Saturday, October 28, 2017

Earth and Music

Image result for small earth

You need me. Earth moans through wind gusts, floods and fires. I'm tired and ill and I don't want to, but I will blow you down. I will drown you in your timber houses, in your glass sky scrapers, in your metal mobile homes. You can hide in your cement cellar bunkers, but eventually you will need me. You will need my soil and water and sunshine and air. You will need my spirit too. 

The earth wears weapons everywhere. She has a whole arsenal. Not of police gun powder, the daggers of terrorists or the pontificated, exaggerated lies of presidents, but of a quiet gentle roar. Love. Fill your packs, pockets and hearts with it for love fights too. It fights with newborn baby cries, fights with anthologies, with anthropologists and apologies, with scientists, stories, theater, music, parades, protests, amateur poetry, tears and time. It fights with the wandering wind, reunions, rainbows, coffee, wine and sunshine. It fights with forgiveness and trust, empathy, connection, collaboration and philosophical conversation. It's why there are sailboats and ski slopes and air balloons, why there are round tables, picture books, paint, bicycles and violins. For we need love in all its manifestations. Without it, we will surely see the end of the human race: the deaths of seven billion broken hearts. So be beautiful and brave. Love and be loved. 

I was ingesting the news like medicine. I must take it, I thought, to deserve this life as a light skinned American citizen. I do nothing else to help. I read and love and write. I write words for myself, and write words to be tossed and lost to the clamorous, crowded internet. I would soak my soul in the stuff, pausing occasionally to send out prayers to the sky, or God, or the ceiling, or myself. But then it became too much. Too many tragedies, too many infuriating, overwhelming, confusing tragedies. 

I'm a full time working mom now. It is sweet and stressful and fulfilling, and busy, so very busy. Most nights, there is dancing before bathing and teeth brushing and books in bed. We call them dance parties. Soon as the speaker starts blowing out beats, I let my body react to the music, flow to the rhythms and rattle, twist, and shake. If my body is holding, hoarding, or molding any worry into my internal cracks and waterways, I address each limb and muscle and say, let it go...for this drum beat, whip it gone, shake it out, jump it up, and move it out and move on. I need sleep to live, but sleep and stress are like a child who is loved and a child who is neglected and lonely. I will not be granted awards for grinding my teeth while I sleep. I tell myself. I will not be given grants and trophies for developing heart disease and diabetes, so MOVE baby, move. Let in the music and move. No news at night, not anymore. Music and paper books, pajamas and lullabies. There is talk too and the splash and flow of sink water, sponges and soap, and the quiet clatter of porcelain dishes and glass and metal. There is laughter and story telling and most nights, we keep our cell phones away, ignored and left to purse pockets or high up on kitchen counters. Most nights, we are able to leave the world outside our windows.

I haven't been reading or receiving the Sunday newspaper. I paused delivery in early September. I didn't have the time to even sit and pull it from it's plastic sleeve, but I don't know if I want it anymore anyway. This past year has felt like a tremendously long rising action of anticipation for a climax that becomes more wet with blood and salt water with each passing day. So now I find myself hiding from the news, camping out in a small tent of daily details. But I need to remember that when I gave birth two years ago, I didn't look. I let my midwife and the doctor watch my body as it expanded and brought forth my baby, while I pushed and inhaled and exhaled and pushed and inhaled and exhaled, but maybe if I had sat up and seen my body, seen it as it took perfect (and yes, painful) care of me, I would have been less frightened. Instead I saw the worry in my midwife's eyes, and the dark insides of my own eyelids and the hurried arrival of a c-section team. 

I'm looking for some of it again, finding people standing together for truth, dignity, kindness and love. To watch and appreciate the world as she swallows our smog and blows her storms into our cities and be grateful and kind to her. I see you. I see you holding us between your trees and seas and grasses. I see you growing clouds and letting down your rain. I see you melting and sweating and breaking. I see you and I love you. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What about their rights?

