Category Archives: Poetry

What Matters Most

I shouldn’t still be thinking about the earrings I wore on the day of our wedding on Sunday, May 22, 2022, but I am. I’d wanted to convey that, despite Dad’s passing less than three weeks earlier, I was OK. It was all good and everything was fine.

But when I look back at the photos, I see me the day before the wedding, running frantically around the mall alone, bombarded with choices. There were plain gold hoops, bright neon feathers, faux diamond drop earrings, shaped like leaves, and the ones I got: showy gold hoops with crimson silk flowers. The earrings were distracting, and I hadn’t noticed that at the time.

What didn’t help is that until 72 hours before the wedding, I didn’t know which dress I was going to wear, my original choice never having arrived in the mail. It also didn’t help (or maybe it did) that, since Dad died, I decided that nothing superficial mattered anyway. It wasn’t what you wore, it’s what you said. It isn’t how you look, it’s how you see.

So on the one hand when I look at those photos, I think of those earrings as my “fuck it” earrings. The slap it all together and play-it-cool mood of that unique moment in my life. The wishing I could hide in plain sight. But the only statement those earrings seemed to be making was “whatever you do, don’t look at me.

Do I wish, instead, I’d have selected the faux dangly earrings shaped like leaves? Yes, I can too clearly picture how they would have sparkled when catching the sunlight through the trees. But would I take it back and change it? No. Not really, because something else would have been off. As is in life in general. As is when you are having a wedding and you are having a funeral.

In this life, it really, truly isn’t about the perfect look and the photo-worthy setting. And I give myself grace that I knew that going into it, and I placed my priorities elsewhere when I didn’t give myself a lot of time to shop for the earrings, and I didn’t take along a friend. I didn’t really get that “bride moment”…the one that they were selling me. For me that fantasy involved a careful putting on of my high-heeled shoes (I would wind up wearing slip on leather wedges), a cheers with my bridal party, Lorde’s “Royals” blasting in the background, my “Cinderella” moment. What I got instead was a mad dash to the mall for last minute, unplanned accessories, and, in the bridal suite, our children running around underfoot, only the sound of shrieking and chatter in the background. What I got instead was real life, what actually matters, the people, the experiences, and yes, even the innocent fashion mistakes.

Now when I think back on our wedding day, I remember being thankful it didn’t rain. I remember being grateful nobody got hurt. I remember that “My Sweet Lord,” Dad’s song, came on the radio on the drive to the mall and it felt like it was playing just for me. I remember I cried. I remember I was fragile, deep down. I remember I couldn’t afford to crack. I remember writing and practicing my vows. I remember carefully putting out the ceramic dinner plates and silverware, buffing smudges out of the wine glasses in the dining room late into the night before our wedding.

I am trying to forget the sparkly earrings that got away. I want to let go of notion that tells me our wedding needed to be more perfect than it was. That I needed to be a better bride. That I had somehow let something slip. That I should have spent even more money. Then, maybe, things would have really been perfect. Maybe. When the only thing that honestly would have made that day better, is having Dad there for it.

Love and mysterious blessings,

Mama Bird

Town

There is nothing more difficult
I believe
than relaxing

Than just being

We are human beings
Not human doings
Yet who out there is willing
to “just be” with me?

My most treasured doings
are working
then eating
then shopping
then teching out
then vaping
in no particular order

I am not doing a very
good job of setting myself up
to just be

Upon waking
I am already grasping grasping grasping
it’s astonishing
and yet today
I felt a calling
to be centered
and now, despite myself,
and after having taken a spontaneous U-turn,
I am laying on my belly in the grass
at a park and writing this poem

And for at least these few
short moments I will be free
from all of that grasping

I will be right here
barefoot
just being

This poem the closest
I will get to being present
because soon I will succumb
to the tornado of wants and desires
that is town
that is tech
that is quick and easy
and in and out of
my brain in a heartbeat

Moon Teachings

79 days ago, on May 3rd, 2022, my dad was knocked off of a tall ladder by the force of a tree branch he was limbing with a chainsaw. It happened at an odd construction job he took, painting some house. A side gig. A split second decision he made at the request of a neighbor.

