Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts

Sunday, May 15, 2016

sit-com life

I spent this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday smiling. My friends Taylor and Stuart, who currently live in Algiers, were staying with our friends Chris and Kendra whose house is across the street from Lovely Apartment. Chris, Taylor, and I were close in college thanks to the United Methodist campus ministry at our alma mater, and I've stayed close with each of them in the intervening years, but it's been more than a decade since I've hung out with both of them at the same time.

Thursday evening, Chris and I were cooking (mushroom pasta and peach crisp, respectively), Taylor was hanging out with us in the kitchen, Chris's kids and Taylor's daughter were playing on the patio, Kendra was at work, and Stuart had gone to his agency's DC headquarters.

Taylor: Kate! Where are the girls?
me: Well, Sofia went to a friend's house after school. We should see her soon. And I just ran into Anna on the sidewalk on my way back from the grocery store. She's taking the bus to ballet, and she'll take the bus home later.
Chris: Running into your kids randomly on the sidewalk is one of the coolest things about having you in the neighborhood.
me: I know, right? They love running into you guys, too. I love our pedestrian life. You know, this is the life I imagined all of you living when I was in Michigan and the rest of you were here, and I was sad when I learned that it didn't exist. I'm so happy to be a part of it now.
Taylor: You're living the sit-com life.
me: 0.o
Chris: o.0
Taylor: Friends close by, babysitting, shared meals. Someone just opens up the front door and walks in. It's like a sit-com.

Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, all of these shows hold up the model of a friend group who don't all live together, but are together all the time anyway. Most of us, I think, experience that kind of living in each other's back pockets in our college dormitory years, if we're lucky, but it's more rare after graduation for a variety of reasons. There were, for example, friends who would open the kitchen door and walk into Rambling Farmhouse, but physical distance and the necessity of driving made those moments rare.

I'd never thought about my current life in these terms, but Taylor is right. Chris and Kendra's kitchen is like the main set of a sit-com where friends gather to live life, to celebrate, and to solve problems. I'm privileged to be a part of the cast in this moment.

There's one way we've surpassed the sitcoms: We've got a next generation. And they already love each other.
Here we come...walking down the street...
we get the funniest looks from...
everyone we meet...


Sunday, January 24, 2016

a glimpse of community in the city

A little over two years ago, already knowing that I would be leaving my life in Michigan to start again elsewhere, I posted a glimpse of community in winter.

Today was a day a lot like that day: crisp and clear and snowy-but-not-snowing.



As we skied through the neighborhood, we chatted with other folks out enjoying the snow and starting the cleanup.



And then we met up with a hundred or so neighbors and had a snowball fight on Penrose Square.



Most of the people there are people I don't know, of course. At first, it's a bit odd to play in the snow with strangers. And then you (I) relax, and it starts to be fun.  

And then, I saw all these people that I do know!



All of these beautiful people also walked to Penrose Square for the snowball fight today because all these people live (or had Snowzilla sleepovers) close enough to Penrose Square to walk. How amazing is that? Even when driving is impossible, all these people I love are close enough to get together. That's pretty amazing.

The isolation of the property on which Rambling Farmhouse and Rustic Lakehouse sat was one of its positive features for Adam. He wanted to have land that was his, space that he could use however he wanted, whenever wanted. I'll admit that it was nice to be able to host large gatherings like a wedding or an apple butter production party in our own back yard, but it was also isolating. Visitors were generally a plan and a commitment. 

While I do miss having acres of skiing and skating right outside my door, I like not being responsible for land on my own. I like sharing my green space with other people. I like that looking up from the shovel to chat with me on my skis made strangers smile this morning. I like working together to shovel out our cars in the parking lot of my building. I especially like that on the way home from this neighborhood snowball fight, we stopped at the neighborhood grocery store. On foot. 

My community looks different now than it did at the end of 2013, and I miss the faces in that other post like whoa. This new community is pretty amazing, too, though. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

listen

The turn of the year is always a time for taking stock. The long break between academic semesters makes space for all the thinking I've been avoiding to assert itself in the forefront of my mind.

As I've been reading job ads and assembling application materials over the last couple of weeks, I've felt pretty disheartened about my work this year. My CV is glaringly unchanged over the last twelve months. Having finally finished my PhD helps on the job market, but I still don't have the publication record that would help me compete with the real job candidates. I feel a bit like Pinocchio or the Velveteen Rabbit--almost there, still not real.

