Monday, December 31, 2012

Sing Your Story

For some time now, I have been controlling the Universe with my mind. Sorry about everything. Not that Everything is my fault, I'm only controlling a tiny portion of it. For instance, weeks ago I mused to Noah, in one of my "moments", that why don't they hire Tina Fey or Amy Poehler to host an awards show. Low and behold, a few days later came the announcement that they were doing that very thing. Shortly followed another occasion on which I said that some show (or perhaps a football team?) ought to do something, and shortly after--they did. "I made that happen with my brain," I said to Noah. "I know you did," he said, and we clinked our glasses lackadaisically. Of course, there are other things to consider: twice now I have been alone in my house when the television has turned on by itself. After it happened the second time I said aloud, "If you are here, turn it back on." I immediately realized how terrifying that would be and said "No don't don't don't don't don't," and it didn't. I puzzled over this for some time until, lying in bed last night, I realized that both times this happened I had been deeply absorbed in my writing, "in the zone" if you will, and of course the only conclusion is that I had turned the tv on with my mad creative energy.

So you see.

I'm not sure what I'm going to make happen in 2013. When I started 2012 in Longmont, Colorado, I had no idea I would end it in Brevard, North Carolina. I am hoping for renewal. I am hoping my husband will stop working 36 hour shifts (ok, it happened once) and I'll stop feeling like a single mother. What is on my mind lately is that, blog or not, life gives us chance after chance to rewrite our stories. If we don't like it, we can tell it again. If the story refuses to be rewritten, god bless we walk right out and find a new one.

I love you.

 2012: I edited my book, and edited it some more. Then I lost it in a computer crash. Then I got it back in a miracle. Starting in January, I will be editing it again.

I got some bees, who came to me from California, who I would later haul for three days in a van to North Carolina.

I scared the crap out of my kids.
 Indy was Indy.

Ayla was Ayla.

Their dad bought a canoe and used it once.

The rainbow ended here.
We went to visit North Carolina to see if we would move there.

We decided we would move there.

We said goodbye.

This happened to Noah:

The girls and I built a new life in Brevard. We swam in lakes and went on hikes and missed Noah through a long July, August, and September until he finally joined us again in October.

My mom and dad came to visit and we explored Asheville and Noah had to order new contacts and meanwhile wore his glasses, which he hates.

We explored Pisgah forest and saw the waterfalls.

My kids were rad:

I flew back to Denver to visit, and saw my sister's-in-law Lucy, Mercy, and Sophie. I also saw my own sister, but I don't look great in my pictures with her, so.

Christmas break happened (and is breaking me), and we went to Hendersonville and ate ice cream on a cold December day.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Proper Pagan Part II

One thing I love about the South is the deep stillness of a Sunday morning. The town has the silent resonance of the far woods on Sundays before nine a.m. because everybody--everybody--is in church. On the five minute drive to the grocery store, Indy and I pass no less than four churches. First Methodist, Brevard Wesleyan, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, The Church of the Nazarene. All have full parking lots except, suspiciously, the Nazarene. I have planned to visit the grocery store like a proper pagan when all God's people are in church. I do not miss church except for, occasionally, with a pang of sentimentality for the rituals of my childhood. I have memories of brown paper bags on Christmas Eve, stuffed with oranges and apples and chewy peppermint nougat. I have memories of the dry must of coat closets back when certain ladies still wore fur. I still sing "O Come Emmanuel" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "O Holy Night" while honoring the solstice. I can do both. I asked Ayla if she wanted to go to church on Christmas Eve, with the Unitarian church in mind. I have no blueprints for how to raise children who are spiritually informed and aware but not indoctrinated. Ayla said no, and then said, "well, if you want to, we can," in a way that meant she didn't want to hurt my feelings.

I only asked because the pressure to make Christmas special is high this year. I'm not sure which I miss more, Christmas in Colorado or Christmas in California, but I miss both. One was all the traditions of my childhood, the other was mimosas on the beach while dolphins rise in the distance. I don't know how to do Christmas in Carolina, in the rain, without the cousins and the snow, or the sand and sunshine. I asked Noah if he wanted cinnamon rolls and Swedish pancakes on Christmas morning. (He'll do the dinners). "Not both. Don't do too much or you'll freak out. I'M DOING THIS FOR YOU," he mock roared in an imitation of me I found hilarious. "I JUST WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY! ALL THIS YELLING IS FOR YOU. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW??"

He summed up almost exactly how I feel.

After getting our mint, rosemary and thyme, Indy and I push the cart through the chill quiet to the car. "Don't you just love December?" Indy sighs rapturously, her breath puffing the air. Tucked in the van, she shifts to giddy, like any six-year-old two days before Christmas. She pushes herself up on the arms of the passenger seat and kicks her pink-glittered legs at the dashboard. "I'm just. So! Excited! For CHRISTMAS!" When I tease her and say that I thought she wanted lots of socks and underwear for Christmas, her cheer proves indomitable. "Well, it would be nice to have some pink socks," she says sincerely. Earlier I asked her what she wanted to do to make Christmas special. She said she wanted to send more gifts to her cousins. Last night we snuggled on the couch together watching the Grinch, and at the climactic scene when the Who's down in Whoville awake to find all their presents vanished, but gather in the town square to sing anyway, Indy turned to me and said, "That's because he took all their things but he couldn't take their spirits. Their spirits is where their happy lives and he couldn't take that, anyway." I told her maybe they were robots who were happy only because they were programmed to be, thus rendering their bright spirits meaningless. She was bordering a bit Pollyanna, even for her mother. Indy just smiled and said no, that wasn't true, and didn't I think the Grinch had a weird face? I don't worry much about where they'll land, spiritually. I have no illusions about the amount of influence I have on the matter. Last night I lay awake in bed and remembered them both as infants. From the moment they were born, Ayla, intensely alert and sensitive, cried and railed about all the ways and wrongs of the world. Indy only ever had one cry, the one that simply wanted to be held.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Proper Pagan

 Backyard, North Carolina, Winter Solstice. Long after dawn.

