Category Archives: Poetry

Something Was Missing. It Wasn’t Social Media…Was it?

A few months ago, I deactivated my social media accounts. I posted an index card on my bulletin board that read, “No Social Media. No Corporations. No Amazon. More creativity & blogging” next to a poster I clipped out of a magazine that reads “Keep Calm & Save Money” in bold red lettering.

Three clear thumb tacks lined up neatly below the messages—reinforcing one thing that was resounding through my mind and soul lately: minimalism.

Minimalism: a style or technique, that can be applied to a lifestyle, characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity.

Deactivating my social media accounts was my way of extending the concept of minimalism even further. Everything felt so cluttered.

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It started out okay, as I explained in this blog post from September. Gone were the feelings of embarrassment I’d felt during those rare but inevitable moments of “oversharing.” Gone were the unnecessary hours spent scrolling, or “managing” my various accounts—I have two personal accounts, and three business ones. Gone was the feeling that I needed to “capture” everything: a good meal, Autumn collecting eggs from the chicken coop, an innocent walk to the creek.

All the time the world offered came tumbling back in, and I began to experience more productivity at work, and creatively too. Things were happening. Actually happening. I became a more productive team member at work, a more present mother, and more conscious partner to my fiancé. I even took the final steps toward completing a huge creative project.

The days turned into weeks turned into months. During this time, I posted several times on my blog—a significant increase from previous months (years, really). But I could tell that my creative social network had gotten really, really small.

There was my small handful of loyal readers who reached out to me via text or by responding directly to my posts. I am grateful for these folks with a capital G, but I began to wonder if I could get through the rest of the pandemic, and election year, with my “capsule” of friends. I was starting to feel a little lonely.

Late one night, after a productive day of freelancing from home, I found myself borderline distraught. I lay in our bed, without the glow of my cell phone, and I said dramatically into the dark room, “I just feel like something is missing.”

In the silence that followed my—for lack of a better term—wail, I thought of my vow against social media…it wasn’t that, was it?

Was it?!?

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Not jumping to conclusions, I continued to wake, live and sleep every day without the companionship of social media. A few people reached out, but where were my other 538 friends? I realized, as I’m sure we all have, the predicament these social platforms present: they are an instant doorway to our families, and some relationships that are quite important to us. So why would we want to give up that? Honestly, especially now in a pandemic, how else are we going to get to know our new cousin’s baby, Jaxon? Or even remember his name? It’s all there, on Facebook. We understand that the heart emoji doesn’t convey all we want to say, but it does convey something.

In addition to working more intentionally—both personally and professionally—I toyed with the idea of letter-writing. I wrote a letter to Elizabeth, my longtime pen pal who resides in the Yosemite Valley. She wrote me back, as did our mutual friend, David. But David’s letter was so long and rich, I wondered how my response could even compare, or come close to being as meaningful as his letter had been, as he described the terror of wildfires looming near his home on Caves Highway this summer. If social media was intimidating, trying exchanging letters with intellectuals. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this, either. Anyway, I knew I couldn’t exchange letters with as many people as I loved. (I love a lot of people!)

I don’t remember the exact day I reinstalled the apps on my phone. Only the approximate number of people who interacted with the photo I posted. Warily, I “liked” all of their responses. But where were these folks when I sat at home for four months? Autumn and I had both celebrated our birthdays—her 2nd, my 35th. Was it me who’d left them or they who’d left me? In this day and age, I’m honestly not sure.

In the meantime, I began to value my work relationships more, and my relationships with my family members who don’t use social media, my blog readers, and my neighbors began to deepen—it was as if I could suddenly see that they’d needed attention, too.

I am on social media now, and I do feel more connected to those that I’d lost touch with. I at least like knowing that such-and-such person is there if I need them, even if we’re not interacting every day.

But friendship can’t survive solely that way, and neither can a creative or professional dream. The inspiration—the ideas and conversations and plans—they need to lead somewhere. I’ve learned that “breaking the spell,” ie taking a break, is the perfect antidote for that. So just one question remains: can I take what I’ve learned and apply it? Can I use social media as a tool, to share my art and give and receive love from my friends, while still setting a healthy boundary with these websites and apps? It is hard to know for sure, but I have hope. Hope that I can either find the balance, or at least recognize when my “real” life needs more attention.

Love,

Mama Bird

The Poetry of Place

After waiting a full five minutes for the lodge’s hot water to kick on in the shower, I wash my hair twice with 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner. Autumn sits on the shower floor, folding and unfolding a damp washcloth. We are on a girl’s trip to track down Dad, who lives off-grid in Northern California.

Sometimes I don’t know if my writing frees or pains me, if it liberates me or holds me captive. We tried watching TV but turned it down to hear the creek outside–Patrick Creek–a tributary to the Smith. Now I bounce Autumn on my foot, trying to soothe her toddler boredom, and somehow keep my pen to paper, too. I’d say she can’t sit still, but the same would have to be true for me as well. (Proof: I couldn’t stay put on the farm this weekend. I simply woke with the urge to ramble home.)