At the same time, I did accomplish a lot of things in my personal life, most critically finally defeating the hydra of my late husband's estate: all the real estate, all the vehicles, all the financial accounts. Done and dusted.

And then I moved our household from middle to coast with minimal disruption to the children's academic and athletic lives. I deserve a medal for the level of normalcy I maintained for the children through this process.

In pursuit of those accomplishments, though, I became a person I don't like. In some ways self-centeredness was necessary. I could not have finalized the estate and finished my degree and moved the household if I had also volunteered for school and civic organizations as I had previously. I needed that hyper-focus in order to begin again.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, though, I sat down to make a list of the loved ones I wanted to give gifts to at Christmas. This is usually an activity I enjoy because giving gifts is wonderful, but I made the list of names and then realized I had no idea what to make or find for any of them. No idea. Not for my kids, not for my mother, not for my best friend. No understanding of what my beloveds need this year or what would bring smiles to their faces.

I forgot to listen.

Beloveds, I apologize if I have been less than the friend you needed. I am so sorry if I've pushed you to be more than the friend you wanted to be. I am ashamed of having failed to show you that I value you. Please forgive my selfishness.

In the new year, I am resolved to be more present with you, beloveds. This year, I will listen.




Friday, November 6, 2015

deliciousness in dough

So there we were, Chris and I, drinking beer on a Sunday evening, as happens not infrequently, and we started talking about how delicious food is.

Especially how delicious food is when wrapped in dough.

Especially how American cuisine does not have enough savory deliciousness wrapped in dough.

Especially how much we envy other cuisines their dough-wrapped deliciousness: Salvadoran pupusas, Bolivian salteñas, Mexican empanadas, Russian pirožki, Chinese dumplings, Indian samosas, Italian stromboli, Korean mandu, French crêpes.

So we hatched a plan to ride our bikes from one local ethnic restaurant to another sampling all the deliciousness wrapped in dough.

At its grandest, the plan has included a dozen restaurants and as many miles, but we're running out of biking weather and free weekends, so when the meteorologists told us today promised record-breaking high temps, we decided to do what we could in an evening: three South American restaurants outbound along Columbia Pike and two Asian restaurants inbound toward home.

And it was delicious.

I think the pupusas from Abi Azteca were the oddest. They looked like pita on the plate, but were more like thin pancakes (but not crêpes) with beans and cheese or pork and cheese contained by the sealed edges. The cabbage garnish was quite delicious.


The sulteñas from Pan American Bakery are a strong contender for my favorite. We got one with chicken and one with beef.


I brought one home for Anna. 

All in all, it was a delightful evening of cycling, fellowship, and deliciousness wrapped in dough. There are more picture in Chris's version of the story: "3.5 hours, 4 bellies, 5 restaurants, 2 bikes, and a whole lot of deliciousness wrapped in dough."

What better way to spend this day, the warmth of which we won't see again until after winter?



I'm looking forward to our northward swing on a tour of European restaurants when next the weather cooperates. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

ruins



A brief drive along the coast to the west of the city of Algiers took us to Tipasa and Cherchelle, the sites of Roman ruins. 


I have to say that I was not enthused when Stuart told me about these plans, but I was willing to go along for the adventure.

Photo courtesy of Taylor Walters Denyer.

I had forgotten how powerful it is to walk the paths trod by people two millennia ago...


...to think about how those people used these spaces...


...to marvel at how much the ancient city's structure is still apparent...


...to ponder the lives of the artisans who created this beauty.



This city was built right up to the edge of the Mediterranean, and I was ecstatic to be able to dip my fingers in the water. 

Photo courtesy of Taylor Walters Denyer.
These women were also visiting the ruins, and they requested that Taylor and I pose for pictures with them. Unlike many people who have seen us out and about, they didn't ask our names or where we were from. They didn't use us for English practice or even try to speak to us in French. They just touched us gently and mimed their request.
Photo courtesy of Taylor Walters Denyer.
The young man with them took many more iterations of this photo with different combinations of them and us. It's a bit odd to be cast in the role of Exotic Foreigner, but I was happy to oblige.



In hindsight, I am so glad that we went.








friendship

So far my posts from Algiers have been about the places and the things, but this trip was really about the people.

