Why do we name things?
Other (not always) wordless friends:
Dear Newfoundland Crafters Guild Women:
You may not remember me. I stopped by one of your places on the side of the road about a decade or so ago, wandered the few aisles in a sort of barn-like building with folding tables laden with homemade this and thats. A few of you sat in chairs drinking tea and knitting, chatting amongst yourselves, asking me if I was alright my dear… and if I needed any help to just give you a nudge. I bought this tea cosy for I haven’t a clue now how much… probably not nearly enough. A few dollars. I’ve used it goodness knows how many times since then. (How many times is almost every day for a decade?)
This was also the holiday of invading fog as we sat happily enough (and innocently) on the shoreline rocks with a glass of wine, possibly bread and cheese too, and then, looking up over the water the fog coming in at a pace and thickness like I’ve never seen before. A vast platoon of cold grey air that obliterated everything as it went, and us sitting there mouths full of cheese like targets. Soon it would be all around us and we’d never be able to get off the rocks safely, we’d never find our footing, never know what was land or water. So we scrambled like crazy while we could still see. Ran to the B&B we were staying at and no sooner landed on the porch than the fog was on us and you couldn’t see a metre in front of you. That we survived makes it one of the best memories ever.
Also the same holiday when I sat on a hillside at Petty Harbour, watched a few boats coming in and wrote a poem about the women who waited in those little outports; I wondered how many times they’d held their breath until they saw their chap’s boat return while at the same time enjoying a certain temporary freedom and community with each other.
They hide in square wooden houses
the women of the boatmen, leaning
on each other’s shadows, thighs
pressed together against the fog
until—all but one returns; thighs
loosen for a moment before they’re
alone, immersed in salt and gravy,
hiking cloud paths for berries to send
with him next time; yet for the one
whose boatman doesn’t return—
thighs loosen and life begins.
Anyway, I just wanted to say, dear crafter women, somebody made a pretty incredible tea cosy. And thank you. And I want you to know that I think of you often, your knitting and your chatting and willingness to be nudged in that barn with its hot beverages and cookies on offer and I am grateful for you and for women everywhere who work at these seemingly simple tasks to raise funds for hospitals and schools and families in need and how I”m not sure you realize what an enormous chunk of the planet you hold up…
I just want you to know this is what I sometimes think when I have my tea.
Other (not always) wordless friends:
The opening line is my favourite:
“I’m stockpiling antibiotics for the apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen.”
Therein, I suspect, lie big clues about Anne Lamott’s psyche. And the book kind of backs up that theory.
Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, is a quick read… a hundred and eighty something pages of what feels like random thoughts about, well, almost everything from forgiveness and brokenness, possessions, the gifts of poems and wine and the way a family can suffocate from thinking they know each other so well but don’t and won’t buy that truth, to the meaning of truth, and the question: what is a story?. She alludes (often) to the current state of madness in the world as well as making a case for milk chocolate by saying the 81% is not food but best used “as a shim to balance the legs of wobbly chairs”. (my response: I will happily eat those shims!)
All pleasant enough though not in any way rife with mind-bending insight… and despite Lamott’s tendency to whinge a tad too much and hide behind sarcasm, which feels to me out of place in a book that is meant to ponder deep(ish) thoughts. And chocolate.
Framed as wisdom imparted to a few youngsters in her life, it comes off a little too much like here goes know-it-all auntie, spouting off again. Albeit a pretty interesting auntie, one must admit.
Worth the time? Sure. In the way that having lunch with a friend who is slightly annoying and all over the place in her thoughts but still better than dining alone when you don’t feel like being alone is worth it.
“I spend a lot of time with old people who know things… More than any other sentence I have ever come across, I love Ram Dass’s line that when all is said and done, we are just walking each other home.”
