If We Do This, Then We Really Did This.

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Month: March, 2014

Three Things Thursday {Changed and Changing}

{Inspired by the inspirational Lists And Letters}

Image

1. In “A Room Of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf says, “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” And this is a part of my changing, the beginning of an understanding that goes beneath the surface, so that my heart says, this is for us, and my soul says, here is where we are, and the comments and the likes have no real relevance to the actual act of writing, because the writing is indistinguishable from the living, and nobody gives you a thumbs up for simply taking your next breath. Getting down deep into the habit, inhaling inspiration from a hundred different sources, breathing out unpolished thoughts and unorganized confessions and memories that are fuzzy around the edges, shaking out Polaroid poems and watching as they develop into a picture that’s always a little different than the way I remembered it. Cloaking myself in the words of others, warming myself by the fire of their blazing talent, staring into the flames and following the wavering shapes of my own potential through watering eyes. Allowing myself the time, the space, the permission to say, I am a writer, and to look in the mirror and see that it is so, whether or not anyone else signs off on that statement.

2. Finding myself split down the middle and sewing myself back up, one stitch at a time, no anesthesia, no reprieve from the pain of existing, just learning to coexist with the injuries inflicted on me by an infantry of love, because that’s what happens when you present yourself on this battlefield and throw your chest wide open. And I don’t really know any other way to be, but I’m trying to reign it in a little, to keep a few vulnerable parts of my heart hidden away from the points of the bayonets and the angry eyes of those who take honesty on as an imposition. I don’t really know any other way to be, but I’m carving out a new path, one of stone and water, tree and flower, the softness of my spirit not imprisoned by my ribcage but protected by it. Using my body as a gift and a guardian, an offering and an altar — sacrificing myself for the sake of truly connecting, but knowing enough to get out of the fire before there’s nothing left but ash.

3. Letting it go. Building up a pyre in the pit of my belly  for all the broken promises, the missed connections, the bark of words honed to draw blood, the edge of an empty silence — swallowing a sword on fire and feeling forgiveness smoke through my bones. Giving up the ghost of how much it hurt, there, in that time and place, burying the skeleton shape of old grief under the last spring snow. Walking away, even if I have to go backwards, even if I have to put chains on my ankles and drag myself down the road. Making amends in my dreams, atoning after the sun goes down, waking in the early morning hours with the solid mountain of his back behind me, the canyon of our spines, stepping out into that space unafraid of falling.

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Queen Bees and Spinning Spiders.

In sixth grade, I suddenly found myself the third F in a trio of BFF. Amy and Danielle were lithe, pretty, blonde, popular; they were cheerleaders and safety guards, wore Guess jeans in the perfect shade of acid wash, and though I couldn’t understand their newfound interest in me, I accepted it with the embarrassing gratitude of a chunky, near-sighted twelve year old on the fringes of elementary school society. A few weeks into our friendship, in a flush of the kind of intensely focused love young girls harbor for one another, I used a safety pin to scratch our initials into my arm — a sturdy “A” and a shaky “D,” but before I could carve out my own “C,” everything imploded around me. There wasn’t a fight. There was no confrontation, no pointed fingers, no apologies asked for or given. There was simply an absence of friendship overnight. For weeks, I scratched morosely at my forearm, wondering what I did wrong, lamenting the loss of something I had barely had time to grow used to. My skin scars easily, and twenty-five years later, I can look down and still see the faint lines of my first inexplicable betrayal by the careless hands of girls I’d given too much power.