On the day of Adam's funeral, his friends gathered at my house. There was a moment in which they looked at each other and said, 'We're so glad to be together again. We shouldn't have waited this long, and it shouldn't have taken a funeral to bring us together again.' In the aftermath of that day, I thought long and hard about the friendships I value enough to put energy into, and I have resolved not to let it be a funeral that brings me together with those people.

There are few people in the world whom I could contact and say, 'I would like to buy an expensive plane ticket and spend a week in your house,' and whom I could trust to say, 'Yes, we will do the complicated paperwork required for you to come. Can you really only stay a week?'

Taylor, Stuart, and I have known each other since college. Taylor and I got through stats together freshman year. The three of us were founding members of Fellowship of Sound, a student music group which continues to this day. Stuart played the organ at my wedding.


Maintaining a friendship over time despite great distances is hard work, and Taylor and I haven't been constantly close. Our mutual effort to make time for one another and to spend energy on our friendship has been fruitful, though. When we do have the opportunity to be together we have rambling conversations about hopes and dreams and disappointments and challenges. 


It's hard to believe that we met eighteen years ago.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

a glimpse of certainty

Every time I come to Washington, I try to be on campus for a worship service. When I come to this city, but not to this space, I go home feeling like I have missed something.

This time, though, even as I was happy to be here, I was asking myself why I do this. United Methodist worship services happen on Thursdays at 11:00 PM and Sundays at 7:00 PM, neither of which is particularly convenient for travel.

Photo credit: AU Ambassadors
https://auambassadors.wordpress.com/tag/kay-spiritual-life-center/


As I was standing on the quad on this most recent trip, I realized why.

When this was my home, I was happy, I felt safe, and I knew where I was going, and when I come back here my self remembers that identity. It's comfortable, like favorite clothes long lost in the back of the closet.

Putting that identity back on is, of course, impossible. When I leave, I’m still the same nervous, fearful person who has little idea where she’s going, but I have a renewed sense of what that old certainty felt like.

Somehow, having that memory like a token in my pocket makes the uncertainty of my present world more bearable. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

all year long

Lately, in the corners of the internet that I inhabit, I've seen a lot of this sort of sentiment:

"We don't celebrate Valentine's Day in our house because my partner and I love each other all year long and give gifts when we feel moved."

It reminds me of the people who said things like, "December 25th is an arbitrary day. Even if Jesus was born, it wasn't in December, and we should work for peace on earth and goodwill towards men all year long."

Or the ones who said, "What's up with 'Giving Tuesday'? We should be generous to the charities we care about all year long."

How does that work, even? So, we should be nurturing our relationships with those nearest to us, reaching out in peace to the wider world, and remembering to support those who are less fortunate all year long? That's a lot to do every day. I'm not up to that task.

While I totally understand rejecting the consumerism that so often accompanies holidays in American culture, I'm having trouble following the logic of repudiating the holidays entirely.

I'd be lying if I said that the romantic rhetoric of Valentine's Day didn't make me feel at least a little bit lonely. I have a lot of love to give to a partner, and I hope to find someone who has love to return in equal measure, so I'll spend some of my meditation time tomorrow directing that love toward myself and also making space for a partner to step into. Then, all year long when the lonelies attack and I despair of ever meeting anyone ever again, I'll have this Valentine's Day meditation to remember, like a token in my pocket.

I will be celebrating love on this Valentine's Day, too.  Sofia and I are babysitting so that my best friend Erin and her husband David can go out to dinner. Because even though we all agree that going out to eat on Valentine's Day is insane, sometimes it's fun to embrace the insanity. I'm not sure what they'll be eating, but Sofia, Margaret, Blaise, and I will be having a pirate meal complete with octopus (hot dogs cut specially before boiling), doubloons (carrot rounds), seaweed (lettuce), and yo-ho-ho punch (sparkling juice). You should totally be envious.

If we reject holidays completely, consumerism wins. Subversion is a much more effective way to reclaim the values our holidays claim to celebrate.


Monday, January 12, 2015

on moving

I'm writing this morning from Rustic Lakehouse, where my table-desk and my rollie chair have been placed in their new location by the south window that looks out over the lake. It feels like we have arrived.

This move has brought so many complex emotions.

I feel relieved at having the burden of responsibility for Rambling Farmhouse and its acres taken off my shoulders. The buyers have great plans for the house and the land, and I'm excited to see their beginning.

Yet, although I had already taken leave of the dreams Adam and I had dreamt at Rambling Farmhouse, there is further sadness in this physical parting, and I'm sad to leave the place where so much of my life happened.

