What that? she signed, pointing to one boy’s lunch tray.
Pizza, someone said.
What i-s that? she said. She fingerspelled emphatically, question-marked her eyebrows. Austin understood first. With a flash of recognition, he scrunched up his face and gave her a scolding finger wag.
I-s. Finger wag, he said.
Charlie was disappointed – so ‘is’ and ‘am’ and ‘are’ just . . . weren’t?
How could a language exist without so fundamental a concept? Perhaps, she thought grudingly, her mother and doctors were right about the limitations of signing. Could you have a real language without the notion of being?
But Austin just pointed to Charlie’s hand, then made his own gesture, sweeping up from his stomach out into an arc across the room. Charlie copied the sign, but that didn’t seem to be what he wanted. She stared.
Me, said Austin, pointing to himself.
He patted his chest, then his arms, then held out his hands, flexed his fingers before her.
You, he said.
He took her by the wrists and held her own hands out before her. She looked down at her palms and understood – her being was implied, her potential thoughts and feelings coursing through her body, the names of everything she knew and those she didn’t yet, all in perpetual existence in her fingertips.
Tag Archives: Weekend Write-Off
Some Kind of Savant
Most people would probably have a hard time totally fucking up their life in under an hour. But then again, I’m not most people. I’m amazing. I’m like some kind of fuckup savant.The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo
Measure distance covered in the length of a song
Imagine geographic area given the musicians to roam
Number songs down before destination done
Hit corner by time clock hits the next minute
Shave time off ETA
Not late until start time elapses
Envision window into where you are
Just how close, closer,
every inch, every minute, every mile
Pray for a well-played EP
My imagination was captured by Bryan Stevenson’s work and ideas once I read his book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. I was thrilled when HBO developed a documentary following his story. Fortunately, I was able to view it free of charge on their website (limited time, of course). I stayed up till the wee hours the other night, watching it once the kids were finally in bed, sobbing in silence on the couch. The stories Stevenson tells of his people, of the people wronged by this nation are so raw and real and ones, as he says, that must be told if any sort of healing and progress is to be made in our country and society.
Two quotes that hit me over the head:
In many ways, you can say that the North won the Civil War, but the South won the narrative war. If the urgent narrative that we’re trying to deal with in this country is a narrative of racial difference, the narrative that we have to overcome is a narrative of white supremacy – the South prevailed.
The Civil Rights community won the legal battle, but the narrative battle was won by people who were allowed to hold onto this view that there are differences between people who are black and people who are white.
Click here to watch the trailer:
We may begin to feel our belonging in the breath – here we may take sanctuary, here we begin to feel our place in creation. Taking refuge in each breath of our life, in each beat of our heart, we find a quiet place of belonging. This refuge, this sanctuary, is neither given nor taken away by the chaotic demands of an unpredictable world. This place belongs to us, and we to it. It is where we make our home.
Wayne Muller in
Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood
“Where My Books Go”
W.B. Yeats speaks to the greatest wish of all writers – and eloquently so.
All the words I gather,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm darkened or starry bright
London, January 1892
Behind the Mist
“What’s depression?” I asked my father.
“It’s all about the power of the mind,” he said. “The only thing that will make it go away is your own determination.” He ran his hand over the window ledge and frowned at the smudge on his fingers.
When Rosa was happy our house was filled with music. I could never imagine the silences returning. The light in her studio burned through the night. One summer she painted Corry Head. The gorse blazed like a fireball. Purple heather covered the rocks. She painted it with the mist falling down and hiding all of the color. I wondered if that was what her life was like. Always trying to escape from behind the mist.
–from “To Dream of White Horses” by June Considine
There is so much about his passage that speaks to me. The father’s misinterpretation of how it is to live with depression. The son’s seeming lack of information, yet more complete understanding. The descriptive pall the illness brings – both literally in the dust that builds up and metaphorically in the mist that envelops the person suffering.
A Patch of Peat
Beside me a patch of peat was touched with green as though it had gone mouldy, and up from it went a little forest of buds, each on its slender stalk, for spring had come to the moss as well as the curlews.
– from “The End of the Rainbow” by Lord Dunsany
This line jumped out at me because it perfectly describes the little sprigs emanating from the carpets of moss at the edges of the forest right now. Beauty in nature and word – captured.
“We’ve come because of the baby,” she said. “We’ve come to help.”
