Yesterday we raked, dragged and blew the leaves from the back yard to the curb, where the big orange city trucks will come by and vacuum them up. Some are piled in the garden, some over the raspberry beds, some around the beehive, and some tucking in the flowerbeds and herb garden for the winter.
My mom had her tonsils out, at 70. I took her pudding pops.
It rained last night but cleared this morning, briefly, before going leaden grey again. I sat on the studio deck this morning and made bowls, teapot bodies, spouts, lids. My hands froze, after a while, despite the hot water I poured in the throwing bucket, so I came in and worked on my portfolio.
The starlings were doing that annual miles-long flock migration thing, as I threw, and they always come the same way — from a tree East of here to the enormous, leaf-bare cottonwoods filling the sky behind my yard. The tree looks like it’s leafed out in starlings, and they make a sound like a truckload of silverware poured over a waterfall. Until suddenly, all at once, they stop, and lift into the air as a single, amorphous shape, headed north-east. The chickens stop scritching in the leaf-litter and look up. The silence is deafening.
The neighbor to my right has a small apple tree and a big, dorky, half-grown black lab. As I sat at the wheel today, I watched the dog stand on hind legs and pull leftover frozen apples off the tree with his mouth. The tree flailed wildly. I laughed, and my laughter got stuck in one of my pots and I left it there.
My oldest son suddenly has square shoulders, as tall as my eye-level. I have to look up to talk to him. When he hugs me, now, he rests his arms on top of my shoulders. I know that none of this is remarkable, or unprecedented, but part of me still expects the talky little redhead to be hanging on my knee while I stand at the kitchen sink.
I just finished some historical fiction set in Viking times — good, but a littl ebloody — and now I am reading “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink. It’s making me feel like homeschooling was a good idea, like Tyler’s arty school is perhaps less impractical than I had supposed. That it’s OK to be a potter, that creative is not less important than “successful”.
I can’t imagine how we can be expected to parent without a crystal ball: those who were schooled and trained for the new “Industrial Age” didn’t foresee those jobs going overseas. The schooling and messages I got, about which courses of study would guarantee a good job, didn’t foresee the internet or a global technology that allows our science, medicine, lawyering, technology and engineering to be done in New Delhi or Colombia as easily as here. So what shall I teach my kids? To memorize facts, in an age when google can provide them in seconds? Pink says imagination, innovation, design, empathy, humor and a whole list of other stuff not on the ACTs will be the essentials of a new economy.
I will be satisfied if my kids have learned to respect themselves, to trust their own insights, to be true to others, and retain their creative individuality.
Hopefully they won’t starve.
Speakign of which: I was offered a spring semester ceramics 1 class today, at a nearby college, beginning in January. Tomorrow I will write back and accept it, and try hard not to offer to take over the program, build them a soda kiln, write grants, raise the bar, and put them on the map. I could do it, and I know it… but it may be presumptuous to start there, y’think?
Molly is obsessed with paper airplanes. She found a book about making them, and now anything that can be folded is either flying though the house, twirling to the ground, doing loop-de-loops or piled on the floor around the furniture. There are airplane wrecks in every room, forgotten paper angles with names like “phantom” or “sonic flyer”. Some have flames or eagle heads. Others look suspiciously like my electric bill or some unchecked homework.
Jeff made enchiladas for dinner, with leftover venison. We didn’t count the weight watcher points, but after yesterday’s raking and aquajogging we’re ahead of the game anyway. He took Tyler to the dentist and I took Molly and Connor to clarinet/guitar lessons this afternoon, and we all met back here for supper. Molly always comes up with a dinner discussion topic. Tonight’s was, “If you had three acres and an unlimited budget, and could build anything you want, public or private, what would it be? “
I bought some little thin reading glasses to keep next to my bed. They are in a wonderfully kitschy sequined tube that makes me think about design, and homeschool projects, and why the beautiful is as useful as the useful. The cabin in Bastrop, Texas where Jeff proposed to me had that phrase carved into the fireplace mantel, and I’ve spent 19 years now trying to understand what it means.
It’s almost midnight. Rain is beating on the metal roof Jeff and I put on our sunroom-addition. The shy, bony old cat is in my lap, purring. Tyler is asleep, threatening to grow longer than his bed like that guy in the Dr. Seuss book whose feet stuck out at the bottom. Connor downloaded a Redwall book into his new ipod and is likely listening still, in secret, in the top bunk: he’ll walk around tomorrow half-there, pouring cereal and tending his pigeons with his mind in Redwall-chapters, until we make him shut it off and focus on school work.
Jeff is asleep. He gets up early to take Tyler downtown to the charter high school for the arts, and then comes home to wake us all, send me to the studio with coffee, set up their school day.
Molly is asleep in a sea of pink bedding, with her light on — she read The Lightening Theif right up to the last minute, and blinked out without turning it off. I’ll do it on my way to bed.
When I went in earlier to say goodnight to the boys, I took Snowflake the guinea pig — (recently shampooed by Molly, and fluffy white) — a leaf of chard from the hoop house, and gave and Dusty the chinchilla (in the cage next door) some raisins. They both come over for scritches and petting, and I tell them absurd lies to make my boys laugh.
I remind myself that if one of us lands a full time job, and we have to leave this house, (our newlywed “starter home” where my babies were born and raised)… If we move to Texas, or North Carolina, or wherever the CVs are winging off to tomorrow — well, this bony cat will still be in my lap, there.
The pig and the chinchilla will still look at me with dark trusting eyes as I tell them ridiculous stories. My boys will sleep, under a new roof, the way they do here, one buried under pillows and blankets and dead to the world, the other mumbling and gesturing and talking in his sleep.
The pigeons will come along, and re-home themselves to a new location, and the hens, and the bees… my potters wheel and kilns… the coffee pot and the truckload of books would all go along. I could dig up my sinchokes, my rhubarb and some raspberry plants, and start again, if we move to a place with real soil and sufficient rain.