For Whom You Must 5/27/18
You could write about the impossible beauty this time of year heaps in great plated mounds, light staying after dinner and reappearing before the birds, blooms so fleeting one after another that you can hardly keep up: the silken purple dusk of hellebores, plucky yellow euphorbia (euphoria with a b!) regal bearded irises about to flaunt and frill, fuzzy-headed poppies gangly and briefly bursting into orange dancing skirts, wild bleeding heart and columbine, early blooming dogwood and redbud you drank every single day knowing there were mere moments to enjoy them.
You could describe the side garden that came with the house to which you add and gratefully care: viburnum, bloodroot, sweet woodruff, wood poppies, wild ginger, the mayapple with its umbrella leaves touching one another to patch into contiguous glossy green beneath which one dainty white and yellow bloom per plant discreetly hides, a canopy for uproarious fairy parties under light of moon. Other gardens you've installed and packed proudly, lavishly with plants gifted and bought in equal parts. There is so much nimeity to absorb it feels greedy, bawdy, hedonous; something colorful and sprinting everywhere you look. The sheer number of shades, shapes and textures are stints on stage to sing out a heart. You’re as humbled as a person in supplication, a person bewildered at the injustice and inexplicability of the world. Is all of this for assurance, soothing, sense, purpose, proof of reason to exist?
You could tell of teaching about feet last weekend in the house of a woman with flowing clothes in a yoga studio as beautiful as a temple; talus, calcaneus, cuboid, metatarsalphalangeal joints, extrinsic and instrinsic, relationships, surfaces, function, design; every part informed by whole and every whole by parts. It’s the brain and feet in dialogue of which you’re most enamored, each of us a walking conversation under skin. What if we approached our bodies as breathing teams of players, symphonies, ecosystems, wholes we’re better off puzzling together than scattering and dividing from context. We are all context. Isn’t everything?
Or the dream from which you woke the other day with a single lingering phrase you jotted down: “someone you missed influencing...”
There is a loop into which you plug so easily: learning something, teaching it, learning, teaching, one after the other so you can hardly imagine not passing on what you learn. Teaching is sinking teeth and chewing in a way you can’t without impetus; you bite and transpose from solid to liquid to cells and synapses. Synaptogenesis: when new trails, junctions, pathways are forged between neurons. By learning all you have this year, you actually feel smarter. But also- you know so little. That old thing people say. Then there's the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation from Increased Demand: learning and getting better at learning, moving and getting better at moving, sitting and getting better at sitting. When you do a thing a lot and often- you improve. The brain electric, coursing, under construction.
There is another story of construction, still unfolding, a chapter that began four years ago when you moved into a house and painted rooms with a belly so large it ached as you heaved it around the room. You unpacked for days and moved the piece of marble that was your grandmothers, and walked the dog for a long time in the woods and finally went to sleep in the bed Chris set up, telling you to finally get a good night's sleep. It was the third night in the box-filled house and just as you fell asleep, a gripping toothy rugged contraction spiraled from your center with seep of warm water continuously wetting the bed as you sat up until you had to ride without words the pulses it took to evict your boy from womb.
He was a perfect full lipped beauty you held on your chest while eating pickles for the salt, high on such swelling pride and adrenaline that you couldn’t sleep for days, you just lay there frozen, happy, buzzing. You made it through the whole ordeal without intervention and now this gorgeous creature was finally on the outside of your body and you were another person entirely now-- of course you were. And then those days gave way to their inverse: an often screaming baby, nipple pain so relentless and nursing so awful you got as deranged as you were determined, sleep so interrupted you went wild and feral. A year and a half later you finally got drugs to take you down a bunch of notches from that clawing mother-beast you'd become. Not enough people tell this story, that there is another sneakier thing besides postpartum depression. We could call it postpartum brittleness with total love and connection and steely focus and also fury, rage, worry, fear, obsession, control and a medley of things one could blame on sleep deprivation alone but which I found, is more than that.
Now this baby is a boy with a bubbling laugh who draws creatures with teeth and antennae and legs and builds spectacular structures, and argues with you and kisses you. He collects sticks when you walk in the woods and remembers things you didn't even know he knew and makes hilarious faces with funny walks and voices so that all of you erupt in laughter. He melts down in weird irrational ways, shrieking about his hands being “too slippery” or wanting different pants or underwear but then he drapes into you at night and strokes at your shirt for comfort. He turns four next week.
The sun and ash leaves outside the bedroom window went from from radiant green to nostalgic yellow that summer of twenty-fourteen; you stared at them out of the bedroom window where they flashed against the sky and you nursed and nursed and nursed and vibrated with love and fear. Your memories are few but sharp; there was never enough sleep to cement them. Did you actually enjoy your boy’s babyhood because how could you when you were caught so squarely in a net of struggle? Now you feel the way it flees, knowing viscerally what you knew only cognitively then, the mere passing blur, the enjoy-it-it-goes-by-so-fast they all insist upon.
Today you lost your temper over face-painting a panda bear before school. He kept moving, trying to see himself in the mirror, the brush had too much water on it, he complained (explosive whining/flailing) that it didn’t look like a panda, he moved some more and both of you screamed and he hit you and you shook him by the shoulders and he argued with every single thing all day or asked why and you felt like a failure, a villain, a witch. The shame. This brand of shame for getting angry and lashing out at your child? It is its own specific flavor of wretchedness, sharp as a thorny crown. You happen to be a superstar at feeling shame.
Later in the afternoon the smeared bear would attract three different admiring employees at the grocery store where you were to buy him ice cream sandwiches. Each of them bent down to his level and smiled and told him they really liked his panda bear. You could still see the bear's face above the smeared body. After that he’d help you mow the entire back lawn, you with your manual and he with his bubble mower following you around for an hour, cheerful and chattering. When he was asleep it pained you to realize you weren’t seeing the sweetness in this enough, you weren’t savoring. You were hot in the sun and preoccupied with the familiar undercurrent of worry about your work and worry about being a good enough mother to this impossibly argumentative willful creative thoughtful brilliant sensitive boy for whom you must be your best. For whom you must grow up. From whom you must learn.
You could write about that forever and there would still be more.