It’s finally over.

February, that is.  Just a few more hours left of this stinky month.  Go figure that today was cloudy, rainy, stormy, tornado-watchy, and floody. Check out the good stuff, though:

  • Anna made a delicious loaf of banana bread and we’ve eaten so much already I think I’ll just call it dinner.
  • I finally – FINALLY – refilled the bookcases in the living room. The woodwork was done at least two weeks ago and believe me, I have had pah-lenty of time for this task.  What have I done instead?  Hibernate.  Because it’s February.
  • At pick up time, despite the thunder and what I think was a flash of lightning in the distance, I walked to the school, retrieved Charlotte, and made it home.  Without getting struck by lightning or even giving the appearance that electrocution was at the forefront of my mind.

How great is this poem by Margaret Atwood? 

February

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.
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Warming up to poetry.

Perfect for this time of year!

From Out the Cave
by Joyce Sutphen

When you have been
at war with yourself
for so many years that
you have forgotten why,
when you have been driving
for hours and only
gradually begin to realize
that you have lost the way,
when you have cut
hastily into the fabric,
when you have signed
papers in distraction,
when it has been centuries
since you watched the sun set
or the rain fall, and the clouds,
drifting overhead, pass as flat
as anything on a postcard;
when, in the midst of these
everyday nightmares, you
understand that you could
wake up,
you could turn
and go back
to the last thing you
remember doing
with your whole heart:
that passionate kiss,
the brilliant drop of love
rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,
then you wake,
you stumble from your cave,
blinking in the sun,
naming every shadow
as it slips.

“From Out the Cave” by Joyce Sutphen, from Straight Out of View

Wake up!

From Anais Nin…inspiring or totally depressing?  How about inspiring, yes?

You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.

Built-in dressers

Voila!  A built-in dresser! I knew my obsession with browsing local real estate would come in handy.

Last summer Mom, the girls and I visited Midland, Michigan, our family’s home from 1969-1983. We walked through the house I grew up in, and I took stealth photos during the whole tour by the current owner.  After I found the above picture, I decided to do a little looking through the vast sea of unsorted and untagged photos from last summer…

Double Voila!  The real thing:

Why not a Woman Cave?

When I was around  ten or twelve, my parents gave me my own room for Christmas.  They converted my dad’s office off the  family room into a space just for me.  I don’t remember if I had even asked for my own room, but on Christmas morning, I covered my eyes and Mom and Dad led me down the eight steps to the lower level of our mid-century split level minister’s manse and escorted me across the threshhold.  Behold!  An “I Like You” themed bedroom!  With “I Like You” sheets peeking out from under an “I Like You” comforter!

What heaven.  In our funky mid-century modern house, my room had very cool built-ins :  the dresser, desk and bookcase were all flush with the walls, and the windows opened up right to ground level, a feature that came in handy during my period of sneaking stray cats into my room to play with and feed.  I filled my “I Like You” bulletin board with pictures, postcards, and magazine clippings and listened to my Billy Joel and Abba albums at full volume on my record player.  And I danced, and wrote meaningful poetry about seagulls, and stealthily read those titillating  Judy Blume thrillers, Forever and Are You There God?  It’s me, Margaret.  What I remember the most is that when our little house was loud and busy with three kids living in it and the neighborhood closing in, I had a place to go where my thoughts and my stuff were all mine.

Yesterday I had a wonderful, long lunch with my sister-in-law, and she shared something that really got to me.  A wise woman – a social worker/counselor-type – once told her that every woman over thirty-five needs her own room.  A place to go where she can put her own stuff and make her own mess and pick an “I Like You” them for it if she damn well pleases.  This makes a lot of sense to me. Kids get their own rooms – their own bathrooms, and many dads often have their own space in the form of an office, workshop, or MAN-CAVE in the basement or garage.  Why shouldn’t the WOMAN-CAVE get a little more attention?

The thought of my own room always gains traction around this time of year. These past few weeks have been challenging. It’s the weather.  It’s the work going on in our house.  It’s trying to be cheerful for the girls’ birthdays when they fall smack in the middle of my least favorite time of the year. It’s trying and feeling like I’m failing to be a good hostess when my parents stay for four nights.

Despite my unrelenting desire for more space, wanting this makes me feel a little bit selfish.  It makes me think about my Peace Corps years teaching in one of  the most impoverished countries in the world (Niger), a place where no one has their own  room, where large families share one common space for every function of daily life.  It makes me feel that I should stop complaining and appreciate what I do have, because compared to the rest of the world, it is a hell of a lot.

Here’s the “but,” though.  But… if I did have my own room, I could write about places like Niger more often, uninterrupted, in a quiet space that would allow me to pursue ideas and maybe even solutions to some of life’s  bigger issues.  I could focus on topics that matter not just to me, but to the world outside my built-in dresser and “I Like You” comforter.

Yep, I’m complaining about winter.

Honestly, these last few weeks have mainly been about getting through.  Mid winter tends to creep up on me without much advance notice. When we have a longish spell of beautiful weather, I forget how hard this season can be.  The travels, the girls’ birthdays, parents/grandparents visiting, and painters in the house, in isolation, are all completely manageable. However, they’ve all come right on top of one another, overlapping, bumping against the next event…and now I’m GRUMPY! And on Charlotte’s 6th birthday!

I’d like to think I’ve been through enough winter seasons to understand the cycle of all of this.  It’s weather related.  It’s tiny-house related.  As much as I’m loathe to admit it, it’s probably related to peri-menopause and how I’ve noticed my mood rise and dip to more extremes each month.

I am perfectly fine hanging out with my own self-pity for a few more hours until the birthday girl gets home from school.  By then, I’ll be ready to play with  new Barbies, build new Lego structures, and go out to birthday dinner!  Or cook it!  Where we live, Feb 8 usually means just a few more weeks until spring, when warmth and light and green take root.

For many – not all – of us, spring is when it all gets more manageable.   In my case, the winter blues are just that – confined to winter. I cannot even imagine if the fleeting, situational melancholy I’m feeling today carried on throughout the year.  I realize how fortunate I am in this respect and I vow never to take it for granted.