Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Love the Postal Service for Forwarding My Mail

Imagine a younger Faith. One year or so. She happens to be driving home from work when NPR interviews the current (now former) Poet Laureate of the United States. He is one Ted Kooser. Delightful, wonderful Ted Kooser.

While I'd love to pretend that you all know who Ted Kooser is, some of you may be unaware. Ted Kooser (along with Billy Collins) reawakened my love for poetry. The images in the poems were fresh to me and I couldn't predict where any given one would lead me before we parted.

I first learned of Kooser in college when I read the poem 'Selecting a Reader' and incorporated it into one of my units. I must really pause so you can savor it. Don't worry. More will follow.
Selecting a Reader
First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

Wasn't that just great? Aren't you glad I included that poem? Imagine my surprise after listening to this radio interview to learn that Kooser was in the Twin Cities that very evening to speak. Eric and I spontaneously trekked to the Twin Cities in the rain and joined all the others present to savor the reading. Ted was witty and we were all in the palm of his hand with his stories. I couldn't get to the outwardly euphoric level of those around me, but they would sigh and nod and make those 'mmm' sounds of approval all throughout the night. Eric knew that he lost me for those couple hours. I wish you could have been there with me to hear him read his works. Not every author is adept at reading aloud, but he is well suited to entertaining crowds.

During that evening, Ted spoke of how he had an opportunity for the ladies of the audience. Should we like, we could opt to receive a valentine from him. Indeed, he would send a poem out when St. Valentine's Day rolled around. How could I resist? Poetry from a poet laureate? I contributed my address and nearly forgot.

Imagine my delight when I arrived home tonight after tutoring and Eric, with mock reserve, handed me a card, postmarked from Valentine, Nebraska. On the back was the promised poem:
This Paper Boat
Carefully placed upon the future,
it tips from the breeze and skims away,
frail thing of words, this valentine,
so far to sail. And if you find it
caught in the reeds, its message blurred,
the thought that you are holding it
a moment is enough for me.

Honestly, Ted could have written just about anything and still had me grinning from ear to ear. I'm also extending some warm thoughts to the United States Postal Service for forwarding this postcard to me.

Although I understand this comes nowhere near trumping my sister's receipt of a hand-written postcard or a photo taken with him, at least I can hold my own, for I possess 'the last of the series.' Yes, after 22 years, Ted will no longer keep this up this courting, for his crushing ladies have grown too large in number.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts on Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day. I still think of Eric and me as newlyweds, having been married only 3 1/2 years now. And I'm not sure if I'm cynical or not because of the fact that February 14 doesn't make me swoon.

Maybe it comes down to the fact that I don't want a holiday to dictate when my husband buys me flowers or gives me a card. Those things wouldn't gloss over 364 days of neglect.

Fortunately for me, Eric is generous all year long. He frequently verbalizes his love for me. And he demonstrates it in all that he does to serve me. He will do laundry and shovel snow without grumbling. Let's say that perchance once in a while I don't program my coffeemaker the night before and he's beginning to stir while I'm getting ready. All it takes from me is a pitiful, "Honey, I didn't set the coffeepot last night," and he will lovingly offer to get it started. Never mind that he doesn't drink coffee. In so many ways every single day, he let's me know that he cherishes our marriage.

So when he brought me roses today at work, I was delighted, but I didn't need or expect them. We don't store up our words for a single day. Even as we exchange cards, there's a bit of me that feels like it's just another ordinary day.

I guess this means that I'm pretty lucky. I just wish others would recognize that a better way to judge the character and love of a man is by the way he lives every day of his life, not how he acts on Valentine's Day.

When I read Yarn Harlot this evening, I thought she also helped articulate some of my thoughts on this. I mean to be anything but cynical, but I think this helps describe why to me, it's just one more day on the calendar.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sacrifices and Sickness

I'm sick. Not hunched- over-the-toilet-and-be-glad- if-you-can-get- back-to- bed- without-collapsing sick, but as I sit here at work during lunch, my head has that light feeling, my voice is strained and any vocal exertion leads to hacking. But I'm here. This ailment snuck up on me. Yesterday afternoon, I noticed a lingering cough, and my sinuses have been increasing all week. But this morning my body was telling me she was tired.

