Thursday, December 22, 2011


Picture this: my mouth is wide open. 

No, I'm not yawning. At least not right now. Though I can try to summon one of those next, if you want to see. There's always one waiting in the wings, but it might not wait for it's cue.

No, I'm not yelling. Though that will swell in my throat later: frustration boils my insides too quickly these days. But I'm getting better at swallowing it back down. I'm trying not to scald anyone.

No, I'm not gape-mouthed in shock. Though all I'd have to do is open one of the bedroom doors and I'm sure my jaw would fall open just like that. Messes multiply overnight, it seems. They breed in the dark. And I'm not sure why but they always take me by surprise.

Picture this: my mouth is wide open and my tongue sticks out. 

No, I'm not accepting Holy Communion -- it's been a long while since I tasted bread like that. You're knocking on the right door, though. 

Mouth open, tongue out, eyes closed. Face tipped up. 

Catching snowflakes? Oh, you're so close now. But no, I'm indoors. Inside my own head, actually. Sitting in the dark. The darkest dark of the year.

What I'm doing is this: imagining the newborn sun stretching over the horizon, its rays reaching for me. When the dawn bathes my tongue, I press it to the roof of my mouth, tasting and then swallowing the light. It fills my gut and enters my blood stream, illuminating my insides from core to fingertip. I am warm. I am the light.

Next time I open my mouth I hope you can see it. I hope I can show it to you. This is my solstice prayer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

something solid

Every time I see it, I intend to knock it down. But I only remember it when I'm in the shower: a cobweb strung long ago, slack now, hanging in the corner of the high bathroom window.

The shower's steam circles around my head and fills my sinuses, rising above me, higher than I can reach -- droplets of visible vapor, airborne. The strands of the web could no longer ensnare a struggling insect, but they catch the morning sun and a delicate string of steam, solidifying both.

I long to wear that necklace of light and water. Elemental pearls.

And so the web stays put.


It's still dark, but dawn whispers around the edges of the sky-- soft, inaudible predictions about the day to come. I would sit here and watch the sunrise but they are all up and wanting breakfast, already breaking the fast of overnight silence.

I get to glance out the front window, though, and I can see the bare branched trees standing there, sleeping but still sentinels in our front yard. They hold their arms outstretched, dark against the predawn sky, thick and solid. The neighbor's porch light shows me a light dusting of snow over this scene, the first of December. I can't see them yet, but I'm sure flakes have settled on those branches.

I wish they wouldn't melt in the light of day.


Fragile. Fleeting. But solid, on occasion.

My thoughts sometimes swirl lighter than air, up and out of me. Sometimes they slough off my skin, falling in flakes, different and intricate. And sometimes, when there's time, they settle or maybe catch on the blue lines of this notebook. The start of something solid on these pages and pages of blank.

And so I close the cover and  hope it sticks.

Friday, December 9, 2011

going back

She is very, very old. The cold bothers her bones but this is her home. She always waits out the winter.

She prefers the rocking chair positioned just so in the living room, where the windows let in the most light. She reads for hours, turning the pages slowly, occasionally. Just when you think she might like to move, when the sun has crept up into her lap and is kissing her face, you see she's fallen asleep. Her eyes are closed, at least. The book drapes open across the armrest. Her hand marks the page.

Is she really sleeping? Is she dreaming?

No. Remembering.

Back and back and back

to today, when the dollhouse sat in a puddle of sun and she stopped doing for just awhile to play pretend with Middlest and Littlest. She laid on her back in that sun but didn't close her eyes and spoke for the doll they determined was hers and looked up through the not-baby's curls as she stepped over her and wondered aloud in the lines fed to her by the older one where has that girl gone. She was warm all over and tucked in up to her chin with contentment. Then the sun was on her cheeks and she closed her eyes for a moment and remembered

back and back

to when the seed germinating inside was her very first and she worked in the evenings after attending the last of her college classes in the mornings. There were occasional empty afternoons. Just right for curling on the couch in that tiny apartment's living room, the one with the windows that were large enough to let in luxury -- long swaths of warm light on those chilly spring days. And she would nap, her feet tucked into the perfect patch of sun. It would move up her legs, across her belly, before finally brushing her face and bringing her back

and back.

She opens her eyes and you see a smile starting. Not at her mouth but the corners of her eyes. Her lips move. You can't hear it but she whispers --


Friday, December 2, 2011


It seems like this should be a metaphor. But it's not.  It's real.

I'm settling back into sleep after answering someone's call, different every time -- one of the kids, or the dog, or maybe just my own bladder -- and a muscle cramp rolls beneath the surface of my skin. Only it's not in one of the usual places like a calf or even the abdomen: it starts at my hairline and drips down between my eyes, clenching in the space that holds all my tension. Fruitless furrows that yield nothing. Nothing freeing, anyway.

I press my fingers there, expecting to feel a knot germinating but it's just the same old grooves, there between my eyebrows, rooting deeper. Ingrained.

I wake up with a headache that recedes slowly, the tide going out. 


I wish this one wasn't a metaphor. I wish it was exactly this easy.

I am a paper crane.

Or at least, that's how I think I hold myself to the world. I've got it all laid out in plain text, in my own handwriting, and then I fold it up with specific intention. Careful creases and deliberate folds until much of it is hidden. You'll see partial phrases and words juxtaposed incongruously. The lines won't fit together. But there will be wings. The bird could fly.

He thinks I wear my heart on my sleeve. But that's not it, really. He's just very good at reading the words that show.

But he's already at work and it is three and me -- and something happens -- and there's that something, again, making me raw and wobbly. No crisp edges here. I'm unfolded, inside out, flat, in front of them. My corners won't come back together. My edges won't line up. Because I'm not, really, a paper crane. That's just a metaphor. I'm full of spit and salt.

Yes, I cry. And I hate it.


Here's another metaphor. But it's also real.

The moon hangs there. Waxing or waning, neither of us knows, a bit more than a sliver right now.

But I can see the outline of the rest of it. It's what they call earthshine, I guess.

I don't really care what it is or why it's there. I needed to see it today. Because it suggests the whole, even though less than half is visible. It promises change, more or less to come, but definitely change. It will not always be this way, whatever way that is right now. Another phase is nigh.

As a physical reality, this earthshine takes my breath away. As a metaphor, it gives it back to me.

Either way -- I thank the heavens.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

clash and crossing

There is a bridge I've gotten to know pretty well. It marks the turn-around on my running route.

It's older than the others in the conservancy, spanning the stream narrowly with slats that run the same direction as my tread. It smells distinct when damp. Like rot. And mothballs.

My footfalls feel uneven and muffled. Hushed, unlike hollow ring of the newer, neater bridges. The ones with the perfect, gradual arch and the uniform spacing.  I like this one better.

I cross my bridge alone, mostly. At a run. At a walk. Thinking. Spaced out.

But if I ever have a companion, the vibrations of our steps clash just so and the whole thing bounces in a subtle but slightly unsettling way.  Just enough to remind me of my position, suspended above the water. Somewhere between here and there. Vulnerable even though completely supported. 



Everyone's in bed. Even the refrigerator's hum quiets and silence settles like a snowfall, a soft dusting over everything. I'm stretched out on the couch, holding an unopened book.

I'm staring off into space when I notice it.

The clock.

It talks in ticks and tocks all day but never audible over the tide rushing in and out, high and low, the sounds of a life loudly lived. But it's a mechanical shout right now, not to be ignored, marking every second that's here then gone.

The rhythm nearly matches that of my heart beating -- but not quite. There's a space in between so the thump falls a step behind the tock -- just so -- and the sound and the sensation clash. The reverberations bounce across my belly in a subtle, but slightly disquieting movement from within. Just enough to remind me of her position, suspended over time and vitality. Somewhere between here and there. Vulnerable even though completely supported.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I know I don't have twenty minutes, but maybe ten. Maybe five. Or just one? I know I'll be interrupted. But I'm starting to need this. Every. Day.

So I fold my legs under myself and sit on my feet. I close my eyes and exhale everything.


When I'm in this space, I rarely think about my hands. They just rest where they want to. But I've heard about the difference -- palms down means grounding. Palms up means receiving.

I seem to always need whatever gifts are floating around me so I make the conscious decision to accept them. Palms up.

The Littles play down the hall, in their castle. {This is day three of it's construction. Blankets off beds, toys and chairs rearranged to prop them up. We take it down at night to clothe the naked beds, but they resurrect it every morning.} They are anything but quiet but their laughter is what lives in my landscape.

And so I sit in the other room. A point on the periphery of so much motion, but still, at the center of things. 

It really isn't long before Littlest pads into the room. Her socks are gone.

I almost cringe. I almost tighten. I almost resent. But before that taste even creeps into my mouth, she plunks herself down on my lap. Right onto my upturned hands.

A gift.

I accept it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

coloring my cheeks

The sun is still bright. Too bright, sometimes, and I squint. Shield my eyes.

But what little power it has weakens daily as the earth tilts away and it cannot warm my face. I've grown pale these last months, summer's mark completely faded.

Now would be the logical time to put on a little blush to brighten my face. But I've been applying heat instead. 

It starts with my morning shower, water as hot as I can stand it. I scare away the cold with steam and my skin reacts by reddening. I'm not boiling my flesh but I try. It feels so good. 

