Talismans, Too (58)

This house is filled with crickets
I have found them dying more than once
Some nights they sing
loud in the living room
and I stand in the dark
and listen to their song
When I am working in the black chair
I will see one crossing the carpet
and send up prayers
May you be safe
May you be happy
My mother stomps near them
to scare them away
and I worry I will step on one without knowing
I find their small belly-up corpses
now and then
in every room of the house
lying in chavasana
small enchantments
lucky charms
loved ones.

Stigmata (44)

Months into the pandemic, I began noticing a weird rash on my right wrist. I thought it might be from washing my hands and wrists too often because of the virus. (Yes, it’s true. I developed the habit of adding my wrists to the equation. Wrists rest on all kinds of surfaces.) The rash went away twice but came back. Then I noticed it was vaguely heart-shaped, lopsided, like a good beach rock. It has stayed with me ever since. Now I joke to myself it is my stigmata. Not in the usual sense—marks mirroring the wounds of Jesus that appear by divine grace on others, marks of honor—but evidence of inner wounds made outer. One day I wonder if the crooked heart on my wrist might be a message, like images of Mother Mary appearing to people in their homemade pancakes. Maybe my lopsided heart is reminding me to be compassionate with myself. Maybe it’s telling me I’m loved.

The Best Right Thing (16)

I ride my orange bike on the creek path, the world quick glimpses. Five ravens in the middle of the street eating roadkill. A strip of water beside the curb on the other side, sprinkler runoff. They slow hop and waddle between the two, easy together. I grin at this offer of adjacent food and drink, this perfect impromptu dining. When I am past, I see one lone raven sitting in the shade beside the path watching them. And then they are all behind me, and I ride toward the San Jacintos. I think about going back to move the dead animal off the road and onto the sand beside the path to keep the scavengers safe from speeding cars. But I decide the car that hit the squirrel or rabbit has adhered it to the asphalt, so it’s perfect for pecking out morsels, and if I moved it, it would be loose and flap around when they tried to eat and be harder to share. That settles it for me. I don’t have to debate further, consider every angle, wonder if I might cause a fuss moving it, get a raven hit by a car, cause harm trying to help. But sometimes it feels impossible to know, and choosing is agony. Later, on my ride home, one raven stands in the center of the street. The water has dried up, as if it was never there. The other ravens sit quiet and still beside the path in that same spot of shade beneath the two short palms and the desert orchid tree, each strong, curved beak open wide in the late morning heat.

Where White People Might Begin (10)

I can’t count the number of white people I’ve heard say the murder of George Floyd woke them up to how bad things are for black people, for indigenous people, for all people of color. I’ve cringed, stayed silent. But I’ve wondered. How could you not know? At the same time, if I am fair, I think this monstrous act (that follows centuries of monstrous acts) struck at an especially vulnerable time. Maybe because we are all so off kilter from the pandemic this has reached deeper, feels more vivid. Maybe even those of us who scream white privilege, who have the luxury of turning away, of tuning out, haven’t been able to turn away from this. For me, it joins other griefs, wakes up overwhelm and powerlessness. And living in there, too, is a flicker I think might be hope. If you don’t know where to begin, you might start here.
75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

Home (6)

I stand on the footbridge and watch the mother coyote in the creek bed below. She’s emaciated and mangy with an odd stub of a tail. She is almost unrecognizable as canine except for her snout. It hurts to look at her, breaks me even more to think of her trying to feed her pups. I stand there for a long time saying metta for her. I am wishing her cottontails. Safety, health, magic. When she disappears into the thick green brush, I head home. As I walk, I dream about bringing her a whole, raw chicken. Is that safe for coyotes? Just past the bridge, a mockingbird is singing in the wide palm beside the path. I am crying for the coyote, and then I am crying for this gift of the mockingbird’s song. I move to the street and into the shade to listen, pull down my mask, drink my hot spearmint tea. The narrow crowded leaves on the desert orchid tree seem sharp-edged today. There’s a kind of crisp clarity to everything. I look up to see the red blossoms on the tips of the ocotillo. I am all filled up by the wonder of it all, grateful to be standing here, returned to myself.