Yellowstoned

And it was a shapeless voyage. Underplanned; underfunded. Like that time in my twenties when my boyfriend and I camped up and down the California coast. Freezing our asses off, we’d been whipped into submission by the frigid ocean wind, and—guided by whims— moved east, north, then back toward the coast in a zig zag of unrepentant spontaneity. We landed once in a campground a few miles off I-5 that was so dusty it’s dirt had never heard of rain and yet none of it mattered, being such a small fare to pay Life in order to feel free and unencumbered.

For our original Yellowstone itinerary had to be scrapped because of an unexpected June blizzard, but somehow the girls, mom and I get there and it’s morning—June 15 2008 (Fathers Day)—when we’re stopped at the side of the road watching a grizzly bear eat a baby elk. The snow had melted into the pasture and the bears fur blew in an imperceptible breeze, and as the tiny carcass (certainly still warm) became christened as the backdrop for our first trip after daddy moved, 6 year old Livy cried softly—“I bet the mommy elk is looking for her baby right now!”—in the tender, knowing way that was her trademark.

Because on that day, grief had pierced us. The whims of a man—my husband, their daddy—living 2000 miles away with his coworker and her toddler son reflecting back to us the rejection all humans are petrified to feel.

And I’d withstood the tears of my self and my girls from a year of events that cut the soul. Him using lawyers and anger to abuse my future; using callous words asked of children–“why can’t you stop being selfish and just be happy for me?”–to relieve himself of the shame of leaving his daughters. The girls hyperventilating in anxiety that mommy would also disappear; sobbing into my shoulder, “I miss my daddy” during PE classes full of classmates who could smile in the full privilege of being free from excruciating truths.

There are evacuations from disasters; floods, fires; where nature beckons us to face emotional foes via the tactical dances of physical structures; where something can kill you but it’s not personal, it’s merely the cost of doing business on a planet from which we also eat and survive.

And there are evacuations via tactical dances of psychology. Holes unrecognized moving dads into cold selfishness. Evacuations where something is threatening us, and nothing we can say or weep makes any difference, and we’re forced to accept that it is personal and the landscape of our emotional lives is altered via killing not just our way of life but also our desire to survive in this newly barren landscape.

And watching that field, my little girls and I felt rooted to those truths. Stuck by the still-knife of temporal events which repeatedly wound us until we remain inside them, as if walking beside the ghost shadow of ourselves.

Where the world has stopped being emotionally concerned in the slightest and wields “uncaring” as an emblem announcing they’re proud to be so.

So on that day—on that Fathers Day, on that first trip at the end of a dark year; on that slight hill, next to at least a hundred other spectators—I briefly joined Livy in wondering about that mama elk. And about the world that Mama and I live in. Wondering how we can see this harm and yet still carry it. Wondering about the inherent indifference of it all and how those of us who still care can find the strength to survive this world.

**************

The 1988 fires of Yellowstone twenty years before had made scars that settled into the landscape. In that 1988 summer, thirty-six percent of the park had burned—trees falling like sticks on each other to rest, afterwards, in permanent homage to the dignity of their past. That year, new aspen groves—waning in the park before the fires—sprouted up miles from their burnt foremothers. The seeds for the shoots had been carried on wind and water and popped up out of soil only days after the fires, so to now—in 2008, on our hasty sojourn through Yellowstone—they could grow proudly beside their ancestors like a lesson. As if Time is a benevolent gift which purposely withholds wisdom for a reason.

Standing near me, my mom—visiting from California for this voyage—lifted Julia in her arms to look at the bear. A pragmatist, mom had sprinkled the year with her visits, rounding out the too-obvious empty spot at our dining table, offering comforts for the day to day life that had kept bigger holes from forming, sharing platitudes—“God never gives you more than you can handle”—she didn’t know were set to the tune of a year with me curled up in the fetal position convulsing in sorrow. For not everyone feels called to answer the same questions about an uncaring world. Not everyone’s 7 year old with a red, puffy face will ask them, “But what if that baby just couldn’t run fast enough?” Sometimes God DOES give you more than you can handle. Sometimes God gives you more than you can handle and then calls you to make it palatable for the little being resting on your hip watching a bear eating a baby elk.

