Today, day six: time to read the Sunday newspaper.
The following contains a golden shovel poem in the last stanza from a headline in the April 4 issue of the New York Times. Scenes from a city holding its breath waiting for justice
Sitting with the paper. Fresh and untouched. Sections folded inside one another. Waiting to be spread out. Held open positioned alongside coffee and a bagel.
Last Sunday, most Sundays, articles overwhelm me. Others that make me laugh or send me on journeys to books, shows, art, food. All of the horror and beauty that make up people.
Rich, wise, devastating words.
In my quiet space scenes unfold as I turn pages that take me from Myanmar turn, fold, to Minneapolis a heartbeat away. Back to the front, to a city where ball players exert power, holding out for Atlanta, holding on to the rights of its people. Turn, fold, quarter the newsprint take a breath and scan for the good, waiting with the belief and hope for the better side of our kind to secure justice.
The first tea towel I ever used was a flour sack towel. The softest, whitest, cleanest towel dried quickly and lint free. Not to be confused with a hand towel or a bar towel, a tea towel has so many uses and a fascinating history. Read a bit about it here.
My mother called them dish towels; she had a drawer full of these fine white towels. She used one every evening to dry the dishes. Before she turned off the kitchen light, she’d drape it over a metal rack to dry for the next day. I wish I had thought to get her collecting them. Just as she did silver spoons and tea cups.
Now I have a drawer full. Some simple, some fancy. Last week I bought a set of four for my girl’s first home of her own.
what she called a dish towel, utilitarian and simple
a coveted collection in the late 1800s
a medium for flour and sugar marketers
a canvas used by Van Gogh
a secret message sewn into a jacket
a place to develop embroidery skills
a tool to polish, dry, mop, wipe, wrap, cover, crisp, strain, protect, pad, decorate
a tradition to pass down
lives on in my kitchen destined to drudgery, draped over my shoulder, always at the ready to clean what need be
My love of handless tea cups is connected to the love warming my often cold hands, but also because of its aesthetic. The shape makes me happy. I am drawn to them. Read more about the history and art of yunomi here.
born of clay and potter’s hands, irregular at times passed from Chinese tradition, the tea is steeped in boiling water and cooled, so when held at top and bottom it reveals the perfect cup of tea
I love making lists. Sometimes, most of the time, I do nothing with them. But this time, my list has become my poetry project for National Poetry Month. It’s perfect because there is one for every day of April, they are all simple things, and they make me happy.
day 2: steel-cut oatmeal with raisins
The no nonsense-ness of oatmeal doubles down when it’s steel cut, the coarse-ness is a luxury of time and forethought.
A breakfast born of boiled pieces takes patience waiting for the inner kernel to soak though and blossom to softness.
The whiteness in warm milk accented by speckled sweetness of black and golden raisins. Sunday treat.
The month of March warmed up my writing muscles and heart. Rather than being tired and done with daily writing on April first I want to keep going. Fortunately, April offers many possibilities.
Poetry calls from everywhere. Poets have found themes and created projects. Groups such as Ethical ELA have amazing poet teacher prompts. Inviting communities.
What to do?
I wanted to continue daily writing, but I was focus-less. Until I thought of a list I made last month: 30 things that make me happy. One for each of day of April. Why not? And with that, my first poetry project has begun.
30 things that make me happy for the 30 days of April
day one: holding a warm cup of anything when I’m cold
My hands are susceptible to the cold. And they take a long time to warm up. It is something I’m used to, sometimes I not aware of it until I touch something warm. When I am aware, I’m usually bone cold and that is when nothing is better than holding a warm cup of anything.
It starts with the finger tips and works its way down to the palms. Holding on to the grocery cart, reaching for a bag of frozen berries I warm up to the task, checking off the must haves on the list, pleased until I cup my hand on the side of my daughter’s face; she recoils, cold Mommy! Shamed, I rub my hands together, anything to reconnect this foreign extremity. When I test my palm, on my arm, gooseflesh follows. I’m sorry, sweetheart. Tenderly she wraps her hands around mine, Mommy cold.
Yesterday’s quote from Octavia Butler made me wonder about habits. What I persist in and why. And as a believer in practice, what should I practice? What habits have I created? What could grow from the past 31 days?
I came to the March daily slicing challenge after a long period of not writing. Wary of the stress that daily publishing and commenting could create, I was on guard. Protective, I suppose.
I was surprised to find the work a pleasure.
I managed to banish my inner critics, Brilliance and Failure. For some reason, I don’t know why, I let both go. Most of the time. It’s not to say, I didn’t have moments when their cousins Perfection and Doubt threatened. But most days I allowed myself to ignore them.
Perhaps it’s Vanity that has waned, knowing it lives in an imaginary place.
Stepping out of March and into April, I’d like to think a habit has started to form. One that dismisses criticism that gets in the way of doing things that create an interesting life.
And on that note, what follows is my attempt at “a golden shovel poem” for the final day of March 2021.
I question my landscape, searching, to attach value, to identify a habit
worthy of pursuit. Does it require ability to sustain, or, is
knowledge a deterrent to dreams? Is persistence
bequeathed genetics that conjure tenacityin
spite of fatigue and obstacles? Or, is it faith that compels the spirit to practice.
The drive to get a Beach Bowl is one of my favorites. I’ll take this road even though it takes longer. I’ll shop in stores along this road, even if they might not have the best choice. Along this road, I pass my childhood home, my old high school, the Little League field my brother played at, the homes of my friends, roads I ran. I ended up raising my family about ten miles from my childhood home. The road is a repository.
The road between my house and my childhood home holds play in the back yard birthdays and holidays.
It holds damp mornings sleepy sweatshirt bundled children smeared in sunscreen.
Windy afternoons sand covered, salty, and starving bodies bounce along the road between my house and my childhood home.
It holds family outings shopping trips dropping off and picking up doctor’s appointments.
Shifting moments that mix and fold as I travel on the road between my house and my childhood home.