That’s all I had to read on the book jacket to be hooked. There’s a problem, a possible trauma, surrounding the birth and/or care of a baby? I’m in. Not because I revel in such things, but because I look for solutions, for ways other people dealt with such things, for ways to support others in similar situations.
But The Nest by Kenneth Oppel (illustrated by Jon Klassen) is so much more. It is rated for ages ten and up, but I found it compelling and psychically scary as an adult.
There is a baby, the main character Steve’s new brother, and he has an unnamed degenerative disease. There is confusion on Steve’s and his sister, Nicole’s, parts. There is the overarching sadness that permeates the entire family’s lives.
There is also a recurring vision that Steve has. A group of luminous wasps that visits him in his dreams and offer to first help, and then ‘fix’, the baby. This is where the psychological component of the story comes in. When dealing with trauma and situations far above our intellectual or emotional understanding or ability, it makes sense for the brain to conjure up solutions. However, Oppel blurs the line between Steve’s inner world and outer reality.
Steve struggles with an unnamed mental illness, one in which he makes bedtime lists and washes his hands so much that they “got all chapped and red, especially around the knuckles”; that makes him feel as if he is “all in pieces . . . like [he] had a hundred shattered thoughts in [his] head, a hundred glimmering bits of stained-glass window, and [his] eyes just kept dancing from one piece to the next without understanding what they meant or where they were supposed to go.”
In his dreams, the wasps – the queen in particular – talk to him about the baby’s condition, about how sad a situation it is and what might be done to remedy it. Steve senses his parents’ sadness, feels his own. He feels helpless, both in not knowing exactly what is wrong with his brother and not being able to do anything to improve it. The queen gives him a solution.
“It’s just not something you can patch up with a bit of string and sticky tape. No, no, no, we have to do this properly. Go right back to the beginning of things. Go deep. That’s the proper way to do things. No half measures around here!”
“You mean going right inside the DNA?”
“DNA – aren’t you the clever one! Yes, good, you’re on the right track. And we’ll go deeper back still. That’s where it will make the most amazing difference.”
Steve’s relief at the queen’s assurances of making his baby brother better does not last as she reveals more of her plan, however. It was never about ‘fixing’ this baby; it was about replacing him with a superior one. In this special nest just outside the nursery window, they are incubating a baby from the larva state – to replace the ‘broken’ one inside.
Ironically, Steve is petrified of wasps and soon discovers he is allergic to them when one stings him on their back deck. The fact that he looks to the very thing that terrifies him to solve a problem that terrifies him even more speaks to the psychic line Oppel dances along through the entire book. Another exterior fear, the man who travels the neighborhood in a van offering to sharpen knives, delves into his interior world as well.
All of this swirls around Steve’s compelling need and desire to keep his brother safe. It is not about perfection – for either of them – but protecting our true selves. Whether mentally ill or physically disabled, the dignity of an individual human life is paramount. And Steve dives into his worst fears to safeguard his brother’s.
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin
My most recent read, devoured well into the wee hours of the morning because I haven’t yet gotten off my holiday schedule and accepted the fact that I have to be up soon in the morning. And because it was that compelling.
Rabbit. Johnny. Juliet. There is so much that’s good about this heartbreaking and hilarious book, but it’s a particular scene of dialogue I want to shine the spotlight on today.
So tight, so fluid, so funny. One of those scenes you read and instantly know it’s gold. The kind of writing you strive to achieve. The fact that it’s got some great Irish wit just endears it to me even more.
Grace walked through the front door with her suitcase. Before she had her coat off, Lenny was halfway down the stairs. When she saw his face, she covered her eyes with her hands. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said. ‘I have no idea what happened.’
He held her close and kissed the top of her head. ‘You lost it.’
‘I hurt you.’
‘It was an accident.’
‘I threw a mug at your face on purpose.’
‘I should have ducked quicker.’
‘If this conversation was the other way around, you apologizing for hurting me and me making excuses for you, people would call it domestic violence.’
He laughed. ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake, Grace. We’ve been together for twenty years and this is the first mug-in-the-face incident we’ve had. I think I’m safe enough.’
‘I’m so, so, so sorry.’
They walked together into the kitchen.
‘I know,’ he said. ‘Now can we forget it?’ He put on the kettle and she sat down on a stool facing him. ‘Toast?’
‘Yes, please. I’m starving.’
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, Anna McPartlin, 2014