that I’m here:


Once upon a time, before the boy, I lived on a country road just outside a medium-sized town in Western Pennsylvania.  Our family lived on an acre of land–huge-seeming to a child–with two maples, a crabapple, a line of pines (with one fabulous Douglas fir), a few leftover plum and pear trees from an ancient orchard, and a huge garden between the pines and the woods.  The property to the north was flanked by a lovely apple orchard and the fence separating the two lots was braided with grape vines.  Our ranch house was bordered on every side with some kind of intentional vegetation, including a small plot on the south side I claimed for myself, without having to ask or anyone minding, for the purpose of nurturing perennials, to which I was partial over my parents’ annuals at the front of the house (my classmates smoked to rebel.  I planted perennials.).  From the time I was eight and a half until the day we drove out of the driveway in a moving truck when I was seventeen, this yard was where I spent most of my time out of school.  Sometimes I played basketball and football with the neighborhood kids, but mostly I spent that time alone outside, feeling at home, rooted.  We could see every kind of weather from the large picture window in the living room that looked to the west, and the mile of woods that separated our road from the development that marked the beginning of the town.   When I wasn’t in the yard, perched in my spot in the crabapple tree (where I wonder if J hearts R is still inscribed…) I was in those woods, walking the path that overlooked the ravine, redirecting water that filled up the channels made by logging trucks, mapping the clumps of trees with names and purposes, and breathing.  I managed to acquire an old camera at that time and started taking pictures of every place and every angle of light I loved.  I loved every sort of weather, especially the temperamental days when the wind would take my breath away or when the rain seemed to be desperate to wash our house down the hill (or mountain, as it would appear to an Iowan!).  The snow sparkled on a sunny day in that place, and if the wind got to be too much in winter there was always the hollowed-out shelter of the huge old pine tree made by removing a few dead branches.  There is no better shelter in this world than the base of an evergreen when a winter storm is moving in.

When I got to be a little older and the woods became smaller to my now-adolescent eyes, I started four-mile walks on the country roads further east of town, past farm houses and fields, and mainly on late spring days.

It was near the end of that time that I met a boy who loved the outdoors every bit as me, maybe more.  Somehow my passion for the incredible weight of the earth merged with my passion for this person that understood me even when I was saying nothing more than breathing.  We met in school but fell in love while sledding in the winter, hiking in the spring and fall, and canoeing in the summer.   This boy, a budding geologist, took me to the national forest and taught me about rock formations and river basins and about towns that had been washed away for not paying attention.  And the cliches are all true: colors were brighter and every rock, tree, and stream was richer, deeper.

Yesterday–or two days ago I see now, as the hour is getting late–it went off like a bomb: I forgot in that time to preserve my own private, spiritual connection with the earth.  I transferred it to my relationship, and when that relationship ended, I let it die.  Not all the way, but in a way that I couldn’t mourn without mourning the boy.  And now, even after all this time, I have been trying to live my life without that connection and rootedness that went so far beyond both the physical earth and my inner spiritual life.  No wonder I’ve felt depressed, rootless, and lonely, even as outwardly my life has become a success.

I don’t know how it could not have happened.  I learned early to let myself die to boys.  When I dated Robby, I loved saxaphone music; when I dated the boy, I listened to Mahler.  In my age I’ve learned to let Attic Man’s interestsinspire rather than overtake me, and I’ll be forever indebted to him for introducing me to live jam band music and rather black brand of humor.  But I need to recover the me that predates boys.  And the me I most want to return to is the me that sits in a crabapple tree at sunset, singing a hymn.

I’m no fool–I can’t erase that boy nor that time in my history, and I wouldn’t if I could–but it is possible to recover some of that rootedness in a way that will feed me now and allow me to be what I yearn to be for myself and for other people.  I’m not sure where to go with it, but I think I might start just by being outdoors as much as possible, giving up some housework for long walks (or as we did the other day, tree-communining in our lovely park) and shooting for a hike every weekend, when possible.  I also need to consider more seriously our more permanent home, when those jobs finally materialize, and where it would be best to live for my health.  I need mountains, baby, and TREES.