This morning I read a piece in Boston Magazine, and before the end of the first page, my ears were buzzing with unexpected kinship; take away the trappings of wealthy suburbia, and I could be one of the name-changed women in her story. I don’t have a ski lodge, or a yacht, or even a simple pair of Prada flats, but I do have an extensive, heartbreaking, working knowledge of dismissal from the court of a Queen Bee. A year ago, after several months of subtle edging out, I found myself unceremoniously exiled from a hive that had felt like home; the notion of kindred spirits I’d held cupped so carefully in my hands was knocked to the ground, and I was left to wander a no-man’s land of no redemption. It’s hard to put into words what happens when someone decides to enrich their life with your absence, and even more so when no explanation is offered — you can’t help but wonder which flaw was so unbearable, which aspect of your personality so dreadful, that only the complete removal of your presence will right the wrong you have perpetrated by existing. There is a nauseating lack of closure, a purgatory of endless unanswered questions; these were your sister-friends and secret-keepers — was it the telling of your untold stories? Was your honesty asking too much? For the first time in decades, I would catch myself rubbing the whisper-thin “A” and “D,” a rolling rosary of potential fault.

The months marched on, and with distance came a small measure of perspective. I caught glimpses here and there of the person I had allowed myself to become — with my head above her honey for the first time in a long time, I was amazed at the way I had let myself be shaped in her amber image. I had disrobed inside the assumed safety of her hexagons, essential parts of my personality shed in an unconscious effort to emulate her. I think it takes an equal amount of courage and reckless stupidity to strip down to nothing for the sake of baring your soul to another human being; sometimes, our efforts are rewarded by the mutual, fragile admiration and adoration of one as naked as we are, and sometimes, the other person remains fully and stubbornly clothed in multiple layers of warm judgment and hidden indifference. I haven’t always known when to stop, lost in the process of shedding — maybe the absolute bareness I present determines the response, and maybe the shapes I take in that state of unapologetic undress are uncomfortable to witness. If I wrapped myself around someone else’s center, perhaps it’s no wonder they shook me off. There is a lesson there, then, an admonition to know how deep to go in revealing yourself to someone, a reminder that shapeshifting comes at a cost.

In the summer, a brown widow settled herself in the corner of my kitchen window. Sheltered there by the brick frame and a dry brown leaf, curled into a papery conch shell, she lived a long time; she spun many egg sacs, and as I watched each of them open from the inside and spill forth the tiniest black babies, I thought of the way spiders are so good at letting go. They spin, and they set free. Hundreds of times. Thousands of times, if they find the right sort of sanctuary. Each pinpoint of life a flight risk, but that’s where the sweetness lies — this giving of yourself to someone with spinnerets inside their pockets. Sometimes they will lay out a line against the wind, and take a part of you with them, but you have to know that going in, and you can’t regret it when you’re carried off through dewdrops and dandelion fluff, squinting against the sunlight, falling down amongst the flowers. You can’t gift your whole self into their hands — all of you is too heavy and no one needs the burden of someone else’s entirety — but if you learn to offer the small pieces of yourself safely, spinning into space is an adventure, not an ending. When my spider finally died, on the far eve of autumn, I went outside and gently pulled her body down, burying her and her leaf in the small space under the window; the wind blew back my hair and smelled like bonfires and forgiveness.

A few months back, I was browsing around Facebook when I came across Danielle’s profile. She was still tiny, still blonde, and the memory was a one-two punch to my breastbone. These girls, these women, these Queen Bees — collecting the pollen of my persistent neediness, fingers sticky with the yellow dust of me, tongues thick with the power I chose to place on their heads, a heavy crown they hadn’t necessarily asked for, but certainly hadn’t rejected until I had forgotten life before I was bent in a state of perpetual curtsey. Blame is a bitter tonic — it burns going down and lights a fire inside your throat. I’ve drunk deeply of it before, intoxicated by its easy absolution, but it hurts coming back up, and I’ve found that grace is more than a religious concept — it’s a cool cloth on your fevered forehead, a sweet whisper of better things to come once you get past this part, a practice of mercy administered by your own hand. Abandonment will always leave an ache in the unprotected parts of you; being cast out can’t help but leave a mark on you, a brand of betrayal, a half-finished scratching of an upended experience. But the pain is part of being human. I can regret giving so much without regretting the act of giving, knowing in the end, the honey in my own hive is sweeter for it.

