I volunteered for a few years for an organization that gleaned fruit from urban backyard trees. Each pick was a small puzzle to solve. The promised ladder was not available or the fruit was clustered too high or some of the volunteers were afraid of climbing. Boosting on shoulders happened, and tools were devised to pull down branches for easier reach. Someone might go down the street to knock on doors for an extra ladder. Sometimes one or two agile climbers startled the rest of us, shimmying up to the highest branches, unencumbered by fear. I was slower, stayed low, but loved being in trees. I loved those June evenings leaning nestled between branches abundant with cherries, hands gently gathering, shoulder-bag full. I’d look down at the city streets radiating away from me, up at the wide sky streaked with warmth. Everything I wanted was within reach.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: abundant. With an ice storm in the forecast this mid-April weekend, I look ahead with longing to trees heavy with fruit.
I am noting a shadow lately on my almost-teen’s upper lip. A couple of months ago he said to me in alarm, “When I woke up this morning, my voice sounded strange. I didn’t recognize it.” I could hear it too. His singing voice has now descended into bass, like his dad’s. Every week he is taller, lankier, more like an adolescent, more like a man. I told him at dinner last night, after a conversation with two mothers of teens, “I understand why you are so tired recently. You are completely re-forming. Like a caterpillar to a butterfly.” “Oh great,” he grimaced, “I’m going to liquefy and reconstitute.” None of us look forward to changes that huge, that painful, that necessary. We hold our breath, haul in our reserves, squint skeptically at the miracle of flight promised on the other side.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: shadow. The first time the same word has come up more than once. But what a versatile word it is.
My garden each year rapidly turns the corner from lush to neglected. Now, in early April, my heart leaps at the green shoots piercing up through the soil, the tiny purple and yellow crocuses, the anticipation of lilacs. It’s impossible to believe that in two more months the mint will already have run amok, in three the raspberries and gooseberries will hang heavy, in four that I will have thrown my hands up in the air and let it all go wild. Right now it is still a promise, a potential, barely even a plan. Maybe this year I will do better. I will decide what should stay, what should go. I will weed, prune responsibly, build better fences. I will channel skills I am painstakingly learning in the rest of my life.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: lush.
Once driving sociably with friends on the 401 heading back to the city, I missed the moment when the cars in front of me slowed down. My foot hard on the brake in panic, I spun a hundred and eighty degrees on the icy road, facing full-on to the cars behind. I was at the end of a wave of traffic, the next wave still building behind, a slow crest approaching, far enough for me to straighten out without harm. We drove the rest of the way home quiet, chastened, stunned. Years later, I revisit these small moments of fortune, the timing that turns the story one way and not the other. The sudden shock, the slowing down, the reverberations. The newly careful tending of my life.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: brake
My second son, as a toddler, did not like people to leave. What toddler does? But he in particular had an instinct for shepherding, a fierce drive to keep everyone physically close. It’s hard to recollect now how emotional, loud, reactive and intense he was then. A highly-sensitive extrovert, no feeling undocumented, no tear unshed. Now, at the still tender age of nine, I am often amazed at his emotional intelligence. His thoughtful deconstructing of his own emotions and the subtle way he tunes in to mine. His smile, touch on my arm, or well-timed kiss the moment my voice takes on an edge of impatience. He’s young still, they both are, but if I can help these sensitive boys grow into thoughtful men, some part of my work in the world will be done.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: shepherd(ing)
I’ve heard that it’s common for smart, competent women to feel like imposters. Juggling those balls in the air, waiting for something messy to splat to the floor, it’s easy to feel like a fraud. Is that because expectations for women are so impossibly high; so densely, intricately layered? I lived for years with a terror of making mistakes, any at all. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t make mistakes during that time, but when I did I covered them up, I hid, I berated myself, I plunged into self-loathing. Now I know that “fake it ‘til you make it” is not about assuming a mask. It’s about always overreaching a little, taking on more than is comfortable, knowing you can handle the consequences. It takes life experience to have that kind of equanimity, and a great deal of self-compassion. And a hard-wrestled, hard-earned insistence that you belong wherever you are.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: “fraud”. Today is day 60 of the new count. This is from last week.
I look around at this blog, and think maybe it needs some sprucing up. More images would be nice, a fresh coat of paint, snazzy new curtains. But I ignore that thought, and focus on what I want to be doing, a little bit of writing each day. Because I want to; because I can.
My mother’s mother, widowed and with no other children, came to stay with us two years after our emigration to Canada. It was the first time she had left Poland, left the small town where she lived in her familiar one-bedroom apartment, with the bench outside where all her neighbours congregated and the nearby cemetery where she could tend my grandfather’s grave. The hope was that she would spend the rest of her days with us, her closest and dearest kin. Instead, in our strange suburban house in this sprawling foreign land, she was lost, wildly uprooted. After a year, it was clear she could only ever be a visitor. Stronger than family bonds, we discovered, were ties to language, culture, home.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: visitor
I studied French in school for years, but only felt truly fluent the odd occasion when I spoke it drunk. At a party sometimes; or once in my early twenties in Hungary, where in the wine-cellars of Eger’s Valley of the Beautiful Women, I conversed brilliantly for hours with a man from France. I was shy then, and often overwhelmed with anxiety in social situations. A friend with an alcoholic parent once warned me of the drastic change in my personality when drinking. She was right, and yet, instead of sinking further into the dependency, the more vibrant self that had once been tightly furled eventually learned to bloom unaided. I still drink alcohol, and sometimes it relaxes me, but it’s no longer an escape or a crutch or a way to get away with things. Sometimes to my regret.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: fluent. Will I ever write a regular blog post again? I’m not making any promises either way.
Those first few days were the usual mess of blood, tears, milk. My gravid body slowly deflating, leaking and bruised. I stayed in my room, on my bed, where it all happened. Tucked the crying baby in one arm, the stunned toddler under the other; was reclaimed by the relentless cycles of sleep and waking, spun loose from clock time. By the third day I was feverish. I was swept off to the hospital, the tiny babe – an accessory, not a patient – wedged in with me on the narrow cot. Burning with heat, leaking milk, I trailed IV tubes, gown askew. My husband slept on a fold-out chair in the corner, held the baby, held us together. The toddler, hustled between grandparents, was ushered in for a visit, dazed but resolutely himself. “I am Pooh. He is Piglet,” he told us, claiming the new creature into the story, his story; so that we were complete now, we were whole.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: feverish.
This March day of sun and brisk wind, I am at home with a cold. I drink tea with ginger and honey, baptize the air with my sneezes, feel my head foggy and dazed. The cobwebs between windowpanes invite my contemplation. My house creaks, settles. I’ve heard soft scratching, found tiny pellets in corners; appraised the piles of books on the floor, the box of half-opened mail. It’s not the first time I’ve fallen sick when my kids are away. I used to dream of ambitious projects for these times, rarely realized. Now I am grateful for some hours of silence; for time to think without interruption, to tend no-one but myself. I’ve come to trust tears and menstruation as rituals of shedding: letting it out, letting it go. Perhaps these fluids in my head, considered wryly, are telling me the same thing: release, release. Take this day as it is. Let go of who you think you should be. Meet yourself as you are.
From my currently daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: release.