Small Leaps


It’s probably comical, the perpetual state I live in, thinking I am on the cusp of getting a handle on the forty-seven ring circus that is my existential toe hold in time and space.

I mean, let’s be candid. At the age of 40, I have never managed to herd more than one cat at once. I can’t even get my two actual, non metaphorical, cats to eat breakfast in the same room with out a dark cloud of deep seated tension rising between them and casting gloom over the land. On the other hand, one of my cats was near death just weeks ago, what with the traumatic brain injury and all. She couldn’t even use the litter box with out me propping her up or walk four feet with out falling down. This week she has regained the ability to jump up on the furniture. For the simple joy of it, it seem to be all she does now. She leaps to one chair, enjoys the higher perspective for a bit, then moves on to the next chair, the table, the couch. Leap, leap, leap.

It’s probably a fallacy in the last paragraph that I linked the triumph of my wobbly-cat’s healing to my ability to herd cats. While I was steadfast in my willingness to feed her food that made my whole house smell like soft, chewed tuna fish and cheese, to hold her as she poo’d, to bathe her and brush her and play her clips of ridiculous music marketed to boost cat’s well being, the small victories probably belong to luck and biology, the tenacity of the wobbly-one, herself. A lot of things get resolved on their own. In due time.

Without me, I mean.

Which isn’t to say I am undeserving when I share in the golden light of things. I play my part. I am part of the fabric.

This past weekend was a memory-maker. My baby girl who is not the least bit a baby anymore passed her first belt test. And then later the same day, she sang and played guitar with her teacher at the town talent show. The tally of grit and practice those two ten minute moments took, is amazing really. Nerves consumed the both of us for days leading in. When it came to the wire, it was all on her, though. There was nothing I could do for her from the sidelines. There was nothing I needed to do. She was nervous, but nailed it all with aces.

Which isn’t to say I am not part of the fabric, I am. I am dozens of threads running through the center, even. I am not the one wearing the garment. I’ve reached that point of my midlife role, like most women, I understand how I weave into every one’s cloak but my own. It is not that I am on the cusp of managing all of life. It’s mostly that these cloaks are worn by whirling dervishes.

All of this is to say, I think I need to change my perspective more than I need to get all of the whirly gigs under control. It’s the crux of the serenity prayer, is it not?


Much love,



This morning I am trying to return to my life. Which is an odd thing to say, as my life is more relentless than a shadow, with me even in the darkness. What I maybe mean to say I attempt to return to order. A voice in the back of my mind is always narrating the events of my day with as soon as we have this pinned down we can get back to work on you, your goals, your dreams.

Of course, there is always something to hijack the days. Important things worthy of my attention. There always will be. The trick, I suppose is learning to braid the things I want to do for myself in with all the things I must do for everyone else.

On vacation last week, a friend and I were in our reclining chairs by the lake watching the geese fly over head. I lamented that they were already heading south. My friend corrected me and said, No look. They are only teaching their babies to vee with the rest.

Sure enough, she was right. We watched the momma geese honk and holler at their goslings. Each time they touched down on the lake and took off, the formation took on more grace than the time before. I am thinking of this today. Trying to remember it takes a few tries to find order in flight.

In life, I often make the mistake of thinking in small, neat episodes, when in reality, it just keeps going on and on and on. Always there is a young rough-feathered bird scrambling to fall into line.

It’s been a long summer with very little writing. One of the birds I want to go into the vee is this weird elusive specimen. Not just writing, but development. Learning. Classes. The other is upping my health goals. I have kept up with my initial plans over the summer, but it is past time to start challenging myself more and I just haven’t managed to launch yet.

Instead, I care for my disabled cat, my daughter, my house, my husband, my job, my friends. I’m no schlump, but sometimes this makes  me tired. The promise of doing more of what I love energizes me, if even only in theory.

So, boring as it is, that’s the day’s news. This coming weekend my girl has a belt test for Tae kwon do and then she is performing in the town talent show with her guitar teacher. I blinked and she became so grown up. The cat has only made minor improvements and I worry she may not make it after all. Still, she’s still kicking. We all are.

