on the Cataraqui trail
A legitimate concern about blogging, one I take seriously, is whether or not it turns a person into a curator of her own life rather than a participant. I have no answer for this, just instinctive response: if it feels off or forced, don’t do it. Maybe that’s why I’ve been taking less photos this summer, and also leaving my phone at home sometimes, shutting off, disconnecting.
But then I look back over this blog’s history and feel so appreciative of the scrapbook-like nature of its collection of years. Obscure CanLit Mama is almost exactly five years old. I was truly Obscure on the CanLit scene when I began blogging, and I’m only slightly less Obscure now, though much appreciative of the path forged. I wonder what the opposite of Obscure would be? Secure? Established? I’m uncomfortable with the thought of attaching those words to myself. My identity is tied up with being on the margins; but maybe that’s short-sighted and snobbish and needlessly, well, obscure.
My fears: One never wants to get too big for one’s britches. Pride goeth before a fall. Be careful what you wish for.
This is not the post I set out to write. It’s been almost two weeks since I had a chance to settle into my novel revisions, and I’ve missed it like homesickness. I’ve missed it like friendship, like comfort, like a good night’s sleep. Sitting at my desk and writing all day has become essential to my well-being, seems like. Maybe it always was, like running, and I didn’t know it. But I know it. Honestly, I could hug these words for being here right now, for letting me sit amongst them, for letting me think things through via some magical collaboration of mind and hands and eyes. Tap-tap-tap on the keyboard.
This is the post I set out to write.
The one about being a curator of my own life. Still, I would argue that I’m infinitely more participant than curator, that I’m only marginally curator, and that curation is a bit of a calling for me, being reflective by nature, wanting to gather and observe and make orderly. This blog represents only the smallest slice of experience. It’s my hand wrapped around a moment and then opening to let it go.
Here is yesterday:
We’d planned to do back-to-school shopping with my mother-in-law, who loves to shop. Instead, AppleApple sought me out (I was doing laundry in the basement) holding her arm at an odd angle, teary-eyed, to say she’d landed “funny” on the trampoline.
So, instead of shopping, I left my sister- and mother-in-law home with the other kids (Kev was golfing with his brother, lucky man), and we went to emerg. Many hours and several detailed x-rays later it was determined to be a bad sprain and not a fracture, which opened her summer back up again. We’d been sitting there together, bored, chatting, waiting, unable to stop ourselves from imagining the possible cast and all it would affect: camp, cottage, swim team, soccer team, piano. This was definitely a best-case scenario result.
DJ at DQ
We were home in time for supper. Kev and Albus were off to another soccer game, so after supper, the rest of us decided to walk the dogs to Dairy Queen. Spontaneity, family, scooter, stroller, bike, dogs, baby, sling, and a beautiful cool evening. Oh, and sweet treats for all. Pretty much vacation perfection. We took the long way home.
Then it was bathtime. Kev and Albus came home with another tied game under their belts, against the same team they played twice on the weekend — every game weirdly identical, with our boys going down by two goals, and coming back to tie it up in the second half. This third game, and the bizarrely harmonious result, lightened the mood between the two teams, which had been tense over the weekend.
I read from Little Town on the Prairie, with everyone listening. Little kids tucked and lights out.
Kevin is the blur in red and white
And then more spontaneity: the big kids and I went to watch Kev play soccer. My brother also plays keeper on the same team. It happened that a friend was there to watch her husband play, too, so we sat together under the lights on a picnic table and cheered, and made silly commentary, and generally had a blast, despite the mosquitos. Apparently the four of us made a bigger fan club than the team has had in ages, and our shouts were appreciated. We even made friends with a linesman who loaned us his bug spray. The game ended 0-0. We didn’t see the Perseids for the lights, but there was something about it all that brought me great comfort and joy. Being alive … how many moments do we get like this? As many as we want? As many as we leap into?
the trees behind the field looked like a painting (that’s my bro in net)
So I took out my phone and stole a few photos. Maybe it’s curation rather than participation, but I want to remember. I want to remind myself, when I’m busy and harried and it’s not summer anymore, that the best times are easy to come by, in a way. They’re there for the taking. You sit with your kids and shoot the shit. It’s so basic.
And then you come home and enjoy a beer with your sister-in-law and talk about things that want talking about, and you sleep, and you wake, and you work, and you pray, and you write it all out, if that’s what you’re made for.
running through beauty, in it and of it
the bonfire of the schoolwork
beach bound with dogs, who behave superbly–guess we can take them anywhere!; water’s cold, and wind’s chilly, but you’d never know
hosted by my bro and sis-in-law, we all play “Pit” late at night and mid-morning (no photos); and I lounge half the day reading Agatha Christie (also no photos)
Quiet in the house. Construction noises loud outside.
Outside, 20 degrees C, sunny, windy. Clothes on the line whipping in the breeze. Small dog settling into dead leaves in raised garden bed, beside newly greening rosemary and thyme.
Thinking of the books I will write.
Seeing their spines in my mind’s eye. Sweet imagination.
Even while pressing down anxiety, clothespin in hand: What’s happening after school? Where do I have to be, when? Which carshare car have I booked? How early does supper need to be on the table?
I think, pasta with the last of the tomatoes.
Small dog stands, alert, to warn me of approaching pedestrians, big diesel trucks, other dogs, a squirrel.
Locating myself in time, to this moment.
Thinking of all the books I will write.
Everyone will get to where they need to be, even if they are a little bit late. Even if we are always, perpetually, just a little bit late. Rush, rush. “Mom, we’re fast-pokes, you and me.” (Fooey, age 7, and always organized and ready to go.)
Thinking a run in the woods. Touring the science fair. Soccer under this swept sky. What good kids I have. I will write them a book.
Clothes flapping to dry under a promising sky.