That evening, after getting the call that Dad was in the ICU, I drove from Oregon to Northern California along the coastline. His only child, I was frantic and pleading with the Goddesses to save him. I worried about everything from the fate of his soul, his consciousness; to his potential suffering.

Gazing out the window at the ocean rolling by as I drove, I noticed the moon: a waxing crescent in Gemini. The night sky was crystal clear and the moon and the ocean were a painfully beautiful sight. An inky blue sea. A golden yellow moon. Brilliant silver stars. I needed everything to stop being so perfect. I needed the moon to remain as it was, and not to move an inch until everything was sorted out. I felt anything but in control. All was chaos and confusion…so how could it look so peaceful? 48 hours later, Dad would dearly depart us.

Today, at three p.m. on July 21, 2022, 77 days after he died, I stepped outside after spending all day inside a building at the university where I work. I looked up at the blue, cloudless sky and noticed the white reflection of the moon. A waning crescent moon in Taurus. It was another painfully beautiful sight, this moon, coupled with the gorgeous, sunny weather and flowering bushes lining every path and street. The moon had risen and set, waxed and waned, over and over and over again since the days of Dad’s passing. Had the moon betrayed me? Relentlessly marching across the sky? Didn’t the moon get it? Any why does summer feel the need to carry on, too?

Perhaps, I thought. Just maybe, I cautioned…maybe nature knows how to let go. And we don’t. My body softened, shoulders releasing just a little bit of tension. Perhaps I should be bowing to the moon and reflecting on its wisdom, rather than questioning nature at all.

On Doing Things for Myself, Not the ‘Gram

At the beginning of June we went home to visit my roots. We drove the four hours from here to Northern California. I didn’t just see my dad, but I revisited the land that, in some respects, raised me. The waters that taught me how to swim. The trees that taught me how to climb. The land that taught me how to respect it. Or at least, how to see it. How to listen.

Autumn and I spent one sunny morning away from the campsite and on the sandy banks of the Smith River. Usually extremely cold in early June, the water was fine. The deep jade pools were manageable to swim in wetsuit-less, because the snow melt had been so little. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’d worn my blue one-piece Speedo just in case. I also brought along my mask and goggles. Plus one extra pair. The others stayed with the children on the shore, while my friend Alice (we’d worked together at the Oregon Caves) and I swam and snorkeled.

We traversed the widest part of the river. A front-stroke and dive ever so often to catch a glimpse underneath the glasslike water. We took our time. Reaching the other side, sea-lioned atop two slabs of rock, we waved big mama waves to our little ones–who now appeared even smaller–on the sandy shore. They waved back.

We leisurely swam up stream, underneath Second Bridge, and my body pointed–briefly–in the direction of home. My true north. Alice didn’t know it, but a roaring gorge was further up the canyon. An impassable part of the river for most, and certainly for me. A passage that a male cousin of mine rafted down once, and swore he’d never do again. A passage that Dad ran on an inflatable air mattress. So many stories. So many laughs. So many dives this life of mine has taken.

I dove to the bottom of the river and dug my palms into the satiny sand. Eyelids safe inside my airtight mask, I let the sand sift through my fingers, certain that no other person had touched this exact pile of sand before. My feet rested on the bottom. I briefly wondered if Alice might want to play underwater tea-party, like us kids did when we were young, in this very river.

But Alice was floating on her back under the bridge. And in a few short weeks she’d be flying back to Germany.

The river back home, near our farm, was shoulder high and a little murky.

I pushed up from the riverbottom with my right foot, darting toward the surface, light filtering through the water the same way it did in nearby redwood groves. Coming up, I blew hard on the snorkel, and water blasted toward the blue sky. I was a little out-of-practice, but it was coming back already. The snorkeling.

(I was a fish. I’d almost forgotten.)

Back on the shore, Alice and I nursed the little ones, and dug our legs into the almost-hot sand. Satisfied smiles rested on our faces. A man and two women around our age showed up. They shook their towels out on the sand and pulled out their phones.

