Saturday, May 30, 2009

Memorial day

Memorial Day was a big deal at our house because Jimmy rode his bike without training wheels for the first time. In the morning, Jim took him out back and had him help take the training wheels off the bike, then they walked a couple blocks to practice on the quarter-mile track behind the local middle school.

About ten minutes later Jim called me on his cell phone, ecstatic that Jimmy had already gotten his balance after a little shove off from his dad, and now they were working on stopping and starting. I didn't really need to ask, but I did anyway: "Should I come down there with the camera and camcorder?"

So I strapped Audrey into the stroller, grabbed the camera bag, and we headed to the track.

Starting up is still a bit tricky.

Look at him go!

That's another lap around the track!

The smile says it all.

Audrey was very intent on watching Jimmy ride.

Go, Jimmy, go!

There's little bits of me in there, but this girl sure looks like her father.

Gimme some sugar, Daddy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dream big

Last week I got a new calling at church: teaching the Valiant 9-10 class. For my non-Mormon readers, that means I'm teaching a Sunday School class of nine and ten year-old boys and girls. Sunday was my first day on the new gig, and I must say, it was fun to be back in Primary after five years away.

So, I'm sitting with my class on a row of plastic chairs in the cultural hall (read: gymnasium with carpet) and Jimmy is sitting with his teacher on the row directly across the aisle, not so subtly waving at me. My friend Debbie is leading the music, teaching all the kids a song about Jesus getting baptized. She says, "When Jesus came to John the Baptist and asked to be baptized, he said, 'But you don't need to be baptized Jesus, because you're already perfect.'"

From the third row, my son pipes up, "I'm perfect, too!"

My need to maintain some semblance of dignity as the new teacher is the only way I manage to keep from rolling on the floor. Barely.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

NaPoWriMo #30: re-write

This is the super-duper chock-full-o-poetry final installment of NaPoWriMo. What a blessed relief! It's been an amazing day for poetry; I spent all day at a poetry workshop with Sam Green, the Washington State poet laureate. Wow.

Not just the wow of having an entire day to myself (sans children) to focus on art and creativity and the stimulating conversation of other poets. But wow of wisdom shared. Wow of being able, for once, to go to the table teachable and be schooled in where I could do better. Wow of embracing criticism and the excitement that comes from growth after. Wow of driving home completely drained from the mental exertion of being engaged and present in my art, and not having to cook dinner after. (Thank you, thank you, to my dear husband who wrangled the kids all day and didn't complain, then suggested we hit our favorite Chinese buffet for supper.)

I came away from the workshop with more interest in revising my work and more confidence in how to do it. I feel like I came away with my toolbox filled with functional implements for working my craft, for which I'm so grateful, as well as a shift in attitude about embracing failure and imperfection as a means to better understanding. And since the most recent prompt at Read Write Poem was to revise an existing poem, that's exactly what I'm doing, with the understanding that this is only the first of what will most likely be many revisions. Go here to see the original (which is very recent); the revision—mostly minor tweaks, with a few cuts and a few additions—is below.

Going to Grayland

I’ve got two little ones
strapped in the back seat
and it’s me alone up front
on a day trip to my roots
with an option to stay awhile
each town a bright bead
on this gray silk string
Ellensburg on one end
Seattle somewhere in the middle
Tukwila, Tacoma, Dupont
Olympia, Tumwater, Elma
Satsop, Aberdeen, Westport,
Grayland tying off the strand

hands relaxed on the wheel
my eye catches the glitter of sun
playing off two diamonds
two wedding rings nestled
next to each other on my ring finger
two Christmases ago my mother
gave me nana’s ring, said
keep it three years then pass it on
to one of your sisters
purposefully I brought it with me
on this trip to the home
where my nana came as a new bride

she was a Boston girl, a lady
with wit, sense and style
a trim Navy nurse with soft brown curls
blue eyes that laughed, cried and
smiled all at the same time
she told stories about the war
she and the other nurses living in Quonset huts
near the base hospital on Oahu
and lowering her voice
as if someone might overhear about
another nurse getting discharged
for fraternizing with a married officer
which is why when one of her patients
a young officer
asked her to dinner
she looked up his next of kin first
then graciously accepted
the invitation of the son
of the Reverend Clark Cottrell
from Grayland, Washington

could she have known then
what it would mean
that he would bring her home
down miles of narrow roads winding
through interminable shades of silver, slate and jade
crisp salty stiffness of a breeze blowing
from the ocean to mix with pungent
moss-grown spruce, fir and pine
across one-lane bridges
arching over tidal flats
then down Highway 105
through shorter coastal forest
dotted on each side with small, scattered houses
turning onto the final stretch of Gould Road
that he would bring her home
to Reverend and Mrs. Cottrell
to a younger sister and three brothers but one
to cranberry bogs, skunk cabbage, weather-beaten dunes
to no running water and
all her favorite shoes spoiled with mold?

