Winter Dreaming

Last night it was Michelle Obama cutting my hair, and me teaching a class on symbolism. I’m not joking.

I woke up at 10, 2, and 4. From approximately 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Colby and I visited the White House, where Michelle gave me her signature bangs while Barack and the kids watched. Barack showed me their kitchen cabinets and laughed at his foolhardy idea to drill extra holes for all of the hardware. “Can you believe this shit?” He asked me, laughing, holding the various screws and handles in his hand. Let’s file this under “what the?”.

From 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. I was teaching a wild and dynamic class on symbolism and literary device in David Barnett’s room at Bangor High. It was standing room only – freshmen and seniors. I kept repeating “a symbol is something that stands for something beyond itself“. This was, of course, the most recent in a month-long series of school dreams. All my teacher friends – you know that teacher dreams reliably occur mid-August, every year. I just can’t stop. I’ve tried everything. I could understand if I were behind or truly preoccupied with a happening at school, but everything is  FINE.

Do I have any therapist friends out there looking to donate some time? I love my job, really, but this school 24/7 is too much.



But, Oh, this winter.  I love it and hate it. I’ve had lines from “Those Winter Sundays” running through my head for weeks. The blueblack cold and the splintering wood and reticence to rise from bed and enter into a sometimes angry world.


Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
By Robert Hayden 1913–1980
I love this, but it makes my heart splinter just like the wood in the poem. What do we know of love’s austere and lonely offices?
The emergence of the sun and some warmer (above -10) temperatures have made it easier, though, to get out and breathe fresh, if chilly, air and move my body. A good friend and I recently commented on how we would prefer to hibernate during the coldest stretches of winter, and I’m enjoying my willingness to enter into the wide world these days. I’m exercising a little patience with myself, I’m tromping about outside when I want, and cuddling up by the fire with my dogs when I just can’t bear face a -20 wind chill. This, this kindness is what Anne Lamott would, I think, include under the “radical self-care” umbrella. Whatever it is, it’s working.

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