In the mid-90s I wanted to have a baby. My body really wanted to be pregnant. I lived on a hill outside Sebastopol in northern California, and I would walk up and down Tilton Road, watch the red-shouldered hawks soar in the canyon between my hill and the next. I remember climbing the hill one morning on my way home, nearing the row of mailboxes for our dirt side road. I was all filled up on the day, the hill, the hawks, my strong body climbing. I remember feeling that exhilaration, that joy, and noticing that longing for a child nestled beside it. It’s the first time I remember understanding how we can hold more than one big thing at a time. Today it’s mostly anger and fear. I try to hold them with kindness, but the anger is harder. And underneath it all is a deep sadness that permeates everything. It lifts here and there like this morning beneath the liquid ambers, one of those moments when everything intersects. I go to turn the sprinkler off, and a mockingbird begins to sing nearby. I look for him in the leafing branches of the liquid amber one tree over. And looking up, I see a lizard coming down the tree whose roots I’m standing on to reach the sprinkler so I don’t get my slippers wet. He stops to check me out, and that is the moment when it all coalesces. I greet the lizard and hear the mockingbird’s song and see the morning sun between the new leaves of the liquid ambers and taste the wet earth and feel my toes grip the tree roots beneath my slippers. Joy comes with this sense of divine intersection. And sadness still tucked up beside it, companion for the long haul.
I have two paper bags and a USPS bin of mail sitting untouched in the spare room. Seven empty bags of yerba maté scattered across the big wooden table in my room. Eight long lists of things I need to do littering the floor, herb books, my scribbled up calendar folded open to April. But when I have a free hour I do not clean my room or sort my months-old mail. I do not spend hours on the phone lining up appointments or checking tasks off my lists. Instead when it’s quiet I read in the afternoon. In the morning I sit in the sun with a cup of hot yerba maté and let my mind drift. When I make effort beyond the basics or the unexpected, they are small moments, small things, planting cat grass seeds in the patch of dirt where the cherry tree used to be, watering the pots of succulents beside the pool. Three days ago, I cut a window in the big ball of ficus tree and hung the bird feeder in the hole. You can see the trunk, the branches, the feeder like a little house in a cavern of leaves. It feels like a real tree now, and birds are coming. House finch, white crowned sparrows, towhees. When I watch them I think the veil between me and the world might be thinning. Nothing is easy in me, but I think it might be easing.
close again and again
Dreams dust my edges
dialog with somewhere else
What a world I might know
if I could lasso it all
and bring it forward
onto the page
dig for messages
and buried treasure
I hand you a shiny relic
with a broken wing
and watch you
turn it over in your hands
in the late afternoon light.
The first time I was blasted open by wilderness was when I drove through the northern state of Baja California. The winding two-lane highway with no shoulder, no evidence of humankind anywhere except the road, only open undulating desert and scrub brush in every direction. No dwellings, no telephone poles, no water until the cats and I rounded a bend and saw the Sea of Cortez.
Two turkey vultures soar above the back yard
silent and slow, unhurried
The near full moon rises in the early dusk
as we walk, arms linked
Hot yerba maté, as if it is life I swallow
in big noisy gulps
Great horned owls call from the big pines
at my old elementary school
Even though I think I don’t deserve the gift
Yet they keep calling, again and again and again
For longer than I have ever heard an owl call
And I wonder if they are responding to my love
or if there is a secret message
in their muted voices
as late dusk turns to near dark.
A woman I know tells me she is underwater. Me, too, I think. Later, driving down the hill, I picture myself in aquamarine water, light dancing like the gemstone. I am fully clothed, upright, swathed in rising bubbles. My head is just below the surface, and right now, I think, I’m not even coming up for air.
I’m just trying to grow gills.
I am still resisting what is much of the time, refusing or unable to accept the reality I’ve somehow landed in. Reason doesn’t seem to help—my mind fails to convince me even though I am 100% certain accepting things as they are is the only way to move forward with anything even close to grace. But it is a thing of the body, this resistance, and all the logic in the world does no good.
[Words were reality and reason.]