittle, like my patience lately. The poor horses have sore feet from walking on their own frozen hoofprints. There is symbolism there, I know it.

Every snowfall we get is just this teasing, non-committal  one to two inches that always leaves the pointy ends of the grass poking through as if to say, na na na na na na, you can't smother me.

How did I get back to snow again?

Anyway, I realize, looking back to my last three weeks of Momformation blogs, that I've written about lice, what a mess my house is, and the confession that we are habitually late for school. You might be wondering if my confession that I'm downing two bottles of Fat Bastard pinot noir or, possibly, doing whippets, every night is coming next. But, remarkably, it isn't. I've never been into drinking alone. A tidy night cap now and then while I'm doing some late- night blogging, maybe, but really, I find no joy, or escape, in alcohol. I'm too concerned about how fat I'm already getting from all this sitting and no ice hockey, no cross country skiing, no nothing much of anything, really, other than bouncing up and down on my ball/chair and squeezing my glutes. That and dancing with the girls and the painfully sporadic, yet fulfilling, 8 a.m. walks with my neighbor.

Oh yes. I started this post to say I mailed Ian's completed Immigrant visa application yesterday. It only took us a month to get it all complete, included the translation of his French criminal record which was all of one sentence. If I knew how to say "nothing to report" in French, I would tell you that is what it said.

So now, all we can do is wait and hope and dream of one day being reunited as a family again. Esther has gotten really antsy. She keeps asking me every day when Daddy is coming home.

"In a week?" she asks.
"No," I say, irritated. 
"But you said..."
"All I said, was, maybe the visa center will review the application this week and then Daddy will get his interview appointment in Paris and he can finally come home. I did not say he was coming home in a week and I'm sorry if that is what you were hoping but it's just not true."

One day later:
"Tell me again when you think Daddy will come home."

"Soon, Esther," I say. "Soon."

It's like asking when it's going to snow.
Someday soon.
I just know it.