Thursday, February 24, 2011


We woke at 5 AM, groggy but motivated, pulled on our clothes, brushed our teeth, put Silas's and Eden's socks and shoes on them in the dark, and zipped our suitcases closed. By 5:30, Kaia Joye, Ben, the kids and I were driving through the parking garage, headed to Denver -- right on track. The past two days had been sparkling and clear -- blue skies against the snow.

What we didn't know until we pulled out of the garage is that it had snowed at least three inches while we slept and it was still, in the dark, coming down. We had timed the trip with enough wiggle room to fill up the gas tank, but not much more. Ben crept down the hill to the highway as ploughs roared up the road in the opposite direction, and we pulled onto the snowy highway.

As we accelerated on the dark snowy road, I heard myself make all sorts of comments from the back seat: "let's go slowly!" "ooh, this isn't ploughed!" "we should probably slow down" (the "we" seemed less critical) "I don't think you should pass the plough" "ooh! we are CLOSE to that huge truck!" Finally (thankfully) I practiced the ultimate discipline of silence, telling myself that Ben knew everything I knew and didn't want to kill all of us either. Though in my silence I did imagine, several times, our car spinning out of control, all five of us dying, and how sad my parents would be.

Each time Ben clicked on the brights, we saw how hard it was snowing. But on Ben flew, steadily. Our little Hyundai's engine revved up the hills, and we kept climbing.

At one point, Eden insisted on a bathroom break and miraculously, a sign for Starbucks appeared. So we stopped and found that what looked like a dusting of snow across the parking lot was actually a sheet of ice. Oh, the highway. Kaia Joye and I just laughed, the only possible response.

On the other side of the mountain, the snow stopped, the roads dried, and we hit full speed. The last 17 miles of the trip, Eden, again, begged for a bathroom. We finally sailed into Budget to return the car about 45 minutes before our plane was scheduled to leave. While Eden was in the bathroom, the rental bus left, which left us at the curb for another 10 minutes. Finally at the airport, we ran to the ticket desk with three giant bags, two booster seats, the kids and our carry-on's, then to far away security, where no one would bump us to the front of the line. Eden and I finished first, since Kaia Joye's bag had two cans of split pea soup in it, and Silas's bag with a DVD player in it also had to be re-scanned. Lugging my computer bag, Eden and her hard-handled backpack, I ran to the train, where I sat and waited through three slow stops, then ran, sweating in wool, to the gate, Eden crying now because I'd held her hand as she'd stepped off of the moving sidewalk. I ran up to the desk, panting as I explained Ben had no boarding group assigned to his ticket. Just as he handed back a fresh boarding pass, Ben, Silas, and KJ careened around the corner, huffing.

We were flying Southwest, which means no assigned seats, which means arriving dead last with two children under five to a full flight guarantees no seats together. But with a two and four year old, splitting up isn't really an option. What was astounding is that everyone sat and watched us struggle: the three flight attendants were sarcastic and abrasive, no help, and surprisingly, *no* one offered up their seats to help. So finally, with the flight attendants breathing down our necks, we sat Silas and Eden *ALONE*, me in front of them, Ben ten rows back, and KJ 10 forward.

Just as we were about to start moving, Eden, who often decides she's scared of taking off, asked to sit in my lap. I reached back, unbuckled her belt, and whisked her into my lap just as the plane started to move. Immediately, Cruela Devil, the flight attendant, was in the aisle. "What are you doing? We canNOT have this many people in a row." Then loudly with disdain, "We have to stop the plane!" I tried to argue, then whispered to Eden and convinced her quickly to buckle back into her own seat. The other flight attendant yelled from the front, "What's the Problem? Do we have to stop moving??" I saw Kaia Joye's eyes laughing over her seat and turned to see Ben shaking his head, too.

Needless to say, the plane took off and we now are home. We ate the split pea soup for lunch and are waiting for the cable guy. Whew.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ski Trip

I am sitting outside on a condo porch, snow on the counter in front of me, music drifting up from the square below, sun on my face. It's that weird weather phenomenon that occurs at ski resorts where somehow a 30 degree day feels balmy enough for lunching outside, for sitting without a coat, for sunbathing.

