the first thread of my red dress

Posted by on January 19, 2011


On Foot I Had to Walk Through the Solar Systems

by Edith Södergran

On foot
I had to walk through the solar systems,
before I found the first thread of my red dress.
Already, I sense myself.
Somewhere in space hangs my heart,
sparks fly from it, shaking the air,
to other reckless hearts.

(tr. by Stina Katchadourian)
* * *
I had this poem tabbed in a book, along with some others, as a possibility for today’s Poetry Wednesday. At some point today, I watched apathetically from across the room while twenty-month old Elsa pulled out most of the tabs and stuck them elsewhere around the room, project #50, perhaps, in a series of about 100 projects she accomplished around the house today. None of the projects really took Poetry Wednesday into account, but thankfully, I know better than to expect that they should.

It’s evening now and I just got around to finding the right page again. Today, in lieu of thinking about what I might write about this poem, I did lots of other little things in order to keep my head afloat somewhere above the waters of my day. Most notably, I got myself and both the girls out onto the playground in all of our snow clothes for some outdoor winter play. I was really happy to discover that my twenty-month old has made the transition from not-being-able-to-play-in-the-snow-at-all phase of development, to the moderately-able-to-play-in-the-snow-with-a-lot-of-help phase of development. Mostly, she let me pull her around in a sled. Her expression was stoic and inscrutable, as, for example, it is when we take her swimming. But she did not protest, and when Elsa does not protest, the outing is a roaring success.

This led into the more extended phase of coming back inside, warming up, getting all the boots and snow clothes off again, changing a diaper, followed by snacks, (more) laundry, and requests for things, never-ending requests, you see, and the perpetual task of putting strewn things back where they go, and a crock pot dinner, which, I’m discovering, is the only kind of dinner I can seem to pull off more than three days in a row without succumbing to take-out.

What I can never really get over is that tomorrow, we will all need to eat again, several times. And we will probably need to do something for the cabin fever again as well. So, I guess this is why I like metaphors about finding the red dress of self–or what have you–so much. I am most definitely footing it through the universe over here with a reckless heart, and have been for ever so long. But not without many, many rewards.

  1. Ser
    January 20, 2011

    Beautiful, Julia. I'm lucky that Silas loves to play out in the snow–even though that consists of pulling him in the sled and him rolling around in his winter clothes like a little bug–because it makes everyone happier. You describe the routine/drudgery of house life perfectly, and I love your thoughts on the poem. I think I focus so much on perfecting the household routine that I never, ever look for the sparks flying from my heart anymore. So I very much appreciate poetry Wednesday,even if I don't participate.

  2. Molly Sabourin
    January 20, 2011

    Yes, beautiful. Always beautiful. I guess that's exactly what I desire: flying sparks in the midst of tedium – that transform the tedium into something holy. I love how your writing gives one (me anyway) permission to own and grow from the drudgery rather than waste time and energy on resenting it. Like Ser (Hi, Ser!), I appreciated very much reading your thoughts on that poem. Your blog is such a treat. Thank you.

  3. Kris Livovich
    January 21, 2011

    The never ending eating. It seems I am at my most unhappy when I try to rigidly order my children's world. When I declare set snack times, with no other food besides a meal, everyone rebels against the idea. Right now, flowing with the tide of small ones brings more joy.

    I will be glad when winter is done. The boys went out to play yesterday, after 30 minutes of finding and putting on clothing, I watched Del walk directly to a patch of water and dip his triple-gloved hands in it. argh.

  4. amber
    January 21, 2011

    That red thread of self, if I tug it I think I will unravel.

    I love this post.

    I hate meal preparation… I never liked it even when I did it for appreciate adults, but much less so when most of the attempts are rejected and mashed into the floor, over and over again. But it is cheering to know you, somewhere on the massive white plains of the frozen midwest, are struggling with it as well.

  5. Beth
    January 21, 2011

    Boy I would love to find my red dress. Presently, for the second day in a row, I am still in my pajamas past noon because I cannot seem to get myself together. Your posts are always an encouragement to me because I feel like we live similar lives- the lives of those at home all day with small children with their never ending requests, demands, tantrums. And yet I wonder who I am without them. Thank you for this, for your beautiful writing. Truly a gift.

  6. Molly Sabourin
    February 2, 2011

    Yes, beautiful. Always beautiful. I guess that's exactly what I desire: flying sparks in the midst of tedium – that transform the tedium into something holy. I love how your writing gives one (me anyway) permission to own and grow from the drudgery rather than waste time and energy on resenting it. Like Ser (Hi, Ser!), I appreciated very much reading your thoughts on that poem. Your blog is such a treat. Thank you.