I told myself it was justified to see Dad. Steve gave me his blessing, and then tried to suggest routes and game-plans. But I already had it mapped out in my mind; we’d get a hotel room closest to home. Hiouchi Motel or Patrick Creek Lodge.

The rooms at Patrick Creek Lodge have mission-style furniture and vaulted redwood ceilings. In the past I would have camped in the van or a tent or on my best friend’s couch in Crescent City. But the pandemic has changed everything. You know that.

Driving south on the I-5, the words “Do whatever you have to do to feel alive” came to mind. So maybe that’s what this is really about, more than seeing Dad.

I’d forgotten how when we travel, it upsets Autumn’s natural rhythm. She gets antsy and angsty and now she sits across from me indian-style on the white 70s-style bedspread. “Let’s talk,” she says so we talk about what’s outside the window: bushes, trees, lights, leaves. There are no other cars in the parking lot and I am uncertain if there is an overnight watch person or not. The friendly fellow who checked us in said he was “locking up and heading home for the night.”

A couple and a lady stumbled out of the bar around 7:30 p.m., piled into a full-sized pickup and drove south toward Gasquet (gas-gee). Other than that, crickets (metaphorically of course, because it’s winter in these woods). The temperature registered at 34 degrees but it was sunny and t-shirt weather all day. Of course we only got out at a rest stop somewhere near Riddle, Oregon.

Pacific madrone and redwoods, that’s what I came for. Other than to connect with Dad, the man who raised me. Pacific madrone with its smooth chopstick bark, the redwood groves already shooting up toward the sky, just seven or ten miles into California.

When the sun set we decided it would be best to surprise Dad first thing in the morning, rather than an hour or two after dusk. Dad, like me, is better in the morning. Freshest and sharpest and most optimistic. We both like to have our coffee, too.

As a girl, Dad took me to this very lodge once for breakfast. The waitress seated us by a window where we could watch Patrick Creek flow by. A small porcelain ramekin held strawberry and grape jelly packets. I chose grape jelly to smear on my sourdough toast, not because I liked grape best, but because there were just two choices: grape or strawberry. I knew that a better family, one that would come in next, would have a little girl or boy who would prefer strawberry, and that kids from better families always got what they wanted because of people like us. I knew that my going without kept everything in balance.

The grape jelly kind of tasted like the liquid cough syrup Dad sometimes had to force down my throat. He’d either pin me down on the cabin floor, knees holding down my kid-arms, or convince me that if I plugged my nose I couldn’t taste it, so then I’d just drink it myself. I hoped that kid enjoyed his strawberry jam, whoever he was. I was in heaven just with the butter alone and the creek flowing by.

Dad sometimes liked to elbow his way in to a class above our own–the ski lodge at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, riding elevators in the business district in San Francisco, the fine dining restaurant in The Wharf where we just ordered appetizers, then sheepishly paid and left. Dad has a penchant for experiences he can’t quite afford, and if I am being honest, so do I. But at least it’s a penchant for experiences, not a penchant for things.

“What are we going to do tomorrow, mama?”

“Well, we are going to get up…”

“Use the restroom?”

“Yes, use the restroom.”

“And then what?”

“And then we are going to make mama some coffee and Autumn some breakfast.”

“Coffee? Brickfest?”

“Yep. And then we’re going to take a walk down to the creek. Patrick Creek.”

In my minds eye I can see the dirt path leading from the lodge, then along Patrick Creek, and under a bridge to where the creek forms a confluence with the middle fork of the Smith River. In a past life, before Autumn, I would make a pit stop here to pee, take a toke, and hop on boulders. The middle fork of the river meanders southeast through mossy canyon walls until it intersects with the south fork of the river. You head up the south fork, and that’s where I’m from. I was raised in a single-room cabin that burned down in a fire in the year 2010. Now Dad lives in a fifth-wheel his ex-girlfriend gave him.

“And then?” Autumn asks.

“And then, after our walk, we are going to see Grandpa Rob!”

“See Grandpa Rob?” Autumn repeats, in her high-pitched voice. It’s as if the higher pitched her voice, the more likely she will get an answer she’s satisfied with.

“Yup. “

“Oh.”

We haven’t seen Grandpa Rob since Father’s Day–five months ago–when we met up with him halfway between his home and ours and ate salmon bagel sandwiches on the bank of the Umpqua River. He didn’t eat much that day, and it worried me. But I am always worried about Dad: worried about him driving distracted, worried about him choosing nutritious over junk food, worried about the steel parts collecting on his property, worried about his future. But mainly, I’m worried that he’s sad, and that I had something to do with that sadness.

