April 15, 2014

Lilac buds in the snow

Yesterday felt like summer. On campus, students wore sandals and shorts with their tie-dye shirts. It was the first day of Earth Week —a whole series of events leading up to Earth Day — and our small quad was filled with students, milling about and enjoying the sunshine. When I got home, I opened all the windows in the house to let in the warm air. The spring peepers are singing at long last, and by the end of the day, the lilac bushes near by back door were covered with green buds.

But then today, I drove home in a snowstorm.

April 08, 2014

April weekend

I’ve been traveling so much this semester that it felt good to stay home for a weekend. On Friday night, I went out to the movies with my husband, all of our kids, plus a bunch of extras – thirteen in all. I didn’t even know until I got to the theater what movie we were seeing: I just like to be part of the gang. I ate popcorn, listened to the whispered comments of my family members, laughed at the funny lines, and held my husband's hand. Afterwards, we stood in the theater and talked about the movie before heading out into the cold night.

Saturday afternoon, I picked up my daughter and then my mother, and we drove to Red-haired Niece’s house, high in the hills above Snowstorm City. Blonde-haired Sister and Blonde Niece greeted us as we came in. Family and friends were already filling up the kitchen, talking and laughing over plates of food, while the living room was filling up with baby shower gifts. Schoolteacher Niece will be having a baby in May, the first of the great grandchildren in the family.

The shower invitations had asked everyone to bring a children’s book instead of a card, and it was fun to see what everyone had chosen. While Schoolteacher Niece opened gift after gift, I sat on the floor and read through all the books. It’s funny how baby shower gifts come in and out of style: I didn’t even recognize some of the gifts she opened. Looking at all the baby clothes made the upcoming baby seem suddenly real. I’m going to be a great aunt.

Saturday evening my husband and I headed over to the castle, the ironic name for the little house where our oldest two kids live. We knew that Shaggy Hair Boy and Smiley Girl would be arriving to share their big news: they announced their engagement! Of course, we’ve all known they’d be getting married: we’ve all known it since practically the first day they met. But it’s nice that it’s official now. 

“No, there wasn’t a sexist proposal,” Shaggy Hair said. “It was a mutual agreement.” He finishes his Master’s degree this summer, and Smiley Girl graduates from college next month. The wedding will be next summer.

“It’ll be outdoors somewhere,” Smiley Girl said. “That’s all we’ve planned so far.”

On Sunday, I worked on a journal article I’m writing. But then I noticed that the sun was shining. When my friend Makes Bread called to see if I wanted to take a walk along the canal, I agreed right away. It was still cold enough for winter coats, but at least the snow had melted. The afternoon light through the bare trees was lovely, and the sun on my face felt warm. We walked briskly, and soon I was warm enough to unzip my coat. We passed a few families, several people on bikes, and a man walking his dog. Everyone, it seems, was eager to get out into the sunshine.

After the walk, we met some friends at a restaurant, where we enjoyed platters of Middle Eastern food. “We can actually plan these get-togethers again,” said Long Beautiful Hair. “The roads are dry. It’s spring!”

April 02, 2014


Just a few days ago, my parents and I drove out to the lake for lunch. It’s a tradition, this time of year. We go to the same restaurant we’ve always gone to. It’s right on the water, with a banquet room where my husband and I had our wedding reception thirty years ago and a big lawn where Red-haired Sister and Tie-dye Brother-in-law said their vows more than twenty years ago. The sun stayed hidden behind clouds, but the air was so warm that I left my mittens in the car. We took our usual booth by the window.

“It’s been a long winter,” my mother said as the waitress came over with menus.

The lawn that stretched down to the lake was covered in snow and ice, but enough had melted so that we could see whole bare patches of grass and earth. The lake was frozen still, but shallow pools of water shimmered on the ice, and all was quiet. The snowmobilers have put away their machines: their season is over.

It’s almost time to take the snow tires off my car. Spring is on the way.

March 29, 2014

Waterfall Child

Waterfall in springtime

You can tell a whole lot about a kid’s parents by the way a kid talks. That’s how I know Biker Boy’s adoptive parents even without spending much time with them. (Long-time readers will know that Biker Boy used to live on my street: I’ve known him since he was seven years old.)

