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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Some tears for the Ocean

I’ve never cried so hard as that day in 2007 when James drove his moving truck down the street.

He was moving from Utah to live with his office assistant/girlfriend and her son 2000 miles away just a few weeks after we’d told the girls we were divorcing.  A divorce which blindsided the girls and I; I didn’t even get a lawyer.  James and Sarah probably began their relationship during summer 2006 when we dug out our basement and I unknowingly insisted he stay with Sarah and her husband Ryan in Blacksburg, Virginia (location of the main office) rather than come home to the unpleasantness of our Utah bungalow.  “Just stay with Sarah and Ryan; its so gross here.”  Naturally, he didn’t reveal she and Ryan had separated.

But on that day he moved, James’ dad was here from Virginia, trying to right the error of James moving.  I said right there in front of Bob, “James, don’t move out there to her and come visit your girls; stay here and go visit her.”   I needed him here and so did the girls.   But he wasn’t listening, didn’t want to; Bob and I talking to him was like trying to reason with a sinking ship.

That very day, Livy lost her first tooth in a bowl of popcorn.   It landed in the large steel bowl then sunk to the bottom and Grandpa Bob and the girls and I searched for it but hanging out down there like a groupie with the whitish crumbs of popcorn, we could barely tell the difference between food and tooth.  But we finally did, celebrating then the victory of finding a lost treasure, in one of those moments that stands there like a trophy.  A stop-action moment More than the sum of its individual parts.

And when he and Grandpa drove off in James’ UHaul, I wasn’t ready.  I didn’t want to see what was going to happen.  Wanted to cover my eyes like in a scary movie, so that my brain didn’t invite in through my eyes what I didn’t want to become part of me.  Both girls chased the truck down the street.  Down Garfield Avenue, where they’d grown up.  Where we’d gotten our first puppy.  Where Livy’d come Home from the hospital, where they’d played with the neighbor kids, and started school.  Where they’d donned costumes in the cold of Utah Autumn to go get the big candy bars from Chuck and Dave’s house next door; where they’d bathed in the safety of familial surety.  And James noticed them running, and slowed his truck and pulled over at the end of our street—next to the orange house he’d eventually move into after the break up with Sarah—and got out of the drivers side to walk around the back of the truck to where Julia and Livy waited like angels on the sidewalk.

And as I was watching this play out from the slight distance of looking outside of myself and my children, there was this moment like at the end of a movie.   Where written into the story is a single epiphanic scene that makes everything pivot to where suddenly something in a character clicks.  To where inside James something about his tender dad looking for Livys tooth has shifted him to the core of his being and he “UNDERSTANDS” and gets out of the truck to hug his girls and decides he doesn’t want to ever stop.   

I’m watching this scene of my own family from my own porch, knowing that the arc of this story would then be to forgive him this fucking shitshow of lying/ dissociation if only he would hug his daughters and not get back in that truck and drive off.  He’d walk back to where I am and tell me he’s not moving, he can’t do that to them, he’ll live here, and fly back and forth to see Sarah.  I saw it all in a flash of “please, god.  Please.” Because that’s what “not being ready” does to you.  It makes you stand on your porch and, in Grief and desperation, make deals like a grifter.

But he didn’t.   James hugged them both quickly then walked back around the truck, got in and drove off.

And that night I cried with the force of a heartbreak I can’t describe, as if something in my body was already living the sense of rejection my girls would feel, and the way they’d blame themselves.  As if I could feel my 9 and 6 year old babies archetypal pain and simultaneously their potential idolization of Sarah—younger, thinner; flashy, uncomplicated, the unburdened “winner”.   

I Could feel that I’d have to let my young, vulnerable babies integrate into the lives of people who didn’t care about hurting them.   

I was living inside the normalization of cruelty.  And rolling myself into the fetal position on my bed that night, I convulsed from the grief and the unrecoverable knowledge that my most beloved connection to both this earth and my own soul might never be whole again.  And that maybe neither would I.

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[Sometimes I don’t know why I write things.  Writing is therapeutic but I don’t reside with this specific grief anymore and I’ve got other fires to put out.   

But the other day, the six year old girl who lost her tooth the day her dad left sent me the writings attached to this post.   A heart-centered, emotional child from the beginning there have been many moments where I did not think it would be possible for her to remain on this planet.  Yet she now writes with a voice that is both herself and her heartache.  She writes with a voice that is both the ethereal and also the days she wanted to die.

So when I say I don’t know why I write, I think maybe it’s because I’m standing on my porch looking down the street, and not yet understanding that the grief I felt inside and consumed by was actually love patiently waiting for this very day]

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I’ve said goodbye to many things in my lifetime; many versions of myself and what I thought I needed to be and have in order to feel happy.

And of course I never wanted that day he moved to happen.   For many years, I felt stuck with memories and reverberations of it to where I even begged God to make the pain go away.  For the foes were real:  How can I bring up my girls to be caring and whole in a world where I’m normalizing cruelty?   In a world in which the immediate pain of rejection is their family?  Because events scar us, and we never feel healed.   That isn’t exaggeration; just look around.

But waiting on the porch with me that day was the wisdom of a universe.  A universe telling me that love won’t always look like a dad doing the right thing; sometimes love will look like a grandpa looking for a lost tooth or two sisters running after a truck together.  It’ll look like a mom in the fetal position and—as years pass—like an older sister letting her sleepless, anxious younger one sleep in her bed and like that same younger sister writing words that make their mom weep.