Autumn is snoring now. She is laying on her back, mouth slightly open, arms and legs splayed, sleeping off the day. Today was a big day. She said the word “California” and dealt with her mother’s impulsive need to “connect with her roots,” enduring what turned into a 4-hour drive. She kept asking for “Nana” and “Grandpa Norm,” her father’s folks who she is more acquainted with than Grandpa Rob. Dodging fallen granite from rock slides in the road, and manuevering corners I haven’t seen since Aunt Dort’s memorial in March of 2018, I tried to explain, “No, honey, this is mama’s family. Mama has family too.”

“No, I wan’ see Nana.”

I don’t know what to expect in the morning. That’s the thing about mama’s family. It’s the reason we pulled back at dusk, instead of gunning it forward. In the past, I slept on riverbanks or friends couches, desperate to connect with my dad but not willing to endure his lifestyle off-the-grid, which due to his disability and a variety of factors, has degraded some through the years.

But my soft place to land has always been these hills, fog hanging in the treetops like ghosts, white fingers wrapped around the branches of the evergreens. This place hasn’t moved an inch since I left home. Oh, but it has. I’ll be lucky if I can still recognize myself in the mirrored reflection on the water.

I close my journal, place my writing pen beside it on the nightstand, and open up a new Sun Magazine. Barbara Kingsolver’s essay “The Only Real Story” jumps off the page:

A world is looking over my shoulder as I write these words; my censors are bobcats and mountains. I have a place from which to tell my stories. So do you, I expect. We sing the song of our home because we are animals, and an animal is no better or wiser or safer than its habitat. Among the greatest of all gifts is to know our place.”

I didn’t know what to expect in the morning. I didn’t know that we would arrive just in time for coffee, and that Dad would pour me two steaming cups, before hitting the trails just outside the doorframe.

I didn’t know that Dad would be fine, not sad at all.

I didn’t know that we would hike the land of my youth until noon, with Autumn on his shoulders.

I didn’t know that we would crouch by the rivers and streams and say blessings.

I didn’t know that I would harvest bay laurel and Dad would locate a field of matsutake mushrooms.

I don’t know that when no one was looking I would press my forehead into the earth, addicted to the feeling of the damp soil crushing into my third eye.

I don’t know that Dad would go on and on about God, as he always does, and I would just gesture at the nature all around us as if to say, “Yeah, but…this.”

I didn’t know that it would all be intact: the land and the dad, just as I’d left them.

Three generations in Rock Creek, California.
Three generations in Rock Creek, California. November 2020.

Love,

Mama Bird

It’s Official, Official: I’m Not Giving Birth Anymore

“I adore my two little ones and love being their mom, but even with the joy, motherhood can be challenging, exhausting, and frustrating.” -Mary Novaria, Why I Chose To Have My Tubes Tied, Good Housekeeping

Some, not all, have questioned my decision to have “just” one child. I’ve known a number of men who were open about their choice to have vasectomies (before and after becoming fathers), and I wonder how many raised eyebrows they got. I thought it was so righteous when a man I admired made his decision to have no children official, by getting a vasectomy. It was so bold. And it showed me how committed he was to his values.

I know virtually no women, however, who have been open about opting for tubal ligation. But I know there are so many women out there that have probably had the procedure done, or are curious about it. It’s just not talked about very much. So naturally, I’m here to change that.

It wasn’t that I always knew I would someday get my fallopian tubes removed, but what I did know is that I desired to raise only one. I was raised that way. It just feels right. I hadn’t really thought through what it would take to accomplish it until I got to that bridge: More years of birth control? Sterilization? (Surely we can come up with a more positive-sounding terminology than that one.) How about saying, She who desires to run with herself. Or, she who desires to run with one. Or, he who desires to care for four, on the intake paperwork.

I’d relied on various types of birth control for years, and had my share of ups and downs using the different methods. I won’t go into detail, but if you are a female who has too, then you’ve experienced the challenges I’m talking about.

So the day before Election Day 2020, on a bright, clear morning in western Oregon, we arrived at the hospital. The same one I’d delivered our daughter at two-years prior. Red and orange leaves clung to the trees that lined the drive, but I wasn’t thinking of that, I was thinking of how I wished there were an easier way of accomplishing the end result; other than anesthesia, and three incisions on my belly, one of which was in my bellybutton. I was a little apprehensive of the procedure itself. The fact that I was taking control of my body and my future was empowering, however. That’s the word I kept throwing around, “Empowering.”

Maybe I should have been thinking more about being “Prepared.” Because shortly after checking in, when I was getting settled into the hospital bed at the entrance of the operating room, the nurse asked me a series of questions, one of which was “When was the last time you had anything to drink?” and then, “Any cream or sugar?”

“Umm. Let’s see. Coffee at 6:45. A little cream.”

Pause.