Drafted.

I always feel like a fraud
in that first moment
a white-out blow-out
of the cursor blinking
a Morse code of creativity
an SOS to

put
words
here

before they blow up
inside my body
sentence fragment shrapnel
tripped over booby traps
of wasted emotional space

but who gave the orders
for me to be here on the ground
I never asked to wield these words,
heavy-handed swords,
hair-trigger grenades,
half-burning dynamite strapped
to a chest made up of
the fragile bones of birds
and the heartache of a borrowed rib

I didn’t come willingly
to take up arms
of adverbs and interjections
against a vast army of the unnamed
I was drafted into this life
of silent over-contemplation
and never-casual observation
My birth was an act of treason and
I’ve always been the only casualty

With the shaking hands of an
exhausted soldier
I’ve hollowed out a hundred foxholes
lined with unnecessary insecurity
I’ve huddled under a blanket
cut from itchy disbelieving and
hid my face from the weight of
the naked stars that make up the
constellation of a writer

so I sit in this bunk of a sofa
a blank battlefield before me
and on either side lies the
debris of a decimated alphabet,
these stanzas the spoils of war
Every poem a simple recitation
of name, rank, and serial number
A prisoner of the written word
A novel Stockholm Syndrome

 

First Love.

Every time I closed my eyes that summer, we were raising chickens in the backyard and chasing barefoot babies around the rusted out husks of old Fords. I’d be baking biscuits in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon while calico cats rubbed up against me, their fur sticking to the thin layer of sweat on my legs; you’d be out by the pond, casting your line and catching us supper. We had one boy and one girl and they were wild and sweet and dirty and after we tucked them in and kissed them good-night, we’d lie in bed, my head on your heart, and marvel at the world we’d created around us. Life was simple, all homemade pancakes, and country music crackling out over our old radio, and swinging on the porch under stars so thick they settled in our hair and lit up our love like paper lanterns.
—-
I was thirteen when you were fifteen, and I was so in love with you that it hurt to even breathe when you were in the room; your smile sucked up all my oxygen and set my soul on fire, leaving me choking on ashes in your wake. I was barely a year out of my awkward phase and still trailing insecurity around after me, weighed down with what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I thought you were impossibly beautiful – an Apollonian cowboy, running after Daphne in a pair of dusty boots – and I both longed for and was terrified of you seeing me there in the shadows.
—-
You went to camp, and after a week, your mom handed me a note from you, smiling softly at my creeping blush.

“I haven’t for got about you as a matter of fact I’ve been thinking a lot about you.”

“If the tape is off the letter tell me when I get back.”

“I have really missed you and I hope you get to stay here.”

“See you when I get back.”

You spelled my name wrong, but you underlined “love” twice and right in front of it was a spot you’d scribbled out; I spent hours holding it up to the light, convinced you’d started to write “I love you”, desperate to see it there under the strokes of your pen. I unfolded and refolded it a thousand times, reading every line in between the lines, tracing every word with the tip of a gently kissed finger. I fell asleep thinking of us holding hands, you pushing my hair behind my ear and leaning in to brush my lips with yours, folding me in your arms like origami. My dreams were a tangle of tall grass and crashing hips and flocks of birds exploding from me, taking to the sky as I woke with a start to flushed cheeks and silent want.
—-
There was a party at my house while June melted into July, a slow sliding of clover-scented air and fireflies dancing under the sweet-gum tree. As we were cleaning up afterward, I found the hat you always wore, and slept with it under my pillow for a week; it smelled like the sea, it smelled the way I imagined your skin would taste illuminated by moonbeams. After Sunday night services, I sat on the trunk of my grandparent’s car, hat in my lap; you stood under the streetlight and pressed yourself into me, pelvis to pelvis, so close I could hear your pulse and then there was just your tongue, and my teeth, and fireworks pinwheeling off and away behind my eyelids, and nobody could tell me we wouldn’t last forever. You pulled back, licking my cherry chapstick from your lips, and when you dropped a lazy wink my way, my heart burst into flames under my skin, burning me from the inside out.
—-
Every time I closed my eyes that summer, we were something more than we ever were; but every time I look back, it seems like just enough for what it was. You loved me back, at least a little, until I didn’t need to hold that note up to the light anymore to know what you were trying to say under the scribbles. Years passed and the paper grew tissue thin, the ink bled and a hole opened up in the center; still, I keep it tucked in a pocket in a folder in a cabinet, and pull it out from time to time, remembering longing like wildfire and kisses like rainfall. There were never any chickens, or babies, or rusted out Fords littering the front yard, but there was a gentle initiation into falling in love, and a sweet schooling on falling out of it.

