Lead me to water

Garden updates, 4 May 2015
Columbine in the front yard finally bloomed.

Some of our best friends in town are getting married tomorrow, and we are flush with excitement, almost as if we were getting married again. We are so happy for them and we have been anticipating this day for years now. Guion reported that when someone asked him to make plans this week, his first thought was, “Oh, I can’t do anything this week; it’s wedding week.”

Late April

One of my chief pleasures is eating lunch during the work week on the back deck, with the dogs milling around the yard and the carpenter bees and wasps congregating near the table. I think I have already written about this, but this practice provides my mental and emotional state with so much energy and relief. It is probably just the benefit of being outside, after four hours in a cube, staring at a screen, but my outdoor lunches can improve the gloomiest mood. I eat slowly; I drink a LaCroix; I read a novel; I throw a stick for Edie; I watch the chickens; I listen to the birds; I feel like a million bucks. (And then I go back to the office.)

We saw Sufjan play in Richmond this week (a moving, excellent show; I’m always in the mood for him). One of the memorable, nonmusical delights of the evening was spotting an old friend from college up in the balcony. We texted from afar, confirming our identities, and I waved repeatedly. We shouted to each other briefly, him from the balcony down to me in the orchestra level, but we weren’t able to meet up afterward. Still, just seeing him filled me with this satisfactory nostalgia. Here we are, after so much time has passed; happy and complete in our adult lives.

I keep a little notebook now, to ease myself back into the practice of keeping some form of a handwritten diary. After about 16 years of daily journaling, I abruptly stopped once I got married. It was as if keeping a diary wasn’t important anymore, now that I had a spouse — which admittedly is a very odd psychological conclusion. But I’d like to get back into the practice, if only to keep up the habit of composing sentences by hand. Even if they’re not very good sentences. The notebook is a hodgepodge of loose diary entries, vocabulary words, and notes on what I’m reading.

I am usually writing about what I am reading there, but I realized the other day that I am only taking notes on fiction. I mentioned this to an acquaintance, and he remarked that that was a very odd habit. “Why wouldn’t you take notes on nonfiction instead?” he asked. “To, you know, remember actual facts and information?” I didn’t have an answer then, but I think I record fiction passages and resultant thoughts because I am often so much more moved by a novel than by a factual account. I am impressed by the beauty, and that is the sensation I don’t want to forget. Data will ebb and flow. But it’s the art that’s worth remembering.

Prayed heartily

Some flowering bush
Some flowering bush in our old yard.

“No man has ever prayed heartily without learning something.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

My family is heading into this sadder, weightier Christmas time, but my heart is gravitating toward simple expressions of faith and comfort. I suppose this is what happens to all of us when we are so nearly confronted with grief and death. Small things resonate with me, like the verses from Psalm 4 (one of my favorites, probably because of the influence of Jennifer Knapp on my teenage self) that Guion read to me one night when I could not stop crying: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). And even silly lines from Sufjan songs: “Since it’s Christmas, let’s be glad/Even if your year’s been bad, there are presents to be had.” Hugs from friends and my boss. E-mails from people I rarely see. Lasagna with these wonderful women this week:

Left to right: Me, Audrey, Stella the terrier, Sarah, Rachel, Casey, Palmer, Kendra, and Lizzie. Photo courtesy of Lizzie.
Left to right: Me, Audrey, Stella the terrier, Sarah, Rachel, Casey, Palmer, Kendra, and Lizzie. Photo courtesy of Lizzie.

There is hope and joy. Wishing you both during this Christmas season.

Oh, Sufjan!

Sufjan Stevens playing at The National in Richmond.

On Tuesday night, we trekked to Richmond with a bunch of friends to see Sufjan Stevens in concert at The National. It was outrageous. By “outrageous,” I mean costumes, dancers, video montages, and smoke machines! A bearded hippie playing a Casio with the utmost seriousness! Beach balls being bounced around in the crowd! Sufjan had a rat tail!

But it was awesome. He opened with “Seven Swans” and I gasped. I’d forgotten what a beautiful voice he had. We had a great time out and the entire 2-hour performance was riveting.

I’ve also had the lines from one of his new songs, “Get Real, Get Right,” stuck in my head, too. A simple but good reminder:

But I must do the right thing
I must do myself a favor and
Get real, get right with the Lord.

Happy weekend, kids! See you on Monday.

Light and a procession of shadows

Light fills our living room in a very beautiful way every evening. The window does not have any blinds yet, and we are waiting for our power drill to arrive, but part of me will miss the bold, unfiltered light. Last night after a simple dinner of corn on the cob (one of the best summer vegetables) and black beans and rice, Guion worked on all of the technical details involved in pre-brewing (math, washers, wrenches, pipes). I sat on the couch and watched him while I read and drank a glass of wine. I thought about the serious joy that comes from focus. We were both intensely concentrated on our tasks–Guion, on preventing leaks; me, on connecting ideas–and though our solemn faces and knit brows would never betray it, we were very happy.

I am re-reading Jacob’s Room by Woolf now, because our church has a book club and I want to go. I miss talking about books. This is the best passage in the novel, in my opinion, and it reminds me why I love Woolf and why she always changes the way I think about people:

It seems then that men and women are equally at fault. It seems that a profound, impartial, and absolutely just opinion of our fellow creatures is utterly unknown. Either we are men, or we are women. Either we are cold, or we are sentimental. Either we are young, or growing old. In any case life is but a procession of shadows, and God knows why it is that we embrace them so eagerly, and see them depart with such anguish, being shadows. And why, if this and much more than this is true, why are we yet surprised in the window corner by a sudden vision that the young man in the chair is of all things in the world most real, the most solid, the best known to us–why indeed? For the moment after we know nothing about him. Such is the manner of our seeing. Such the conditions of our love.

Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf

Oh, Guion has a little website now, too! Check it out.

“Only at Christmas Time” by Sufjan Stevens came on Pandora while I was cleaning out old accounts at work today and I nearly started crying. Something about that song always gets me. It’s so beautiful. And then “Fidelity” (Regina Spektor) came on, and I felt like I was a freshman at Carolina all over again, walking to Hamilton Hall and feeling full of helium, terrified and smiling at everyone.