Heal Thyself

The countenance arrives before the poetry. After her visit, words began to sink down or float up or move out from the place they go to rest. Now, silence gives way. My ears hear tingling in my fingers; my eyes see the smell of tulips. The unlatched gate groans a little in fainting rain. Tell me beloved: how far do these spirits swim? They paddle out, float for weeks and head back in towards hiccuping shores. Ah, but that's the metaphysics talking again. Pour me another, won't you? Sitting kitty-corner on the couch, we both slightly rise to clink wine glasses together. Heaven works without interference; one day you look around and you are it and it is here. Prayer is a whisper for your mind, a way to settle, a way to open to what is already alert. In that way, she is a prayer answered. A monk arrived here one time in sheep's clothing. He took my hands to kneel but at the last minute, grabbed my wrists and held them high against the wall. Prayer is that, too. I can no longer kiss, though. Medice, cura te ipsum. April begins with daffodils and hosta fingers clawing up from the grave. Hyacinth tries to bloom but its faded purples and pinks are damaged from the late snows. This inventory has become the color of survival. At night the earth smells soggy and alive; my benedictions live here. May you, who is we, know the extent to which you are loved – like the surprise of first bloom with the power to heal.


This is My Well

Timing and mood.

A wintry mix of snow and ice falls with hesitation, maybe apologetically, on unopened daffodils. Tiny balls of ice bounce when they land on a ground whose breath smells so hungrily of spring. It happens every year – this icy hiccup of timing. First blossoms are always ruined by this kind of storm. Michigan has her way of staying honest no matter how many ways one tries to romanticize her dunes or pines or bears.

Movement against the descent catches my eye – a nuthatch works its way up the oak – two hops forward, one hop back. Otherwise, the entirety of spring has hunkered down for the storm. From my nest in the couch I can see where I had been working the dirt yesterday. My shoulders and back ache as a reminder of how hard I had reached. Now on the other side of this white veil, the toil seems a little bit silly. But this is my well . . . this writing, this Michigan, this untamable yet utterly mundane existence of here and not here. I draw from it – drink and swallow – and invite others in my own quiet way.

Logs in the fire crackle a bit and the wind growls. I am cold, even with a dozing dog curled at my feet. In these moments I write. Signals and awarenesses and the deep lisping of internal shores all converge to urge. It's the way in which the world gives in and gives to and gives up. And then after, when there are words somehow on the page, it is all abandoned. In the wicked white light of April's unmanageable storm, this creative abdication is how I know love. It is the proof of knowing how to be home.

Burbling

Morning asks to begin before dawn – before I am ready. Though it has taken a week to crawl away from the clutches of a virus, my body tosses and turns, unable to squeeze any more sleep out of 4 a.m. Lately, dreams contemplate the luminous faces of past teachers. A musing of time considers the nonlinear appearances of light – of wisdom – of love.

Yesterday's daylight dipped into the west and a chorus of birdsong continued to burble into a warmer darkness. Night is not as empty as it was in February. The greenhouses are warming enough to warrant shorts and tank tops but I'm the last one to shed the winter layers. It is strange how the work and the building and the people and the plants all amalgamate to affect a million mirco-changes in me. Entanglement is less and less subtle.

Hours of repetitious planting causes the musculature of my fingers and hands to noticeably change. Even the skin underneath my fingernails presses up against the nails somehow differently. While planting, the dirt and oils and chemistry of the plants is shoved deep into the pores of my fingers. Sometimes green or black residue stains the spaces in between my fingers and begins to cake. That feeling makes me feel uncomfortable and irritated. With each shove of the plant plug into the dirt flat, (because really, this type of planting is a violence) I try to conquer or ignore or endure the compulsion to wash that feeling away. We get two breaks, one at 10:30 a.m. and one at noon for lunch; I play it cool but I'm always in a rush to be the first in line to wash my hands. In this case, exposure and repetition does not lessen the trigger of duress. In a 7.5 hour shift, planting by hand, 6 planters in our greenhouse can fill a hoophouse with 100,000 plants. Compulsion – control – repeat.

