In Maira Kalman's most recent sketchbook blog for the NYT, she has this wonderful sequence where she finds out that something she had done before contains an accidental message. She once embroidered the German words "Ich habe genug" onto the front of a dress, thinking that they meant "I've had enough. I'm done. It's over" when in reality they mean, without irony, "I have enough".
It reminds me of before I knew German and was trying to be sly and say little things I had looked up from a dictionary. At one turn, I was insistent that someone had a new "-room suite". Of course, no one knew what I was talking about. I assumed that they were just trying to give me a hard time. They weren't. The entry was under 'bed', and '-room suite' obviously required the word bed in front of it. They laughed their asses off at me. I did too.
It just goes to show that often our most studied and emphatic answers undermine our real meaning. There's nothing like a foreign language to take us down a notch from intention. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I love foreign languages so much. Too often in our own language we are so tightly construed that we assume that we say what we mean and that everyone else does too. But language (and people) are much more slippery than that. Slippery in a good way, if you're open to it.
This past weekend I was in the Colorado mountains helping my sister with her newborn twins. It's amazing how quickly those little beings develop, and how quickly one forgets what it is like to tend them day and night, for all intents and purposes, to be them, to fulfill that part of them that is so undeveloped that it requires your constant maintenance.
When I returned I was shocked by how much my son weighs, by his seemingly gargantuan hands. Had he grown while I was away? Possible. Was I simply shocked by the so near comparison between what he had been and what he is? Perhaps. But also on a more elemental scale, it was as if the tides of two separate planets met and filled a lagoon in a sort of eerie, snow-filled moonlight where he and I exist.
Again time is not just subjective, it doubles up on itself like a sort of cats' cradle string game. It is veritably enmeshed, all wonderfully stringed and strung.
I felt so much relief to come back to my life, my house, even the seat of my car. My car-- I know how to drive it.
I do battle against boredom, against stasis. Sometimes it seems like childcare (caring for my child) is simply that-- it's a position I fill, a description that staves me against uselessness. Yet there is so much that requires investment, so much that I put into him, so much in evidence beyond intentionality. Day-to-day that can get lost in the crush of pattern and competence.
Perhaps I must assume my competence, for starters. I am enough. Everything I do above that, that is art.