Thursday, August 24, 2017

the last hurrah

With breakfast in our bellies, my children eagerly engaged Grandpa in a cutthroat game of Go Fish.  They delighted in my parents coming for a visit to the island and had drafted a tight schedule of activities and adventures for Grandma and Grandpa.  I was washing up the last of the dishes when my mom approached as though holding a mischievous secret.  “Let’s get ready for our lunch date.  What do you think?” Perplexed by her offer, as we had just eaten, I flashed her a curious smile.  We had a long-standing tradition of noon rendezvous, just the two of us feasting and delving into a myriad of conversational topics.  It was sacred mother daughter time so when she called me to court I didn’t so much as question her intentions.

I kissed the heads of those blissfully lost in play and we headed to the car.  Once we sat, my mom grabbed my hand and looked me in the eyes.  “This is the last time I will be able to come and visit you.  Here’s what I want to do darling.  Drive us to the grocery store.  Buy me a bottle of white, buy yourself a bottle of red and we will head to Dockton Park.  I have things I need to tell you.”

Struck in this moment, I realized my mother was dying.  All the talk about cancer, treatments or lack there of, and hospice had not prepared me for the sudden acknowledgement that I would lose my mother.  This was it.  Our last hurrah. 

“You got it momma.”  I wasn’t drinking at the time because I was emotionally at war and alcohol fueled the enemy.  But hell if I wasn’t going to drink with my mother on this day.  In godspeed there we were, 10am in the store buying wine.  No food.  We didn’t have time.  And we marched back to the car and drove straight to the park.

The bitter February rain relentlessly pelted the car.  We parked in the upper parking lot looking out into the gray face of winter.  Raising our bottles, we drank like two queens of the Nile.  Time ceased and the water of Quartermaster Harbor froze before us.  The car erupted with laughter and rich stories, reflections, and gratitude. Everything came flying out of this 35-year-old cornucopia of memories. As we neared the bottom of our bottles my mother was preparing for a last toast.  She went to pour into her paper cup and missed it completely hosing the entire center console in sweet elixir. Tears of hilarity folded us together. Arm in arm, love engulfed us whole. 

Several hours passed.  It was time to take mom home. Like bringing a drunk teenager in after curfew, I snuck her past the watchful eyes of my father and tucked her into bed.  She definitely needed a nap. I lifted the blanket up to her cold hands and put my lips to her cheek.  Tears traversed our faces.  “Sleep well momma.”  Her eyes closed and I stood there marveling at each breath of her body until the sound of my son calling me drew me from the room. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

bad seeds

Sitting on the edge of my daughter’s bed, my face approached hers for a fare well kiss.  Abruptly, she shifted to pierce my weary eyelids.  “Mom, I heard someone was gonna come to the high school with a gun and hurt people.  I’m really scared and I don’t think I can sleep.”

Like any mom, this was alarming on two fronts: I was genuinely terrified that my child was terrified and I was terrified that my child was telling me she wouldn’t be able to sleep.  In that moment, I reached into the depths of my toolbox and there I found a bag of seeds. 

“Mirabelle, I want to share with you a precious gift that was given to me when I was feeling afraid.  So shut your eyes and listen.  Imagine that you are holding a bag of seeds.  In your bag of seeds are seeds that can grow many beautiful things – magnificent flowers of every color and fragrance, ideas that have yet to be imagined, feelings of joy that never leave you.  And in this bag are also seeds that can grow thoughts that will cause you worry and uncertainty.  Seeds that grow thorns and darkness.  Seeds that are exhausting to sow and that can overgrow your other seeds if you are not careful.

So now reach into your bag and pick each seed intentionally.  You decide where each one will grow and what you want to plant.  Place each one slowly and carefully. There is no right or wrong.  Only your intention.

Once all your seeds are planted, pat the ground and water your seeds right before you go to bed.  As you sleep, your seeds will grow.  And when you wake up, you will be surrounded by whatever you have planted and nurtured.”