Yet I grow here. And I am grateful.

East falls on my face before work. And I see

how love is managed –
spring robin bathing
in the creek




Michigan's Way

On the breath of dawn cardinals and sparrows hang notes like streamers in rose-gold air. A red-bellied woodpecker churrs his throaty trill a little off in the distance. There is a stir – an activated murmuring of life and it feels so very much like opening. Whoever is me is now moving more like blood or creek or sap.

After a few moments of mosaic sunrise, gray rolls over any hints of spring. Later: snow – rain – snow.

It's colder than usual in the greenhouse. Most of us leave our sweatshirts on as we fill dirt, plant, tag and pull flats off the conveyer belt. Walking the flats and baskets to their spots in the greenhouses requires great physical exertion and yet, shivers. These little green spirits grow because we said so! The “runner” job at the greenhouse is my favorite. Hundreds of times over I grab the flats or the baskets off the belt and carry them to a certain spot on the greenhouse floor. If they are hanging baskets I carry 4 in each hand and bend down to line them up 10 or 12 across. If they are flats, I carry one in each hand. Sometimes the distance from the belt to the resting spot is 20-30 feet. Sometimes it is the entire length of the greenhouse aisle. Muscles mound under my skin and I can feel all my parts working together to accomplish something. The gals yell from the filler to check on me. I always smile and wave.

Winter as a teacher. Who would I be if the temperature was always 73 and a little sunny? Michigan's way always leaves a mark. Could I love spring so desperately if it wasn't a spectacular chisel cutting the dormant from winter's tomb? There used to be these verses I loved . . . these poets filled with magic and tragedy. Now there is January and April and October. There are leftover leaves covering new beginnings. There is a hint of pine-tinged woodsmoke greeting the open door. And there is me, doing this sort of twisty dance between loneliness and complacency and what feels like ridiculously naive hope. That's too simplistic, of course. But it is one way to color in the lines.

Another way to shade and shape is the writing. There is a sense of thinness when it doesn't arrive. Waking and walking and working – if not noticing and recording the smallest bend of sunlight or the faintest hint of damp earth, then why? Why collect and carry a million details of an infinite story? Every day, despite the weather or illness or the general busyness and grind of American life, there is an awareness collected – jots pushed along in a stream of existence. A telling burns inside but I cannot coax the alchemy of creation forward.

An opossum the size of a large raccoon lumbers across the backyard fence line. In the morning fog it isn't easy to keep track of it and soon it disappears into a familiar grayness. K. says we need to find someone to get rid of it. He knows I won't allow that; I'm not sure what the point is in testing me so early in the morning. On my day off, new glasses, meet with a contractor, clean the house, put together a care package for L. We'll travel to Mount Pleasant this weekend to hear her play but really, I just can't wait to smell her hair as I tuck her into my arms. This and other ways to be home.


God at Last

Ah, east and its radiance unslaked! Moonlight will return to the garden path I paced. March will fade to reveal how much I have vanished. Or how much I can vanish. Who returns? The red-winged blackbird trills from yellow-crisped cattails. Spring is near. God at last.

B. puts MIT on the college visitation list. Finally Massachusetts – maybe summer – maybe autumn, like I always dreamed. We'll see what admissions has to say. I pour a dark, chewy beer in consideration of all the implications. Cambridge is so far away from here. How can so much of my heart survive that far east? I will arrive eventually. It's always been known.

The woven trail continues to rise under my pace. Spring creeks rush ahead. Day becomes a bullet beyond my half opened door. Pilates, greenhouse, shower. Dinner, stretch, sleep. This is how the in between days pass. In between spring and now. In between blue skies. In between that day we spoke of Tara Singh and the day it all just disappeared. I guess it's smarter to just say “in between days.”

