Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Quote: On One's Self

"To enter one's own self, it is necessary to go armed to the teeth."

--Paul Valery

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Today was the funeral. The temperature was chilly and dropping this morning, with a brisk wind and thickly clouded skies. It felt like late October for this part of the country. My grandmother is cautious about getting out in cold weather since a bad winter a couple of years ago during which we nearly lost her to pneumonia and heart complications, so she decided not to attend the graveside services, although she did still want to go to Jane's funeral.

As I sat beside my grandmother in the funeral home, I had to wonder if things could get much worse. The pianist was...well, rusty might be a kind word. The singers were...very...they knew most of the words. And the speaker was...well intentioned, I'm sure. I sat in a pink, vinyl padded chair that made startling noises when one shifted one's weight and tried to hold very still. I counted lonely looking carnations in a couple of scraggly funeral arrangements. I considered the wallpaper border, the strategically placed boxes of Kleenex and the polyester suit jackets of the gentlemen in front of us. I remembered passing out in this room when I was twelve, at my piano teacher's husband's funeral. I remembered standing jam-packed here when I was fourteen with my friends at a crowded funeral for one of our close classmates whose brother had shot him, their step-mother and step-sister after school one day. I remembered a double funeral here ten years ago for two of a good friend's brothers, killed in a car wreck when one fell asleep at the wheel late at night. I remembered visitation in this room seven years ago, after my grandfather died; it was overflowing with flowers then, full of friends and family, photographs and shared memories. That night, the night it should have been least bearable for me, given the closeness of our family, it was a good place to be. I listened again to the halting piano playing, the somewhat wandering singing, the rather befuddling (or befuddled) speaker. I let my gaze linger on the lavender roses in the lavishly lovely casket spray. I considered the way the men in the polyester jackets put their arms around their wives or bowed their heads during the prayer, the way they slowly made their way down the aisle to pay their last respects, hats in hand.

Good Lord, the last thing I want at my funeral is music like this or this kind of speaking! But..the people. If good people could say of me what I heard a young man behind me saying of Jane...I could maybe bear even this room. "The Bible says to man is alloted eighty years. Jane had ninety-three, and she used that gift well."

To use our gift well, not in light of accomplishments or successes, but in light of people, of lives touched. I cannot think of a better eulogy.

If You Can't Beat 'Em...

Great Scott turned off the television tonight and walked over to my desk. "[State politician] has a new slogan for her campaign," he told me. "'There's something wrong in Washington.'" He paused. "I guess she wants to be in on it."

From Light to Light

Tuesday morning I took my nearly 90 year-old grandmother on a trip to her doctor's. From the waiting room windows I could see across the highway to a lovely golf course with a fountain and lots of trees and open swaths of grass, a beautiful view. Doing my best to ignore Family Feud on the waiting room television, I opened my journal and took out a fountain pen.

9:22 a.m.

The sun is shining this morning The trees throw light back from their leaves, leaves that are showing the beginning of the autumn change, some darkening, some paling, some shifting from the greens they've held so faithfully all summer. The air is relatively still today. The sunshine lies stretched across the golf course lawn like a languorous cat. In the fountain, water glints and flashes as it ripples to the sides. The air glows about us, a lazy, living thing.

I've always loved autumn, the quieting of the natural world, the softening of the crickets' and cicadas' intense songs, the hush of wind through drying grasses, the graceful silver of spiders' balloon threads streaming from every rising stem across the fields as the lowering western sun sets them afire.

3:10 p.m.

I've been at my grandmother's all afternoon, since we returned home. A few minutes ago she got a call from a good friend's sister, telling her that Jane died this morning. My grandmother had just been putting together a copy of the local paper, intending to take it to Jane this evening.

I'm not sure what "this morning" meant, whether Jane breathed from life to life in the sleepy darkness of predawn or in the bright sunshine of the mid-morning I wrote about only hours ago. Either way, I like to think she stepped from one world to the next nimbly, her feet newly quickened and sure, a bright smile on her face as her Beloved took her hand to steady her crossing.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year. The leaves, of course, are gorgeous. It's the quality of light, though, that I love fiercely; there is something brighter, more immediate about it, as though it shines richly forth from another realm, one that draws closer to this world as the earth dutifully begins her descent into the winter darkness that precedes a more brilliant light and life. I'd never really thought of it all that way until Tuesday with Jane's passing and all this amazing, painfully glorious light.

Friday, September 22, 2006

In My Sleep

Great Scott tells me I've been shrieking in my sleep again. Not horribly loudly, but enough to startle him awake. He's been sleeping on the couch when this happens, although he often switches to the couch partway through the night simply because if he wakes up, he has a hard time falling asleep again.

When we were first married, I often had nightmares or night terrors in which I would try to scream and fight myself awake and couldn't. In reality, I WAS screaming--very loudly--and sometimes physically fighting, too, although I didn't know it at the time. Great Scott would try irritably to wake me up, usually to no avail and often with some element of risk. ("It was the punching me in the a speedbag...that sort to me," he says as he reads this now. Hmmm...come to think of it, maybe this has something to do with why he moves to the couch.)

I don't think this round is quite as bad. For one thing, I'm told I'm not nearly as loud, and I'm not attacking anyone, either. Still, it's one more thing that tells me something needs to give somewhere, one more small red flag flapping frantically in a rising wind.