At the same time, I'm frustrated at my younger self, who chose not to fight with her husband about the importance of keeping stuff organized and who allowed herself to buy into the "we have enough space, so it's not a problem" line of thinking.

I was very conscious yesterday of having asked the people I love to loan me their arms and backs, their vehicles, and, most critically, their time to finish clearing out Rambling Farmhouse. As we were working it became clear that there was more still there than I had thought, and I am embarrassed by the quantity and content of the stuff I asked them to schlepp for me.

I am so very grateful for their help. Seven carloads of stuff went to Goodwill, three carloads of shelves and  camping gear went to the storage unit, and ten carloads (three of them books) came to Rustic Lakehouse.

I'm grappling with my image of myself as an un-materialistic and non-acqisitive person.

I'm resolved to continue pruning the things that share my space so that the next time I move I can be proud of what I take.

Friday, October 24, 2014

done not done

Recently, a friend mentioned that he was dissatisfied with his work, that his job no longer made him happy, that he was done with it. I was floored. This friend is excellent at his job, and I love my job so much that I can't imagine ever being done with it.

I've heard other friends express the same sentiment: that they wanted to move up, they wanted more, their company had no place for them to go. This craving has always baffled me. There's only so far up one can go before moving from doing a job to management or administration, and those roles require vastly different skills. For days I've been wondering if I'm just weird. I've been teaching for ten years now, and I really just want to keep teaching forever. Maybe I'm just wired wrong.

It occurred to me yesterday, though, as I was mulling over the game plan for getting through another Michigan winter in the country, that I can relate to being done. I am done living forty-five minutes from almost everything. I am done constantly dealing with mice. I am done with drafty windows and insufficiently insulated walls. I am done thinking about gutters and leaves and appliances. I'm so ready to move on that it's easy to resent the things keeping me here. It's so easy to descend into a spiral of complaints and shake my fist at the responsibilities I no longer want.

Just as I was warming up for a solid session of fist-shaking, however, the words 'weed where you're planted' popped into my head. Because Rambling Farmhouse and Rustic Lakehouse have not sold, they remain my responsibility, like it or not, and these responsibilities tie me to this place. If I want to live well as long as I live here, I have to think about mice and windows and walls and gutters and leaves and appliances. In truth if I have any hope of walking away from closings in the black, I need to think about more than just those things. Even while planning for future change, it's critical to be a good steward of the things within reach and to do so with more joy than resentment.

It's a difficult position to be in, done yet not done.


Monday, July 14, 2014

fear

Last year, several weeks after my husband died, I had dinner with an old friend whose summer travels brought him past Rambling Farmhouse. At the end of the evening, as we made our farewells with a hug, I suddenly felt safe, and it was such a relief. Until that moment, I had not realized what a frightening place my world had become or the degree to which  fear was informing my decisions. Though the world was no less frightening when the hug was over, that brief solace made it possible for me to see, and seeing is the first step toward coping.

I used to say that I had lost my invincibility when I became a mother. In the moment that I realized another being depended on me for sustenance and protection, I suddenly became aware of how vulnerable human beings are, how we take risks as we live our daily lives. It was frightening at first, but life is worth the risks, and I learned to live with this new awareness.

I thought that motherhood had allowed me to see through the illusion of my own invincibility, but widowhood showed me that the illusion of invincibility, albeit in fainter form, was still with me. Part of the tenacity of the illusion comes from the way we talk about risk, I think. When we hear statistics like the risk of death in a car accident is 1 in 6,700, it's easy to disregard the one. That one will be someone else, someone distant, someone unconnected to us. But someone has to be the one.

It has been harder to learn to live with the new awareness of vulnerability this time, in large part because I don't have a partner to lean on.

Though I recognize that fear is a normal part of grief, I find that it manifests itself in unexpected ways:

Like the way my mind gets caught in a hamster wheel of worry and doubt over things that shouldn't be worry worthy.

Like the way I avoid making estate-related phone calls because I imagine they will be awful, even though they are almost always less bad than I build them up to be.

Like the way I don't send pages to my dissertation committee because I worry they will say my work is awful.

Like the way I make poor choices about how to spend my work time because finishing my degree is frightening, even though I simultaneously really want to be done.

Everything is harder when lived through the lens of fear.