I'm not lost in this winter aftermath. Pine litter carpets the base of trees and downed branches lie upon the ground like fallen bodies waiting for collection. I am strong and I still know what I want. Folded by ancients – unfold – wrap around. The moon says we should be friends. That's okay; I’ll wait for what I have always known. There is no otherwise.



Tilt

It's raining. She calls me from the middle of the dormitory courtyard and shouts into the phone, “it's a double rainbow! I'm sending you a picture!” This girl and my heart.

Weather gusts of spring. Rain slants into screens and snowbanks with a jarring force, especially after a winter of whispery precipitation. The ground is gradually exposed after months and miles of white. Fog is released as the snow melts and lingers like a final specter of unfinished business. Over a few hours, shrubs come into view and then the deck and finally a few dog toys long forgotten. My mind zings with thoughts of planting and yard preparation. There is always another snowfall in April and the permafrost needs time to let go. And yet, daffodils dance as a shimmering mirage in the almost knowable distance.

Lately I hear geese overhead while I work in the greenhouses. The rise in temperature by even a few degrees is enough to invite an entirely new song. After sunset now, birds sing as they eek out the last bit of balmy foraging before the next icy blast.

Distance or space or elongation helps in considering what it means to open into whatever love is. To whichever love is. To whomever love is. In my most clear moments, love cannot be mouthed or scratched out with pen. It is not a penny thrown over the cobblestone sides of the well. It's not mine or yours or ours. And whatever it really is, it just is. But I most feel it as the earth's sweat – river, lake and sea. In moving itself, it moves me. It takes parts of me away, yet leaves me whole. I can't break it down into any intellectual modicum. The metaphysics ascribed added a familiar language to it for a time, but then, didn't. I don't know what to do with it . . . how to hold it, how to let it go. I can float or sink. Swim or play. I can walk away and redirect and plunge myself into bodywork or cooking or Netflix. I can face the flow in awareness and benevolence and recognition. I can drown in confusion or the power or the lack of ability to be a proper conduit.

It's March. Michigan's waters are frozen. We wait on the tilt to bring it all back.





Shrines and Saying Nothing

Saying nothing over and over.

A 4 a.m. nightmare shatters any remaining sleep. Before everyone wakes I build a fire, fry bacon and eggs and cut up a fruit bowl. Somewhere between roasting vegetables for the week and reboiling coffee, B drifts into the kitchen to give hugs and to ferry a few pieces of bacon back to his room. I tell him the sad story of a spider that dropped from the ceiling into hot bacon grease before I could save it. The spider sizzled on contact, making my stomach lurch. L is home from college for a few days before heading off to Indianapolis for performances. Her life as a musician is grueling. She puts in 16 hour days on top of performances, tests, homework and travel. My heart bursts with equal measure of pride and worry.

Another round of arctic air surfs through the area. With a high temperature of 5°F, the greenhouse will add another layer of sanctuary tomorrow. There is a certain sense of gifting and joy when growing plants for others. Sometimes I feel like an elf in the North Pole preparing toys for Christmas morning. Will they smile and love and care for these treasures? This and other myths we build into our lives.

Being in the moment means not building a shrine to the longing. And yet, the longing arrives — for sweaty summer nights or the smell of fallen apples in October's orchard. In the now, wind bounces pine boughs into a dance. And the biting air curls azalea leaves tighter and tighter until they look like short, worn down pencils.

Winter secrets held tightly. Now and not-now at hand. When the rind of night gives way I see spring burnishing the tree line for a few moments. It is true that I wait on the renewal – the resumption of living – the melt. But even waiting is the awareness of now. Please write, even to say nothing, over and over.




Sizzle the Stillness

For less than a handful of heartbeats, magenta-orange rises and arcs over the forever white and deep. Like a dream. Like a whisper of a story.

