Napatree

In my mind I am often on Napatree. You're welcome to come along.

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January 31, 2015

 

Last week was math week at school. For me, every week is math week at school. Every day is math day at school. This past week, though, math has been emphasized. Teachers on all grade levels have been making graphs and charts, teaching kids about shapes and symmetry, explaining basic algebraic thinking. The halls have been filled with math questions, with number games, with constructions made from various geometric shapes.

 

Yesterday Becky had a math sheet to do consisting of boxes where she was to draw pictures of things she found around her classroom and in the halls. The directions in one box asked her to draw an object that is about ten centimeters long, another box asked her to draw something that has five parts. Every box involved the student in drawing but more importantly, in thinking about numbers, about math. One box asked Becky to draw something taller than she is. Becky told me she was going to draw a picture of me. When she told me this I told her I couldn’t wait and I reminded her to draw me beautiful. She did.

8:50 am cst | link 

January 30, 2015

 

The New Yorker magazine, which is moving its headquarters from 4 Times Square to 1 World Trade Center, listed, in this week's "The Talk of the Town" by Nick Paumgarten, things the staff of the magazine will miss in the new neighborhood. Things like Broadway posters, the International Center of Photography gift shop, the surfing videos outside Quicksilver, the elevators of the Marriott and a Bank of America security guard who wears geriatric shades.

 

We, too, are moving from one neighborhood to another. And I know for certain the things I am going to miss. I’m going to miss the rabbit family, there was always a rabbit family, outside my desk facing window. I’m going to miss the Carleton kids strolling hand in hand. I’m going to miss the runner in the aqua knee socks, the nuthatches zippering up and down the kitchen window tree, the pink light, from the maples, tinting the living room every autumn. But like the New Yorker staff we’ll make the new space our own before too long. I’m already watching for the twice seen eagle. I’ve also noticed this tiny woman walker and her three, coat wearing dogs.

6:39 am cst | link 

January 29, 2015

 

Yesterday in the mail a card from a college friend. A friend who lives in Nova Scotia, a friend we’ve not seen for many years. I ripped the card open expecting to find late holiday greetings, as we had missed hearing from our friends at Christmas. The card, though, said this. “I have very sad news. Mary died in October."

 

It is this way, a way that is hard to understand. Mary was smart and beautiful and talented. Too smart and beautiful and talented, to die. The news of her death is a sharp pain of sadness.

 

My desk window looks out on a landscape easy on my eyes. A small pond bordered by snow covered grasses. On winter afternoons the sun makes blue shadows on the white ice. I look out on this beautiful ordinariness for a moment then return to the work in front of me. But quickly I look up and out again. I am assuring myself that the sight outside the window is still there.  

8:02 am cst | link 

January 29, 2015

 Yesterday I went to the Minneapolis Textile Center, one of my favorite places to be. I like the energy there, the sophistication of the place, the colored bicycle sculptures outside, the gorgeous handmade clothes for sale in the shop, the library where handsome gray-haired women, smartly dressed, peruse books. Currently hanging in the Joan Mondale Gallery, and throughout the building, is the work of Textile Center members. Work that includes clothes, hangings, sculpture, fiber collage, tapestries, etc. But most of all I like the busyness  in Textile Center’s teaching classrooms. A building devoted to the work of women’s hands

6:11 am cst | link 

January 27, 2015

 

January is the month when a year begins.. The month of  snowy landscapes and skies as blue as delphinium, as blue as a newborn’s eyes. January is the month of a baby born at noon to parents waiting, arms open, for a person exactly like him.

 

Of course there should be cake. Birthdays call for cake. I am thinking chocolate cake.

6:08 am cst | link 

January 26, 2015

Lately, life has been a period of jettisoning things. Things, once ours, which have been given to our children or to a charity. Things sold, things tossed. In the downsizing I have come across almost forgotten items. Today, when shifting things around in a new room, I came across a framed, needlepoint piece done, and given to me, by my late mother-in-law. The subject of the piece is a bird, a dark blue bird with a white breast and a long tail. An unidentifiable bird, to me anyway, but a handsome bird. My mother-in-law knew that I love birds and made this piece and sent it East years ago for no reason that I remember. I think I hung the bird for a time in a guest bedroom and took it down when we needed the space for a child’s bedroom. Whatever its history, I lost track of the needlepoint bird. But today I hung the bird in my new home. I hung it because I like and appreciate beautiful handwork. I hung it because I enjoy birds and because I remember, with love, my mother-in-law.

7:51 am cst | link 

January 25, 2015

 

I love clothes, things having to do with clothes. I love the fabric of clothes. A friend sent me a card with a soft, chalky painting of dresses by the artist, Steve Katz. I have kept this card for years because I like the painting. But I like even more the words, by an anonymous author, below the painting.

 

“Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting”.

7:24 am cst | link 

January 24, 2015

 

This, a little story I heard on public radio about King Abdullah, the recently deceased King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, whose funeral was held yesterday. The story goes that when he was visiting Queen Elizabeth at her Balmoral Castle a few years ago he was asked if he would be interested in touring the lavish grounds that surrounds the Scottish castle. He said he would be interested in such a tour. Expecting to be sightseeing in a limousine, he was surprised when a Range Rover pulled up to where he was staying, surprised when he was encouraged to sit in the front, passenger seat. He was even more surprised when the Queen appeared and climbed into the driver’s seat. The story goes that he was uncomfortable riding with a woman at the wheel, women do not drive in Saudi Arabia, and, as the story also mentioned, a woman who has a lead foot.

 

Public radio referred to this little bit of information as a story about the late King Abdullah. I think the story is really about the Queen. 