You carry lit citronella lawn lanterns. You wear polo shirts and white kkk hoods and confederate flags.  You strap black helmets to your heads and carry plastic shields and walkie talkies. You wear war paint and swastikas and faded tattoos. Some of your beards are white and frizzy. Many of your crew cuts are combed and greasy. And all of your mouths spit and spew horrific ignorance as you hold out your hands to a dead Hitler and shout,

A few days later, I sit and close my eyes and re-imagine your rally... 

While circling the brass statue of your civil war hero, you are all suddenly surrounded by the dead. First, the spirits of the Native Americans murdered by European settlers or displaced and disgraced by American governments walk up beside you, singing their old songs of sorrow. What about our rights? They ask. Next, the ghosts of every slave who died in captivity, every lynched runaway, every innocent person of color killed by cops or angry white mobs stand like a glowing flock behind you, silencing your stupidity with their existence and presence - more human dead than you are alive. What about our rights? They ask. Last, the souls of the Jews and homosexuals murdered by Nazis soar through the sky and float above you, hovering over your heads like a cloud in a gas chamber. What about our rights? They ask. 

You believe in your supremacy, but your entire platform is literal proof that you are not above everyone else, but so very far below them.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Shrill screams, scrambling, hollering, 
as the engine of a sleek silver car speeds
into persons, bodies, American citizens,
into souls wearing skin: light skin, dark skin,
holey pored, freckled, scarred skin,
shiny soft / ragged calloused skin,
wrinkled, weathered, lined skin,
teenage skin, thirty two year old skin,
tight scalp skin in caps, kerchiefs and bobby pins,
dangling brown braids and tied back dreadlocks,
red, white and blond locks.
Skin inside cotton, clothing plucked by plows and stitched into denim,
tank tops, blood drenched socks, shorts, skirts, t shirts,
sneakers slipping on street dirt,
earlobes, eyelids, elbows,
blistered heels, flailing, flexing muscles,
spotty sunburned skin,
sweaty baby skin,
skinny pale skin, 
brown round skin,
wet salty dead skin...
skin is
skin is
skin is
cells to hold breath and bones and organs in.

Shrill screams, scrambling, hollering
as the engine of a sleek silver car speeds
into persons, bodies, American citizens

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The American Ocean (A Fictional Tale)

Our island was under siege from the sea. Now it is sunk, held down by the weight of water, muck and gravity. We fled. We were forced to surrender. And now we are refugees.

My husband is a fisherman. This morning, while he was out at sea, a storm blew in and surprised him and me. They had called the clouds a drizzle with a gentle breeze, but they were wrong. The sky turned dark, while the wind went cold and the clouds dashed toward the island like a swarm of black flies. He pulled everything out of the water and set off for home, but it took him hours.

By the time he reached us, it was mid-morning and the children and I were on the roof of our house. It was raining. We had just watched our 12-year-old dog slip into the water and drown. We were soaked, salty and sobbing. We climbed into the boat and without a word, he drove to where the harbor once held the water in her arms and docks in her dirt, where my parent’s house once stood surrounded by dune grass, seabirds and sand. We searched for the small cape on the short stilts with the weathered windows, but there was only water. Near the sinking lighthouse, I hollered and wailed until my throat burned and my tongue tasted like pennies. I couldn’t keep the agony inside of me. It was too big, bigger than the wind, bigger than the clouds so full of rain, bigger than the whole wet world. My grief frightened the children as they gathered around me, a bony, goose-pimpled blanket, and wept with me, soaking my hair, shorts and shoulders with their stringy snot and tears. We left. It was no longer raining, but the water was still rising.

We are going southeast now. We don’t have fuel for a long journey, nor much food or clothing. It all happened so quickly. Yet we knew this day would come. The scientists warned us. And we tried. We island dwellers created a green industry. We had solar fields and wind turbines and those of us who could afford it even had electric cars and traded in summer motor boats for sails, surfboards, rowboats and bicycles. We were making progress. We surpassed our goals and inspired many other communities and countries, but it didn’t save our island. The experts had all agreed that we had at least twenty-five years before the big melt, but it appears, we only had three.