What should have happened, what the boy would have liked to have happened–because I know him that well–is for that time to have deepened what was already there, not forever wedded it only to him.  It took thirteen years, but it’s time.  Now.

I don’t have a specific agenda today.  I just wanted to show up, in part because I was struck this morning–for no particular reason–by my die-hard readers who show up themselves from time to time just in case I’ve written anything, even if I haven’t written in a long time.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given my own habits (I STILL click on AfrindieMum at least once a month) but I’m still a little surprised that someone would bother for this particular blog.  So that makes me feel good, and it makes me want to show up once in a while.  Here I am!

Re: adoption…there isn’t much to write right now.  It still bothers me that we can’t adopt right now and won’t be able to for quite some time, but I’ve been able to find some peace about that.  Partly it’s because we have so much to do with raising the one we have and finishing school so we can actually get jobs that adoption gets crowded out on a regular basis.  But my heart still melts when I see babies, like it did last night at the Snapper’s early birthday party, and I pretty much cannot watch any adoption shows on Mommy channels.  They remind me that I have a huge adoption-sized hole in my heart.  I’ve stopped researching specific avenues, because I think we have to see where we’re going to settle first, and that will have to wait until we get jobs.  Between the economy and the tightness (tightitude?) of my field, it would be foolish to put more strictures on a search.  The right thing to do, the only thing to do, really, is to see what kind of home and community we will be working with and choose a mode of adoption based on those circumstances.

Otherwise, I’m still baking bread and loving it, the Snapper is alternately delightful and tantrummy, I have too many friends to count here (so grateful…), the first snow is flying…


Today I am soaking chick peas, waiting for bread to rise, waiting for laundry loads to wash and dry, waiting for a child to go to sleep and waiting for him to wake up again, waiting for Attic Man to come home and waiting for my mother-in-law’s visit.

So much of domestic work is about patience.  I am experimenting with low-yeasted breads in a cool house and am finding longer rise times–three hours or more!–yield better-tasting loaves.  I am learning that chick peas make snapping sounds as they soak, which one only learns in a quiet house during naptime.

I learned about the chick peas while I was paying bills, and it occured to me as I very happily for the first time in months was able to pay everything in full, on time, that so much patience is required, and that what happens while bread is rising and chick peas are snapping and checks are en route is faith.  It can be worry, too, and anguish, but it can be quiet faith.  That is hard.  I am not there yet.  Being able to pay those bills and pulling a beautiful loaf out of the oven can help future waits fill up with faith rather than anxiety, but each time it is as if the world is starting over again and it can be hard to remember that yeast can be trusted.

so can therapy.  so can friends.  so can water in chick peas.

when will I learn?

Serial Hobbiest

One of the most enjoyable parts of ADHD is the pairing of the unpredictable, whimsicle, serendipidous direction of one’s interests and the ability to hyperfocus.  The result, at least in my life, is that I am what I call a “serial hobbiest.”  (Lest you think we hyperactive sorts have the market share, Attic Man is the world’s most hard-core serial hobbiest).  All it takes is accidentally stumbling upon a website you went to for one reason but started reading for another (like my affair with Size Acceptance after finding Kate Harding), or hearing a great lecture, or in the latest case, having to tighten the budget.

