Simple Myths and Wild Horses

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Today my daughter is shadowing a middle-schooler all day in preparation for next year. Then after school there is a dance. I do not get to pick her up until 5:30. Also, she misplaced her phone, so I can’t even text her to see how it was. She is perfectly fine with this.

It occurs to me that I might need to start redirecting some of this energy into my own self.

The other day my husband had some sort of cardiac event. We don’t know what it was yet. It might be minor. It might not. We are adjusting our life to meet requirements of this new truth. It takes a lot of my energy to not try to solve everything. I am not sure I am succeeding.

Once, a few years ago, in meditation on raising my daughter, I had a vision of a wild horse. I had asked the question of how to raise her best among the sharper edges of the world. On the journey, I saw a wild horse trapped in a dome shaped room. It was frantic, running round and round. In the center of the room, an electric red heart beat in a jar. In the round room I found a door and freed the horse. Outside of the room, miles of beach stretched beneath a star heavy sky. I could smell the sea. I could feel the breeze. The horse bounded onto the sand and it felt something like rapture.

It’s been years and I have not quite mastered the notion that the best way to love a wild horse is to let them run. But we do have to, don’t we. We are all our own muscled creatures. These crazy, difficult, wonderful, brief lives are ours for some reason or another. Or not to confuse metaphors at this point, as the wonderful JR Cline commented yesterday, Life may be a dragon, but we are dragon riders.

We’re here to ride.

Like I’ve said, I know nothing of God. I don’t know why we are here or if there is any meaning to it at all. The most logical conclusion before contemplating any other, devoid of any supernatural or philosophical reasoning is the simple fact that we are here. We are born into a span of experiences which shape our beings. So this much, I need to let be. I need to let those I love, be the wild horse dragon riders I love.

Part of riding my dragon is letting go of all the fear that burrows, I think.

Much love,

Dear Universe,

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There are days the earth is clearly nothing but a dragon who sleeps and wakes. Which is to say sometimes we rest on the gentle lull of her back as she breathes her warm breath. We marvel at the flowers which grow in her exhale, the bounty, the green. There are days she opens her maw wide and gnashing. Teeth. Fire.

I don’t know anything about God. Last week I began to write things of how the closest thing I could follow as a religion were ancient, shamanic things with promises of direct revelation. Which is to say, I cannot find divine inspiration in rote, glib, things. I have to fight hard with myself to forgive hypocrisy. My own, and others’. I get the intention of churches, I even see some of the good of being a herd, a flock. There are tigers on the loose. The dragon, itself, if you will. What I hate, what I truly hate is certainty. The smug assumption that one knows the word of any thing but him or her self. Let’s be honest. We are barely capable of knowing the surface layers of our own selves. Our psychology thrives of being certain of things we can’t possibly know to be true or not.

When following behind an ambulance, though, even the atheist prays. If what one truly hates is certainty, it is almost impossible not to prove what one also hates is uncertainty.

When you’re living on the back of a dragon, the deepest need one could have is to know that should they get snagged in the teeth, there is divine reason. Hope. Assurance. Meaning.

When I watch or read stories of times before we were so important to ourselves, in times before modern medicine, when death hovered outside every door like a greedy wolf, I am always so captured by how dispensable everyone is. To the plagues, the wars, the western rogue, the failure to thrive. How stoic the people were portrayed. There was mourning, of course, but no time for much of it. Not in hard times which were often always. The stories of the modern word, have their pains, but we’re so much more precious now in our narrative it seems. More often the story is how we saved ourselves. Somewhere beneath the fiction, the truth is probably more consistent era to era. On both disposability and self-importance. It’s just I think about things. All the time. I can’t stop.

I think all the time, but I am not certain of anything, so I form certainties in my mind to keep the peace. Always I am reminded I barely know myself.

In bed, I begin to cry, because earlier in the week I did follow an ambulance. And I prayed, though who can say exactly to whom. Probably it was you, Universe. You are a certainty I can live with while also accepting I make shit up. You are my most comfortable hypocrisy. If behind the curtain, you are God, I’m cool with that. If you are a pacifying invention of my own longing, I can accept that too. In bed, I cry, and I tell my husband my father died young and missed my whole life and he cannot do that to us. Underneath it all, I am just a little girl among the earthquakes of abandonment. We all are, probably, in one way or another.