Today I wake to Solstice light and the sad truth that I was raised too Christian to make a proper pagan. I would have liked to rise at 3:11 as the Finger of God touched Jupiter (or something), lit a fire, smudged sage, and welcomed in the new era that all the spiritually-inclined people I follow on twitter are talking about. I would have liked to plan a ceremony, done sun salutations, written all my sorrows down on paper, burned them in the light of the first rays of sun, scattered the ashes of every disappointment into the green soft earth of Carolina, where the trees and flowers would have chewed them into food to spark new life. I would have liked to have done all that, but instead I slept too late when I knew I should wake early to beat the rush to the grocery store. Then I pinned a lot of pictures of beautiful things to Pinterest while drinking coffee out of a white mug I bought because Oprah suggested it might be classy. To spark up some fun, I burst in on Ayla, happily playing with her horses in her newly cleaned room, crouching like a linebacker with my fingers clenched like a super villian's and roaring "CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAAAAAAS!" I scared the dickens out of her, which was frankly good for us both. Last night I tried to meditate in bed, which is never a good idea for me because I just end up sleeping. But I wanted to find some peace in the holiday clamor, the most important package that may not be delivered, the bonus that didn't come. I closed my eyes and exhaled completely, hoping for insight to troubling situations: how to heal this earth, how to twice-bake potatoes, how to make both meaning and rib roast at Christmas. At this point I was still thinking I might wake at 3:11 am to the Finger of God. I can never remember the full mantra, so I repeated it silently the way I hear it: May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and may the odds be ever in your favor. Not kosher, I know, but I'm a spiritual gypsy and can therefore do as I please. My mantra and deep-breathing gave no insight to my conundrums, but they did bring me a lengthy dream of Jensen Ackles in a Magic Mike-type situation, which really was better for me than anything I knew to ask for.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Today I want to say that I am overwhelmingly glad to be home with my daughters. We are listening to carols, even though. We are baking cookies, even though. My mind went crazy this morning, bouncing around every direction, rustling up its own fear and anger until some wise part of me said, enough. Enough, and I signed out of all social media. I stopped clicking over to NPR and HuffPo. Enough, enough. The worst has happened, I have shed my tears, that is enough. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil, writes Jack Gilbert, and to me this is truth. When I write about not succumbing to the madness, I mean not making war in my own soul. Not giving myself over to fear or anger or hate. Not allowing myself to sink into dismay. I believe this is how to heal the world, and so I will do what I can. I will turn myself away, again and again, from anger and despair. I slipped up, of course I did. I have opinions on what should be done, in weak moments I broadcast them but in my heart I knew this was wrong for me. Not wrong for everyone--social change needs its mouthpiece--but wrong for me. If I contributed to your agitation, I am sorry. I do not want to agitate. I want to find the stillness in my soul and stay there. Dwell there, because I can't help anybody by dwelling in sorrow and despair. If I succumb to fear, to anger, to madness, I will only go on to plant that pain in others and who knows what sparks that might ignite? Today I stayed home with my daughters. Ayla is sick and sleeping on the couch, Indy is bright-eyed in the kitchen, in my apron strings, hugging me close. The trees are lit, the fire burns, the sorrow is deep but so too is this pleasure. Today we love each other and take joy in our lives. Tomorrow I will do my Christmas shopping and be grateful for my life and allow whatever joy might come.

Even though.

*Thanks again to Elizabeth Aquino for posting the Jack Gilbert poem.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Strange December

At dawn I drove the girls to school through a landscape covered in thick white frost. Everything still and glistening. The grass here remains green, and the kudzu, and there are green leaves on two trees in my backyard. It is a strange December. I don't know this place where I am. The bare winter woods, the mild afternoons, the humidity gathered every morning on my windows. I feel dull about Christmas and don't know what to blame--my total lack of shopping, our new home here in the semi-south, an artistic holdout between the deeper dixies of Georgia below and Virginia above. I haven't seen my husband since approximately December 5th and I miss him, and I'm so proud of him, and I'm just floating along. Brevard suffers a depressing lack of Christmas lights, almost nobody has bothered. Myself included. It had occurred to me the night before, as I sat ensconced in a knit blanket before my two lit trees and the Christmas special of Downton Abbey, that it's up to me to create Christmas this year, for the first time in my life. I can't arrive at my mother's or sister's house and find Christmas achieved (and it is an achievement, women know this) as I always have in the past. I have to achieve it myself. I dropped the girls at school and drove home as the sun hit the frosted hills around me, a dazzling winter white glittering in the near distance. It felt good to breath in the cold air. Inside, I sat by the living room window and watched the sun illumine spider webs still spinning in the trees and I thought about rib roasts and wine cakes and wondered what the hell I was going to do.

Then, distraction: a youtube video of Jimmy Fallon brings back a memory of summer. It was July, we were moving across the country. I was in the van with my children, alone with them as I would be for the next two months. We had stopped for gas in Overland Park, Kansas. Carly Rae Jeppsen was playing on the radio, it was our first day of driving. Evening was coming on, we were already road weary, we were shooting through the Midwest in search of St. Louis, in search of a new home. I was happy as I always am in a car headed somewhere new. Before I knew all the wonderful things Brevard held waiting for us, before I started saying "girl" and "y'all" and "for a hot minute" like a loathsome poseur, the maps app on my phone took us on a detour through a neighborhood and we rolled all the windows down and danced in our seats. It was free slurpee day at the 7-11 we gassed up at and we sucked down our circus-colored drinks and smiled as the snowy sugar soothed our aching bones. We rounded a corner and a hideous bug, a flying spider with a lobster shell, shot through the open window and Ayla began to scream. iPhone, Slurpee, steering wheel--which to release? "Kill it, Indy! Kill it! Take off your shoe and kill it!" I yelled. Screaming, Indy did. This girl who tells me she isn't brave beat the monster to death with the back of her sparkly jelly. The colossal skies of the west were still above me. It is amazing how much your life can change and still be exactly the same. In minutes we were back on the highway, speeding east across a curved and welcoming land. Before you came into my life I missed you so bad, I missed you so, so bad.

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 9th, 2012

Yesterday Noah worked twelve hours and I put the girls in the car and drove over the mountain and through the woods to Trader Joe's in Greenville, SC. It was a warm day, humid from the previous night's rain. A gas station in Greenville County had an ostrich, or an emu, in a large pen in the back and the girls watched it from the car while I went inside to buy them cokes and orange crackers with peanut butter inside, a snack I have been obsessed with ever since Temple procured some for her drive through post-apocalyptic Florida in the gorgeous Southern Zombie Gothic, The Reapers are The Angels--a book I wish I had written but of course, could not have, not being Southern nor ever having read much Southern Gothic beyond an Anne Rice phase at thirteen, when I would lie awake on summer evenings until one am or later, absorbed in the lives of the Mayfair witches. Greenville County is also where the devastating "Bastard Out Of Carolina" by Dorothy Allison is set, a book I read recently and was broken by, so there you have it. I bet you never would have guessed a drive through backwoods South Carolina could be so literary.