Before gray settles into its day-long rest, sunrise creeps through white pines and spruce and fir to sizzle the stillness of dawn. Kora makes quick work of canvassing the backyard; the rabbits have been busy overnight making dozens of intersections and pit stops. Even with her light frame, her paws squeak in the snow. Another polar vortex is on its way but I try not to think about it too much. Instead I buy potted daffodil and hyacinth to strategically place around my psyche. Celebrating what ultimately must unfold is one way looking at it. And I am looking at it, love. This bipolar dance of study and turning away is tempered by the embrace of awareness. But listen, the music is always playing for me. “Tell me something, boy . . .”

The greenhouse work is consuming. We are shorthanded this year so the hustle keeps our pace under pressure. But I like my dirt tan. My body likes some of the work but not all. At night after my shower, I ice, stretch and dream about massages. My fingers are thickening with muscle and scrapes because of the work. My wedding ring chokes my finger so it's time to it take off for a season.

Brokeback Mountain, A Handbook for Creative Protest, Dickinson. Winter, greenhouses, gin. A white rose, gentle and thorny. We are always growing a garden; who walks through is up to them.



What is This?

It's not always the moon with its bluesy light floating between feathery pines. Nor is it the way the lake takes small sips at the shore after sunset. It's not just poetry or how I have already seen the first kiss. It's not the angle of elbows leaning on the railing as the mill below pulls the river. It's smaller than that.

It's dark red wine pooling in the curl of my tongue before it slips into all of me. It's the first smell of dirt in the morning at the greenhouse, before the sweat, before the vents open to the sharp blades of winter air. It's the 4 a.m. me thinking of the 4 a.m. you. It's soup and song and snow falling through woodsmoke. It's metaphysical and logical and insanity. It's Cohen and Coltrane and the Cure. It's right now and always. And maybe the imperceptible never. All of this. All of me. Seen before I saw myself. Sure, the sentence carves a rivulet through the fidelity hearts. But what is behind the crocheted gift of words and intent and origin? No reason to rush to the mailbox; no reason to find a way. And yet.

Night floats down and erases all empires. I'm sorry, but there must be more. How many blankets do you prefer, my lovely?

It is a kiss goodnight.




Losing Wild

February provides the glassy hope of returning light. In the same way a single pinpoint of starlight reaches the eye, a chink in the granite corridor of winter allows for some kind of opening. A micro bloom. Clemency, perhaps. This exhalation moves the discussion another way.

Winter tamps down whatever wildness remains at the roots of my hair. This is probably for the betterment of those who choose to eat supper and tend fire and dance with me. Yet a new margin discolors vast miles of white on white on white. I get close enough to the crevice to run my tongue along its edges. Instead of sharp angles left behind by a chiseling or blunt force, the opening is rounded and smooth as if softened over time by moving water. Perhaps my heat will coax winter's relaxation. Maybe the locked creek will wake itself to sprinkle holy water upon feathered heartbeats at rest on high.


now
a little light

enough
to confess

truth

We let go of each other, I guess. Love becomes the Impersonal Everyone it always is. How unfair it is to heat and stamp and shape this existence into anything else. We would have ended up here with or without a kiss, though. Ya know? I watch our verse move like the tide – closer – away – shy – hungry – arrive.

Oak branches solder a flannel sky. Snow, ice, rain, repeat. As I load wood into the woodbox, the rough bark scraps the blistered skin between my fingers. Greenhouse work takes a toll but its a price I don't mind paying for once. Dirt floats in the air and it's warm enough to sweat and to wear shorts. The work takes all of me but having a purpose returns the favor. Back home, remnant downfall from the last ice storm is fed to the fireplace keeping the house just warm enough. After being in the greenhouse all day, every thing feels much colder, even after a hot shower. And finally, falling asleep, wasted from the day, suddenly I am deeply assessing all this work that we do – all this life that lives us – and I am asking: where is the unmanageable wild?



