Saturday, January 31, 2009

When Daddy's Away... Mommy Will Play Dess Up!

It's all quiet here, what with the babies sleeping through the night and all.

Euge is having a boys' weekend snowmobiling, so I am having a boys' weekend hanging out with my boys!

We were going out for brunch with HK, Ada and Thor and I had some adorable t-shirts that we got in the mail as a gift for them to wear.

But they didn't seem quite warm enough, so I pulled out some of our baby sweaters that Mom had sent me... before we knew the boys were boys. Some of them seemed not so girlish, so I put them to use!

The boys may have looked a bit.. umm.. European. But that's okay. I fed them some pommes frites.

Binky...or french fry...binky... or french fry...

Yo, you want some fries wit dat?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Approach To Moscow

When Updike died the other day, I sent a friend an email with one of my favorite lines from his short story, A&P. When he wrote back, he sent one of his favorite lines, which was really more like a paragraph, and also, not surprisingly, one of the lines I had considered sending him as a favorite of my own. The thing about that story is that nearly every line is one you might claim as a favorite, the voice in it is just that good.

Most of my reading time over the past few months has been occupied with an entirely different piece of fiction. I started reading War & Peace before Christmas, as a distraction of sorts. I wanted the demand and commitment, the long march of it. I had read it before, but some time last year I read a review that made me want to pick up one of the new translations, I don't remember exactly what it said, but it was something that left me with the impression that the translators had tried to stay true to the words that Tolstoy seemed to love to use, to maintain consistency in the phrases that he returned to throughout the book.

Even with that kind of intended fidelity to the original language, War & Peace is not quotable in quite the way A&P's clever turns of phrase are. There is the problem of translation, to begin with, something that always troubles me and a reason that I tend to be shy in my approach to fiction that was not written in my own language. When Updike writes "All of a sudden I slid right down her voice into her living room", I am charmed by the novelty of that little phrase, common words used in an uncommon way. How would it have been translated into another language, though? What phrase in french would have captured just that small strangeness in it, or the images that it evokes even as the meaning, the way he was drawn in by her voice, is maintained? A translator could have rendered it into a phrase that would have been translated back as "All of a sudden I was drawn in by her voice, right into her living room" and something would have been lost, wouldn't it have?

One of the most memorable experiences of my life as a college student was translating Saint Exupery's memoir, Terres des Hommes (the title of which is translated in English to Wind, Sand and Stars, and if that doesn't say it all about the problem of translation, I don't know what will, since Terre des Hommes is literally Land (as in earth, soil, the way a potato is a pomme de terre or apple of the earth) of Men). Clearly I am still fired up about that experience, as I am now writing using parentheses within parentheses, and surely Mr. Carey would be proud of that lasting impression he made, were it not for the fact that I am using such poor sentence structure. After we finished writing my thesis together (which had led to us doubting whether it was possible at all to write a thesis on Eliot's Four Quartets), I suspect we both comforted ourselves by remembering his words to me at our last advisory session in the coffee shop - "At least it is a beautifully crafted piece of writing," so certainly he would expect better of me.

But I digress. I was just going to say that the experience of translating Terre des Hommes was so memorable because each line presented a charming puzzle to us, a unique and happily translatable gem of description, like the line about the tender blades of grass poking their noses through the cracks in the sidewalk. The genius of Saint-Exupery was that he used these clear physical images in original ways, so those of us who had to read in translation were able to hold fast to his original image and intent. It was lovely.

Tolstoy is not so concrete. War & Peace is filled with historical references that it would take a long tenure in academia to sort out, spiritual and intellectual concepts, gestures, ideas, expressions in language that is no doubt outmoded in its original language even more obviously than in translation. Reading it today, in English, even a very good translation, one feels that one is missing much.

