April 24, 2011 § 7 Comments
Usually I read books very quickly. I finished Claire Dederer’s Poser in about 3 days because it was so similar to my own life and I wanted to find out what happened next. Other books, I read slowly because each page is a piece of magic. I want it to last forever. Last year, when I was in the middle of our move from Ventura to Washington, D.C. I read Katrina Kenison’s The Gift of an Ordinary Day. I only allowed myself a few pages a night because I
wanted needed it to keep me afloat during my transition.
I have been reading Dani Shapiro’s Devotion in much the same way. I needed it to last throughout the winter. I am almost finished now and came across the following passage which I have been thinking about for days. In this section of the book, Dani was having lunch with Sylvia Boorstein, the meditation teacher. The two had gotten to be close and were having dinner in New York City near Central Park, which to me, is such a festive place. The two are catching up and talking about an Alice Munro story. Shapiro writes:
The story had touched on a constant, gnawing sadness that was always with me. This sadness wasn’t a huge part of me – I wasn’t remotely depressed – but still, it was like a stone I carried in my pocket. I always knew it was there.
“I think of it as the edge of melancholy,” Sylvia said, “and it’s where I live – but at the same time, I am easily cheered.” Where else was a sensible person to live, but on the edge of sorrow? I pictured myself and Sylvia, on some sort of window ledge, our legs gaily dangling beneath us. Not falling over, but all the while aware that a world of pain simmered below.
I read that and put my hand on my heart. That was it. All along I had thought there was something vaguely wrong with me that my life seemed to have a sort of Charlotte’s Web quality to it, and here is Dani Shapiro, asking me where else am I supposed to live, even as her own feet swing over the tragedy below.
Anyway, because I usually write about what I struggle with, I thought I would write about how I too am easily cheered.
Lately, Oliver has been pretending he is a cat. Sometimes, when he refuses to speak and only meows in a very high pitch, this is annoying. But overall, it is very sweet. Even sweeter when his brother plays with him. Together they are “Kitten,” (Oliver) and Prun-Jun (Gus). I am only guessing on the spelling there. The sweetest is when they are cats you can “ride kittyback” on, and Oliver carries Gus around.
I know, right? I thought I hated it here too. But it turns out that while this city will always have a freight train of aggression driving through, there are some fun things to do. We live 4 minutes from a Metro stop, 15 minutes from the National Zoo, a 20 minute Metro ride into the Smithsonian, and about 16 minutes from DC’s best yoga studio, Flow.
Also, about 20 minutes from our house is a wetlands sanctuary on one of George Mason’s former farms. It’s called Huntley Meadows, and when we went last week, we saw skinks, frogs, turtles, and a heron. Awesome.
I have two friends now (yay!). A lovely mom at my son’s school and I are starting to hang out more and I am looking forward to a summer full of lazy mornings at the park. I also met another mother of boys – Sonya – at one of those ridiculous trail races I did this spring. Sonya introduced me to Huntley Meadows. When her son asked if she could buy him something at the Visitor Center, Sonya shook her head sadly and told him she had no money. “But I bought you this sun,” she said, throwing open her arms. “I bought you these ants!”
While Gus was sitting at the Lego table in our kitchen (where he was pretending that a bunch of orange safety ear plugs he found in a closet were donuts), he said, “Mommy, why did the sign truck walk away?”
I wasn’t sure what he meant. “Why did the sign truck walk away?” I asked, trying to figure out what he was talking about.
“Because someone put shoes on him,” Gus said.
“Gus!” I said, putting down the carrots I was cutting up. “Did you just tell me a joke?”
Gus turned back to his ear plugs. “I making more donuts now.”
That night at dinner, I told Scott about Gus’ joke. “Oliver?” I asked, “Did you tell Gus that joke?”
Oliver shook his head. “No.”
“I wonder where he heard it,” I said.
“Well, I told that joke to Juan Jose,” Oliver said. “And I think Gus was listening.”
“When was that?” Juan Jose is in Oliver’s class at school and Gus doesn’t see him much.
“On that playdate,” Oliver said. “When we were all in the backseat of Daddy’s car.”
“That was over a month ago,” I told Scott, who was busy trying to keep his chicken safe from Gus, who kept stealing it.
“Where did you hear the joke?” Scott asked Oliver.
“I made it up,” he said.
“I made donuts,” Gus said.
“I’ll tell you a joke,” Oliver said. “Why did the log walk away?”
“I don’t know,” Scott said.
“Because someone put it on a logging truck.”
Although yoga is about renouncing attachments, some of my attachments provide me with great comfort. A few of these include: Republic of Tea Earl Grey tea, books (currently Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life), my new cookbook (Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter, in the photo), our garden, books on iPOD, watching the Biggest Loser, a clean car, a clean house, Sunday New York Times, springtime, Ugg flip flops, and of course, my yoga mat.