We had our phones too, of course. We had all snapped a few photos together, snorkel on my head, dry hair. I’d taken a few photos of Autumn exploring the shoreline. The same shoreline I’d first dipped my toes into.

We politely tried not to notice as the two women, probably our age, took off their layers and walked to the edge of the shore. Tip toeing on the river rocks, they held their phones in their hands. “Jump in!” Their companion hollered. “It’s not cold when you get in. It’s cold when you get out.”

I shivered, thinking: he’s totally right.

The women waded into the river carefully, up to their waists. They could have been locals. I’m sure they loved this river. Who was I to judge. Then one of the women tipped back her head just enough to wet her hair up to her hairline. She motioned for her friend to take her photo. They wanted, we all gathered from the shore, to capture that slicked-back, wet “look.”

The background was striking: deep pools of emerald-teal water. But from this vantage point, having just come from that same water, I worried that the women were missing something. Not seeing. Not hearing.

It wasn’t long before they got out of the water and huddled together on their towels, noses in their phones. I’m not saying I don’t relate to them, I do. I do relate to them, and that’s what I’m saying.

Just not on this day.

On this day the snapshot I took was scooping two handfuls of silky sand into my palms, and letting my past filter through my fingertips.

On this day the snapshot I took was my inhale/exhale through the snorkel as my body cut through the surface of the water.

So the contrast of these two things: the realness of that, of what I’d just experienced, and the falseness of a pretty photo, well, it got me thinking. Doing it for the ‘Gram is fine. But doing it for yourself is 100% better. It’s something I’ve always known, and now I feel compelled to share. Whatever it is, I’m in it for the realness of it. A pretty picture is just a bonus.

Love,

Mama Bird

I Needed to Make My World Small Today, and That’s OK

I have this thing where I ask myself: Do I need to make my world big today, or do I need to make my world small today? Big days are off-farm days. Small days are days like today.

I am mostly a small day kind of person. For me, it’s not about adding things, it’s about subtracting them. (Of course I sometimes–maybe even often–forget this and try to fill the void with material things or quick distractions.)

In-between housework and Zoom calls and farming and writing, I have been reading a book titled “Hare Krishna in America.” I am neck-deep in the memoir-writing process now, and I have a three day retreat upcoming at the end of June. Going into that memoir rewriting retreat, I want to better understand what Krishna Consciousness is. What Krishna Consciousness has meant to other Americans. I write about my narrow slice of experience with Krishna Consciousness in my memoir extensively, but I have always lacked a birds-eye view of the religion (or cult; even the label is controversial). The author, E. Burke Rochford, Jr., immersed himself in Krishna Consciousness in the late 1970s. Rochford worked to maintain his position as an un-bias journalist, while experiencing all that one would experience undergoing the transformation–the journey to becoming–a Hare Krishna devotee in America.

The scenes that Rochford describes echo my experiences. They tell me that those memories I have written down are true. In many instances, Rochford is referring to temples whose grounds I have walked on with my own bare feet. And perhaps most astoundingly, he describes Krishna Consciousness as a sect of Hinduism that branched in large part due to beliefs of inclusivity: Hinduism as a religion adhered to the idea that only members of a certain caste could achieve spiritual liberation.

Caitanya preached that all people, regardless of their caste or station in life, could be self-realized through their activities performed in the service of Krishna.” E. Burke Rochford, Jr.

It was no wonder why my twenty-five year old father, who was set apart due to a disability he suffered, in conjunction with a near-death experience, was (and still is) drawn to Krishna Consciousness. Given the background that I am learning about, through this book and other personal stories I am reading about online about Krishna Consciousness in America, it is easy to see how Dad extracted so much meaning, and so much hope, from the Movement. Many Americans, disillusioned with their own culture, did and still do derive meaning from Krishna Consciousness.