The end-of-times crackers were fitting, as South Carolina on a Sunday morning was apocalyptically quiet, everyone tucked away at church and the streets empty, the hardware stores and grocery outlets and even coffee houses closed. (The one bizarre exception was a cotton candy truck blazing carnival lights from an empty parking lot). We turned off our French carols as we wound out of the hills and put on Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, all three of us singing along. The girls are learning rhythm and I spend a lot of time, these days, slapping one palm against my thigh in beat while driving down country roads.

I am feeling unbothered by Christmas. Removed from the shopping frenzy, which I hate. It's easy here, with no mall in sight, nary even a Cost Plus or Target. Over the course of the last few Christmases I have tried to remove myself, gradually, from the things I dislike about the Christmas season and toward more of the things I love. For me this means little to no time shopping and a shortened personal wishlist--which is, I admit, still a bit tricky for me--and more peaceful time with my daughters. So we drove to Trader Joe's and bought gingerbread house kits, which sent the girls into raptures of delight. The day before we had walked with our friends two doors down, to the house where a 92-year-old-man lives with Christmas trees sprouting up in his backyard and kindly allows folks to come cut them down and drag them home. Noah was at work, so our friends sawed down the tree for me and carried it up the hill, forced its considerable girth through my door. We propped it up and it fell down three times, once on Indy, who caught it and who insisted she wasn't brave, even though she stood there bearing up this giant tree-hemoth with one tiny little arm while her older sister cried in fetal position on the floor (no exaggeration) until I could rush from the bathroom to help her. Except for one bad moment when I realized I'd spent too much money on champagne and coffee, I have felt remarkably zen. This week I will clean the house and maybe string some lights. This weekend we will bake cookies and make ornaments together, the girls and I and maybe, just maybe, their father. Last night, after spending the day singing and drinking Coke and making gingerbread houses, Indy was rapturously happy as she was tucked into bed. She snuggled between me and her father, her face beaming, smiling so dopily we would later joke that perhaps she was high. "Did you have a good day?" Noah asked her and she nodded, beaming. We kissed her goodnight and went out to sit by treehemoth and the fire. Tension is running high with Noah's job keeping him away from home for twelve hours or more, the last seven days. He worked straight through the weekend and was back at work early Monday morning. Earlier we'd fought, a little bit, mostly from stress but now we sat by the fire and I thought, no matter what, today Indy is happy, and Ayla is happy,  my tree is fat and, what a luxury, my larder is stocked with coffee and champagne.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Monkey Bit Is True

Short fuses tend to run in my family. Take this example: we are driving away from McDonald's when Indy thrusts her hand into her Happy Meal bag, pulls out a toy, and immediately tosses back her head in the screaming, wailing, red-faced grief of a Mafia Don whose son has been killed by the Don's own hubris. The cause? They have given her a toy with wheels instead of a toy with over-sized eyes. Of course, I begin to display my hard-won parental wisdom by raising my voice to a volume to compete with her's and saying, with robust enthusiasm, STOP SCREAMING I WILL GET YOU ANOTHER TOY WHY CAN'T YOU JUST STAY CALM???? I then go on to scream, WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS SCREAM AS A FIRST RESORT before bursting into laughter because at least I can see the irony in my own embarrassing humanity. Dear daughter, do as I say and not as I scream.

This is a strange time in my life. My husband, head brewer and come-lately media mogul, is going gray from the stress of his job. He took this position looking like Obama of 2008, and here three months later he's already the wizened Obama of 2012 and so probably, secretly, a socialist. He rises hours before the rest of us, works late, and turns in around 8:30 pm. I have stopped giving him grief for being so early-to-bed, somewhat out of compassion but mainly out of realization that this gives me a good 90 minutes alone with the remote. He works weekends, he works holidays. On Thanksgiving morning he will leave us and fly to Vancouver, where it just so happens they film my beloved Supernatural, and where I have always wanted to go (since the moment I heard he was going there). It's not like he's going to have time to hang around the set like an estrogen-pulsing fan girl but still, I'm jealous. This is a small town, no matter how many times my mom insists that no self-respecting small town has a Wal-Mart, and he gets "recognized" in the grocery store even though we both know I am the one that was supposed to be famous. While he does all this glamorous labor, I putter around the house like a retired poet. I clean the kitchen, I tinker with my novel, I go for walks in the woods. Lest you think I'm some kind of slave-driver, know that I do 90% of the child care, 70% of the meal making, and 100% of the yoga. I also spent a morning planting baby spruce trees, and I've been meditating to boot. Look, I don't mean to be prideful, but I'm just saying: you could pretty much call me Oprah.

It's strange times and short-fuses, that's what I started out to say. Noah's insane hours preclude me from having any reliable time to commit to a job, so I float along here and try not to pressure myself into becoming a Stepford Wife, which would just make me bitter (especially since I can't afford the Valium). It's hard to feel like I'm pulling my weight, even if I am doing enough yoga for the two of us. Don't worry. The girls and I will go to our friend's and neighbor's house on Thanksgiving, and I will be all right, although I will miss Thanksgiving with my family and their bouquet of firecracker-short fuses. I might actually FORGET it's Thanksgiving if no one smashes a plate or throws a drink or claims there is a monkey dancing inside the turkey (love you Grandpa may you rest in peace). My family will miss me, but it will be enough for them to know that here in Brevard I'll be drinking cranberry mimosas, complaining about how much I hate Thanksgiving food, and not helping out too much in the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Horn Dance

We live in a shady glen here, surrounded by trees, but if I press my face to the  glass in the front and back of the house, I can see the hills. If I am mindful, I remember to look at them in the morning, when they are blue and gray, or frosted, like today. In the afternoon they are naked, drastically different hills from their lush and wanton summer selves. Across October, they spent a few weeks turning yellow and orange. Then one morning I woke to find all the leaves had dropped, except the red ones. Now they display fantastic tangles of bare branches and tufts of peacock-shaped crimson, a somewhat Suessian landscape, gray lines exploding with rainbows of red. In the late afternoon the sun wraps the hills in gold and crimson, the long white trunks luminous and glowing, anyway, in the dying light. If I bend down and peer through the arch of trees, I can see the pale cornfield two houses down. Today it is tipped in frost.

 I love these autumn woods far more than I loved them in summer.