We are in Colorado skiing. I grew up schlepping across the country to Denver as a family of six, renting a car, driving through the mountains to Steamboat Springs, during which Eli inevitably threw up; then renting skis and polls that we tried to carry over our shoulders, slashing them through the air each time we turned around, filing up the stairs into whatever condo we were staying and claiming beds; each morning, layering on clothes, socks and snow pants, lift ticket, mittens and too-tight-around-the-neck turtlenecks, smearing our faces with sunblock and chap stick and making sure our fanny packs (yes, fanny packs) were packed; then all together, already pink-faced from the layers, trudging up the hill to the base where ski school met, finding our classes, kissing goodbye, and heading out for the day. Somehow during these weeks there were groceries in the house and breakfast in the mornings. There was hot chocolate in the cabinet and a towel to grab as we ran outside to the hot tub. As I navigated my own angst about the jerky boy from Texas in my ski school class or traded phone numbers with the sweet Kiwi twins, most everything else just happened.

Fast forward twenty years with two or three ski trips peppered over the decades and here we are. This week, though our lift tickets still appeared magically (thanks, parents!), Ben and I navigated a ski trip from the other side. We trekked to the rental shop with Silas and Eden, had their feet measured, bought bright woolly socks, and rented tiny skis and helmets. We took them, both beaming and screaming, to ski school and small world (the nursery), and picked them up red-cheeked at noon. We kept track of long underwear, even washed some of it, and made sure everyone had mittens. We navigated questions of when to push and when to pour on compassion. We stood in the kitchen with my mom and sister and invented dinners, grocery lists, and cocktails. We crossed the street and filed through a hotel to use hot tubs and pools, changed everyone out of bathing suits in the quite public towel room, and made sure no one's hair froze. And made sure people slept (at least after the first long night or two) and napped.

I think probably until our dying day, we will continue to be struck, here and there, by finding ourselves on "the other side" of experiences. So much of our perception, or initial perception, is sealed into our bodies during childhood. And for the rest of our lives, it seems, we look back at how the world once looked, and see how much we missed. In those fleeting moments of wide open vistas, we change.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Right now I am sitting in my corner chair, the sun on the grass outside is flat and bright and there are white puffy clouds coasting through the cool sky. Silas and Eden are both in bed -- a rare day when both nap (speaking too soon -- Silas is coughing and hemming and hawing, only Eden is asleep). On Saturday we leave for our first family ski trip. I've covered my bed with towering piles of snow pants and t-shirts. Eden busily packed her carry on bag earlier, complete with pacifier and blankie (though we'll have two naps and two bedtimes before we leave...)

February days have been rolling by. A teacher once told me that November and February are the low months. We were in DC where the sky weighs low and hangs grey most of those months. But even here, teased by the desert wind and balmy days, I have felt February's pull. The good thing is that we've slowed down; we've had to. We've stuck around the house; we've lingered at the neighbors' and discovered rum and tonics there (my new favorite); we've walked places. We haven't done laundry, I realize today, but we've been around home. Ben and I have spent nights talking, he listening to my layers of process. I've worked in an art journal for the first time in ages. We've checked out library books. We've moped a little and gotten on each other's nerves, and in the afternoons, eaten frozen thin mints and made tea.

Silas has been in and out of fevers. Family members have been in and out of our house. I've made Ina Garten's Celery Salad a few times -- who knew about a celery salad -- and have squeezed lemons for honey tea. Silas and I watched a humming bird hover in mid-air and snap up bugs. We saw one's little black tongue flicker at the end of its beak, and I held him up to peek into a tiny nest that held two pink eggs while the mother dove in arcs above our heads. Spring is near.

Eden learned to write E's. Everyone can snap now. Silas wrote the alphabet. I'm thinking about what "the kingdom of God" means. Ben has traveled tirelessly but seems to have landed back home for a while, and I am grateful. Some girlfriends came over and sipped champagne on Valentines day. The kids made cards for their classes and sent packages to cousins. Ben and the kids made cards, too, and we all swapped drawings and ate candy at dinner. Ben and I, ten years in, celebrated well together instead of colliding in expectations. No one sent flowers or bought heart-shaped boxes of candy, and that was all right. Again, I am learning to break my notions of tradition and let them fall on life. This is good.

Silas is coughing his little head off and groaning between each cough. His stomach feels funky and he needs his mama. And so I go. The suitcases call quietly, too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Right now I am sitting in my studio, a make-shift studio in a small workshop attached to the garage with three windows that face the yard, a rough dirty counter with jars of screws, nuts and bolts hanging from a ledge, a printer on the floor, and shelves of books behind. The sun set and the night air, clear with tiny stars, is cold.
I have been reading Galway Kinnell tonight am struck by this poem, by the reminder of daily music, of waiting through a time, or grief blooming out:


Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.