And this baby on my hip was heavy. Seven years old now, holding her stuffed panda Bibble who spent the last year going everywhere with us. Before this baby on my hip was born, I was afraid I wouldn’t love her as much as I loved her older sister. I couldn’t understand how it was possible to do so considering that her older sister had pulled me into desperate things from which I rose up to grow steadier. But this child on my hip would be born in sight of a mom fully in love, parenting myself by soothing my immature worries, evolving towards a better self I didn’t even know I could be. A better self informing my worries of their impermanent nature; a better self that rises to answer hard questions using the magic of knowing there are sights and sounds yet to behold if we can persevere through the agony.

And in the bright sunshine of that June day in 2008 that bear’s fur blew in the breeze, floating in air I didn’t even know was moving. The heaviness on my hip and in my heart cloaking the lighter qualities of this existence, qualities which fall under the spell of the great mystery of why we’re even here at all. Was it God? The Big Bang? The Big Bang being on of the greatest mysteries of all. If that event had obeyed the currently-accepted laws of our physical universe, it would’ve created matter and anti-matter in equal amounts, so condensed as to annihilate one another, leaving only energy. But that’s not what happened.

And my feet were standing on All of the unknowns. Near burned aspen groves that were direct clones of groves mammoths and camels had (probably) grazed on 10,000 years before. Under the worry and the dizzying brutality of a world we can’t deny exists. Unable to utter platitudes about God to placate via falsehood.

And suddenly Julia climbs out of grandma’s arms and crunches gravel to come closer and whisper to Livy, “Maybe that bear is also a mama with babies to feed.”

And I smell my baby in my arms. See the dirt of this planet under her fingernails.

And Livy’s looking down at her sister, and her red eyes give pause. Her small hands clutch her ratty, stuffed panda bear as her agony slowly opens the gift so generously offered by the sister she adores.

And it’s Father’s Day 2008 in Yellowstone, and we stand in a tree-filled meadow of green (under the morning ease of our effortlessly-generous star) within earshot of strangers, and foreign languages and motor homes, and tripods, and park rangers directing traffic, and wade through tangible experiences of predation, holding gifts of love for one another and our concern for our world now poignantly growing together inside the shadows of a burned landscape where groves of trees were now in full bloom.

Gabor Mate on Trauma

Gabor Mate saying the valuable things we need to reflect on. Trauma isn’t just evacuations or poverty or gun violence and war; if you’re a tender person, prone to intuit the entire spectrum of your own and others’ feelings, that can be very traumatizing. To boot, if you’re that person, in order to relieve the discomfort at what you’re seeing and processing for everyone/everything, you’ll develop habits and behaviors that are not in your own best emotional interest and therefore create more and more trauma for yourself.

If you’re a parent who yelled at or spanked or didn’t know your kid (or life more generally) well enough to understand that you didn’t have to get angry or passive-aggressive (silent treatment, etc) to exact change within your tender kid (who is already primed to want to help you feel better) and/or household, you inadvertantly traumatized them. Because anger is valid–if you see something being abused, for instance, start screaming–but our world is too angry and too capable of justifying that anger; what is actually just frustration needing some deep breaths often comes out as a ragefest when there’s absolutely no need to ever go Full Karen about normal stressful shit that everyone should expect to face when sharing a nation with 323 million other people.

Anyways, when I was getting divorced (early 2007), I remember going over to my friend Brooke’s house–she was soon moving to Wisconsin–and helping her hand-pull dandelions from her back yard. And as we worked, we talked about how James wanted to handle things through mediation; he didn’t want to get lawyers involved. I was a stay-at-home mom, no income, little resources, shocked I was getting divorced (I didn’t know Sarah–his office assistant in Virginia–had already gotten divorced and was pressuring James; James and I were still being intimate even), regularly sobbed in the basement after the kids were at school, and–most importantly–was afraid of James and what cruel things he would do and say to break me if I went against his wishes. As we picked dandelions that day, Brooke would say the words I needed to hear and I would ignore them because I hadn’t yet faced what it means to be a tender person in an angry world.

“Amy, my mom [Roxanne, Brooke’s mom] pointed out that in divorce cases that are handled through mediation, the wife always ends up much worse off than the man. You should reconsider and get a lawyer.” Which was sent home when even the mediator–William Downes–asked me point blank before we signed off, “Amy, are you sure you are okay with this?”