After a deep pause, her eyes opened into mine. 

“Mom, we have to have bad seeds don’t we?  Because if we didn’t have bad seeds we wouldn’t know what we really wanted or see how beautiful our good seeds are.  I’m always going to plant a few bad seeds but I’m going to put a fence around them so they don’t mess up my garden.”

In that moment, I imploded with reverence for my child’s wisdom.  Yes, we do need bad seeds because they teach us vulnerability, presence, and to love passionately and choosingly. 

I put my lips to Mirabelle’s cheek and wrapped my arms around her as it was time to let sleep take precedence.  Pulling back from her body in the darkness of her room, I saw her small hand reaching into her bag of seeds.  And I knew something amazing was about to grow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

into the deep

Recklessly, I wrangled my winter coat over my pajamas. The light had retired early and the netherworlds beneath a towering stand of Douglas fir were calling. Affectionately known as the “Deep Dark Woods” this nocturnal vaudeville housed a family of Great Horned Owls that my dad had been coveting for months.

Pouring himself a generous glass of scotch, my dad swept the tumbler to his fingers and took my hand in his other.  My heart took to flight and I held tight to his thick palm knowing that anything was game if I let go. Haunting shadows and menacing sounds sparked an imaginative playground in my mind as we ventured further from home and closer to the woods.

There were rules of engagement out here that were never to be tested.  Silence was mandated with an occasional inquisitive whisper reluctantly accepted.  Beneath the giant bows we stood and I couldn’t see anything other than the dark figure of my dad.  “Don’t move kid.”  After a few minutes my dad had spotted an owl and it was crucial that it did not know we were there.  I strained to see anything but layers of darkness only revealed more darkness and I buried my head into my dad’s thick side feeling petrified as only a 5 year old can.

Like a knife cutting through a wizard’s cloak, the magnificent creature pierced the absence of sound nearly knocking us to the ground. A sharp squeal erupted from the forest floor as the bird lifted its prey back to the branches above.  Admiration and remorse swept across my chest, as though I had just witnessed a gunslinger’s shoot out.  Sensing moral conflict, my dad squeezed my hand twice which meant it was time to return to our house.  As we stepped between tangles of underbrush, the glow of civilization returned, as did the breath into my lungs.  I tugged for my dad to come down to meet my chilled face.  “Thank you for taking me to the night daddy.”  I kissed his cheek and he remained silently smiling.

Friday, July 1, 2016

in memorandum

I slipped from the feathers of my bed into a game of nature’s spades.  Wet leaves and tannic blackberry notes swept across the freshly soaked concrete drive.  I inhaled my first cup of coffee as a sailor takes to sweet-spiced rum.

Under a cacophony of electrical rage, my feet quickly escorted me away from the drumming of thunder towards the steep grade out of Point Robinson Park.

I heard the jester, Raven, call out to me from the west.  I positioned his cackle above a young buck car-struck near mid-rise of the slope.  Celebrating in the fragrance of decomposition, he beckoned me to join him in a hearty memorandum.

For three days the foul scent of the stiffened beast caused me raw discomfort every time I passed by. I fought a strong repulsion and trudged on to meet the spot of slaughter.  Raven perched alone in the bow of a bent alder. Below, lay blood stained hair and grass interwoven but the lifeless deer was gone. Death incarnate had disappeared and I was left staring at the empty space demarcated.  Like a crime scene freshly cleared, I bowed in reverence for all mortal beings brought in and out of body.

Raven was quiet.  As was I.  Thunder ceased and I returned home with wet feet and a steady beat in my chest.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

a letter to loss

When you ask me how I’m coping with the recent loss of my mother, my response reflects the confusion of a Magic 8 Ball:

I’m OK.  I’m so fucked up.  I’m lugging around a screaming heart in my chest.  I’m a whitewater of love.  I’m wickedly blind.  I’m dying.  Come back later.

