|Picasso's Femme aux Bras Croisés, 1901-02|
Most weekends fly by so quickly we're left with whiplash by Monday morning. So it feels strange to have this pocket of down time on Saturday afternoon all to myself. We're having a much needed "quiet time" right now, having spent the morning racing between chores and soccer games. Usually the words quiet time are cue for my children to begin bickering with each other and/or sobbing that we never read them stories or snuggle them anymore, and then we spend two hours trying to beat them back into their rooms with a stick. But for some reason all is quiet on the western front today, and so I'm tiptoeing down to the computer and hoping the bubble won't pop anytime soon.
My writing time feels so imposed upon by the loose ends and demands of real life that I hardly know where to begin these days. Collecting my thoughts and sifting them into blog post sized nuggets feels like sorting laundry after an extended vacation. It all feels so clumsy and overwhelming. There are times in life when each of us really knows our own mind. We know what we want or what we're trying to achieve, and so we square our shoulders northward and make long strides with a sturdy walking stick in hand. But I'm in the business of taking baby steps right now. I can't tell if my family has reached solid ground or if we need to keep hanging on tight. Some days we feel acclimated and other days feel like the end of the world. That is life, I know, but our pendulum is still swinging higher than usual and I'm still waiting for the steep rises and falls to even off.
I've written a hundred blog posts in my mind over the past three months. Even when I'm not writing intensively it's become habit to put things in my basket that I'm not even sure I need or will use. Conversations. Unexpected laughs. Images that put shivers on my arms. When I was in Virginia in early August my sister-in-law took me to a local farm where we let our kids visit with the animals and run free. Along the edge of the farm stood a cluster of stationary tractors that the kids were allowed to climb on and "ride." I sat down on a little wooden bench to watch the kids play and noticed a plaque tacked to it:
In Loving Memory of
Kathryn Rose Freeman
February 2, 2000- January 23, 2004
A very happy and loving little girl despite her many challenges.
She was our little piece of heaven on earth.
I can hardly explain why I took a picture of the plaque or why I still think of Kathryn Rose every so often. I have no idea who she is, except that she left behind a family who loved her and wanted to create a material remembrance in honor of her brief life. I wish I could write her mother a letter and tell her that the little wooden bench along the edge of the tractor play area is exactly right. It sits under a tree, with a straight view of the old barns and flowering fields. Maybe they chose to put a plaque on the wooden bench because Kathryn Rose's challenges prevented her from running freely and playing, leaving her on the sidelines observing. Maybe she loved animals and tractors. Or maybe they simply wanted to remind parents, like me, to appreciate the gift of watching children at play.
I'm not looking for these questions to be answered, but that pretty much feels like our new normal. We're all questions and theories these days, without a lot of solid math to stand up on. Is there something more I should be doing to help my kids feel better in their new life, or should I wait patiently for the racket to die down? How can I feel so at home here when this is not my home, my town, my place? Not yet, anyway. Am I waiting for something external to happen, more time slots to open up in the day, change to nose its way into my life, or am I waiting on myself? What are my goals? What is it that I'm trying to do? I'm full of long term answers, I know what I want at the end of the day, but as for Saturday afternoon, I'm just staring out the window watching fall dilute the green.
Sometimes I think about how Picasso's life and work has been organized into periods: his blue period, rose period, African period. I don't know whose decision that was, maybe it was Picasso's idea, but to me the idea is appealing. Don't we all have "periods" of our life that we can look backward and readily recognize? The no carbs-crazed period, the read every single Elizabeth Berg novel period, or the I'm going to get my thesis written or die trying period? And don't we all have our own kind of "blue" period when the path ahead intimidates? When Picasso decided to paint with the color blue he had just moved to Paris, was mourning the loss of a dear friend, and was weighed down by poverty and the general uncertainty of his career and future. There are pieces of his story present in all of our lives.
Maybe this all sounds very down today, which isn't what's inside of me at all. I didn't mean to put sad onto the page, it's more like looking inside and underneath. A little Saturday afternoon deep cleaning. But I'm an absolute believer that if you keep collecting good things in your basket, whatever you decide to make will eventually turn out fine, possibly even better than expected.