I pour warm foods down my throat. Chicken soup at 9am. Tea all day long. Warmth in my throat, in my belly. I feel it in my face.

I crank the heat in the car, directing the vents right at my face. The temperature soars and my cheeks turn pink and this is exactly what I needed.

I try to hold the warmth in with layers. Tanks tops under long sleeved shirts under sweaters. Socks up to my knees. Slippers. Always. But the heat escapes. The color quickly fades.

And so the best way to feel warm and alive, I find, is to stoke my inner fire.

One way to get the bellows going is to just move. So I go running or practice yoga when there's time. Sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, when I have to.  Wiggle around with the kids when I can.  My blood flows faster, circulates better, and I feel lit from the inside.

But even more effective (and often more elusive) is the thing that happens when I'm sitting still.

Maybe I'm tutoring a student and I have to think hard about how to construct the thesis of her essay. We throw ideas back and forth and we really get somewhere. I'm so excited about her essay that I want to write the whole thing myself. I don't, of course. But I leave the session feeling primed. My cheeks are flushed from the mental exercise.

Maybe I'm writing something of my own. For once the ideas run down my arm like water. I don't even have to wring my hands to get them out. I'm lit, head to toe, with the creative spark. My face glows in the firelight and I can't remember ever feeling cold.

But then there's this: I'm sitting with my legs crossed, my spine tall. I imagine the crown of my head to be not a barrier but a portal to my insides. I watch prana -- energy -- trickle in and saturate the grey matter of my brain. It spills into my spine and drips down each vertebra, eventually percolating through all my bones and tissues. It fills me. With energy. With heat. And I am so, so warm. Flushed with life.

Sometimes we use makeup to feel a bit more beautiful. But I've been putting on heat. To feel a bit more--


Thursday, November 17, 2011

letter to eldest, age seven

Sometimes I forget
that you're not a teenager, when you stomp down the hall
with steps that sound louder than your size one feet.
When you shout not fair or stand
like a statue over some stubborn ground.

Sometimes I forget
that you're not an adult, when you wait
with your tank full of patience, while your sisters
completely lose it.
Or when you speak some bit of wisdom
about kindness or friendship or
not making someone else feel bad,
truths it takes most people
a lifetime
to learn.

Sometimes I forget
that you're a child.
Until I sit completely still for twenty straight minutes
watching your face as you sing with expression
through a book of poems, rhymes you learned at school. 
Until I feel your mittened had slip into mine
as we walk to the bus. Still small.
Until I watch your bright face through the bus window
as it pulls away
and you're waving
like you mean it.

Then I remember
that you're stepping every day
into bigger and bigger shoes.
And that the sunrise tomorrow will look
mostly the same as the one I saw this morning,
only subtly different because of the tilt of the earth.
And I might not notice until you're coming up
from a completely different direction
that you've changed

into a teenager
and then an adult.

So I'm trying to memorize your face
your voice
the feel of your hand

So I won't ever forget
when you were a Child.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Back when Middlest was still the littlest, she was terrified of the open bathtub drain. You couldn't let the water out until she and all her toys had been lifted ashore, safe on dry land. There could be no compromising about this. No hurrying. Though we explained and even showed her that objects and people are much too large to pass through, she remained skeptical. She feared the deep and the darkness and the unidentified, never-ending space that exists on the other side of that shiny drain cover. She could see a tiny bit of it in the crack that let the water out, and Down There must have been so vast in her mind. It had to hold all that water, didn't it?

Eventually, she grew most of the way out of this fear, but she still never lingers in the tub once the drain has been opened. She still doesn't like any of her toys floating unattended while the water goes down. But she isn't nearly as frantic about it. She seems to trust, beyond her fear, that she'll stay here, even after the water is gone.


I've been sneaking in tiny yoga practices a couple times a week, 20 minutes in the morning when the kids are playing or maybe watching a little TV. {It's been lovely. Day-altering, really.} I usually conclude with the legs up the wall version of savasana (meaning, I lie on the floor with my legs up the wall, literally).

I was in this place yesterday morning, breathing deep and visualizing the blood flowing out of my legs and saturating my brain. I imagined that my worries and doubts were flowing that direction, too, but not pooling in my head. No, all that stuff would enter the Earth where it supported me and drain drain drain away. Out of me and into something much bigger that could hold all that and not feel heavier. God? Maybe. Sure. I don't know. I can't even call It anything with words but I can say thank you. When I'm sitting upright again, palms together. I press my thumbs into the bony outline of my eyes and say it more than once. Thank you. For absorbing everything I simply cannot carry.

Because I could hold onto all of that, afraid to let it drain, afraid to let it go, afraid of the bigness of Whatever it is that supports me here and keeps me from disappearing through the floor.

And sometimes, I am afraid. Sometimes, I still hold on at least somewhat, watching warily as all the things that bother me and overwhelm me and make me sweat float around in my mental tub.

But I think I think I think I think I may have grown out of that fear, mostly. I've heard about it and seen it and really really really felt it, how light and full of light my whole being can feel when I've let go.

But it takes trust, I think, to release and surrender. Trust that even after the last of the water has drained out, there's still something left. I'm still here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

with love from my muse

So you're waiting for inspiration? You think stories will just come to you and characters will whisper in your ear? That's very nice. Good luck with that.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but no one is going to come knocking. There will be no story waiting on your step when you open the door, ready for you to unwrap. It never happens like that. Well, maybe it does. But I'll tell you right now you are on no one's mailing list. So sorry.

Maybe you've heard? Inspiration is a myth. All that you'll find is this: work. What? You don't have time for that? You need to learn more about writing fiction before you can actually write it? You have no ideas? Nothing to write about?

The ink in your pen is all dried up because you never use it. You're not trying.

Consider this. You are surrounded by ideas. Something like 6 billion of them. They walk past you every day. You see them. You hear about them. They talk to you. Listen. Watch. You will find ideas peeking out from under every rock if you just turn them over.

Forget about anything as grand as plot for now. You're not ready for that. You need to learn how to enter someone's head. Breathe life into the dead. And follow their paths and their reasons for being in the light and in the dark with no one noticing you are there.

Do that, and then we'll talk. We'll see.


Okay, I heard you. Point taken. No more whining. No more putting it off. No more waiting for the gift that isn't going to come. Time to write. About you. And you. And you. And maybe a little bit of me. 

So if you tell me about your day, I'm warning you. You might end up in my notebook. 

But don't worry, I'm just practicing. 

Monday, October 31, 2011


Driving home from preschool drop-off, Littlest fell asleep. (She doesn't nap anymore -- this is a general rule she set up for herself). I saw her in the rear-view mirror dozing off in stop-starting stages, until the stairs eventually slid out from under her and she tumbled into the sort of sleep that's complete with gentle snoring.  Never in her life has she transferred from carseat to crib and stayed asleep, so I drove to the state park up the street and parked.

I found a scrap of paper -- the back side of a reminder sent home from school -- and a pen buried under old receipts and wrappers. And I wrote. It was silent (except for the snoring). For a full thirty minutes, I sat in a slice of blue sky on a very grey day.

When she woke up, I folded up my scrap and we drove back home. We picked up and dropped off and picked up and dropped off and ate dinner and went trick or treating. And when the day was done, entirely done, I unfolded the paper and sat down to type it up. To finish my last blog post of the NaBloWriMo challenge.

I typed for awhile, squinting at my scrawl and transposing the words from scrap to screen. But then I looked at it. Really looked at it. And I selected all and hit delete. I refolded the paper and slipped it into the recycle bin. It wasn't what I wanted to say at all. It didn't come out right. The words weren't worth re-reading.

But that wasn't a wasted half hour. Not at all. I don't have any words to show for the time I stole for writing while Littlest napped. But the feeling of it -- the unexpected quiet, the pen in my hand, nothing else to do and nowhere else to be but here -- was worth more than a whole month of blog posts.

And that has always been the point of this.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


There's something in my mouth.

It feels like something alive. Squirming at the base of my tongue, right there at the precipice of my throat.

I'm afraid to part my lips at all. To speak. To take a deep breath. Because I am sure the thing will leap out and I'm not sure what it will do. All I know is this: I will be ugly.

So I clench my teeth and swallow and swallow and swallow. But the kids are fighting and no one is listening to me and its too loud and I think I think I think I was a person designed to live alone.

This is the other thing I think I know: I can't do this.

So I lock the door of the bathroom and sit on the floor with my head between my knees and the shaking clawing thing seeps through the cracks of my scrunched up face and drips onto the floor while one child tantrums on and on and is now crying come back, mama.

And I do. I go back. When I'm calm and even and capable after siphoning off some of what sat in my throat all morning. But it's still there. I know it will well up later. And it does.

She crawls into my lap saying web web. She hands me The Very Busy Spider and commands that I read read. And there it is in my throat again for no reason but I have to open my mouth so I shove everything down, packing it into my esophagus. The words come out all wavy anyway and in someone else's voice. I baa and meow in this strange pitch but by the time the owl hoots at the end I'm normal. She's too little to notice that I wasn't. I'm glad about that.