I sometimes wonder if we need the illusion of invincibility, if it is that illusion that allows us to rationalize the risks that we take every day. I'm not sure, though. Perhaps it's not an illusion of invincibility that we need, but confidence in our resilience.

Monday, June 16, 2014

in the joy of fullness

There were eight extra people at Rambling Farmhouse this weekend, and it was glorious.

My friends being my friends, much of the long visit centered on the many meals we prepared and shared together. Even in the work of feeding five adults and six children, there was joy. The quotidian mysteries of prepping, cooking, and cleaning are a solid foundation for deepening friendships.


Today, we are back to three at Rambling Farmhouse, and I am tidying up, still so happy to have shared this time with Chris & Kendra and Erin & David.  These table linens on the line are a testament to friendships newly made and further deepened.

Monday, May 26, 2014

unniversary

Today is not my thirteenth wedding anniversary, and that feels strange.

With my wedding present, Adam gave me a fiftieth anniversary card because he believed we would see that day. Even in our rockiest moments divorce was never an option, but because of that card we used to joke that we'd renegotiate the deal when we made it to fifty years. These days, when I'm frustrated with the estate process, I grumble that he reneged on our deal.


This has been one of the more challenging days for me in this year of firsts without Adam because there was not a logical thing to do, no traditions to guide the choice of how to mark this day. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter are all holidays which continue to be celebrated even without Adam because each of those days contains its own reasons and rituals. This anniversary, in contrast, commemorates a marriage that ended when death did us part.

Today may not be day to celebrate thirteen years, but it can become a day to remember the twelve amazing years and one month that we had. So, this evening, I pulled out our wedding album and tracked down the music Fellowship of Sound sang for us that day.

Fellowship of Sound (May 26, 2001): Nate, Stuart, Kate, Kate, Brad, Chris
Then, I opened the envelope of memories.


I am so grateful to the friends and family who took the time to answer my call for stories. For most of this year, though, I hadn't been able to bring myself to read them. As they arrived, I just slid them into their designated manila envelope, saving them for a nebulous 'later.'

I'm really glad later was today. Your stories capture Adam's boundless creativity,  his gracious hospitality, and his joyful laughter. Thank you for writing his portrait. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

a glimpse of cousins


She's waited a long time for a first cousin. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

seeing myself

Adam used to reflect me back to me, so that I saw myself in his eyes. Not in the sense that I let him define me, but in the sense that he was the reality check on the person I thought I was presenting to the world. He could separate the insecurities in my head from the flaws visible to others. He could see the potential that I doubted.

Now, I feel like I triangulate the feedback of others to get the same picture.

Like when John wanted to help me sell Rambling Farmhouse right away because he knows it was never my house, never the place I would have chosen for myself. Which reminded me of the first time Mark came to visit, and said, "Kate, I don't know what I expected your house to be, but this is not it."

I saw myself as free to leave this house behind.


Like when Erin talked about me balancing into the burdens of the last year.

I saw myself making progress and gaining confidence.


Like when Dorrie's words about the writing process made me realize that my problems aren't grief problems, but writing problems.

I saw myself making excuses.


It is so hard to dwell in this wilderness between end and beginning. Sometimes I feel like I imagine Moses must have felt, able to see the promised land after many years' wandering, but unable to cross over.  I yearn to move on, sometimes blaming paperwork and sorting for keeping me here, sometimes resenting Adam for leaving so many loose ends.

In more insightful moments, I understand that I'm still here because I'm still learning to see the self I am becoming.

Pardon me while I gather today's manna.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

turning chickens into quilts


I recently rehomed our flock of chickens, who are now happily clucking away at Bluebird Farm. They are also laying prodigiously, so we know they've settled in and are happy.

Back in March when Rachel and David took the chickens, I couldn't come up with a cash value number. I really had no idea what they were worth, on the market generally or to me personally, so Rachel offered me three Romney fleeces from the spring shearing. Sold!

Shearing happened last Saturday, and I spent a pleasant couple of hours this afternoon picking over the fleeces with Rachel, removing balls of lanolin and bits of hay. (Also poop. These are sheep, after all).

Thank you, Lady Baa Baa.

These three fleeces are destined to become quilt batts, the innards between the pieced top and the counterpane bottom, the innards that make the quilt warm. Adam's friend Jen offered to make quilts from his prodigious collection of interesting t-shirts for the girls and a quilt from his button shirts and some of my old clothes for me. There is enough fleece to make batts for these three quilts and also batts for Jen to keep for her own use.