Bird Report

As the dog bounds through the back yard, a junco skitters up from the evergreen bush into a nearby pine. With rare morning light behind the tree, the bird's landing releases the finest glittering of tiny sparkles to fall in and out of perception – a slow motion dusting of prismatic wonderment. If winter was like this more often maybe it wouldn't seem so unrelenting in its ability to unleash misery and despair, especially for those who feed on light. A woodpecker's drumming breaks this dream with staccato bursts of longing. Judging by the volume and clarity, he is next door on neighbor's tree. Given the onset of late winter, perhaps this red-headed king is searching for a mate. All I know is how sharply he can be heard against the frozen silence of this subzero morning.

Yesterday a male cardinal appeared in place I hadn't seen him before. He tried to feed in the small feeder attached to the dining room window but was unable to fit. With multiple attempts, he'd fly in after pausing on the adjacent pine. Tilting and turning his head left and right, his sharp red feathers glared against the green of the needles. Eventually he was forced to pick through the black and golden scraps of seed beneath the window. It's the only feeder the squirrels cannot drain, although they do try. Muddy prints dot the window where the squirrels have managed to jump from the house siding onto the window, only to slide down past the feeder and fall to the ground.

When L. calls from college and asks what I'm up to, I tell her these little vignettes with the full realization that I am now more like my mother than I am not. L. will tell me a million details about her classes and her saxophone studio and her friendships. I love to listen to her chirp and chatter, her voice rising and falling like music itself. She leaves nothing out, or so it seems. Sometimes I curl up in her empty bed and stare out of her bedroom window. I imagine her life now as she grows away from home.

Coming in from school, B. pauses at the window. He'll notice the feeder getting low or the mess the squirrels have made or all the dog prints around the tree where Kora tried in vain to nab the squirrely invaders. I'll ask him how his day was and he say that it was just okay. It is always just okay. His hugs tell me that he is glad to be home. We sit quietly on the couch after school. He'll pet the dog and ask her how her day of squirrel patrol was. He tells her in a cooing voice how badly her breath smells, as if he was giving her the most endearing compliment in the world. We share a smile over that. He scrolls through his phone and asks me if I saw this headline or that headline. Between long silences, he shows me memes and puns and jokes. We can hear K.’s voice through the floor register. Sometimes it's just his side of the conversation but more often it's a conference call with many voices making many decisions for many hours of the day.

Today the house is still sleeping. I want them all to sleep a little longer so that this silence can be stretched a little further. Here is where the bird report begins. In the bird report, the writing begins. And with a little sunlight, something breaks wide open.

Ah, now he stirs. The toilet flushes and I know my morning prayers are finished. Though winter has taken too much, February begins to give. Here and there, feathery amens start to rise. A chickadee leads the way.

Alabaster Aftermath

After five days of relentless snowbands and arctic freeze, a break in singular condition becomes a song. Rabbit tracks lead up to the front door it feels like the holy visit of a ghost. Hash and eggs on the stove. Coffee for him. Tea for me. The dog limps to her bed to lick her paws after a brief time outside. Today is diverting snow from drains and roofs before the warm up.

Blue, like unrelenting eyes, above for the first time in a million days. Like poetry pounding on my heart. Like the time I almost drove east into the sea. Who have I swallowed? Who's ego has been reinvested into my cosmos? We are not sundered, despite long white miles of winter's reach.

Seeds unsown. Empty buckets. The wheelbarrow sleeps in the shed. To ride out whole seasons is to be handed over in faith. February says sometimes there is a deep truth within a lie. That's the book I tried to write. Untranslatable. Untoward. Unshelved. Yet under this breakthrough sky, I can glint and shimmer upon that which is cold and barren. I can knit the belief of here and not here into a scarf wrapped twice around my neck.

After the outside work is done, a hot shower and this.

This before the melt.
This before the refreeze.
This before I write the book.



For a Kiss

I.

I spend the morning watching pine trees conduct a winter symphony. The last of January howls. Every window is white and ice builds on the inside sills. The furnace hums to keep the house warmhearted. There is no where to go and no way to get there.

faultless
laundered
dawn


II.