In a final act of transparency, my good friend who will also be completing the writing retreat with me in June, is writing about her childhood raised in another counterculture, one that is more commonly perhaps than Krishna Consciousness, referred to as a cult. That group was the Children of God. For fourteen years I have known this friend and we have connected over many things but this, somehow, the shared experience of being raised in very strict religious households or communes, was never at the center of our dialogue. Until now.

~ ~ ~

I have been having a hard time sleeping at night. I just don’t want to sleep or go to bed. I find it boring. Life is so much more interesting right now. My creative and emotional energy is high. I can’t quite put my finger on why. So after I nurse Autumn to sleep, too tired to write, I’ve been watching This is Us, an NBC family drama streamed from Hulu.

In it, the character Randall is reconnecting with his biological father, who disappeared from his life almost as soon as he was born. (If you know anything about my personal journey, it is easy to see why I feel kinship with this character. I, too, lost a biological parent very early on.) Anyway, there is a hilariously embarrassing scene where Randall is trying to express an artistic part of him that he believes is somewhere inside him, because his father was so artistic, he must be too. Randall is clearly trying to win his fathers approval, and bridge the years between them in a very short amount of time. It is painful to watch, because Randall sings a song and plays piano in front of a live audience, and totally bombs it. His intentions were good, but Randall momentarily lost sight of his strengths, of who he is, and how to best express himself. The vulnerability in that scene is heartbreaking, and heartening.

I can relate.

Sometime in 2013 or so, I took my poetry in front of a live audience. I didn’t rehearse like I should have. I think I cried. I think I’ve cried every time I’ve recited my poetry in front of a live audience. People I knew and loved were there. They told me “good job,” but, probably, they felt kind of sorry for me. My performance fell flat.

I should have asked myself that day, “Do I need to make my world big today, or do I need to make my world small today?”

I am a small day kind of person. Recently, someone asked me what my “happiness trigger” was. My answer: peace and quiet. Does that count?

I don’t know if it’s the Hare Krishna in me. The little calm devotee. But I am getting more and more comfortable with who I am, and saying “forget it,” to who I am not. I am not a performer. I am a writer. It is time to edit. To cut. To whisper. To be quiet in my surroundings, and loud and performative on the page.

My mind is poised toward this writing retreat, and my daily happenings are becoming more and more narrowly focused toward this one goal of sharing my story, my memoir, with the world.

So, what’s your story?

Love,

Mama Bird

Mercy Kill

Friday always punctuates the end of our work week. We always get plenty of time on the farm during the weekend, and these days rarely even leave the farm, but Friday is special because we take our weekly poultry delivery to Eugene.

Last Friday, after our delivery, I pulled up our long gravel drive, parked next to the white Dodge truck that never leaves the farm, and noticed a duckling lying outside of its poultry tractor out on the pasture. Although it is rare, I immediately figured it must have died inside of the tractor somehow, maybe suffered a trampling from other ducklings last night, and Steve had placed it outside the tractor before heading to work in the morning. He must have forgotten to go and chuck it in the blackberry bushes on the edge of the property, our standard way of handling the rogue dead duckling or chick. That way a coyote, or whoever eats those things, could get it. Back to nature.  

I helped Autumn out of her car seat and started unpacking some of the groceries. I hollered to Autumn from our back door, when I noticed she had neared the poultry tractor. She was standing, staring down at the duckling.

“I’m just looking at the duck, mama,” she told me.

 “Okay…” I responded wearily, and approached. “Honey that duck die—” just as I was about to finish saying “died,” the duck blinked.

I looked at its body: pale-yellow, stiff, big, blue veins. I looked at the sky: gray, wet, big droplets of rain. The other ducklings were moving around inside the tractor, they were dry, but this guy. This guy had gotten wet. He was freezing. He was barely alive.

And by default, I knew we were to blame. I just wish these things didn’t have to happen, ever.

I didn’t have time to wonder what went wrong. The duck hadn’t blinked again. He was not visibly breathing. He was barely hanging on. My mind began to grip on to what I knew was in store for me…a mercy kill.