I will have to pay the mill actual cash for processing, but the other exchanges in this chain are forged by friendship, trust, and the barter economy. Each trade is equitable because each party has a surplus of the other's need, and each is satisfied at the end. It's a pretty great way to turn chickens into quilts.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

the seeds and the flowers

The United Methodist student ministry at my undergraduate alma mater played a huge role in the second half of my college life. During the four semesters that I was involved, weekly attendance grew from the mid-teens to thirty-ish, and we built ourselves a pretty amazing choir. The growth was wonderful and remarkable, but it was also fragile.

As we were getting ready to graduate, my friend Taylor, who had helped the ministry grow from the single-digits to the mid-teens, was worried. Who would take over the leadership roles when our core group left? Would the congregation dwindle again? Would all our work be for naught? Young as we were, I don't think we recognized these as the concerns of any person who moves on from a beloved project.

I said something like, "We planted good seeds. And they will grow, but we don't necessarily get to see the flowers bloom."  This wasn't something I had thought about before speaking the words, but as they hung there in the air between us, I decided this was a philosophy I could embrace. As I recall, Taylor wasn't convinced.

On a recent trip to DC, I got to see the flowers.

Sunday evening worship is a lot like it was fourteen years ago when my cohort started leaving. The community is inclusive and caring. Fellowship of Sound is a glory to the ear (and "Siyahamba" is still in the repertoire). The hospitality is delicious. The building is round.

What today's community has that we lacked is a sense of tradition, the knowledge that the things they do are rooted in the things we did. They can go farther in exploration and innovation, key components of campus ministry, because of the structures we built and the support we continue to send through our prayers and our gifts, and occasionally our presence and our service.

Right now, so many areas of my life feel like sitting in the mud with a packet of seeds, and sometimes I'm overwhelmed by all the things for which my trowel is inadequate. My brief sojourn with this community was balm for the soul, a reminder that my contributions can lead to beauty.

Photo from www.aumethodists.org

Thursday, January 9, 2014

real

Social media comes under a lot of criticism for making us more isolated, for decimating the glory of English, for changing the way people interact with one another. This post is not about that. This post is about the power of social media to build and maintain community across time and space.

The first year of my married life was bathed in the rose-colored glow of being newly wed, but the second year I was really lonely. I desperately wanted to be back in Washington, DC, with my college friends, which was silly for two reasons. First, by then most of my college friends were leaving the District. And second because I had plenty of great friends in Michigan. My La Leche League friend, my grad school friend, and my friend I stole from Adam are all wonderful women, but something was missing.

After dwelling with the discontent for a while, I finally realized that what I really missed was interacting with a group of people who not only knew me but also all knew each other. Identifying the problem helped me to accept it, but satisfying the craving was more difficult. Gradually, the sort of interconnected tribe I longed for coalesced around us as Adam started inviting a more-or-less stable group of people to three parties a year: sledding for Anna in January, a cookout for Sofia in May, and his apple butter stir in the fall.  My world started to look rosy again.

Facebook's expansion beyond college campuses, though, gave me back my college tribe. Although we were in Michigan and Texas and Washington and New York and Togo and Indiana and the DR Congo, we could still interact with one another easily. The asynchronicity of posts and comments on social media ameliorate the difficulties posed by work schedules and time differences and eliminate the costs of international phone calls. Most recently, Skype gave us back the ability to see each other as we talked.

I don't mean to say that social media completely replaces face to face interactions. The best analogy I've come up with is to say that social media simulates working in the same building as someone else. You might not have a conversation over lunch with Sam every day, but since you pass him in the hallway and you have brief interactions at the copier or vending machines, you have a general sense that Sam is alive and well, and when you do make time for a tête à tête, you can skim over the preliminary stuff and get to the deeper conversation more quickly.

Facebook has allowed me to have a general sense of what's going on in the lives of a few close high school friends, my close-knit group from college, the extended families of both my parents, and my graduate school colleagues. For a long time, this was the only social media platform I used.

Then, having learned to knit in 2009 because Anna wanted to, I kept knitting because I liked it, and quickly exhausted my reference book. Looking for resources online, I found Ravelry, a social media network geared toward fiber artists, and within Ravelry, I found the Ivory Tower Fiber Freaks, "The Centre for Textiles and Conflict Studies: For academics of all stripes who knit, crochet, spin or weave." I have only met a couple of the members of this tribe in person, but the group as a whole has a significant role in my professional development as well as my adventures with string.

