Tag Archives: Houston

april

cropballSitting in the backyard swing under the big, old camphor tree and words came:

A glass of wine—

fat carpenter bees —

wind swirling green-tipped trees—

April heaven in the garden bower…….

Normally I play to turn it into a haiki, but I was too April lazy. It had been awhile since I’d had an impulse of words. I need to leave more time for daydreaming.

Research news: I leave for The Netherlands soon. I meet with a historian in Maastricht to talk about Louis XIV and his war on the Dutch. And we’re going to Paris for the day on the bullet train to see the war museum and an exhibit on the musketeers. And I’ll meet a historian friend of his there who specializes in the musketeers.

Lucky me. One for all and all for one………cropball

Advertisements

mystery

indexIt becomes a day I treasure. My grandchildren are at my house. The weather is wonderful, mild, caressing, sunny, so beautiful it makes me a little crazy. My grandson, 4, is focused on the above-ground fish tank my husband has build. My grandson claims to be cleaning out the tank (a horse trough), but he’s really using the aquariam net to attempt to catch fish. Luckily, they’re too fast. His skullduggery amuses me, but the day is so beautiful, I am so glad to be outside and with these humans in the making, that anything would amuse me.

His sister has a small plastic Minnie Mouse. His sister is 2. Her vocabulary is, like her, small: stop, eat, open, again, Minnie, for Minnie Mouse,  her idol. She loves the fish tank too. It’s suggested by her brother that she drop Minnie into the water, and he will rescue her with the net. Well, the tank is too deep, and he can’t do it. So I do. Wonderful. Hurray. How fun. Minnie is dropped again. Again, a rescue is attempted, and I am called in. I think I have her. But I don’t. This happens twice. Now I reach my arm in (the tank goes almost to my shoulder). No Minnie.

Where can Minnie be? The question of a fish eating her is raised (not by me). My granddaughter considers this, but to her credit doesn’t break under the burden of that possibility. We swirl, we net, my arm goes in again and again. Where can she be? we all ask over and over. I get a big flashlight and shine it in the tank. There are cement blocks stacked to hold plants, and they have holes. I search the holes as best I can. No Minnie.

waterlilyWhen it’s time to go home, my granddaughter is willing to leave without Minnie and without tears. I tell my grandchildren—my grandson has taken charge about the disappearance and is pretty official about it—that my husband will find her for certain. There is a conference, quite serious, quite long, at the car as everyone is strapped in. Assurances are made. I promise I will call on the phone when she’s found.

She has to be there. Yet the mystery of it all…..

waterlilyAll afternoon, I laugh to myself. (I find out later that my grandson tells his father in no uncertain terms that another Minnie will have to be bought if she isn’t located, and that my granddaughter invents a game in which she goes all over the house asking, Where’s Minnie?*)

*She was pushed far back in one of those bricks’ holes.

hope

DSC_0094Le Notre and I are busy. He walks around my yard, leaning on the gold-headed cane gifted him by Louis XIV, and commands me to prune and pick up and plant. I love it when he visits. It’s that time of year, when my yard becomes a siren, and I lured to toil. It’s good to put one’s hands in soil, to dig and rake and straighten. To put a seed down. Seeds are the epitome of hope. I DSC_0094need hope in these days of my aging. It’s my botox.

follow me

 Secret place of the most high….words from the poetry that is often the language of the King James Bible….

I found one when I went out walking with my youngest grandson on a recent Houston spring night. Lovely, soft weather, a just past half-full moon visible in the not quite twilight sky. He alert and ready in his stroller. Shall we look for acorns (one of our pasttimes)? I ask him, and he says his soft ok that makes me smile. (He’s a few months over 2 years on the calendar but so much wiser. He’s my guide for accessing the lost child in me.) But there are no acorns.

Now we walk with him out of the stroller. He’s good about holding on to the stroller when we cross the streets. For a while, he holds on even when he doesn’t have to, and this small act of obedience always touches me. I always urge him to let go, tell him he doesn’t have to hold on when we’re not crossing the street. There’s something in me moved by his obedience but wanting him to spread his little wings.

We pass a fire hydrant, and I tell him that’s where the firetrucks get water. His father has purchased a firetruck video, and this grandson, as did my older grandson, will sit riveted to watch it from beginning to end.  He talks to the hydrant and touches small chains attached to it. I realize he is creating a huge story in his mind, that in his mind actual trucks are coming to the hydrant or something like that. After a time, I get impatient, tell him to come on, walk a distance away. He stays by the hydrant, talking, talking and playing with the chains. When I give up and walk back, he says, stay, Nana, and I obey.

I teach a class about the novel, about writing. You can’t teach writing, but you can facilitate it, and you can offer some obvious ingredients needed to make a story. I know that the students want a recipe, fixed and easy for fiction, and there isn’t one. You have to have the imagination of this small boy, who is making up and acting out some amazing story in his mind inspired by a fire hydrant.