Much love,


Surprise, the Elements of.


A woman, down the road, found a baby snake tucked in the rim of her toilet this week. She bent down to scrub with her brush, her rubber gloves, and the slight, ribbon of a thing just popped out to say hello. Just as quickly, it was gone. Tucked up into the rim of the bowl.

Who can sit to do their business after a thing like that. Even the next day when the woman found the wee  thing beneath her bath mat and released it back into the grass. All through town, in fact, people are lifting the seats and giving everything a good look before wasting no leisure on the throne.

All summer, I’ve been MIA from the blogosphere, and this is what I am driven to come back and tell you. That you can be going about your life quietly, assuming, only to be jarred awake to remember all the surprises and mysteries scattered about like land mines. As if your life is not the same. As if you might not already be aware this is the nature of our existence.

Last week, the week of the toilet snake, my daughter’s cat was knocked up-side the head. Though we speculate how this might have happened to a fault, we will probably never know. Running theories are car swipe, tree fall, hit or shot by a sociopathic asshole. The list could go on. What ever it was, we did not see it coming. Then, just as surely as we thought we would have to put her down after her solid 72 hour nap, she wobbled her self up, ate some breakfast and announced she was still kicking. We did not see that coming, either.  The vet says she will recover, perhaps not fully, but enough to have a good life.

In the mean time, she falls down a lot. Paired with the swollen side of her face, it can be a pitiful sight. We’ve shifted everything to accommodate her. In the swirl of other life concerns, aging parents, bills due, mountains of things to get done, her very existence seems like a miracle. As if to say, life is fragile, but see, too how much hope there is. So we dote on her with long snuggles, bowls of soft pungent food. When she falls out of the litter box for the third time, I hold her steady so she can bury a steaming turd. This is life. This is love, flawed as it is.

Though often swayed by the mysteries of the Universe, I wouldn’t say I am a particularly religious person by any stretch. When the subject of miracles comes up, I am always reminded of a wonderful book I read. Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger.

“Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It’s true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave – now there’s a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.”

Contradicts the will of the earth. That’s a high bar.  So really, I try to be careful when I use the word. Who can say what the will of the earth may be. Maybe it is truly the act of bothering which is the miracle. To be woken up from complacency or assumption. To know reliance on prediction is a lie. Perhaps the miracle is a small snake peeking out from the rim of a toilet bowl.

There is something about the unexpected which niggles at the thread of our contained joys and long managed concerns. Starts unraveling. Whispers, nothing is untouchable. It’s uneasy, to say the least. It is an open field with no cover from pending storms. It feels more alive than anything else.

Much love,




In Her Hands


Since my daughter came into this world, I’ve photographed anything she might be holding. At first, over and over, her tiny grasp around our fingers. Her starfish fingers caught in my hair. Through the years, the cup of her palm, cradling heirloom seeds, milkweed, tadpoles, jelly beans, seashells–even great gobs of mud, toads, tangles of worms.

camping09 119

I never meant for it to be a project; it isn’t, not consciously, anyway. It simply makes my heart full in a way I can’t really explain. How inexplicably amazing it still is to have brought life to this being, at large in the world.


In two weeks, these hands will be ten. A double digit. A decade. Already, these hands twirl my car keys around their index fingers and pretend they are going to drive to the movies. Already, they clutch her diary to her chest as she storms up the stairs to write about dreams and crushes and other things I want to know, but stop myself from peeking on. These hands are proficient at thumb texting. Which is to say, sometimes they become birds, like I used to show her, thumbs interlocked, finger wings flapping to make shadows on the wall. Which is to say, there are times already, they fly away.


Which is also to say, when her hand reaches for mine, these days, it is twice as nice. The summer days and firefly nights are fleeting in the way everything is fleeting. Tumbling one after another with no pause. I find myself so busy and yet nothing is ever done.