Still, the experience of reading it has been so rich for me. I feel so grateful for it, in a way I can't entirely explain, though I feel compelled to try. I think of Tolstoy as the most ambitious of novelists, the most generous, a writer who is trying to give you every moment of a span of a lifetime, every gesture, all the fleeting thoughts, the sun on the crops, the hunt, the comet of 1812 and a missing button on a beloved's jacket. When I started writing more seriously, it was because I wanted to do that. Not, I admit, to give it to you, but because I wanted to see what the world would look like described. I wanted to start on page one and see what happened over time. And this is something that, no matter how beautiful or clever or quotable, a short story has a very hard time delivering. Time.

Which is why, I suppose, there are all those Rabbit books.

And why I'll be back, later, with more about War & Peace, which is to say, more about me, and more about everything that exists in the entire world. And more.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Believe It or Not, Only 244 of Them Are of You.

I got a new camera for Christmas, but we haven't bonded yet. At first it was the lack of memory, just the card it came with, four photos or something. Now it's the fact that it's sort-of too nice or something - my old camera was this beat-up little brick that I could just toss in a bag. The new one has a shiny screen covering half of it's back, and that thing just looks made for scratches.

I'm over it, though, the photo excuse. For a while, I was telling myself that the lack of photos was the impediment to blogging. But with 8,210 photos in my iPhoto, there should be plenty of material, right? Cabins up in the mountains, blankets at concerts, wolfhounds, dimly lit dinner plates, choice pieces of graffiti, half-knit socks, and what seems like a hundred lattes. It might be that many, it really might. Two years worth, at least.

At this point, if he were me writing this, my friend Mike might say, "This is not interesting." He wouldn't say it if I was talking, he only says This Is Not Interesting about his own (always interesting) stuff. But I kind-of like the way he'll stop, mid-sentence, and say that. It makes me want to do it too, and now sometimes I do. I don't know why. I guess I like the way we catch ourselves like that, the way we notice that we are drifting away from the person we are talking to, and try to come back to where we started. By picking up the phone, or a pen, or opening the computer for a new email, saying "Hi. I'm here. Where are you?" That's what interesting, that's what I'm always interested in. Where are you? I want to know.

So, hi. This is a cabin I slept in once. Tami was there, and Kae. When I was there, I felt like I knew what I was doing, even though it was always Kae who lit the fire. I don't think I told you at the time, that that was where I was, in a cold cabin that a friend warmed up for me, feeling like I knew what we were all doing there, and why. What does it mean to tell you now?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Good With Light

Went to see the Hopper show at Seattle Art Museum this weekend. "He's so good with light," Bobby said. Rightly, of course. But I was thinking about spaces, and solitude, and the girl with one glove on, one glove off, sitting at her table alone. Afterwards I went home and finished knitting a pair of socks, made a hot cup of tea and talked on the phone for three hours and it seemed like the whole world was changed as a result. I started to get an idea about what I was afraid of, and how those things about me that I didn't think were that great, for some people, are just fine. I talked so long that I ran out of words, and every sentence was just... yeah. Trailed off, like that. And it was fine.

Then today, the world kept it up, the changing. My inbox , the inbox today was full of apologies and reparations, invitations and flattery, set-ups and meet-ups and love songs and bootlegs and people returning after long or seemingly irreparable absences.

I was been wondering if it was planetary or something. But then I thought, maybe it was the fact that this morning in the car, I sang Jenny Lewis loud (and badly) - you know the song I mean? From her new one. You probably don't... "Trying my best to looooove yoooooou!" it goes... And I am, I always am. Whoever you are in my life, if I love you at all, I'm trying my best to love you. I swear.

I'm wondering what's gonna happen tomorrow, when I bring everyone donuts and letters about raises? And did you know there's a song in the world called "Letter to Heather"? I didn't, until last night. So pretty. I'm trying that one tomorrow. We'll see. We will see.

Friday, January 23, 2009

2008 Performance Review - Major (and minor) Accomplishments

#36. Be brave.