It’s been good for me to hustle and to be forced to reclaim, unchain, proclaim all these truths and yet still some days I find myself picking dandelions by hand and stabbing myself with a truth spoken and ignored.

Please share this hard truth with your tender folk So they can better listen to their friends .

Today is a good day

I’m not Cherokee but I was reminded of the battle cry sentiment “today is a good day to die”/Yutta Hey. The words weren’t fatalistic but more the clear vision, the calm manner, and the open bravery with full honesty that if today is that day, we are ready. We have lived to be honorable, to help, to soothe, to protect, and if the wisdom is calling us home, we are too powerful not to accept her hand. It’s a reminder of how to live, and how to be.


In 1991–at the age of 23–I met my biological father’s family for the first time and they told me I/we have Micmac and Potowatomi ancestors. The fact of not knowing this wasn’t surprising—I didn’t know that the dad I’d actually grown up with wasn’t my birth dad until I was 13–and discovering this lineage made me proud.

For I’m not a religious person by either nature or nurture yet when I transferred to UC Davis in 1988 to complete my undergrad, I specifically chose Native American Studies classes because I resonated so deeply with their core values. The idea that a “faith” could coordinate the life of a human into the soul of their planet was so profound to me that even today I walk outside and am in the church of our earth. Where mountains rise like the walls of amphitheater’s, and trees— housing the chirp of winged creatures— sway in air that moves across the planet, touching human beings one after the other.

There’s 60,000 different species of trees on the planet. 400,000 different kinds of flowers. The other day near Alchemy Coffee I saw a tree at the northeast corner of 300 East and 1700 South that had peeling bark and I literally said “what the fuck is this?” It was so weird and pretty; kind of thick and reddish, and made me curious why it does the peeling. How is this stuff is out there managing itself, making its own little life, living out its DNA in the peace of managing within both life and death? What an icon. 🙂

The thing about nature and folks that abide Her is that it’s a way of life so much more advanced than any modern religion. For modern religion (etc) says things like “God is within you” or “peace is within you” or “love is within you”, or the “answers are within you”, etc. but those are just words and the barren landscape of thought. Those are stained glass windows and documentation, collating and clarifying, and correcting; they are “over there” and the implication of having to call them into awareness is that they’re separate from us and that it’s our intentional act of telling ourselves it’s not separate that’s what makes it not separate anymore. In other words, WE are the agent by which those ideas become real and important. But with nature, with the sun, with the rain, with the trees with the peeling bark,…it isn’t just words. Nature is what we are and how we live. It’s inside of us. We eat it. We exist from her water. It is “here”, and so close to us we assume a separation with her that doesn’t actually exist. Nature is that God, is that peace, is that love, and is that answer. If we are anything, Nature is that too. If God exists, Nature is its most loving creature.

And in pulling that deep inside, much can be healed and resolved, because in the end we are merely guests here being hosted by a greater wisdom. One in which we are so close, we hold her as separate and invent a God who manages her while she quietly and humbly shows us how to give, how to eat, how to help one another live and how to accept that we will die.

Ode to Joy and Sadness

Beethoven’s father was an alcoholic who made Beethoven play piano standing up at all hours and beat him—even when Beethoven was a small child—if he made an error. As a teen, Beethoven had to support himself because his dad couldn’t hold a job yet Beethoven was continuously shamed by his dad for not being a material success like Mozart. By 26, he was losing his hearing; tried to keep news of the problem secret from those closest to him—avoiding social occasions—fearing for his career. Beethoven would complete his last symphonies by writing using lower notes he could more clearly hear, composing via pencil held in his mouth which touched the surface of the keys allowing him to feel the vibration. By about age 44, he was completely deaf.

A few months ago, I was walking through Costco trying not to weep while listening to his 9th Symphony. As the strings wound their way somberly through the canon of humanity and the winds argued, I’d pause the music when I became too overcome then eventually resume, letting it pierce my grief and our tragedy and any and all sense of Time. Schiller’s poem—Beethoven had a lifelong obsession with it—set inside a symphony that is now the official anthem of Europe, celebrates the mysterious Other that each of us at some point finds has always been inside us. Having been Unable to conceal his deafness from the public anymore, he insisted on being the conductor for the premiere of Ode to Joy. The orchestra hired another conductor to stand next to him and quietly told the players to follow the guest conductor rather than Beethoven. At the end of that premiere, the audience rose and celebrated their love of it with enthusiastic applause which, legend has it, Beethoven couldn’t hear so the contralto approached and turned him around to face them.