The irony, maybe, is that nothing can be held in the hands for long. The joy in all these pictures is not the capture. There is no reluctance to let go. As soon as it is held, milkweed is blown into the wind.


Perhaps, secretly, this is what I am telling myself in these images. That impermanence is the only permanence. That the only constant is change, and hands are meant to hold things and let go.

The river, the banks


Some nights are filled with fireflies, some with lightning, some with pounding rain, so quick, so heavy that we wake having to wade across the lawn. The river has lost its shape, something like when a snake eats something larger than itself and bulges into the unrecognizable. In a sense, this is another metaphor for summer. I imagine it will be a pretty winding thing, with a slow current, scatters of wild geranium on the bank. Sometimes, though, it is this. Water everywhere. Sometimes we bail. Sometimes we wait it out, for what floods also recedes and dries out.

June is nearly half gone. This is honestly the first time I have sat to write in weeks. Which is to say I have been doing a thousand other things. But I miss my words. They are what make order of this life for me, knitting gun fire with carmine sunsets, noise with silence. Which is not to say I want to write about terrorists. Or hate. Or how pear-shaped this country has gone sometimes. I could write about those things. But the truth is, I want to write about my lemon balm. How hearty it is. How its leaves tastes like the lemon drop candies I used to get on summer road trips as a kid.

I want to write about the first fire flies of the year, or chasing chickens at a friends farm. Even how, as we drove around before summer school this morning, my daughter and I traced the swollen snake of a river, the sheer potential of something as common place as rain has the power to turn us upside down in one night of storms. Near the water, two fawns danced about in their morning greeting.

Mostly I write to know these things are tangible. They exist. More accurately, I exist. In the quiet of things. It’s a reassurance like no other. It is the thing that has saved me year after year after year. So it pleases me, I will tell you, when I watch my daughter work on poems to submit to Rattle for their kid’s anthology. It pleases me when she takes a pack of soft pastels and a sketch pad into the yard and loses herself in the bloom of color and dust.

My opinions are fairly inconsequential in this world, but in them, a fairly common theme weaves through like a gold thread. This world does not spend nearly enough time saving itself. I don’t mean by defense, I mean by preservation. By filling the reservoirs with all the things that make human existence sing. Which is to say, we make it easy to forget we are worth saving. We’ve come to see ourselves as disposable and empty as our culture tends to reflect. It’s my only explanation for why we are careening off, always saying, just let the mother fucker burn.

But like I said, I don’t want to write about that. I want to write about how my daughter is taking guitar lessons now. The front porch fills with tentative scales and chords. I want to say this fills my heart. I want to say, I’ve been productive enough in the last month that I almost don’t feel bad about the weeds in the perennial garden. ( But I do). I want to say Glycerine, by Bush is on the radio just now and even the briefest few bars of it take me back to the summer I was 17. I want to tell you, I mean to get back to all of the things that soothe me. The words, the colors. That is my plan for today.

I want to tell you I hope your day is filled with something that makes being alive so worth it, so undeniably fantastical, you feel stars in your belly.

I want to tell you, no, I want to ask you, please, even the smallest thing. Please feel for the stars.

Feathers and Stones


Here we are. Monday of the last week of fourth grade. For my daughter, I mean. Clearly, I am not in fourth grade. That’s a complaint about parents of my helicoptery-generation, I suppose. This whole lack of separation in pronouns. Always the we, and not in any royal sense.  I tell you what though. I’d be happy to say it was all her, but the fact is, the demands of modern education gave me a part to play in the whole fourth grade gig. And I am delighted to be shed of it. Which is not to mean I don’t love carting my kid to all her activities, or listening sympathetically about interpersonal melodramas,  or checking her math homework or signing off on her daily journal or making sure she is clean and as well kept as any ten year old can be. I love it all, but by this time of year, those things are heavy stones and we long to be feathers. The season of fireflies, swimming, free hours to read books. Fresh tomatoes. No TV. Camping. Wilding. Bonfires and wine and laughter.  Tell me that doesn’t sound like bliss.