When Adam died, ITFF mourned with me. Not a single one of them had ever met him, so they were not grieving for him, but because they love me, they mourn with me, and that is a critical distinction. So much strength flows into my hands from around the world with the cards they send to make me smile.  They have lifted my spirits with flowers on the 26th of every month from that to this.
August's flowers
I have long since felt immensely blessed that I get to be a part of this amazing virtual-yet-oh-so-real community of scholars and friends, but today they have outdone themselves. Today they wrapped the girls and me in wooly warm hugs. 


Each square an individual contribution:



Each blanket a symphony of color
  
Anna's blanket

and texture:
Kate's blanket
The note said, 
We were all so sorry when Adam died, and if we could, we would have wrapped you all up in virtual hugs to help you as you learned to cope with his loss. We couldn't do that, however, so we decided to make these blankets so you would have something tangible to hold you whenever you need a hug, or some love, or just something to keep you warm!….This was a truly international gift, and is from all of us at ITFF.
Some of the squares had their own notes:

I appreciate every gift I have received from all of my community, every bit of chocolate, every cup of tea, every penny you have sent, every task you have helped me with tells me that you love me.  This gift of blankets from the ITFF community, however, amazes me in the scope of its organization and coordination. 

This, right here. This is the power of social media. 

My cup runneth over.


My wooly hug is also beautiful on the inside. Come join me ;-)







Saturday, December 28, 2013

a glimpse of community in winter

Someday, when I have sold Rambling Farmhouse and Rustic Lakehouse and begun my life over again,  these are the days I will miss the most.











Friday, November 1, 2013

(literary) companions in grief

It will come as no shock to those of you who know me well that I find solace in literature. My real-life friends are wonderful, and I have praised you here on these virtual pages, but many of my oldest and most intimate friends are met on the printed page. In this post, I'd like to introduce you to some of them.

Anne Bradstreet was a Puritan and a poet in the early seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay Colony. If you picked up a memorial card at Adam's funeral, you saw her poem "To My Dear and Loving Husband," the last two lines of which have been with me lately:


Then while we live in love, let's so persever,

That when we live no more, we may live ever.

The above is, by far, my favorite, but Bradstreet has other poems that model faith amidst sorrow.


Where Bradstreet is excellent for comfort, Anna Akhmatova, an early twentieth-century Russian poet, is excellent for lamentation. Her cycle of poems, Реквием [Requiem], lays bare the soul's anguish at separation and loss. Especially apt is her description of the out-of-bodiness of grief:

                      
III
Нет, это не я, это кто-то другой страдает.
Я бы так не могла, а то, что случилось,
Пусть черные сукна покроют,
И пусть унесут фонари.
                                   Ночь.

3.

No it is not I, someone else is suffering.
I could not have borne it otherwise, all that’s happening,
Let them grant to it a dark covering,
And let them take away the glittering......
                                                            Night.

This cycle of poems is on the syllabus for my world literature course, and teaching it is always bittersweet for me because it puts me through the ringer, while the students often don't appreciate its power.


Frederico Garcia Lorca's Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias [Lament for...] is also on the syllabus for that course, and the last time I taught it, in SP 2013, a couple of the students were deeply affected by this cycle of poems. They said that Lorca was spot on in his description of the process of grief. I didn't know it then, but now I know that they were totally right. Throughout the Llanto, Lorca, an early twentieth-century Spanish poet, captures the sense of time having stopped by building his poems around repeated phrases and parallel structure. 


The line from Lorca's Llanto that has been with me lately is the repeated phrase from the fourth poem: no te conoce, no te conoce, no te conoce. Somewhere (apologies that I can't remember where) I stumbled upon the insight that immediately upon the death of one's spouse, one is no longer the person one had been. I am increasingly aware that this new world, in which my new self lives, does not know Adam. 


Recently, a couple of kindred spirits have sent me poems with whom I'm starting make friends. One of these is Norwegian poet Karin Boye's "Din värme" ["Your Warmth"]. Another is "Life After Death" by Laura Gilpin, a twentieth-century American poet who reminds us


How the living go on living

and how the dead go on living with them
....
so that nothing is wasted in nature 
or in love.

Indeed, love is never wasted, even when it is lost.