“(Parents are) always bluffing, pretending we know best, when most of the time we're just praying we won't screw up too badly.” ― Jodi Picoult, House Rules
I had planned to leave a a nice Sunday's Thought about Mother's Day, especially since being a mother is something I know a few things about. Then my friend Merry sent me a copy of a letter I'd written to her in 1998 after her brother died following a fall on a glacier. She was spending Mother's Day cleaning apparently, and had found it. I was glad she had kept it. When I read it again, my own words made me cry, which knocked me off balance, so I went to church instead, and the homily was about eternal life being the one we are living, and the cognac bottle I found was used, in part, to illustrate that belief. The message was that the idea of heaven is not to save up for later, for a better world, but make that happen here, now-- which I don't think meant I was supposed to open the cognac and pass it around. The money from the sale will do that, right? ( Besides, we are Episcopalians and not that literal.)
Still, I wonder why is it that I knew so much more when I was 39 than I do now?
Last week we had a presentation on a proposed University of Alaska timber sale, the biggest logging show in at least thirty-five years, maybe ever,13,000 acres, 150 million board feet, to be cut in ten years. I am on the Assembly, so am supposed to be thinking clearly, and without emotion, and planning for the "If, then" scenario. The view from my backyard is part of the sale, Pyramid Harbor. So is a chunk of Mt. Ripinsky. And obviously a lot more. Which may be why when the reporter from Juneau introduced himself I didn't catch his whole name, and when he asked to talk with me the next day, I said sure and then picked him up with a wet dog on the front seat, since I couldn't get Trixie back in the house and it was safer to bring a nearly one year-old golden retriever than leave her home alone. She likes shoes. For snacks. My children would have been horrified.
It gets worse. Turns out he was not a reporter, rather Sitka writer Brendan Jones, author of the much acclaimed novel set in a place a lot like Sitka, The Alaskan Laundry. I own a copy, and now plan on reading it as soon as I finish Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver.
It was raining hard yesterday, and I tweaked my knee square dancing at a happy community wedding the night before. It was worth it, but I couldn't garden as I had planned. The rain was coming straight down, not blowing sideways, and it was warm enough in the greenhouse that I could at least have replanted the tomatoes and cukes I bought at the Friends of Recycling plant sale Saturday before the wedding, and after I dropped my son-in-law at the airport to fly his plane back to Juneau while he still could. Good thing too, since today's gales, as my neighbor Betty says, are the kind that make Super Cubs fly backwards. I read instead, and re-read Kingsolver's line about how parenting is the only the job "where the better you are the more surely you won't be needed in the long run." As Taylor's mother says, "kids don't stay with you if you do it right."
Three of my now adult and very well adjusted children (I bluffed well) live in other places, one just in Juneau, but another is in the Aleutians and another out in Western Australia (the same town with the sharks and murders, but he assures me all is well and it is a happy place, like Haines, but warmer.) Two of my children and four grandchildren live right here, and for that I am very, very grateful, yet they too, are independent. Which is how it should be. I was glad to read that line again. They all came by in the afternoon and hung out and ate peanut butter sandwiches while I opened lovely little gifts, soap and chocolate and hemp oil drops for my knee pain and the assembly anxiety that both sometimes cause me to wake in the middle of the night. The same dog who sat on the writer's lap ate half of a grandchild's plastic ballet-type slipper, but we decided to pretend it was like Cinderella's, sort of, which stopped the tears.
This morning I called Brendan and apologized for the wet dog, and mostly for not recognizing a fellow author,there are few of us, and we are far between. He forgave me, and he said it must be hard to be on the assembly, because a thin skin is what makes a good writer, the ability to care, to feel, to hear the hearts beating during public comments-- and yet a politician must have a thick skin, since we are blamed for everything. ( True. One man said his impending divorce was our fault.) But you know, I'm just one vote of six, and the world needs writers and artists in politics to care enough to cry sometimes. I have learned that one trait both writing and politics do share is courage. That helps.
I'd finish this properly, but I'm late for a tour of the sewer plant. (I am not making this up.)