Recently, I read an article about how our cultural obsession with foods and nutrients is really a manifestation of our fearful relationship with mortality. Sneaking spinach into my husband’s smoothie, I consider this. I think of things in terms of being lucky for now. Of being woken up, given chances, escaping actual irreversible damage. I bargain. I will do all the perfect things to make this better.

I am no different than those who go to church each Sunday. Those who sing the hymns and read the dialogue and bow their heads with both good and bad intentions. Those who do not know themselves or the will of God, but just need to feel steady. On Easter, when I went to church because my daughter asked me to, the pastor opened to the church to share news and need for prayers. I remember being struck by how hungry everyone was to matter. To be heard, to be made safe. Even for the smallest, the most mundane of things.

Sometimes I wonder if the people in the older stories loved each other like we do now, always among that reaper. It’s an absurd thing to wonder or to see us as different, I know. It’s just it has taken me my whole life to be able to love as fully as I do now. To risk everything that it is to love something one could lose.

Some days, the dragon opens her maw and flames dart out. On the back of a dragon, we are so small and vulnerable. Young girls excited to see a concert tear apart by  blast. A friend from college passes away in the night. The world divides in chaos over every ruin. My beautiful girl grows up among this. My beloved husband needs healing. His father needs healing. The shrapnel that embeds in the hearts of anyone these days, how pear shaped this is, that we all can’t just find a way to get along. I need someone to pray to over these things. I need something bigger than myself.

Much love,

 

White stars on the forest floor

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The windflowers, the anemone, the blood roots, the trout lilies, the violets, the trillium have all returned. Afternoon air is warm and sweet. My life proceeds faster than I can process sometimes.

For instance, my daughter is about to matriculate from elementary school. The preteen human animal is a truly strange specimen. No longer a child, but not a teenager. Smart enough to know any overly optimistic unicorn and rainbow parade you might have attempted constructing for them in younger years was bull shit. Bull shit rooted in love, but all the same. Smart enough to know that people suck, but also that people are kind and all we have, so we make the best of it. Smart enough to know that even those in charge, be it parents or teachers or the flipping president of the United States of America, will fail expectations. Smart enough to glean the world smacks of chaos.

I think it’s sort of funny how for the early years we construct such a funny sense of hierarchy. There is authority, there is order, there is right and wrong. There is action and consequence, there is justice and reason. I think this is probably necessary for growing humans of sound mind and heart. But then the illusion crumbles and the  mid-sized humans begin to navigate something they weren’t entirely prepared for. I’ve been lamenting that a bit now and again. Or if I am honest, what I mean is that at the age of 40, I am also lamenting that for myself. These strange times are especially chaotic. Often unfathomable. Obscenely disillusionary. I’m afraid I’ve done all the wrong things in reaction. I’ve closed into myself. I’ve stopped relating to the mythical force I call the Universe. To avoid all the other discordant voices in the world, I’ve often stopped reaching out. I stopped writing here, which if it provided no other good, always helped me find my narrative for a bigger picture. I was fatigued and it was understandable. It’s just I noticed myself becoming irritable and bitter, and then one day I woke up and realized what I had really become was lonely. I am busy enough that it took awhile to notice. But I miss everyone. Even the people I talk to every day.

I don’t know if my mythical force called Universe exists the way I envision it. I’ve always sort of operated as if that is a minor detail that ultimately matters very little. But I said to it, Universe, I miss you. And I miss all the people. Later that day, a friend stopped in my office and brought me a fresh rhubarb cookie. Then my sisters invited me to a folk festival. Then one of my favorite friends in the world said, Friday we drink drinks. I like to consider this to be a magical Universal conversation composed of events, because a little magic sustains us, non? But independently, I realized once again that perspective is everything. So, this is me, reaching out. I’ve missed you. I love you. Tell me how you’ve been. Tell me of your adventures.

The thing about the white flowers that alight the forest floor is they are ephemerals. Fleeting. Like all things.  I would regret time spent not adoring them.

The other thing about the white flowers is they are enduring. While they are fragile and appear short lived, they are eternal below ground. They are faithful. They return to themselves each year.