Yesterday I stood gazing at those hills, at my neighbor's tree which was, indeed, copper like a trumpet call against a bright blue sky. I was thinking about worth. I'm not feeling worth much myself these days. Moving for my husband's job has brought on a bit of role confusion I did not anticipate. I got a job of my own and then had to turn it down, because getting a brewery up and running is placing extreme demands on my husband's time, and he can't commit to being home with the girls in the evenings nor on the weekends. I'm not making any money off my writing, which I set out years ago to do. I want to feel worthy. I don't want to get a job. I want to experience all the world at the same time I want to hide away from it like a hermit in the forest, alone with stories and poems.

There are three things I don't know: I don't know how humans survive the things we do, I don't know why my blogs always sound so melancholy when the heart of me is stupidly idealistic, the third thing I forget. This morning I woke early and went down the hall to find my husband gently waking our daughters, who were nestled into bed together. Moving here has bonded them, I think. They can often be caught hugging one another, fondly cradling and stroking each other's flushed pink faces. Behind them the morning sun shone bright through the window, over the white frosted grass, and backlit them all in heavenly light. For three nights in a row, I dreamed of paths. One through a thick forest of bracken and bramble, one through sinuous brick streets of an old European city, one through canals overgrown with weeping trees and low-slung magnolia. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am a Gemini. There will never be a singularity to my nature. I have a twin that dwells in me. When I proclaim this to my husband, he keeps a straight face.

When my dad was here I told him about my guilt over my decorative, garage-sale antlers. Guilt that an animal had to die, to sacrifice this blood and bone, so I might adorn my house. My dad told me this wasn't necessarily true. He told me that in the deep of winter, deer actually shed their antlers. They drop them in the forest like offerings, unconcerned, unburdened, and grow new ones again come spring. The people of long, long ago would walk through sleeping forests, gather these things that nature had surrendered, take them home to fires and turn battle-bone into a sacred dance.

Lay down locked horns and dance.

Here is why my blogs sound the way they do: everything is so beautiful it hurts.

Monday, November 5, 2012

View From Above

Four years ago, on Election Eve, I was in New York City with my dad. We were calling it Obama Eve and joking that if we left our shoes by our door, in the night the Obama Child would come and fill them with hope and health care. I was giddy, my whole generation was. In Union Square Park someone was hawking shirts--Orcas for Obama, Polar Bears for Obama, Eagles for Obama. I bought the one that said Wolves for Obama, thinking its message would be clear. This was when Sarah Palin was hanging out of helicopters shooting rifles at wolves. Wolves in Support of Obama. Of course, there is a second interpretation, one I did not intend. On Election Night we left the city, we got on a plane. The stewardess treated us to free tv so we could watch the election results. Obama was winning. Everyone was happy. Hope and change were on all the lips and in the air. We knew, for awhile, that we can make our world new. We hadn't forgotten, yet.

I had just seen Manhattan for the first time and it was too soon to leave. I don't know what will happen in this election or the next. I know how expectations lead to despair. But I also know that late one autumn I spent three days in New York with my dad. I looked at art until my eyes bled. We drank Smithwicks and ate cheeseburgers at a bar in Hell's Kitchen before walking to the theatre district and watching Daniel Radcliffe strut naked about the stage. I know everything is wrong with the world. But listen: the leaves turned late that year in Central Park and were waiting for us, comforting crimson and gold. A Chinese immigrant stopped to give us directions in the metro station, rocking his pig-tailed toddler in her stroller. The city was full of marvels and I could have stayed forever and tasted them all. Obama was winning. Manhattan was life, the universe, the whole raw oyster with the pearl. We boarded a plane.The next morning I woke up in Denver: jet-lagged, a mother, the world the color of straw. I sat stunned with my coffee while my daughters made their noise and mess. I woke up, Obama was elected president, everyone was talking about moving forward but all I wanted was to go back. Not back in progress but back geographically and back in my spirit. No matter what happens, I want to stay in the place of hope and possibility. Forever.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ode to the Oyster

Last night we went to something called an oyster roast at a house up in the woods, with a real bonfire, this time. Someone put a trough over the fire and was pouring oysters into it, where they steamed and hissed and grew fragrant under the wet towel layered above them. When the oysters popped open, they were dumped by the bucketfull across a plywood table with a hole cut in the middle, and everyone just crowded around and dug in, shucking them open, adding horseradish and butter and cocktail sauce, and eating the roasty, smoky shellfish by the dozen. The last time I'd had a chance to eat oysters raw I was pregnant and young enough to be fearful, so I declined. That was eight years ago on a wet and cool night in southern California, with Christmas and sea storms hushing down through the palm trees. This night, by the fire in the mountain air, I had a hankering to slurp an oyster raw but I couldn't get my hands on one. I surrendered. We were talking about truth and how to tell our stories. Then I saw Noah at the table, cracking a live one open. It's for you, he said, prying apart those stony, flaking shells and quickly slicing the muscle away. He handed me this rough and sandy stone full of quivering pearly mass. I adorned it with butter and a squirt of hot sauce--quickly--and then tipped it down, into my mouth, where the outside layers sloughed onto my lips but inside--

--my mouth was an explosion. I shut my eyes. It was cool and slippery, with a sinewy center that resisted my testing teeth. I snaked my tongue into this creature's home and sucked it up living, with its juices clean and oceany on my tongue. Ocean water, oyster, touch of butter and spice. A living thing surrendered up in offering, that was not lost on me.

I communed with the sea.

I took it inside of me, heart, mantle, mouth. All. Never in my life had I tasted something so vital, so immediate, so vivid with the pulse of its home, the Atlantic, the gray waves, churning waters, a cleaner taste than I thought this ruined earth could possibly offer, a taste like sea spray and wind on my face, like purer green seas of different, innocent times, all of it rushing over my taste buds, a taste that goes through you, down to your groin, good god it was holy, it was sensual, it was essence of life. I shut my eyes and turned my face from the fire. I almost cried. They oyster's greatest gift is not its pearl.

Thank you, oyster.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Legends of the Fall: Part II

Is it every really too early to introduce your children to the works of Quentin Tarantino? was the question I put to my husband. He answered in the affirmative. Of course I suspected he would, but I am unsettled lately by all the things we never know. Is it possible to be sure-footed about anything? This week I took a walk through the woods and fell down four times, placing my feet wrong in the leaves obscuring the narrow path. I will leave you to draw out the metaphor.

