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Halfway Down

August 2, 2012

The last couple of weeks have felt very in-between. We got back from vacation and put the rest of our downstairs back together (emptying boxes we packed up in March after the flood).  I worked on some projects at work that I’d left hanging at the end of June and that have to be finished before the end of August. I made time to write about one of the books I read while on vacation (A Widow’s Story), but not the other (Redshirts).

And now the kids and I are packing to fly to Portland, Oregon. Walker won the Ohio high school chess championship this spring, so he’s playing in the national tournament, the Denker, in Vancouver, Washington. Then he will stay for the U.S. Open.  Eleanor and I are going along for support and sightseeing while he’s busy playing chess (“one town’s very like another when your head’s down over your pieces, brother”).

I wasn’t excited about having to make this trip at this time of year (for one thing, I will be halfway across the country from Ron on our 30th wedding anniversary), but I’m happy to be able to spend some time with both kids and see some places new to us, even while I’m a little daunted by being the only driver of the rental car. We’re probably packing too much stuff to take with us, as everything comes crashing down almost immediately on our return–I’m driving Eleanor back to Iowa because Ron has a work obligation, and then I have an orientation program, and Walker starts school and during Labor Day weekend he has another chess tournament about two hours away.

So I’m thinking of this poem, from When We Were Very Young:

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where I sit.
there isn’t any
other stair
quite like
it.
i’m not at the bottom,
i’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
where
I always
stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!

There is no last month of summer for us this year; we’re already into the pre-fall-semester rush, with an exciting trip stuck into the middle. It should be fun, but it feels precarious right now.

Among the things I’m packing are a couple of the cards for Trivial Pursuit for Book Lovers and the book I’ve been reading (Infinite Jest), although we are planning a trip to Powell’s while we’re not really anywhere I can yet imagine. I just hope I don’t end up somewhere else instead.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2012 11:10 am

    I love the feeling of this poem. To me it says not that I’m no-where, but I’m in my own special-where just for me. Enjoy your special-where!

    • August 2, 2012 9:23 pm

      Yes, I agree. It’s a very special where. But it’s also a place so in-between that other people don’t stay there for long. I will have to try hard to see it through more of a child’s eye. Now, if only I had a child’s butt for that long airplane ride…

  2. August 2, 2012 12:42 pm

    Awesome poem! Sorry that you are feeling ‘precarious’ – I, too, don’t like to have too much going on that it feels like something just might get missed. But Powell’s! Travel! weeeeeeee

    That video is a hoot! “I can feel an angel sliding up on me…”

    • August 2, 2012 9:28 pm

      You should hear (and see) Walker talk/singing “I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine”!
      Maybe I will find a good postcard or two on my travels…

  3. freshhell permalink
    August 2, 2012 3:25 pm

    Hope you can find a way to make the trip as summery as possible.

    • August 2, 2012 9:21 pm

      My August allergies started up yesterday in a big way, so that lessens my regret about leaving the warm weather behind.

  4. August 2, 2012 4:34 pm

    Better to stay on your special stair than to bump bump bump your way down like in another famous Milne poem about Edward Bear. Have fun fun fun!

    • August 2, 2012 9:29 pm

      I’ll do my best to stay on the rails and have some fun.

      • August 3, 2012 9:06 am

        I have an idea. Aim for having way too much fun (without incarceration), and then maybe you’ll have just the right amount!

  5. August 2, 2012 5:29 pm

    1. I love Chess and own the soundtrack. 2. I am finding that my JCO (Mud Woman) is much better than I thought it would be. How was yours? 3. I can’t read “Halfway Down the Stairs without hearing this version in my head: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGFR3zz12p0. This is the perfect song for my week. Thank you.

    • August 2, 2012 9:12 pm

      We love Chess and wish they’d eventually work out a viable musical so we could see it…the first mistake was taking out One Night in Bangkok, which Eleanor and Walker like to perform as a sibling duet.

      I think A Widow’s Story is my last Joyce Carol Oates book for a while!

      Robin singing the poem is something I had not yet seen. Thank you. And I’m glad it was a good thing for your week, although not exactly glad it suited your week also.

  6. August 7, 2012 7:47 am

    I had only ever heard the Robin version of this, and had never seen the original poem. Like “Bein’ Green”, the sung version has such an air of sad longing to it. What really took me by surprise, and not in a good way, are the exclamation points at the end. It completely changes what was an adult musing on life into an annoyingly Victorian “let us versify for the youngsters” exercise.

    • August 11, 2012 11:31 pm

      I first read the poem when I was very young. And that has made all the difference.

  7. August 7, 2012 8:25 pm

    Oh hey. I feel silly but I only knew this poem from the Muppet Show. Please don’t judge me. I read the other Pooh books I swear.

    • August 11, 2012 11:33 pm

      I had actually never seen the Muppet version until I read the comments on this post.

  8. August 7, 2012 10:07 pm

    There are not enough words to describe how much I love Milne’s poems.

    • August 11, 2012 11:35 pm

      I’m glad to know that. Also, for the record, we have been having an absolutely marvelous time in the Pacific Northwest (I got my feet in the ocean twice), and my allergies completely cleared up as soon as we got on our connecting flight (from Minneapolis). I have taken lots of photos, and a few notes to write about the trip here when I get back.

      In the meantime, I have a new photo for the blog header. It was taken in the Hoh rain forest.

  9. August 17, 2012 5:22 pm

    Now THAT is a poem I like and understand and get!!!

    • August 18, 2012 9:41 pm

      Glad to hear it. I do try to feature different kinds of poems!

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