The public library in my hometown was among my favorite buildings to visit as a little girl. Leading up to its grand entryway were smooth steps from either sidewalk direction; I can still hear the soft tss-tss-tss of my little soles landing and sliding a smidge at each rise. The opposing sets of stairs met at a platform facing the enormous doors, and the imposing limestone edifice welcomed me into its world of literary delights like a stern grandfather with a playful heart.
When I was in my teens, it was razed in favor of a new structure a few blocks away. But the destroyers left standing the great limestone facade which still adorns that block forty-plus years since, now surrounded by rejuvenated green space.
An old friend once opined that leaving the fragment behind seemed silly to him. I could not see it more differently. To me, it is a brilliant gesture of admiration for an architectural exemplar of that era, as well as a connection to childhood. The sun is always shining in my memories of those library visits, and a glimpse of the gray face still warms the little girl in me.
That thinker doesn’t look very comfortable. Leaning back in a rocker — now that’s my preferred contemplation pose, knitting needles clacking or netbook keys tapping.
Thinking about thinking, writing about writing, posing quandaries, positing solutions. That’s some of what i had in mind when i conceived of this site years ago, in particular with the Ruminations tab. To me the term has always had an agreeable association with “a reflective thinker characterized by quiet contemplation” [Free Dictionary].
For obvious linguistic reasons, i recently wondered if there could be a relationship to the thirteenth century Persian poet Rumi. As fitting as that might be, the theory apparently has the lamentable disadvantage of not being rooted in fact.
I thought of it as i was considering what writing is like, and what this year has been like. Writing is gazing back and forward at the same time.
The raw material of experience and imagination forms an idea… In shaping that idea for an audience, i’m looking ahead toward how the past-birthed notion might connect with the reader. Even if i am its only reader, my future self usually takes something fresh from rereadings of past private expressions.
Personal essay writers and bloggers perpetually distinguish between the “I” and the “we” to decide which of our thoughts to impart. Two kinds of intimate writing i bristle at… Starting too many sentences with the phrase (or attitude), “We all…” Or starting too many sentences with “I” — if they end without drawing me in.
The question is, What makes any one person’s thoughts of interest to another?
Yes, i know, many of us use GPS now. But i still like to study a map at home before heading to the airport. I tend to become anxious about catching the information in time to get to the lane i need, so it calms me to have an aerial view in mind as i’m trying to follow the signs and instructions.
The idea of planning for changing lanes came to mind when i noticed the date first thing this morning. Today marks seven years since the name change which precipitated the title of this blog.
I like it when dates sneak up on me like that. This anniversary wasn’t one i’d been looking ahead toward, as i’m prone to do, hand at forehead shading my squinting eyes.
Foggy roads and grieving hearts make it hard to grasp where you are.
Fans of the brilliant songwriter John Prine will recognize an echo there with a line of his. I borrowed its framing as a tribute. (“Broken hearts and dirty windows make life difficult to see,” from Souvenirs.)
When we look back on this time at some far future point, we will each recall hallmarks large and small that most remind us of it. Events that moved us from an abstract sense of its singular seriousness to reality hitting home.
The manner in which we lost this songwriter is one such marker for me, given what he succumbed to after surviving so much else.
It says something significant about the times we’re in that readers across the globe will instantly grasp what i mean by “the times we’re in.”
Its theme was how we experience movement through time, and i said i would write a further post on the subject. Here it is…
As i noted in the earlier piece, i got to thinking about movement when i became able to return to it after a period of stagnancy and lack of control.
Movement, to put it simply, feels good.
When i think of enjoying movement, i think first of bodily motion. The visceral elation of being on a swing as a child and going as high as i could. Or the excitement of driving a fast car or being on a roller coaster. Thrilling physical motion feels as though we can almost be taken out of time for a moment.
A second notion of movement (which i focused on in the earlier post) makes me think of time passing, and why there’s a sense of satisfaction in noting our relationship to it. We like checking things off to-do lists and finding shortcuts that help us move through tasks more efficiently. When we don’t sense progress we say we are spinning our wheels or treading water — not very positive images.
A third aspect of movement has to do with our emotional experiences.
I acknowledge a subtle shift in meaning between these usages, but i think there’s a relevance between time passing and being moved in our sentiments.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
As i was about to post that quote this morning — one equally applicable to our social surroundings as to our internal selves — i realized today is a personal anniversary, marking six years cancer-free. It was almost an afterthought. (Almost.)
The quote pairs well with this one:
“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”
Here in southeast Wisconsin, the first snow came early this season.
While October’s foliage still stunned with radiant hues, the storm moved in, dropping several inches of wet white stuff — and shaking me out of my ardent embrace of autumn.
This photo shows the view from my bedroom window that morning. It felt important to capture the reversal of order, the leaves that were dropping onto the fallen snow.
Perhaps this isn’t all that uncommon and i just never noticed it before.
But it’s making me think about the suppositions i carry of what is likely to happen next. I’ve learned to welcome the stirring up of settled notions, the upending of unacknowledged assumptions — to keep from becoming too staid.
Let the wind rustle the leaves over the snow.
I would have liked for autumn to hang around a bit longer. But i do also delight in gray skies and the neighborhood layered in white.
Winter has charms of its own, and the best of them is that it doesn’t last for too long either.