I drink some tea and I think this washes everything down. I can talk for the rest of the day, at least. But I'm a little worried about what's sitting in the pit of my stomach.

Perhaps by tomorrow, it will be digested. Whatever it is. Broken down and assimilated while I sleep so I feel whole when I wake up.

I hope so.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

learning to get there

Every time, its like this:

You put one foot down and then the other. You go lower, step by step. Slow sometimes. Or maybe you take the stairs two at a time. But eventually -- after a couple meters or maybe it takes a whole mile -- a switch somewhere flips and the stairs go flat and your feet go out from under you and you slide down the rest of the way. Into sleep. Into unconsciousness.

It feels good. It refuels. 

But when you meditate, that's not where you want to go. And that's not how you want to get there.

So you stay off those stairs and instead walk in careful, concentric circles. You're trying to spiral toward something still and sacred and solely. solely. solely the self. But before you know it you've gone off course, taken some tangent in a straight line away from your center. Maybe you realize it right away. Or maybe you walk until a blister forms and then you feel it how far you've come.

You could forget it right then. Leave that path behind for good. It's not worth it. It's too hard. But instead you turn slowly, curving inward again, until your path follows a new spiral toward the same center.

And you keep going like this, following tangents and finding the spiral, until finally you're not moving at all.You're still. And then the switch flips but its not the stairs shooting out from under your feet. It's the light. You found it. And it illuminates you.

The light in the centre
photo credit: Rosmarie Wirz

Friday, October 28, 2011

joy pockets

finding joy in the little things...

-- a dishwasher! installed! it works!

-- one-on-one time with Littlest

-- a pile of new-to-me sweaters

-- enough time to watch a movie

-- really lovely neighbors

-- curling up with a great read

-- finally "getting it" in meditation -- letting go of thoughts rather than fighting them

-- a little less running around

share yours with me?

5 senses tour

Thursday, October 27, 2011

do and undo

Today, my brother-in-law came over to help install our new-to-us dishwasher. We decided that with a fourth child on the way, having this time-saving convenience in place will likely lower the stress a notch. Keep our hands a little freer, quite literally. It's something we can do.

I watched my newborn niece and toddler nephew (and my own toddler -- Middlest and Eldest are away on an overnight with their aunt) so the work could get done. I love those kids. But, whoa. Bouncing a newborn while pushing two kids in swings (kids who were both crying about who got which swing) -- now that was a flash forward to my life in a few short months. Today didn't overwhelm me, no. It was the weight of my tomorrows that filled my head. When they left, I felt a little undone.

Lucky thing I had yoga class tonight. I emptied all those overwhelming thoughts into the earth as I folded forward. I wrung the anxiety out of my spine as I twisted one way and then the other. It was just what I needed to do to feel capable again.

And then I came home and watched a movie. Inception. Have you seen it? It will surly weave itself into the fabric of my dreams tonight. My legs still ache from holding tension for the entire duration of the film -- as a general rule, my muscles ball up against suspenseful movies. It pretty much undid the effects of my yoga practice.

But I know what to do. I'll just run the dishwasher. It's just the thing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

the soup

Do you want to know the best part of my day?

It was this: 3 o'clock in the afternoon, an hour before preschool pickup. The perfect sliver of time to make dinner. But I was so, so cold. And so, so tired. I couldn't imagine making anything that would make anyone happy at dinner. My tank was completely empty.

So I said fuck it and curled up on the couch with a blanket. And Littlest took it upon herself to make "tea" and "soup" in her play kitchen. She poured the tea directly from the teapot to my mouth and fed me the soup with a fork. My feet were still freezing but my heart -- my heart was singing warm.

And then: home again from pickup and looking at the bare stove top. Nope, dinner didn't make itself.

But! There's homemade chicken soup in the freezer!

Talk about an ah-ha moment. So with an assortment of odds and ends that the Little People would eat, there was dinner. Already made.

The husband did the dishes (god, I love him) and I slid away from the chaos, downstairs and to the work waiting for me. And so with a full and warm belly and a full and warm heart, I finished my day.

I think there was something magic in the soup SHE made for me that turned things around.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I'm paging through my notebook, past the scrawls and story-starts, looking for a blank page and hoping for some inspiration before I get there. I don't know what to write about tonight.

And then, I see it.

It's a note written in a child's hand, tucked between pages of my writing. It sits there like a present, one I know I will be even more breathless to unwrap in those later on years I can hardly imagine right now.

She must have penned it a year or so ago, back when her only font was CAPS LOCK and she spelled words largely without the use of vowels. It reads as a single sentence, taking up several lines, starting with DER MAMA and ending with LOV C-. In between, she tells me the title of her favorite book.

It makes me smile. Of course. Then it makes me wonder: 

Now that she's read so many more books, has her favorite changed? I don't even know.

Why not? Does the laundry stop up my ears? Is dinner all that fills my head? Am I always on the cusp of something, looking back at her over my shoulder, saying uh-huh even while I've got one foot over the cliff and I'm just about gone?

No, not always. But definitely sometimes.

Tomorrow, I'll ask her.

Maybe at breakfast, if I sit down across from her for a second instead of scurrying to pack her lunch. Or maybe when we're walking to the bus stop, if she doesn't bound ahead before I get the chance. If not then, I'll try after school before she starts homework and we start the spiral of dinner and bedtime and work for me.

But I better ask tomorrow. Not wait another day.

Because next time I blink she'll be 15. And I'm not sure that she'll be leaving me secret notes anymore.

Monday, October 24, 2011

twenty minutes

The day has kind of started. I already made breakfasts and let the dog out and walked one girl to the bus. I put the dishes in the sink and changed a diaper and brushed my teeth. There's coffee in my veins and I washed the sleep out of my eyes. But I'm not ready to get all the way ready. Yet. 

I need something, first.

Twenty minutes. That's what I need.

I can take that, and not feel guilty about it. They can handle that, and not really need anything, if I set it up right. Maybe.

So I explain that I'm going to do some yoga and I find something for The Littles to do. Coloring, I call it. Baby school, the Middlest calls it. She will be the teacher, of course. She likes being in charge when Eldest is away.

It's not silent. Of course it's not. I have to step out of Triangle Pose for a moment so I can check out the progress on a picture. Someone steps over me several times while I'm lying in Savasana. And I know the dog is standing right in front of me, staring me down, even though my eyes are closed while I'm trying to meditate.

But I take it. Twenty minutes. It feels so good.

Then I take on the day. And even though there's so much here and there and back and forth and this and that, it's a good one.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I went for a run this morning. It's been my Sunday ritual recently. I like it better than church.

I follow the same route: a path through the nature conservancy near our house. It's wooded and quiet and brimming with birds even though right in town: it's my favorite place.  I usually take the dog. She bucks and and bounds at first, burning off all her pent up energy and eventually settling into something of a rhythm. She refuses to match my pace, though, preferring instead to run ahead, stop to sniff something, then race like mad to catch up and pass me again.

The hill always gets her, though.

It gets me, too. I usually walk.

But today I felt good enough to take it at a run. The incline forced me to lean forward, to exaggerate my running form.  I told myself I not to look at the top of the hill, not to think about the top of the hill. What hill?

My mind flopped about in my skull in the fractured way I think when I'm running. I inhaled images and exhaled ideas. One thing that popped into my head was something I learned in the running/yoga course I attended a few months back.

The instructor showed us how proper running form involved leaning forward, with the action of the legs behind your torso rather than in front. We did some resistance running to practice (you attach a belt to your waist and another person holds the end of this strong rubber band type thing to create resistance while you move forward). We felt proper form. And the instructor said if you ever forget this feeling, just find a hill. You have no choice but to lean forward when you're running up a hill.

And that got me to thinking (this is what happens when I'm oxygen deprived) -- isn't life like that? You work hard to live well. You practice kindness and patience and tolerance and generosity where you can. But sometimes you forget how to do it. You fall into sloppy habits that end up causing injury. But it seems like it isn't long before you find a hill to remind yourself. Some hard thing that you have to hurdle. And then maybe someone extends a kindness to you. Or maybe you fall into instinctual generosity. But in whatever way it plays out, you find your form again. You breathe however hard you have to. You stop if you need to. But you learn again, in another way, how to live well.


As I ran up the hill today, I stopped once, torso pitched forward, hands braced on my knees. Panting. But then I kept going. I made it to the top. And when I got there, the morning sun was slanting all magical and sideways across the scene. Three sandhill cranes stood there at the crest, crossing the path. They croaked their weird and beautiful calls to each other and walked in their regal way into the tall grass before taking flight. I couldn't look away.

There, at the top of the hill, I was already winded. Quite fully winded.

But then? Watching those cranes lift off? I felt breathless.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

the talker and the talked-to

I've chatted with her before. She owns the farm that sets up a few spaces down and across the way from the market stand I sell for. But our conversations in the past were just small talk in passing -- not memorable. Nothing like today's.

She dropped off some produce at our stand for some of her customers to pick up, as she wouldn't be there when they stopped by. I asked her the normal questions -- what each customer should get, what to do with the produce if they didn't come. And somehow she migrated from those topics to telling me about some dramas amongst her farm workers. About the politics of selling to various wholesale venders. About her marketing philosophies and how she is a person, not a business strategy. I kept looking over my shoulder, assessing the busy-ness of our stand and making sure my partner was able to handle all the customers. We weren't particularly busy, but there was a steady stream of people at our stand, and though I was interested in what she was telling me, I had a job to do. But it didn't feel possible for me to break away from this woman's field of energy. I felt trapped. She talked on until finally someone interrupted her to ask me a question. I seized my out. She eventually left.