I am feeling less superstitious, or less worshipful, about the turn of the seasons than I usually do. I have no urge to write about shedding with the leaves, to construct little idols out of stone. I am confused about many things. Why does our society sometimes view forgiveness as a weakness? Why do I move across the country in July and then not feel homesick until 9:30 pm on Halloween night, when my daughters are snuggled up safely with their father watching The Mummy, albeit with far less candy than I'd hoped?

My parents came to visit for a week, and when my mom went through the gate in the fence and climbed the green hill to our neighbor's house, she said something like, "You said bonfire. That's just a plain old firepit." And she's right. But what if the truth of the emotional resonance of a moment is better expressed by "bonfire" than by "firepit"? Our lives are less about what happens to us than the stories we tell ourselves about what happened, and a blog is a chance to create a reality. Moving to Carolina was a magic time, a time of alchemy and sometimes, I have to omit the gritty details in order to give you a feel for the holy transformation of the experience. If I tell you only that the forest is green and buggy, I rob you of the magic. If I say it is tropical, like paradise, you begin to feel the spirit of the place.

 I will trust you to infer the bugs.

What I have is the legend of what happened in October: my family reunited, my surprise baby turned eight, we celebrated, we ate and drank, (we worried about money) we wore sweaters and passed through scarlet archways. My parents came to visit, I was so glad to see them, (they drove me crazy), I dropped them off at the airport and cried all the way home. I started walking in to doorways, I wrote stories about characters (I wrote stories about my life). Say October was dreamy and sun-spun, like golden fingers of light playing with fields of wheat and straw. Say it was a month of the dark and the wolves creeping in. Light your fires and cradle them. Believe what you will.

The bugs are real but so are the apples we lifted cold to our noses and snapped, sweet-smelling and firm-fleshed, in our teeth.

Last night I lay in bed thinking about Elizabeth Aquino's blog post. (It is from Elizabeth I borrow the term unbloggable.) I was sick for home, strangely displaced and aching for, of all things, Estes Park. I thought how a small part of me was homesick for my childhood home, for childhood. I thought about how one day in the future I'll be homesick for the days I'm living now, days of small children snuggled up under flannel sheets in the dark at 6:49 am on a Thursday morning. The answer, of course, is to cherish life now, but who knows how?

I mean, really.

(While you are cherishing the thing you think you have, it is spinning into something else.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October Interlude

Abiqui, New Mexico. 2011

I am taking the month of October off to work on other projects and hold on to fall. October is my favorite month. My dad turns 39 again, my Ayla turns eight, and Noah and I have our ten year anniversary. I'm hoping for a beautiful autumn, but right now the rain has left all the colors muted and dull. Still, the forecast holds promise. We will buy our marshmallows and stoke our fires. Every day in the morning light I watch blue and red birds dart like hope and passion grown from trees. Something you could either harvest, or pass and let it lie. I miss the high desert, the audacity of the colors and the land. I read Rumi and make plans for other lives. Characters on the page. "Blades will sprout / where you do your work". I wish I could send you the scent of my beehive, which more than once has made me nearly cry. All summer long they've labored. They've created nothing short of heaven. If sacred love had a scent, it would be this. The scent is golden, it is dripping, like a memory of childhood and grass. It is the fragrance of the feel of sunlight on your eyelids. The only thing to do is survive the winter. I want to be like the bees and never fret or ask why. They cut back their brood-rearing and seal off their doors. Already their tired wings seek succor. Already their bee-minds think of spring.

Kenosha Pass, Colorado. 2010

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homeward, Angels

Woke up in the wee hours this morning to drive Noah to the Greenville airport, where he caught a flight back to Colorado. I have spent my life living in the shadows of Longs Peak and Mt. Evans, in a state shaped like a square and divided by one sharp line. To your left are the mountains, to your right, the plains. I would call the Rockies majestic, though I've heard people here call them imposing and intimidating. Say what you will, they were always there to guide you home. You have to be very silly to be very lost along Colorado's front range, the mountains a long backbone along the curve of the earth, due north to due south. Facing forward like good soldiers. I had to move away from them to realize what a compass they had been to me. Now I live in a place where nobody knows where west is, not really. You can't even trust the setting sun, because of the lay of the hills. At five in the morning, in the very dark, we drove an arduous road through the thick woods over Cedar mountain. I dropped my husband at the airport, held him close, kissed him goodbye. Then, girls in the back, I turned and headed west, or north, or sometimes south, to home. The sun was coming up and from the flat earth of Greenville I spotted the soft rise of the Blue Ridge mountains, peaking up like the bounty of mother earth, who was never told she should be ashamed. Home, I thought, and began to cry. All those years at the feet of towering giants and then, another range starts calling me home. I skipped the taxing curves of Cedar mountain for another road, a different route. There are simply more directions here than there are in Colorado. We passed the Look Homeward, Angel cemetery, but of course you see the inherent issue. I thought how I was the opposite of Bob Dylan, the antipole to a rolling stone. I do not lack direction home. Rather, my paths are many.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wild Nights

Dinah Fried's Fictitious Dishes: The Catcher in the Rye. Artist's website here. Used with artist's kind permission.

Most mornings here in Carolina are misty and gray, but today the sun broke autumn light through the trees, a rosy dawn. Driving the girls to school I was groggy and dry, having last night put on my butterscotch cowboy boots and leather jacket, caramel, and gone to a cozy restaurant, where we sat at the big oak bar and I ordered a vodka martini with extra olives. I'm reading a book in which they keep drinking olive martinis, and I'm hopeless against things like this. I was in the mood to feel glamorous, so I did. As the night wore on some friends arrived, coworkers of Noah's and their companions in town for a bike race. One man from South Africa who has moved to Atlanta, one man from Atlanta who has moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and of course me, missing the west and going backwards against all hopes of my ancestors. The vodka was so cold and pure, the drink of flapper-haired girls from a jazzy age, of women with black eyeliner instead of stockings, but here I am, a different self and a different age as well, so I enjoyed raising that clear, sweating glass to my glossed lips and taking neat sips of the stuff, swiveling the olives for fun. I had enough to drink that I texted my friend about British accents and knowing what to do in my next life, and then I fell into bed and rose hours later to a crisp and chilled Carolina morning, my toes cold beneath the bedsheets. At the school drop-off line, just as she stepped out of the car, Indy, in pigtails, said "Mom, guess what? Oh never mind, I'll tell you later." But she won't tell me later. She won't remember, she is six-years-old, her socks slouch unevenly and paint smears her wrist as she runs in the school doors to a life I don't know. She won't remember, she won't know that once on a night in September her mother wore a leather jacket and drank vodka martinis in a bar, when her skin was still smooth and her hair was dyed cinnamon, that she gazed adoringly at her husband, who told her she was an endearing drunk, and later a man from another universe bid her farewell with a kiss on the cheek.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What is Left The Daughter

