Wednesday, April 24, 2013

One Year

Lately I have been quiet.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not a "real" blogger or I'd have to offer all kinds of apologies for varying from my usual posting schedule.

Truth be told, my writing schedule pretty much consists of writing when I have too many words in my head and being quiet when I don't have much to say.  I hope you'll keep in mind that this is really just free therapy for me, and that's the part that really deserves an apology.  I'm afraid I'm not much help in the way of advice or direction.  I'm woefully ill equipped to give tutorials with a high resolution photo of every step or bullet point lists of how to be a more incredible version of yourself.

I'm kind of a one trick pony, in all honesty, just one person telling her story.  I'm just here trying to make sense of things by sifting through the words that pile up in my head before they clog up my thinking entirely.

Lately I have been quiet, and I'm not sure whether to call it writer's block because there are no due dates here.  There is nothing I am supposed to write.  There are no assignments to avoid.  I'm not sure whether to call it writer's block when the silence descends on me, and I realize I have no words piling up, no pressure building and desperate to be vented.

But I wonder, I admit I do, if this season of quiet means more than I give it credit for.  I wonder if it is meant to be a kind of taking stock, a period of reflection and review.  I wonder if the quiet, itself, is saying something to me, and I listen with the hushed breath of reverent concentration.

Today is the first anniversary of These Square Pegs.  Somehow this past year seems so much longer than twelve little months, and on this anniversary I cannot help but marvel at the imprint this year has left on me.  

I started writing because I was feeling out of sorts, because too many of those words building up in my head can feel a bit like being slowly poisoned.  In the words of this deceptively cheerful pop song, I write because "if I get it all down on paper, it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to" (Anna Nalick, "Breathe").

The early days of the blog were soaked in the grief of loss as I limped my way through my first miscarriage, a wound that still pains me more than I ever expected it would a full year down the line.  A few months later, I experienced another loss, much earlier than the first, and I kept that loss tucked close, a private pain too raw to be exposed so soon after the first.

But I also started writing because I was constantly aware of the friction of feeling out of place.  The name of the blog itself itself speaks to the tension of being a liberal Christian feminist working mother raising a special needs child with a man who eschews traditional gender roles and loves to show off his prized cast iron skillets.  I started writing because I was so tired of being made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of one aspect of my life or another depending on which group I was with at any given moment.  I started writing because I was exhausted, finally, of trying to fit myself into all of these different boxes that get thrust at us.  I was tired of feeling like a square peg in a round hole everywhere I went, and I needed a place that didn't ask me to be anything but who and what I am already right now.

And the most unexpected thing has happened since I opened up my big mouth here.  I realized, really for the first time, how universal that feeling is of being a square peg in a round hole.  People I barely knew sent me messages of solidarity, friends I see maybe once a year thanked me for what I had shared.  People I once believed were deeply entrenched in toeing the party line shared their struggle unexpectedly with me.

Putting my messy self out there gave people permission to do the same.  And I came out of this year seeing the people in my life with new eyes, seeing them as the confused, imperfect, hopeful, motley revelation they are.

So this anniversary arrives in the stillness of my recent quiet, and I greet it not with banners and balloons but with the wide eyes and open hands of one receiving a gift too extravagant, too rich to be believed.  I am in a state of silent wonder over the gift this experiment has turned out to be.  To practice honesty when it would be easier to practice conformity, to realize that you are not alone, to find your voice in this place overrun with noise: these are not things to be taken lightly.

Today I am humbled, I am buoyed, I am grateful, and I am hopeful. 

If you have read anything I have written this year, if you have given any of the minutes of any of your days to read my meandering chunks of prose, please know that I am grateful for your time and your support. If you have left me a comment, shared the link to one of my posts, sent me an email or a private message, or told me in person over a beer that what you read has reverberated for you, please understand that it means more to me than you will probably ever know.

Thank you for this year.

Image Credit, used under Creative Commons License

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On The April Wind

I cannot tell you what I mean to say about this April wind, the way the gentle current of air hits my arm as a sensation so welcome I can only sigh and pull off my jacket and flail about likening it to an unforgettable taste.  Or a cool drink of just the right thing.  Or a second skin. Or a caress.

