Anne Notations

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bleak midwinter

An hour ago I woke up from light sleep in my recliner with the buzz of a snore echoing in my ears. On my chest rested two open books, one atop the other: a bestselling novel, The Help; and a poetry anthology open to Sylvia Plath. It's a day off from work and I'm sucking down books, a greedy two-fisted reader, a passed-out derelict littered with drained pages.

It is now, truly, the bleak midwinter. Gray skies, a skitter of icy rain. I'm thankful for the downy woodpecker couple that visit our suet cakes, lively punctuation marks outside the living room window. Michael returned to Connecticut early yesterday, and Melinda left for Syracuse at 7:15 this morning with a friend. The week before Christmas, our house filled up with people – three kids! a husband! – and their conversation and laughter, like a gay balloon. Slowly it has emptied. Today Kevin and I are left to our drab routines.

Yesterday as I made an omelet, I watched Mass on Channel 12. It's not something I usually do, and this was a stripped-down version. But the irregularity of these recent days – the catastrophic Haiti earthquake that has left thousands dead and a country gasping for its future, the bogeyman economy, the specter of layoffs – made me grateful to say the familiar responses. "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." The Mass is ended; go in peace to love and serve the Lord. "Thanks be to God."

Do I believe in the power of prayer? What does that even mean? I pray not because of my belief (a shaky foundation) but because it comes naturally; it is, apparently, What I Do. Debating myself on whether prayer is a waste of time or not has become beside the point.

Sometimes a prayer has no words. One recent morning Daisy and I came upon our bay all pearly with sunrise, the sky splashed with a fan of pale light. The light reached toward us, like arms. A thought surprised me: "This is a prayer." What does that even mean?

What does it mean when a poem reaches out its arms to pull you in? Read the second paragraph above. Now, 10 minutes later, I retrieve the anthology and reopen it to Plath. I turn the page and see this:


Since Christmas they have lived with us,
Guileless and clear,
Oval soul-animals,
Taking up half the space,
Moving and rubbing on the silk

Invisible air drifts …
The heart like wishes

Coincidences delight my heart. What do they mean? "What you want them to," I've been told. But I hadn't thought to wish for synchronicity; it comes to me like grace.

Sometimes a single life is a poem, or maybe it's a prayer. On Martin Luther King Day, I find 17 minutes to listen to the preacher-poet's words. You should, too.


Monday, January 11, 2010


• Time hiccuped me past Christmas at warp speed. Right about now I'm ready to celebrate the holiday in style. I want to make butter cookies … listen to every one of our Christmas CDs (which are actually on my iPod, which I confess I haven't learned how to use) … slowly and thoughtfully wrap each little gift in designer paper and raffia ties … do the weekly Advent wreath readings and candle-lightings in our kitchen. I want to sit in silence and admire our tree in the darkness. I want to sit in silence and contemplate mysteries in our church. I want to do it all now, slowly, savoring every holy and secular bit of a season I've loved since I was old enough to help my mother hang ornaments on a real cut pine tree. A season that escaped me this year.

Brant geese on the bay, Jan. 1, 2010

In a mirror:
Recently I have caught glimpses of myself through others' eyes, inadvertently. Now I question my goodness, my behavior. People who know me in person "get" that I joke, I tease, I flirt. I play in the funhouse of language and culture. I employ snappy retorts and word-plays. But I've seen my words, intended to amuse, read differently on Facebook and elsewhere that I leave comments – signature tracks in the cyberwoods. It has occurred to me that some other people (people whom I admire) are serious by nature and assume I am not; that my online persona can bewilder or put off; that my eclectic interests (Star Wars! The White Stripes!) may be met with: … I have been peering through the back side of the mirror more and more, seeing what others see and thinking about who I am. Who I want to be. How I want to act and to treat others.

Photography: I enjoy taking photographs. Perhaps even more, I find I like editing them... popping up or muting the contrast, taking out some shadows, cropping to accentuate a detail or a design. It's sort of analogous to the enjoyment I find in editing words. Sometimes I'll go a week without leaving my camera at home. It's almost a security object, and I hang on tight.

Passages: A friend has lost his mother. Another friend has lost her job. A relative was hospitalized with swine flu. (Better now, thank God.) A friend has a lump in her breast. A son has fallen in love yet again, head over heels, o why can't he hold back a little. My husband's job is going well, the company expanding, his boss a godsend. I am on a wheel that is turning, turning, children spinning off into the world, husband away, dog aging relentlessly, people fighting for their health, for their lives, winter turning toward spring, friends leaving, friends coming back into my life. I fear we are no longer making memories, only a living, if that. I fear … yet still I hope for my children's sakes.

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Is it true?