Last night I saw this picture of my daughter, Ayla, almost eight years old, and I thought, for all the worrying our society does about raising strong girls, the truth is that girls are born strong and all we have to do is not mess it up.  Then this morning Ayla woke with black charged thunderclouds around her shoulders, probably because I put her to bed last night with them, having reached some sort of a breaking point, my nerves all red and raw and glowing and after she lingered far too long in the bath, in the brushing of the teeth and the homework and the picking up her toys, I finally snapped "forget it, forget it, just go to bed". I told her I loved her and tucked her in, but today she rose from her bed stomping and shouting and near tears. So last night I'd planned to write a post full of optimism, soothed by the knowledge that this is my daughter: coltish and charismatic and born with an intrinsic understanding of how to balance her beauty with her strength, her supermodel pose in soccer cleats, a tiny Tavi who bosses around the boys. She knows how to balance them because they are both hers, she was born with them, she has claim to them each and she knows how to wield both and all I have to do is not mess it up. Then this morning happened, these storm clouds that might be my daughter's dominant trait and I worry about where they came from. Were they bestowed to her by fairies, did she inherit them through my blood, did I give them to her in her early years, a bushel of rotten apples, milk laced through with arsenic? Was it something I did? Is their any horror like realizing you have somehow passed the worst of yourself to your own tiny child? I don't know what to do about them, I only know they are the single most troubling element in my life and I would give anything to take them away from her, except it seems like the one thing that might ease my daughter's troubled spirit is the one thing I can't give. I am not a fairy godmother, I cannot give, nor be, perfection. But having inherited genetic tendencies toward depression myself, I know that if you let it, your pain will teach you to follow the sun. May she never forget how to wield, may she never lose her sovereignty over herself, may she learn, like the wanderers, the orphans turned heros, may she remember the myths, when her spirits feel gnarled and broken like tree limbs, may she turn them back skyward and follow the sun.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Mermaid and The Lion

I've had the luck over the last few months to meet some incredible people through blogging. Two of those people I want to talk about today are Elizabeth at a moon, worn as if it had been a shell,  and Eric at Pressure Support. Elizabeth and Eric both keep wonderful blogs and both happen to be parenting children with special needs. Elizabeth is mother to the ethereal and dreamy Sophie. She chronicles her life in Los Angeles with Sophie, her husband, and her two dreamy-in-the-other-sense sons, writing about the everyday with wry wit and insight, and the hard stuff with breath-taking poetry. She also posts lovely pictures of Los Angeles which make me sigh and think some day, city by the sea.

Eric is father to the sweet and stalwart Liam. I'm newer to Eric's blog, but he writes about his family's life in Rhode Island with passion, clarity and honesty that is approachable and refreshing. He and his wife are warriors for their son. Reading their stories of confronting the challenges their children face has humbled me many times over.

Elizabeth recently created this video using the input of many other people doing "extreme parenting", as she appropriately calls it. Watch the video, which is stunning and gorgeous, and then please check out their blogs. Not just because they give voice to a group of people we don't hear enough from, and not just because they are parents to children with special needs, but because they are writing about the challenges of their lives with incredible beauty and grace.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Direction I Go

I was almost too nervous to watch the game last night, because if we don't take Peyton Manning all the way to the Super Bowl, I'm going to feel personally responsible. I don't know if it's because I'm the oldest child or because I was raised to fear authority, making me nervous and formal around anyone who owns anything, has a job that requires a uniform, or was born before 1960. Needless to say, I will never be hiring entrepreneurial male fantasy strippers. Look, this is not the direction I intended this to go.

On Saturday here in Brevard there was the Mountain Song music festival. It just happens to be put on by an old friend of Dale, of Dale's Pale Ale fame. We saw Dale riding his bike on the way to the fest, and since then every time they see a cyclist, my girls shout, "Hi, Dale!" It's not my fault they're stupid, I didn't drink beer when I was pregnant. I stuck to wine coolers in the third trimester only, so we're in the clear. If the baby's gonna get brain damage from a sparkling beverage named "Peach Malibu Fuzz", it's the baby's own fault, I say. I may have just lost half my audience.

I am tired of going everywhere without my husband. I almost didn't go to Mountain Song. Then my new friend Amy called and said she was there, and she was stuck with her kids as well, so we might as well be stuck together. In the end, I got to see Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, and then stand in the rain with a bunch of other parents, our kids recreating Woodstock in the mud while we told each other how much we'd like to JUST SIT DOWN for more than 2.5 seconds. I drank two Dale's Pales Ales, drove my kids home, bathed them and fed them cookies for dinner and then fell into an enchanted sleep. I dreamt of a strange labyrinth that I've visited before in my dreams and was out solid until twelve noon, which is how I know the Peyton Man-child visited me in my sleep to make sure that I was rested for the game, which would last until nearly midnight eastern.

 My skin in this photo is brought to you by Picasa's "Orton" effect. 
This is a full disclosure blog, after all.

Indy's eyes are brought to you by 
her mother's first-trimester offering
of salt and bone.

But here the narrative shifts. It was noon on Sunday and a gorgeous day. 65 degrees and sunny, a cool breeze coming down Cedar Mountain. Let's get some bagels and go for a drive, I told my girls. Two hours later, we were not on a drive. I was on the phone with my husband, telling him that Ayla had colored a balloon with blue Sharpie and then managed to transfer that blue Sharpie onto the couch, the coffee table, the white breakfast table, and my sweet yellow vintage chair. Maybe the Malibu Fuzz got to her after all. It's a beautiful day, I told him, and I'm too mad to savor it. I knew that day I would drink my first pumpkin ale. I wanted him there to make green chili, to cheer on Peyton, to splash with the girls in the stream and show them bugs and mushrooms and spiderwebs. Also I was covered in bug bites, scratching and scratching. This seems pertinent.

Here is one of my unfortunate traits: the desire to prove my fearful heart right by stubbornly remaining unhappy. A black pit had settled in my chest. There was much of me that wanted to stay home, keep the girls in their rooms, miss the glorious day. I don't know why. I'm learning to resist that part of me. A deeper wisdom said to go, and so we did. I read in a book recently in which the author said that happiness is a place you either arrive or you don't, by happenstance. I know this to be untrue. Happiness is a thing you choose, and I have to keep choosing it. Despite all the fearful whisperings. Despite what I have to prove.

