Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In anticipation of leaving my children for a week...


Anxiety sneaks in on little rat wings, scuttles and flurries of the what if’s as I approach
seven whole days without them.  I imagine the earth quaking, riding a giant wave across

housing developments, stucco and concrete, mini-malls where packages of Japanese udon and
Vietnamese fish paste get tossed like detritus, fly into hungry mouths.  We all mix together,

the vatos on the corner, the women tending shop, the man in the Mercedes, rolling and cresting over
that wide and shiny city, that gritty and deranged barrio, those seasons that meld and mesh,

the sameness that is sunshine sprinkled with centuries of drought and  doughnut shops.  Here, we are safe.  The snow is bad enough, the avalanche tears into our neighborhood and miracles abound.

That’s what I’m talking about.  The pain of real seasons.  The challenge of the day to day makes us
exempt from the wanderlust of the earth at her core, her need to finally release because  where I come

from, where I’m going, no one is spared.  Plates are pushing, pushing, waiting, waiting, lean in,
hold on and it starts with windows, windows rattle, find a doorway, find a table, cover your neck, no

your head, no your neck, always have a plan.  Keep bottles of water in the trunk, keep an extra blanket in the backseat.  Call your children often.   Think of them with the snow and her soft thaw 

and coats, downy and warm.  The way the pull their hats over their ears, their mismatched socks.  The deer watch wide eyed in the yard as they pull away on their bikes, shout, “Look at me!”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

marching forward

This month continues to march forward.  She marches head-first today into spring.  Last week she marched me into a new decade. A week before that, she marched snow down a ravine, shook us into a whole new level of awareness.

I've always loved this month.  The way she welcomes a new season.  The way my birthday coincides  with the return of all things warm, all things light.  My blessings seem everywhere.  My friends showered me with love on my birthday, sang me my favorite songs, created ceremony and circles and reflection.  The children sat on Joellen's hard-wood floor, a picnic blanket between them, while their parents shared words and toasts at the table. 

After dinner the children joined us for music, Solan and Cyrus playing a sweet rendition of, "Happy Birthday" on their guitars.  To really bring it home, Joellen and Casey rewrote the words to the 80's classic, Foreigner's, "Your Love," a forty year rendition all about my wacky life.  That was followed up by, "Seasons of Love" and then Yaz's, "Only You."  Absolutely perfect picks.   I was a soppy pool at that point, floating above the scene in dreamy disbelief.  I felt so wholly loved.  It was the very best birthday present in the world.

 Much revelry continued and will, continue.  I read my poems again at a local bookstore, saw my words move someone to tears, felt confident and took my time as I honored those I love so much, a piece for each -- my sister, my mom, my children, Brandon.  Jeff and I sat across from one another afterwords and had a quiet, candlelit moment of appreciation for all that we have, all the history that has suddenly found us, me back to writing poems a sort of full-circle. 

On Saturday my girlfriends and I packed a bevvy of canvas bags filled with chocolate and wine, books and boots, and headed to Kay's cabin to carry on the celebration.  Kay's birthday is the day after mine -- so fun to share my Pisces splendor with someone who I love so much.  I felt so grounded with these women, so safe, so content.  At one point I looked around at them all and sort of marveled at how artistic, how intelligent, how fun, how solid they all are.  I am surrounded by love.

But tonight, the love is right here, right at home.  Jeffy's away for a long weekend so the kids and I are settling into our little style.  Tonight during books this one little page had the kiddos in hysterics.  They wanted me to keep going back to read it again and again.  Soli's laugh was guttural, deep, and Eliana and I were laughing both at the book and in celebration of this little boy.  Eliana looks huge these days, wise and wacky.  She lost her front tooth last week and has this massive gap-toothed smile, her hair long and wild down her back, her colors vibrant and all her own.  Solomon's brilliance continues to show-through, his mind wild with connections, his Spanish soaring.  Today I stood outside his classroom during my recess break.  I had a perfect view of him at his little center, sitting next to Adriana as she explained to him how a measuring tape worked.  He was so focused, so enthralled.  I then meandered across the hall and went into Eliana's quiet room, the kiddos busy outside on the playground.  I looked at her artwork, her handwriting on the walls.  I thought about how absolutely comfortable she is in that space, how proud she is to be herself. 