Our littlest one is three years old. He’s been clinging to me ever since I carried him to the roof in my arms and tied his body to my torso with a towel. Our middle child is seven. She is strong and shy with large grey eyes. Our eldest is fourteen. I had her when I was seventeen. She’s a thinker and a voracious reader, just like my mother, her grandmother.

We survived because of the tall stilts. The ocean washed over the town last year, pulling away any sense of control we thought we had. And when the insurance company sent us our check, we spent it all and more on rebuilding, but I wouldn’t build on the ground, never so low and close to the uncertain sea again. So we built the new house high up on stilts. I love that house. I loved that house. It was raw, still unpainted in places, but sweet and often smelled of sawdust, cod, boiled crab and wild berry pie. It was new and clean. It was home.

Tonight, the children lie together on the boat’s bench cushions, while my husband and I stay up late, holding each other like soft metal spoons. He is brown from thirty-three summer suns, strong and bold with a quick wit and an enormous amount of optimism, but this is tragedy like we’ve never experienced before. This is catastrophic trauma. And it makes us speechless and sleepless.

“We are refugees.” I say.

“Yes.” He confirms.

A little later, we play opposite parts.

“We are refugees.” He says.

“Yes.” I say.

After a few days at sea, we meet the infamous wall. It is massive, like an anchored ship that never ends. It spoils the raw fish in my gut. I heard it was a thousand feet high just as I had heard that it was made of steel, stone, cement, broken vehicles and junk yard scrap. I am surprised by how rude the structure feels, ungracious in its mere existence. It is flat gray with glass and metal glinting in the sunlight. We float beside it for miles. Embedded in the cement wall are cars, boulders, 18-wheeler trucks, tractors, trains, tires, airplane parts, refrigerators, stoves and washing machines. It was built during the seven-year drought, which followed the last devastating flood. Now the wall only stands approximately ten feet above sea level.

“I think we should live up on the wall.” My husband declares one day, while we sit on the boat, sharing cold slimy cod.

“What if the water rises?” I ask.

“We keep the boat close. Get back on it when we need.”

The truth is, the boat isn’t going to last much longer, let alone another serious storm, but we don’t want to say that part out loud.

We are the first family on the wall, for as far as we can see. We move into a sideways train car. We have to bash a window to get inside, but it is warmer and more spacious than the boat. The wall sways ever so slightly with the tide. It creaks and whistles with the wind. We build a rain barrel and a fire pit out of scrap metal and start cooking our catches. We teach the girls how to fish. We cook and eat (nearly) everything we pull up. One morning, we watch a pod of orca whales glide by. And every day, birds of all kinds: hawks, crows, little song birds, seagulls, eagles and geese stand atop the wall to rest, sleep and eat. We try, but fail to capture any of these birds.

Every day and every night, we look down to the foreign country behind the wall and we see dry land. We stand at the height of the tallest skyscrapers and look down to roads still busy with cars, apartment buildings with electricity, office buildings with window blinds, bridges, and tree-covered hills. Airplanes and helicopters pass overhead sometimes, but they don’t stop. They don’t land on the wall or let down ladders - no matter how desperately we run and wave and jump.

After some time, another boat arrives with a skeletal woman in a torn dress and long black hair, golden skin and big brown eyes. Her motor boat is nearly out of gas. She’s been looking for land or a way through the wall. We feed her fish and she gives us a bag of dry black beans. Later, another fisherman and his teenage son arrive. They are from further south. They have a tent and sleep atop the wall. Then two middle aged men in a rickety raft join us. They call themselves brothers until they feel safe enough to say that they are not brothers, but lovers. They are from our northern country. They sleep in a car on the side of the wall. There is a woman and her 10-year-old son from the north. They walk to the train after crashing into the wall, killing the son’s father, her husband and destroying their sailboat. They break into another train car and make it their home, sleeping in seats that no longer recline. A cruise ship arrives. Then three more ships full of passengers and crew - all homeless, hungry refugees from countries now under water. Submarines arrive full of soldiers - hollow cheeked, grieving, pale, worried, weary men and women. Everyone needs drinking water. We trade fish for wheat and rainwater for cans of pineapple rings.