I took one or two breaths, devising a plan, and then grabbed Autumn’s rubber chore gloves from the mudroom. I handed them to her. I knew the task of putting those rubber gloves over every single one of her eight fingers and two thumbs would take enough of her attention—and time—that I could sever the ducklings head on the chopping block, or near it, with an ax before she noticed.

Why?

Because I hate suffering more than death. I’d had to do this before, mind you. Not only here on our farm, but when I worked on a larger poultry farm for a season. (The more ducks, the more death. And ducklings, actually, tend to fair better than baby chicks do. Mercy kills? It all just comes with the territory.)

Based on the ducklings visible paralysis, and the fact that its beady black eyeballs were a notch closer to gray than black, I had confidence that I was making the right decision—though I could not know for sure.

Nonetheless, I carefully carried the duckling in my gloved hands over to a grassy area near the chopping block. I was already chanting the Mahamantra. As a kid with one foot in the Hare Krishna Movement, old habits die hard.

I remembered a time when I was eight years old and my dad was called on by a neighbor to put a kitten who’d snapped their neck out of its misery. I have no doubt that as he placed the writhing kitten on the chopping block, he was saying the same thing under his breath: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

There is something about how when you say that, God has their hand in carrying the soul over to be reincarnated. Or something like that.

“If you’re ever dying,” Dad told me. “Just think of God.”

If you’re ever killing. Just think of God.

A couple of minutes later, though, the conviction in my choice to kill the duckling (rather than try to resuscitate him) was brought into question again as I rounded the corner of the poultry tractor to find three more ducklings, two splayed out, and one barely holding upright, in the rain. I eyed the heat lamps that were inside the tractor, unplugged. I would plug them in, even though we usually only kept the lights on at night. It was still early in the season. The real problem wasn’t the heat lamps, though. It was how these four Pekin ducklings got out from under cover in the first place, and into the rain. That’s what had gotten them.

Wet duck. Wet duck meant that I had to take two more stiff, nonresponsive ducklings to the chopping block, defeated. They must have wriggled their way through a small gap in the chicken wire. They were out in the rain the entire day while we were out running errands. I identified the hole, then wrapped the wire around a small nail a few times, hoping to secure it temporarily. Though it didn’t look like any more ducklings were trying to get out.

“Honey, I want you to go inside and get your rain jacket,” I said as I carefully handled the ducklings, placing them in an empty rubber tub to carry over near the chopping block.

Should I have dried them with a blowdryer? I knew placing them under the heat lamps they would just get trampled on. The one duckling, the upright one I was trying to save, was holding court under a lamp in the north corner of the tractor and the other ducklings seemed, more or less, to be leaving him alone. (Eventually he would die, too.)

The other two were mostly muerto, however. To give you some sense of the scale, these ducklings were from a group of one hundred and fifty ducklings. I just wanted to get the business done and go get started on dinner.

“I’m so sorry buddy,” I said to the ducklings, breaking my habitual, under-the-breath chanting. (Clearly a coping mechanism.)

I repeated what I did with the first duckling: placing it down in the grass, instead of directly on the chopping block. I thought that it might have some semblance of habitat as it crossed over. I wasn’t sure if I was making the right choice, but I was making a choice, which, sometimes, is the best one can do.

Later, Googling “hypothermia in ducklings,” I learned that one thing I could have tried was filling the sink with warm water, then gently placing the duckling, holding it’s head above water, into the sink. Had I done that times four, I might have saved the day. I’m not saying I was happy with my choice to cull them outright. And now that the experience has resulted in me gaining more knowledge about what to do next time, I feel good about that. As good as a farm mama can feel just having put baby things “out of their misery.”

“Did you use the ax on the ducks in the grass?” Autumn asked me, having retrieved her purple rain jacket with the rabbit ears in good time.

It was a literal observation that I didn’t have a good answer to. “Honey, sometimes animals die, okay?” I tried, and then we went to toss their carcasses to the coyotes (kie-yotes) and finish bringing in the groceries.

Money made publishing “Dreams” possible

Dreams of a Rocking Pony is the first self-published title I feel really good about putting out there and promoting. Not one single typo, cover-to-cover, glossy finish, attractive artwork, “Luminare Press” stamp at the bottom of the first, beautiful blue page. The book makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like me. The me who writes–and publishes–books.