I've been feeling that same way.  It's a pretty splendid place to be.

two years ago, today

When we moved I found a few really precious things.  Two tapes containing Brandon singing to me when he was seventeen years old are at the top of that precious possession list.  He's been gone two years today.  Today I pull them out of their box and plug in Eliana's pink Hello Kitty boom box -- the box with the tape player.  Brandon sings and talks, talks and sings.  I realize as I go through this tape that I have listened to this hundreds of times before.  Hundreds of times while I rode the stationary bike at my college rec center, wiping my heartbroken tears.  Hundreds of times as I drove up the five, over the Grapevine, headed to or from school.  I press my ear up to the little pink speaker.  Technology sure was different then.  Golly, his spectrum of musical theatre to bad ballads to sweet croonings is really remarkable.  This was Brandon at his finest.  Brandon's late night madness.  So innocent then.  Just him and his music, singing, "What I Did For Love" into a handheld recorder.  If he started a tiny bit off key, he'd start again, start again until he got it right.  No studio or computers or equalizers.  He never misses a note.

He must have made this right before I left for college.  He's talking about how he'll see me in October.  I wish I remembered the chronology better.  When he decided he had moved on.  When sweet Anna came into the picture.  He's saying, "It's real.  It's really real."  And I'm remembering that feeling of real, that feeling of first real.  And now he's saying, "Bob!  Bob, take care of your sister, Bob (addressing Hilary with her nickname at the time)."  What a relic.  An auditory love letter.  An auditory goodbye.

There have been a handful of people who have really seen me in this life.  Thank you, Bran.  Thank you for seeing me.  Thank you for giving me that space to be me, in all my early adult splendor.  Thank you for knowing me so completely.

You just told me goodnight.

And the tape clicked off.  And now I'm trying to rewind and play the other side and the tape player won't work.  And I'm jimmying and jamming and I don't want to ruin anything.  So I take a deep breath and play some November Rain in your honor via Youtube, know that I need to keep the tapes in good working condition so that I can share them with Hil in a few weeks when I arrive.


During my early morning session I listened to you, I drew cards for you, I wrote for you.  I was nervous before I pulled my cards, nervous their magic wouldn't work, that I wouldn't get a sign from you like I did last year on this day.  But, sure enough, there they were:

The Miser
The Outsider

and there you are, in all of them, falling between the two towers of the two worlds, holding all your pain and brilliance close to your chest, your whimsy and eternal youth, you, always outside, always alone, behind the black wrought iron bars of your own making, made of your mania.  

So there you are, my friend.  The season gently moves in, the light holds out a bit longer and I light a candle for you, sweet friend.  For our innocence and truth.  For your huge and resonant voice, forever alive.

I think the sun is a flower,
That blooms for just one hour.

            Ray Bradbury, All Summer in a Day

Natural Light

You are winter.
Soft mist and bare trees
smoke billows over brown hillsides
air heavy with cloud –
white and lifeless,
you hold darkness,
windy mountain roads,
hairpin turns,
music loud,
a cigarette burns through your tired fingers,
hair like a whip,
a curtain of sleek black
obstructs your view.

You are winter.
Long days indoors,
no natural light
books and pages torn, strewn
words and notes,
harmonies and battle cries,
formulas and the pursuit
of quiet.  Pills spill and you
search and search,
up all night,
you sing to the bare sky,
sing to the frozen river,
sing through another season.

In March the sun begins to return,
you’ve survived again.
Daffodils and daylight,
green grasses blaze,
and one Saturday, you
hear your name,
walk quietly down the stairs,
past the pages taped to stairwells,
litter of guitar picks,
boxes of Nicorette,
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,

back issues of Rolling Stone,

cracked jewel cases, scratched CD’s,
a single white sock,

and breathe in the spring,

carefully loop the rope around the rafters.

The angel of the morning is calling out your name
smooth movements
you’ve done this so many times before

The angel of the morning is calling out your name
and you know then
the pierce of sunlight from beneath the closed garage
the clean scent of dew moving in around you
the eternal warmth of spring.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Forty things, for forty

It's two minutes shy of my fortieth birthday.  It's late and the day has been full.  But, alas, the challenge of a forty things gratitude practice lures me in, late night and all. 