Many return to their boats and ships and subs to sleep in their bunks every night. To sleep with their blankets and pillows and the trinkets they managed to carry with them while running from the flood. But when the captains all declare that they can no longer use fuel for carrying people to and from the wall, most everyone moves to the wall. They don’t want to be out at sea when the border eventually opens and the country allows refugees to enter.

We build rain catchers and cast fishing lines and nets. We pry planks from the broken wooden boats for firewood. At night, we sit around our fires talking about the food we miss and the people we miss and the beds, beaches, books, beer, coffee, cheese, cookies, dirt and trees we miss. Many of us are sunburned and skinny. Everyone is thirsty. Some days, dread spreads among us, for tears and fears are quite contagious. Other days, we manage to distract ourselves with play and the work of survival. When the sea is calm and the sun is hot, we gather at the rusted red fire engine on the sea’s side of the wall. Half of the truck is embedded in the cement. We climb down to it and from its roof, we cannon ball and dive into the deep dark water below. No one has swimsuits. We swim in clothing or underwear. A few swim in the nude; no one seems to mind. My husband made a rope ladder by the fire truck for climbing out of boats and the water. It has become our dock and harbor.

The day we run out of drinking water, I weep and lick the teardrops from my chin and cheeks. We pray for rain. We sing for rain. We dance for rain. Late in the afternoon, the sky takes pity.

“Look Mumma!” My son says pointing.

Storm clouds begin blowing in from the south. When they reach us, they are so full and so low that rain pours from the sky as if from pitchers and hoses and sink spouts, wetting our cracked skin, and filling our cups and bowls and hands. We open our mouths and wait while water drips down our tongues, throats and nostrils. It takes hours for the sky to empty. We fill our bellies at foggy puddles, then take turns urinating behind the sails we have strung up along the edge of the wall.
The day after the rain, tanks and trucks and jeeps arrive on the ground below. We stop, watch and wait. We wait for water, wait for food, wait for empathy.

A man is lifted in a crane to speak with us. “YOU CAN’T BE HERE! YOU NEED TO LEAVE!” He shouts through a megaphone.

“Where do we go?” A voice near me shouts back, unheard.


A massive herd of hopeless, tottering souls, we stand at the edge of the thousand foot wall, addled and staring. We aren’t people to them, but silhouetted specks upon their border wall. We are strangers and foreigners and they don’t want us here. Just then, the wind gusts and swirls, causing the sea to flip and flop in an instant tempest. The water looks impatient, crowded, like a wild beast banging on the bars of a small cage, but instead of fur or feathers or flecks of slobber filling the air, hard, cold seawater soars, slaps and soaks us. We start walking north. What else can we do? We are trapped.

We walk up the center of our cement road. My husband and I hold the children between us. Soon, a second soldier arrives. They have orders to build the wall higher, he says. They need us to leave immediately. They won’t be taking in any refugees. There is hardly enough resources for the citizens. There is no hope for us, he implies. He sounds sad, but maybe he’s just embarrassed and afraid his orders will turn us into a mob of sorrow and rage. Then, just as the day before, the sky fills with robust rain clouds. The soldier says they don’t have time. They need to build the wall higher now to protect what little land the earth has left. On the ground, flatbed trucks line up carrying enormous bricks of cement and scrap. I look north and south. There are refugees for miles. The rain starts to fall. No refugees run or rush, for we all know that when the wall is wet, the wall is slick.

We can perish or we can protest. We watch one woman choose to perish. She walks to the edge of the wall. She doesn’t jump, but waits for the wind to whisk her away. I will see her flapping yellow tee shirt and her long black braid for the rest of my life. I knew her. She had lost everyone she loved. She was so skinny and yet so heavy and now she is gone. She didn’t speak my language, but she was a woman I knew.