I have so much to say about the joys and benefits of hanging laundry… the memories of the line between two pear trees in the backyard where I grew up, the way my mum would hang tea towels and shirts and sheets a certain way that seemed ridiculous to me at the time and how I now do it exactly as she did. How there are ever fewer lines in the world and where did they all go and why, and how delightful and healthy it seems whenever you see one, whenever you see a tiny slice of someone’s life on display… that sense of connection… if only by knickers and tee shirts.
Worth mentioning — the blankets in the pic were hung dry, simply to air. Another art form entirely.
Other (not always) wordless friends:
I have no interest in writing anything about this book. I’d rather just talk about it endlessly and how I finished reading it today for the ??th time and how sorry I am that I haven’t kept a list on the inside cover of the places I’ve read it because then I could add —
Among the lily pads, in the marsh, in a boat named Lulabelle, on this September morning while a family of swans that I’ve been watching all summer is out for a sail, the young ones still brown, and the way they follow their parents, not even the hint of a desire to break from the pack.
For anyone who has had the pleasure… some reminders:
… a tall woman, of extraordinary slenderness, and with the narrow nodding head of a grebe…
… he disliked the more sociable aspects of his calling, but had nevertheless booked a table in a cathedral-like restaurant, where the patrons cowered in worship before the marvels to be set in front of them.
… [the] good… always think it is their fault when someone else is being offensive… [the] bad never take the blame for anything.
… The pianist has worked out his engagement and would now return to his winter occupation of giving private lessons to unmusical schoolgirls.
… Edith was obliged to listen to Mrs. Pusey’s plans, which were as usual, extensive, without being awarded any interest in her own. Reciprocity was a state unknown to Mrs. Pusey…
For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure…. in a nutshell, the story is this:
A fairly quick (one afternoon) read of six essays more or less chronicling the author’s childhood and adulthood into her 30’s and early 40’s. I found the writing immensely readable, free of pretense and ego in a way that’s rare in memoirs by writers of any age. Pine comes off as being honest and open with events without giving the impression that she’s shining a light on herself in some haven’t I led such a fascinating life? kind of way. Refreshing.
She writes about her father’s drinking, his silence and absence in her life yet her deep connection to him, the separation of her parents, the difficulties with her mother, the closeness she felt to her sister, her wild child teen years and her subsequent inability to have her own children. She writes about how it never occurred to her that she’d been raped, that what she experienced was actually assault not merely “someone forcing themselves on her”. None of this is especially out of the ordinary but in her candour, there is also never a dull moment. Also, her hindsight perspective taps into something so raw that you can’t help but do a quick review of your own screw-ups and wonder what was at the root of them, why were they important, what have you learned.
I’m not so sure Pine comes to a lot of conclusions, at least she doesn’t share them outright, but you can’t be this open on the page without having dug pretty deeply and maybe her conclusions are a still private matter, another book for another day.
In any case, the book as it is works. Not heavy reading, not heavy thinking, but something that stays with you in a way that makes you want to take an honest inventory of your own life.
Favourite essay: ‘Notes on Bleeding and Other Crimes’ in which she considers the shame inflicted on women (and girls) because of body image, the judgement of perfection/imperfection, the crime of hair where society says hair shouldn’t be and the bleeding – good lord, the crime and shame and embarrassment of bleeding. Never mind the pain. No one cares about that.
Sometimes I am doubled up in pain… I do not feel like a feminist hero in these moments, I feel like I want to go home and get back into bed. But in a world where women are still over-identified with their bodies, where women have to prove their intellectual ability over and over, what is the threshold for claiming this pain? If you have a headache, it’s strain from too much thinking (I’m so brainy, I’m so busy). If you have a sore back, it’s from overexertion (I’m so fit, I’m so active). A stress attack? (I’m so hard-working, I’m so important.) But a cramped abdomen? (I’m so female.) It’s unspeakable.
Later in the same lovely essay, she comes to the conclusion:
It’s time to recapture the childhood acceptance of our bodies as sign of who we are, of what we have done…. My cellulite thighs are strong, they have carried me up mountains and I love them.