“So that’s not a clear liquid,” the nurse said. “We’re going to have to see if Dr. Bock is available to push the procedure back 2 hours.”

I called my fiancé and told him I messed up, and that the whole thing would be delayed. (We live rurally, so it was fortunate that it could be rescheduled for the same day. We had arranged child care and everything.)

With an IV in my arm, I fished Margaret Atwood’s new book The Testament out of my purse, and asked the nurse if we could close the curtain around my bed. I wasn’t sure if I was impatient or relieved. I was having what some desperate parents jokingly call a hospital fantasy. The hospital was okay, but the bright lights and noise gave me a headache, honestly.

Fast forward 3 hours and we were driving back home, stopping by the pharmacy for scripts. The procedure went well. The doctor gave me a full page color print as “proof” that both my fallopian tubes had been removed. Yep, not there. Seared off. Mission accomplished. I was still worried what level of pain I might be in once the narcotic they’d given me wore off. Come to find out, my worst symptom would turn out to be the headache that morphed into a migraine. That first night after my procedure, I experienced the nausea and vomiting that come with intense migraines. I had to force myself to eat more, in order to take the medication (Excedrin migraine) that would soothe and ultimately cure it.

Once that was over, I was fine. If you are reading this and are thinking of getting the procedure done yourself, I have only one major suggestion for recovery (which for me took about 2-3 days): Use a heating pad. I know, it’s simple. But the doctor’s recommendation to place a heating pad constantly on my belly on top of the brace-type thing they give you to wear was a real game changer. It brought a lot of comfort and may have been one of the reasons I had virtually no pain after the procedure.

Children become between you and everything.

That’s one of those lines that came to me recently, nagging, until I wrote it down. I wanted to use it in this piece, but I didn’t know where it fit. So there it is. Awkwardly at the end. Children come between you and everything. With no real rhyme and purpose, except this…

It feels like something I should say because I am currently sitting at my toddler’s desk, in her room, typing this as she takes a nap on my half of the bed in our bedroom. It is noon on a Wednesday. Soon, after I hit “Publish,” I will get up, stretch, and walk to the refrigerator to prepare her a lunch to be ready for her when she wakes up. Then we will start thinking about what to make for dinner, and I will pull it out of the freezer. This evening, after dinner, I will complete the list of things it takes to get her prepared for her big day at day care tomorrow–diapers in diaper bag, extra clothes, sippy cup and bottle, blanket. I will bathe her, and then she will get dirty, and I will bathe her again. I will worry about her picking up COVID at day care. Or worse, being the one that brings it to day care. I will research Montessori schools and Montessori parenting-styles, and then let her watch too much Sesame Street. I will have standards and I will wonder if I am achieving them. I will tell her “no” too loudly, and then get down to get level, eye-to-eye, and tell her that I was wrong to raise my voice. I will try to wean her, she will bite my nipples. But I will always be there. Always. I will be her soft place to land. Every. Single. Day. My career, hobbies, and needs will come last. But they will still need tending to.

I love how I can experience the joys and tribulations of parenting, but that I have active control over to what extent that is. I love that, in our country, we mostly have that freedom. The freedom to pursue birth control, and permanent methods of birth control. I think that it’s a choice for our bodies, minds and souls, that is probably under-used and under-valued, even by those who define themselves as pro-choice. I also think it is equally empowering when a woman choses pregnancy and childbirth. That’s feminism. Her body. Her choice.

Our household is happy with my decision. We’ll probably just grow the farm. I do worry about if something ever happened to Autumn, what would I do? What kind of person would that leave me, mentally? But I am trying to focus on things I can control, not the things I can’t. This is just our current chapter in the story, and there’s no need to read ahead.

Love,

Mama Bird

Now and Then: The Making of Mama Bird

July 2010. The month and year I began this blog.

I can place myself squarely in her shoes: the 25-year old who worked for the National Park Service, in a cave in Southern Oregon, dating, hiking, staring down the past, one handwritten page at a time. Thirsting for a domestic life in the woods, with a love and a child.

And now: the 35-year old part-time nonprofit worker, fulltime mama, committed in love, still hiking, staring down the past, one handwritten page at a time…living a domestic life in the woods, and (unexpected twist) on a farm, with a love and a child.

I used to write about longing. Longing for love. Longing for a child. The theme crept into all my poetry, and it embarrassed me. But it was the truth, and as a memoirist, it was all I had. But my essays about domesticity ran counter to my feminist frame-of-mind. I was sometimes surprised at what came out on the page: scribbles about sweeping, cooking, and romantic ideas. And after becoming a mother, I realized that it was family that I was always after. (If you’ve read any of my memoir, you know I was raised by a single parent.) So I just had to experience what I’d never had: A complete home. A triangle, not a line.

And now here I am. My dream-turned-reality. Reporting from the field.