In accepting the paradoxes of the Beethovens, we are confronted with the deepest meaning of this life. Things were dark for him; was his dad beating him as a young child sad? Yes. But the paradox is that all is true—we are both stuck AND we are free—because a point in time is merely one drop in an ocean. We believe that one point to be complete and solitary only because we can’t really view the entire ocean. Beethoven’s life was magical, beautiful; Making 53 year old women weep in joy and unity amid epiphanies of why anything has ever happened, both wonderful and tragic.

And that he set this poem to music—was obsessed to do so— to tell us that our life is magical too IS that very poem. He was the unity and the joy, he was the brother obsessed with laying down arms and spreading his kiss to all the world. He was the strings, he was the winds, playing us The good news that we are the anchor point of all alchemy, and we are the witness of the deep whispers inside that hear songs about heaven long before we’ve even written them.

The poem “Ode to Joy” by Claude Schiller

Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity

Daughter of Elysium,

We enter, drunk with fire,

Heavenly one, thy sanctuary!

Thy magic binds again

What custom strictly divided;*

All people become brothers,*

Where thy gentle wing abides.

Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt,

To be a friend’s friend,

Whoever has won a lovely woman,

Add his to the jubilation!

Yes, and also whoever has just one soul

To call his own in this world!

And he who never managed it should slink

Weeping from this union!

All creatures drink of joy

At nature’s breasts.

All the Just, all the Evil

Follow her trail of roses.

Kisses she gave us and grapevines,

A friend, proven in death.

Ecstasy was given to the worm

And the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, as His suns fly

through the heavens’ grand plan

Go on, brothers, your way,

Joyful, like a hero to victory.

Be embraced, Millions!

This kiss to all the world!

Brothers, above the starry canopy

There must dwell a loving Father.

Are you collapsing, millions?

Do you sense the creator, world?

Seek him above the starry canopy!

Above stars must He dwell

****************££

https://youtu.be/rOjHhS5MtvA

Finale here starts at 52:14

Fictional

Every morning, I go into the bathroom and with my makeup bag write the only fiction possible for me—my face—so when my iphone crashed the other day and in setting everything up again after it came back to life, I had to do another face scan password, I really had to contemplate. At the time, it was morning and I didn’t have my makeup on so I briefly thought that maybe scanning my makeup-less face to use as my password might make it more challenging for my phone to recognize me and use my face as my password once I had gotten the fiction published up there on my freckles (*cough “age spots”) and my eyebrows. But I proceeded with the makeupless scan and realized that I didn’t need to worry; I’m happy to report that my phone scan recognizes me either way—both with makeup and without—and opens right up at the sight of either face. And I think the moral of this story isn’t so much that I don’t look that different without make up as it is that basically anybody’s fucking face could probably open my phone at this point. Use it in good health, Anybody.

This particular picture was taken this morning in honor of the new lip balm I bought at Sprouts the other day. I don’t usually use the stuff—if your lips are dry, you’re dehydrated: drink water—but it’s nice to have so I grabbed some randomly and after applying it to see if I liked the texture (I didn’t) noticed it made my lips do this iridescent pink/white effect. And Back in the ‘80s I had this lip crayon that used to do the exact same thing; the ‘80s were a very iridescent time—chock full of a lot of face fiction plus some non-fiction, no makeup, etc—but I’d forgotten about it until seeing my face with this stuff on. Seeing it was a walk down an old and age-spot covered plus FiveGuysLastNight memory of my face and a surprising one; like who makes and sells iridescent pink/white lip balm at Sprouts? That’s not a thing now. How exactly does the company that makes it justify the hassle and expense of producing something that even the freaks of the free market like myself aren’t sure they can pull off? So I looked at the label. And that’s when I realized that my lip balm was sunscreen.