But I can’t really take the credit…money can.

I have been writing poetry, essays, memoir and children’s books for well over a decade. I began writing in high school, and in 2023 I will have been out of high school for 20 years! I have multiple projects just sitting in my writing den collecting dust bunnies. There’s the big project, a memoir, which I have spent most of my creative time on: I’ve workshopped it, critiqued it, hired a professional editor, had my best writing friend beta read it, and I’m critiquing it again, now. It still doesn’t feel perfect, but in August I will be pitching it at a professional writers’ conference. (Fingers and toes all crossed.)

My other projects include: “Do Nothing, Alone,” a children’s book on meditation, “Earthside and Other Everyday Miracles,” a collection of essays, “Mama Bird,” a farm memoir…I also have two other projects that don’t have names, but tons of material has already been written for those books, too.

Dreams isn’t the best representation of my work. (I realize that saying this risks putting you in the position of not wanting to buy the children’s book. But don’t let what I’m about to say stop you, just hear me out.) Dreams is the best representation of my grandmother, the illustrator’s, work. The book also illustrates the level of professionalism that comes from hiring a publisher to print it, and what a little money, used with the right intention, can do.

This experience–publishing Dreams–will probably change my outlook on self-publishing forever. In short, I will never do the formatting, cover design, and publishing work again all on my own. I will only hire professionals from here on out…as long as I can afford to. (And if I can’t afford to, I will save the money until I can!)

My first two self-published titles–Love, Blues, Balance and New Moon, were 100% free and 100% created by me. It was a painstaking process formatting the pages, creating a table-of-contents, and getting it all to line up appropriately formatting-wise on KDP (Amazon’s direct publishing platform). I don’t even think that one of the books has page numbers. It was perfect at the time, however, because it cost me nothing. It was a good experience and I had fun. Especially designing the covers.

But I didn’t LOVE the books. I could see all the little errors.

Fast-forward 5 years and my grandmother and I have just co-created Dreams. (I wrote about that experience here, in my previous blog post.) We joked about having the book published for real and I knew that self-publishing a children’s book myself through KDP was going to be a challenge. Publishing a book with illustrations was next level! I would need some help.

Honestly at first, when I got the price quote, I tabled the idea for many months. The pandemic was dragging on and on and, finally, while taking stock of my life and priorities, I decided that publishing a book with my grandmother was the thing I wanted to do most. My intentions around book publishing came into clearer focus when I received an unexpected financial boost. And yet the entire experience has taught me that I should value my work enough to have it bound professionally, even if I have to save money all year to do it.

Writers write. Book cover designers create book covers. Publishing presses print books. I learned through all of this to let others do what they do best. And then do what you do best. For a long time, I thought I had to become all of those other things…just to bring my words into the light. Now I know better. Now I see the piles of dusty papers in my writer’s den from a new, more optimistic, angle. They will, someday, get published. And I credit this book, Dreams of a Rocking Pony, for teaching me a valuable lesson about writing and publishing: That for 1/3 the price of a used car, I can bind–and sell–a beautiful freaking book.

The story behind “Dreams of a Rocking Pony.”

By the time you get around to reading this I hopefully will have packaged up about 25 pre-orders of “Dreams of a Rocking Pony,” shipping them off to Cottonwood, Arizona; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Austin, Texas, to a name a few. The book is going to some cold places too, like Billings, Montana, which is currently buried in snow.

In light of this incredible milestone of publishing a book with my grandmother, I wanted to share the story of what got us here, of how we came to complete this passion project, together.

In the Spring of 2019, when Autumn was just a few months old, we were visiting her Great Grandmother Peggy (I’ve always just called her “Peggy”). Peggy had recently, in the last year or so, completed a series of paintings of whimsical, playful animals. She was a lifelong painter so this was no surprise. Then Peggy made copies of the paintings and pasted them together in a book. She wrote small descriptions of the animals, such as, “a trick skunk black-and-white.” She presented the book to Autumn as a gift, gluing a piece of rabbit fur on the book bind, a little detail that was in perfect Peggy-fashion.