This week I have cried three times.

I am not a crier, in general. Crying is not reasonable. It accomplished nothing and more often than not muddies conflicts and intensifies difficult emotions, is merely complicating rather than productive to any given situation. This is my stance on the matter. Nevertheless, Monday when I walked in the door from taking the girls to school, I sat down on the couch, dropped my head in my hands and sobbed; Tuesday night, reading Mary Oliver's newest book, Thirst, in a bathtub full of warm, rosewood-scented water somewhere near midnight, I had to close my eyes and lay the book aside, choking on tears; and this morning driving home from the school drop-off, I found my knuckles clenching white on the steering wheel, the road blurring before me, my body tight with tears yet again.

Maybe it's just the season. Autumn has, as I've written before, always been a difficult time for me. Coming after the year it does, this time, it has quite a bit of deeply stored pain to tap into. Much has gone on this year regarding my extended family and church, and I've carried a heaviness that surfaces everytime we watch the movie Serenity (as we do often here at PossumBox Lane) and the character River Tam cries out, " isn't mine. And I shouldn't have to carry it. It isn't mine!"

"I need a month off from church," I told Great Scott, "as soon as the girls are back in school." How to explain the crush of sorrow when one sets foot in the sanctuary? How to explain the cessation of breath?

Friday Quote: On Prayer

"I know a lot of fancy words,
I tear them from my heart and my tongue.
Then I pray."

--Mary Oliver
an excerpt from the poem, "Six Recognitions of the Lord"
from Thirst

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Every year we observe International Talk Like a Pirate Day. At least, some of us do. Great Scott gives his students extra credit for answering roll with the reply, "Arrgh!" I roust the girls out of their bed with a cheery, "Avast, ye landlubbers and scurvy dogs!" And I see that Jeremy has posted a rousing pirate ditty.

For those of you who aren't as confident of your pirate lingo skills, Quotidian Light is happy to provide you with access to an educational video. (Link compliments of my father, who instilled in me my great love of all the finer things in life.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Quote: On Writing

"We should be told: Write fast, write close to the bone, write for ten hours straight until you're not thinking in words anymore but in colors, in smells, in waves of memory. Write what you care about. Don't waste any more of your life on what does not matter to you."

--Bonnie Friedman
from Writing Past Dark

The Note

To: The Mighty, Mighty Powers of Jr. High Administration

[Older Daughter's Name] was absent yesterday (Thursday, September 15th) due to sickness. She spent the day pining. It was pitiful to behold, yea, verily.

'An it please your Worships, please allow her to collect make-up work today that she might labor upon it over the weekend and present it complete upon the first day of the new week next.

You have our gratitude,
Cindy Lawson

"Mom," said our older daughter, eyeing the note I'd written, "this note is a little bit..." She paused, then gave me a look that was part disapproval, part hesitation and partly a plea. The note dangled from her fingers like a small dead frog.

"Would you like for me to write it over?" I asked.

She wavered, then as I picked up my notepad and pen again, said sincerely, "Thanks, Mom."

This is it. She's growing up. Becoming a little more her own person, and that means my giving her more room to do that, by making my communications with others in her everyday world a little more bland, a little more ordinary, a little more blend-in-ish. I wrote the note over. It was a small thing. Perhaps it was even for the best. I'm afraid my own reputation at the school is that of being somewhat eccentric, and my original note probably wouldn't have helped dispell the impression.

[Older Daughter's Name] was sick at home yesterday, as I explained when I called. Please allow her to collect and complete her missed assignments.

Thank you very much,
Cindy Lawson

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Stinger

Tonight the dinner conversation whirled around a wasp I had just sprayed in the window. It lay kicking convulsively, and the younger daughter kept turning around in her seat to mourn its torment.

"The poor thing," she moaned, "it's in pain!"

"Nonsense," retorted Great Scott. "Your mother does not torture insects!" After a meaningful moment of silence he added, "She's a Republican." Another moment passed. "And she'll never do it again."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Creating Your Own System Error Message

Technically, I suppose this could go under the "Procrastination Aids" heading, but as you'll see, what I'm about to share with you is in a class of its own. This week Grumpy Teacher posted a link to a site with a customizable highway sign picture . After a little poking around, I discovered that this site also had an area for creating your own computer error messages.

Like this one.

Visit the Gallery of Errors at your own risk. Some are a little bleh, but most are more along the lines of the one above and great fun. Now if one of you computer geniuses can only figure out a way for us to actually USE these! (Jeremy, I'm looking meaningfully in your direction.)

Friday Quote: On Fools

A fellow who is always declaring he's no fool usually has his suspicions.

--Wilson Mizner (1876 - 1933)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Procrastination Aids: If You Were a Major Romantic Poet

You are William Blake! Wow. I'm impressed. Not only are you a self-made artist and poet, but you've suddenly become a very trendy guy to like. It's not that we doubt that you have all your marbles, it's just that we're not quite sure what you did with them to come up with those terrifying theological visions. The people of your time were nowhere near as forgiving as that, and all your neighbors thought you were a grade-A nut job. But we love you, so rest happy.
Take this quiz!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Quote: Stringing Beads

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten: happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.

--Brenda Ueland