Much love,

 

 

 

 

Nearly April and Such

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I always think I will be more consistent here, but then I am not. Somehow it is already almost April. A siege of herons has returned to the river, here. It is strange, because I have spent my entire life living on the edges of one river or another, but I have never seen them circle like this. Each year one or two of the birds greet me as they return to their rook.

The world is full of things which can drag us down, but still I find things that lift me up.

My daughter and I are taking a fiction writing class together. I finished a complete short story draft for the first time in probably twenty years. It needs revisions, but by finished, I mean it has all the essential parts which make a story. After so many years of incomplete starts, I am bolstered. I am already starting my next. For this month’s assignment we all drew cards to determine our main character. Mine is a “washed-ashore cook” My daughter got “diseased faerie.”

I’ve thought about whether I will post a poem scavenger hunt this year, but the truth is, I probably won’t. I wrote a poem this morning that gave me a lot of joy to write. For a long time,  I did things one way. I kept too much of my writing life online and tried to herd myself into writing via challenges or feedback. And then for awhile I lost all the joy in it.

Besides being the month of poems, April is the month when every thing speeds up. Birthday parties, school concerts, school expo, carnivals. My sister is due to give birth any week now. It’s become lovely and light enough to walk out side in the evenings.

Recently my daughter and a friend went to a Back to the ’80s dance at her school. When I was my daughter’s age it was 1986. It’s nearly impossible to think of it as a decade distant enough to mandate period costumes,  but there you go. Time is ruthless like that. But then I look at the current state of America and wonder if we can’t just fast forward a bit. I need to know this turns out okay. Is all. Uncertainty is a constant, though. Even when it’s not. So I just baby the bits of joy I find. I love on my family. I create other worlds made of words. I stop eating things with faces or mothers. I try to be kind, even to those I disagree with so vehemently it hurts my teeth. I try to remember that everything is a catalyst.

I hope all is well with you.

Much love,

The heart

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I live in a town made of three streets, three bars, five churches, one gift shop, a drug store, a grocer, a school, a bank. It’s not much to look at, especially in the winter when the evergreen goes down and it is too cold for the garden club to gussy everything up with hanging baskets. Always, though, we’re surrounded by bluffs always eager to glow with sun set or rise.

There are mornings this town is too small to contain the amount of life which flourishes, tucked away here in the valley bowl. Parking becomes an issue. This morning for instance, is the annual Doughnuts for Dads breakfast at the elementary school. At 1pm we’ll have first Friday early release as usual. At 11:00 we bid farewell to the fire chief.

When the fire chief of 30 years in a small-town you’ve probably never heard of, dies, the governor will order flags to be lowered. Your streets will fill with over forty fire trucks, twenty ambulances, dozens of sheriffs, from departments up to 100 miles away. Mourners will be shuttled in from lots outside of town Over sixty men and women in uniform will give the chief his last call. They will line the school  children up on the sidewalk to wave in all the heroes. To learn, this is the heart of community. Of service. It’s America. America before it got all pear-shaped and shade-eyed.

I’m going to tell you a secret. The fire chief had a habit of getting on my nerves. For one thing, he was also the town electrician and never showed up for a job when he said he would. Sometimes he would show up months later. Sometimes this was forgivable because he was off saving lives and stuff. Sometimes he was playing cards or driving around in a big red fire engine for kicks. Sometimes he was inexplicably digging up the lot he bought across the street from my house with a back hoe at 6am. While he was also brave and kind and funny, in a small town, you become well aware that no one is perfect. And you learn that life is never based on fairness. You can, for instance, dedicate over thirty years of your life to saving lives, bearing witness to tragedy and miracles, fighting fire,  and still drop dead of a heart attack, playing cards at 62. In a town this small, you will be remembered for the hero you were. You will be forgiven and loved for being human. And easily enough we will forgive ourselves and all the others who cross our paths. You can’t afford not to around here.

Our town is made of three streets and they are double parked with emergency vehicles. The sidewalks are sea of navy blue and well shined badges. It’s touching. In my own life, I’ve never done anything which would inspire such a farewell. And that’s okay. But still I wonder what I could do better, not necessarily for posterity, but maybe just of service to others.

What I mean to say, is  sometimes, the fire chief got on my nerves. He was just human. I have spent much of my life so aware of my flaws, my insecurities, I have been inhibited when it comes to doing much of anything big. One does not have to be perfect to be perfectly of service. To make lives better. That is a legacy I am thinking on today.