After the market ended, she stopped by again to make sure her customers had picked up their produce. She asked me about myself -- what else do I do aside from the market job? I told her about being home with my girls and another on the way. And before I knew it, she was telling me everything from the story of her daughter's birth 30 years ago and why she doesn't advocate home birth even though she loves everything that's natural to how and why she and her husband started their farm. Again, I was interested in what she had to say -- she has an unusual and inspiring story.

But I was tired. My knees hurt from standing. And I really had to pee. All the other vendors had cleared out and gone home, and we were the only ones left in the lot. I was ready to call it a day. I shifted from foot to foot. Shielded my eyes from the sun. Still she talked on.

Finally, I picked up my bags in the middle of a stream of her consciousness and started to wade through it toward my car. It felt awkward, but she had shifted from telling me about how her father came to approve of her farming lifestyle to the story of a cut she had on her finger from a staple that was sticking out of a crate. It felt like a good time to wiggle out of her energetic web.

As I drove home,  I didn't feel solitude even though I was alone in the car. Something of her came with me. Not in a negative way -- I didn't feel weighted down -- but I felt more full of her than of me. She was the giver. I was the receiver. I heard a good portion of her life story, while I think I said about four sentences during our entire interaction.  I marveled at her ability to talk and completely miss social cues. And I wondered at my passivity and my inability to send those cues more directly.

Did anything of me go home with her? I doubt it. But perhaps she felt lighter, more alive, after giving me some of her "stuff."

She would talk all day. To anyone, I think. How completely opposite from me. I would listen all day. To anyone, I think.

And perhaps this -- our completely opposite natures -- was the reason I felt so stuck to this woman while she was speaking. She held me in place. Not maliciously, no. It was just what her energy did to mine. I'm not sure I've ever experienced anything like it. And I'm not sure I want to again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

a dream, a discovery, an awakening

I've never been a very vivid dreamer. And if I do retain something from wherever my mind goes when it's asleep, it's usually vague feelings of disquiet: the sense of being chased, of falling, of losing something. So when I had an unusually powerful dream a couple months ago, the feelings and images that remained with me sparkled like bits of light breaking in from another world.

This is how it went.

In the dream, our newest baby had been born. A girl. And there was a deep darkness all over the scene, a feeling of disappointment and dread and total let down. Because of the girlness of this baby. I sat on a set of stairs, curled up and crying.

And then my grandma approached me. (She passed away about 6 years ago). And the hug she gave me was very like her earthly hugs -- strong, meaningful, lasting more than just a moment. She spoke into my hair, saying, "She's healthy, and that's all that matters." I felt a sense of release at that moment that remained with me when I opened my eyes that day.

Gender wasn't something that I had been worrying about at all -- I mean, a boy might be fun, but we always say we'll take healthy either way -- but the baby's wholeness has been on my mind since this pregnancy news first started sinking in. I have always felt an abnormal foreboding about this baby for no reason that I can place, and this dream -- this message -- felt real and reassuring.

Today, we had the routine 20-week ultrasound. For a couple weeks now, I have been thinking of this baby as a boy. For no other reason that it just has to be, right?

But when the tech told us it looks like another girl! I felt this totally unexpected twinge of let down. I really don't even know why. I truly like raising little girls, and I think a boy in the family would throw us all for a loop. But in a good way, of course.

All the organs and growth and everything they check for in a routine ultrasound like this look normal. As far as they can tell, we have a healthy girl growing in there. That was the news I needed to hear. But still, I felt this pinch of disappointment. Nothing overwhelming. Something like a pebble in my shoe. But I hated it. It shouldn't be there at all. Here I am with the happiest of news, the most sacred of blessings, and I want something else? Ridiculous. But I couldn't shake it out.

And then my mind wandered back to that dream. To my grandma's words and mostly, to her hug. I shook my head and that pebble right out of my shoe. Of course she's so right.  And of course THIS is so right. This girl. My girl. Naturally, there will be drama in the teenage years and maybe a little too much estrogen around here at times. Maybe having a boy would have off-set some of that somehow. But truly, this girl will even us out. Complete our circle. She'll be one of four daughters. Four beautiful sisters. And if the way the three we have now love one another is any indication, she will never feel anything but warm. And that, above all, is what I want for any child of ours. To know they are loved, no matter what they look like or who they are or where they go. Loved.

thanks, to you today and always.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

still life

a gust of wind. a single oak leaf. final threads shook and broken, it floats to the ground.

and then it's on the pavement, brown on grey, shunted into the gutter by the wake of a passing car. and now it's undistinguishable. just another leaf in the pile.

but did you watch it fall? did you see how it rocks laterally, turns over and over itself, even sometimes gaining altitude for just a single frame of vision on some unseen up-current? it descends, for sure, but gently, in stages. now plummeting, now drifting. cradled by the same air that draws color into my cheeks.

It got its 15 seconds of fame, that leaf. Not when it was a brighter hue, up there in the neighborhood canopy. It was just part of the general autumn glow. Not now, as a dry and crumbling cast off, a ghost of summer scratching around on the pavement. But then -- when it danced on it's way to the ground. Then, when I watched it fall. Then, when it imprinted in my memory and stays there still. In motion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

almost empty, an end-of-day haiku

i've scraped the bottom
of my last nutella jar
and the writing well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

here is the end

this is a story. i started it last week. i pulled it out of my ass. it was fun. 

parts 1 and 2
part 3
part 4

here is the end.


You're all done? Mom calls from the kitchen.

Yah, I lie. I never finished shoveling the walkway but I'm not willing to explain why so I don't go there.

The house smells like chicken soup. I linger in the hallway, putting my things away deliberately, neat for once, while I wait for my heart rate to slow and my breath to even out.

Then I take on the kitchen.

I grab a bowl, fill it up from the pot on the stove, and sit across from Mom. She's looking at the newspaper. Dad will eat on the road. I take a bite.

Mmmm, good bread would have been perfect with this. I'm putting my toe in the water.

She nods, distracted. I should have picked some up. Next time. 

We eat in silence for a few minutes. Have you ever tried making it yourself?

Bread? No, it's never been my thing. She looks back down at the newspaper. This is a dead end so I decide to throw the door wide open.

Has Annie ever made bread for you?

She doesn't look up. A long time ago. That's all she gives me. I know how it is. Normally I'd just leave it alone. But I need this. So I keep going.

Did you get what you needed, then?

I'm half expecting that she won't answer. So she surprises me by looking up with a sort of smile on her face. Yah, she says. I got you. 

Well that's sure not what I expected her to say. But it makes sense. I could ask a million more questions but I let it be. It's enough. She's done with her soup anyway, folding up the newspaper and standing to push in her chair.

She washes the dishes and asks about my day. I talk, like this is normal. It's not.


It's 1a.m. when I come out of my room. Dad has been home for a couple hours and has finally gone to bed. There is no way I can sleep.

So I open the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook binder Mom keeps next to the microwave. I find the bread section and pick out the first and simplest recipe. I've never done this before.

The flour I find easily. Salt, sugar, water, butter. No problem. I have to hunt a bit for the yeast, but Mom keeps an old meatloaf pan of various packets of things -- you know, taco seasoning, gravy starter, stuff like that for just in case. There's a three-pack of active-dry yeast in the back of this makeshift file. We sometimes make pizza dough. Actual bread can't be too much different.

Actually, it's pretty much the same. I'm surprised we've never made this one before. I don't use the electric mixer and it's handy dough hook for the kneading, though. I have to use my hands. That's the whole point.

I sprinkle flour on one section of the table and plop down the blob of dough. I look at it for a good minute, wondering exactly what I'm supposed to do. And then I just dig in, pressing and folding because that's what feels right.

Knead my name into it. That's what she said. So I start thinking Annie's name in my head. Not the word, really, but...the...imprint. The way it feels in my mouth when I say it. The way I felt when she spoke to me. The bare walls in her house and her see-through hair and penetrating eyes. The dough warms in my hands. My arm muscles feel the unfamiliar exertion but something else too. Something that starts like a few then a million little needles pressing through my skin, through my tissue, right into my bones. It's bad and good but mostly good. I want it to stop. But mostly I don't.

I knead far longer than the 8-10 recommended minutes. The dough changes under my palms from somewhat sticky to completely smooth and even elastic. When I can see my heartbeat in my vision -- strange pulsating dark spots -- I decide it's enough. I let it rest.

I doze off while it rises and bakes. I take it to my room to cool and sleep the hour before dawn with a loaf of bread on my desk. I leave it on her doorstep in the morning, wrapped in foil. I ring the doorbell but don't wait for her to answer it. I'm late for school .

When I get home in the afternoon, I'm not surprised to see the commotion across the street. The lights, the people, the in and out.

Annie is dead.