Forty things to be grateful for:

1.  My family.  Jeff and his big brain, huge heart, how well he knows me.  Eliana and her kindness and creativity.  Soli and his wild-abandon and passionate ways.

2.  My mama's gifts of absolute love and devotion.  Her intelligence and insight.

3.  My dad's love for connection and art, for travel and poetry.

4.  Hilary and every single thing about her.  The way she loves me inside and out.

5.  The rest of my siblings and how they've always supported me, guided me, held me.

6.  Earrings.  Especially leather ones.  Especially my silver, pleather dangles.

7.  Water -- water in my glass, water in the tub, water in the river, water in the sea.

8.  Open space.  Mt. Jumbo.  Waterworks.  Greenough Park.

9.  My bed.  Flannel sheets. 

10.  Books, books and more books.  Books in the bath.  Books in the hot tub.  Books in piles at my bedside.

11.  Girlfriends.  Melissa on the line, my Missoula posse, their loud laughter and adventurous ways. 

12.  Writing.  My journals.  This blog.  The poems that have begun to grace my life again.  The wisdom of the muse.

13.  Early morning yoga sessions.  My sandalwood candle.  My puffy pink mat.  Pandora.  My Osho zen cards and their magical ways. 

14.  Food.  Indian food.  Burritos.  Hot sauce.  Cheese.  Sushi.  Fruit.  Salads.  Green curry.  Food.

15.  Tipu's chai and vanilla soymilk every morning.

16.  Dancing to loud music.  Doing lots and lots of turns.

17.  Barefeet on sand.

18.  My body in the ocean.

19.  Music.  The voices of my ladies, the voice of my boyfriend, Michael Franti, the throw backs and pop songs, the heartfelt power ballads.  Bring it all.

20.  Fashion.  Scarves.  Necklines.  Color.  Soft fabrics.  Comfy boots.  Knee-high socks. 

21.  The art on my walls.

22.  My little blue lamp with the girl on the swing.

23.  Watching my kids sing along to, "Frozen."

24.  My hair dyed for the first time today and blown straight.

25.  Coconut oil for my skin.

26.  Facials and massages.

27.  Missoula.

28.  California.

29.  Mexico.

30.  All the places I've yet to visit.

31.  Tipi camp.  That I get to go back.  That it's only a five hour drive away.

32.  Downtown.  How I love to buy special treats for myself from different places.  How I like to check out the sale racks and put on oil and lotion samples.

33.  This gorgeous house.  The deck in the summertime.  The mellow neighborhood and kind folks.

34.  My jewelry.  My wedding rings and necklace collection.  My ability to accessorize. 

35.  The rhythm in my bones.

36.  My smile.

37.  Sunshine.

38.  Listening to songs that I grew up with.

39.  Dance parties.

40.  Birthdays. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

snow continued

The strange, early March reality that is snow and avalanches continues.  It's now Tuesday morning, my third day away from work.  It is March 4th.  Usually around the start of March, I begin fixating on my birthday.  This year, the strange mountains of snow, the four lane roads turned to two, the snow-packed medium a division so unusual, so otherworldly, the way she creates traffic on Broadway, the way everyone looks like they are moving in a white and surrendered haze, makes me feel like there is no time or calendar, that this could be nowhere near the start of spring.

I turn forty on Sunday.  I'm not thinking about all things fabulous and reflective.  I'm not thinking about what I'm going to do for myself or what I want to eat for dinner that night.  I'm just sort of lost in this strange white space.  I have barely emerged from my jammies for days.  Jammies to yoga pants, back to jammies, repeat.  I read about my old 'hood, the 'hood that still feels like mine, where I work, where I walk, where my little home sits.  No school today due to avalanche danger.  They continue to evacuate homes in the area.  The sweet older woman who was buried for hours after her home was shattered by a wild pulse of white, dies in the hospital.  The thought of how quickly, how instantly, all things can change has always held my heart in her hand.  Stupefied me.  So I roll out my mat, light another candle, write down some words, kiss my babies again and again, grab my husbands hand, look out at the white world beyond my safe windows, the glow of gray and blue sky that is the early-morning light, say thank you for this, for now.