Algorithm hymns

I’m in that losing point where I want people to see these videos because it could transform their life but where to put it? Who really and honestly wants to watch something that might change their life? And who really sees the things I post to FB (or my blog…) when on FB their entire schtick is to routinely separate the pic material from the words they’re to accompany because they know pics sells the “user experience” to where they’ve programmed their site with an algorithm that hides like the curtain of Oz. And then if someone does actually see something I post together with the words, who would bother to read and admit it? What does the reader really know of me beyond my face and love of animals since what does Oz let them see, and is it designed to make them feel ostracized? uncomfortable? We are a scrolling nation not touching awkward spaces because we’re all freaked out and traumatized then I log in and feel like a dead space; a space where I’m fully aware that an entity who recently rebranded itself—“Meta”—spends billions to figure out how to purposely separate us from one another. How to make us all feel just dissatisfied enough to keep us addicted to coming back for reassurance. They have researched us all to the level of psychological warfare in the name of almighty capitalism and so if I share this there who would they let see it, and what version of discomfort would they find appropriate for us to experience to advance their user machine, and are these questions the end game of what I want for myself or the people I love or the planet? Its no longer the issue that people are complacent: the issue is that we are being led into this experience and into particular motivations/perceptions skewed towards mindfucking us just enough.

If I’m gone soon from FB and IG (EDIT: I will be), know it’s not because I’m pissed or unstable (ahem; correction: I am) or flouncing: it’s that this machine has changed the way human beings think and the way human beings feel and connect; it has kept us from knowing and understanding one another, and it’s a constant stress made more traumatizing every single time I delete or deactivate and become hooked on it again anyways.

Vanishing into “everything is one” (video)

My mom had done her part to keep me off psychedelics by repeatedly relaying the story about the time that guy spiked her Coca Cola. She didn’t know what was happening while she slowly devolved into psychosis and, as her friends looked on, attempted to escape the chemical mind trap of LSD by clawing her way out of a Studebaker via the tiny rear triangle window. The incident cemented for her that not only was she was not cut out for that specific size of window but that we kids probably weren’t either, and henceforth advocated strictly for the madness brand known as “reefer.”

Naturally, I didn’t even remember her acid story the first time I took it myself. Poised as I was to capture the event of my first experience of non-ordinary states— armed with a mini cassette recorder and list of questions I’d ask myself during—it never entered my mind that I could potentially be setting myself up for having to crawl out a window. Ends up, I just sat in my car overlooking the Pacific Ocean, recording my answers to the questions I’d written—the only answer that I remember was “you need to be there for your sister”. That was ‘87, pretty sure, in Santa Cruz, California.

Four years later, ‘91, I’d be high again—second and last time—in Virginia, and dancing to the “Touch of Gray” in the nosebleeds with three other people, one of whom was the boyfriend I’d met at a CA wedding then moved to Maryland to shack up with. Not there for the music necessarily but for the life of what Grateful Dead means.

The GD formed in ‘65–four years after this ‘91 concert, Jerry Garcia would pass away—and long time fans didn’t like this new “sellout” commercialized sound. For the free-flowing movement is the actual art of the Dead; Jerry describes that early in his life he’d viewed the Watts Towers—a huge metal art installation that took some artist 33 years complete—which had gotten scorched in a fire and slated by the city for demolition but then couldn’t be removed. A giant crane sent to do the deed even toppled over from the effort and eventually the city gave up, leaving this artist’s work intact. And Jerry said this saga inspired him, in that “It just goes to show if you dedicate your life to your art and work hard enough, you can make something huge and unchangeable that will last forever.” Which he was saying tongue in cheek since he already knew that was the complete opposite of what he felt he wanted to do and be. Jerry wanted to create something that could live inside only one moment then drift; he wanted his art to flow from person to person and change, to be “played in real time and then vanish.” And that is what I believed even then that all humans truly want; we are born, we are labeled, we desire love and validation and in all the mental froth, we forget to drift; forget how to be nothing except amazed at how profound it is that we are even alive. I wanted to invite that in; wanted to feel safe in the vanishing.

After the concert, we went to check out the deadhead tour camp. The parking lot had buses made into homes, vans made into food trucks and family-made tie dye shirts for sale. People were playing guitar, and dancing, and shooting the shit—both stoned and not—in a community designed to earn the gas money to drive to the show in the next town. Just hanging out, being their own rabbit hole. Flowing and drifting, like following the heady freedom of nothing all the way to the end.