Up in the woods, the moss covered trunks gripped the earth like witch fingers with the claws dug in. There is so much that children must do, in the forest. They must step barefoot into golden water. They must go down the beckoning paths. They must gather acorns and yellow leaves and arrange them on rock-altars, offerings for spirits in the trees. I imagined what it would be like, to live in this world of river and leaf and stone, rather than the world of car and bank and parking lot. Good god, the day was like a peach from the ice box. Cool and sweet and dripping with rosy heaven.You have to let the world break your heart, split you open. You have to let the blue sky heal it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I don't know how we spent the morning. The day before, we'd gone to the farmer's market, which is called the tailgate market, and bought chorizo breakfast tacos and lemon chess pies. We'd seen our new neighbors and new friends, walked around looking at the tomatoes and squash and corn, which we didn't need to purchase, because our neighbors had been leaving them on our doorstep regularly. It seems that everyone here grows gardens, and grows them with great success, western North Carolina being a rain forest, a fertile crescent, where I am told one can grown nearly anything. I want to grow coffee beans. I want to wear a panama hat and cradle green coffee beans for roasting in my soil-covered hands, but look, there goes my movie self again. Not me. Never me.

I probably cleaned the house, or laid listless in bed with a book. I am easily overwhelmed. The weight of the day's tasks often crush me and I curl up in bed, happy and hating myself by turns. I don't remember, but in the afternoon we got in the car and drove a direction that might have been north to Asheville, where Noah was flying in to see us for the first time since we'd moved, four weeks before. As we drove, the valley opened up and I could see the sky. Everywhere was green. We were bouncing with excitement. We were minutes from the airport when Noah texted to say his plane had been delayed in Charlotte and he didn't know when another flight would leave.

Since moving to Brevard four weeks ago, all the vestiges of my former life had vanished, washed away by the daily torrential rain. All the places I knew were fifteen-hundred miles away. The landscape had changed like an old-time theater prop and all my routines with it. All the people I knew. The places I used to drive to and past, the place we used to go for coffee, for beers, for a quick dinner. The faces I used to see around town, the parents at school drop off, the sounds of the neighborhood, the hue of the sky. My husband was gone and for four weeks I had lived as a single mother, making friends alone, going to parties alone, arriving at strangers' houses invited but alone. Everything was changed and it is no wonder, no wonder I lost my sense of self.

So you won't blame me for what I did next. I spoke to Siri, oracle to my slouching Odysseus, and she guided me to Starbucks. The girls asked for a "Frakking-cino" and I indulged them. I ordered a chai and we parked in the shade of a maple tree and pushed all the doors open. Just an hour later, my movie self would arrive to pick up Noah in white lace and aviators and Noah's movie self would tell me how proud he was of everything I'd done, alone in the forest. In reality the sight of him would bring tears to my eyes. Tears that were happy and releasing a bit of the strain that had been keeping me up at nights and waking me at dawn.

But first, while we were waiting, Ayla climbed into the front seat. Two days before, I had walked out my front door and smelled that gorgeous soft-apple scent of fall. Now the breeze that blew our hair to our faces was teasing and cool, and the light filtered rich and golden through the trees. Everything different than the day before. Do you feel that? I said to Ayla.

She closed her eyes and scented like a lioness. "Mmmm," she sighed, so deeply content. "It makes me feel like everything good is going to happen."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What To Do In Illyria

It seems that somewhere crossing the prairie, I lost my narrative thread. I feel untethered and windblown. I don't know my lines. I have no back-story. It is the wonderful and the terrible thing about moving to a new life and starting over. Nobody knows any of my formers selves. It is liberating but a daunting task, starting life over from scratch. I try to write and fail. I go for hikes or splash in the creeks with friends. At night we stay up too late, half the neighborhood, drinking delicious spicy margaritas and watching the last efforts of the perseids. There are fires, music, gardens. The children run through houses likes packs of marauding wolves and everyone I meet is from somewhere else. In the morning I can only sit up dazed, blinking in the tree-shrouded dawn, and wait to see which shapes are real and which are only phantoms to burn off with the mist.

I get to decide what becomes of this life. Like a vision board lies blank before me, no past dragging it down, and I can pin to it whatever I want. So far I've selected only: meditation, hikes, and saying yes. It takes a moment of reckoning to convince myself that it's all right to be happy here. I don't know why I'm this way. I'm afraid if I let go of other things--dreams of Paris, dreams of Santa Fe--I'll never have them. But this isn't true. The truth is, if I don't let go of them, I'll never have what's right here, now. I'm just traveling, I've decided. With no set routes, only bright changing stars. If I have no final destination, I'll never be lost.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We Have Always Lived In The Forest

1. No time to talk, but I had to check in to tell you this, a bit of an emergency as you will see. I am fairly sure my neighbors are selling their trash to mole-people. I have not jumped to this conclusion as you may assume. I have evidence: a) on trash day, their curb bears no garbage can but a single white bag waiting out for the collectors. That's all my evidence but clearly no family of four produces only one bag of trash a week without mole people getting involved.

2. On one of our first days here, Indy called me to her window to show me a bit of old bark peeling off a tree. "Look," she said, eyes wet with fear. "A koala did that. They have very sharp teeth. They can kill you." I told her not to be stupid, no koalas live here. The bark was obviously stripped off the tree by the mole people, who boil it for soup. This calmed Indy considerably until she thought to wonder where mole people live. "In cemeteries and in mommy's French drains," I told her. That was the day she took to carrying a rusty scythe, but I'm pretty sure she's just playing "confederate".

3.On Tuesday my husband taught the girls to ride their bikes by first teaching them how to fall. I'd had a glass of wine, this struck me as profound. While he was out there, two Jehovah's Wittnesses arrived to ask us where we go to church. Noah made a curt reply, we believe anyone worried about souls other than their own is being just plain rude. The JW's tried to get all chummy and bond with us against the Southern Baptists, a stupid move. Give me a Southern Baptist any day. My friend I've made who was raised SB is incredibly Christ-like. She brings sweet tea flavored vodka to all social gatherings.

