This weekend, I went to hear the poet Naomi Shihab Nye speak at the Ann Arbor District Library. I loved hearing her writing in her own voice. But it was her presence that impressed me the most: firm, quiet, funny, compassionate, positive, kind, welcoming. The kind of presence I want to have- and sometimes have- and sometimes don't. The kind of presence I want my children to have in the world. The kind of presence that comes from feeling good in your own skin.
I was pleased with her praise for Ann Arbor Public Schools, relieved that writers notebooks in elementary and middle schools have the power to overshadow bad financial news in education. I lapped up her talk about how notebooks, libraries and newspapers (and clippings) fueled not only her writing, but her experience in the world. But what really stuck with me was her advice: swerve.
That's right: swerve. Naomi said, "On the path of daily obligation, if you take some kind of swerve, the best things happen. We'll remember 'the swerves.' Do something you didn't plan to do." As I sat listening to her, I evaluated my Sunday so far. I had swerved the day before and registered at the last minute for the Dexter-A2 Run. It was fabulous (even though I had not run for weeks and had a dreadful headcold). I took my children (sans husband!) to the Taste of Ann Arbor even though it was a busy, crazy day with a birthday party, poetry reading, and t-ball hanging in the midst. Fran tried chicken satay (no sauce) and Claudia gobbled Thai food. Also, we finally tried a Michigan bumpy cucpake- pure bliss! Fran strutted around holding the tickets and Blaine heard we were there and left work to see us (swerve!) and we went to the photo booth for the AADL and I hula-hooped in the street. We came home and dropped Claude off for a nap and I returned to the parking nightmare of downtown to hear Naomi. I snuck out early to run through a rainstorm to the van to go to take Claudia to a purple fairy birthday party for a cute 4 year-old and the boys went to t-ball where they were drenched in rain. So much swerving. What a great day.
So we'll keep swerving this summer (between Claudia's naps). We'll keep doing robot karaoke and picnics at the pool and kayaking on the Huron and biking to Summerfest and volunteering at Mott (coming soon!) and making books and taking time to read and write new things. Swerving is fodder for both writing and living.