Monday, December 28, 2009

Moving Thoughts, IV

This is really just an excuse to take a break from packing. I've been packing all day, except for a brief morning meeting, one afternoon counseling session, and a quick trip to pay for the piano transport and get sandwiches for supper.

As of now, there are 88 boxes packed. Seems like a nice number to just stop on....haha. Except that would leave out most of our kitchen bowls and normal plates, baking things, cleaning stuff, and all the stuff still in my office unpacked. And then there are the clothes. And a few pictures and mirrors still hanging on the walls.

Yes, I've got my work cut out for me for tomorrow!

But 88 is a nice number. That could be a goal for the next decade, to pare down to the point of owning only 88 boxes of material goods.

Well, I have nothing profound to say, or funny, or anything. Better get back to the boxes. As a matter of fact, I somehow wound up getting up while writing this and just finished box #89, "teas, et al." The "et al" stands for a small glass jar, a ceramic dish from my grandmother's first set of dishes that now holds individually wrapped teabags, a little cup made for brewing a single cup of loose tea, and a tiny piece of Revereware from Grandmother that needs to have the handle repaired.

Ah, yes! The phone rang! That's what got me up from the computer, and I went in the other room to find the phone, and completely forgot that I had been writing. I think that shows something of the state of my brain after a day of almost continual packing.

But, back to it! Never, never, never give up! (That's the note I have to myself on my piano, encouraging me to practice--but for a while yet, the piano will have to wait.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Nativity

(Fra Angelico, from the Convent of San Marco, Florence)

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Savior where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence.

--C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Until tonight I had never seen this poem (found on Kendall Harmon's blog.)

And I just learned this Christmas that the reason the ox and ass are always part of the nativity scene, is that the early church saw the following verse as prophetic of Christ's coming: "The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master's crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand" (Isaiah 1:3), and so Francis of Assisi brought an ox and an ass into his manger scene, which started the whole tradition of nativity scenes and creches.

I knew the bit about St. Francis and find it fascinating that he was such an early believer in "visual aids" for teaching, but the connection to the Isaiah passage was new to me.

How easy it is to think that I am not slow, dull, stubborn, or foolish--or at least not to admit that I am. Easy to forget that I have strayed and do stray. How I hope to grow in the ability to know my Owner and Master, to know and understand what is knowable and understandable. I pray that we all may do just that in the coming year.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Moving Thoughts, III

More boxes line the rooms, and some even fit back onto the bookshelves. Empty shelves appear room by room. Only the living room and bedroom are so far completely untouched.

I had, earlier, imagined having some kind of little farewell-to-the-house ceremony with a few friends over. After all, this is the place I've lived longest since leaving my parents' home. It's no small thing to be leaving it. But the ceremony may not happen, given the way it's all happening around the holidays. Even so, there are many little goodbyes as the packing continues.

And I drive by the new house whenever I'm in that area (pretty often) and have the time (not quite as often) and imagine the hellos that will occur there, reminding myself that this isn't just an ending--it's also a beginning.

Even so, it is strange to wake up, as I did today from a nap, to wonderful afternoon sunlight filling the room painted with gold and cream, and to wonder if I'll see that again. How many more sunny afternoons can there be in the next ten days for which I will be home at that particular time of day? It was a beautiful moment to savor.

So, here are a couple of photos I took, just because I won't see these things in quite the same way again.

Also related to the move, we recently bought a new contraption that hooks Tosca and Paolo's collars together so that they can more easily be walked at the same time. Today I got my first test drive with it. They look so cute walking together, figuring out how to each smell what they want without getting too much on top of each other!

From my reading, I gather (and supposed even without reading it) that moving to a new place is pretty hard on dogs. Their whole world essentially disappears with no explanation of what's going on. The experts say that walking them regularly and often at the beginning helps them get used to the new place sooner, thus the purchase. It's not easy walking these two at the same time on separate leashes, though I have done it. We aren't going to have a complete fence for the first few days, either, so they'll have to be on leashes every time they go outside.

The end. For now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Moving Thoughts, II

My office now has a few empty bookshelves, and boxes sit on the floor behind me. The hallway is lined with filled boxes. More filled boxes line the wall beside the piano. Empty banana boxes, waiting to be filled, are stacked in the corner of the piano room.

It's real. There's no going back at this point. We are moving. Soon someone else will be living here, and we'll be unpacking all those boxes in another place.

And I continue reading Kay Redfield Jamison's book Exuberance, where this passage struck me the other day:

Leon Wieseltier, in his remarkable book Kaddish, derides what he sees as the American preoccupation with moving on, "closure," tidying up painful experiences and memories. He is not speaking of exuberance, but his concern, the danger of disregarding the essential lessons of the past, is germane: "Americans really believe that the past is past," he writes. "They do not care to know that the past soaks the present like the light of a distant star. Things that are over do not end. They come inside us, and seek sanctuary in subjectivity. And there they live on, in the consciousness of individuals and communities."

While I think there is a healthy sort of what gets called "closure"--for example, helping traumatized people learn to integrate their experiences so that they are no longer haunted by them--I think Wieseltier is onto something real. American culture promotes an unhealthy kind of closure, and one that is out of touch with reality.

Without further commentary, I'll just say that as I'm packing up to leave this house with all its memories, I love to think that "the past soaks the present like the light of a distant star."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Last Post for NaBloPoMo

So, it's December 5, the last date for me to finish my month of daily blogging, and I realized this morning that I forgot to write yesterday.

