Friday, June 24, 2011

sounds of summer

The birds chirp sharply, even before dawn. Get going, they demand. The sun is almost up. They want us all to make hay while it shines, I guess. Hush, I tell them as I slide the window shut above my head and roll back into sleep. Not yet. 

Neighborhood construction starts loud and early, too -- a truck beeps into the next-door driveway and workers crack siding off the house before I even shower. Lawn mowers duel, traffic drones, children shout in the distance. Even the leaves can be kind of loud as they laugh in the breeze. Summer vibrates with sound, miles from mute and muffled winter. Separate, even, from the stop-starting stirrings of spring. Summer is everything full blast.

But for me, so much sound actually equals some  silence. Some space. Its true that with all three kids home all the time, a steady stream of voices saturates the air. But while some of this soundtrack splits me open with squawks and squalls and squabbles, the general cadence is a more gentle rise and fall of voices.

Voices laughing. Voices singing. Voices reading. Voices sillying. And much of the time -- voices pretending. Scheming and constructing the secrets and structure of their own little world, building on what was laid out yesterday, inventing the stepping stones that carry the story forward today.

Their voices float across the yard or drift up the stairs or circle around me as they spin from here to there. Sometimes I have to raise mine to referee some argument or distract the littlest from a fragile setup. But there are moments in each day -- stretches sometimes -- when I'm neither needed nor wanted as anything more than an audience. And so I am granted some loud silence. Some filled space. Yes, it's intermittent silence. Volatile space. But still -- space.

And so in this silence, I listen. Even while I'm otherwise engaged, I listen. Resting in -- wrapped up in -- the spontaneously conceived concerto of our unstructured summer.

It's quite lovely.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

waking up

I'm very, very far away. I've been traveling for hours. I'm not used to this.

This distance strips me of my sense of self and place and purpose but its a friendly fog. It embraces without weight. Without warping.

My legs and arms and eyelashes stretch long long longer and then they're gone. I become the road I'm on. The bits of sand stuck in the corners of my eyes. The endless breaths shunting through the shallows. I sparkle in the slow. I drift in the still, with grace pulled up to my chin.

I sleep. All night.

This has been a long time coming.

When my alarm calls for me {not a child's voice, not a child's cry} in the morning, I surface slow slow slowly -- not interested in breathing real air. I roll over and dive back in. Not yet, not yet.

When that voice finally does call, I meet the day with enough rest but this hint of regret tied heavy to the corners of my mouth. I missed the sunrise. The silence. A chance to salute the new day -- alone -- and siphon some of that soft pink from the corners of the sky.

I settle for a sprinkling of yoga across the morning -- downward dog while the kids are eating breakfast, chair pose while they are getting dressed. Which is something. But not, not, not enough.

I am all angles and edges and sometimes -- sometimes -- length. I lean against walls. I let my shoulders fall forward. But I'm still on my own two feet and always -- always -- touching the ground.

I look in the mirror, at one eye and then the other. I can't see them both at once. Filaments of orange dance in the green, around a dark, deep center. Its darker and deeper than I can even imagine.

My best self is in there somewhere and I know I've got to do some digging to unearth her. Below the surface and with bigger tools than just my fingernails.

So tonight I'll set my alarm again.

My soul -- it wants to wake up. We'll see if my body will play along.

Monday, June 13, 2011


This one has been in the sand. One with it, really. A simple brushing-off won't do.

Time to go inside. I ask her to say goodbye to her buckets and shovels and trucks and she waves wildly, spraying my shirt with sand. Her legs dangle from my hip and her feet leave wet prints on my jeans. Halfway down my thigh these days. She's getting so long.

I turn on the kitchen tap and catch fragile quick fingers between my own and rub them clean. The sand disappears down the drain. I linger with her in the trickle partly because she likes it so much but mostly because I do. Cool warm big small over under brimming overflowing in my hands.

I had a dream, once, that she was choking. I couldn't help her. She turned blue before I could shake myself back into the quiet darkness folded around me. Her midnight waking was a relief for once.


Just the other morning, I tell her about a funny dream I had, something about cleaning the whole house with the toy mop.