While the cranes rise above us, the rest of us lie down. The wind blows over the wall and through the wall. The cranes pause, straining. Soldiers stand on the lifted bricks, clinging to chains and their big black guns. They fire shots into the air. I bury my face into my baby boy’s hair. It is wet with rain, but still smells of the sea. The wall scratches the side of my scalp. I shut my eyes and sing the only song I can think of.

“My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
my Bonnie lies over the sea,
My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
O bring back my Bonnie to me.”


“O blow ye winds over the ocean,
O blow ye winds over the sea.
O blow ye winds over the ocean,
And bring back my Bonnie to me."

A spray of bullets strikes the wall. I don’t know if anyone is hit, but we hear screaming. I hold my children so tightly I fear I am bruising them. The shots cause a car to loosen from the wall and fall. It feels like a scab ripping off in the shower. The shots cease. The car, once a bed for two lovers, lands in an explosion far below.

"Last night as I lay on my pillow,
Last night as I lay on my bed,
Last night as I lay on my pillow,
I dreamed that my Bonnie was dead.”

The crane operators are ordered to lay their bricks. As the first brick lowers over the refugees, bodies scatter. We all stand as the rain turns torrential. Two sailors from the south leap onto the brick as it settles, but they are shot and their bodies fall through the air and disappear into the water. The soldiers shout to back up, their guns pointing at us, the mob of sorrow and rage. I just keep singing.

“The winds have blown over the ocean,
The winds have blown over the sea,
The winds have blown over the ocean,
And brought back my Bonnie to me.”

As the second brick is lowered, the wind blows so hard that everyone crouches or sits. As we bend over, a bolt of lightning strikes the closest crane. Both men standing atop the brick, clinging to the chains, along with the crane’s operator, are electrocuted. The body of the operator drops and flops onto the controls, causing the crane to lower and land with such a force that our harbor, the rusted red fire engine, is knocked from the wall. Thunder booms as water surges through the gash, creating a tremendous waterfall. Many refugees run out of the way, but several are sucked through the spout and shot out into the air, falling with the seawater to the land far below. Our gasps, shrieks and wails are smothered by the wind, water and thunder. I pray that they die in the air and that it feels like flight, like freedom, and not like falling or suffocation or bone breaking or drowning. The water roars and tears through the breach in the wall. It uproots boulders, a train car, the wing of an airplane and a refrigerator. When a dumpster, several feet deep, is dislodged, the wall cracks and splits down as deep as we can see. The other cranes retreat to the ground, but when the dumpster flies through the air and the ocean erupts, water sweeps it all away. We lie on our bellies at the edge of the wall and watch as the speck becomes a sea. It takes days for this country to drown like all the other countries of our poisoned planet, but then it too is under siege from the sea, sunk, held down by the weight of water, muck and gravity.

The water of the world rushes to resettle. Eventually, global sea levels sink, dropping and eventually remaining below the last recorded levels, which were marked before the full melt and flood. Every other island, country and continent reappear - muddy and salty, with beached sea creatures and slimy seaweed, uninhabitable houses, landslides and a devastating loss of human and animal life, but soon the sun sends hope in growth, in hidden seeds and sprouting weeds. Food is found, grown, and caught, killed and cooked. Rainwater is collected and distributed. All along the northern and southern walls, pulley systems are set up for parachutes. Refugees are strapped in and sent floating down to the wet land below where they are no longer refugees or immigrants, but post-flood pioneers.

It takes weeks before we are leaping and weeping at the sight of our waterlogged landscape. When finally I float down and sink my feet into the cold mud of my homeland, I unhitch the parachute and knot it to the pulley. Then, with my boy on my back, I run up out of the mud to the dry dirt. My girls and my husband follow, but I am the fastest. I sit my son at the edge of the short scratchy dune grass. Then I collapse beside him and close my eyes. It will be winter soon, but I won’t worry about that today. Today is for sleeping and smiling. Today is for hope.

