Saturday, October 30, 2010

fall fashion

I have lived in the desert seven years without ever visiting the zoo. This is no accident. As someone who finds the desert heat - particularly in late October, when everything in me is yearning to experience a taste of fall - not only oppressive, but deppressive, as in depressing, I was sure that, for me, given my particular propensities and predilections, paying the price of admission in order to meander around a park full of animals in actual cages would be almost negligent.

Today, however, with the move delayed by a few days, the girls and I cast off all constraints and headed to the center of town to feed the giraffes.

The effect turned out to be quite opposite of what I expected: rather than causing me to bemoan my presence in Arizona - which is a bit like a reverse Narnia in that, here, it is always summer and never Christmas - I actually began to celebrate it.

It's difficult to explain why, exactly, only I know that something quite palpable began to happen the moment I set foot in the aviary. So much life! So much color! True, the birds were in cages but this didn't keep them from strutting and pecking and nodding their beaks at me. In short, it did not keep from being birds.

Suddenly, I felt I had been welcomed into a society of my betters - the only one whose external appearance was pure pretense - who had to resort to wearing clothes, for example.

Forget whatever fall fashions are being touted at the moment, have you ever really examined the head of a crown pigeon? Why, it is absolutely extraordinary! Their eyes are the brightest vermilion; their crown feathers as stiff as dried moss, as frail and fine as pressed flowers. It's no wonder such birds are often personified as aristocrats with monocles. If I hadn't been pushing a stroller I'm almost sure I would have curtsied in reverence.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Someone to do for

Boxes to pack, decisions to make and delays to endure... all run the risk of making Heather a hopelessly distracted girl. Should you find yourself in need of a dose of perspective, as I was this afternoon, give this song a look and listen. It is particularly effective when dancing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Singin' in the Rain

They trapsed back and forth along the stone ledge beneath the roof's awning, in their matching pea coats, Evie pointing at the sheath of water that gushed over the drain while Audrey kept repeating, "There's wa-ter, Evie! It's falling from the sky!" For an instant, this thirty-year-old woman from the rainy Northwest felt as though it was her first rain too.

Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head

Yesterday morning, for the first time in Audrey and Evangeline's living memories, it began to rain - hard. Having been recently schooled in the practice of identifying poisonous liquids (cleaning products, spray paint, and chlorinated water) Audrey immediately began making loud proclamationa that she (nor Evie, nor I) could drink the rain. "No, Ma'am!"

Her irrepressible delight when I informed her that, in fact, the rain was not poisonous, banished all thoughts of packing or 'to dos.'

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Moving (again)

I saw this photo on a blog called Olivet and thought - well, aside from its very New England, very autumn flavor - it was too perfect not to post. We haven't packed the car yet but the house is officially coming apart which means all the really "superfluous" (i.e. crucial-for-maintaining-my-mental-health) things in my life, like writing, are being pushed, not just to the margins, but clear off the page for a while.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Princess and the Peacoat

Her chilliness toward all male articles of clothing - sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets, pants - has been one of her prominent characteristics for some time: "I can't wear that Mommy, because, because, be-cause - I'm sorry but, I'm a girl." I was taken aback to realize that even socks were included in the ban. "Socks are for daddies," she explained, shrugging and squinting and tipping her head sideways. "Of course!" I retorted. "How could I have been so thoughtless?" (Though it is hard for me to imagine life without my argyles.)

But this evening, when I brought home a brand-new "winter" peacoat from Beppe, her moratorium began to thaw. She slid her supple arms into the shimmering red sleeves, buttoned it up to her chin, and begged me not to take a picture. Naturally, I complied, as I understand the need for "priver-seat," even when you're three, however I found it impossible to restrain myself the moment after she'd fallen asleep.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Life is Sweet

I know it's sort of frowned upon these days to advocate the consumption of copious amounts of raw unprocessed sugar - especially if you're a mother - but really, what else are weekends for?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Many Things

“Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” ~ Luke 10.42

There is a long stanza in Wordsworth’s Ode about the many stages in a man’s life – stages of love and strife, of weddings and funerals, action and contemplation. Man moves, with a dissatisfied hunger, from one state to another - always, with "joy and pride," fitting himself to another new part, like an actor who is endlessly vying for a new role. By the time he arrives at “palsied Age” man has inhabited a great many persons and done a great many things - tempting the poet to wonder, with just a hint of lugubriousness in his tone, whether "[man's] whole vocation" is little more than "endless imitation.”

