seems like enough

Posted by on October 24, 2012

Sifting in the Afternoon
by Malachi Black
Some people might describe this room as spare:
a bedside table and an ashtray and an antique
chair; a mattress and a coffee mug;
an unwashed cotton blanket and a rug
my mother used to own. I used to have
a phone. I used to have another
room, a bigger broom, a wetter sponge.
I used to water my bouquet
of paper clips and empty pens, of things
I thought I’d want to say if given chance;
but now, to live, to sit somehow, to watch
a particle of thought dote on the dust
and dwindle in a little grid of shadow
on the sunset’s patchy rust seems like enough.
* * *
 I tend to like poems that are full of domestic imagery and so I really like this one. And the fact that there is a slight tinge of the gritty in it makes me trust it more than if it were too much like the Thomas Kinkade genre of coziness. That is, for me, much more difficult to buy. I think I am veteran enough in the pursuit of the cozy to know that it can be very elusive, and too many things are lurking about that can bring it all to ruin.

But what I am grateful for right now is our house, which has all the potential for coziness that I have ever hoped for. The fireplace gets a lot of credit for this. I also think that our family would be stressed and mildly discontent right now if we did not have the consolation of a place where we can come home and feel so comfortable. In some ways, I see it as life’s way of balancing everything out. It never gives you more than you can bear, so one area comes up to comfort you when another is making itself troublesome. Nothing particularly difficult is going on right now, but the general difficulty of settling down in an unfamiliar place is really what I am referring to.

This weekend I contemplated the elusive nature of coziness while my friend Manuela was here. Because really, the weekend was remarkably cozy and enjoyable, even though we did not do anything particularly spectacular. But cozy is not really interested in the spectacular. We made several fires, watched Downton Abbey, ate, drank wine in the evening, raked leaves in the back yard, kicked a ball around, went to a quiet neighborhood and got coffee one morning while the kids played at a park and befriended a little red headed girl. I put most of our toys away before they came so that there was not much for the four kids to get into. And although four kids in a small house could potentially spell trouble, they were mostly harmonious and happy. They played with blocks, board games, colored, and romped around. There was next to no conflict.

All was going almost too perfectly until Sunday morning when things felt slightly off kilter. First of all the temperature was suddenly very warm for October, so the cozy feeling of pure autumn somewhat abandoned us. Then I discovered that the head lice had returned to Esme’s hair despite my confidence that she was lice free and I had done my job well. Only now there was the added bonus that I now seemed to have it as well. I have long, curly hair, and a lot of it. My spirits plummeted. What could be worse than a head lice infestation when you have guests in your home? I was also racking my brain to ascertain if I had taken any short cuts when treating it two weeks prior. I had worked really hard, but a few little little things– possible omissions– did occur to me. My spirits plummeted even further.

There is not much further to tell. As it turns out, the test of true friendship is someone who will sit there and pick nits out of your very long hair for a long time without resenting you or making you feel too despised.

The blissful moments of life come as gifts, and they also go. Then life goes back to being hot and frustrating and messy. My kids yell at me because they are hungry and tired, or maybe someone hurt their feelings at school and now they want to take it out on me because I am safe. Things go wrong. A rotton potato is discovered way back in the cabinet so now you know what was causing that smell. After reassuring Esme one million times that spiders do not live in her bedroom and in fact they are afraid of the stars that the “twilight turtle” project onto the ceiling when we lie down to put her to sleep, I spot a rather huge spider who appears to have some kind of urgent business– where else?– underneath her bed. And did I mention that Missouri has lots and lots of spiders? More than I have ever encountered? Leader among their population is the Brown Recluse, which is potentially lethal, especially to children age seven and under. And although we had our basement sprayed, I still spot them around the peripheries of our house more times than I am comfortable with.

And head lice have plagued the human race for hundreds of years and are incredibly tenacious. And now I am fairly certain that they are resistant to the stuff that they are hawking over at Walgreens, in spite of it being highly toxic. And there are hundreds of other tenacious pests just waiting to throw a wrench into domestic happiness.

All of this is to say: I am really grateful for the simple, happy moments of life that come and keep coming– sometimes so unexpectedly. I am really grateful for the memories that I have built with friends made up of the most simple moments. And it is nice to realize that difficult days passed together have the potential to shine out in retrospect almost as much as the red letter ones– the days when you bundle up in a huge coat and boots and a hat– you, your toddler, and your baby–and traverse the fifty paces in deep, crusted over snow, just to get to your friend’s building, your friend’s door, so that you can find a way to pass a terribly gloomy and terribly long day in a small apartment with foggy windows and rowdy children together. Alone you will survive such a day, of course. But finding a way through these kinds of days together is always the better way.

And if I can survive head lice without yielding to the temptation to chop off all of my hair, I will most assuredly dress up as Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games for Halloween so that I can rock that long braid.

  1. Manuela
    October 24, 2012

    Well, this made me laugh and teary at the same time. It was quite a weekend, a wonderful, wonderful weekend. would drive 10 hours anytime again.
    Yes, I think we have gone through a lot of simple, happy moments and quite a few, hard, long days. I think both is beautiful and part of true friendship.
    And of course I will never forget pulling nits out of your hair.
    I hope that the lice and nits are dead by now and will never, ever come back. I will ask you advice when its my turn.

  2. Manuela
    October 25, 2012

    The photo is beautiful, by the way.

  3. A M B E R
    October 25, 2012

    That photo, Julia. It's stunning.

    And I hope you rid yourself of the lice soon. I can totally relate, and know how much work it is to get rid of such pests.

    And congrats on the job too!