Within the wall, the old rich country lies far below what we now call The American Ocean, except for the mountain tops, which are islands now. Animals and birds and a few small tribes of people live there, foraging and hunting. The tops of the tallest skyscrapers stick out of the water too, while waves crash against spires and glass windows and walls of steel and stone. In the writing of our world history, America is never forgotten. Every 4th of July, we fill the sky with firecrackers in its honor and drink to the land and its people for their sacrifice. For this wall, we tell ourselves, this magnificently massive wall of cement and ramshackle vehicles and scrap metal, once built to protect the country from rising sea levels, now protects all of us, the whole world, by holding our surplus seawater in its large salty swimming pool. And for that, we are grateful.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Imagination and Reincarnation

Dela, an American born slave,
photo courtesy of Peabody Museum
of Archaeology and Ethnology

Wade in the water....
Wade in the water, children 
Wade in the water, 
God's gonna trouble the water...

Sometimes I sing this old spiritual. I don't know why. I don't even know where I first heard it. But it rises up inside me as if it's always been there. Whenever I sing it, like tonight, I see an African American woman, my age, but stronger and braver than me, and with a whole history book of unspeakable abuses carved into her family tree, hung from her family tree. She's an escaped southern slave and she's following the stars toward freedom. Her muscular body is neck deep in a strange, cold river. Wading in the water, she holds her boots above her head and waits for the dogs and bounty hunters to lose her scent and turn around. Her eyes shine in the moonlight, but she shuts them whenever she hears the distant howling of hounds or the bray of horses. She tries not to pant or move too quickly for fear of making ripples and rings in the water, but she's also steadfast on survival and freedom and so she must keep moving. While she moves in the moonlight, she whispers the words of this song, the song her mama once sang her, before she was sold to a fat white man at the timid, tender age of eight.

Wade in the water....
Wade in the water, children 
Wade in the water, 
God's gonna trouble the water...

What if I was her in another life?

Imagine a world where reincarnation is not only real, but remembered. We would have no reason to discriminate against one another. We humans would experience bodies and lives all over the world. Imagine babies born with wisdom. History would never be repeated or forgotten because we would all have lived through it. We would have endless stories to tell of past lives; not just from our own recent childhoods and unfettered youths. We would intimately know death, illness, injury, and love of all forms. Imagine if every straight person remembered what it was like to be homosexual. Imagine if every man understood what it was like to be a woman and every woman understood what it was like to be a man. Imagine a world where everyone could relate with transgendered persons, disabled persons, depressed persons... Imagine if every wealthy person felt distant hunger pangs whenever they met a beggar on the street who was broke and starving. Empathy would be visceral and emotional and full of action. Every soul would know what it was like to be bullied, beaten, and tortured until cruelty itself became extinct. Imagine knowing and loving the world as deeply as we love our mothers. We would prevent pollution and climate change and the destruction of rain forests and rhinos. There wouldn't be dictators or concentration camps or nuclear war. There wouldn't be human trafficking, child pornography or forced marriages between the raped and their rapists. There would be peace and quiet.

On July 28, 1917, exactly 100 years ago today, the Silent Parade took place in New York City. It was the first of it's kind. Some say it was the start of the Civil Rights Movement. The organized silent march was an anti-lynching parade. Lynchings were still so commonplace in 1917 that a mass demonstration had to take place, but still lynchings continued. Imagine if the lynchers became the lynched. It's an interesting thought, but we shouldn't need it. We shouldn't need reincarnation to achieve equality. We humans have hearts and imaginations. It shouldn't be so hard for us to envision life in another's skin. To feel that desperate, illiterate woman inside you, hiding from her hunters in a river at night, her clothes soaked, her skin cold and wet, her tattered boots above her head. We should all imagine what it would be like to want freedom so badly that you'd risk hanging from a tree by the neck to get it.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Climber

Amelia wobbles at the wall with one little toddler foot pressing onto my bedroom's baseboard. She stumbles back before turning to say, "It's hard to do."
"What is?" I ask.
"It's hard to do, Mommy."
"It's hard to climb the wall?"
"Yeah. Hard to climb wall."