I am not in the fourth grade. In fact, this morning, I realized I am going to be forty on my next birthday. Which really is no biggie. I am starting to figure out things I have struggled with my whole life. I think I am going to love getting older. I mean there is still a heap ton of stuff that mystifies the crap out of me, but I am bolstered by my small progresses. I am capable of improvement and that is a hopeful way to go about it.

I made some big changes to my novel in progress over the weekend. Including changing the protagonist’s name. He’s had the same name for years and I just changed it. Which gave me permission to change a lot of things. Which will make for a better story. And even better, one I understand how to finish by summer’s end.

The big dance recital is over. We had all the grandparents over for dinner after. I made the best batch of guacamole, ever. My house is still nearly clean. The sun is a warm and the air is filled with bees and yellow moths and birds.

This summer, my girl and I want to find a good recipe for natural shampoo. If anyone has one, we’d love to hear about it. We’re trying to get the hormone disrupting chemicals out of our lives, but it’s really sort of expensive if you don’t DIY it.

Ok. Work calls, literally. Much love, friends. Happy nearly summer.


Earlier today,


I was walking home for lunch and had a great idea for a blog. Don’t ask me what it was. Hell if I remember now. I was distracted because I saw a local pastor running to his house from his church as if the house were on fire. As I rounded the corner, I found there was no emergency, he was merely in a hurry because his daughter was riding with out training wheels for the first time. There is a lot of happiness in such a thing. It put a bounce in my step, as did the old man driving by in a beat up old mini van blasting a little Johnny Cash. It’s that time of year where the music begs to be cranked up. Lambs walk on first legs. Children learn to ride like the wind by shedding their doubts long enough to try with out wheels.

You’d think I could remained buoyed by such things. Not me. Nope. I’m quite cross for a thousand little reasons and then, no real reason at all. And you know, that’s fine. Humans get cross. I’ve grown tired of myself, though. I mean, the lilacs in the dooryard have freaking bloomed. The sun is warm. Not only has my walking helped me rediscover my ankles, but today my calves seem… shapely. How could I possibly be grumpy in light of such novelty! ?

I don’t know, man. I just am. I’ve had a cold for over a week. I scheduled my daughter’s first orthodontic consult. OH GODS WE WILL BE SO POOR! My husband has spent three days building a deck for his dad, which is really nice of him, I mean, but now he seems to tired to do things in our house. I am having all the grandparents, etc over for dinner after my daughter’s dance recital Saturday night. On my way out the door I realized I really don’t want my mother to see my flower beds in that shape. It is not worth the tsking. Also, the CEO  has bought delicious cheese to share with the office. Fresh, today, cheese curds that still squeak against your teeth. My current health program allotted me a 1×1 inch piece. I am trying very hard to remember that is not an actual injustice.

After reading my minor list of complaints, you, like me, might wonder is that really enough to justify being so flipping out of sorts today? Of course it isn’t. Being cross is not a logical undertaking. Nor is it a legitimate topic for this blog post, but I forgot my other one somewhere on Main street.

There are only 9 more days of school and I am sort of excited about that. I work at home over the summer, and have more opportunities to get stuff done. Though I also go to a lot of bonfires and drink a lot of wine, so there’s that. Oh- and I am going to read so many books. I have already put 21 on hold with the library. My heathen self will be the official photographer for our local VBS this year, which is funny. But my girl loves going, and I always duck out of volunteering for that gig. We have camping adventures planned.

These things almost cheer me up.

Though  I still can’t remember what I intended to blog about.


The Liberty of Mistakes/ or This is Why We Can Have Nice Things


Sometimes my life gets recurring themes. Lately, it is the blessing of having made a mistake. Not per say the pain which comes from having made one, but the liberty to correct ones self upon acceptance of said mistake. Acceptance is key. I know for fact how easy it is to make a mistake and to keep on living in denial of said mistake.