We love having pizza on Friday nights, but there is no good pizza in IC.  There is kinda sorta passable pizza, but nothing that is worth the wait and the price.  We went the frozen route for a few weeks, but after suffering through overcooked crusts, soggy centers, and weird-tasting sauce, we became deeply depressed about the situation.  Around the same time Attic Man’s foot-tapping about the fact that the bread machine had been sitting unused on our kitchen counter taking up lots of precious space since we moved in became deafening.  So I started hunting the internet for a good bread machine recipe.  I tried one, had great results the first time, then six mediocre loaves later, I realized that the only way to get consistently good results was to chuck the machine and do it myself.  I’m home all day at least three days a week (short trips to the park and the library notwithstanding, which one can do between rises) so bread-making fits well into our schedule.  But I was more depressed about the pizza.  I did what my mother taught me to do, except with the internet, and read and read and read and read about how to make a good pizza.  I poured over recipes, discussions of oven temperature, pizza stones, breaking your oven’s safety latch (really!) to get it up to 800 degrees, brick ovens, how not to make sauce (don’t cook it; it will cook nicely on the pizza and taste much better)…on and on for a couple of weeks.  The first attempt was passable, the second reasonable, and tonight’s?  Well, I still have a long way to go–it didn’t get the nice oven spring I was looking for and was too chewy by far–but we gobbled it up in ten minutes flat with no leftovers.  It was a sorry sight, misshapen with uneven thickness.  But the flavor was amazing.  I’d have pictures if it hadn’t gone so fast!

Somewhere in all that reading I drifted over to bread-making blogs and websites and I am now a complete addict.  The sandwich loaf I made earlier this week was so good that Attic Man has decided store-bought bread is no longer necessary for his daily sandwich.  This is a big victory.  It was a pretty loaf and I do wish I had photographed it!  It had a lovely golden crust and a nice open crumb.  Not perfect, but far better than anything I’ve ever made.  I grew up learning to make bread the old wrestle-and-knead way, which does produce a nice bread, but artisan bread-making is just so much more fun and interesting.  It’s amazing what a little technique-tweaking can do for the flavor and texture of your bread.  A simple autolyse–letting your flour and water sit in the bowl for twenty minutes after mixing, but before kneading–develops the gluten without overworking the dough; creating a “mother dough” or sponge the night before yields a much better flavor (this is the best method of pizza-making, except that the mother dough is the whole dough, with nothing added the next day); cranking up the temperature of the oven and adding steam gives you a nice crust.  I am excited to try out some of these techniques working off the basic recipe.  The plan right now is to make the basic sandwich loaf on Saturday for sandwiches, then bake an experimental loaf on Wednesday, working on one new technique per week.  I am really looking forward to what comes out of the oven each week!

One modification I’ve made to my breadmaking is that I am no longer militant about it being 100% whole wheat.  It is very, very difficult to get a great loaf without having some white flour.  I would rather have a delicious bread with the added fiber and nutrition of a 50 or 33 percent whole wheat loaf than a sad, dense one with 100%.  I am going to be sparing about doing 100% white because that is straight sugar to your body, baby.

What are you experimenting with these days?

Stupid flood.

Last night I attended the lecture of a prestigious senior academic with degrees and books galore and found myself passionately, burningly, fundamentally troubled by her premise.  It is opposed to the very principle that guides my work in literary criticism and cultural studies–and when I confronted her with it she said, simply, “you must not think that way.  You must not.”  But she had a reading of Gramsci I did not remember picking up in my training, which included lots of Gramsci over the course of five years, so all I could say was, “I’ll have to look at it again,” which in pre-flood days meant going back to my marked-up text (I never dog-ear, never) and because of those markings, remembering what I had read and how I read and what arguments the professor made and so forth, and returning to Distinguished Professor and saying, “your argument does not stand up to X, Y, and Z.”  I could go to the library, but which Gramsci, what section?  what passage?  I don’t have time to re-read.  And then when I was going through the logical steps on the car ride home, twitching, I was trying to remember the steps of social change in Vico–and I know it starts with thunder, then goes to fear, and then the invention of diety–but Vico is gone, too, along with the fingerprints of a younger, less confident, more sponge-like student and her notes.  There may be some notes in the bin of files Attic Man saved as the water was rising, but they are all out of order now and not easily gone through with a grabby toddler around.

For someone with a poor memory, marked-up books constitute a history.  For someone whose identity in large part draws upon her intellectual history and development, it is a profound loss to have that history, ink bled, slogged into a landfill…


There is a dissertation, and a toddler, and getting over the flood (still), and many many Friends and friends, and anxiety about what to write when I do decide to write here again–

but this morning there was only an African-American man and his wife on TV voting for himself for president with their two daughters looking on.

I’ll not likely forget seeing that, ever.