I keep thinking of this really woo-woo thing I heard on a documentary about meditation once. How in this modern age 1/3 will die, 1/3 will go mad, and 1/3 will awaken. The past year seems to have buried so many dead. Probably no more than any other year, but subjectively more, because so many more were people who touched my own life either personally or artistically. And more than once I have thought the world is going mad. And while I dismissed such a sentiment as woo-woo, I can’t help but wonder which heap I’ll be sorted into.

It’s enough to make a girl feel sort of mindful.

 

Much love,

Insights and Stuff

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Here in the upper Midwest, we’ve had a bit of a reprieve from winter these past days. Sun bumps us into the 60’s. A few days to open the windows and let out the stale winter air is a joy to say the least. The air outside is sweet with snow melt. I’ve been able to walk along the creek path rather than monotonous circles up and down the stairs of the elementary school. People can’t help themselves either. They are fucking happy. Happy all over the place. Despite all the reasons they have been unhappy, despite the state of the world, it’s all smiling violets and kind words. It’s a bit surreal.

I’ve been happy too. Like I said, it can’t be helped.

Ten is a funny age. Have I mentioned that? It seems so very much like it should still be a child’s age, but then sometimes the ten-year-old will stretch her limbs at the dining room table and something graceful and … not foreign, but oft hidden in the undercurrent emerges. A maturity of insight, perception. It’s like watching an orchid bloom. I think of all the days I have fretted over this child. Days I am sure are not over yet. But to glimpse these small reels, proof of so much potential to come, and I am giddy.

It can’t be helped.

Forty, too, is  a funny age. I might have mentioned that. A while back, I began a whole-food-plant-based diet. I might have mentioned that too, but trust me when I say I try not to bring it up too much as we all know the annoying vegan who can’t shut up about it from the inception of any conversation. And rest assured, I don’t want to necessarily talk about it today either. It’s peripheral, really. I did it for my health, weight loss, a growing distaste for the food industry in general. The political climate has led me to more and more moments when I ask myself how I can actually bring into the world what I wish to see. If progress ( as we might see it) is not a guaranteed linearity, what do we learn from it. How do we make it count? And so on.

This morning I had a flash of insight, that I am really just having a midlife crisis. Which isn’t to minimize or belittle the notion. Do you ever just feel stuck? Not that anything is even terrible. It could just be monotonous, or mindless, or highly concentrated with procrasting ways. You go about your life and you are busy. You do stuff. You get by. But maybe there is some matrix of your life that is not quite right. For me, it was participating in the status quo when it didn’t fully fit my own beliefs. Being complacent to others’ decisions and dictations. Letting your own inner voice and potential come in second to it. The food industry is really just an extension of this, but it was a start.

Midlife is really kind of a glorious thing, crisis and all, if you think about it. For one thing, you are old enough to have a few seed ideas about who you are. Secondly, it seems to get easier and easier to not give a wagon full of fucks about what other people think. Thirdly, you’re not dead yet. If you have a nagging feeling you are not in alignment with your self, you have the option for rebellion against the standard dailiness that is your life.

Yesterday I came across a blog by Mark Manson called “The Do Something Principle”

The gist of it is this: Things are daunting. Just do a little tiny bit of something and inevitably it will motivate you to do more.

It’s not rocket science, but also, admittedly, it’s something I am bad at. So I am changing that too. One little thing. Just do the one little bitty baby thing and see what happens. It turns out, I think I was coming to this before the article. The going plant-based was a little thing. It can also be broken down into little things. There’s probably a whole fractal of sorts to be discovered.

What I mean to say is the snow is thawed, if even for just a few days. And I feel like my life is not a stagnant thing. I might not have realized I felt it had been, but I guess motion is easier to detect.

I’ve been dreaming of tigers and snakes.

I suppose there is not much else to tell. We had the flu for a good week in our house. It was mild enough to enjoy all the reading and netflix time we got. I finished The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. I also read a goofy YA time travel Scottish romance novel. Into the Dim, I think it was called. Oh and Scythe by Neal Schusterman, another YA I really enjoyed. Right now I am reading Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I want to love the Saunders very much. Parts of it so far are perfect, but it’s also written in a style that demands a whole lot of brain power to piece together and I am not sure I am in that place this week.