We are starved of the sun and obliterated by sub-zero winds. Snow adds to itself, unceasing, rising into new territory. Naked bulbs press into their deep sleep. Irrelevant of which way I write or to whom, my ruminations birth one manifestation.

of chickadees
taking turns on pine branches
to feed –
what I can taste
of January

III.

On occasion
I drink hot chocolate
and it hurts my stomach
I keep my favorite beer on hand
despite the allergy
And I pin you to the wall in the stairwell
so my eyes can ask
for a kiss
for the gateway of dreams
for the manifestation of what is always present
despite the ruinous fruit
because something is ruined, yes?
I am this, this




Tasting

Snow over ice over sleeping daffodils.

I'm up long before daybreak to roast root vegetables, make a batch of chili, shovel the driveway and spread salt. After a night of snowfall, day breaks into brief moments of silver. My cheeks burn from the cold air and the sting stays with me most of the day.

A blizzard bears down from the west, gathering moisture from Lake Michigan. Another 12+ inches and -50 windchill is expected. Preparations are in order: firewood, gasoline, candles, batteries. I clear as much snow as I can before my soft body gives way. After an hour of raking the roof, my arms are too shaky to wipe the freezing sweat from my forehead. I trip myself in the calf-deep snow walking back to the garage and decide to just stay down for a bit. The dog thinks I am playing, so I do. Fake it 'til you make it, right?

Still on the ground, tiny prisms melt on my face. When the dog sticks her nose into my scarf-swaddled neck, I remember my dream from last night in which we shared a bowl of soup. And tea. Through the fragrance of steam you said: when you love one, you love the whole.

Back inside, heating the kettle, I catch a glimpse of the pileated woodpecker at the feeder and it sends a shiver up the back of my neck. He is exactly where he should be but his large frame and fiery crest startles me every time. Winter wants nothing from me – but it is here – and I am here – between thoughts – shoveling – sleeping – dreaming under books and a mountain of quilts. We are not on the periphery. We are threaded through – led by a piercing needle – down – under – up over – down through again. I'm not sure what we are making but even now in this unrelenting winter, piling white upon white upon white, I taste the vibrancy

of what
and of whom
we are making



Three Heartbeats and a Hill of Bones

In last night's dream, I walked through an unfamiliar village. Coming upon small groups of newborn elephants bound together, I saw their eyes had turned white from abuse. The barely conscious babies were kept alive to ensure freshness. I wept as I climbed a hill rising high above the village. At the top, a freshly painted sign read: Hill of Bones.

A regressing moon shimmers through the east facing window and begs blue respectfully upon my books and nightstand and pillow. It's not hard to love January nights when they give like this. But dawn does come, not brightly, not refreshingly, it just comes. Feed the dog. Cook oatmeal and make coffee. Prep the fireplace for a slow burn. Today will be a just-here kind of day.

Yesterday, driving home, the sun was setting in my eyes around 5:15, which means the days are slightly gaining length in a way that puts a flutter in my stomach. Halfway hope meets halfway here. The greenhouse work should start any day, and so too the reclamation of my body adrift. I'm not sure how else to do it.

In the moment before the snow begins, before I even know it's that moment, I am struck by the stillness of the pine branches and the absence of birds at the feeder and the roofs dressed in uninterrupted white. No cloud rushes by. No squirrel dances along the picketed privacy fence. No wind tips resting snow off oak and maple branches. Then, as if a dream, a light confetti begins to catch my eye. With a slight breeze pushing weightless snow left to right, it takes no more than 3 heartbeats to become everything I can see. It is this, this unexpected hitch in the way I inhale, which causes me to know exactly who I am. And I don't need faith anymore because I know who you are, too.



Assume Wind But Hope Cardinal

What if tea was made for me? What if bread? What if soup? What if that one action was everything? Because it is. At least, I think it would be.

The rhododendron bush shivers. I assume wind but hope cardinal. In the joy of my winter, it is both. The first cardinal this year shows itself to me and in this way I am restored. Relieved? Reborn.