I had goals last year. I don't know if you remember that. I forgot it, actually. Kind-of. I had this idea that I never actually got the goals established for last year. I thought I wrote, like, half of them. Typed out a few, lost steam, jotted down a few more later, but just never got it all the way together.

And that was the way 2008 seemed, it would have made sense if that was true about 2008, I thought. Not my finest year.

But I was wrong about the list, at least. The blog doesn't lie (well, in certain ways), there's the list. There are a lot of other things about 2008 too, which is one of the things I love about the blog. I've had a bad attitude about 2008 for too long now, even though there were some stretches of real discomfort. Some of it was related to those days where it just seemed like my feet were always cold and wet, but some of the time was worse, some of the time was lonely and raw, time for hibernation, made better by expensive tea at least.

But even in a bad year, it's like me to end a sentence with something about what makes it all better. The list helps, too, and while not everything on it was accomplished, it was good to be reminded that plenty of things were, so let's take a look, shall we?

#24 Take another ferry trip to Bainbridge. One of my favorite days ever with B

#20. Knit socks for the latest additions to our writing group. February in Zion. Karen L's, I think?

#29. Get back to the ranch for a picture with grown-up Liam. We did get the two of us together, but do I have a copy? No. Silly.

#6. Read all of J.D. Salinger again. Nine Stories at the beach, so good! Didn't get all the books read though...

#1. Hold the twins. Done and done.

#32. Take a secret trip that I can't talk about here yet. There were a few of those in 2008! The photo above is from the trip to see Tami's reading in LA, but there was also the surprise baby shower trip of course!

#2. Stay at Ace Portland again. Extra credit for making it more than once.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Things You Can't Keep

It isn't very often these days that I feel like writing. That's just a fact, and a sad one at that. Other things are good, it's a rewarding time at work, where I feel challenged to almost exactly the right degree, and where I know I am at times seeing the best version of myself. And reading is good, better than usual.

But still, I miss the writing, of course, so when I felt like writing tonight, it was like that day in winter when you finally wake up to light instead of darkness. Jenny Lewis did it. B and I went to see her at Meany Hall tonight, and I sat there next to him, so happy, wishing I could write everything down, remember every note. I can't tell you what I would have written, that's how these things happen, it slips away, and you know it's going to slip away, and sometimes you have to let it.

But I can tell you how beautiful her voice was. It was more beautiful than a guitar or a violin or a cello. More beautiful than her long hair or pretty face, or the lyrics to the song with the chorus that tells your best girlfriend to keep the lighthouse in sight. She and Jonathan Rice sang Love Hurts more beautifully than even Emmylou and Gram, and I know, believe me I know, what sacrilege that sounds like, but I swear, for me, tonight, it was true. There was not a wrong moment in her voice. I'd be willing to bet it will be the most beautiful singing voice I hear live all year. It was more beautiful than even the way B smiled at me when I told him I was scared, and more beautiful than the way he asked, gently, "What is there to be scared about?"

And for one evening, sitting still, listening hard in the dark, with Jenny singing about all the hard parts of love, it was all so beautiful that I almost believed there wasn't anything to be scared about at all.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

First Field Trip of the Year

Such a good night last night. One of those parties where you just think there really couldn't be a nicer group of people on earth, nor a more interesting group. Our friend Charla was there, and she dug down deep in conversation, and the fire popped and the dogs' ears stuck out straight from their heads in expressions of delight and sweet pleading attentiveness and I ate the best cookie I have ever had in my life.

Afterwards, Kate and I were supposed to go see the boys play at Neumo's, but when we got there at 10, it was totally sold out! I've seen them way too many times to be that bummed about it, especially because it just means success for them and I love that. Now I'm waiting to collect the girls and we'll head down to PDX, where I get to go out to Amber's farmette for a visit, then back to the city for the show at the White Eagle.