The spring finds me hungry for this taste, or thirsty for this drink, or aching for this touch.   Where are the words to say that, though the winter here has been mild and fleeting, I find myself starving for the April wind on my arms?  I open the back door and step out on the patio, and I let the spring air weave its wordless magic on my winter worn body.

When I was a child, my mother used to make a fluffy, white confection called Divinity every year at Christmas, and it remains for me a taste I cannot describe in any way other than to say that it is sweet and it tastes like itself.  Whenever I read about the White Witch tempting Edmund with something called Turkish Delights, I always tasted Divinity in my mind.  For whatever reason, I equated the taste I could not describe with that cryptic, enchanted food I could not imagine.  And in that way, both foods became imbued with each other's magic on the landscape of my young imagination.  My mother's Divinity was enchanted, and Turkish Delight was a treat that could not be described.  Perhaps both just different names for the same magic.

And, though I can't give it adequate words, the same magic is in this wind.  Something wonderful connected to something else wonderful that makes both retain the spirit of the other. 

I've known more springs here than anywhere else I have lived, and with each passing year, my heart is more and more deeply rooted in the patterns of this place.  When I spin the romance of nostalgia, when I dream back to seasons past, though for many years I smelled the Santa Anna winds or the salty ocean air or the spicy hint of chimney smoke after the first panhandle snow, these days my memories tend to land me within a fifteen mile radius from my back porch.

Like the rings on a tree, I can count my age by the layers of nostalgia that I sift through each time the seasons change.  And on this wind, this April air I can't quite explain, I relive a hundred nights when I have stood outside in this place that is my adopted home and felt alive, felt awakened from the hibernation of winter.  I remember every time the wind has woken me, every time it has whispered its dream language across the skin of my newly bared arms.

I remember years of watching the plants revive, of watching the dogs start to shed, of watching my sons' legs appear in last year's too-short shorts.  I remember all those nights of eating out on our favorite restaurant patios, licking salt off the edge of a margarita.  I remember festivals in the park, spreading blankets to sit under the trees and slipping off our sandals to keep the corners of the blanket from being caught by this infectious wind.  I remember hikes through the greenbelt when the wind would hit us and cool our faces, and we would all sigh in chorus at the welcome relief of it.

I remember that our first house here had fireflies, and I would sit out on the back porch and watch for the blinking lights that would transport me straight back to my grandparents' Missouri backyard.  I remember the swing we made ourselves that we hung from the 100 year old tree in the front yard and how I was always afraid I would bring the whole branch down if I swung too hard, so I would spin in gentle circles with my toes drawing spiral shapes in the dirt to slow me down.

Last week, the winter sent us one last huff of its raspy breath.  The heater groaned, awakened from its expected hibernation, and coughed the scent of dusty vents throughout the house.  And for that one day, I saw the cold as an insidious invader, pressing an icy forehead against the windows, waiting to take the breath right out of our lungs when we stepped out into the cold air.

When the winter is almost spent is the time I start to believe that somehow, this year, it will never end.  The sunset will always fleece the day, and the nights will be long and dark.  The grass will always be brittle and brown, and the ashy earth will always show through underneath.  I know that summer is coming, and that it will seem as endless as the winter when it arrives, but somehow I forget that first we will have the April wind.

And then that wind comes in, and I feel half a gypsy, remembering a youth in which I thought I would wander the world perching on the steps of famous statues and writing poetry in notebooks with leather covers.  For a moment, I get that old urge to wander.  I have an image, like a flash across my eyes, of a different life I might have lived, a scattered and rootless adventure.  Train seats and suitcases, hostels and museums.

For one quick moment, that April wind spins me off away from my life.  And just as quickly it swirls me around and sets me back down.  It turns out I don't travel the world the way I thought I would, but when that April wind comes, I travel through time, revisiting every spring that watered the roots I have laid down here. 

I close my eyes and revisit the sights of this life, and when I open them I have landed here, just outside the back door of my suburban house, where the wind makes the screens buzz against the window panes along the back of the house and the faint warmth in the air embraces me and sends me fumbling for my words again.  Where my boys are rolling in the grass that has been quietly growing in greener and greener by the day. Where Crape Myrtles are starting to bloom and the strawberry plant has just put out its first fruit of the season.

And I think wow, I didn't even have to click my heels together.