A few new books.
I haven’t read much this month.
When the last gray-white mounds melted, we swapped snow shovels for yard tools in order to rake and dethatch the lawn, pull leaves from beneath bushes, scrub squirrel baffles, and scrape winter seed from beneath the feeders. The house wash team scheduled our roof and hardscape cleaning, taking advantage of the sun and warm temperatures earlier this month. Later this year, the house will be painted. The color selection process, which began in earnest just after the winter holiday, alternately interested and irritated me, so our painter paired us with a knowledgeable consultant, after which, I promptly selected the color I had chosen back in January. I do not recall my parents or the parents of my friends washing their roofs or agonizing over shades of paint. Did they? I was a terrifyingly observant child who grew into an adult with a terrifyingly reliable memory. I do not think they did. They didn’t wash roofs. And while they may have debated light or dark blue, green or gray, they were not confronted with an infinite crayon box of shades. They had their troubles, our parents did, but roof washing and “greige” were not among them.
Why haven’t I been reading more? Between walks in the neighborhood, exercise videos, and the stationary bike, I move two or more hours daily. Previously, I read while on the bike, though, and lately, I’ve been talking with my daughters, listening to the news, or watching a show (recently, Olive Kitteridge and Allen v. Farrow).
And it’s not just reading. My flute practice schedule has also been somewhat inconsistent. My plan calls for 90 to 100 minutes daily; I have been doing 60. My current selections are wonderful, and my tone quality has improved markedly over the last six months. I’m nearly ready to record my contribution to the virtual spring recital, Joachim Andersen’s Scherzino. But I feel I’ve done enough once I’ve prepared for my weekly lesson.
It’s something about March, I think. A restlessness, maybe. The sort that leads to misguided romance — or spring cleaning. Washing the windows and screens. Scouring the woodwork. Scrubbing the bathroom walls. Reviewing the budget. Determining garden purchases.
March also lends itself to more standing and staring than, say, June or November.
When I stand and stare, I think about what L. asked in the last meeting of our book group — How do we gauge the sincerity of Fyodor’s various pronouncements about his own character? — and my own comments about the role of women in this complicated novel. (Dostoyevsky’s is not a particularly charitable view, is it?) I remember the rituals and rhythms that were the hallmarks of Marches past, like ordering praying mantis egg cases and looking for signs of spring in the neighborhood and nearby conservation areas. I recall that March signals the conclusion of winter swim season, a cycle that defined our family’s calendar from 2004 until 2016. No evening practices, no weekends at meets for nearly two months. Bliss. I watch the dog across the street. Does the neighbor know he’s having hip trouble? I notice the juncos whose arrival each fall and departure each spring inspires a blend of sorrow and delight that is a close cousin to the caressing ache I experience when looking at baby photos of my children. What is that feeling? The acknowledgment of time’s passage, yes, but I taste a pinch of something else. Is that… regret? No, not exactly. Fear? No. It’s… what is it? I consider my daughter’s observation that the tone of the piece she will illustrate is not quite right. How will I rewrite it? I’ve been stymied for months. Is this how creative projects die? I play scales in my head; rather, I say them in my head, around the circle and back. Again. Again. Again. And again. Learning music as an adult is hard work: repetition until it becomes (if it ever becomes) part of you.
Comments, rituals, rhythms, signals, cycles, bliss, sorrow, delight, ache, time’s passage. Again. And again.
I haven’t read much this month.