And as we walked around in the alternative reality of both the camp and ourselves—me and this guy I’d go on in a years time to break an engagement to a month before the wedding—periodic smoke made patterns in the air, as if shadows had gotten all dressed up just for us to play a part in the performance of impermanence.

And by the ‘90s, GD fans felt they were becoming what Jerry had said he hated; that fame and lifestyles and mortgages had compromised the music and made it as solidified and immovable as the Watt’s Towers. And maybe they’re partly right; but that’s because part of drifting and being permanently unlabeled and free is you don’t attach to “not being that thing.” You do your own thing, absent froth and adherence.

I never got to listen to that mini-cassette recorder tape. A month or so after the experience, it proceeded to plunge into the sea of “letting go” when my purse with the cassette inside it was stolen during a family friend’s graduation party (in which so many people showed up we had to call the cops on ourselves). I don’t remember much else from that first time overlooking the ocean except what a beautiful day it was, and that the water sparkled like lights blinking at me in the afternoon sun.

EDIT: for the record, I have always been a teetotaler. For me, the journey into sidestepping this normal consciousness and going into the feelings this lady describes is sun, nature, quiet, poverty, stress, humility, surrender, and empathy.

Earwig

And I didn’t know the earwig was alive until I squeezed the mop out in the sink for the second time.

It had been floating in a dirty bowl when I’d done the dishes. And I’d thought “what a terrible way to go.” Drowning. In the panic of not having air, the one thing capable of easing said panic. Monks on mountains using only breath to reach states of mind that overcome the deep miseries.

And it had seemed too late until the mop ran clean and I saw it wiggling its legs trying to get away. But seeing the hope, I scooped it up and laid it gently onto a torn piece of paper bag so that it might recover itself.

And this lady I sit for is mostly likely in the process of OD’ing. And the worry she’s dead—or worse, not yet dead, still savable with no one knowing—is with me as I clean the floor. Waiting for some sign she’s alive. Waiting until I see some mountain zone daylight before texting her CA mom, not knowing if I even should. Saw her so “asleep” yesterday I almost called an ambulance. She wasn’t supposed to be there; asked me to care for her cats and I found her in her bedroom. Took care of her cats; texted her a cute video of them; texted her again later, no responses. Have been on this addiction journey for a few years with her and her wealthy California family, and Don’t know the entire story. She has a trust fund, no job, and a fraught relationship with her mom (has asked me not to contact her); three cats and a dog, a horse somewhere, copious ordered packages always piled feet high over her porch and expensive furniture tagged and still in bubble wrap in a house she never locks despite a previous break in. Goes Into rehab, comes home; relapses; attracts grifters; admitted to hospital, back home, paranoid; trust fund cut off. The last relapse I arrived to her house destroyed—to the point I couldn’t find her dog who was sitting in the mess—and writing on the walls in Sharpie asking people to find a home for a spider who’s sad and a manuscript on the south wall of her bedroom reaching up as far as her height could take it, saying “…and when I’m alive, I’m alone; and when I’m crazy, I get to be loved. But not really.”

And here, in my “own” life, I walked into a stick with my right eye yesterday. I’m chronically sleep-deprived, fall asleep anywhere. I have no days off but still had to move residences four times in five years creating permanent residence in “lunatic fringe” and am forgetful and constantly swirling with things I have to do/finish/clean/write/tend to as I actively run in place inside the full catastrophe known as the “American Dream”. And Yet on this Sunday in August 2020 before I leave for work, I’m distracted with another’s life—could paramedics even help her when several bouts of expensive rehab couldn’t?—and Squeezing dirty water out of the strings of my mop, singing Sugar Magnolia softly to myself as I wash the house, knowing already that teams of people with love and money can’t save someone who doesn’t want it. “Sweet blossom come on under the willow,…” as I worry over who’ll take her cats (who hide for everyone but me) if she’s dead/incapacitated. Who will love the things she loved? Who will endure this burning to give some light? “Sugar magnolia, Ringin’ that blue bell…Come on out singing, I’ll walk you in the sunshine…” in this morning that is supposedly mine. “But not really.”

