Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Bicycle, My Chariot and The Angel Tree: Writing Despite Chaos

Amos Robinson, My Bike, Tidelands Collection
Oh my bicycle—

Forgotten Chariot, spin

Me across Earth’s loom…

I got back on my bicycle this month thanks to the misadventures of April. Though I’m blessed to only be bound by one appointment a week (teaching a night blogging class), I’ve been at the mercy of new variations on the chaos the kids typically reserve for outwitting homework and undermining chore schedules. And it has me second guessing pursuing my writing life outside the house.

When the kids were little I could pretty much perfect a day’s trajectory and control outcomes. Strollers give you walking restraining systems. Cars, car-seats. You see, hear, and smell your little people twenty-four-seven, for better or for worse. You just don’t go anywhere without a sticky chubby hand or three holding yours.

Silver Strand Nature Discovery Trail, words by Edith Purer
But now I have a very new teen, a tween, and the youngest long since out of diapers. My teen was set to fly alone on a teaching day when the spiral started with a last minute flight delay, husband working a night shift. I had just enough time to walk my kiddo to the gate and trust her to board within the hour. I popped in to a coffee-shop, scanning the kid-list in my mind for reassurance: one son at soccer practice with instructions to bike to the neighbor after, the other with a friend, and the teen happily Instagramming Selfies and eating Starburst at the airport gate.

As I stirred brown sugar into my coffee, I relaxed into the music coming out over the speakers: gentle guitar, a woman’s voice I couldn’t place, and the refrain, “Don’t pick a fight with a poet”(a song by Madeleine Peyroux I'm in love with takes you to a montage on Youtube).
I’m feeling smug, that’s right, don’t get between a poet and her words. It takes the length of the song for me to fully relax into adult land. Two hours later, on an inspiration high from brainstorming with my bloggers, I glance down at my phone to see I’ve missed five calls. My girl mixed up her destination cities, missed her boarding call, could I come pick her up. Followed by one last “Never mind” message--she was boarding a back-up flight.

My mom friends came to my emotional rescue (swiftly as Jagger’s fine Arab chargers) attempting to staunch the hemorrhage of mother guilt. Don’t take it so hard to heart, they said, this experience will give your daughter the opportunity to troubleshoot without you. They’re right--later my girl gleefully recounts the short journey from Lost to VIP. She asked for help, got an escorted tour of secret passageways between gates, and made it to her final destination in one piece.
Every time I think some kind of artificial boundary exists between my family life and my writing life (as if!), I learn again that they are inextricably braided. Earlier that afternoon, rushing to get my son across the school parking lot, so anxious to get on the road to the airport, I’d stopped in my tracks in front of a tree covered in pale grey curled layers of bark furling back on themselves. A writer’s dream of a tree offering its harvest of scrolls to the human eye. Some furls were soft, outer texture that of moth wings or wasp nests. Other furls were hard. That’s my son’s hand in the photo…we both lingered.

I took one more parting photo on the fly, and love how the tree seems to be dancing.

When I showed the photos to my friend Barbara Rockman (author of the poetry collection Sting and Nest), she tells me a childhood story about climbing her first tree. Which prompts me to ask...What is your tree story? Your tree poem? Which tree do you call home?

When my next teaching day rolls around, I’m thinking no problem—I can do this. No one has a flight to catch, I just need to teach a two hour class. But unfortunately, we find ourselves down a car—the van remains on the aerial jack at the shop awaiting new brakes and my husband has the night shift again. I’m set to hop on my bicycle to ride the five miles to town when my son comes to me clutching his throat. Something about a splinter in his throat…which turns out to be a sunflower seed wedged behind his tonsils.
Nothing my husband can’t eventually handle with a wooden spoon and salad tongs, though I’m not there to witness this practical tweaking of a favorite motto my husband has taught our family (improvise, adapt, overcome).  Next time we’ll just hit Intermediate Care (where we’d taken the youngest several weeks prior after he took an exuberant leap onto, and through, a hard plastic car travelling case. Withdrawing his leg left him with an eye-shaped tear below the knee which the doctor stapled shut for us, no problem).

