Friday, May 14, 2010

Using the Broken Pieces

One of the side benefits of the adults not doing much paid work around Casa Wabi is that we have all sorts of time to volunteer in the neighborhood. When we heard about a project to create a mosaic mural outside Big A's elementary school, we figured what the heck, we'd give it a try. Free, unskilled labor available! We came home that first day sunburned and smeared in thin set. We were both hooked.

Mosaic is like knitting, only sharper and dirtier. But both are addictive -- containing little, repetitive movements that get your brain humming in a pleasing rhythm where you lose track of time. And when you break that rhythm and step away, you get a pleasing second kick -- a look at that pattern writ large, whether it be in the form of a sock, or with mosaics, the bigger images popping out of the chaos of different shapes and colors.

Back home after volunteering, D. mentioned we had several large boxes of tile sitting in the garage. That's what he said, but what I immediately thought was: Tile I bought on sale during our kitchen renovation that ended up not being quite right. Tile I felt guilty about every time I came across the boxes, since it represented mistakes and waste. Tile I meant to donate to a local house-building charity, but never did.

Then D. pointed at the large concrete wall in the backyard -- something we've also meant to spruce up for years. And it all came together suddenly -- for the cost of a bag of thin set and a handful of other materials, we could mosaic the wall. It's a big wall and will take time. But we can do it together. We can take out the regret and turn it into something else. No perfection required, since mosaic is all about using the broken pieces.

Let's just say that process is pleasure and hope to a person like me, who can only sidle up to things like hope, making squinty glances at it from the corner of my eye.

This is what we've done so far:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Times that Walk from You

There is something particularly MIDLIFE about realizing the newest music on your Ipod was discovered by you more than five years ago. Sure, things caught your ear since that last download -- a song on a television show, in the bumper of a radio program. But you were squashed flat then, not energetic or curious enough to accept the invitation. You didn't go searching. The chances passed away along with the days and no new music there to mark them.

Live long enough and we all have times like this. Yet now I find myself awake again, in an unusually wet Northern California spring when I just turned thirty nine. I download new music and listen while I run along the bike path next to Big A, who just got the training wheels taken off her bike. My knees ache as she pedals. I'm not fast or particularly in shape. But it still feels really good to get out there and be aware of every step. I feel awake.

The world remains full of car accidents and hurtling asteroids. My house still sits on the left side of the Hayward Fault. Inside the house newer cracks menace: My father in law has been seriously ill and my husband and his family haven't dealt well. D., my husband, lost his job, found another, and then lost that one -- all within a span of six months. My freelance work dried up at the same time. Not that my freelance work, even when gangbusters, would ever approach covering our mortgage payment.

I chose not to be scared during the first bout of D.'s joblessness, but now that's hard to swing. The severance package is eaten fast by regular expenses. Worse, my husband fell apart -- depressed, anxious, not sleeping. Lashing out at me during his father's illness. Vacillating between panic about our inevitable financial doom and announcements that now would be a great time to blow thousands of dollars on impromptu, extravagant vacations. Turns out D. secretly went off his meds at the worst possible time. Now he's medicated again, but damage has been done.

Honestly, I don't know what comes next. Do we lose the house? Leave California? Is our marriage destined for the ditch? I can't tell. I do not know. I cannot scrounge a magic coin to throw into the wishing well.

But there's the music, all that new music. From the Ipod and also preschool. Songs of longing, loss and loving. Stories of lady bugs and Easter Sunday. We sang these songs and dug a new garden for vegetables and flowers. The girls are screaming, whirling, laughing. And I'm relearning how to join in.