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Be Where You Are

While I walk in the woods, I look up and around to mark my progress and to find and follow the trail ribbons tied to the trees, but mostly I stare down, watching the dirt as it passes beneath my swinging feet. For when I notice and really see the place where my body is, I don't trip on raised roots or fallen trees or moss covered rocks or into mud puddles. Instead, I step on or over or around them. I want to let this be a reminder to me - perhaps a way I can try to live. For when I dwell or worry about where I've been or where I'm going, what stupid thing I said or how dorky I look, I trip into misery and anxiety, unhappiness and regret as if they were all roots, trees, rocks or puddles set in the earth to knock me to my palms and knees. So look where you are going and look where you've been, dear, but mostly, watch your feet and be where you are. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017


In two months, she will be two years old.

"My girl! Lie t'me." She sings our Lead Belly lullaby out of tune and without most of the words. She sings, "tinkle tinkle little 'tar, how I wonder what you aaaare!", as well as an abridged version of the alphabet, "ABCB...H....I...Penny Doggy!" and Raffi's "baby baloooooga. Baby balooooga!" And when she dances, she twirls in slow circles.

One morning, while reading the newspaper, she wanted my attention and so she stood on her table and belted out, "PAPA GONNA BUY YOU MOCKING BIRD! Don't sing!" from the old folk song, Hush Little Baby. She also climbs the stairs, while letting out short exaggerated exhales: try. to. catch. ME., every breath, stomp and stair slap implies. 

"You need to wait for Mumma!" I holler, running after her, which only makes her climb faster and breathe louder.

She also squeals and screams when she wants me to look at her.

"Ouch! That hurts my ears, Amelia." I say. 

Sometimes, while sitting beside me, she'll press her teeth to my bare arm and through a sly smile threaten to bite my flesh. When I pull my arm away, she rattles off a list of people she isn't supposed to bite. "Don't bite Mummy. Don't bite Daddy. Don't bite Lily..." It is a long list.

"What can you bite?" I ask.

"Cheese!" Cheese is her first response. I don't know why. I ask her about bananas, blueberries and bread and she agrees - they too are appropriate things to place between her teeth. Some of the time, she lifts her mouth from my wet skin and skips right to: "Don't bite people! Don't bite animals! Bite FOOD!"  

Last month, at a birthday party, under a silky red parachute, she just about lost her mind. The grownups were holding the outside edges, making the parachute wave, flutter and billow. She was so excited, she made all the other jumping jubilant children appear ungrateful and bored. She sprinted barefoot back and forth and in circles, jacked up on joy, squealing, while looking into the eyes of all the other children as if she say, "Can you EVEN believe this?!" Her enthusiasm was contagious. I was so happy I let her have a scoop of vanilla ice cream. We even stayed past nap time, leaving mid-afternoon. She fell asleep in the car on our way home. Parked in the driveway, I sat with the windows open, reading my newspaper, while she slept behind me in silence.

She still goes on long unintelligible ramblings, but most of what she says, I understand.

"Na night, Daddy. I la' you. Daddy washin' dishes." She says, climbing the stairs at bedtime.

Last week, she weaned herself from nursing. I wasn't expecting it. I assumed we would get to it eventually this summer, but I was dreading it. Nursing had always been one of her most favorite things. She'd practically clap her hands and dance whenever I'd reach to unbutton, unzip or pull down my top. Then one night last week, she simply forgot. Our bed time routine had been: Nursing in the rocking chair. Books in bed. Lights out. Then one night, she didn't to mention it. So I didn't mention it.  We dressed her in pajamas and climbed into bed, read a pile of picture books and turned out the light. "Mumma lie down. Mumma, lie down." She fell asleep with a hand on my hair. The following night, she asked to nurse, but I distracted her with books. In the middle of the night, she asked again, so I sang her to sleep. A week later, she still mentions it occasionally, but it sounds more out of habit. 

She says, "nurse?" 

And I reply, "Amelia doesn't nurse anymore." 