Silver Strand Nature Discovery Trail, words by Edith Purer
Right or wrong, I rush once again out of the house, this time to the din of a gagging child. My savvy traveler, the teen back from her trip, sees me and says, “You’re teaching in that? You can’t wear that…” as if our roles were reversed, as if I were wearing a bikini to the library instead of modest blue striped sweats. No choice but to roll a dress around a pair of sandals, all the while muttering something about what else could possibly go wrong. In the garage, I discover my bicycle has a flat, so it’s off to ride on my son’s bike, knees skimming what’s left of my chest after breastfeeding those three kids when they were babies.

Then I’m free, loosed out into the elements on my chariot with a burning set of thighs, a fierce headwind, and the open miles of path along the Strand’s Discovery Nature Trail, the promise of bright minds in town on the other end.

I cycle to teach

Dusk and a dress on my back,

Spare shoes. Lessons too.

Related links:
I wrote the two haiku in this post in the Haiku Room, (a Facebook group of poets creating content while they play). Here are a few blogposts  in alphabetical order written by participating poets about various kinds of haiku joy:

Pam Helberg: X is for April Haiku Review
Lisa Rizzo, includes 17 haiku: Can you Haiku?
Ruth Thompson: The Haiku Room
Ellen Tumivacus: Thinking in Haiku

At Transformative Blogging: a guest post by Erica Goss: Fairytales, Facebook and Poetry Prompts about the way her book of poetry Prompts, Vibrant Words, grew out of her regular postings of prompts on Facebook. Also includes a beautiful poem of hers and a way for you to think about fairytales to inspire your writing.

June poetry reading:

I'm heading back to my home roots in Sonoma County this summer, and will be reading with Michelle Wing and Ruth Thompson at Moe's in Berkeley at the invitation of Poetry Flash. Would so love to see you there.

June 19, 2014
7:30 -9:30 p.m.

Link to event information and a map up at Poets and Writers.

In the works:

Ceramic handprint by Orion James, photo Robyn Beattie
Photo poem montage to accompany the poem Mordred’s Dream. The text of the poem is forthcoming online at Poetry Flash in May (and will also appear in my first poetry book, November Butterfly, due out in November 2014 from Saddle Road Press). Robyn and I are busy putting images to the soundtrack we recorded several  years ago (syncing beautiful flute by Lori O’Hara to sound recording of her stepson Ben Greenberg reading the poem for us).

Half-way through the micro-movie draft, our Siberian husky escaped from her bath. Somehow in her mad dash through the house, shaking and flinging water droplets everywhere, she hooked a pair of my daughter’s jeans across her back. When she swirled past me, the jeans snagged the power plug to my laptop and crashed the project.

T with Sisu, crasher of the poetry movie
But we now have a restored full working draft...I’m including one of the opening images here. I adore making these movies and feel so blessed to have Robyn’s eyes…she continues to expand my world by taking photos as she goes about her rich art-walk, camera ever in tow. She gives me the opportunity to congregate visually with artists I've yet to meet. I'll be sure to give you the link to our complete movie. To see the five other micro movies we made for Nefertiti, Lady Diana, Amelia, and Guinevere, visit my Youtube channel. To see more of Robyn's amazing photos:

And here's the latest Perhaps, Maybe, written in collaboration with the lovely Liz Brennan:
Attempting the Impossible.


Edith said...

Oh Tania, the chaos of your life matches mine in so many ways. Today I had planned to devote to my writing...ha! the family had other plans. Frustration is a difficult emotion to work with, an uneasy mix of impatience, irritation, guilt and self-pity. On the worst days there is nothing else to do except try to walk alongside it, recalling promises to self to live mindfully, trying desperately to remember that the most important moment is now, that life is lived as a series of moments, that love conquers all.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Sweet--maybe bittersweet even--Edith, to know we are part of the same spiral, swimming or swirling around the same storm eye. You are so right, love is the key, love for all of it. Always glad to see you here--hope you get to your writing tomorrow!