But a few weeks ago, I didn’t have the concentration to read at all, so I’m getting there. It’s all we can hope for, the little bitty baby doing things.

Love to you,

Sunlight

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Friday has come round again. I ache to tell you the most boring things–today I will roll out three batches of flat bread, my husband will flip them onto a hot, dry griddle.

All the  while, I grieve a lost friend, lament my lack of center, watch the movements of the world at large with the nervous twitch of a fawn in a clearing, also too, on the sidewalk outside my office, a deep swath of sunlight pools and warms the air. When we woke it was near zero, now mid-afternoon we near 40. It is a subtle, simple thing. It thaws my hope.

The narrative I always want to tell is this; conflict begets resolution. Meaning there is a certain evolutionary grace that cannot be reached with out struggle or loss, even if it is simply to better understand and fight for what we value most so that it can grow. Because if this is not true, what of it?

And like all malleable things, it can be made true. In the way things can be broad sweeping truth that adheres to none of the variables or complexities at hand. Today, because there is sun and soon there will be a bloom of yeast and bread dough, I accept it with minimal questions. Good enough.

Last night I managed to read seven chapters of what is, so far, a very compelling book. The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. The authors narrative is organic, leaping from subjects and times, but there is a thread of cohesive tension growing that is so well done, I think. I look forward to picking it up tonight, which is an improvement.

I think I also made progress in a story I am working on.

All week, my daughter has been planning for her father to take her ice skating today, after school. go figure that with the sun, the rink is rough and covered with slush. There is always a cost, I suppose.

My girl is teaching herself the ukulele via youtube, which I knew. What I learned when I picked her up from guitar last night is she managed to translate all the songs she learned into guitar chords to show her teacher. For all the angst and hormonal melodrama of the tween years, it is these small things which take me by surprise. This person forming, capable, independent of me. It is lovely, though.

Happy Friday, friends. Much love,

 

 

 

Resistance

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Sometimes I am reminded I don’t hate poetry.

I’ll catch myself marveling at how completely a word can splinter, bear meaning on so many levels. Resist.

We resist tyranny and injustice. We resist assaults to our values. Resist is a movement of the like-minded. We resist what we cannot accept. I find it seems to have a snow balling factor. A default setting.

Every new piece of stimuli is resisted, sorted into good or evil. I am not sure that is the mark of a great society.

Once at the county fair, we got stuck on the tilt-a-whirl. The carnie was new and could not make the lever unlock, so around and around we went. The centrifugal force blended our flesh into our surroundings. It was a fixable thing of course. We were rescued before our flesh actually flew off our bones. More than once lately I am reminded of that feeling. That chaotic whirling where all things are beyond your personal control.

Because I am not sure what my mode of resistance is, I have started small. I will inhabit my beliefs. While my general beliefs are in resistance of the current way of things, they are also in resistance to the overall dehumanization one side might give another. Which is not limited to either side, I mean. It is born of the notion of sides. There are differences, and then there is automatic resistance to every word which is born from that which we perceive as opposition. It becomes default. Automatic. Mindless. I see it in myself. Knee jerk utterances of “asshole” under my breath. Bits of schadenfreude seeping from my skin that I would never intentionally mean by heart. It is the language of the agitated. The tired. The human.

Only, I don’t see how it will mend anything. At least until it implodes, I guess.

My truest lament about the whole mess is this; I am raising a ten year old girl here. Day after day I am trying to teach her to value kindness, honesty and intellectual reasoning. Critical thought. Only there is this mass revolt on all things I hold highest, it would seem. In the resistance I find golden examples, but I am just so fucking disheartened. Which seems comical to even bother saying. I know. Most of us are in one way or another.

There is in all of this, another sort of resistance. It seems to have settled in my sternum. Lately when ever I try to be mindful or grounded. When I try to write for craft or read anything of length. When I try to be still. It is an antsy panic that seems desperate to short circuit this. It allows me to surf amazon. It allows me to scroll the chaotic newsfeed of all the social networks. It is perfectly fine watching Netflix. Checking Pinterest.

It concerns me. I feel like I am losing the very things I value in the world. The mindful reasoning. The creative thought. The actualization of being in the now. Poof. The climate does not currently offer itself as hospitable to those things.

