January 12, 2015

Top shelf

Last week, I decided to clean my home office, tossing out papers and filing important stuff away in a desperate attempt get the top of my desk clear for the start of the new semester. This ambitious project was hampered by the fact that I could barely get to my desk because so many books were piled on the floor. I really don’t know where all those books came from: the piles grow like stalagmites in a dark cave. But the piles were so high they’d begun to topple over, and I realized that the time had come. I needed to organize my bookshelves and weed out the ones I no longer used.

Pulling books down, sorting them into piles, stopping to read pages — it was all great fun. Soon the living room floor was piled with so many books it looked like I was opening a store. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any to part with. When it comes to books, I'm the worst sort of pack rat. I keep them even after I lose the covers.

Then I stumbled onto some parenting books I'd bought at a feminist bookstore. I carried them into the living room and looked across at With-a-Why and Boy-in-Black, who were sitting on the couch with their laptops, immersed in discussion about the computer strategy game Starcraft.

Me: Am I done raising kids?
Boy-in-Black: What?
Me: I mean, you kids turned out great. I guess I don’t need these parenting books any more.
Boy-in-Black: What was your build order?
Me: (in surprise) You talking to me?
Boy-in-Black (grinning): Yeah.
Me: (looking at the titles of the books) Well, I wanted my sons to be feminists.
Boy-in-Black: Anyone who says they aren’t a feminist is an asshole. Unless maybe they don’t know what the word means. Like they think it means hating men or something. But if you get that it means that everyone should have equal rights and opportunities, well, who would ever say they weren’t?

He turned back to his little brother, and they resumed talking about Starcraft. I swept the parenting books into a bag: my work was done.

January 05, 2015

Getting outside

Over the last three weeks, I've spent most of my time at home. The house has been filled with family and food, which means I've had little reason to leave it. Every night as my husband and I go to bed, we say good night to the gang of young people downstairs: usually one group gathered at the kitchen table, playing a board game, and another group in by the fire, with books or laptops. My kids and extras are mostly either teachers or students, and we take winter break very seriously. I love hanging out at home when everyone is there, just eating and talking.

But when I talked to my friend Signing Woman the other day, she said, "You need to get outside." She was right. I'd stopped taking daily walks in my own woods when hunting season started. So I pulled on my boots, Signing Woman arrived with her dog, and we drove a few miles to the canal, where we've walked many times before.

The cold, fresh air felt great after so much time indoors. We had the towpath to ourselves as we walked along the canal, the dog Breeze running ahead to find squirrels. Falling snow coated tree limbs and bushes and most of the ice, although some dark open water remained near the muskrat home that Signing Woman pointed out to me. She's a naturalist (as well as an interpreter for the hearing impaired) so she kept pointing to tracks in the fresh snow and coming up with theories as to what animals had just run through.

We walked and walked on the endless towpath. The frozen canal, which really does go on for miles and miles, made me think of Hans Brinker (does anyone watch that movie or read that book anymore?). We used to skate on the canal when I was a teenager, but this year the ice is far too thin. We talked as we walked along, of course, often so deep in conversation that we didn't notice how hard it was snowing and at other times interrupting ourselves with exclamations about how beautiful the winter was.

January walk along the canal