Monday, October 17, 2011

good enough

I found this quote from another lovely blogger, and it sums up why I write here just about perfectly:

We write to taste life twice -- once in the moment and once in retrospection. -- Anais Nin

Today was one of those days that was busy and normal and unremarkable overall. But it was still a day lived. Still a gift to unwrap, opening in beautiful, ordinary moments that sparkled in the sun before slipping into yesterday and yesterday and yesterday, buried until perhaps forgotten.

Unless I write them down.

::It is still dark when I wake up. Of course it is. But nothing pulls me out of bed other than my own desire to be up -- no alarm, no child -- and it isn't even a terribly early hour. A very regular time. When Normal People start their days. This makes me smile -- Normal? -- eyes crinkling against the sleep still stuck in the corners of my eyes. I take the one remaining muffin all to myself and fill my mug with coffee. In silence. And I watch the sun rise for a few minutes, fire behind the dark sentinel shapes of the trees, before anyone needs me for anything. Namaste, I whisper to the newborn light. Namaste. 

::We walk in the door after a windy, chilly park outing. I take off my jacket and am cold in my thin cotton shirt. Cold in my socks on the bare floor. Cold cold cold to my core. So I put on a sweatshirt and a vest and slippers and heat some tea. I sit down and listen to the Littles play. Watch the sun turn off and on as the clouds pass through on their way to Somewhere.  And slowly, slowly, the fire spreads from my middle to my toes, from my chest to my fingers, until I'm warm. Rekindled.

::We're driving home from dance class. Eldest is a talker. Always has been. A constant stream of narration and reminiscence and speculation and sometimes even passionate remonstrance. There's a fair bit of repitition but I'm working hard to stay here and hear everything she says. Sometimes I have to work against rolling my eyes. Other times she knocks my socks off with some stained glass shard she seems to just find in the gravel. Today it is this: we're talking about her homework reading, and I remind her that the teacher said she can read silently if she wants, rather than aloud to a parent. She remembers the time she threw a huge fit about reading to me. Then wonders aloud why she got so upset about something like that. I remind her that it was very upsetting and important to her at the time. Still, she says, it seems silly to scream about. She grows and moves on and can even look back with clear hindsight. She's learning more than how sentences fit together to form a story, it seems.

::It's the end of the day. I'm done working and my eyes are crossing. I wish my contacts were already out and my teeth already brushed. That I already went to the bathroom and changed into my pajamas. And especially, that I already wrote a Really Great blog post. Because right now, I have nothing to say. I try to continue my story, but it comes out uninspired at best. I close my notebook. Then notice the quote I posted next to the computer. The one about why I write. And so I forget about Really Great and just write. And what comes out is good enough. For me. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Top Five Reasons I Will Not Wake Up Early Tomorrow

Every Sunday, I make these grand plans about what I could do with the extra time I'd earn by waking up early. Monday, I could write. Tuesday, a yoga practice. Wednesday, walk the dog. Thursday, go running. Friday, free choice! It could be wild. Who knows?

And then every Monday morning, I turn off the alarm (either when I'm up to pee at 2am or while it's sounding) and forget the whole thing. It's just not worth it.

Maybe it's because my body needs the extra sleep since I'm growing someone else's. Maybe I'm lazy. Maybe I go to bed too late. Maybe all of the above.

But every Monday afternoon, I get get angry with myself for ruining my own well-laid plans. Because I don't really have any other time to do the things I'd like to develop into daily habits. But beating myself up doesn't change anything. Tuesday doesn't dawn any differently.

So tonight, I'm just going to get honest with myself. Here are the top five reasons I WILL NOT WAKE UP EARLY tomorrow morning.

1. it will be cold. i will be warm under my covers.
2. it will be dark. i will want to hibernate.
3. it will be early. but not early enough. a child will wake up within minutes anyway.
4. i will not be accountable. no one is waiting for me but the dog.
5. nothing, nothing, nothing will be more meaningful or worth my time or growth-facilitating or life altering than closing my eyes for a few more minutes. the only bummer is that i'll be unconscious and won't know anything of the bliss i'm experiencing. but bliss it will be, nonetheless.

You're right. Forget it. I'm not even setting the alarm.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

what am I on, part 4?

The wind blew a whole lot today. I sold vegetables at the farmers market and hung onto my hat and our tent. I took home a bountiful haul of squash and turnips and mustard greens and chicken. Then I hung out with the kids and made dinner and did the dishes and gave them a bath and put them to bed.

And in between the cracks of all that, I thought about the little bit of fiction I've been playing with, and I got down a few more paragraphs. I'm loving writing it this way...a little at a pressure to know exactly where it's going until I start to go there.

So, here are the first two parts, in case you missed the beginning.

Then I added some more.

And here's the continuation....


She never told me that.

No, she wouldn't. Her voice is soft, directed at the bare walls and not at me.

She's right. Mom isn't exactly an open book. If you want to know something, you have to ask. And you better know the right question. But I'm surprised Annie knows her well enough to hit that nail so squarely on the head.

The steam from the cup in front of me rises like a curtain between us. I decide to hold my questions. So I pick up the cup and let it warm the winter from my hands. Whatever is brewing smells spicy and sharp and deep. I hold it to my lips but its too hot to sip. I set it down again. It's something to do.

I notice the clock ticking. The furnace humming. I look into the tea. Maybe the answer is there -- is it my turn to speak? Annie seems to still be looking at the bare wall. I hope she's not falling asleep. Old people do that sometimes, right? Suddenly she speaks.

Give me your hand. 

Okay, this is it. Some sort of voodoo is going to happen now. I don't cringe or draw away or hesitate. I just hold out my right hand. Whatever she's going to do, I want to know right now what it's going to be.

She takes my hand in both of hers, sliding her thumbs under my palms. Her skin feels hot to me. Not in a feverish short of way. But almost -- electric. I don't want to pull away.

She sits still as stone for a minute and my whole body starts to get warmer. I'm burning. And then she let's go.

I thought so, she says as she sits back in her chair. I leave my hand on the table. I can't stop looking at it. The clock ticks and the furnace shuts off. I'm silent for a whole minute.

And then: I felt that, I say. I hear the accusation in my voice but I don't correct it.

Then you will do it. Knead my name into some bread.

I look up and meet her eyes. They're piercing now. Beyond blue. I nod once. Then I get up, grab my things, and I'm out the door. I run down the driveway and across the street with my jacket unzipped. The cold shoots through my sweater and snakes around my stomach. I can't inhale fast enough by the time I reach my front door. I'm breathless.


maybe next time I'll finish it?

Friday, October 14, 2011

joy pockets

Rounding up this week's Joy Pockets...

--conversations with both my parents (that left me feeling lighter)
--a kind introduction (from a fellow NaBloWriMo'er)
--writing every day (even when I didn't feel like it)
--an ultrasound to anticipate (next week!)
--a phone message from an old friend (even though we still haven't connected)
--really good pumpkin muffins (that I made with hubbard squash from the farm) 
--a successful Halloween craft done with the Littles (inspired by one of the first blogs I started reading)

Where did you find joy this week?

Thursday, October 13, 2011


she holds a balloon. her very first one? like a ball but so light.
and then too much pressure or maybe just chance and 
pop -- no, KABLAM -- it's gone. nothing between her hands where there was
just miliseconds ago
a prize.

her tears are real.
mine are knocking.
i can't tell her

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Golly, I'm tired today. Are you tired? Yes? Let's slide into a story together, then.

Here's the first part. 

And here's some more:


I've never been inside her house. Is that weird? I've lived across the street all my life. Shoveled her driveway on occasion. Mowed her grass when Dad paid me to. Threw her bread packets away when Mom wasn't looking. But I've never been in here.

It's not what I would have expected if I had thought about it. The walls are bare but riddled with holes picture-frame-width apart. A recliner faces the front window and that's it for living room furniture. But the kitchen looks fully stocked. The dining table is circular, surrounded by a full set of chairs, tableclothed, and set with two blue pottery tea cups. A loaf of bread rests between them.

Your name is not on that one.

I don't have to ask what she's talking about. She shuffles toward the kitchen. I know I'm supposed to follow but I just watch her move through the room at first. She's small, somewhat stooped, and moves slowly. Old, of course. But there's something about the way she holds her chin that speaks of strength. Like she's not quite ready to bow to whatever force bent her spine and shrunk her bones and makes her skin hang loose on her frame.

She's already filling the cups with steaming water before I think of offering to do it for her. So instead of speaking, I unzip my coat and pile my winter gear in a heap on the linoleum that lines the entryway. The snowflakes that rode in on my shoulders have mostly melted. I leave my boots side by side on the welcome mat and wonder if I should have come inside after all. Maybe Mom will wonder where I am.

I used to make bread for her, you know. 

I still don't respond. I'm not sure what to say. So I cross the room and sit across from her at the table.  Her hair rests on the top of her head in a small bun that's so thin and wispy I'm not sure how it could stay in place. When I finally meet her eyes I'm startled by the brightness of her blue. Such a contrast to her see-through hair, off-white sweater, and faded pink blouse. I find my voice.

She never told me that. 

No, she wouldn't. Her voice is soft, directed at the bare walls and not at me. 


