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On the occasion of the first snow…(which was last week)

Not only the Eskimos

by Lisel Mueller

We have only one noun

but as many different kinds:

the grainy snow of the Puritans

and snow of soft, fat flakes,

guerrilla snow, which comes in the night

and changes the world by morning,

rabbinical snow, a permanent skullcap

on the highest mountains,

snow that blows in like the Lone Ranger,

riding hard from out of the West,

surreal snow in the Dakotas,

when you can’t find your house, your street,

though you are not in a dream

or a science-fiction movie,

snow that tastes good to the sun

when it licks black tree limbs,

leaving us only one white stripe,

a replica of a skunk,

unbelievable snows:

the blizzard that strikes on the tenth of April,

the false snow before Indian summer,

the Big Snow on Mozart’s birthday,

when Chicago became the Elysian Fields

and strangers spoke to each other,

paper snow, cut and taped,

to the inside of grade-school windows,

in an old tale, the snow

that covers a nest of strawberries,

small hearts, ripe and sweet,

the special snow that goes with Christmas,

whether it falls or not,

the Russian snow we remember

along with the warmth and smell of furs,

though we have never traveled

to Russia or worn furs,

Villon’s snows of yesteryear,

lost with ladies gone out like matches,

the snow in Joyce’s “The Dead,”

the silent, secret snow

in a story by Conrad Aiken,

which is the snow of first love,

the snowfall between the child

and the spacewoman on TV,

snow as idea of whiteness,

as in snowdrop, snow goose, snowball bush,

the snow that puts stars in your hair,

and your hair, which has turned to snow,

the snow Elinor Wylie walked in

in velvet shoes,

the snow before her footprints

and the snow after,

the snow in the back of our heads,

whiter than white, which has to do

with childhood again each year. — Lisel Mueller


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Some days..

when the lunch that I barely managed calcifies on the counter

next to the leftover french toast that ages where it sits,

while the children throw things down the stairs

and at each other,

and I flash angrily at each compounded affront to order

and peace

and my authority,

when each effort to carry on until bedtime extracts more from the marrow

of my bones than I have left to give,

I despair of raising functional adults with minimal baggage,

and I know that I have failed–

the future stretches out blearily before me

full of too many lunches of hot dogs and macaroni

incessant television



and the living room floor eternally covered in couch cushions.

But then, barely audible in the recesses of my over-taxed mind I hear

“this is a season”

and it is

and I know, down in my weary bones that I am equal to this task of wrangling these three beautiful souls into civilized adulthood, and some day they will chuckle to their therapists and say “there was a lot of macaroni and cheese, and sometimes I thought she might actually pull her own hair out, but I always knew my mom loved me.”


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Portrait of the Artist’s Mother

I stayed up until 2 am this morning.  After everyone else was asleep, I organized/rearranged all of our books (books take up about half of the square footage in our house), reorgainzed all of the kids art supplies (another 25%), swept, mopped, vaccumed, did a giant load of dishes, cleaned the burner plates on the stove, etc. etc.  I knew today would be long, but I kept thinking “just think how nice it will be to wake up to a clean house!”  And I was right, it was very nice.  Until 2 hours later, when I was wishing I was still asleep, and my house looked prety much like it had the day before.  Well, not entirely…my books are still (mostly) organized, and the burner plates are still (mostly) clean.

The thing about only getting 4 hours of sleep at night when you weren’t well rested to begin with, is that your brain starts to turn to jello.  I have been completely unable to string together coherent sentences today, AND, earlier when I went to pour myself a glass of water (in the same water glass I always use), I picked up the plastic cup full of brand new sugared pecans instead, and gave them a quick rinse.  Then I just stood there, dumbly, trying to figure out what to do next, and it occured to me that I wanted to get the water *off* of the nuts…so I dumped the whole mess on to a paper plate.  Oy.
However, even though I am not clever or mostly awake today, my kids are, as always, fantastic.  Tonight when we were driving to pick up Tim, Maya says to me “Mom, do you know what I’ve always wanted to be?”

“No, I don’t” I replied.

“An Artist!” she exclaims.

“I see,” I say, “but you know what, Maya?  You already are an Artist!”

“No, Mom, I’m not.”  She says, a little irritatedly.

“I think you are.”  I insist.”An artist is someone who creates art, and you already do that.”

“I’m not, Mom.  Real artists wear those special hats, and go to little art studios.”

I see.

So then Casal pipes up (actually, he’s been trying to pipe up for a while, and finally nearly shouts, exasperated “Maya, you’ve been talking for a LONG time!”

then “Mama, do you know what I have always wanted to be?”

“No, Casal, what have you always wanted to be?”

“A Super Hero!”

“Oooh, that will be fun.  Will you wear a cape?”

“No, I not wear anything.  I’ll just wear yegular clothes.”

Later, Maya told me she wanted to buy or build herself “a small little art gallery” when she grows up, to sell her paintings (but she’s not charging admission).  “The paintings that take a really long time, like a whole day, I will sell for 10 or 20 dollars” she says.  “The ones that are easy, I will sell those for 25 or 50 cents.”


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It’s Fall! Again!

I just adore Autumn.  I love the smell of drying leaves, and the way your nose and hands are cold when you come in from outside, and the fire and rust and sun in the trees.  I love the busyness in the kitchen– the toasting nuts, and simmering stews, and the bread baking.  I love the winding down and the coming indoors to settle.  I love the anticipation of the anticipation of the return of the light. And I love the nesting, the battening down of the hatches.  I wish that I harvested and canned, because it seems like the right thing to do at this time– to store up for winter, to bottle and jar the last shimmering bits of summer, to stack on the shelves and spoon out over bread in the winter.

Everything is crisp in the fall, and bursting forth with last flurries of spectacle, before the stark austerity of winter.

All is well in the Wylie house, this October.  I’m trying to do more reading, more creating, more baking, and less of the screen viewing.  Last week, we made a fall garland.  I’m pretty proud of it, so here are two pictures:

Here is a link to the tutorial I used.

The end.  For now.


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