That’s why I’ve given my blog a new name, to reflect where I am now, ten years down the road…and 195 miles up Interstate-5. Mama Bird will continue to be where I share my stories of domesticity, parenting, farming, and anything else that sparks my soul.

Thanks for reading,

Mama Bird

19

Is this a fever or not-just-any-fever
that our daughter has
Am I tired or
too tired to wake up next week
Why do I keep justifying a cup
of coffee from the drive-up shop
Why do I manage to laugh when a
waiter pulls down his mask to reveal
his smile
I cannot ignore the numbers or the signals
all around me
I won’t
Why do I feel like I am being
pushed into a corner
the odd duck out
inconveniencing others
by setting appropriate boundaries
by drawing a line in the heavy granite sand
on a Labor Day weekend beach
when I know and you know we
should all be doing something
anything else
at home
safe and away from others
protecting those who do not
know better
yet clearly we all
do not know better
and all we truly know
is the insatiable habitual power
of Instant Gratification
of Get it Now
and Get it Hot
and Get it Cheap
My takeout sandwich laughs
at me,
without a mask on
and I know
and you know
that somewhere
deep down within us
there is wisdom the size
of a particle of sand
(but it is there)
that does know better
and can do better
and can build fire
and can carry water
and can resist temptation
and can make their own sandwich
and can stop being grossly negligent
carrying on
practically licking
the shopping carts
laughing in the faces of others
and thinking it won’t happen to me
because I am ________
because I eat organic
because I am me
and we are us
this blatant display of gluttony
and luxury that our culture has come
to know and love so well
will love us
to death
if we
let it.


Why Social Distancing Feels Right For Me

Social distancing restricts gatherings in an attempt to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases, in this case I’m talking about COVID-19…who isn’t? Social distancing may include canceling events, slowing or stopping business, and requires just staying put. It has a long list of social and economic repercussions that I know nothing about—yet. As of today, I sense that I am taking this COVID-19 thing more seriously than other Oregonians, a fact that probably just boils down to my being able to stay put more than anything. As a freelancer who works from home, I have this luxury amidst a crisis. But I’m beginning to think it’s the most practical step for everyone.

I see social distancing (specifically self-isolation) as temporary. It requires a huge sacrifice upfront. Here in Oregon, we seem to be waiting to get a pass from our employers, school districts, universities and state officials on when to stay home. I’m not exactly waiting for that pass, but rather I’m thinking for myself as I watch the uptick of cases of COVID-19 world and state-wide.

Really, I’m self-isolating because I’m sick. So I am taking public health advice on that: stay home if you don’t feel well. But probably even if my daughter and I didn’t have runny noses and coughs, I wouldn’t be heading out to do shopping or work or anything else. In the past 18 days, we’ve stayed home 13 of them. This seems to be a logical approach to me, given everything that’s been happening with COVID-19 and the fact that we still have these stubborn colds!

Yesterday I left the house to go to the bank. Wearing a pair of large ski mittens, I cashed my check through the drive-in window. There was a shiny slate of glass positioned comfortably between the checker and me. Then I drove home, taking the long way by a winding creek. I didn’t see one soul in sight, and I didn’t have any bumping-into-anyone-guilt.

This week, I’ve had to reschedule three engagements. Even with all the infections happening worldwide and in the state of Oregon, I get a knot of anxiety inside my belly cancelling things. I feel the pressure to perform. Don’t we all? I also feel a glob of snot travelling down the inside of my right nostril. So this is not just precaution and I am not just paranoid. I’m being realistic and considerate. Autumn and I got back-to-back colds this spring with the second one hitting us on February 25th, five days after returning from our trip from Arizona. We flew and had layovers both ways, one in Seattle and one in Salt Lake City. So contraction of COVID-19 was possible, though not necessarily plausible. I am being extra mindful anyway. (Note: a Lane County public health official informed me that only those who had traveled to China, South Korea, Italy or Iran are currently being tested for COVID-19, as of the publication of this blog.)

I am fortunate that I can finagle social distancing, professionally and lifestyle-wise. I get that most people don’t have the option of staying home, and I empathize with them. But maybe they should draw a thicker line, and think about the long-term repercussions of this disease: the impact on our elders and the fact that it’s now a world-wide crisis.

I feel I am making the right choice for me, but the thing is: we’re all in this together. In fact my partner Steve breaks quarantine daily, bringing in and taking out whatever germs, however benign, we are carrying. To his credit, he is limiting his lifestyle too, and doing only the absolutely necessary engagements. As our primary earner, he doesn’t feel like he can just stop going to work.

As of Tuesday afternoon there are 15 positive cases in Oregon, across seven counties. The state of Washington, just north of us, has more than that number in sheer deaths. Some experts believe the numbers are projected to rise thousands, and that the virus has already been circulating regionally for well over six weeks.