Aaaaand, that's all for now. I'm going to bed. Sleep tight!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

how dog poop made my day

I took the Littles for a jog today. Nothing long, probably not more than a mile and a half, with a stop at the park partway through. For them, it was all about the destination. For me, it was all about getting there.

I don't usually enjoy pushing the stroller. It interrupts my stride. It adds extra weight to the experience when usually just dragging myself along is plenty. And despite ample snacks for distraction, the space simply gets too small for siblings to sit quietly. For added difficulty, because I guess I like it like that way{or maybe because the dog just asks so nicely to come}, I tether the dog's leash around the stroller. But she often balks at the no-time-for-sniffing pace. I tell her to suck it up and just run.

But today was a particularly lovely day and the Littles were cooperating particularly well. I actually felt pretty strong, and if you overlook the fact that my pelvic floor seems to have stopped functioning the way it should (OMG), it was a great run.

The sun, the scent of fallen leaves, the perfect temperature...the whole thing was simply a sweet exhale (punctuated by some rapid inhales, of course, but those kept me alive). The kids had fun at the park, and pretty soon we started up the steep hill toward home. The dog chose this location to do her business, which was slightly irritating given the angle of incline and the weight of the stroller and the starting-to-bicker kids {and the consistency of her mess, but I won't go into that specific detail}. But then --

A man walking down the hill stopped and said since he was on his way to the park shelter he could take the bag and throw it away for me. It looks like you have your hands full already, he said.

Yes, yes I kind of do, I laughed. So I handed the bag to him with so much thanks.

But who does that? I mean, I've had folks offer to return my grocery cart for me or pause an extra moment to hold the door. But carry my dog's poop a half mile so I wouldn't have to deal with it? Now that's what I call a random act of kindness.

I shared this story with Eldest over her after-school snack because I thought she'd appreciate the weight of what this guy did for me. She understands the finer horrors of dog poop, having stepped in it on several occasions. Barefoot, once. I thought the story might make her laugh but instead it prompted her to tell me a story in return.

There was this one time on the playground when my friend fell in the wet mud and I was like 'oh no' and took off my jacket to help her dry off. 

Her tone wasn't all -- look what I did -- but more like -- I know what that means, random act of kindness. It absolutely made me smile. And then we laughed together about dog poop.

So today, even though the pretty sky ended up clouding over, I'm feeling especially warmfuzzy toward humanity. I mean, maybe we're not so bad as a species after all. All we need to do now is stop shouting at each other across the lines we've drawn and start carrying each other's dog poop. Stop shooting each other, even, and start wiping the mud off each other's faces.

Hey, it could happen, right? It starts right here.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

another installment

Okay so it was fun starting that little story yesterday. It got ME curious about what could happen next. So I added some more. I put yesterday's words in small font so if you already read that, skip ahead. The new stuff is normal size. 

Please know that I'm totally pulling this out of my ass as I go. I hope I could come up with something more refined or more intelligent or more....I don't know...layered? if I spent more time on it. But maybe I really couldn't. I have yet to find out. Anyway, I don't have gobs of time to spend figuring out something stellar, so I figure I might as well put something down. It's fun, if nothing else. And that's what this is all about. 

Okay so, back to the story.


At dinner my mom hands me a foil package and says nothing but

it's from annie.

I roll my eyes and unwrap it, cringing even before I see the lump of bread I know is inside. This time it's brownish grey and speckled with darker dots. I don't even want to know what it's really made of. I close the foil back up.

maybe you shouldn't throw it away
she says.

what, eat it? this?
My gag reflex kicks in at the very thought. But there's something in her voice that makes me stop. Not really a tone but a catch in her words that I've grown up with and learned to love and to hate and it means that whatever she's saying is probably right. I hate being wrong.

But I peel back the foil again and give it a timid sniff. It makes me think about

sweat and grass and tears and puke and so much sun

What the hell. I shove half of it in my mouth -- it's only the size of a small roll. The taste doesn't hit me until I swallow. It's weird. Not bad, just...weird. Like not really a taste at all but a clenching of all my taste buds into a single point at the center of my tongue. I eat the other half as I walk up the stairs to my room.

Then it's homework and bed and a whole school day. None of that matters. It's what happens next that completely changes my life. 


I'm at the starting line. This is it.

The. Big. Deal.

I'm running in the sectional cross country meet, the race that will either advance me to State or will simply be my last. Even though I'm pretty good, I've never gone to the Big Meet. It's always something -- an injury, a cramp, or more likely, just a bad day. But this is my last chance. Senior year. Now or never.

When the gun goes off I take off fast. Too fast, probably. Everyone falls from my periphery except the girl in front of me. Her shoes become my shoes and I don't think but just move move move move.

I'm not even a half mile in when I start to feel it. The weird clenching of across the plane of my tongue. It feels familiar but my head is already in a fog and I can't place it. But it's louder an any other sensation in my body so I hang on to it. I am my tongue. I am those shoes. I think maybe this what happens when you run faster than you really can. You start to go crazy, at least a little bit.

But crazy or not, I run fast. It's not that I don't feel anything -- my lungs are fireworks and my legs sop up lactic acid like literal sponges -- but I feel my body and mind occupying two separate spaces. My legs and my lungs are somewhere miles below me.

I don't win the race. The Shoes in Front of Me take off in the last half mile and there's no way I can go with that girl. I'm passed by another runner ten yards from the finish. But I take third. And that means I'm going to State.

Mom hugs me at the finish like it's the first time she's ever seen me.


You're probably thinking this is a running story now. That the thing that changes my life is the race. That I go off to State and place well and end up going to college on a scholarship running for a division one team.

But no, that's that's not it at all. I'll tell you now that I take one hundred and forty second place at the State Meet, with a time significantly slower than what I did at sectionals. State is completely forgettable. It's what happens when snow starts to fly that is worth telling you.


I'm going to die soon, you know.

It's Annie. Her voice sounds compressed. Snow muffled. Like we're both standing in a narrow box. She's in the doorway, speaking through the screen door.

I'm shoveling her driveway in this mid-December dusk. Mom asked me to come out here and get this done and I didn't say no because otherwise Dad will do it and he won't be home until I've already been tucked into my homework for several hours and I know he'll be a lot tireder than I am right now. It will be colder and blacker by then, to. Now, in the little light left from the day, streetlights make the air glow purple and create a back light for the slow falling snow flakes. It feels weird out here. But in a good way.

I can count on my left hand the number of times I've heard Annie speak and this is one of them. She's usually just a face in the front window. Wrinkled. Watching.

I look at her but don't respond to her statement. It settles around my feet without melting and I take a couple steps toward her door. She speaks again while I'm in motion.

You will learn about the bread.

It's not a question. I still don't say anything but just let the shovel fall in the snowdrift and climb the three steps onto her front stoop. She opens the screen and I go inside, my breath still steaming. 


uhhhh, that's all I got. More tomorrow? Or another day...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

a story that started spinning as i drove home

There's nothing about me that I feel like telling you today.

All I can say is: Humpf.

But that wouldn't be much of a post. And I'm supposed to be posting every day.  So I guess I'll just make up a story. Okay, part of a story. I'll finish it later, maybe.

We'll see.


At dinner my mom hands me a foil package and says nothing but  
it's from annie.

I roll my eyes and unwrap it, cringing even before I see the lump of bread I know is inside. This time it's brownish grey and speckled with darker dots. I don't even want to know what it's really made of. I close the foil back up.

maybe you shouldn't throw it away
she says.

what, eat it? this?
My gag reflex kicks in at the very thought. But there's something in her voice that makes me stop. Not really a tone but a catch in her words that I've grown up with and learned to love and to hate and it means that whatever she's saying is probably right. I hate being wrong.

But I peel back the foil again and give it a timid sniff. It makes me think about

sweat and grass and tears and puke and so much sun

What the hell. I shove half of it in my mouth -- it's only the size of a small roll. The taste doesn't hit me until I swallow. It's weird. Not bad, just...weird. Like not really a taste at all but a clenching of all my taste buds into a single point at the center of my tongue. I eat the other half as I walk up the stairs to my room.

Then it's homework and bed and a whole school day. None of that matters. It's what happens next that completely changes my life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

dismissed, too early

I knew, no matter what, that I would never buy from him. 

I mean, who smokes while selling at the farmer's market? I don't care if you go behind your truck to do it. Isn't that sort of opposite of what the market is about? To good health and all that? You obviously don't know.

Since I work at the stand next to his, I smell his smoke often. And I sealed my dismissal of his honey early and completely -- with a dollop of disgust.

But standing ten feet away from him for several hours each week, I couldn't help but listen. And here is what I learned:

He has been keeping bees since he was eight years old. He's one of the few keepers who doesn't use chemicals on his hives. His self-appointed assistant for all things bee is his five-year-old granddaughter. She affixes labels. She even has her own bee getup. I've heard him tell this one story several times, about how he was watching her once when she was a baby and he couldn't figure out how the diaper fastened so he used duct tape. He gives free logo-printed cloth bags to customers who buy the biggest jars of honey. He has his regulars and a steady stream of customers, some of whom swear by the bee pollen he sells. It makes them feel better, they say. He has a basement full of homemade wine and he cans the vegetables he grows. He gets his large jars from restaurants and his wife sometimes uses them for storing flour and oatmeal. He appreciates it when customers return them.

