Back at Home are Mike and I: Jottings on art, parenthood, and home

Well, we’re back from Thailand and we hit the ground running this week. Although, after a full week of looking at this on Koh Tao…

And this on Koh Samui…

And strolling through resorts…

And buying satay off the beach…

And dining in lovely seaside restaurants as the full moon rises over the ocean…

Well… let’s just say I wouldn’t expect any sympathy from anyone if I tried to complain that we’ve had some re-entry shock with getting back to work. So I shall just say that we’re well and truly back at work.

Mike returned to scores of emails and the usual collection of unruly work-related campfires needing to be tended (and, in some cases, extinguished). I have returned to a new schedule of memoir work in the mornings and consulting work in the afternoons.

I’m jotting this down in between switching from memoir to drafting a distance learning chapter on personal resilience. I have ended this morning’s memoir work without much idea about how to fix a tricky chapter transition. Or, maybe more accurately, how to fix a tricky whole chapter.

That would be chapter, uh, two.

Sigh. I hope something shakes loose on that front this week as I am determined to finish this edit before the baby arrives. Because, of course, after the baby arrives my life as I know it now will end. I will never again find the time or energy to write anything worth reading, and Mike and I have probably just gone on our last truly relaxing holiday and enjoyed our last meal out at a lovely restaurant.

OK, so maybe I’m being just the tiniest bit melodramatic. But I have to admit that stalking my genuine happiness about this coming baby is no small army of fears – fears clothed in thoughts similar to those above. So, as I get into a serious creative writing rhythm again, I was particularly delighted to stumble across a great article recently called The Parent Trap: Art After Children.

Frank Cottrell Boyce writes:

There’s a belief that to do great work you need tranquility and control, that the pram is cluttering up the hallway; life needs to be neat and tidy. This isn’t the case. Tranquility and control provide the best conditions for completing the work you imagined. But surely the real trick is to produce the work that you never imagined. The great creative moments in our history are almost all stories of distraction and daydreaming – Archimedes in the bath, Einstein dreaming of riding a sunbeam – of alert minds open to the grace of chaos.

Writers have produced great work in the face of things far more stressful than the school run: being shot at, in the case of Wilfred Owen; being banged up in jail, in the case of Cervantes or John Bunyan. Yet that pram is lodged in our imaginations, like a secret parasite sucking on our juices.

While I would argue that it may, in fact, be easier to write while locked up in prison than while trying to get kids ready for school every day, I loved this article for standing in opposition to some of my fears. Well worth reading if you are an artist with a family, or thinking about having one.

In addition to all things babies I’ve also been mulling on all things home as I start to pick up the threads of my memoir once again. I stumbled across this poem by Emily Dickinson recently and it intrigues (and baffles) me. Anyone want to help me out by offering their thoughts on it? I am particularly confused by the last two lines – about feet retiring and faces remaining.

Away from Home are some and I

Away from Home are some and I —
An Emigrant to be
In a Metropolis of Homes
Is easy, possibly —

The Habit of a Foreign Sky
We — difficult — acquire
As Children, who remain in Face
The more their Feet retire.

Thanks for dropping by!

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12 responses to “Back at Home are Mike and I: Jottings on art, parenthood, and home

  1. I gave the last two lines of the poem about five minutes, and then forced myself to stop the pondering. I can be a bit obsessive about this sort of puzzle, and then find myself wondering where the two hours went! Perhaps she dreamed this one and left it exactly as it was! (Referring, of course, to my last post!)

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed your time away. The photos are beautiful!

    • Yeah, I have no idea with the whole dreaming thing either. I do know worries and anxieties can work there way in there in unusual ways. But, often, I think dreams may not mean all that much.

  2. I can’t say anything about the poem, but I try to maybe comfort you a little:
    We still have great relaxing holidays and lovely meals in restaurants since we have a child. Sometimes it’s even more fun than ever. Life will change as you try to integrate another person, but you will still be you.

    • Thanks Corrie, Yeah, I know we will probably do those things, even if not quite at the rate we have done them before. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

  3. could she be talking about the wanderers of the world? about those whose faces remain in the memories of their parents and loved ones, while they keep trodding through this wonderful, bruised, and joyful world?

    • That’s a great interpretation… best one I’ve heard yet. But I still find all the shifts difficult to understand. Right before that she’s talking about acquiring habits as children, and the switch to (presumably) adult global nomads is separated only by a comma. I will continue to ponder, but thanks so much for this contribution!

  4. My guess on Emily would be similar to Tanya’s: the faces stay with us though the people are now far away.

    Although I am not a parent, I know a number of creative, talented women who managed to stay pretty much as-previously-known after they became parents. At least that’s how it looks to me from the outside. Tanya is one of those who appears to me to have retained her creative self. Not sure if it seems the same to her, from the inside, or not. Just don’t forget that you are Lisa McKay, and having a baby is an expansion of your life, not a co-opting of your life.

  5. I stumbled across that article on art and children a while back, and promptly saved it for my future self. 😀 It’s a great article, and interesting to think about the intersection between life and art.

    As for the poem… I’m as baffled as you are. I think Tanya has the best guess. Otherwise it seems to be suggesting something about the child-like-ness of the traveler (because we always think of children as being full of wonder and openness)… perhaps? It’s the feet retiring part that confused me most.

    • Hmm, yes. Maybe she is talking about some quality of kids. So confused! I think I quite like the poem, but I feel ridiculous saying that when I don’t even have a clear interpretation for what the ending means. I mean, I may have been wrong in my interpretation (or will be wrong, when I settle on one) but it does seem to me that you should know what you think about something before you declare you like it. Nonetheless, I find myself liking this poem.

  6. Hi Lisa!
    Haven’t a clue on your poem, but must comment on The Boy Thing! After an initial compunction to laugh like a drain that we now share a common fate, I’ve started to worry that your recent intensive exposure to our family has negatively affected your desire for small boys of your very own… Understandable if so! I think the best -and worst- thing about parenting is that you can experience almost every emotion under the sun, in less than 24 hours. And I would say that having babies has enhanced my creative drive, although admittedly I have less time to pursue it. I do remember worrying that baby was going to take over my whole existence, but I found I was/am still the same ‘me’, just with a new set of challenges, passions, interests and aspirations. Overall though, it’s such a short period in our lives, and an opportunity like no other to learn deep things about oneself and God. To be seized with both hands! love xxA

    • Never fear, it wasn’t your tribe that did it. For some reason I just had a preference for a girl from very early on, but am rapidly getting on the all things boys bandwagon. I can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip by the way – do put me on any newsletter or “hey this is what we did” email list, should you draft up such a thing. It was very quiet around here after you guys left! That’s good to know about your creative drive, too, and thanks for the reminder on the short period as well. Good to keep in perspective at times during the next couple of years, especially, I’m sure! Baby’s going well at present, kicking up a storm, and I’m working hard to utilize this time pre arrival. So far so good!

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