phoebe varinia demund
Phoebe Varinia DeMund curses her good intentions every morning the alarm goes off at 6:30, especially when, characteristically, she’s been up late the night before in a meandering meaningful conversation with her husband, or one or both preschool daughters have woken at some point from their angel-sleep to call out during the night. But most of the time, she’d rather be awake, taking it in, her magnificent life of domestic ritual and ordinary routine. She tries to write when she can, occasionally attempts publication, hopes to travel wide and far in her lifetime, and for now, spends her days at home with her family and dog in Sacramento, California.
I rub her back in clockwise circles, my hand’s length nearly her back’s width. Her head is pressed against her pillow, one eye open.
I wonder what she’s seeing, and what words accompany the images, if any. I try to remember being that small. She’s got the ten-mile gaze, which might mean she’s mostly asleep but her brain just hasn’t remembered yet to pull the shutters of her eyelids. Or, maybe she’s replaying the morning, remembering things said. Does she yet fantasize about things she wishes she had said?
She blinks and her eye refocuses on the slope of the pillow created by the impression of her head against it. The white pillow case must rise like a hill, creating an horizon line from her vantage, the shadows telegraphing its roundness, which she may someday be able to see with a visual artist’s eye — in that compressed two-dimensional recognition that it is only color and gradations in color that tell us the shape of the things we see. Touch confirms it, but seeing isn’t touch — a concept that only came home to me when I began to take art classes in college. Seeing is interpretation. Art is translation.
She blinks again and her eye drifts to the bangs from her forehead, falling to the side of her nose. I know that cozy, private den — the dimensions of space framed by my nose, cheek and hair, and the rise of a pillow. Even recently, lying on my stomach on a sun-warmed towel after swimming in cold mountain waters, I was noticing it — though it was my arm serving as a pillow. The light’s play on that small essential sanctuary of time and space, the curve of the bridge of my nose, the remarkably vast and minute distance between the surface of my eye and the surface of my pillow (or arm), the red shadows cast by the fine strands of hair that rest across the distance — it’s holy.
She blinks again and refocuses on me, discovers I’m watching, and, too late, I close my eyes.
She rolls over under my hand, and when I reopen my eyes, both hers twinkle at me.
I wish I were the mama whose eyes twinkled back at her in conspiracy — “Let’s spend this afternoon together letting life break open before us and amaze us.” Instead, I sigh and redouble my efforts to encourage her to close her eyes to dream.
on the nightstand:
- A dusty stack of books I intend to read someday
- My journal and, preferably, a purple pen
- The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
- BIG Little by Leslie Petricelli
- A ticket stub from the Big Trees and Pacific Railway Company
- Pesto made from the garden basil, especially on scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes
- My daughters’ latest developmental leaps — story-telling, representational art, song improvisation, spontaneous and expressive dances
- Long sleeves during the morning and a blanket on the bed at night
- A short-term paying job
what inspires you about autumn?
The sense that it’s time to slow down, stay in, look inward, prepare; the brisk breeze and colder nights; the long cast of light; the yellowing canopy that drapes over our tree-lined street. Also, the occasional, unpredictable, inconvenient, too-hot day, which reminds me that transitions are often naturally kind of bumpy and less than straight-forward.
what’s your idea of the perfect early october meal?
Homemade lentil stew, hearty whole grain garlic bread, and a green salad.
what are three constants in your day?
- Internet linkages to the outside world
- Repeated reminders to my daughters to go potty, get dressed, put on their shoes, not fight, stay in their seats at mealtime, use cutlery, turn off the running faucet, etc.
- A brief, sudden panic about the speed at which time is passing, usually in the late afternoon