8:07 am cst | link 

January 23, 2015

There were two, very well dressed young women in front of me at the bakery. I would estimate their ages as in their mid-twenties. One of the women was paying the bill for both their lattes and cookies, and I overheard the man at the cash register telling her the total came to $9.50. The young woman, wearing beautiful boots and a short fur jacket, pulled out a charge card from her purse. The man behind the counter shook his head and said to her, “I’m sorry, we accept only cash and checks, no plastic. It’s our bid to nostalgia.” “Oh,” the woman said rummaging in her purse and slightly laughing, “I’ll write you a check. But I’m not sure how to do this. I don’t actually write many checks.” “I’ll walk you through it,” the man behind the counter told her. And he did.

The woman accompanying the woman who was writing the check said, to no one in particular, “These look like delicious donuts” as she glanced at the array of displayed donuts. She then turned to me and asked, “Do you make donuts?” The thought that I might look like someone who knew how to make donuts, maybe Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart or more likely her ancient great Auntie Rose, flashed into my thinking. “No, I don’t make donuts,” I said to her. And then as a bid to the bakery I added, “I buy them here.”

6:31 am cst | link 

January 22, 2015

Anne did the directing. She asked Mary Ellen for a fruit and Mary Ellen gave her a pear. She asked Beret for a feeling and Beret gave her overwhelmed. She asked Patsy for a verb and Pasty gave her gallop. She asked Kirsten for an animal and Kirsten gave her a raccoon. She asked me for an adjective, a person who avoids adjectives, and I gave her big. She asked Jan for a state of being and Jan gave her serenity. She asked Mary Lewis for a word of her choosing, and Mary Lewis gave her serendipity. In three minutes, Anne had a story.

10:21 am cst | link 

January 21, 2015

 

My high school teams were called the Old Abes.  The teams were named after Old Abe, an American bald eagle who was the mascot for the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment in the Civil War. Yesterday morning Old Abe flew right by, almost touching close, my second floor studio window.

 

Bald eagles are getting to be regulars in the Cannon River Valley. I have seen them, soaring, off and on now for several years. But this particular visage of America, this dark bird with the white head, was so close I could see his wingspread, his individual feathers and what seemed like a look of determination in his eye.

 

I was just lucky to be at my desk so close to the eagle’s flight path. Lucky because observation of wild creatures doing what they do in the natural environment fills me with delight. America. So close. And just outside.

7:24 am cst | link 

January 20, 2015

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day and a holiday from school. So, off and on, as I worked in my studio, I listened to speeches I had heard before. It seems remarkable to the children I work with now that Selma, segregation, Birmingham, slavery, were once the way of life in our free country. But we know it was that way, is, at times, still that way. Martin Luther King brought to the white world’s attention that Black people are people, too. Black people and people with tan skin and Native people and women, the disabled and the poor, all of them people, deserving people. All of them with lives that matter. Martin Luther King Day is our reminder to move forward on injustice. Thank you, Dr. King.

9:03 am cst | link 

January 19, 2015

Dear Ms. Easterson,

I am a nurse at St. Paul Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. I have the pleasure of seeing your textile collages every week. They are beautiful. Thank you for bringing me quiet moments of contemplation during my hectic day.

Sincerely,

Marianne Bull

7:50 am cst | link 

January 18, 2015

It was a short journey, a long journey. But like any journey, it was dense with meaning. From my high-up desk window I can see, off in the distance, the wind turbine near Carleton and the spire of a Lutheran church. I can see rows of homes, a busy street. It is a clear day and I can see almost, to forever.

Nearer to me, so close, so close, I see snowy ice locking motionless, a small pond. A weed rimed swale really, dotted with the tracks of minor animals. Days ago, I saw a neat red fox moving with intention across the ice. It stopped and looked at me and I held my breath. Wild. A fox is wild. I have returned to Napatree.

8:08 am cst | link 

January 3, 2015

For the last 365 days I have stood at the window and tossed to the wind, my random thoughts and stories. An inconsequential paper airplane of sorts going, I never knew where. Maybe I did this only to see if I could. Maybe I wrote on because I had to smooth the edges of a day, tell myself what was happening. And maybe, my longing for Napatree is so built into my spirit I am compelled to return there the only way I regularly can. With my words.

Time is our invention. Days fill what we call a year. A Napatree year. A year of change and adjustment and ordinary. A year of life. We walk to the point and our footsteps in the sand are erased before we return to the lighthouse. The ocean owns the power. But we are the keeper of the stories, the ocean stories, so we take off our shoes and the next day, we resume our walking.

6:47 am cst | link 

January 2, 2014

Events are associated with places. We remember where we were when we heard President Kennedy was assassinated, when we heard President Reagan was shot. We can mentally visualize the setting we were in when we heard the World Trade Towers had been attacked, when we learned John Lennon had been gunned down outside his New York City home. We remember the setting of good news, too: a marriage proposal, news of a safe loved one, the call of congratulations.

It was a long-ago Sunday and I was passenger in a car driving through a gritty Hartford neighborhood. The streets were pretty much empty as it wasn’t quite noon. Off to my left, written in white spray paint on the wall of an abandoned brick building, were these words which I have since read, are attributed to Abby Hoffman. Words that seemed new and filled with meaning in a time that was filled with change, words that seemed to vibrate with hope in a place where hope didn’t often appear. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

6:53 am cst | link 

January 1, 2015

Here in the dark and very cold, the birds and animals slumber. Over there a person breathes a last breath and another, a first. Nearby a promise is made, nearby a promise is broken. Glasses are raised, hugs and kisses given. The ball drops and we cheer. Oh, but the fire needs to be fed, the child needs tending, the rabbit senses danger. Everything is the same so we must invent what is new: a technology, an answer, a hybrid, a route, a year. New is good and filled with possibility and hope and change for the better. Happy New Year!

7:21 am cst | link 


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