3-21-2010

 

Some Days.

Some days, you wake up, and you’re just falling all over yourself in love with the world. The sky ahead of the sun rising is the most particular shade of purple, the shade that just happens to be your favorite, a dusky lilac you can almost smell. There’s a brilliant flash of bluejay, a streak of scarlet cardinal, a crow and a dove carrying on a conversation in the trees high above your head, branches that are still bare shush-shushing with the wind. Your head is full of inspiration — a series of poems writing themselves every time you glance their way, the fullness of a story half-realized — and you can feel the richness of them building up in your blood, a fever behind your brow. You are a teller of tales and a dispenser of hard-won wisdom, and for a day, for even an hour, you take up the mantle of wise-woman and marvel at it, revel in it, content within its confines. Long fingers of sunlight pull the greyness from the air and there’s a tell-tale tang of salt when you lick your lips, a promise of the endless heat that summer comes bearing after a too short spring. The children wake up warm, soft and pliable; in still heavily lidded eyes, the twinkle of a good night’s sleep is seen, and unusually good cheer rounds out the morning. There are the scratchy good-bye kisses you love, and lingering glances at his departing back — you spend a not insignificant portion of the afternoon daydreaming about holding his hand, fingers intertwined in a sustainable root system made up of the two of you, thumb strokes down the length of a lifeline. Some days, you wake up, and the world is falling all over itself in love with you.

Three Things Thursday {Spring, Sprang, Sprung}

1. With a gentle kiss of warm southern wind, we bid winter farewell and welcome spring. A green-handed goddess spreads her cloak over the ground, a mantle of bright daffodils and barely there buds and dirt, rain-soft and sun-warmed. A fat crow pecks at a blueberry pancake under a Full Crow Moon I can’t see for the clouds in the sky but feeling it down in my bones anyway — looking at the place where she rises between two trees, feeling ocean tides turn over in the wash of my bloodstream, pulling at my womb, and it’s no wonder people once worshiped naked under the light of her. I light white candles and bake bread in the shape of bunnies, mad March hares, and pull the petals off roses the color of sunburned skin while reading out ancient words in an accent that refuses to settle down in one place. There is dark beer and darker rooms and one square screen of light to fold all my thoughts into, and it is quiet, and it is a good night, a good life.

2. An outline almost too sparse to be called such, more an extended timeline, but it’s progress and no small feat for a self-defeatist. Pen marks on paper almost immediately covered up by the baby scribbles she takes such pride in, and there are misspelled words and more questions than plot, but it’s movement, and it moves me to see it, the first flutters of a story, a long way from birth but an entire world of possibility just beneath my skin. There is naming and descriptions and random details like the Spilled Milk Saloon or Mazel’s Draperies, and there are debates with myself when I’m standing in the shower, blowing on dice and throwing them on the table, not knowing what any of the rolls mean but trusting the dealer because the only dealer is me. I fall asleep with one foot in foreign lands of my own making, and sometimes they come to me in my dreams, the not-quite people who populate them — if I’m lucky, when I wake up, there’s enough of a ghost for me to grasp.