No sunlight manages to break through the stone ceiling. Yet today, birds crowd the feeders: nuthatch, titmouse, chickadee, and a red bellied woodpecker. The dog has taken to whining anytime a squirrel disrupts the bird stations. I don't blame her but she does call attention to my own irritation with fattened thieves. A sharp rap on the window is effective for a moment only.

These days meander with a bite. My bones are consumed by a hostile glacier of ache that creeps ahead without consent. Another sweatshirt, more blankets and second pair of socks. A hot shower. More tea. In bed I trace the white stitching of palm-sized flowers floating on a navy sea. I came upon love like shell awash at low tide, a surprise existing with or without me. The shell exists for every one and in my exploring hands, for a tiny moment, it also exists for me. But do not search for it. Do not walk the beach looking for the prize conch because a found treasure after expectation is another thing entirely.

At 4 a.m., a full and glaring moon urges the wakefulness I am accustom to in this kind of season. Lately I use this time to pour over cookbooks in the hopes of reconnecting with something I lost a while back. A way of giving. Green tea. Hot soup. A slow dance in the kitchen.

How far away I can fly in the dark.

An Essay or a Letter

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Hemingway

I have nothing to offer. The sun rises and sets behind oatmeal clouds. I think my friends believe that a few hours of sunlight is a laser treatment for the mangled tissue that piles up along the ventricles. It's nice to know they care though. “Be the light” and all that jazz . . . I still wake. I still make my bed by tucking hope into the sides. I still do my best to stay aware of what is.

There are things that I miss though. This collection of joys and depths and aromas of life that make up Jessica has a fingerprint. And though the seasons roll through without regard to whom is observing it all, Jessica's DNA is inescapably mapped out to be affected. The absence of sunlight breaking through is more than just a backdrop for the details of life. Energy in measurable effort is expended trying to make up the difference of missing light. Building fires, keeping lights on all day, forcing movement so that the very nonhuman act of hibernation does not take over entirely . . . all of these things rake through a typical day in order to avoid death. With so much effort and consumption devoted to existence for 6 months out of the year, what does it mean for the sunny months? What does Jessica mean?

In April, do I commune more entirely with existence in a way that erases winter's sentence? Living moment to moment is just as much a dip into true reality as it is a survival tactic; so, the first full glorious day of sunshine in spring should be a location of ascension. By almost every account, it is. Yet, how does one abandon all the pathways that supported life in the darkness? Conversely, how does one handle being a repository for complete expansion day after sun-filled-bird-chirping-flower-erupting day without the old wineskin bursting? Don't give me the adages about how maybe it's okay for the old to pass away or about how it is symbolically good for the skin to break open to allow for growth and new life. It doesn't go down that way. Sure, with eyes closed, chin tipped towards the all encompassing savior burning in the sky, all is well. But after, when inside the house tending to the needs of a communal existence, there is an ache to diffuse in the sunlight again or more or always. Every spring and summer day begins with the work of balancing the desire to be swallowed by the sun and the work of assimilating one's place in the world.

During this yawing, the length of days is noticeable, at first only subconsciously, but like aging memories, dawn and dusk blur away from their longest recollections. Winter is always imminent. There are those sweltering, melty days of summer that should keep frostbite at bay. Yet they do not. Like the shimmering heat mirage in the distance, winter's millstone is visible just ahead of summer months that flee.

Winter hurts. It isn't my first choice to write about the tar that keeps me anchored at the edge of the abyss. But this bleeding and constant wincing exists on the other side of bookstores and cabins in the woods and hey-I'm-alive-aren't-I moments.

But darling, listen: in all of this murkiness, I still know love when I see it and feel it and read it and become it. I am not lost due to that lucidity. Writing what hurts is just a place to start. Let's see what happens next.