As I reach for my handkerchief to blow my nose, I wonder if ingesting as much news as I have—listening to NPR, reading The New York Times and The Washington Post—has literally kept me snotty and coughing for the past two weeks. It can’t be helping.

Despite that, I know we are slowly getting better. I am hoping when we do recover from our colds, the threat of community-spread COVID-19 will be over.

My choice to semi-self-quarantine—to quarantine to the very best of my ability (I can’t make the same decision for Steve)—coincided with a 50% increase in Oregon cases on Sunday, March 8th. That’s double the number of cases overnight. So I am relying on my own judgement on this one, not just heeding the public opinion. If hypothetically we were infected, my conscience couldn’t handle infecting others!

I trust that everyone is doing the same and thinking for themselves. The good news is, we can all share different opinions. The bad news is that we will all be affected equally by the outcome of this disease.

COVID-19 or not, Autumn and I deserve to get better from our colds. So for this week I will be working exclusively from home, staying close to NPR and OPB news coverage, and praying for the health of our state, nation and world. I will also be drinking lots of mint tea, eating chicken soup, and wondering—as I see cars flying by on the highway—what everyone else is doing to stay healthy out there.

 

 

Regrets

One benefit to aging is that I used to not believe in regrets, but now I do. Wise, I am not sure, but having regrets shows compassion I believe. I am big on compassion. Or I like to think I am. I am still learning.

My regrets are strange. They’re not huge, but petty little things. They creep up in my mind often and I wonder, should I call so and so? Should I dredge this up from the past? Would they even remember? What if they retroactively hate me once I remind them?

I feel like I can out my regrets on both my hands (probably not) let’s see:

-My exboyfriend in college was a sous chef at a Japanese restaurant. A girlfriend and I went to eat at his place. He’d come up with a fancy special—soft shell crab, whole, with some sort of sophisticated sauce and garnish. We both took a couple bites but couldn’t eat it. It was too strange/out-of-ordinary to my 22-year old taste buds. I would finish that crab now. I would eat every last bite. I still remember the look on his face when they cleared the uneaten delicacy from our table. I should have known better. Cooking was his everything.

-Also in college, a boy I worked with always wore a baseball cap. Always. What’s your hair like under that baseball cap?, I asked him in a teasing manner one day. He took off his baseball cap to reveal a prematurely bald and shining head. I wanted to crawl under the table and stay there.

-Leaving that workplace to move to Oregon, I decided to distinguish every person I had worked with in some special way. I worked there for four years, so my coworkers had become dear to me. I wrote out a goodbye note to post on the walk-in cooler. I wrote things like, “To Lexi: who always wore a smile.” The place was owned by two brothers. My first inclination was “To Pete: the cool one” and “To Brent: the cute one.” Instead, to keep it professional (or so I thought) I wrote, “To Pete: the cool one” and “To Brent: the hardass.” Pretty sure “cute” is better than “jerk”—and in my defense, “cute” was more true-to-my-feeling.

-I’ve used writing as a tool basically my entire life to handle unpleasant circumstances, deal with grief, etc. I’ve had my blog for about 11 years and throughout that time I’ve posted things that I would basically have written in a diary. (In my defense, that’s kind of what a blog is.) I have also taken those blog posts and put them on my social media. Sometimes, being that I write about my life, those things have been blasted out to an audience larger than I would like. Basically I write about my mom and my dad and then they see it. For better or for worse. What I regret is that not only are they witnessing my feelings about their shortcomings, but everyone else is too. At times this has felt good but most of the time this feels really bad. As an antidote I try to write things that are true, compassionate, and, whenever possible, self-deprecating.

-I regret any form of gossip or negative talk (I identify this as putting others down to lift up myself). Gossip and negative talk about others is easy to identify because you instinctively know when you’ve crossed the line. In your head you think “so and so wouldn’t appreciate this” but you keep talking—past the line. You might even lower your voice as if they were in the other room.

-I regret many incidences that involve past substance abuse. I will leave it at that. I will save the rest for another story but mainly the repercussions have included the deterioration my mind, body and spirit. And often times embarrassment.

-In the 5th grade an older cousin told me I needed to find someone to pick on. That way the other kids wouldn’t beat up on me seeing that I was so tough. So I chose this kid who walked home the same route as me. He was chubby and had curly hair and wore Wranglers and no one talked to him and he didn’t deserve it. Many years later, he contacted me on Myspace. Do you remember chasing me home all the time? He asked me. I can only hope my apology was sincere.

-I regret not buying an olive green pant suit I saw at St. Vinneys about two and a half years ago. It was one of those kind that were supposed to look wrinkled so it didn’t matter if it actually got wrinkled. It was my color and it was perfect. I almost flipped a U-ey but I didn’t. It was the pantsuit that got away.

-I regret leaving a good career job for an okay man and moving to another part of the state. That remains one of my biggest lessons.