3. Them, the two of them. The sun on her, her small head so perfectly formed, hair like sparks and embers, abandoned bonfires and a sunset harvest; her eyes the changing color of the sea, the legginess of her in her ungainly toddlerhood, the unfolding of a foal, and she is growing like the grass, green and sweet and hopeful. Him, his awkward half-hugs, his head bumping up under my chin, unrecognizable in certain lights but that same beautiful baby face I’d know anywhere when he’s sleeping. Getting older is so hard on him sometimes, and I do what I can to hold back the hurt, but maybe I can only be a soft place to land anymore. He is stuck in a state of Goldilocks — everything is too big or too small, and nothing is just right, except for every once in a while when we can make him laugh unguarded. His love leaps into every room and clears out every cobweb, the teeth he hasn’t grown into yet, the way he ends every day a disheveled mess, smelling of boy and big ideas and starry-eyed wide-open future. Falling asleep to her breath on one side and his sleep-whispering on the other, occupying the middle space made up of crazy-making love. Good nights, good life.

5:20 a.m.

A bleary 5 and 20 glimpsed through lashes set on dreaming
through the sweet sharp pull of milk and her gentle descent
down in it, a white space of warmth and flesh between her fingers,
and behind me is the landscape of early morning hour love,
sloping hills of softly scented skin that tastes like drowning in the sea,
and I would open my mouth underwater and never fight the tide
to feel my limbs grow heavy as they swim through the honeyed
way we move together under moons almost as full as the wave
hovering over the village of my hipbones as they rise into the stars.

Right Now.

Right now: I hate everything that comes from my stupid, sullen fingertips. I hate the way the words sound, the useless way they pile up, wet wood grown bloated, forgotten against the side of a ramshackle shed. I hate the way my head feels so full of things to say, a ten car pile-up right behind my eyeballs, but stops just short of stringing together anything meaningful when I am facing an eternity of blank space inches from my face.

Right now: I am furiously envious of those writers who are committed and concise and successful and marketable. I curse my own lack of focus, the metaphors that line my mind, the alliterative beat of my stuttering heart, the fear of rejection and admiration, the weird way I write that’s neither here nor there and never lends itself to easy one line descriptions. I am furiously envious of the writers who have outlines and character files, pages of notes on their protagonist, on their protagonist’s third cousin twice removed. I curse my own haphazard system, months and years of odd facts and dangling storylines and random pairings, stuffed into a pocket here and a Word file there, and that’s when I manage to write them down at all.

Right now: I am bent double over the gut-clenching certainty that I am the worst at everything I put my hand to. A mother who yells too much, who possesses too little patience, who gets that faraway look in her eyes right around 8 o’clock every night while running the bath water. A wife who lets the laundry pile up into nearly insurmountable mountains, who never quite catches all the dog hairs floating through the house, who is fifteen pounds heavier and fifteen years tireder with a tightly coiled anticipation of abandonment curled at the base of her spine. A daughter who isn’t as present as she should be, a sister who lets the distance stretch too long and the silence grow too complicated, a granddaughter who is short-tempered and resentful in the small, mean parts of a crowded psyche. A friend who aims for honest love and open sharing and who ends up alone with the truth scattered around clumsy feet, too big for the graceful movements required of them. A writer who once eschewed the air quotes surrounding her, but now feels entirely appropriate within their confines.

Right now: I am wallowing around in despair I’ve deliberately chosen, completely comfortable in this familiar chair stuffed with self-loathing and feather-light long-term insecurity. I’m sunk in deep, feet curled up under me, the pins and needles the only reminder of how long I’ve been here. I know how it works; I’ll stay here until I can no longer stand the unwashed scent of indulgence, until I’m fat and lethargic with a thousand words stretched out under my skin, and then I will drag myself up, take a shower, and sit down to try this shit again.

But right now: I’m here, right now.

