How light, how loose

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One of the two dogwoods in the front yard.

Life is short, and the days pass quickly, especially in winter, when we wake up and come home in darkness. My perennials have been stricken by the frost; they appear to have been caught totally off-guard, their leaves curling up with blackened edges. A carpet of red dogwood leaves fills up half of the front yard. I am loath to rake them.

A family of finches is trying to nest in our wall-mounted mailbox. I hear them landing on the metal lid in the morning and catch them poking their heads in the side. They’ve amassed a small collection of building supplies in the mailbox: tiny twigs, bits of green moss, skeins of grass. I’m curious to see how far they can get with this project, what with the daily disruptions from the mailman.

Regular fires in the living room, surrounded by our books and antsy German shepherds, keep the spirits bright. We are getting a new front door installed the week after Thanksgiving, and I remember it eagerly every morning as I curse the hated storm door. But we are lucky, to have warmth and share words with one another.

“My favorite part is connecting the ideas. The best connections are the ones that draw attention to their own frailty so that at first you think: what a poor lecture this is—the ideas go all over the place and then later you think: but still, what a terrifically perilous activity it is . . . How light, how loose, how unprepared and unpreparable is the web of connections between any thought and any thought.” — Anne Carson, “Uncle Falling,” Float

Thoughtful conversation does not happen easily. I admire and envy people who can speak fluidly, in full sentences with fleshed-out ideas. I speak haltingly. I hedge. I go back on what I previously established; I come out with an opinion too quickly. But this quote from Carson makes me feel a little better. If even Anne Carson feels that the web of connections between thoughts is unprepared and unpreparable, then maybe I’m not so alone.

Still, I’d like to be more intentional. I’d like to use better words.

I did not appreciate Sebald in Austerlitz, but I appreciate him now, greatly, in The Rings of Saturn. It is dreamy and rich and full of life.

The fineness of an autumn day

Japanese anemone
Japanese anemones in the front yard.

It all began on an autumn afternoon—and who, after all these centuries, can describe the fineness of an autumn day? One might pretend never to have seen one before, or, to more purpose, that there would never be another like it. The clear and searching sweep of sun on the lawns was like a climax of the year’s lights. Leaves were burning somewhere and the smoke smelled, for all its ammoniac acidity, of beginnings. The boundless blue air was stretched over the zenith like the skin of a drum.

— John Cheever, “The Brigadier and the Golf Widow”

It is worth noting that I have finally read John Cheever and have since concluded that he is perfection.

After what felt like a month of rain, we are so grateful to have the sun return to us. The dogs are decidedly less filthy now, and for that, we offer up daily expressions of thanksgiving.

One of my all-time favorite nonprofits in town, New City Arts, is trying to raise $37,000 in 37 days to support its studio and gallery space, which in turn will support local artists and our arts-loving community. If you have a few bucks to spare, would you consider helping us out? For a $40 donation, Guion will write you a personalized poem, which is bound to be a special, strange, and wonderful thing.

Pyrrha needs to lose five pounds, according to the vet, and I agree and simultaneously feel like a terrible mother. The vets are gentle but firm when breaking this news to pet owners, especially American ones, because we seem to prefer that all of our pets are grossly obese. I had always prided myself on keeping the dogs trim, but I slipped up this time, and I am wracked with guilt and shame. I suppose it isn’t surprising, given that I have not altered Pyrrha’s food intake much as she has aged, despite the fact that she is (a) an inveterate beggar and (b) incurably lazy and (c) almost five years old and thus acquiring that adult metabolism. She’s going on a diet and she’s very, very unhappy about it. She also has a yucky ear infection right now that we are treating, and so, all in all, it hasn’t been a great start to the month for P.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, but it must be something horrible because I haven’t been much in the mood for reading lately. I read 20 pages of Purity, Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, and have since felt unmotivated to pick it back up for weeks now, and I am moving very slowly through Ferrante’s final novel in the series, The Story of the Lost Child, but that could also be the interior desire for the series to never end. I am not sure. I am restless and suspicious.

Fall

Matt and Julia's wedding! #cheers2thechisholms
At Matt and Julia’s wedding in Fort Mill.

Once upon a time, I was capable of keeping a fluid, literate blog. I’m not sure what’s happening to my writing abilities, but they seem to be diminishing rapidly. I spend all of my free time reading or gardening these days, and so my space and context for writing is shrinking. I feel sad about it and yet incapable of forming a solution.

“Virginia is very punctual with the seasons,” Guion remarked recently, and I think he’s right. By the second week of September, we were experiencing that invigorating coolness in the air, the gradual turning of leaves, the steady growth of plants, the beginning of blooms on my cherished autumn joy sedums.

Emily and Wheeler told us at dinner that they had gotten addicted to yoga. “But I want to get addicted!” I exclaimed. I seem to be lacking this gene, which many people seem to possess, that enables them to become dependent on healthy things, like exercise. I was super-faithful to morning yoga every morning for a week, and then, suddenly, that extra hour of sleep became much more important than practicing the pigeon pose. I don’t know how to make it into a routine. Help.

I have been on a book-buying spree lately. My small calligraphy earnings largely fuel this habit (along with my predilection for expensive French face creams and buying shoes online that are too big for me). I put so many books on hold at the library that I’ve started to feel a little embarrassed, because I’m in there at least once or twice a week. This is a foolish feeling, and I’m sure it’s invented, but sometimes I feel like the librarians don’t like me. (I care too much about what people think.) So I’ve started to buy more books, because I can, because Thriftbooks is a veritable addiction, and because I can spend more time with tomes.

Recently added to my shelves, waiting to be read:

  • Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol (I already owned it, but the bad translation, so I shelled out for Pevear and Volokhonsky)
  • American Pastoral, Philip Roth
  • 2666, Roberto Bolano
  • Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, David Foster Wallace
  • Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks
  • Independent People, Halldor Laxness
  • The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel
  • Just as I Thought, Grace Paley
  • Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel (currently reading Wolf Hall)
  • The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford
  • The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal
  • Bleak House, Charles Dickens

I am so enamored with my family. I want to spend so much more time with them than I do.

“Great images have both a history and a prehistory; they are always a blend of memory and legend, with the result that we never experience an image directly. Indeed, every great image has an unfathomable oneiric depth to which the personal past adds special color.” — Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Weekend ready

Hydrangea

Angela and Marshall are coming for the weekend! We are going to laze about, drink tea, take walks, and reminisce. They are taking the train down from Brooklyn, which is very romantic of them.

Fall brings changes in various ways: The maple trees on the street look like they’ve gone up in a brilliant array of flames; Pyrrha has started barking, even though it’s not intimidating at all; our little hovel is no longer as damp; I am reading poetry again; I am writing again; Guion is… OK, Guion is the same, blessedly the same.

I am reading American Primitive, by Mary Oliver, right now. I don’t know if Oliver is a critically acclaimed poet, I don’t know if I should be embarrassed to mention her in the company of the MFA community, but I love her. I don’t care who knows it! She’s like Annie Dillard, if Annie Dillard wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry. She makes me want to go outside and sit in the leaves and carry on conversations with woodland creatures. As you do in the fall, when you are reading poetry.

Fall coming

October, outside my old dorm

What does fall mean to you? Here’s what I associate it with every year:

Bon Iver and Samamidon
Scarves–every day
Long novels
Tea–every day
Learning new things (and re-learning old ones)
Re-watching favorite movies
Pie (pumpkin, especially)
Blue Ridge mountains
Beginnings

What about you?