-I regret snapping at my fiances grandmother when I was hangry in Hawaii. I’d knocked over the car seat and she’d said Good thing the baby wasn’t in it! ‘I wouldn’t have knocked her over if she were in it!’ I’d snapped back.

-I regret telling my dad his cooking sucked when I was a teenager. I regret calling him a dork and many other cruel things I did at that time. You’re mean to your dad, my best friends told me. I was mad at the world and took it out on him. I regret that.

-I regret that a woman I know sent me a poem recently and I haven’t read it. She wanted feedback but I haven’t got the time. I hope she understands what it is really like for a woman with a newborn. Time keeps on slippin slippin slippin. I can’t do all the things. I can’t even look at my own poem and I am sorry.

-I regret not going to see my good friend Connie more. She was a customer of mine when I worked for the post office. She is a lovely person, a wise old soul, and she cares for me deeply. I know because she sends me kind emails regularly. I regret that, because of our coupled anxiety, I believe, we rarely see each other in person. She will die someday. So will I. And I will regret it.

-I regret that, since my daughter was born, I am doing just an OK job at everything. Work, writing and cooking. Especially cooking. That is especially just OK. I regret that being ‘just a mom’ doesn’t seem satisfactory enough for all of society. I regret that I couldn’t be just a mom if I tried. Toys, I find, actually bore me. I regret that Autumn doesn’t want to just sit in the corner and read like I do.

-I regret throwing a golf ball through an old man’s front window in high school. Even if he was stalking my grandmother, and sending inappropriate things to our home, the shock of that golf ball and the cascading of the glass panels must have scared him something fierce. I didn’t actually expect it to connect. And until now, I never told anyone.

 

70 and Sunny

You’ll never be alone in your mind again. I forget who said that about becoming a mother. It wasn’t me, but I totally get it.

It is the afternoon at our home in Walton. We drove to town this morning–Autumn and I–for a work function during which, when it became my turn to talk, someone gracefully had to take the baby. They bounced her around the office while I gave my piece.

Afterward, I was scheduled to meet with my boss but my five month old wouldn’t have a minute more of it. We got back on the road, a forty five minute drive home. Autumn fell asleep immediately and I pulled into a Dutch Bros for an iced coffee that I consumed in a matter of mere minutes. $3.50 plus a tip down-the-hatch. I hadn’t had time for my morning coffee in our rush to get out the door. Absent of my ritual, a pounding headache loomed.

On the drive, I listened to NPR’s coverage of the climate crisis. I took a slidelong glance at my plastic Dutch Bros cup and straw. I could tell you I usually order hot coffee, which at least comes in a paper cup. I could tell you that yesterday I’d dutifully carried my reusable blue coffee mug from REI, but it wouldn’t soften the blow. I literally drove past droves of teenagers skipping class to raise awareness of the climate crisis, protesting outside the City Courthouse. I honked, in a pathetic attempt to join them. I honked four friendly honks and waved. But I was, clearly, part of the problem. I may have reused my coffee mug yesterday, but today was a brand new day.

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Back at home it was 70 and sunny. Autumn had not roused from her nap, so I opened the door of the minivan I swore I’d never own and paced around our property racking my  brain for what I should do with my newfound freedom. At least once, I checked on her to make sure she was breathing (it’s a mom thing). It’d been an unusually long nap. I checked the mail. Refilled my coffee. Eyed the mint and the other outside herbs. I wondered if, possibly, there were time to write a story.

Timidly, not sure to get my hopes up, I shook a large, fuzzy blanket out on the back pasture, under the trees. Autumn, still in the van with the door open, sleeping, was within eye and ear shot. It was the first warm day of Spring. I remembered how her father and I met on the first warm day of Spring several years ago. We’d walked his dog, Honey, who has since passed. She’d died in my arms, actually.

I grabbed a large yellow notepad I use for reporting in our small town. I grabbed my iced coffee and a pen. I grabbed a large mason jar of water and a pillow for when Autumn woke and needed to nurse. Writing is hard with a newborn because you can only get down so many words so ideally those words would be good.

I can do hard things but not easily, I wrote. A sort of mantra lately. I wasn’t sure if it was holding me back or what.

I kicked my Chacos into the grass.

70 and sunny. Never alone in my mind again, I wrote.

I managed to fill a couple of pages with words under the shade of a Rhododendron bush, in the shadow of our hollow. I wrote some short little clip of my life at this time. Of our life. A regular work day. Then back to the hollow. I didn’t find the time to remove the cheesy brand placement that never should’ve been there. The Dutch Bros. The REI. The Chacos.

I didn’t find the time to say I’m more of a Hillbilly Brews, St. Vincent De Paul, Birkenstock-type of gal.

But maybe I’ve changed.