A (Nerd) Love Poem

In the early morning hours
of an ordinary Tuesday,
the sleeping sounds of you
are incantations on my shoulder
Warm breath caught
in the cradle of my neck
moves like light against a window
and there’s an unexpected exodus
of teardrops on my pillow
My fingertips curl up under
the heat of your right hand,
tea leaves at the bottom
of a chipped up heart-shaped cup
And my heels catch on the solid length
of the long bones in your legs
as I stretch into the soil of you,
my limbs like heavy roots after
a sudden summer rain,
and in this act of sharing oxygen,
we repel unwanted darkness
At the edge of every forest,
the shape of us is my Patronus.

A Rambling Treatise On Death, To My Children.

Here’s the thing, kids: I’m not afraid to die, but I’m afraid of leaving you. And I’m not afraid to talk about it, but I am afraid to write it all down — there’s a deeply primitive part of me that fears putting pen to paper will usher in everything I’m frightened of, a strangely superstitious place in me that collects omens and dark dreams and dreads the naming of this, because names are power, and nobody wants to give death more power than it already has.

So, there it is. Turning thirty-five, turning my palm up and seeing the lifeline pulling away like a sleepy tide stealing back to the sea. Eighty-one years is the average, and it’s pretty good as averages go, but even another fifty years isn’t enough — it can never be enough when you know what you’re giving up. I try to contemplate it rationally; I sit with it in silence, I sing it out of open windows speeding down a half empty highway, I taste it in the warmth of fresh bread on my tongue, and I let it caress me in the wind that blows through my skirt on the first bright day or spring. I give it as much logic as I can manage, but that isn’t much — there’s no logic in the not knowing, the bastard not knowing, not having the when or the why or the what happens next. I’ve never been good with the unknown, with the kind of vast unexplored territory you can’t map out or plan around, and death offends me on that level, it makes me angry, I am resentful and I wish to punch it squarely in the esophagus, to take its breath, to momentarily surprise it out of its smug indifference. I’m not afraid of it, I’m pissed at it.

I’m pissed at it because everything around me is so goddamned beautiful, and I never want to let that go. I never want to stop staring at the full moon hanging over the black velvet sky, diamond chips set in constant constellations, my eyes full of ancient light. I never want to stop feeling your father’s hand in the small of my back, his hand in my hair as I slip into the kind of sleep you can only achieve when you know you’re no longer alone in the world. I never want to stop watching the two of you navigate the uncharted waters of your life, sailing out on the winds of your wild imagination, full of brave and stupid and worthy adventures. I never want to stop writing, feeling the words build up in that secret spot behind the center of my forehead, seeing them explode on the screen, going back and reading them later and wondering who on earth wrote them because I have no idea how it ever came from me. I never want to stop marveling at the satin touch of hair falling down bare shoulders, the way every story tells everyone’s story, the intensity of a woman ten seconds away from birthing new life into the world, the way music speaks in the secret language of souls, how fire lets loose something deep inside your belly, the dreamless sleep and heavy limbs of true contentment — these are not things I will walk away from willingly, they are the things I will fight for, the things I will hold my last breath for, the things I will see when my sight has deserted me. The beauty in my life makes me greedy, and I’m unapologetic about that part of it all.

What will happen to you when I’m gone? I hope you will both be grown, fully immersed in mostly happy lives of your own making, ones hallmarked by love, and joy, and gratitude. I hope I will have seen you through childhood into the rough waves of adolescence and on in to the quieter seas of your own adulthood. I hope I will have held your hands through failed tests and failed friendships and failed first attempts at love. I hope I will have kissed away the tears of scraped knees and scraped hearts. I hope I will have said to you at every opportunity how much I love you both, love you so much that words can’t do justice to the way it sits in every cell in my body and spirals through my DNA, the way it takes up so much space inside that sometimes I can barely catch my breath around it. I hope I will have said to you a thousand times that I am proud of you, not for anything you do, but simply because you are; every life is its own miracle, but to hold the miraculous in your womb is to possess temporary divinity, and you can’t help but feel honored by the privilege of ushering in an entirely new being, a stunning scope for potential hanging like a halo over the fragile head that fits neatly into the palm of your hand. Whatever you accomplish in life, you began it held to hearts straining under the weight of newly born wonder. I hope I will have told you this story so many times that you know all the words. I hope we will have shown you that deep and abiding love is possible in a world that so often seems stitched together from loneliness and want, that we will have fought in front of you, and apologized in front of you, and kissed and held hands under your withering gaze. I hope we will have been an inspiration as often as an embarrassment, and that you will know however hard it gets, it’s worth the work if you have an ally, a true companion, a partner, a good man or woman who will see the good in you, and remember it even when you forget it and forget yourself. I hope I will be able to watch you fall in love for real, to see you unfurl under the burning sun of it, to catch you daydreaming with a finger on your lips, recalling that touch again and again.