He has a story. 
He sells good honey.
His prices are reasonable.
He is a nice guy.

How quickly I was ready to dismiss him, based on a single action.

Okay, he smokes. Okay, I'm not a huge fan of that. But why judge? When I could first listen.

I bought a new jar of honey today. From him. Four pounds.

It's really good.

Friday, October 7, 2011

fifteen minutes

Write. For fifteen minutes. That's the instruction.

Okay, no problem. So I get out my paper and my pen and I try to pry open my head. I sit and sit and sit as I wander my mental landscape. Today, a desert. One good thing is I haven't seen any quicksand yet. Though maybe it would help?

A few images about doors and locks and kicking things down shimmer a few miles away but they all stick their tongues out at me and slide through my hands like scaly slippery stinky fish. I trudge after them but don't bother with my nets. They were such a drab color. And they couldn't be real in all this sand, anyway. How on earth would they breathe?

I look up at the clock. Fifteen minutes gone, maybe more. Does this count? I hold up my paper. There's nothing there. Invisible ink? I say it with a laugh. No one is amused. But I know myself. I know how I write. It doesn't come out if I say hey. just. write.

When does it come out, then? After I've thought and thought and stood on my head and shook myself by the ankles. That gets pretty interesting. And it doesn't always work. Okay, it only occasionally works.

So. Try.

Alright. I press pen to paper and start to go on and on and on and on. I end up writing about writing and finally about the owl I heard through the basement window while I brushed my teeth before bed and how I wanted it to mean something or be something or say something but it was just an owl. I went to bed with disappointment stuck between my teeth. I always forget to floss.

I heard it again at midnight. It woke me up. This time I just listened through the cracks of my sleep. And then at dawn it spoke to me to me to me. Right to me. It asked who. And I didn't say anything but just pressed my palms together and touched my thumbs to my forehead. Then my to heart.

There. Fifteen minutes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

room temperature

Summer has been exhaling her last breaths around here, bequeathing to us some truly gorgeous days.

The biting bugs have mostly gone to rest, the sun warms but doesn't really burn, the breeze wafts the musky scents of autumn all over everything. What do you call days like this? Perfect? Heaven? There are no discomforts to speak of. No extremes. I can only sigh and term this a room-temperature day.

We tend to complain about the deep chill of winter. The suffocating heat of summer. But without the change of seasons, days like these wouldn't get a second glance. So I'll put on my coat in the winter. Retreat to the shade in the summer. And inject days like these straight into my bloodstream.


My two littles have been playing side by side all morning. Right now, they've devised some game that involves pouring water into a bucket until it overflows onto the picnic table and dribbles onto the ground. There's much excitement about placing another bucket under the waterfall and reusing the water in the first bucket. This process doesn't get old for a very, very long time.

I'm seated nearby, listening and watching. Thinking. Mostly on the periphery but easily drawn into their circle. The whole scene is so normal but I'm wrapping it carefully and tucking it into my pocket. Because this is one of those moments. The room-temperature kind.

No one is fighting. No one is demanding. There's no discord. Not between them. Not between us. I'm not trying to get something done. I'm not trying to hurry us in any direction. We're just here. In a moment of total comfort. I can't help but sigh.


Back inside, the temperature is a little cooler. I put on my sweater and make lunch. We move through the business of eating and getting out the door for preschool.

On the way home after drop off, little youngest finds much to be upset about. Everything, really. It's a long drive for me. Her noise assults my senses, the sun (what, that gentle sun?) beats through the windows and I'm cooking in this stupid sweater. I yell at her to PLEASE. STOP. CRYING. She doesn't.

I feel icy but at the boiling point. A short nap helps (me, not her). We carry on with the afternoon.

But yoga class helps even more. For all the usual reasons, of course -- the deep breathing, the turning inward, the stretching and strengthening and surrendering. But I'm also given a gift of sorts.

My teacher talks about the moon as a calming, soothing presence. And as we move through some moon salutations, she asks us to imagine a full moon lozenge, resting between our jaws. It shimmers on my tongue, never melting. I suck on it all the way home.

It tastes like coolness. Like shade. A balm for those extreme moments. A hint of those room-temperature ones.

I only have to remember to keep it in my mouth.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

simply ten

taking a cue from SouleMama, boiling down the day to ten good things.


it's not too hard to do
with a life like this


~a small-bodied, big-voiced singer serving as my alarm clock {even though it was 5am}

~the ecstatic smile and wave through the bus window {i don't embarrass her --yet}

~an hour of luxury reading while the littles played intently {how i devour you, hunger games}

~new! compression! stockings! in! the! mail! {oh, the unsung joys of pregnancy}

~a clean bedspread drying in the sun {can't wait to crawl in}

~eating the cake she made {and the joy on her face as i took "bites" of sand water and rocks}

~the hello hug at preschool pickup {still so short, she squeezes my leg, constrictor style}

~driving through falling leaves {they'll fly right off the car, mama}

~dinner i didn't have to make {dishes i didn't have to do}

~earning money in my pajamas {snuggled under the afghan my grandma made}


and you? what was good about today?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

the girl in the glass

I step out of the shower, skin pink from the heat. Sometimes I try to scald the morning's fog away. It usually works.

I'm warm and cozy and steamed clean, feeling full of my blessings right now. I glance in the mirror. Not at my face but at the curve of my belly. I'm starting to look full now, too. Good.

It's when I lock with my own eyes that I see her. She's leaning into the glass, examining her face, frowning at her angular elbows. Her brows are furrowed. So critical.

What would I say if she could see me, too?

Would I tell her to ignore the boy at school who laughed at her skinny knees?

To throw away that eyeliner because its not you anyway?

To take calcium supplements starting now because you'll avoid that stress fracture sophomore year?  

Should I remind her to thank her parents more genuinely because theirs is the kind of love that's real?

To inhale the scenery at every step, drinking in the journey, even though you can't see what's around the bend?

And should I tell her to just sit tight because see this belly? You'll meet this kid's father in about a year. If he seems like a nice guy from the start, believe me when I say he will mature into a fine man. The very best kind. And he'll never notice your skinny knees, I promise. 

But I doubt that girl would listen to my words even if she could hear me. Her head is full of doubts and dreams, and I stand half a lifetime away from her....30 seemed so old when I was 15.  My words wouldn't mean anything to her anyway. So I keep my mouth shut. She doesn't need to hear my voice. She's doing fine, finding her own way, even if she feels unsteady on her feet sometimes. 

Besides, I really like where she ends up.


Playing with the NaBloWriMo prompt: what advice would you give your 15 year-old self?

Monday, October 3, 2011


As soon as I picked it up, it felt wrong.

I should have just set it back down. But my brain had already fired the command to move forward and inertia held everything to that specific groove. Almost like it was laid out ahead of time. Like this was meant to be.

When the bottom of it grazed the top of the kitchen chair, the soft clunk of contact whispered gonner up my arm and into my ear. I had time to imagine the million pieces before it actually shattered. And then it was at my feet. In about seventeen pieces, not a million. But certainly beyond repair.

I mopped up the dregs of my drink and put the pieces of the mug in a paper bag. In the trash. Later, I discovered the bottom portion, the entire base of the cup, shorn artfully along a curved fault line. I put it on the counter. It could almost hold water. Never mind the fact that it would slice your lip wide open. It sat there for a couple days before I finally threw it away.

That mug was my favorite.

An old friend.

Maybe I considered it to be lucky. It started most of my days {filled with coffee. and a splash of milk} And I made it to the end of all of them. If that's not luck I don't know what is.

But now it's gone. And hey, I'm still here. Good thing I never put much stock in lucky charms.

But that curved fault line is lodged in my mind's eye. I see it in myself sometimes, in some places. Threatening. How easily we can break. 

So maybe it was something after all. It left an imprint, anyway.


I joined up with NaBloWriMo again this year {write a post. every day. in october}. Today's prompt was about lucky objects. I guess I don't have one.

Sunday, October 2, 2011



its getting darker in here. the chair is under me. they are talking at me.
i am screaming.

i look again. the two bowls are still sitting there.  
ugh. yuck. no way.

dark. chair. talk. scream. bowls. darkchairtalkscream.
the bowls.

i feel it in my throat. my belly. raw from sound. no spoon in my mouth.

dark. chair. talk. scream. bowls. darkchairtalkscream.
the bowls.

i close my mouth. brighter room. bowls gone. i can have something else if i get it myself.
i ask for the bread.

i look up at her and she doesn't look right. mushed face. she sets the bread on the counter.
hard so it makes a sound.

what's wrong mama. she doesn't answer. i sit down with the bread.
it's good.



i can't believe
i'm sitting here at this table with three crying gagging children. eating my dinner which should be good but i'm not even tasting it. only tasting anger. growing. boiling. scalding my mouth.

i know i should
swallow it
nearly two hours in the kitchen chopping washing stirring and

i get up. i'm done.

why on earth am i crying?

i go out. sit down. let it fall.
it's good.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


And this is how it always happens.

You're down deep. Stuck at the bottom of some hole you dug for yourself. Lying there, immobile, the sun positioned in the sky so it shines right in your eyes and you can't see a thing. All you can think is, God, this sucks. Why you ever got the shovel out in the first place baffles you. It's all so stupid.

