all in the “clan”

June 28, 2010

For 3 days now, my family has been in the throes of one of our whirlwind gatherings.  The past few times I have called it that–a “whirlwind,” it has struck me that the term has become habitual for me, as a descriptive one for our events.

Is this whirlwind-ness just a common trait among families?  Perhaps.  But I also suspect that we have a particular inclination towards non run-of-the-mill-ness.  The melding of our scattered living situations [both across the country and throughout the world] along with our large percentage of individuals who do things, and who live life, in rather unpredictable, un-ordinary sorts of ways, creates a sum total of contented craziness.  And yes, I do realize that my personal bias makes for the use of a word such as “contented” in a way that might not necessarily be called that by anyone with a more normal sort of upbringing and state of mind.

So now that the flurry of activity and long hours of road-tripping are past, I find myself reflecting on all that it means to be a part of a family.  A real family.  Just writing those words brings back the tears that sprung to my eyes as we said our goodbyes.  I am not one for emotional goodbyes–I just don’t do them.

But yesterday afternoon, as we wound down from the happy, if hot, gathering, I made my rounds before the three of us loaded into the car.  Kneeling by the kiddie pool where my niece was wading, I cupped her face in my hands.  She had paused in her splashing-abouts, and was squatting, her head slightly tilted, obviously in deep 2-year-old thought.  “Your auntie is going away again,” I told her, “and I’m going to miss you very very much.  But I’m going to see you again at Christmas time.  Ok?”  Still not moving, she was so very quiet that I almost wondered if she had even heard me, and I considered repeating it.

But then I reconsidered.  I suspected that she had, in fact, heard me quite clearly, and only wished I could have some glimpse into that beautiful little brain.  Maybe someday.  For now, though, it is enough to sit with that bursting heart-full of love for that little one, and to know that life is worth it all when it is lived as a part of a “clan,” as we like to say in my own :-)

grow in peace

June 23, 2010

If you spend any length of time, on any given day, paying attention to media and societal influences, it does not take long for a sensitive spirit to despair: corruption in the government, damage to the environment, poverty in the world, brokenness in relationships . . . it is all too much to bear.  Alone.  Which is why, I think, I have been so awed by the wealth of decency in my community of friends and family.  What a great blessing it is to have daily interactions with people who defy the norms of life as we know it.

And so tonight I warned Ruby that, her being who she was, I would probably end up inspired to photograph her at some point over the course of the evening.  Here she is, caring for her lovely orchid and sporting a fittingly-symbolic t-shirt :-)

the lady of the lake

June 21, 2010

It was a very average sort of evening stroll, complete with “deep woods” bug spray and a dog dead-set on tramping through the muddiest “cricks” . . . but suddenly I practically clapped with giddy delight at the picture-perfect pose . . . Jenna’s combination of a walking stick plus deer-fly-combatting hat took on an ethereally lovely aura of a pastoral painting when combined with the pond she had ventured down to explore.  Sometimes it pays to have a camera as an extra limb :-)

happy daddy’s day

June 20, 2010

This morning I had my student write a little contest-poem, answering the question “If your dad was an ice cream flavor, what would he be?”  With a bit of “translation” help from me [she talked through the answer and I put it in poetic form], I think my 6-year-old student did a fine job indeed.  And so in honor of tomorrow’s celebrations, I would like to offer this as a bit of a shout-out to all the Dads in my life: y’all are swell :-)

My Daddy-Cone

By Allison,

With scribe-assistance by Yours Truly

If Daddy were an ice cream cone, what flavor would he be?

He’d be a pretty special one, ‘cause this is what I see:

First scoop would be just Strawberry.

Next Oreo Cook-ie—

After that one, Maple Syrup,

Then a scoop of plain Hon-ey.

Next comes the scoop of Cookie Dough,

Then Strawberry Shortcake . . .

[What’s that, you ask?

Well silly—it’s a flavor too, of course!]

One more scoop—a real special one,

That’s called just “Honey Bee.”

It’s the final flavor that my special

Daddy’s Cone would be . . .

For this one’s made with bees, you see—

Not real ones, ‘course—that’d hurt!

They’re cute, & sweet, quite tasty, too—

The perfect Topper-Scoop!

creatively mapping

June 14, 2010

I have been rather internationally-minded of late . . . wonder why? ;-)  So for today’s Nonfiction Monday, I thought I would share another “oldie”–a review I wrote while on that International Children’s Literature Conference trip.  This came after listening to the author give a presentation about what was, at the time, her latest work.  As you can tell, I found her rather intriguing . . .
  1. Sara Fanelli, The Map Book [Italy].  Sara is a slight and fiery woman—with her flyaway curls, childlike excitement, and passionate manner, she seemed to me to be some sort of a cross between an Audrey Hepburn and a Meg Ryan.  As a result, it was a delight to learn of her beginnings and experiences as an innovative and highly successful children’s book author and illustrator.  More so than anyone else I have met, she made me feel like this was a field within reach—not just a vague pipe dream for me.  With little in the way of formal training, and nothing in the way of her eclectic creativity, she has broken the rules in exciting ways . . . to the delight of children everywhere.