And it’s hard not to be hard on myself.  See, there I go again.  But the truth is, no one really knows how to accept death because every death is different.  Well, there are a handful of folks who seem to have a grasp, but as a person staring into the shadows of loss, I can say there are more unmarked trails than lit ones. 

There is no 12-step plan to manage or to stop this grief.  I’m suspect to the negligence of any claims that love will obey and isn’t ruled by total chaos because the deeper penetrated my arterial vein, the more I spin into the unknown, be it into ecstasy or horror.  Or both.  Most certainly into both. 

The best response I can give you right now is that I am learning to be a constant dancer.  I birthed both of my babies while fearlessly swaying and stomping across wooden floors, so it figures that in the face of death I’d be sweaty in the core of the mosh pit.  Every day reflects a newfound embodiment of letting go.  Interpretive dance at its rawest. 

Some days I’m arm and arm with love.  My mother is so close I can feel her peppery breath to my cheek, and the warmth of her fingers on my shoulder.  Other times I’m standing alone at the middle school dance, paralyzed and awkwardly reaching out for hope, for a body, only to find false idols and blisters. 

Then comes Sunday, the day my mom left her life, when I hit into textured walls of nostalgia and longing.  My nose bleeds and the ache burns my bare feet up to my chest and out through my skinny arms.  I look for her and she is nowhere.  I call for her into darkness.  Like a child in the throes of tantrum, I scream violently for her throwing myself against the door that separates us until I succumb to surrender.

This continues day after day, week after week.  And damn, the only thing I know is that I’m so thankful my mother taught me to dance in our living room.  Without those moves I’d have no idea how to waltz with life and with death now. One step at a time.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

born on the day of oscillation

when i was little, i hated bedtime.

there is nothing unusual about that.
but what was and still is the most
challenging aspect of my existence
can be mined from this antagonism.

the concept of end, of closing the page,
of stopping action, and accepting change
toward being restful, peaceful even ---
goes instinctively against everything
i feel in my body and heart
about why i am here.

i am one of those over-inspired weirdos
that loves being, playing, building, laughing,
loving, creating, nurturing --- hell, even
fighting, struggling, crying, stumbling so
wholeheartedly that the concept of this
"ending," even if for a day, brings
such overwhelming sadness that
i cannot breathe or speak.

you might be rolling your eyes at this point
and that's ok.
i hardly ever talk about this because it
makes people very uncomfortable and annoyed.
"do some yoga.  try meditation.
remember reflection brings new energy."
and i appreciate you saying that.
but it's not that simple for me.

containing this well spring of passion
is like trying to embrace a supercell tornado
and sometimes i get so angry at myself
for feeling this way that i try to attack
it too with total apathy, fear, bottles of wine,
---- any myriad of colorful distractions

but no matter what I do, this feeling relentlessly rises.
and as i paddle out into the day
the crests of ideas, beauty, imagination,
and possibility draw me further out
into the prismatic sea, past the break, until I find
the angle and force of the perfect wave
to bring me into something new.
over and over this happens
like riding a great set and
my energy matches and meets the invitation.

until it doesn't and i am so fucking exhausted
that i crash brutally.  i miss a sign, i lose intuition,
i take a drink or 4 to calm down and then it hits me
and sends me to the bottom - the abyss of darkness,
sand packs my nostrils, flailing arms and legs render useless.
i am alone and it is terrifying.
i doubt every part of myself that started the quest,
that believed in my capacity to be so infinite
and i retreat away from love and into self loathing.

i can empathize deeply with those who have
been so consumed by creation that it was their destruction -
we all have our favorite handful of
artists, musicians, scientists, philosophers -
we deeply admire and connect to.
as they lost their minds, hearts, and lives
in this manic/depressive scenario,
we mourned their inability to find a balance.

so what does a person like me do
who loves being alive so much that
she fights, screams, and cries at bedtime
still at 35 years old?

i don't know.  but let me know if you do.

Friday, April 8, 2016


sometimes life is about setting a goal and meeting it
i am meeting it