Monthly Archives: April 2010


Into the Woods

I’ve felt like a minor character in multiple major and minor tragedies this week, and the playwright has failed to give me the right lines. I might be mistaken in trying to write my own.

I woke up, while home alone, last Thursday to some hideously bad news, that I could not even manage to speak aloud until Sunday, when J.J. returned home from a weekend away. Such a bizarre position produced by the internet, to feel it deeply but not have to speak it. I was in a heck of a state, and yet hung out with a friend, and a dead baby mother, all day Saturday, and didn’t even mention it. Couldn’t. Didn’t know what to do with it. An old blog friend, C., lost her Little Bug at nineteen weeks. C. and I experienced fairly parallel subsequent pregnancies, although our routes to them were different, mine much shorter than hers.

Her M. and my Baby Man were not far apart in due dates, and are roughly three weeks apart in life. Her pregnancy with Little Bug began at a time in another life I would have considered a perfect time to start thinking about another try. “Another life” meaning not just one where Natan hadn’t died, but “another life” being one where other things had fallen into place. I had begun to kind of think of Little Bug as a shadow baby to my figmented one (or two, or three). I really wanted to see C. get to feel her family was complete. I’m so terribly sorry that didn’t happen.

In a mix of tragic serendipity, or just a revelation of how I can make my excuse for productive labor relevant to absolutely everything, I was teaching Thoreau’s Walden this week and couldn’t stop thinking about what it might have to say about this week. I don’t read Walden in the same way as many. I’m sure you all know the story, the author (as Thoreau) goes a mile away from Concord, MA, builds a little cabin and lives there for two years as separate from “society” as he can manage, as he tries to test Emerson’s concepts of self reliance. In the first chapter, “Economy,” he tries to pare down a person’s legitimate needs to the very basics. Using 19th-century science, he lands on just one need: warmth. Warmth, he says is supplied by food, fuel and shelter (in the form of structure or clothing).

He then goes on and on for many pages and chapters, about the complex beauty of the natural world, and all the different ways he sees living beings of all kinds go about securing warmth. The only support he takes from people are very basic, and emerges out of their genuine friendship and affection for him.

Anyway, warmth. At times, if you read other contemporaneous sources, the other human players present in Walden are driven by their desire/need for him to be warm and their concern about his . But they haven’t necessarily figured out what’s required to secure warmth (or don’t see that as enough). In their need to be sufficient, they overdo it sometimes. But they’re compelled to help him.

Fast forward, though, two years into his project. Emerson’s wife asks Thoreau to leave his woodsy home because Emerson is going abroad. She asks him to leave the woods to help her oversee the household. He finds someone who thinks she needs warmth from him and he goes (and please do not take that in any but the most virtuous–read non-adulterous–of ways.) That for me, is one of the major revelations of Walden. The first is that our need to be a part of society is so great, that it very quickly becomes impossible to discern what’s a legitimate way of desiring and expressing support, and what’s in excess. The second, though, being that for the most part (and with notable exceptions), we care for one another, a lot, but don’t necessarily know what we need to do for one another. And have trouble separating our needs from someone else’s.

And most of all, what can we do, when we implicitly recognize there’s really nothing we can do to fix something awful?

I want to give C. warmth, to give her what she needs. But the only thing I can really do is tell her that, or send some tokens. I can’t actually do it

I’m just so damn sorry about that.

In the morning

In addition to history, I teach culture. I am trying to introduce my students to ways we can look at the world around us critically. I try to do it honestly, but still making it clear that I have no interest in teaching them what to think. Rather, I want them to learn to think. To question. To trust themselves. It’s a funny role, because I increasingly doubt my own ability to do the same things. I think that, once I come to trust myself better, that will actually be a strength. I don’t trust myself right now because nothing has worked out as I planned. I planned for Natan. He died. I did not plan for Baby Man. I closed my eyes, crossed my fingers in hope, and jumped right in. He is here.

If I’d listened to some of the anonymous commentators on this blog 3 years ago, when I first announced my pregnancy with him (think all those comments are gone, so don’t go looking), he should have been born too skinny because I am a vegetarian, he should have been born sad and neurotic, because I was sad and neurotic during my pregnancy. He should have been born early, because you know, I was convinced he would be. Instead, he was born big, on his due date, and “sad” isn’t really a word that applies to his personality. Neurotic, well that could still be coming.

I am feeling on the edge of something new, and wanting to get there. I’m pondering constantly over my new realization that I’m completely insignificant. I’ve felt this in the past, in a negative damaging way. Now I’m learning to like it, to be at peace with it. To let myself feel it, and to see what I can do with it. I’m not insignificant to my family and friends. This I know. But this is all I’ve got. Me, my family, this life. It is, and has to be enough.

Huh, April

April’s a month. The month Natan should have been born during. The month I learned I was pregnant the first time, and spent very happy in 2006, very sad in 2007. I was in Moscow in 2006.

I had a meeting with one of my former students here with whom I’ve really connected. His mom died last semester, from a brain cancer they only learned she had early in our semester. He told me today that he has dreams for his life that he’s not sure he can follow. He’s a cancer survivor, you see, so he’s afraid to be off insurance for a minute. I know that’ll be solved soon enough. Hopefully soon enough for him.

I left our discussion with this overriding thought: Seriously, universe? Seriously? Her son no sooner hit the five year survival mark than you hit her with cancer herself? And then killed her with little to no warning?

No I’m not surprised. But I’m not favorably impressed.