Tuesday, March 04, 2008

birthday, poetry, Steve Earle & sugar houses

I was 47 last Thursday and woke up to my darling family's wicked cool treasure hunt. They handed me the first clue and maps of the living room and upstairs. I was hot or colded as I searched the house looking for my loot, which turned out to be the complete Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD, all five seasons! a bird that automatically dunks his head in water (the directions' translation is pretty silly), a three-cd set of nearly 400 bird songs native to the Northeast, and "We Live in Bodies," a wonderful book of poetry by Ellen Dore Watson, who is the head of the Poetry Center at Smith College. We ran a poem she wrote in our March issue on the table of contents:

12 May 1996
yes, we can loll here for six more chapters, before--yes,
waffles, yes you can stay naked all day or until you think
you need clothes, yes to butter on the video popcorn today
and me beside you for not just the scary parts, then yes
to a long rain-walk, yes, even to the culvert rushing water and
the long way home, yes to candles with dinner, yes to no
lettuce, yes, I'll save the opera and switch to jazz, yes--
a bath bead?--take two, and yes I will sing the song, yes,
just this once, three times.

I tried to read it aloud to them and couldn't finish it, I was crying so much. I love love love this poem. This is why I love poetry, because poets are able to articulate the unsayable. It's inspiring, and a bit sad, since I know I never say yes enough. Dave said, I don't just want to be that kind of parent, I want to be that kind of spouse, which left me speechless.

That night Dave and I actually had a sitter (!) and went to town. Amazing, that. Check out this schedule: I left work at 6pm and got home about 6:10. We showed the sitter around the house and left back for town together at 6:30. We were seated at Siam Square for dinner by 6:45. We were in our seats at the Calvin at about 10 to 8 in time to hear Steve Earle. It was a great show, although we are sleep wimps and dozed during the opening act, Alison Moorer, Steve's 7th wife, who is really good but we were really sleepy. Steve gave a great show, two hours worth, and again, we're such early risers we left during the last encore at 11:15 because we were so wiped. And we were home by 11:30 . . .

We both had one of those, "Wow, I don't live in New York any more!" moments. They are fewer and fewer now, eh? I used to leave the office at the end of the day, where I could be working any where, and crack up when I hit the street. I'd just laugh, thinking, "I live in Northampton!" Like I had kinda forgotten while I was chained to my computer. I do this still, but not as often now, so I guess I'm settling in a bit.

I had another one when Steve sang a song off his new album, called Washington Square Serenade (his CDs have fun covers). Seems he recently remarried and moved to New York, after living in Tennessee a long time, and he loves the city. He sang this song, City of Immigrants (click on that for the complete lyrics) and I just thought, yup, he nailed it, exactly what I think:

don’t need to go travelin’
Open my door and the world walks in
Livin’ in a city of immigrants
Livin’ in a city that never sleeps
My heart keepin’ time to a thousand beats
Singin’ in languages I don’t speak
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

I felt what I think might be melancholy but I'm not quite sure. I felt a loss, but not a grief. I am not grieving. I know I harp on this theme constantly but it's really true: I loved living in New York so much and I am also so happy I don't live there any more. It was time to move on. I am living where I am healthier and happier and more serene and calmer. Me, calm! Ha! but it's true.

I will always be happy I lived in New York--Brooklyn, really--and I think everyone should have to live there at least a year in their lives. But I am also happy to have moved. I know it's possible to hold more than one feeling in my heart at one time, but this still startles me, this intensity of feeling, both feelings, band I catch myself wondering if I am really sunk in grief but unable to admit it, and I always come back to, I don't think so. I just think I loved New York but it was time to say good bye, and that's okay.

Damn, New York is a cool town! Brooklyn is the best!

Back in Northampton, the Calvin Theater is a spin-off of the Iron Horse, a long-running club that has showcased some of the great artists of the last 30+ years. I saw Rory Block there in January. It's a club and serves food; the smaller shows go there. The Calvin is a theater with 500 or a thousand seats, maybe. Dave and I saw Mary Chapin Carpenter there last year. Excellent show.

So here's what you do: Look over the schedule for the various venues under the Calvin umbrella and make sure we are around, and then come up and see us and go to the show. We might even go with you. It's reasonably priced and you get free room and board, as long as you entertain us and talk to Lily and admire our cooking.

The day after my birthday was Leap Year Day and my mom and Don came to visit for the first time since before Christmas. We sat up watching Dick Van Dyke -- it is still timeless! -- and it snowed all night and into Saturday. Gawd! Our second storm in a week. It's exhausting. Cate and her kids made it up despite the snow in the afternoon, and Lily and Jonah spent several hours building snow forts in the snow piles on either side of the driveway.

Thankfully it's raining, and we are all hoping the snow will melt and spring will actually come. Well, first comes mud season, then spring. In Brooklyn we had dirt season, dirty streets and sidewalks. No mud. The only catch is that right now not only are the days warm, 40s, but the nights are, too, these last few days. That means the sap isn't running. I am told global warming has killed the syrup industry in this part of the woods, which is a grievous thing.

Nevertheless the stalwart Williams Sugar House near Lily's school in Old Deerfield is open for business, simple pancake and waffle breakfasts seven days a week. We stopped by on the way to take her to camp today and it was really fun. Here's a Boston Globe story about this sugar house from 2006. They are a wonderful experience, unique to sugaring communities, and I love the tradition of eating at them because it's the first harvest of the new year, and the indication that spring really is coming. Here's some info about Massachusetts sugar houses.

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