All the books I will write. All the books I will write.
This photo illustrates my feelings about our weekend. Life’s a whirl. The weekend was extended by the fake ice storm on Thursday (deemed a snow day, kids home), followed by the real ice storm on Friday (no electricity til bedtime, camping out our friends’ house). By that point, the laundry was already crawling up the basement stairs.
See, I took a picture.
The ice storm made the trees quite beautiful, but dangerous. A limb crashed down in our yard, and narrowly missed crushing the trampoline.
Despite an odd and dislocated day on Friday, I tried to stay focused on Saturday morning’s task. When I arrived home, around 1:30 in the afternoon, I was drained. The laundry was still crawling up the stairs. Kevin was working in Toronto. The sense of dislocation and uncertainty remained. I went out with friends after the kids were in bed, feeling like a shadow of myself. Also, I was wearing dog-hair-infested yoga pants and a hoodie because it took every ounce of energy just to get out the door, and I couldn’t work myself up into changing first. I knew I had before me another early morning, and long day.
But it would be a day spent with these people, so, really, I have no complaints. I took this photo on Thursday evening, pretty much convinced I was living my dream. Book-reading children on the couch snuggling with dogs, while the piano is being practiced. Plus the house looks really clean here. Oh, that’s right — I spent Thursday cleaning. Let’s just say it doesn’t look that clean anymore.
Kevin was working in Toronto again on Sunday. CJ had a swim lesson, bright and early. I felt comfortable leaving the older children on their own for the hour we were gone. I put on my running gear, and dashed around the park for 21 minutes, exactly, arriving back at the pool one minute late to pick up CJ. Almost perfect timing. Back home, had time to shower and gather up supplies, and we were off again. AppleApple had an afternoon swim meet in Etobicoke. The “little ones” were dropped at Grandma’s house, while the “big ones” came with me.
It was her first long-course meet. This is the warm-up session. Points for locating the blur in a green suit on the left-hand side of the photo. By the time she swam her first race, I’d been waiting in the stands for three hours. Along with this guy.
Oh boy, he’s really feeling that smile. He was briefly happy when I gave him some change and sent him off to find a vending machine. Kevin finished work early, and drove over to join us: the first meet he’s been able to attend. But neither of my companions showed great stamina for the proceedings, and left after watching her second race. Two more to go! It was sauna-sweaty in there. I tried to read my poetry book club’s next choice: Seal up the thunder, by Erin Noteboom. I tried to be patient, and to sit up straight on the backless benches. I tried to be supportive and encouraging when the races, with the exception of one, did not go as she’d hoped.
It was nearly 7:30 by the time we made it home. Kevin had supper waiting for us on the table: fresh take-out Middle Eastern fare.
The laundry was still crawling up the basement stairs. I set my alarm for my early Monday morning exercise class. And this morning, when the alarm went off, and I figured out what that terrible noise was and why it just wouldn’t stop, I got up and got on with the brand-new week.
I’ll admit that I’m feeling off-balance, a bit overwhelmed, out of sorts. In between. Waiting. Struggling to be patient on a variety of fronts. I hope to have news to share, by early May, perhaps, and I hope it will be good. (And here’s an update I should have done ages ago: the bad news always less pleasing to pass along than the good. For those still wondering, no, my friend Tricia and I will not be contestants on The Amazing Race Canada. We did, however, go out for a drink to celebrate our effort. Efforts should always be marked, no matter the outcome!)
Meantime, there is no way to plan toward a particular direction without knowing what that direction will be. Betwixt and between. Betwixt and between.
I would just like to say that today has gone by too fast. This week has gone by too fast.
I would also like to say that I’m not looking forward to my evening run in the still-cold, still-blowing, still-flecked-with-occasional-snowflakes springtime. At least it will be light.
After saying those things, I would like to confess that a pleasure of mine this week has been re-reading blog posts from last winter, when Juliet was being launched, with all of the excitement and busyness that surrounded that time. I note that we had lilacs budding and lettuce growing in March last year! I note also that we were “cooking with the kids” regularly, and that we had guests over much more often. The difference between then and now, aside from the weather, is an uptick in our evening activities. AppleApple swims three evenings a week, and practices soccer three evenings a week (sometimes back-to-back on the same evening), while Albus and Kevin are out two or three evenings a week, too. I can safely say that supper is disrupted five out of five weeknights. AppleApple can go all week without getting a hot meal. (And I haven’t even mentioned the weekend activities.)
Next up, the season of weekend soccer tournaments, with two kids now involved in rep play.
As always, the balance is so imperfect. Forget balance, I think. Live life where you’re at, so long as it’s working for you. So I’m appreciating the dog walks with the little kids in the evenings, and I’m thankful that my mom comes to help out when we’re going in the several different directions all at once.
I’m also happy to be reading almost every night to the kids. We are now into one of my favourite Laura Ingalls Wilder books: On the Banks of Plum Creek. It’s structured in such a quietly dramatic way: the borrowing to build the new house, the debt, the wheat, the hope, the plague of grasshoppers. The kids were solemn as I read last night about the glittering cloud of grasshoppers that descended and ate every green thing there was to eat. “But that’s their food! And they have the debt!” said CJ. I’m not convinced he’s got the concept of debt down, but you never know. He was really worried about it.
We were all solemn, thinking of the enormity of the loss for this family. And yet, the mother responds with gentleness, not grief. “We’ve gotten by before, and we will again.”
It made me feel utterly spoiled for choice. What do I have to complain about?
Oh, but how could Ma be so patient?
“At least they can eat the prairie chickens!”
But that whole garden lost, and the plums on Plum Creek, and the wheat … and the debt. Could I bear to wait and wait in hope as they must?
But I’ve run out of time, completely! Must race to get to the bus stop before CJ gets off.