About 12 years ago, I quit smoking. I had tried a dozen different ways to quit. The only thing that worked in the end was coming to a moment where I accepted it had been really stupid of me to smoke in the first place, a mistake. I thought I would gain something from it, and maybe I did gain some things, but over all, I lost. I didn’t berate myself or think this in any shaming way. (I always beat myself up more in my skirting around a mistake, than admitting it.) The freedom of a mistake is this: you say to yourself, you deserve better than this. You say, my behavior was wrong, but I can correct it. The power is mine.

I’ve recently decided to lose weight and improve my fitness. I mean, the whole last decade I have been fat, I’ve been deciding to lose weight. I have also harbored a lot of shame in gaining weight. I’ve denied my mistake by being mindless about it many a time. I’ve internalized judgments about being out of shape. I’ve looked in the mirror and felt failure. Most of all, I’ve hidden myself. Avoided situations. All because I am carrying fifty or sixty extra pounds. One day, I said, it has really been a mistake to treat myself like this, both by neglecting the health aspect and the way I speak to myself or alter my life because of it. It was a mistake to feel somehow powerless.  It was a mistake, and the power became mine to correct it.

I don’t mind bragging. I am totally rocking the good choices. And weight is falling off 1-2 lbs a week. For Mother’s Day, I asked for an herb garden. A simple thing really. I had put off having one for so long despite wanting one. I think deep down, I am always thinking this is why we can’t have nice things. That I should be denied a thing of loveliness because I have a grudge about something else with myself. This too was a mistake.

Maybe this is elementary to everyone else. But if you are more like me, the lesson learned, the fact that we are not our mistakes is fiercely earned. We are not our mistakes; we simply make them. And if we accept them, chances are we can correct on them. Or learn from them.

Today I am wrestling with another mistake. The reason I can’t seem to finish the draft of my YA novel is really due to the fact that I don’t believe anything in the last quarter of the story would happen. That’s kind of a big deal. I have given myself to Aug 31 to finish the damn thing or abandon it. This is because  I have been working with these characters in various incarnations for almost 20 years. They either deserve to have the story told or they need to move on. In writing, it’s more common than not to land on the wrong note. My mistake has been clinging to the wrong note for too long.

I have to let it go. Sometimes it is scary, or all the time it is scary, to accept a mistake. Sometimes we cling to what is because we don’t know what life will be like with out it. To construct and deconstruct at will often seems counter intuitive. Are we not taught to forge ahead? To keep building. Except that isn’t what life is. What life does. Who we are. How we grow. So why is it conventional wisdom?

The world is a strange place. But today I am happy. I’ve made mistakes. And though they were mistakes, there are forgivable reasons I made them. Understandable reasons. Today I like myself enough to be cool with that. I made mistakes and I get to correct them. The truth is, both sides make life richer than it would otherwise be.

*end self pep-talk*




Lazy Summer Hunt #10


      1. On the way to school, beneath an elm tree, a baby bird rests on the sidewalk. By rest, I mean, has fallen in the night, from a high nest full of frantic chirping. By fallen, I mean, lies in a delicate sprawl on the pavement pink as a rosebud with clouded blue eyes. Its skin is so translucent, we can detect tiny hollow bones.

It does not even have feathers,

      my daughter says softly, glumly


2. Each spring, I am surprised by the chance for those that rise and those that go back from where they came.

3. I was worried our new house would not have as many birds as our old house, but now, in fact we have more birds. Birds everywhere. There are days the crab apple tree is so heavy with them it bows. My patio table gets crusted with shit. The robins,  accustomed to us, hop about at our feet. You can never leave a door open for long. But their song! The air loops with it for all hours of light and then into dark. The problem with birds, with anything you might love despite their complexity, is you give them power to break your heart.

4.For weeks, in the window of our local consignment/music lesson/egg/ trinket store, new chicks have hopped about under a heat lamp. We could not walk anywhere with out stopping to check on them. How quickly their fluff turned to feather. How fat they got! The chicks have either sold or gotten too big for the cage and went back to the farm. This morning the window display is filled with vintage sheet music. A deflated curiosity.



