Friday, January 08, 2016

on spiders, and blogging, and four italian novels

I killed seven spiders today, mashed into kleenex against the bumpy walls of my home. As I'm writing this, two more spiders—anemic looking things with pale legs the color of old plastic—crouch on the walls above my desk. (Ok, maybe they aren't really crouching, but they appear hunkered down and vigilant, which I suppose is exactly right. All sixteen eyes on me). Mostly I ignore spiders, the gray-black ones that prefer the basement and their paler cousins who live upstairs. But it seemed there was a spider—crouching, cowering, crawling—everywhere I turned today, so I gathered my courage and began smashing. Last year I went after them with my little rechargeable vacuum, thinking how clever I was to not have to touch them while killing them. To my dismay they merely set up house inside the vacuum, spinning their webs and surviving for weeks, perhaps by eating each other. They would run around the inside of the plastic drum when I turned it on, but otherwise seemed content in their new home. And since the vacuum was the kind you empty by hand, I ended up sealing it in a plastic bag—partly to relieve myself of anxiety that the spiders would find a way out. This, of course, deprived me of its services. And, chagrined as I am to admit it, I left the thing in a bag for later and bought another vacuum. This year I am circumventing this whole problem by resorting to kleenex.

Otherwise, things are going well.

Julia, sweet dreamy friend that she is, suggested we blog again. And since I haven't blogged in so long the subject matter that keeps rising to the surface seems a bit unwieldy. Like what am I doing with my life besides being a mother and designing theological books and renovating our home and opening (and more excitingly, designing) a coffee shop or two? I just can't think.

So, moving onto something more bloggable: I've been reading Eleana Ferrante's Neapolitan series, four books detailing the tempestuous friendship between two women. The books are disturbingly obsessive, and do not make good before-bed reading. When I put them down I find my heart racing and my mind whirling. As the cluttered inner geography of the novels fade and my own life reappears, I find myself pondering the muse. The narrator of the series, also curiously named Eleana, is a writer; and her friendship with her "brilliant friend" Lila is a source of both pain and inspiration. Lila serves as Elena's muse, a situation Elena somewhat begrudgingly accepts. Much of the novels find Elena trying to prove, at least to herself, her success as an individual without Lila.

Which leads me, as I load the dishwasher or pack lunches, to consider the muses in my own life—friendships that gave rise to a poignant longing which found shape in words, or people who stimulated my own artistic vision by putting forth their own. And I realize I don't have many of those sharp and briny relationships eating at the boundaries of my consciousness anymore. Partly I don't have time for them, partly I don't have exposure to such people. I hang out with my family; I talk to other parents at my children's school in that cursory, cheerful, and exhausted way parents communicate; I have insightful phone conversations with my close friends—friends who have remained close partly because our friendships are healthy and supportive. No swampy longing and blistering competition wedging its foot under the door; any muse would find me asleep on the couch or, eyes-glazed-over, swiping my screen in Wordbrain.

All the more reason to post here. All the more reason to take up Julia's suggestion—twice a month, every second and fourth Wednesday—and run (ok, walk) with it. It's a new year. I have a five-year-old and a seven-year-old who attend school. I have a new camera and can manage to follow a line down through a paragraph about spiders onto Ferrante and muses and my longing for a little more longing, a spider crawling up my wall reminding me that being uncomfortable can sometimes be exactly what I need.

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