Mr. and Mrs. Roussel

Mr. and Mrs. Roussel by Edouard Vuillard, 1896

Marriage is a joining: Mr and Mrs, man and wife, flesh of my flesh. But the minds still operate apart. As close as we get together, touching forehead to forehead, there’s still that bony skull in the way. The Mrs. Krohn part of me says “I am you; why are you saying these things I would never say?” The Amy part of me draws my forehead away from his as a little rebellion against the whole marriage deal. Sometimes I’ve found myself in the same room as my husband, but not touching, not connecting one bit. Bone of my bone, but the bones don’t fit.

And then there are times, even when bone of my bone is walking a different way across life than I am, tenderness applies a little surgery, and my forehead is resting against his shoulder. It doesn’t matter that he is still mostly stranger after eleven and a half years. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember much at all about me or things that happened after we were married.

There’s a voice that God uses to draw us together. It lisps. It starts talking about my mind, or his mind, and it drops the d at the end. So it says “mine” and means both of us. I don’t know how this works, and sometimes I like to deny it, but then, I find myself resting my head against his, and I’m curled up in our joined world again, a refuge that takes me by surprise when I find it.

Lady in a Green Jacket

Lady in a Green Jacket by Auguste Macke, 1913

I searched for a calming work of art, and ended up looking at German expressionist, Auguste Macke’s paintings. Even with the bright colors, the texture of this painting is soft, not harsh. While there is something mysterious about the lady with her face turned away from us, it is a gentle mystery. She seems alone and quiet compared to the two couples in front of her. I like her beauty. I like that she is important enough to the artist to be the central object, and also the artist respects her privacy by not painting her face.

Objects in the Forest

Objects in the Forest by Alberto Savinio, 1928

This is a celebration of the imagination. This is how pretty and bright and living the junk in our mind can be. Yes, it’s a cluttered mess, but doesn’t that make it all the more important to shed light on it, straighten it out, expose it? Yes, it’s totally different from all the scenery we know about, but doesn’t that make it more interesting, more unique in comparison? Yes, the forest in the background is equally interesting. I want to go there sometime, too. But for now, for this moment, I want to see what our own minds are capable of conjuring. Put the known objects we have been collecting since childhood into black-and-white. Paint the clutter in our imaginations. Write a descriptive essay about it. Write a poem! Be surreal. Don’t bother making connections. Who cares if that ladder looks like the one we used to climb into the haybarn? For now it isn’t even a ladder. It’s a bridge. Or two doorways leading to another land. Or a new form of punctuation signalling the end of a blog post.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, from the American Side by Frederic Edwin Church, 1867

The Niagara Falls come up in our conversations sometimes. They usually take on a mythical flavor because the kids haven’t been there (or to any big waterfalls). We have read books about daredevils going down the falls in barrels. Even Paddle-to-the-Sea goes down the Niagara Falls. Mirette and Bellini walk across the Niagara Falls on a high wire. The falls show up in poems about America. They are often photographed and painted. But for us, all those things are quiet. I would like to go there someday and feel the spray and hear the roar. I’d like to get dizzy from staring at them so long.

Usually, I’m okay being limited to places I can drive to within an hour or so. I’m okay not going overseas to get immersed in other cultures. I’m fine with Wisconsin. But there really is something about Niagara Falls that makes me want to see it. From a safe distance, of course.

The Meadows

The Meadows by William Langson Lathrop, 1897
The Meadows by William Langson Lathrop, 1897

This artist is from Illinois, which explains why the landscape is familiar and home-like to me. Illinois isn’t very far off from Wisconsin. In its sparseness I find comfort. It is simple, not too bright to dazzle me, and not too dark to sadden me. I like the puddles and the straight horizon. I like the two tall trees on the fenceline. I even like the cows, probably because they are just two cows and don’t seem to be the most important thing here.

What is important? If you don’t mind, I’d like to tie in some homeschooling thoughts here. What is important is the stretch of meadow, the expanse to walk through. It is important to have puddles to splash in, and equally important to have dry spots interspersed so you don’t always have to be in the water. Like school, this expanse is regular enough to not be scary and rugged enough to provide special experiences. There is a gate to head toward. There are some things around to attract your attention when you get bored with the puddles. But most of all, the education is the whole expanse you walk through. There’s that gate, but no brick path with arrows. There’s the fence, but lots of space. There are slow, chewing creatures around, and maybe in my metaphor, they are like me, the teacher, and mostly I just watch the student and moo at him occasionally, keep my eye on him, walk toward a new clump of meadow and see if he will follow me there.

I am often more rigid than that, but lately, I’ve been feeling like that meadow-approach is better than other approaches.