Saturday, March 19, 2016

You Never Know What You Need Until It No Longer Blooms In Your Backyard

If my husband hadn't had to chop this down last fall, this is what would be blooming in my back yard right now.

Unfortunately this nasty grape-vine thing has taken over the yard and the only way to get rid of it was to cut everything it was clinging to and wrapping itself around down to the ground. Forsythia is pretty hardy - I think it will come back, but I miss this bit of yellow spring which usually shows up this time of year.

And although it hasn't been much of a winter - very little snow, very little cold - I'm still looking forward to that release spring brings. I'm needing the surge of energy I get when the air turns warm and the daffodils are up.

Right now I'm in my little messy office with noise canceling earphones listening to The Decemberists and trying not to be annoyed by the family of squirrels who've taken residence in our attic. They are the most persistent squirrels the pest control guy has, apparently, ever come in contact with. He's been here 3 times to block the hole and create an "out" door (a door that lets them out but not back in). Each time the squirrels have managed to either rip out the door, or have chewed a new hole right next to the old one. On Thursday the pest guy came again, blocked the new hole and strengthened the door. All the rest of the day I heard them frantically skittering across the roof and over the gutters trying to figure out a way in. It was like a Hitchcock movie except squirrels, not birds. Kinda freaked me out. This morning they got back in, and now I'm trying not to hear them rustling through the insulation and cracking walnuts against the wall. I hope that when it's finally, thoroughly, warm they will leave and allow us to fix all the soft soffits and repair the bit of siding they ate through. I seriously need spring and forsythia and daffodils and wild animals outside where they belong.

For the first time in five years I had a full spring break. Since I started adjuncting, I have taught at at least two different schools (once three! - that was too much) But now that I'm only at one school I was able to take a full week off to think, and write and do a little grading catching up. It was amazing. I actually sent several stories out - got one picked up! - wrote and edited stories that have been sitting around since last summer. For one week the only stress I felt was the usual stress within my family - as opposed to that anxiety compounded by the anxiety I feel for students and my work with them. I didn't realize I needed this. I'm one of those people who do what I'm supposed to do - and if you ask me to do more, why then I'll do that too. My husband is always saying that my future time has no value to me and so I give it away for free. I think a lot of women do this. I have to fight my tendency to mother everyone - take care of everyone other than my self.

When I was a kid, my dad always said we should do the unpleasant tasks first, before moving on to something we want to do. This is a disastrous philosophy for people like me. Unpleasant (or less pleasant) tasks are never ending. They are like the tide, they ebb, but come back full force and without ceasing. I'm trying to learn that it isn't a zero sum game - that it's not that I can't do fun things until the unfun have been completed - rather, I have to make sure I alternate what I want to do with those things I have to do. I always want to write - therefore I don't write because it's what I want to do. Ridiculous.

So, this past week I put writing, thinking, reading first. I read short stories I hadn't read in years - Sonny's Blues by Baldwin, Everything Rises Must Converge by O'Connor - and flipped through The Leaves of Grass - which I return to whenever I'm feeling out of control. (Bless you Whitman.) Someone gave me this collection of poems by Han-Shan translated by Gary Snyder written in calligraphy and illustrated with simple line drawings reminiscent of Japanese ink paintings. I stink at memorizing, but this one four line poem, not quite a haiku has been rolling around my brain all week and I'm going to just set it down and leave it here for you. :

Spring-water in the green creek is clear
Moonlight on Cold Mountain is white
Silent knowledge - the spirit is enlightened of itself
Contemplate the void: this world exceeds stillness*


*Cold Mountain Poems: Twenty four Poems by Han-Shan, Translated by Gary Snyder. Counterpoint Press, Berkeley 2012

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