Each week I share a short story-poem, a folk tale, and some recommended Middle Grade or Young Adult reading. These stories are for day dreamers, space cadets, mad scientists, creatives, and adventurers, regardless of age.
But when I went to the local thrift store I not only found a sweet little blue and white striped loveseat (and matching ottoman) and a lounger futon for my deck, I bought a pink accordion!!
I was nearly ready to check out and was standing by the register when I look toy right, and there she was, a baby pink diatonic Hohner two-row accordion. Nevermind that the price tag was more than the furniture, she called to me.
I suppose many people never gasp with delight over an instrument that is the butt of many jokes– How do you tune an accordion? You throw it in the dumpster– but I had visions of my clown costume with a frilly pink crinoline, and moreso of all those melancholy Swedish folk songs that really could use a nice long drone note underneath them.
It’ll be my birthday at the end of the month. Though I’m a little worried about what else I’ll want to justify as a “birthday gift to myself,” I have no regrets about this one.
A friend asked, “what’s something you’re grateful for today?,” and I answered, “my little work community.”
We were all tired and in favor of eating snacks and napping (snacks were purchased and eaten, but we soldiered on with all the consciousness we could muster).
It was a slow day for me, and when motivation is low and the phone doesn’t ring much I fall back on clearing out old computer files. This is usually not thrilling, and it’s not meant to be, but today I stumbled upon a true gem that rivals even the fantastic spam fax we got from “Claire Murthwaite of Murthwaite Manor, Scotland” via a number in Florida. (Spoiler, she was dying and all she desired was to find a good company overseas to give her millions to.)
That’s hard to top, but what I found looked like it had been run through Google Translate twice. It was a list of top ten questions to ask when interviewing a dental hygienist. Here are my favorites:
Let me know about how you labored effectively pressurized.
How can you handle challenging? Give a good example.
Maybe you have designed a mistake? How have you handle it?
Give a good example of the way you done team.
Perhaps you have handled a hard situation? How?
I laughed so hard it made me sweat. My boss had tears running down her cheeks. Everyone gathered around (or I stuck it in their faces).
What is it about seeing a thing and sharing it and feeling others see it, too? This was so ridiculous, of no consequence, and yet such a Moment. Such a thing to share in a primal way, as if gathered near a fire, darkness all around, telling the stories of the day, the hunt, the forage, the wild world around us.
Those ancient versions of ourselves are just as human, just as petty, just as incredulous, just as fragile, just as in awe.
Friends come to visit and you don’t have to see them if it doesn’t feel right. The point is the joy and the connection. The point is filling up, not running dry.
And that sometimes looks like buying groceries and nice drinks, and having a super simple supper with your kid (hot dog wraps and pickeld and green olives), and tidying up and putting down a rug, and reading on the deck while it’s still light out, and then watching the “epic battle scene” together in bed.
It can be finding the light bulbs and finally plugging in the lamp in the living room, watering the plants while on the phone with a friend, washing a load of laundry on the “extra small” setting, and easing into the evening on the gentlest slant of gin.
I met my kid on the library lawn, where he had spent the afternoon. I feel like I should have a sharper memory of exactly what he said, exactly his body language and expressions, because I write and pay attention and try to recreate things so they exist in a vivid way, but it’s like how I don’t know how to imitate my dad’s English accent: it just exists, it’s just how he talks.
Ennis just is funny. Witty and clever and goofy and deadpan, the most fun improv partner I’ve ever riffed with.
We went to Buck’s and he tried to convince me I should get him a bait fish (chub) for a pet– and then tricked me into looking in the leech tank (then swearing that if he had one it would never end up in my bed).
He bought tall bamboo poles for some sort of samurai staff (and later did some old-fashioned weed whipping in the yard).
And we stopped and smelled the roses in the garden, and I told him that my grandpa used to grow roses, so the smell makes me think of him. (Ennis found one he particularly liked… and ate a petal).
He’s so sincere and present and comfortable in himself. That’s a joy to be around, and such a good feeling as his mom: he is who he is, and I helped with that. If a younger me met him, she’d wish for her future child to be just like him.
The day feels dotted with tender moments that resist being written down, fixed in place. It’s cliché to say they are like butterflies, but that’s the experience: Oh! Then the gently held breath, eyes trying to follow their movements:
Spruce bogs. A list of reptiles and their traits. A brush moving through hair. A strawberry malt. My mother, surprised and delighted to recognize us. An old home still full of living magic. A phone call (and another and another). And a reunion like planets passing for a moment in alignment, like a reverse eclipse, like a chrysalis emptying and a new creature just filling its wings–
All the things I can’t hold, can’t look directly at, can’t look away from.
I read Women Who Run With the Wolves on a blanket at the edge of Mink Lake. (Warmth and sloshing waves and once even a butterfly that landed on the open page).
Clarissa Pinkola Estes said, yes, you’ll fish up more than you bargained for, yes, it will terrify you and you will run; it will follow you home, hooked on your line, this messenger made of bones with a face you imagine as your every fear. But, yes, light the lamp and look her in the eyes, this Skeleton Woman. The more you look the less your palms sweat, the slower your heart pounds, then: passion and compassion. Lay her bones in the right places, so she appears at peace.
And then let yourself feel peace. Trust this familiar stranger enough to drop your guard, drop your heavy eyelids, and sleep. Then she’ll take your grief and your love, and make you both whole again.
That’s what’s possible when you look at the thing you don’t want to see, when you bite off more than you can chew, when you reach out in the dark.
A friend used the phrase, “lacks the creativity” when talking about reimagining a belief based in fear. That was a hook tugging on my rib cage, a flicker of new light revealing a glimpse of this terrifying visitor. I’m creative. I know this tool.
And now, suddenly, at least in this exact moment, I want to touch the thing I didn’t want to touch. I want to shuffle the cards, lay the delicate finger bones and nesting vertebrae in their place and see who has been waiting for a visit all this time.
I didn’t actually know if I would like it– the click of cameras, the goofy, exuberant poses, the drama of the costumes.
I haven’t done my Job, the Thing I Though I’d Do Forever, since before the pandemic (with one exception). And it’s a weird thing to feel like you may be faking it at your own life, acting the part of a ghost rather than being alive and real in the present.
I still don’t know what comes next: when will gigs feel like me again? Will they ever? Does it matter? (And how will I know if I’m holding back because I’m afraid or because the old ways don’t fit anymore?)
But this morning, I had fun. In a black and white polka dot shirt with extravagant ruffles, and black and white skirt edged in gold. I held a giant flower, nearly as tall as me, like a staff. I tipped a hat jauntily over one eye. I changed into what I call my 80’s prom dress and turquoise Barbie shoes (with matching eye shadow).
And a class’s worth of students took pictures while the light screen popped and flashed. And it felt good. To collaborate, to improvise and take direction; to be looked at with focus, not as an object but as a shape, as an energy, as art. It felt good to extend feeling out to my edges, to play, to know myself as art, as lines and colors and movement. To be, mostly, unselfconsciously seen.
I don’t know about my career. I don’t know so many things about my inverted, stripped down, reinvented, largely rebranded life. The long planning feels almost impossible, but the driveway photoshoot before it was even time for breakfast, the piles of potential costumes draped on the deck railings, the shared vulnerability and experimentation and learning– that all felt good. And I’m thankful for having folks play dress-up with me.
A walk in the dark next to a familiar, or at least friendly shadow. Only a few cars lighting us up as they drove by far too fast. A humidity and warmth to the night air. The slightly drunken feeling of trying to hold a straight line in the dark. The comfort of listening and listening, as if to moving water. And from beyond the trees the memory of the full, smoke-dark moon.