Sunday, May 20, 2007

sunday scribblings: masks

Before I begin, something proud: K and I collaborated to learn how to change the header. The one you see above was the backup, but the original just below worked out eventually, after many HTML adjustments. The photographs of both are ones I've taken, and I created the image in Photoshop. I'm beginning to become more technologically savvy then I ever expected. :)

I have always found it interesting to explore the many different selves we have. I teach my students presentation skills during our small speech unit in January. We discuss tone--how I speak to them so differently than I speak to, say, my fiance at home. I ask them, "Do you use the same vocabulary with me as you do with your friends?" Heads wag, certainly not.

I know that I am a different person now, then when I was a teenager. At that time in my life, I raged against my family, particularly my mother. I was angry and we fought, and I'm coming to terms with the reasons why we had to clash so much in that house with no walls.

And I came out of it knowing I was an impatient person. Knowing that I had been a sweet child with a sweet disposition and that my mother never stopped reminding me of that fact. You were good when you were little, but...

Today, K and I spent our afternoon clearing out the front garden. Last year, I edged away from showy flowers, concentrating on the practical vegetable garden I cultivated, which had some moderate success. We pulled out the old growth from last year, the remnants of the previous owners piling on the front lawn.

I am different this cusp of summer. I am relearning patience. K asked me about my stack of Oprah magazines on the coffee table. This isn't you, could have easily been his thought. You used to scoff at these things. I said, "I know it can be flaky, but I'm trying to figure things out. I'm trying to find balance and not do it in harmful ways."

I'm trying to dredge out all of that excess, the person who said yes too many times and became overloaded, the person who felt perfectionist and procrastinator collide within her mind, the person that never got enough sleep and worried constantly. Cleansing and clearing is key now; it's the pulling up of old weeds to make room for showy blossoms.

Our town is known for its hanging baskets. Famously depicted in artwork about town, these baskets cost so much to make. I'm trying my own variation, and this morning, when I peeked in, I noticed little bits of green in the grey earth. We live in a town where everything is snow-covered, dismal, and grey so much of the year. Green masking covering the earth now, blossoms and swaths of color across the landscape. We are finding ourselves amidst the bits of loam, pulling away debris, dead leaves and rubbish. Small purple flowering weeds, dandelions, climbing vines. All beautiful but pulled away for what was planted there.

We added to the earth today: a rose bush, dahlia bulbs, and three peony bulbs, a little old, but full of hope. We have a bag of tulip bulbs and plans to consider the sidewalk in front of our house. Landscaping.

It is an act of masking we are doing to this house, gradually. This late winter, we tore down dark wallpaper and put up paint, a chair rail. This house has had many owners; it was built in 1890. At one point, it was low income housing owned by the city. This is the rumor in the crumbling pages we received from the city after a dispute over boundaries. We were quiet, didn't even know we had a lawyer, no fees, and it was over with a quick signature.

The folks before us had four children. We have four pets, but we cannot imagine what it would be like to pack four kids in here. Four kids, a cat and a dog. This was a different home, became a different place entirely to them. Different rooms meant different things. Certainly their dining room did not double as the library, and their master bedroom and second bedroom were switched. Their sandbox became my vegetable garden.

We are putting the mask on of ourselves. We are making this our own, taking charge, placing ownership on the surfaces.

When we bought the house, we planned to plant a tree to symbolically represent our new growth here in the hallows of our first house. We chose a dogwood, symbol of my childhood, and I was afraid of it withering and dying. Three others we planted as little twig-sized growths found ways to die, yanked up by puppies or trampled by recycling bins. But the dogwood remains, leaves sprouting, and now comes up to my shoulders in height. This little sliver in the mailbox will be a full blown tree one day, a piece of ourselves left behind in the soil.

It is with patience that I garden with K. We are kind to one another. We help each other, point out small wonders, help the push and pull of weeds and earth, hand each other leather gloves and ask questions of preference. We are compromising as we create this home, and he is participating, which is something not all male partners tend to do, I know. He has an opinion on everything (the opposite of the spectrum from my father) and brings a willingness to figure out how we can bring together two pieces of ourselves, how this can be ours.

We wear different masks when we are in different places, and that is okay. We need to be a little more guarded in the workplace, professional and responsible. We need to let our guard down with our dearest friends, need to be honest with our partners as we whisper in the dark, need to be playful with our children.

And I'm finding ways to allow myself to become me, to find that balance (which seems to be such a keyword for me right now), to find ways to relax and come to completion. I am finding ways to bask in the small pleasures, rather than waiting for happiness to come to me. I cannot imagine living any other way now, but it took some pretty notice-me-now upsetting things to happen in order to get to this place. That makes sense though; sometimes it's life changing events that allow you to take it all in, to gain perspective. I've long admired those who can face tragedy and sorrowful events and keep that chin up. And now, I'm becoming one of those people. I think.

For more Sunday scribblers on the topic of masks, click here.


*mary* said...

Thanks for the comment. Violet is a sweetheart and I love being a mother.
Did you take these photos, btw? Very nice work if so. I'll check back on yr blog when I can actually read it! (sleeping baby in arms...)

giggles said...

I remember the days of angst, power struggles, and pulling up weeds, and replanting. Growing, changing masks to accommodate who and what ever! Now I feel more authentic than ever before…and I like it! Really wonderful post that evoked many memories for me! Thanks for sharing!

Peace Giggles

Liz said...

oh, that was lovely :)

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

WOW! Lots of wonderful photos here and interesting things to say and talk about. Fabulous! I love the rainy shots (and many of the others).