And then suddenly -- you're out. It happens so quickly the breath skips from your lungs and you curl at the edge of the abyss, panting. You watch a pebble bounce from the rim down the sides and you can't see it but just hear it hit the bottom. It's very far down there. What a hole to dig. To fall into. But how on earth did you get out?

And then you see it. The thing that rescued you. And what strikes you first is not gratitude but disbelief. At how normal the thing is. Ordinary. Household, even. But in a kind of ghostly form. Wispy, ethereal. You can see right through it. It's from here and there. This world and that. So, so ordinary. But beyond beautiful.


Today, for me, it's the toys. Everywhere. No clear walking path. No clear sitting place. How did it get like this? I'm putting most of it away myself but muttering about trash bags and donations and rules and someday it will be clean around here. I do the cursory, obligatory, internal reminder that when such a day comes, I will, in fact, be very sad. I'll miss the mess.

But not right now.

Ugh, not right now. 

When the couch is clear enough I flop down on it. Slouch sideways and put my feet up, knees bent.

Immediately they come. Carrying more toys. I sigh.

I'm handed a small plastic animal and asked to be it. I hop it around the air in front of me and respond where I'm supposed to and somehow this is all very entertaining to them. It's actually kind of fun.

Behind their small frames, I can see the gray sky out the front window suddenly brighten -- a break in the clouds. The wind gusts and shakes the pooled rain from everywhere -- water streams down in the sun. Leaves blow around crazily and acorns tap tap tap on the roof

I'm looking past the kids but at them and their faces glow in the strange sudden sun. And then --- tap tap tap from the inside. A knocking on my womb. Someone saying, hey, I'm here too.   

For a minute, I don't move. Don't shift my gaze. I hang on to all the pieces of this moment that just so completely stunned me. Feeling very breathless, very rescued, and very here. At the surface again.

And then it's time for lunch and we abandon the toys on the floor as we head to the kitchen. When I step on one later it doesn't bother me at all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

way up in the sky

On my hip, her legs hang down to my knees. Her nose runs in the cold, cheeks surprised and red.

I point out the moon, hanging halfway to the horizon, an odd spot in the morning sky. She looks at me.  

Touch she says. It's a question. I laugh and start to tell her that its far away

but then.


Try I say. We both reach out. It's warmer than I expected.

We walk home and her chin lifts high, exposing her warm neck to the whole wide world.

Sky. Move move move move she says. The wind shoves the clouds forward and the hair away from her face.

I don't need to look up to see what she sees.

Yes the sky is moving.

It's magic to me, too. 

Monday, September 5, 2011


The path I run is a circle. Like always around the same question -- where are the words?

I walk up the hill. And at the end take off my shoes and socks and sit on this cool concrete.

Still outside. All of me.

First: closed eyes, crossed legs, thinking about only the breath. Morning sun filters through the backyard oaks, shifting sun and shadows over my closed lids. More breath.

Then: feels like faces, inches from my own, moving closer then away. Games of sun and shade. But I imagine lips moving, hands reaching. I'm still. Open. But I can only hear that traffic and these leaves.  I can only feel this breeze drying all that sweat.

There are stories right in front of me. I want to know them so I can taste them. So I can tell them.  But my eyes are closed and I can't see them.

Hi, Mama. I turn my head and see her face pressed against the screen door. My lips -- my eyes and ears, even -- lift and shift into a smile.

So finally, this is it: the only story I know right now is my own.

Hi, Baby. I go inside.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

a start

All I could find
to write on
was this narrow
strip of paper,
the width
of which truncated
my lines into
something that
looked like a
poem but was
in fact

I was thinking
about running
and racing
and another life,
about lungs
exploding and
everything wanting
to stop but not
stopping because
that's not
what you
did, in a race.

Now I like
to stop. Have
to stop. Or
not do it at
all. That's
how it is
and I don't mind

But I always
start up again,
even if all that's
left is down
the block. Because
I want to.

I stopped
writing stuff
down for a
long time
because I forgot
or my mind
was full or
empty and
now my
guts are burning,
my limb are

I still have
nothing to say
but I found
this narrow
strip of paper
and filled it
up because
it's a start.
After a

Friday, August 26, 2011

be here now

When I tell some people, I feel guarded. Self conscious. Pregnant catches in my throat for two weeks before I tell the folks I work with. For no good reason, of course -- they are kind and congratulatory.

But when I walk up to her it tumbles out. Four, I smile. She has that many, too. They're all out of the house and she grows and raises and crafts food with passion and runs her own business and she looks so strong standing on her own two feet and I hold her up as a model for what I could be after all this. When she smiles I can see her laugh lines. Oh, how I wish mine were still young. I hear her past threading through her words.

I'm not there but I know what she means. I hear what she's saying. Live here. Live now. 

So simple. But so hard. At least for me.


Dishes done, one girl napping, two girls playing. Notebook in hand. I haven't opened it yet when the Awake Ones find me. Request candy (just one piece?) and ask me to play a game. Of course I will. One day they'll stop asking. I know this. 

But one smacks her gum while I shiver and the other fidgets across five square feet of floor, wiggling under my skin. I have to remind each player of her turn. The space vibrates with their noise. I'm starting to get annoyed. I'm starting to wish myself somewhere else. With my notebook, maybe. Or with my pillow. And definitely alone.

But then, for once, I remember what I've been reading. About finding now by finding the breath. (I know. I've written about this before. I'm a slow learner, it seems.)

So I notice the in and the out. The rise and the fall. And I notice how annoyed I feel. It doesn't go away. But I'm here, feeling and playing, and suddenly very Aware that annoyed is an emotion -- it's not what I am.

The feeling never really goes away but I set it aside, on the edge of my periphery. Out of focus.

No one wins the game. It goes on too long and we all agree to quit early. When I tell them I had fun its mostly true. My feathers are all lying down, at least. 


It's later. The napper is up and busy with cups and water in the yard. The other two play in Another World of their private creation.

Okay, now's the time. I open my notebook and set down a few lines. She looks up from her cups and sees me sitting there. Her wheels turn while she plans her approach. 

She plants her damp bottom on my lap, thinking she's so sly as she slides the pen from my hand and oh-so-stealthily scribbles over my page. Her smile is so satisfied.

I just watch.

Soon she's asking about Eeeee's and Oooooh's and we're filling my writing space with capital letters. She says H like eight and watches my mouth as I tell her double you. That one mystifies her. Her joy seeps into me as sure as her wet dress soaks through my jeans and cools my skin.

She won't remember this -- she's too little. But I will. Because I don't need to breathe to be here this time. I just am.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I feel it wherever I am. In whatever I'm doing. In quiet space like Ironing at Night, Doing Dishes During Naptime, Walking the Dog Alone. And especially, most notably, in loud spaces like Mealtime and Cartime and Bathtime and They Need a Referee Time.

It's a tightness around my mouth. Tension I hold there, captive, where it whispers about the wrinkles that are carving my face into a map, historical, that tracks patterns that I thought were invisible.

But whenever I am here enough to let it go -- let my mouth relax outside and in -- I feel a sigh travel up my cheeks and across my scalp. Down my jawbone and all over my neck. But always, moments later, the clench creeps back into my lips and tongue and palate, pulling closed what was just open. I try to practice letting go again and again, but this pattern runs deep beneath the surface. It owns me.


I walk into class expectant but unsure what yoga will say about The Joy of Running. All I know is that I used to enjoy running, back and back in another life when I was fast and good and had all the time in the world. But the only thing that's fast about me these days is the rate at which tired and done set in. With lungs exploding and shoulders slumping and various injuries knocking at my door, I've always quickly given up any attempt at resuming running. I hated it.

So I'm all ears when he talks about teaching the body new patterns of movement through yoga and drills and then not worrying about it in the moment but trusting that the body will remember what it learned and the elegant posture that's nothing but natural will feel good and efficient and leave room from the mind to notice all the things it loves about sweating and breathing and being outside.

We work from the ground up. Talking about the feet and how a light step starts with firm grounding. About pelvic flection and using the most efficient muscles to bend the knee. About a strong pelvic floor and a strong low belly. About coordinating movement across the planes of the body. About finding the sweet spot in shoulder alignment. About exhaling fully and -- interestingly -- relaxing the roof of the mouth.

I take these tools home with me and find myself running fast and having fun -- and -- stopping often. But stopping isn't the enemy, I learned. Run -- walk. Exert -- rest. A productive pattern that keeps the heart rate up and allows me to enjoy the exercise. I am in love. Sore, but in love.


I want to enjoy everything more. The quiet spaces. Even the loud spaces. And I have a hunch that letting the tension drain from every little moment is a way to start from the ground and move up, changing old patterns and trusting that with time, my body will learn to help my mind meet loud and quiet, stress and leisure, exertion and rest with equal composure and presence and peace.

And just like in class, where we started the process of teaching our bodies with yoga and drills so that the run could be effortless and enjoyable, I need a place to practice, outside especially the loud moments that can sometimes totally take me over.

Can daily meditation be that practice place? I was working to meditate a single minute each day earlier this year, but that intention evaporated at some unknown point. I stopped. Gave up.

Maybe it's time to start again.