I hope I’m there, but if I’m not….

God, how to condense a lifetime of lessons learned into a single letter. I haven’t even been particularly adventurous, but distilling it all down to the most important parts seems impossible. Mostly, it’s just love. Love isn’t everything, but it kind of is, all the same. It is the thing that empowers you and destroys you and builds you back up again into something different but better. It’s not always romantic. It’s not always forever. Sometimes it’s as much about letting go as it is opening up and letting it in. Sometimes it’s unrequited and sometimes it’s incredibly mutual and sometimes it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s a light and a ladder and an anchor and a chain and it has wings lined with lead, and it’s the meanest, fairest teacher you will ever have.

The other thing is kindness. Don’t be an asshole. Look around you: at any given moment, there is tremendous heartbreak and tragedy and a thousand small sad occurrences, not in the abstract, but happening to people you know. Maybe even happening to you. Let kindness be the soft sword you yield. Treat people with respect. The Pope, a movie star, your dad, the waiter, that homeless guy that hangs out at the corner of the intersection: our naked souls all look the same. You don’t have to be a pushover, you can be passionate and determined and believe in something so deeply that it feels like a fire glowing behind your breastbone, but be nice. Reach out and relieve some of that emptiness we all come equipped with.

Train yourself to find beauty in the small things — the evening light falling on sheer white curtains, the rough bark of the first tree you ever climb, cold water like silk on a parched throat, the prickling of the sun on winter soft skin, the silver white of poplar trees in the moonlight, the cinnamon smell of your first kiss, running your fingers through the hair of someone you love, the healing emptiness after a hard cry, the tiny rosette of blood on a paper-cut thumb. Write about it, or paint it, or sing or dance or sculpt. The ability to create is your human birthright.

Love as often and as deeply as you can. Extend kindness and respect across the board. Take in the beauty of the world around you and create it in your own image. I think those are the three most important lessons I could hope to instill in you.

I’m never going to go easy, whenever it is. I want to live to count the wrinkles on your face, to see your hair slowly silver, to watch the smooth skin on the backs of your hands transform into a complicated root system, to take your grandchildren on my knee and smell your familiar scent somewhere in their soft youth. I want to live to see you find that thing that makes you happiest, and then do it, to not waste years worrying about whether you should or can, the way I did. I want to live to have crowded Christmas holidays at our home, with flushed faces and noisy children running around in slippery socks and mismatched pajamas; I want there to be husbands and wives and babies and cousins and tables creaking under the weight of everyone’s favorite foods, and your dad and I, standing in the center of the chaos, my cheek resting against his shoulder, sharing a profound sense of completeness and thankfulness as we take in this world we made around us. I want to live long enough to have a crowded bedroom at the end, to be carried out of consciousness on the touch of everyone I love most, to look around through tear-spiked lashes and see so many faces made in half my image, to feel myself free-floating on the force of love in that small space; and if I’m allowed to take that last breath in and in and in, tasting like the peace of a life well lived, scented with the comfort of held hands and a clear brow, maybe I won’t have to fight. Maybe I will let go.

But I’m not making any promises. I told you, this world makes me greedy.

…..And now I have about a year’s worth of wood to go knock on.

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