I had a nightmare she replies. I was somewhere and I couldn't find you. 

Today it comes true.

Dress rehearsal. Everyone is wearing the right tights and costumes and knows where to stand. Time to run through the final bows. A hundred dancers fidgeting in line, unspent energy raising the temperature of the air. Their noise rolls like thunder down the narrow hall. At least that's how I imagine it sounds to her.

My hands hold both of hers. She is shaking all over. She didn't know where I was.

I will find you right away this time. They have to walk across the stage again, this time with lights and music, dark and loud and fast. I leave her with her class at stage right, then dodge dancers and darkness until I reach the doorway at stage left. She crosses the stage. I'm right there but she doesn't see me yet. She's sobbing again.

We go through this again and again until every class understands how the finale should look. She cries every time, hanging on to her fear. Her nightmare. I can never reach her fast enough.


We're walking to the bus stop, the last week of school. She often walks ten paces ahead, pretending that she's allowed to cross these streets alone. But today she slips her hand in mine, no reason given.

This girl was a clingy toddler, fearful of other children, loud sounds, strange places. I remember thinking of her fragile grasp as a tiny bird's nest cupped in my hand. Crushable. Now her fingers wrap halfway around the back of my hand. Capable. In the fall, I might, might, might let her walk alone. I'm thinking about it.

Last night, I woke from the worst nightmare I can remember. It was a jumbled haze of chasing and fear and hot adrenaline, confusing scenes. I held her cowering in my embrace, hiding her from a faceless attacker. But something drew me from her and the next scene was filled with blood. It took me a long time to fall back to sleep after that. The shadows held terrible secrets.


I'm taking a walk with three girls, a stroller, and a dog. A neighbor smiles hello, surveying my scene. My, you've got your hands full.

I laugh. I guess so. 

But that's not really it at all. My hands aren't full.

It's my heart.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


When we first moved into our house, I thought my thumb would green up pretty quickly. (I never had much luck with houseplants in the apartment. But -- a yard! I would do better.) I imagined a bountiful garden and beautiful landscaping.

But I was pregnant that first summer. I fell asleep in the sun while the girls ran circles around me.

And the second summer, my crawling baby wanted to eat every stick and green thing she alighted upon. And she slept like shit. Hanging a load of laundry was about the only thing on my outside chore list that year. 

So here we are, three summers later, and the yard is still full of dandelions. The vegetable garden is a lot of fenced-in nothing. And the spaces where I hoped to splash color are unchecked tangles of whatever wanted to take root.

It's a little sad.

But I didn't have much luck with the few tomatoes we put in the last two years, and I'm not very inspired to figure out why. And honestly, I have a hard time investing money in plants that the chipmunks might chew. Or that might mystify me with sunlight and soil requirements.

This year, I'm sleeping better. But I still don't feel like gardening.


A few months ago, I decided to quit this corner of the internet that I'd been cultivating.  Everything that was coming up had started to look the same to me. So I wrote the last of it and thought I would tuck into my notebook and scribble secrets that would swell into something more significant.

The break felt good. At first.

It was freeing to live sacred moments and ignore the urge to set them to music. To feel everything but remain right-side-out -- rather than laying myself out there: exposed, unwrapped, guts hanging out. 

But the months went by and I picked up my pen only a few times. Made only a few scribbles. And felt myself disappearing around the edges.


Last week, I picked up the dandelion plucker and popped a few by the roots. Soon I had a huge pile of weeds and the yard looked only a little different. But there was something satisfying about the way the stems sounded when they broke free.

I've been sizing up the gigantic hostas along the house. The jungle of ferns that have self-spread around the shed and along the fence. Perhaps its time to divide them? Fill in some empty spaces with plants we already have?

Last weekend, the girls begged to plant something. So we put in a row of peas. A patch of zinnias. I'm not sure if they will come up, but they are watching with expectant eyes. I am too.

And maybe that's enough out there, in here. Pulling things out, breaking things down.

And watching. Especially the watching.

It doesn't particularly matter what -- if anything -- comes up. When there's dirt under my nails, I can see my edges.