I've been thinking about 2008 a lot, thinking maybe I'm working on reworking that year, to a certain degree. I thought of it as a bad one, you know, but there was a lot of good too, as there will be in the year of any person with as many good friends and loves and cute nephews as I do. Last January was Colorado hot springs for Pam's birthday, and Portland at the Ace with Susan, and of course coming to see a very pregnant sister for her baby shower.

I'm thinking 2009 better step it up!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Meanwhile, here in the arctic tundra...

It is unbelievably cold here right now.

I know that you've had all the lovely snow... but we just got an arctic blast! The boys have been stuck indoors all week and, likely, will be stuck indoors all weekend. Hopefully the cabin fever won't be too bad.

I think it's one of the nicest things about having the two that, even on a week where no one wanted to venture out to have a playdate, they still had each other to play with.

Since the beginning it has been interesting to watch them relate to each other. When they were first born, they only seemed to notice each other when they were lying down in their crib. If you held them up in front of one another, their eyes slid off of each other like mercury.

Gradually, they seemed more aware of one another, mostly still in the crib with the cuddling and reaching out to pat one another... then the inevitable binky-stealing that led to their separation.

These days, they are playing together, stealing each others toys and - as you can see from the video - loving on each other in a rough-and-tumble sort of way. When they are sitting in their high chairs for meals they watch each other with more and more interest each day. Thomas, in particular, seems to find Max more entertaining at mealtimes than any other time. He will watch Max and just start cracking up.

Sometimes it gets a bit out of hand and I have to separate them. They aren't able to understand that biting isn't a great way to express affection (though it does seem to make them happy) or hair pulling... or that eyes are sort of a delicate place to stick your fingers... But none of it is done maliciously (that I can tell) and a split second after I have pulled them apart, they are usually all over each other again.

Despite the fact that they are identical, they are developing at different rates. Max was standing in his crib for a full two weeks before Thomas discovered that particular skill. Max grew his upper teeth earlier than Thomas. Thomas started crawling weeks before Max and was comfortable sitting up weeks before Max.

I wonder, as they get older, how much of this individual rate of development will translate into sibling rivalry. Hopefully, only in a good way...

In the meantime, it is so fun to watch them watching each other.

Last weekend we took them for brunch and started a game of peek-a-boo at the table. We were draping a napkin over one of their heads and saying (to the un-draped one) 'Where's your brother? Where is he? I don't see him' Then we would pull the napkin off with a flourish and say 'there he is!' this led to crazy hysterical baby laughter and, eventually, they realized that they could pull the napkins off themselves.

It was, without a doubt, one of the funniest afternoons I have ever spent.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

So Random

But I was gonna just do those little things, remember? Me, caught wrapping presents the other day, in my faaaaavorite sweater. Mom came over for faux Christmas last night, so the wrapping's been undone now. We ate chocolate souffle and peppermint bark ice cream and yelled at the TV and laughed at stories I wrote in elementary school. Thanks for the visit Mom!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nekked Baby Shots

Fun in the bathtub!

Plan For the Day

The couch. Crumpets soaked in butter and cinnamon sugar and cheese. Hot tea, knitting. Critic's choice awards in between bouts of William Faulkner's Light In August and writing group manuscripts (yes, late as always!).

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What Mom Says

My street Sunday night, after I got home from dinner at Dad's

... every time I see her, is "BLOG!", as in, I should. But I haven't been feeling it. Don't know what to say about that. Which pretty much sums up why, even though she says it, I don't do it. Nor will I now make any promises to do it, new year or no new year. But I will say that I found this blog which I like very much, the little photos, the words, just a few every day. So, I'll be thinking about that, and my new camera, and we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas with the boys, and their hats

The boys beneath our very first real Christmas tree... decorations from Ikea, like so many things in our house.

Max and his hat... ADORABLE!

Thomas and Eugene, getting ready to read some of their new books. Check out the cute hat!

Obviously, Thomas is jealous of Max's hat.

Our happy little family... getting ready to wrestle over something...