Nonetheless, I arrived at work, for there are things to do. I am one of those that feels like I can't afford to be home right now. We have prospective students coming in and I am coordinating all of the schedules. Today's task was to finish up schedules for those arriving outside of our regular recruitment weekend and assemble folders of information.

I needed to run across campus to the visitor's center and bookstore for some goodies. As I readied for my departure, I grabbed my cell phone and relayed my number to my co-worker, should anything needing my immediate return arise. I pocketed some lemon drops to soothe my throat. And I meant to grab some kleenex. Alas, that was forgotten. And that oversight would haunt me all too soon.

And here is where I must stop. This tale is not for the faint of heart. Queasy stomachs, beware. Stop reading now, for I will not take responsibility when you are disgusted by my desperate actions. In this narrative you will hear of disturbing uses of fiber and snow. You will question my decision to discuss such behaviors with my cyber public. You will doubt my judgment in sharing what happens to all of us but what normal humans generally keep silent about when it comes to their similar foibles. But my current malady is causing my Inner Editor to short-circuit and instead allow me to hit the 'Publish' button.

Imagine me this morning, if you will. I am all bundled up against the elements; my long wool coat, Russian-esque hat, hand-knit scarf, and leather gloves are doing their best to protect me from lake-effect snow. I am treading briskly, albeit carefully, across campus to my first destination.

Like many campuses, this one boasts wide expanses, or 'quads.' In warmer temperatures, there will be students studying or playing frisbee in the sun. Now, everyone sticks to the sidewalks -- perilous as they are, they are favored over the snow-covered grass.

I am near such an area. No buildings nearby, but my destination visible ahead. And then it begins. I begin to sniffle from all the cold, but this seems different. There is a trickle from my nose. I remove my gloves and learn the horror. My nose is bleeding. I can't remember the last time I had a nose bleed, but my setting was not conducive for a walk down memory lane. My hands are doing their best to stop the flow as I frantically try to discover a solution that doesn't involve me dripping all the way to a kleenex box. I'm grateful few people are around, and those that are in proximity are huddled in their wraps enough to be oblivious to my frightful circumstances.

The stream doesn't seem to be abating, and I'm terrified that my wool coat will announce my situation if I don't act soon. So I do the unthinkable. I take the scarf wrapped securely around my neck -- my lovely, cream-colored, hand-knitted, wool-blend scarf that I dearly love -- and I begin to bury my face in it. I try to be discriminating in this mess and covertly mop my face with one end. I arrive in the bookstore foyer, ashamed to advance into the store just yet. I step to a nearby display case, discreetly hiding my scarf as I try to determine from my reflection how my face looks. My hands look as if I have killed a man, and they are beginning to dry so that wiping them on the scarf makes little change. Near me is the exit. I walk back outside, pick up snow, and vigorously scour my hands to remove the mess. No witnesses are present, so the pink snow is the only evidence of my desperation.

I brave the entrance to the bookstore, immensely gratified that it is empty save some employees scattered around. In the cafe, I discreetly handle some napkins until I can safely ask where the restrooms are. There, in my sanctuary, I can staunch the flow. Afraid to have a repeat performance on my return trip to work, I stuff my pockets with toilet paper. After a survey of my reflection, it appears my scarf was the only sacrifice made. My face left little evidence to my earlier fate and nothing had appeared on my coat.

But such a sacrifice. Sure, it knitted up quickly in its garter stitch and thick yarn, but she was mine. Made by me, a creation I kept for myself. And how she has kept me warm, sometimes wrapped over my face so just my eyes are visible when grainy snow particles relentlessly attack, sometimes dangling freely when winter is known only by a date on a calendar and not by the brisk temperatures and bitter winds.

I tromp across campus, finishing my errands, and return with my scarf safely stowed away in a bag. I then was found bent over a sink, rinsing all evidence away. Tonight, one certain treasured scarf will find her way in some detergent and a tumble dry. Until then, I anxiously await Eric's deliverance of some chicken-noodle soup to get me through the remainder of the day.

And for those of you who stuck with me through this rendering, even while being grossed out as I discussed my olfactory issues, please do one thing: wherever you are, make sure kleenex is near at hand. Hug it close to you wherever your travels take you. In this dry air, it's only a matter of time before you too could be sharing how you got out of perilous circumstances wit.