“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Emily Dickinson

Got myself a mission/ I’m going to find heaven/ I made crepe-paper wings/ I think they’ll carry me a while/ I left you a love poem/ The best I have written/ My favorite words /Were the ones I couldn’t spell/ They say that I’m a lunatic/ They say that I am full of it/ I say that it’s worth dreamin’/ Just for the dream of it/ It’s all about passion/ It’s all about perception/ Don’t call me on my cell phone/ ‘Cause there ain’t no reception/ When I’m gone/ When I’m gone/ I think I’m growing feathers/ But I’m not quite sure of it/ ‘Cause I started getting dizzy/ About a Hundred feet up/ I made friends with the clouds/ I made friends with the birds/ If you ask a goose a question/ He never shuts up/ And honestly I miss you/ And I hope that you’re missing me/ Cause I could use your lips on me /And a little bit of dramamine/ For the moment I can see/ Way better than I’ve ever seen
Don’t sell my stuff on eBay/ Cause I might need it back before I’m gone/ Before I’m gone
I’m not the kind of man/ Who’s into looking downwards/ I’ve drank my share of pity
From the bartender’s cup/ So many people/ Wonderin’ “What’s the right direction?”
As far as I’m concerned/ There’s only one way up/ And my fingers, they are blisters
And my eyes, they are bullet holes/ But my hearts still beating/ Guess I’m pretty lucky
– Cloud Cult

7. Sometimes I think of what a risk it is to love. How featherless it leaves us. Which is not to say hopeless. Merely naked. Or perhaps hopeless, depending on how you hash it. I was in my thirties, a decade into marriage before I realized I had no clue how to love. I knew keeping company, I knew sex, I knew desire, I knew affection, I knew security, affirmation but none of those things are love. Not really. Love is something else. Love is a thing with out feathers. Once you understand this, you have no other choice than to fly anyway.





Lazy Summer Scavenger Hunt #19


The summer I was six, the summer after my father died, my mother planted an herb garden around the edges of our deck. I’d spend afternoons sitting at the edge breathing in bouquets of basil and sage and mint. And then, eventually just the mint. My mother never anticipated that bounty, that heart, hungry spread, mint has, root by root, wild. Sometimes, now that I am a mother, I try to think of my mother in those years. Younger than I am now by nearly a decade, alone, raising a little girl in a ramshackle cottage in the woods, on an island. In those years, mint might have been an unspoken metaphor. The folly of independence.

There is never a choice, an action that does not have a root system of unaccounted for consequences. This has the potential to break the heart further, and so many times it did. The mint was not one of them. My mother, of course, bemoaned the verdant coup, but I loved every serrated leaf of it. On a humid day, the entire yard buzzed green with its mentholic brightness. I’d chew wads of  rough leaves, bitter and cooling, until my teeth turned green.

For Mother’s Day, all I wanted was an herb garden. My own is fashioned out of pots on the sill for now. When the sun filters through the blossomed crab apple tree and infuses the green, I am untouchably happy. I have parsley and a spring of rosemary in my water. I pinch the basil to make it bushy. When I am tired, I inhale the breath of lemon balm. When I place a rough leaf of mint on my tongue, I am lost to time and space.

I am tempted to release the mint from its pot. Let it spread through the yard for the cats to laze in. Let the air become electric and green and so fresh it brings you to tears before you even know they’re coming or why.

There is something to be said for a thing so wild it can do nothing but grow beyond itself. There is something to be said for letting it.

Sometimes I think of how much courage my mother had to muster, even when the wells felt dusty for lack of it. We forget things over time. These memories are of two people, not the two of us now, but others of us, once existing on a green island, in a river. In this story, we are the versions of ourselves in wild mint. To mint something, is to essentially form it, transform it into something new. Sometimes that is a thing that begins with a root structure so deep it permeates all of the earth.