Autumn loved the book (as much as babies can express themselves anyway) and so did we. Peggy then asked me to help toy with the wording, creating more of a storyline to accompany to illustrations. We put in some time on the wording and joked about having the book published together someday (clearly once you see the illustrations, most, if not all, of the credit goes to her!).

Then the pandemic happened. The visits to Arizona stopped. The book got read and worn and read some more. I started taking stock of what was most important to me (I think we all did) during this time. I thought about the things I wanted to invest in. I thought: What if I did pursue publishing that book? Wouldn’t that be cool?

During this time I researched publication for children’s books, eventually settling on Luminare Press in Eugene (which is to say we didn’t settle at all, they are fantastic!). I decided to surprise Peggy with the book, and did just that when she received her proof copy in the mail on January 19th!

Now, almost a month later, and the book is live and ready-to-order on Amazon. Come February 11th we will celebrate our true “Pub Day,” when we receive a box of 75 books ready to be shipped directly to our readers.

It feels good to be typing this. Not because I am super proud of myself, I am not. I am most proud of my grandmother, the illustrator. I am most proud of the publishing house, including their cover design artist, Claire. And I am most proud of my daughter, Autumn, for inspiring it all. It feels good to be typing this because this was our pandemic silver lining. This book was a beautiful glimmer of something different and luminous in 2020. And honestly, I think you’ll like it a lot, too.

Love,

Mama Bird

I Dream a World

Hello, friends!

I heard something really interesting and inspiring on NPR this morning. NPRs poet-in-residence Kwame Alexander recently put out a call for poetry starting with the words “I Dream a World…”. If you have the time, you can listen to the segment here. Naturally, I felt I had to participate in the poetry challenge. Please enjoy these words, and never stop dreaming of a better world.

I Dream a World
by Terah Van Dusen

I dream a world
where our sisters
and brothers across
the globe can feel, can see,
can empathize with one another’s
plights.

I dream a world
not that has no starvation
no famine—no, I dream a
world where, when these things exist,
others can go without, so that
a belly can be full
elsewhere, a life
can be saved,
and cherished.

I dream a world
where when immigrants
come knocking on the door,
folks can envision the horrors
they are escaping.
That we have some
sense of what these families
have seen and witnessed.
That we feel the collective
pain they have endured,
and empathize, as we would
want others to empathize
with our own trials
and traumas.

I dream a world
based on shared resources
not the capitalist society we live in
so clearly benefiting the few,
the one or two,
so brazenly
guilty
and
full
at
the
tip
top
of
our
species.

I dream a world
where woman does not
pack lunch for a man
and man does not
pack lunch for a woman
but they both pack their
lunches for themselves.

I dream a world
where children are more
familiar with flora and fauna,
than Belle and Madonna.

I dream a world
where when one falls,
others do not kick them.

I dream a world
where mothers and fathers
take responsibility for their
offspring…sheltering them
from harm, gore, and neglect.

I dream a world
that cares for its ecosystems
by replenishing them
with buffalo,
and quenching them
by refusing to bottle
city water and then reselling it
to its people labelled
“Mountain Spring.”

I dream a world
where big box store
demolition is a favorite
pastime.

I dream a world
where Native American
culture is restored and revered,
guiding us to walking lighter
on our this shared earth.

I dream a world
that is a collective,
and land that is sacred,
and life that is equally as
valued as the next one.

I dream a world
where we are utilizing all
our senses, sight, sound,
taste, touch to understand
each other, to create harmony
together, in our own little tribes
and families, with a clear understanding
of the challenges facing those less fortunate
in, on the periphery, or outside our own circles.

I dream of a world
where we understand
that every choice
has a butterfly effect.

I dream a world
where less
is more.

I dream a world
where minimalism
is magnified.

I dream a world
(not an earth)
that is ours
for the taking
that is ours
for the making.

I dream of
a better
world.

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