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Autumn wakes and cries. Selfishly, I dart my eyes toward the van but keep on writing. I’ve just gotten to the part about the protesters skipping school. I don’t know what I’m trying to say but I think I’m capturing some glimpse of time. Another Spring. Another season. Another mom scrambling to keep her brain together while teenagers point to the real, true issues in the world like the climate crisis. The admiration I have for them. The shock of not standing there with them. The vows I make to reduce, recycle and reuse. How, in reality, I put Autumn in disposable diapers at night because they hold like a gallon of pee and don’t wake her.

When Autumn does wake, I will lay by her side in the sun on our fuzzy blanket and feed her for up to thirty minutes. Hogs do not mind this, humans sometimes do. I am required to do this five to six times per day. A wise aunt recently told me, “Remember, our children do not ask to come into this world.”

It is not easy being a mother. It is not easy being a child. But it is 70 and sunny and somehow we are perfectly undone and barreling toward some unknown, likely very disorderly reality. Not an easy pill to swallow for a perfectionist-ish like me.

The minute I pick Autumn up, her crying stops, like a faucet. I may not be everything, but I am everything to her. Like the Earth is for those teenagers. We cannot see what they see–perhaps too close to the elephant we have been our whole lives. But those kids, well I guess they see their mother barreling into space and away from them, toward her death. Resources squandered. No soft, natural place to land on.  The very real possibility of her milk drying up. They see their mother leaving, being held hostage, in great danger.

As a mother, the burdensomeness of the responsibility is only a matter of perspective. I take off my shirt. I let the sunshine warm my shoulders. I really struggle to reach down within my core and retrieve what I truly am as a woman now: a mother. Not some worker. But being a mother is harder than being a worker. Mothers don’t get breaks. I wonder how very tired the Earth must be. What relief it will be to her when she implodes. But she is probably one of those mothers who’s made for it. Not like me.

On our drive through the “country” to town, I got stopped for construction three times. It was bumper to bumper the whole way. I stared out the window at the trees, the forests, the wild. We don’t even know how to live out there anymore, I thought. At the bell of my alarm clock this morning, all I wanted to do was lie around and nurse my daughter. Instead, I slapped some powder on my face, I put on a skirt and I hustled. I ignored that animal instinct. I’ve been successfully rewired. It goes against my new role as mother. Is the Earth starting to think differently, too?

I floored it to the office, to the child neglect organization I work for. But it was worth it. Because our topics drive a good cause. The world is crumbling, but that is beside the point. For us anyway. We all have our causes, and our limits, sadly.

How many exhausted mothers, fathers and children did I pass on route to the office? How many of them would rather have been somewhere else? In their own metaphorical hollow somewhere?

How many other parents have no weekend, and work late into the night? How many other folks in the country have gotten so incredibly entwined, despite their best efforts, in the go-go-go, American daily grind? How many others actually sit in the forests that they pay to own?

70 and sunny.

Never alone in your mind again.

Here. Now. Home.

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Autumn lays in the sun with me. She nurses and when she is done she fusses not once. She taps my leg with her foot as I write. Lightly. She is mesmerized by the hum of nature (and, if I am being honest, the highway in the distance). She notices the breeze and the butterflies and the grass. Am I a bad mother because she is more familiar with the indoors than the out? Or might I be let off the hook because it is the first day that really feels like springtime in Oregon?

Autumn’s feet tapping moves to my right elbow, jarring my pen and lettering as I write. We do this for minutes, me writing, her jarring. I am obsessed but finally I get the hint. We lie on our backs, mother and daughter, on a large fuzzy blanket and stare at the towering branches of a walnut tree. There aren’t even buds yet, but behind the branches is an azure blue sky. There will be buds, I tell Autumn. There will even be leaves, you’ll see.

No title

We don’t come to the city much
it can cause me anxiety, just the cost of gas alone
tonight I find it pleasing, though—the scent of different
restaurants catching on the wind
Chinese, a steak house,
I even get a whiff of seafood
I push her stroller through the dusky mist to
the public library children’s section
where we eye the fathers of children,
innocently enough just observant and healthy like
I always was
then I take her out of her stroller and
walk the aisles, fingering the books the
staff has arranged face first,
Love You Head to Toe
The Good Egg
and
A Scarf for Keiko

A mother and daughter play on the
floor together with difficulty
“I won’t play with you if you make
up your own rules!” the mother says sternly
“It’s not fair!” the mother pouts
I wonder of my sweet Autumn
picking up on her negativity so
I turn on my heel, head the other way
I bookmark postpartum groups in my head
and vow to use them before getting to where
that mother was
I wonder what she thought motherhood would be like
I didn’t know either but…
her resentment is palpable
I say a little pray for her pink-haired daughter

I spot a children’s table with children’s chairs, crayons
and scrap paper
I grab an already colored on scrap—an orange daffodil
and with Autumn on my lap I try to scratch a poem that
my mother-in-law would approve of
I think about erasing the part about
watching fathers but I don’t
because library pencils don’t come
with erasers