I see a black-headed grossbeak on the bird feeder in the morning greet a star (my star?) in the late dusk and in between there is a worn wooden bench in the late afternoon sun away from all the people so I can take my mask off to drink my yerba maté watch the jack rabbit nibbling grass hear the raven’s wingbeats shake my head over how much I continue to resist my life right now and earth thrums through my feet touches my exhaustion and pools in a still quiet place.
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.
Wednesdays I drive to Trader Joe’s park on the side street tall trees old inviting houses today a woman watering her yard white screen door propped open I sip my hot yerba maté sing snatches of “Our House” Mourning dove mockingbird sit on wires across the way listening I drink my tea breathe cry grateful tears.
I dream Julia Roberts and I on a rooftop She has a cut lip and hair pulled back into a small messy knot There is city around us maybe near the sea and we visit there more than once gaze across the rooftops at dusk She has trauma, too, something to do with a dream she wanted to fund in Syria or Ruanda and crazed pushback on social media And somehow we are close comforted by each other Our lives both hard just now but meeting and being met easy together like old friends like decades like no secrets like no hiding at all.
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.