I look at her ring, then at mine
thinking of my own husband
bringing me home to his parents
to windswept Kittitas Valley
rolling out from the sinuous backbone
of Manastash Ridge and laced
with Yakima River's meandering tree-lined ribbon
fertile but still browner and drier
than the lush emerald bordered sound
and shimmering drizzled swath of my hometown
bringing me to live
in a single-wide trailer
with running water and a toilet
but no shower

and now returning through the familiar green
that became her home
and once was mine I realize
like her, I didn’t choose the landscape of my love
but only who took me there.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Field trip report

The following is copied and pasted directly from the report Jimmy emailed to his advisory teacher this afternoon. And yes, he typed it himself.

dear miss gregerson,

Last week I went on a field trip. On Monday I went to the beach at Grayland. At the beach i collected lots of shells. my favorite shell was the crab legs. on Tuesday I went to the maritime museum in Westport. At the museum I liked looking through their binoculars at boats. I didn't get to climb the lighthouse because my little sister was to short. I did get to see a really big lighthouse lens at the museum. it was 18 feet tall and weighed more than 1000 pounds.

on Thursday i went to the aquarium in Seattle. i saw jellyfish and sharks and anemones and lion fish. i liked touching the anemones on their tentacles. then I went on a boat around the harbor in Seattle. it was fun. on Friday i went to the zoo. i saw giraffes and a snow leopard and gorillas. i got to feed a parakeet birdseed on a popsicle stick and ride a merry-go-round.

i had a great week.


NaPoWriMo #29: haunted

The end is in sight! Here's my penultimate poem for NaPoWriMo, which was inspired while I was doing dishes this morning and thinking back to the brief week after my senior year when I worked up at the Roche Harbor Resort with my cousin Sarah. She had been there all summer and I was just passing through, but she worked it out for me to come help her for a few days, since I needed the extra cash. I remember my first afternoon we were working at the Hotel de Haro and she told me how it was supposed to be haunted. There was a sort of thrill to that, a possibility of something supernatural amid the grind of pushing the housekeeping cart up and down those hundred and fifty year-old halls.

Of course, having started out with ghosts, the poem took off in a completely different direction.

I'm Not Afraid of Ghosts

I’m not afraid of ghosts
not your ghosts not mine
those washed-out ephemeral
embodied memories of
pain never put to rest
have no power to possess me
when it is I who embrace them
come pain I say
come do your worst
choke my voice with bitter loss
and unanswered longing
wrap me in icy tendrils of grief
pierce my heart with frosty shards
for I have peace with which to heal
love burning fierce and bright within
until I am warm enough to thaw
even the most wicked winter
of disappointed dreams.

Monday, May 04, 2009

NaPoWriMo #28: promises

I know it's a few days after the fact and that if I finish at all, it will be 30 poems in 30+ days, but that's okay with me. I'm tearing the leaf of perfectionism out of my book, and allowing myself an extension. Which fits really well with the theme of this poem; sometimes it takes longer than we planned to get around to finishing something, but that doesn't mean it's too late.

Amends to the Dead

Other people I've loved have died
but none so young and
none who came to me years after
asking a favor only I could return

I remember more than six years ago
a dream so unlikely so surreal
I almost wrote it off to the cocktail
of raging pregnancy hormones

but woke up startled
with a realization of what it meant
and promised faithfully
I would do what you asked

it wasn’t until after my son’s birth
I could muster courage enough
to take the first and hardest step
but aided by heaven’s hand I did

then life or rather more specifically
fear of living got in my way
of honoring promises to the dead
and another four and a half years passed

in shameful remembrances
of a promise half-kept then postponed
and dread that now it was
too late too late too late

a few months ago someone I know
told me about her own pledge to a friend
told me when I didn’t even ask
about keeping her promise and I knew

she wouldn’t have said that
wouldn’t have brought back my hope
wouldn’t have whispered it’s not
too late too late too late if it was

so I’ve picked up where I left off
and I’m begging literally praying
for you to please forgive my frailty
my faithlessness and forgetful fear

which is not to say I’m not still afraid
but more than anything else
I want to be true want to do for you
what you cannot do for yourself

and in that single moment
where I am silent where I can
still the churning fears in my head
your voice comes soft and wise and kind

I saw
I know
I understand
I forgive.