And I go to rinse the mop again and see that the earwig isn’t on the paper anymore. I don’t see it when I look around for it in the sink and on the floor. Did it move on its own and is alive or accidentally get knocked off?

And I don’t have any answers, though in some lights, everything that happens is an answer. We look at what feels like ours to claim and we do what we can. Which often looks like nothing except the artful arrangement of our feelings until the worry yields itself to become something else.

And my cats are in their enclosure in the cool of this early summer day. And Julia and Bug are coming over later. And Livy is sleeping a few feet away—her computer still open on the kitchen table just as it was last night when she turned in her essay for History—and as I mop, Kiki‘s shedded Siberian triple coat bunches up in little balls when the mop water hits it. The oil covering each strand repelling the water until each finds one another again like a dream come true.

“Sunshine daydream,…Going where the wind goes, Blooming like a red rose”

And I know as I sing that I can offer my worry and my time and still not help any of us arrive at a better end.

Then back at the sink once more, I rinse the mop one final time and happen to look down at the floor. And there is the earwig. As I watch, it waddles capably along the wall and suddenly veers and tucks itself beneath the fridge.

And I’m surprised and I smile, nodding my head in approval. “Holy shit. Look at you.” [Everything that happens is an answer].

And then, a bit later, I text her mom and go to work, leaving my house, and feeling better knowing there’s that earwig now safe and sound underneath the fridge. “Better ends” this morning achieved via wiggling legs and scraps of paper and finding a measure of peace within the arc of all that happens.

Mercy

It’s like the entire world right now is a confrontation, for which within varying degrees of connection we’re all coming to see one another’s deepest vulnerabilities and sadness. And I’m trying to get ahead of it for my kids’ sake. Because I’ve worked hard to process my personal grief into the productivity of seeing the purity of love it (can) hold and I know from our life together that I can’t shield my children from this sadness. Shared with Livy about Wyatt—the Oregon boy who died by fire huddled with his dog—(then immediately doubted myself!) for it is too much; it IS too sad but grief is deceptive like that, and therein resides the fallibility of the human condition.

And yesterday I’d met Mercy the therapy dog (see pic) in anticipation of watching her in October. Before COVID, her jobs were within psychiatric units of VA hospitals and the Women and Children’s homeless shelter. She’s like what you’d imagine a therapy dog would be—quiet, observant, soothing; a wagging caretaker—so when she gave two little barks while her human and I were in conversation, and stood up in protective mode—body facing her driveway—immediately looking short glances at me as she did so, I knew she was assessing me to figure out if I could really see and listen. And as I rose—apologizing/explaining why to the owner—and joined Mercy at the head of the path near the driveway, it came up inside me that this moment of talking without words is as pure as it gets. This dog who transforms the grief of humanity is communicating with me and to step outside human-typicality to invest in that is the moment it all comes together. To be able to pause whatever is happening and say, “I can see and listen, Mercy; thank you for helping me. I’m trying to be real. I truly am” is the silence welcoming us all.

Then hours after that– last night–in the dark of I 15 going north (taking her to her dad’s in Layton) my youngest and I hit upon the subject of “the world” in its current state. Replete with pregnant pauses when neither of us could use words to clarify and tidy it all.

“Whatever happens, the planet will survive. She’ll be okay. It’s just hard to know what it will look like.”

“Yeah, like maybe the trees will…… Actually, I wonder if there’ll even be trees….”

Two Communicators under the forever of the universe ingesting the complexity and uncertainty. Livy taking time from history essays and her new French bob to respect herself enough to accept the limitations of what any human can truly know right now. Veering at one point into the recent discovery of life “on” Venus, and how comical it is that phosphine in the Venetian clouds was probably there all along but Earth-centric humans were instead looking for water. Looking for themselves, over and over. Carl Sagan suggesting 50 years ago there might be life in the clouds but the idea was too fringy. But there it was the whole time.

And Visiting with Mercy’s owner yesterday afternoon, I had told her about working in the elementary schools, with kids who are hungry (but don’t complain about it) from families who’ve endured/are enduring severe loss, and she speaks about how Mercy goes into her interactions understanding the person from the clarity of unusual sight.