Life will go on.

Today I woke up and saw beautiful sunlight filing our bedroom with its golden yellow and cream stripes on the wall. It's such a cheerful room to wake up in. And I realized that if the weather should take a turn for the worse, this could be the last time I wake up to that wonderful sight, because I don't think we'll paint our bedroom in the new house the same way.

Two nights ago I looked out the window of my office at the full moon and realized it was the last full moon I'd see from that window, because a month from now, we won't be in this house.

I want to savor every moment in this place, not because I don't believe life will have beautiful moments in the next house, but just because it won't be this house, it won't be these trees, it won't be this ivy and these azaleas. I don't even know what kinds of birds will be in the new neighborhood; there aren't as many trees, so I'm sure that will make a difference.

I wonder if this intentional effort to store memories is affecting my memory in general. This evening, I was about the core an apple. As I pulled off the stem, I had a sudden, long-asleep memory of how we school-age girls used to twist the apple stems off, saying a letter of the alphabet with each rotation. The idea was that the letter the stem came off on, was the first (or last, depending on what we agreed on ahead of time) letter of the name of the boy we would marry. Or the boy we "liked." Or who "liked" us. The assigned meaning varied. What didn't vary was how seriously we took it, just in case it happened to be true. Or just in case someone decided to tease us based on the outcome, whether or not we believed it could be true. So if we currently liked someone whose name started with an early letter, a lot of energy went into each twist!

Later in the evening, I was calling my parents and thinking how nice it was that their phone number has stayed the same for so many years. And as soon as I thought that, the number we had when I was a child came into my mind. And then the number of my best friend from elementary school--with whom I twisted off many an apple stem. Then the number of the chorus director, and my piano teacher....Numbers I haven't needed for decades (except for my piano teacher), but they're still there, and up they came.

Oh, and this morning I heard the voice of a person I hadn't seen or heard from in at least 19 years. He's an old friend of Drazen's. I found him on Facebook, we got in touch, and he called. It was a surprise for Drazen, and so amazing to me to think of this person from what in our lifetimes is a pretty long time ago, but then to hear them talking, and the friendship just picking right up again.

Memories are amazing. What a gift it is to have a memory that works fairly well most of the time. It's easy to take that for granted.

Anyway, that's what comes to mind as I finish up this final post for the month of posting. I hope I can remember that I really did do this, and that it can help me stay committed to other tasks I need to do on a daily basis.

I'm glad our phone number is going to stay the same when we move.

Oh, and one more memory, kind of related to the apple stem twisting. When I was growing up, and everything seemed to be done according to alphabetical order, as an Underwood I was last in the class until Chris Walker joined us in sixth grade. Somewhere in those years, I determined that I was going to marry someone whose last name started with a letter no further down than F. I'd marry and A or B or C, if I could! I was so tired of being last.

It's funny now, because of course the whole alphabetical order thing just isn't a big issue in adult life.

And because with only V, W, X, Y, and Z coming after U, I managed to marry one from that end of the alphabet! But at least he's not a Youngblood or a Zengaro....

So, goodbye, NaBloPoMo (Nat'l Blog Posting Month)! Hello, moving (we started packing today)! I have no idea how often I'll be blogging now, but until next time, I hope we all make good memories and enjoy the ones we already have.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


These are little things I found on a recent walk. I just thought they were sweet and brought them home, thinking I might mail them to a young friend who is also a nature-lover.

Walking is such a wonderful thing to do. I like running, too, but a walking pace gives you more time to actually see the things around you, like these little bits and pieces of the world.

Today when I left the office, since there was still daylight, I rather impulsively decided to go for a walk in Overton Park. Those fifteen or so minutes are probably what I will treasure most about the day. Just walking. Trees, grass, birds, and squirrels. And sky. A dog. A few people. Part of a golf course. And I could take it all in because I was out there walking. Not driving by in a little insulated bubble called a car, but out there with it all. (I'm thankful for the insulation a car provides when it's really cold or hot, but it does detach you from the world.)

So, here's to walking out in the world. And maybe tomorrow I'll write about the shoes I hope to buy in the morning for my walks. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Tonight I would just like to say that migraine sufferers should have a day on the calendar and a 5k fundraiser or something, like everyone else. It may not be a chronic or deadly condition, but it makes up in intensity for what it lacks in continuousness.

I wonder how many hours of my life I've lost to migraines over the years? I don't even want to think about it.

And now back to my dark, quiet room, hoping that tomorrow morning I'll have my normal head back.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Loving Language

November is over, but since I started my month of blogging on November 6, it won't end until December 5.

In addition to Wendell Berry, I am also looking forward to reading Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, whose book I just heard about recently. It's Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, and it sounds great. Here is the information from the publisher's webpage:

Like any other life-sustaining resource," says Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, "language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded, and filled with artificial stimulants." Today more than ever, language needs to be rescued and restored.

McEntyre opens Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies with a sobering chapter on the current state of American public discourse. Pointing to the commercial and political forces that affect language use in American culture, McEntyre counters with twelve constructive "strategies of stewardship" — such activities as challenging lies (even widely tolerated forms of deception and spin), practicing the art of conversation, and encouraging playfulness and prayerfulness in tending to the word.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, both critical and literary, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies is an engaging address to all thoughtful users of language concerned with preserving the vitality and precision of the spoken and written word.