Yin Yang of Place

There comes a point whereby gray must do and be and elicit something else. A black squirrel dances along the fingertips of the privacy fence, pausing here and there in an apparent stare. The rain has ended and sub-freezing temperatures have returned. There is no comfort in the sky or on the ground or around the bare trees that only click and clack together in the gnawing wind. Before everyone wakes I can still trick muddy ears into hearing the sea. No birds today. No sounds but the ticking wall clock, the rise and fall of the furnace and the occasional whimper of a dreaming dog. No sea. No sun. Am I made to come apart?

Let me start again . . .

Books and shelter and food. Family, dog, music. Health. A fire smoldering in the hearth of hearts. It's okay. I'm okay. I know love and love knows me. In this version I cull my blessings and wring them for every last drop. It's sunny somewhere. Meditate. Contemplate less. Fold the monastery linens and put them neatly away. Exercise. Drink green smoothies. Disconnect. Walk. Read; I am dead in the water without reading.

For literally seconds, the famished gray hood thins enough for sunlight to pierce and pulse through empty branches. It bobsleds down white, pristine roofs to finally tinge the valleys of my laugh lines. Tears brim before the light is gone. Here's the thing I'm trying to say: Michigan is stunning in all of its wild iterations and yet, its dark cloak is just too heavy for me to bear. My home it too heavy.

White chicken chili bubbles on the stove given by my sister when I moved back to the United States.
The “happy lamp” is stationed on the round oak table that used to be my childhood epicenter while growing up on Gun Lake.
My brother called – my niece is done with the Jenny Lind bed that I slept on for 18 years and he'd like me to come pick it up.
That is only half of the equation that binds my feet to this pine scented, freshwater, yin yang of place. The “how” of enduring is some kind of oasis shimmering in the untouchable distance.

For now, another dawn. I make my bed and cook for those who need me and try to stop fleeing from the writing that writes me.


12-31-98

Treading on the brink of a calendar turn. It doesn't matter and it does. I got married on this day 20 years ago so when one talks about lines in the sand and sands in the hour glass and shifting sands and burying heads in the sand, it means something tangible. Day to day, ashes to ashes, the seasons proceed regardless of what we rob from them. I remember walking the length of the church after the wedding, letting each pew of guests out, one by one. The floor was carpeted in a dizzying floral design and the church was glowing with candles and Christmas lights and poinsettias. Hundreds of hearts were with us. But hundreds of hearts were knowing hard things. “You're so beautiful...congratulations...good luck.” I left something on the altar. I didn't mean to. I meant to remember everything. I meant to be fully collected. There was a terrible snowstorm during the ceremony. The church was positioned on a steep hill in downtown Grand Rapids. In the icy snow, the limo started slipping backwards before we could step in. They shut the highway down and told people to stay off the roads. And yet, over 400 people came to the party. We danced all night and ate pizza and watched the Times Square ball drop. People still say that it was the most fun wedding they had ever witnessed. This day is marked on the inside of my skin. It's enough, right? We are different now, together and apart. I was born on the water but I didn't marry the water. I am safe and dry. Loved. Allowed. Consulted. I sleep in bed but I dream in breast strokes and back floats. I walk to the water. I run to the water. I am made in two ways and I honor them both today.




. . .

A rivery paragraph . . .

What is there to own? Even the smallest, water-smoothed stone, when considered intimately, leads to unending depths of the cosmos. And aside from the integrity of where ever I am going, there is nothing that suggests I possess anything. Yet, limitless meaning flows under, around and through. When the light is just right, a five petaled flower floating and turning on the stream's surface casts a shadow three times its size below. I am smitten by wonder, to be sure. I am not the first to suggest that wonder is love directed. Cut boulders, rushing water, and the trees lending darkness and depth to a flowing existence of awareness and mystery and breath. He said, even more than fidelity, it is wonder that keeps marriages alive. Summer's long shadows from golden arrows are not here, but the river remains. The sky is more gray than blue. The ground more brown than green. My boots meet the banks and then . . . nothing.