As I listened to her, I kept thinking, “Wow, you think like that too?” and “Your brain does those finny things with words and pictures also?”  Furthermore, she was only in college when first published, and her career has been booming ever since.

One specific idea that jumped out at me was The map book, in which she illustrated “maps” of unexpected objects and ideas, such as a dog, a day, and—a bit more expectedly—a treasure map.  A second idea that intrigued me was her use of comic book strips in a longer picture book—Dreamtime—in order to speed up the narrative slightly.

She is, in short, an inspiration!

a nosy poem

June 9, 2010

Today is Wednesday.  Poetry Wednesday, in fact.  And so, without further ado, here is a poem, for you ;-)

Loved, By a Nose

by AGJ

“My love is like a red red rose . . .”

With a corn cob pipe and a button nose?

That can’t be right, that’s not what I meant:

Don’t worry, my darling, this poem’s not spent!

“How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways . . .”

No one can eat just one . . . Lays?

Oh dear, no–most certainly not!

A potato chip? What a ridiculous thought!

Just one more attempt I shall make, one last time–

One more chance to woo with a romantic rhyme:

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate;”

With hair shiny black and eyes green & gray,

You make my heart flutter and grow delicate.

With you I am matched, in our profiles it shows:

As we reach for a kiss, but are blocked by a nose!

There are people in the world who, I think, inspire creativity.  Some simply because of a muse-like nature.  Some because they are themselves so creative.  And some, like my friend Jenna, who contain within them such a unique combination of qualities that not only do other people end up inspired, but Nature herself seems to cooperate with oddly coincidental moments of delightful circumstance.

Tonight, for instance, is a case in point.  Jenna chatted happily, hopping from one topic to the next.  And over the course of the evening she periodically interrupted herself to point out to me, in an off-handed manner, perfectly magical moments . . . A huge black bear lumbering into the woods in front of us . . . A flock, making its way across a field, that consisted of a couple of grown up [harried, I imagined] geese, shuffling a brood of approximately 20 lively goslings . . . A spot through the woods [that I pass daily] where, if you look a bit more closely than usual, you see the most fairy-tale-like brook, complete with a series of perfect little waterfalls . . . One cannot help but wonder if the world would be a bit kinder of a place if it were populated by more Jenna-like folks :-)

bank on it

June 6, 2010

If one must lose a wallet, the bank is not the worst place to do so.  And yes, I’m afraid I can vouch for truth of this assertion . . .

So it was that a highly anticipated day of scheduled errand-running and lecture-attending became instead a day of highly uncomfortable waiting, phone calls, step-retracing, and re-calibrating.  All is well.  My wallet was found, thanks to an after-hours manager who met me there at the closed branch, made some phone calls, and discovered the finder of said wallet.  All my financial documents are now in a vault, awaiting my pick-up on Monday.

And I am realizing, yet again, the futility of relying upon illusions of normalcy and control.   Because when it came down to it, the day’s unexpected moments were far better than any planned “perfection” I could have orchestrated: a last-minute boat ride invitation; the acceptance of help from those with more power than I; a sunset walk . . . and a boldness in photo-taking with my walking companion.  I was so smitten by the evening light that I opted to point towards the light.  And her being as lovely of a subject as she is, I think it turned out just fine :-)

in the intangible

June 5, 2010

I think there are days when our task in life is to just sit tight with discomfort.  To be “in the waiting” without being able to cling to any tangible semblance of needed-ness . . . and for those of us prone to people-pleasing, this is no small task.

So today I plodded my way through a day of work that felt aimless, free moments that felt unproductive, and efforts at helping that felt helpless: a day at the close of which I wonder if anything that I did really did anybody any good . . .

But all is well.  And tonight, driving home as the sun was setting, I glimpsed to black bear cubs cavorting in the field.  I leapt at the prospect of a photo, grabbing for my camera.  When they dashed off into the distance before I could capture them, I even drove back, parked the car, and walked back and forth along the road for awhile, silently praying for their return.  They did not return and now I wonder if it is better that they did not–for it completes the day’s lesson for me: that glimpse was meant to be sufficient.  It was a snippet of creation that I could hold in my memory even if I have nothing tangible to show for it.

I suspect that it is, after all, in the in-tanglibles that the greatest living of life happens . . .