I wait at the edge of night, the moon rising higher, for his story to end. When it does, he’s tired, ready to be tucked into the stroller. Where’s the moon? he asks me. There, I answer and show him.  Moon follow me, he says.

May it always, I think, and send grandmother blessings his way and think about how lucky I am as we walk home in the enfolding dark…..I’ve been in the secret place of the most high, and it was beautiful…..

What’s your secret place? What are your treasures?

bubbles

There’s a beveled glass window set high in the wall of the master bathroom. In the afternoons, the sun shines through it to make prisms of light on the tile floor. When my first grandson was very small, he saw them one day and exclaimed, “Rainbows!”  His seeing them, his excitement, touched me. And then he became older, as did I, and we forgot about them.

Now my second grandson, not 2 yet, has seen them. “Bubbles,” he cried yesterday in a voice of wonder. He walked among them, putting his feet in each and every one, looking at me and smiling. I see them every day and never think to exclaim at their beauty. I don’t notice them. I don’t put my feet in them in delight–which is the wonderful thing about being around young children: their wonder at the world. It reminds me of the mantra I want to age by: make me sweet again, fragrant and fresh and wild and grateful for any small event……like my youngest grandson….

Another note: Headed west today to teach a writing class in Alpine, Texas . Passed through a lot of big country, little civilization, country that reminds you you are not the center of the universe, that you’d better work with the universe to survive. Neil Young sang as I drove….This old guitar is only mine for awhile…..

bittersweet

The neighborhood poet has pulled up stakes and moved to Alpine. All week, as I’ve driven past a certain intersection where I can see his house, I’ve watched his packing and bustling. He’s hardly  just the neighborhood poet; he was the poet laureate of Texas in 2008, and he’s more than acclaimed. But for me he’s one of the characters in my Houston world: big, burly, soft Texas accent, friendly as a puppy, wonderful old-world-Texas manners, wildly in love with words. He’s likely to arrive at one of his readings in shorts and an old T-shirt and sandals, his heft punctuating inbreaths, a big turquoise ring capturing one’s eye and the spirit of his words. His frame–large and laughing–– hides the subtle sinewy strength that can reside in his poetry.

We talked a little bit about the muse yesterday. I’m a man of ritual, he said, fretting about the leaving of his writing place, a small studio at the back of his house. I’m taking a chance moving away like this. She may desert me. I said I doubted that. I said I thought the wide open true Texas spaces of Alpine would likely deepen his work. What do you want to bet, sitting there, staring at the mountain, the landscape that has always informed my work, that I start to write about Houston, he said. We both laughed. That would be a good thing, I answered. Landscape makes solid bones in his poetry and can be quite startlingly metaphoric. We really never ran around together as neighbors, but our paths would cross at local spots. Now they won’t. When I see his house at that certain intersection, he won’t be in it. My psychic landscape already misses his place in it. And soon, this being Houston, the house, being old, will be razed, and a stunning, huge townhouse will sit on the spot. Houston does not celebrate landscape or anything old. It’s always moving, expanding, changing its face. Bittersweet, my neighborhood poet said, that’s what this move is, bittersweet.

Yes, I thought. When we’re young, moves are only sweet. It takes time to leaven them with some bitter, the knowledge that with every move, not only do we leave behind sometimes precious, irreplaceable things, we take ourselves, all our flaws and longings, strapped to our backs like invisible weights––or wings––wherever we go. What gold he’s made of his wings and weights…..And so, off he’s gone to where hawks/slingshot-flung,/scream in dazzling/Texas sun.

When you have a moment, hear him read here.

A ladybug update: Festival was held on Thursday. It was a success. There are some 1,000 ladybugs out there bearing blessings and our laughter. Hope one lands near you.

12 step redux

I was in New York for awhile. One morning I was sitting in the hotel mezzanine upstairs and overheard the following between the man at the front desk and his friend (both from Russia or the Balkans or some place Slavic).  HOW you are? boomed the first, big loudness on “how.” I loved the mixed-up syntax. They talked for a time, and then this floated up, capturing my attention again….Well, you know, every day at a time…..which I took to be a sort-0f translation of the 12 step motto….one day at a time. It made me laugh, this version of it, and it made me pause and remember that I can’t control anything, only myself, and sometimes not even that, and that I’m not in charge of the world, and that things happen, things I like and things I don’t, and my job is to keep my eyes on me and keep faith of some kind and get through this day the best I can, this day, not tomorrow, and if I best-I-can enough, most days will meld together to compose a life that has more joy than sorrow, but I don’t get one without the other….that old Kahlil Gibran wisdom….and could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy./And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields./And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.…..

Every day at a time….how you are?