Which is exactly why they are next on my agenda of resistance. I will re-inhabit these things. I will reclaim them. I will make them count for something good.

Sometimes I think of how little this is. But then I figure, it isn’t.

Much love,

 

The Words in My Head

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“I have the Mondays,” she sighed, kicking at the icy curb on the way to school.                 “Me too, kid.” I sighed, taking her hand in mine. .

***

When I came into my office, the air was clear, the streets a stony grey, the curbs a muddied crest of ice. I made my oatmeal, my coffee, wandered aimlessly in my own mind for only minutes and now, the world is paper white, blinding.

It could go two ways, really. I could tell you, just as the world seems dull and drudge, a burst of new pure snow. Or I could tell you how quickly snow comes from the periphery ensuring one can never really rely on any one state of being.

I can’t pick. Both are true.

Instead maybe I will tell you about my cat. She was shot in the head with a BB gun last year. I think I wrote, in the newness of her injury, how unsure we were she would make it. She could not eat or use the litter box without one of us holding her back end steady. She could not walk more than five feet with out falling down. It broke our hearts, but when ever we consulted our vet, she would say wait and see.

Wait and see is a difficult way to proceed. It’s perhaps the most real, alive, way to be.

But what I want to tell you is after all these months, my cat is fine. She will never be 100%, but she lives a decent, functional cat life. She’s happy enough. I want to offer this as proof of hope in darker times. I used to be quite good at sussing silver linings. I’d like to think I still am, but the longer I live, it’s true too, that I offer these up as a web. One can’t deny there was someone cruel enough in the vicinity of my neighborhood to shoot a cat in the head. One can’t undo the pain it caused her small cat body. It can’t explain how when I poured myself into caring for her, it was beyond one silly woman and an injured cat. It does contain a bright wonder, though. The ability to heal is larger than any of my individual attempts at worry or faith.

***

The other night, in his sleep, one of our oldest friends died. He did not wake up. By oldest, I mean one with the longest history still entwined with ours. He was forty. He was not battling one of the big diseases. He was not murdered. He was not lost to some explainable accident or string of incidents which might lead to this. He simply died, there in his sleep. Somewhere on a table, someone is weighing his organs. Someone is recording marks and history on his bones.

Sometimes snow creeps in fast and when you look up, the entire landscape has changed in one breath.

Even then, one  must take in the new landscape. Healing becomes something more collective. We go on. All the time through out this spectacular and wretched history of our existence we go on. I have not lost my eye for silver linings. I have simply come to understand the elemental weight of silver.

Which is to say, these days, when I cannot sleep I try to think of how much good will come from these days in front of us. Not because of what we fear, but because there is not one thing to take for granted.

***

Much love,

L

A coming of middle age tale

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We were going about our life, and then Karl died. We hadn’t seen him for a few months, but that’s the way it has been in our adult years. Days get swallowed and dissolved into a myriad of tasks. Time gets lost, but you are made nearly docile by its seeming abundance at times. Your early 40s are still bright enough once you are done lamenting how fast the children grow or how short the time between mowed grass and grass which needs to be mowed. Karl always made it to our 4th of July picnic. If nothing new to say, there was always that bridge into those days we, ourselves, were new. That repertoire of stories gleaned from brilliant, stupid youth. We never imagined it might end like this, or at all, pulling the rest of us–the gang– from the woodwork of our lives, rescheduling meetings and kid hockey games, to toast a lost friend. Our lost memories, the ones we are not getting back.

**

When Karl died, my husband toasted to him with his few friends here who had met the guy. He stayed at the bar too late, watching the news, growing angry enough to eclipse the grief. But there is no long pause in the motion of celestial bodies. In the growing light, American Pie rolled out of the juke box. “It’s poignant,” he texts. “Karl loved music and the music died.” ” He did.” I text back, not pointing out that Don McLean was not exactly Karl’s jam. When I drove him home, he queued every album he ever had in common with his friend. The shows they went to. The ones they had only wished to see. Decades of thumping base, driving riffs. ” I have to go to bed,” I said, kissing him on the forehead. Once for the young man he used to be. The one who would take off on road trips with Karl, stay out for all hours, leaving me to worry where he was, who he was with, how he felt about me, what he was thinking. Once for the man sitting there, so known to me now, I leave the light on, the room open for him to inhabit.

**

Much love,