4. Today I drove to Trader Joe's and realized that I really do live in the mountains. I put on my music, enjoyed my latte and almond croissant from the Bracken Mountain Bakery (tastes like Paris), and made the long journey to Greenville. The drive was beautiful and sickening. The road is truly serpentine and my path was arduous. I mean, I'm like Strider up in here. Winding through the forest scavenging food for little people. Folks keep calling Brevard "the mountains", but I grew up in the shadow of Long's Peak and didn't believe them. Then I went over a series of switchbacks, emerged from the green ceiling and the gray-misted trees, and found the highland sun. I realized it could be a sunny day and I might not know it, nestled here in my greenwood. Before I came here, a friend told me these old mountains hold magic and I know now, he was right. Driving through the trees with the sun streaming through and Basia Bulat on the radio, an alchemy occurred. The woods held my heart and for the first time in awhile, I felt my old self.

(5. This is what it looks like when I drive to Trader Joe's, just saying.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August 2012

August 2012 is the month I had a premonition about, when I was out for a walk on a cold clear day last November and craving new life, the kind of clear day I already miss, the air dry as long dead bones but crisp like newborn apples.

August 2012: I woke up to a crashed hard drive. Along with some videos and the start of a new piece, I lost months of work I'd done editing my book. Not corrections for grammar and spelling, but the part where you take your heap of words and breathe life into them and I'm grieving, going along just fine until some song or word catches me with cold hands and I start to cry.

That was the night I opened my bathroom door and found a hundred black flies, bred there overnight in my drains, and I went in to battle them, screaming like a Hitchcock blonde. Like a mean girl in a chick flick with her hair on fire, making my pioneer grandmothers proud.

But the people here are wonderful and there is music and light washed green through all the trees.

The daughters will start school, my husband will visit for 8 days total but not all at once, and I will continue forming my new life here, which is precious and wonderful, and hope that the moon is nothing but a pearl, something formed in a shell at the bottom of the sea until one day someone cracked it open and look how it shines.

Monday, July 30, 2012


photo thanks to RWLinder from

It took forever to get out of Colorado, but too quickly the mountains were gone from my rear-view and that was the last time I knew solid what was west. The night before, we ran errands at the end of the day and I saw the sun set in Colorado for the last time in I don't know how long. The foothills were cold and planetary, blue under the full moon and a starry starry sky. I miss the grand expanses of the prairie with a sky-arching ache. The prairie was the one thing always gave me the space I needed. I watched the hills and the fields go dark and didn't know what to feel. I still don't.

We crossed into Kansas, whose small towns are the boyhood home of everybody you never heard of. Forgotten writers, never-mooned astronauts, and a Chrysler or a Carnegie, memory fails. We drove forever. We never stopped driving. I felt empty inside, task-driven, no thoughts to comfort me mile after mile. I didn't know what prayers to say, I said none, except the one the heart speaks straight to blue skies.

Kansas never ended but when it did there was Missouri. So many signs advertising Jesus like Warner's Old Time Cure. Like a panacea, but if it were that simple we'd all know by now. So many porn shops and adult stores and live nude girls, more than I see driving through all of Denver. "The Lion's Den Adult Store" and in front of them, signs claiming Porn Destroys Jesus Heals, except they'd thought of a synonym for destroy that rhymes with heals and I can't remember it now. And guns & ammo stores. Guns, girls, religion, American as apple pie.

It was supposed to take fifteen hours to get to St. Louis. It took eighteen. We checked into a smoking motel, only room available, outside the city proper at just after midnight, local time. I wasn't happy, but I didn't miss anything, my emotions stifled by road-drunkenness and the path ahead. Noah slept about five hours and left before me. At 6:30 in the morning, I hauled two girls, three bags and three pillows down to a car full of bees and we drove straight through St. Louis. The city was a beautiful reflection in my mirror as I crossed the Mississippi River and didn't know it, which is something out of a book I already wrote. After St. Louis there would be the awful fringed-and-glittered Nashville, the hours of rain, the semis crashed on the highway and the unexpected stay in a dank and dirty motel room, alone with the girls and no hot water in depressing Rockville, Tennessee. The rain would follow us all the way to our new home, which is where I sit now, where I've been sitting for two weeks and I'm unable to tell you about it yet, because I don't know what's happened and I'm still not sure where I am.

What I can tell you is that while I was writing this, a honey-thick female voice wafted into my windows, blown in on the wind down from my neighbor's porch, and I set aside my computer and walked through the grass to the place where people were gathered, five or six on guitar and one man on a harmonica, and they sang sweet and forlorn tunes while the green hills of Carolina undulated like vibrato behind them and the moon rose and cast us all in golden, bee-hewn light.

I can tell you about leaving St. Louis before rush hour on a Thursday morning with both of my daughters sleeping lightly like fairies a thousand miles from home. The arch was so beautiful, gleaming silver like the river itself had surged up over the city and froze there, in perfect symmetry with the orbit of stars.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27th, 2012

Woke up too early with Indy's eyes shining up at me, blinking like soft bats in the dawn. She hasn't slept a night in her own bed since her dad left. They fight over his pillow and one or the other takes it to bed every night, robbing it from me, the lonely wife. Rolled over and sent a text begging off an invitation for a short hike to a swim hole. Didn't have a backpack or the energy. Fell back asleep.

Later, after the mist had burned off, the thought of hot coffee in the stovetop espresso pot got me out of bed. The girls had carried all their blankets and pillows to the living room. My footsteps on the hardwood floors were their cue to start fighting. Fighting before coffee is strictly forbidden. Somehow it happens anyway. The girls are relentless, they miss their dad, they are in a strange land and overwhelmed. Relentless needs, relentless boredom, relentless fighting but deeply felt kisses and snuggles at night. If I spend too much time alone in the house with them, I won't make it. I know this. 66 days of 75 alone to go. I texted again, taking back what I'd turned down. Plans changed, we cancelled the hike. I brewed another pot of coffee over ice this time and drove a van full of children and new friends up to the lake where the retired folks with salted caramel skin dangled in floaties and complained about the cold spots.

We ate peanut butter and jellies and coconut brownies. We got sunburned and nibbled by fish. The girls fought and didn't share and embarrassed me. When I flat out told them this, they replied that I was embarrassing them. Both things were true. Authority is something I never wanted and I never did learn to wear it right. I wield it well only over myself, and even then, there are mishaps. I stay up too late, blow my budget on Thai food. I turn down invitations I should keep, but look, it all comes out all right.

We splashed and sunned and floated until the clouds rolled in, when we packed it up and drove away. By now, I've learned to find my way home.

link within

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