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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

(we are all) mothers of invention


A mother by invention, I took care of N for a week, then E after they both got sick. It felt comfortable, natural. The rhythm of bowls of soup and tissues, finding a new movie to watch, an extra blanket during a nap. It is dead cold out there, -32C today. Waking up in the hard air, I remember moments from my childhood on the farm. The downstairs toilet was always frozen over, and we would pee in it, trying to melt the layer of ice at the bottom. Under ski masks, inside metallic snowsuits we plodded down the driveway for a quarter of a mile to wait for the school bus in the dim light. We were the first ones on, and the last ones off.

Coming home from school, I would lay down in one of the fields, dry stalks of wheat poking through the heavy snow. I would build tiny amusement parks for the mice to play in. A slide. A go-kart track. A swimming pool.


I am working on a book that touches on some of this. The story about building worlds in the snow, Wild Asparagus is deeply personal. At the end, I jump from the dinner table and run outside, convinced someone is calling my name but no one is there. Just the mountains, an empty tire swing and the dogs. I crouch down in that tall grass and hide. I don't want to go back inside.

In the beginning, I thought being a writer was a bit like playing god - deciding people's fates, orchestrating each path, making it rain, making them fight. I watch E spending an entire day coming up with names for the girls in her stories. This is the initial thrill, the exhilaration of being able to control something. Eventually, we learn that humility is the final destination. Listening to the characters, instead of telling them what to do. It sounds so simple now, but it took me years to embrace.

Somehow, I had to surrender to the stories.






Every time I pass a garbage can that is on fire here, every time I open a box of eggs in the market to find half of them broken I have a choice to make. No one is watching. No one seems to care. It all adds up to a moment of surrender, or choosing - inventing. There is no controlling anything here. There is no fresh pen, no empty piece of paper. It may read like a story, but it isn't one.

No, we have to invent our happiness.



Comments

Annie said…
I love the photos.

And, I found that acting is like that, too. At first you may think it is about you, and your "decisions", but then you realize the thrill of giving in, and letting the character take you over.
liv said…
That is SO E. with the little cereal flower...hahaha Love it!!

Yes you struck a nerve there. I find the same in painting. The portrait is IN the paper, the canvas. It's just a matter of bringing if forth with the brush.

And humility is one of the greatest secrets of life, isn't it? To truly understand and embrace it is a miracle , a liberation. The gateway to so much. Thank you for the reminder.
ah yes, humility, M. And long live the powers of your inventions. What an exquisite post!
Mely said…
Lovely post.
Happy Valentine's
Marco North said…
Thanks Mely, same for you! I have a blood orange sorbet cooling in the freezer, and am working on some pumpkin tortellini. the kitchen windows are completely steamed over.
Banker Chick said…
What an artist your are in everything you do! I hope everyone is feeling better.

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