The rhapsodic line tripped about my mind all morning, as I was driven – not (quite) to drink, but to distraction.

I had been sitting at the table for approximately thirty-six uninterrupted seconds, attempting to read the gospel of Matthew, when Evangeline, in her high chair, her pink cheeks plastered with peanut butter, urgently signed for water. When I opened the refrigerator I saw the little puddle of spilled soda which had been firming itself into place for two days – Oh, I really must clean this! I thought, but when I reached for a rag I remembered the wash – the wash! I really must change it! But - wait, had I remembered to put that check in the mail? ...

I was just addressing the envelope when there came the slap, slap of bare feet behind me. There, like an apparition, stood Audrey in her fairy costume, waving a tattered pair of wings. “Mommy, can you put these on for me? So I can fly. So I can fly?

"But dearest," I wanted to say, "it is Mommy who wants to fly... far and away!" I sighed; I smiled; I bent down to attach the wings. “Really, William," I muttered, talking aloud to Wordsworth - because there is nothing better, in harried moments, than to begin imaginary conversations with dead poets - "If you're going to speak of my experience, you should alter the last line: for the whole vocation of a mother is one of endless interruption.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh articulates this problem with an amusing mixture of insight and wit in her book, Gift from the Sea, in which she writes, “I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls – woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.”

I agree with Lindbergh. Whether or not we are mothers or managers of large households, I think most women live in a perpetual state of interruption – of negotiating how to respond to the shower of demands that rain upon us from all sides, at all times, and from all sorts of venues. If my own experience is any judge, it is all too easy to flutter about from one task to another without stopping to scrupulously, and prayerfully, consider which demands are to be submitted to, and which deferred or denied.

My impulse – admittedly very childish – is simply to run away from life's demands and look for a loophole, a keyhole - even a rabbit hole - so long as I can escape.

But as so many children's stories deftly illustrate - it is one thing to want to run away; it is another thing entirely to have identified where, precisely, one wants to run to.

Upon careful reflection, I realize that I really long to go to that place where, in the words of GM Hopkins, "no storms come;" "where the green swell is in the havens dumb / and out of the swing of the sea."

In short, I long for heaven, and the beauty, tranquility, and unhurried fellowship with Christ - and with other people - which are its hallmarks.

However this realization comes as both liberation and limitation - for I cannot fly to Heaven any more than Audrey can flit through the looking glass to Wonderland. For now God has planted my two feet on the earth - wriggling amongst its mud and flowers.

Because I cannot escape life's storms, I must learn to live amidst them - recognizing that the peace I long for is only found in Christ, who "Himself is our peace" (Ephesians 2.14).

And yet, as I wrestle through such things, I cannot help but feel a certain sympathy for Martha who, the Scriptures say, was "distracted" or "cumbered" by "much serving" (KJV). The Greek word merimnao, from which the word “worried” is translated, is defined as “to care for or look out for (a thing)" as well as “to take thought of [it].” The context of the passage, alongside Jesus's gentle rebuke, implies to me that Martha was not just being careful to attend to her guests - which is something any gracious hostess would do - but she was being too careful, allowing such concerns to inhibit her from spending time with Christ.

As a wife and mother, there are many days when I too am "cumbered about much serving." Administering meals and all the household concerns which accompany them are part of my daily life - and they will be for as long as God gives me these parts to play. But to accept such responsibilities should not be tantamount to allowing them to rule my life and consume all my energy. “Be carefully careless about everything except your relationship to Christ,” says Oswald Chambers.

If I was held at gunpoint, and absolutely forced to pick a life motto, this might very well be it.

Thankfully, no such dangers are upon me. Instead, I face the danger of neglecting the one thing that is most important - and this is what causes me to shudder. For in the end (which is really the beginning), when I meet my Savior face to face, I want Him to commend me for having chosen what was better - even if it means letting the spilled soda sit in the fridge a few days longer.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Car Shopping

Several weeks ago I was privileged to enjoy a few days with my nephew, Asher. One afternoon we let the children loose in (what is, to us) the infamous toy store, Mildred & Dildred. We were simply tickled (pink? blue? chrome?) when Asher shimmied his miniature shopping cart right up to this "car dispenser," giving us all a new and deeper appreciation for the term car shopping. It was a "Dutching" moment - which is to say, his Uncle (Dutch) would have been very proud.