The adoption didn’t become final until last November, but it’s been a whole year since Biker Boy moved into his new home. And it’s wonderful to see the changes in him. Gone are the angry outbursts. Instead, he says things like, “Let me know if you help with that. I’d be glad to give you a hand.” Phrases like that make him sound so adult that it makes me smile. And it’s pretty clear that he’s saying something he’s heard his adoptive father say to friends.

Last Sunday, I picked Biker Boy up mid-morning, and we drove to a park which has a spectacular waterfall. That’s our usual routine: I take him someplace outdoors and then we get pizza. We had planned to hike down to the bottom of the falls, but it soon became clear that we were way too early in the season for that. Even the steps down to the covered pavilion were so icy that we ended up going through a drift of snow instead. The waterfall itself was half-frozen, like a dramatic white sculpture, but water still came roaring down, spraying the rocks and cascading down into the stream below.

Biker Boy and I tramped through the snow until we got as close as we could to the top of the waterfall, the icy cold water spraying onto our coats. We stood there in the snow and talked — about his struggles at school, about the work he’s doing with a therapist, about the hamster his parents are going to get him.

Then we left to find a warm pizza place, where we could sit and eat hot slices while our feet warmed up. “I wish I could have been adopted a long time ago,” Biker Boy said to me. I knew what he meant. He’s got a whole lot of baggage to work through. But I have no doubt he’ll make it through.

We’ll go back to the waterfall again sometime after the rest of the snow and ice melt.

March 24, 2014

Writing retreat


Every day during my writing retreat, I took a walk outside. Most of the time, I wore jeans and a t-shirt. No coat! No mittens! I'd wake up early, eat breakfast, and then take a walk outside. I'd write furiously for a couple of hours, and then go outside to sit in the sunshine for awhile. Then I'd eat lunch, write for a couple of more hours, and then go for another walk in the sunshine. I think I could get used to that kind of life. It's lovely.

 I'm back home now, where it is most certainly not spring. We've still got snowbanks along the driveway, and solid patches of ice. I brushed snow off my car before I drove to work today. And I'm still wearing mittens, a scarf, and winter boots. That lovely week in the sunshine seems really long ago.

March 18, 2014



All week in Southern City, I kept noticing flowers. They were blooming everywhere. Trees with white blossoms outside of grocery stories, bunches of yellow daffodils along trails at the retreat center, flowers planted in window boxes and gardens, purple-blue flowers under pine trees. This blossom had already fallen to the ground, so I carried it back to my room, where I could admire it some more.

March 13, 2014

Naked contemplation

I’m on a writing retreat this week in a southern city, staying at a Jesuit retreat center where silence is observed. Flowers are blooming here, and it’s warm enough to feel sunshine on my bare arms. I love seeing photos of the snowstorm back home while I’m walking trails along the river and taking pictures of daffodils. I’ve been tempted to keep posting sunny photos to facebook so I can gloat to my friends, but I’ve resisted. Even though I can access the wireless here, I’m trying to stay unplugged because I’m working on a manuscript, revising furiously to meet a self-imposed deadline.

But still, I have an obligation to my blog readers, and so I offer you a naked photo.

No, this isn’t one of the Jesuits. Yeah, they’re pretty liberal but they’re not THAT liberal. And no, it’s not one of the other retreatants. They keep silence here! I have no way of offering any of them the opportunity to pose. I’m pretty good at communicating with hand signals — just yesterday I silently asked another guest where we were supposed to put our cloth napkins after the noonday meal. But to explain Project Naked without words might be more of a challenge than I’m up to this week.

This photo is one I took at the big creative writing conference I attended recently. I’ve known Kestrel for a couple of years now. I love that he chose the name of a bird for his pseudonym (that’s the perk of posing naked for me — you get to choose your own pseudonym) because his poetry is filled with references to birds and an awareness of the natural world. It’s also appropriate that I post his photo while I’m on a writing retreat that includes spiritual reflection, because he’s a guy who thinks thoughtfully and sensitively about spirituality. I like to think that if he were on this retreat with me, he’d be doing just what he’s doing in the photo: staring out the window after reading some poetry, lost in thought. Except, yeah, he’d probably have some clothes on.


Read more about the history of the naked blogging project and check out the gallery of photos.