Then we discuss all the people she knows who no longer breastfeed. It is a long list, one that includes her cousins, myself and her father.

In the fall, she will attend school for the first time. I've been offered a job as a toddler teacher in a Montessori school on the other side of the river. I'll be teaching children her age, but she'll be next door in the other toddler classroom. I'm excited. It feels right for us. I think it will be interesting, challenging, exhausting, rewarding, fun, stressful, beautiful, busy.... all the descriptors that make life life. For now, at the end of June, she and I are wrapped up in summer's slowness, in searching for libraries, gardens, raspberry muffins, sandboxes, strawberries, playground slides, sprinklers, worms, woodpeckers and sweet drippy popsicles.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


In the basement, we sit on the couch and share two berry rhubarb popsicles and half a bag of pretzels. It's cooler down here. Upstairs, the temperature reaches the mid-nineties before mid-morning. After our walk with the furry dog and the mosquitoes and the sharp sun rays, we retreat to the cool dark basement to play and read. It isn't a scary basement, but a walk out with windows and second hand furniture, cream colored walls and closets full of coats and old baby clothes. With us, we have the basket with the swinging handle. It holds my unread newspaper, our bottles of water, a magazine, a few toys and picture books. My pale pudgy daughter sits beside me. She is covered in pink bug bites. They love her fresh flesh. They bite her through her pants and long sleeves and cap. They even bite her skin when it's still wet with bug spray. We grownups talk about how the mosquitoes must be from all this rain and from the pine tree that fell this past winter and was cut into pieces and put into a pile down the path. It wasn't this bad last year. Right? Weren't we outside playing all the time? And it wasn't this hot. Was it? We can't quite remember. 

"What if this is our climate change? A massive amount of ticks and mosquitoes and 90 degree heat waves."  I say.

My husband shrugs. 
We let most of the spiders live in our ceiling corners, though I confess to carrying three to the porch banister the other night and watching them skitter away into the dark. It's because they all looked to be cradling egg sacks. 

The other day we hiked through the forest to the dam in the rain. I wore my daughter on my back and held our umbrella and the dog's leash in my hands. I saw only one mosquito the entire time. Of course, if there were drops of water falling from the sky that were the same size as me, I'd be hiding too. 

Little black ants claimed the coffee maker last week. I kept finding them gathering at the base. I'd wipe them away with white vinegar and then see more soon after. It took me awhile before I realized that an entire colony had claimed the inside of the machine. Out of sight, beneath the plastic dish for the grounds, a queen ant was hatching little white eggs while all her fathers carried them with their legs. I nearly screamed. At first glance, I thought they were maggots. Why are those ants carrying maggots? I thought. Oh. Eggs. I hate to say it, but I threw the machine onto the porch and sprayed it with bleach. What a terrible person I am. You'd think a mother would have a bit more sympathy for other mothers, even insect mothers, but no. Unfortunately my imagination makes me itchy. I'm happy to co-habitat up to a point, but the eggs just feel like an invasion. I worry they'll cover my kitchen counters and walls and my skin while I'm sleeping.  So sometimes I spray them with bleach until they stop moving. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Come on guys!"

She says, cracking herself up in her car seat in the backseat, while her dadda drives and I hand her pieces of blueberry muffin. A berry, banana and yogurt smoothie sits wedged between her legs. "Come on guys!" she says again, laughing so hard it sounds as if she's being tickled. I said the phrase a couple days ago. It was my impression of our dog, who was sitting at the top of our basement stairs, looking down at us, waiting for us to follow and open the door so that she could get to her bowl of water. "Come on guys." I said in my best, most gruff doggy impression. She repeated me then, but we haven't said it since. Then this morning, out of nowhere, while sitting backwards and munching on muffin and sipping her smoothie, my 21-month-old daughter recalls my joke that made her laugh the first time she heard it and she says it again and again. "Come on guys! Penny. 'Stairs! COME ON GUYS!" Her squeals work like high-pitched punctuation marks as we all laugh and laugh in this forgettable moment I so badly don't want to forget.