”I don’t know how she knows but she can sense what their story is.”

Me, knowing what she means: “And does so from the dignity of non-judgment.”

“Yes, exactly. Without evaluation. As if Mercy is offering them the chance to understand what they are from a completely different vantage.”

Me: “Mirroring unconditional love. Letting the person see themselves inside it perhaps for the first time….”

“Yes. It’s been hard on her not to be working.”

Then Mercy—near her feet—looks up at the tree canopy overhead as if it is her first moment seeing the sun parade through the leaves. And it is. Animals being like the clouds of Venus; miraculous life forms continually hiding something which humans can’t yet see simply because we are always looking for our own selves. And whatever the future holds for any of us, I’m so grateful to know that teachers are here for us, everywhere. Designed into this planet with feet, and fur, in the clouds and in short little barks.

And fast-forward, later, French bob was dropped off, and I’m alone in the car barreling south down I-15 back where I came from, and Rocket Man comes on and things shift and I start to sing. For in reflecting upon it all, it seems like the great mysteries are timeless once they’re revealed to us, and that with each “aha” of knowing Life isn’t just water, we can metamorphose. And unrolling my window, I marvel at being part of this excruciating event known as earth, and from the cooling air rushing along beside me, am somehow comforted to better feel myself as part of.

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Diary of a 4th of July

7/4/2016:

Diary of a 4th of July

Worked (all felines: Izzy, Jack, Piper, Clark, Lucy, Darko, Todd, Burt, Mica—love them all); Graham and Lauren come over, Ellen and Julia join, Ellen’s friend ending his Ramadan; foster kittens, hard lemonade, shitty Malbec, salsa, chips, guacamole, ohdeargodwhydidIeatsomuch; Ellen/Julia to meet her friend, Livy/Lauren go to that little park, pepper gel and caps set off; neighbors’ fireworks go far above parched trees;

we walk to Sugar House Park, blanket says “Dream”, American “pride” bittersweet–injustice, racism, homelessness, hopelessness–the fantasy of clinging to a dying “dream”; cars, cars, cars, boys singing to “Get Low”, fleece blanket making me sweat, can’t reach Julia who’s already there; see James and Indy, find a spot, then another; see Kerry; fireworks start, music starts, same old music, same old American livefeed; so many people, so many many people, fireworks into the sky, blankets, glowsticks, children, drones; weed smoke;

a baby to our left is handed to his daddy, who hugs him and lifts him into the air;

Boom,

sky lights up, silhouettes of so many people, so many many people (why do we come here/why not watch out of the crowds from down the street?); Livy and Lauren lying down, friendship, the new generation, complicated, wise, (do they feel American pride?); people gazing up,

Boom,

lights, pictures in the glow; the daddy speaks to his group, another language/Middle Eastern?, the group laughs, mostly men, on blankets, two feet away, the baby handed back to mom

and she is dressed to match the baby in red, white and blue.  Boom,

And I’m staring at them,

and can’t look away.

For there is family and languages and implied forgiveness of xenophobes who hate them, braving traffic and crowds and heat so they can share “America” with their baby,

And it’s why we’re all here. It’s why we’re all here.

Because the mom in tan shorts and the baby in American flag Navy and my girls and my friends are children to this new nation; we are her children,

and the sky sparkles as we sit together.

And when the last of the fireworks fade, we clap and collect our things. 

But within time spent in the space of each other’s ideals, walk home in the smoky air dream of a nation rising as one into the hungover dawn of itself.

[Footnote:   Because of crowds/parking at Sugar House Park for their huge annual community fireworks show, we’d walked the few miles to snag our spot that night so when fireworks ended, we all walked to our separate homes and—carrying our supplies—I was almost home when I felt something pinch me And realized that when the Dream blanket had been laying on the grass of Sugar House Park, a bee had gotten caught in it and in the course of my 25 minute walk home, had wiggled its way out of its crumpled prison so to sting me.  I was grieving that year for our nation; DNC/HillaryFestivus wouldn’t break my heart for a few weeks but still you could sense that America was headed for a bleak time because there was rabid verve for AMERICA!!!! mixed with extreme grief and hardship, and the long and the short of growing as one is that you can’t make people change the channel they’re watching until they’re ready].