Because on that day I didn’t know that the stronger and most-loving version of our selves is a stranger until that’s who’s comforting us into sleep.  For the truth of all of this—of humanity; of the deep reckonings that emanate—is that we actually have no idea how fucking beautiful we even are until we’ve had to fight for one another.

 

And yes, there was still pain after that day, and will be again.  The world will pose as both farce and cruelty and people will not be what we want them to be.  But on that day, the universe told me that “ready” isn’t a point in time, it’s a state of being.  For things are not linear when placed inside the heart, and from agony comes caring to where we can’t truly see one without the other.  Because in the end, our tears baptize us into the love we are and have, and inside the heart, what looks like a sinking ship is merely one arc in a story about the ocean. 

Remember the love

Today this group is headed to the Best Friends Adoption Center.

We ended up naming them Salzburg, Linz, Wels, Vienna and Austria.  Picked up on May 8th, from Best Friends–described as “5 shy-ish kittens”–one of them got so upset on our way home, they pooped in the carrier.  We never have any real idea when we get a group what it’ll be like.  What their history in the world and with people is, how feral they are.  But typically, even if they’re “shy-ish,” hissing and pooping the first day, by the second or third in the kitten room–with the furniture and the boxes and the quiet– they’ve decided they’re safe enough.  Maybe will flee during transitions, loud noises, our movements, and toss a few side-eyes after quietly and slowly slinking up to the new canned food we’ve plopped down  but will give noticeable evidence that they are relaxing and curious.  Will gather excitedly when toys come out, skitter now and then just to remind themselves of their past, but dive back in soon after.

But not this group.  The five kittens in this group were all petrified.  And, for three of them, it actually got worse as the weeks wore on.   In spite of our efforts to elicit trust and offer them an optimal environment, it got to where Julia confessed a few weeks into it that she’d feel so depressed by the sight of kittens still in such fear of people who’ve spent weeks hoping to help them feel safe that she’d often have a difficult time going in their room to see them. It was discouraging to confront the reality that for three of these kittens, the tricks that had always worked weren’t, and that the absolute purity of calm, and love and devotion wasn’t enough to overcome whatever embedded trauma and fear they had already established in their little bodies.  When Julia admitted that, I confessed that I too had been surprised.  Best outcomes is they get back to the Best Friends Adoption Center when they’re still little–and more adoptable–in case there is a kitten surplus and they have to wait there for weeks before their family finally finds them.  Those outcomes are usually doable pretty easily but this group we just weren’t sure.

And I had a long work day in front of me–and was already exhausted from previous long days–so when I held formerly-fearful Linz to give her our pre-farewell “blessing of the fosters”—“we love you; if you need us, tell the universe to help you find us; may our love always serve to comfort you”—my tears started to flow.

Because in the short interim span between Julia’s confession and this morning came about the improbable growth that meant these kittens were ready for their new life.  That they themselves were reshaped, reformed, and anew.  And how does that happen?  I don’t really know.   I’m in this room saying goodbye and giving my blessing to kittens who a week before I knew at least three of them would be hiding behind the furniture at the adoption center to keep from being seen by potential adopters.

And last night, I’d spent some time falling into the experience of the 2018 Tony Awards.  The students of Parkland high school performed “Seasons of Love” from Rent, just a few months after the Valentine’s Day massacre at their high school.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

How about love?

Measure in love.

Remember the love.

And in the room with me were the kids of this tragedy, together on a stage, bursting the hearts of those around them with this symbolic gesture of hope and harmony.  Linz’s downy hair, and solid strong body relaxing into the trust we’ve built as I pick her up, and tenderly cradle her, telling me there is healing even when the world hurts us.  Even when we are vulnerable and wronged–traumatized and justifiably hopeless–there can still exist the part of our story in which we find our way into an arc of redemptive luminescence.  As if the universe sends us our very selves as a message of perseverance.  Compelling us to join our fellow injured on a stage and in unison make a different world together inside melodies speaking of love.

And my eyes were dripping, from love and tears and I crawl slowly over to Wels. A fluffy little man–once most frightened of all of them, in almost constant terror for many weeks–who’d somehow, suddenly, one random day, got his light switched on. Trekked across the kitten room to Julia and rubbed his head against her fingers in affection. And I raise him slowly, and kiss him slowly, closing my eyes, as I give the blessing.  I want him to know the singing.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

I want him to know that things are often hard, and moments filled with external love and safety will pass.  Want him to know (want myself to know) that when the kitten room is empty and their little ghosts run around in my memories, that though the math adds up to all of us passing at some point again into trauma, fear, and darkness, we can never unsing this beautiful moment.  Right this second is one we will always have when in the future dark times gather to make us doubt if that love was even real; when the singing to heal isn’t something we can muster, we can still never unhear being told how loved we are, or relaxing into the hands of a lady we came to trust for the quiet ways of patience, effort, concern and blessings.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes…

How do you measure a year in a life?

How about love?

Measure in love.

Remember the love.

And I finish, and close the door to head out for my workday, leaving the babies in their room for one last day. But with me–singing quietly to myself–I take the softness of their hair and the feeling of their relaxed bodies being held against mine, and the mysteries of healing, and the arc of an improbable story I have personally just been part of.

Sitars and Wood

And somehow in the ins and outs of synchronicity, the day before Livy’s birthday—November 30th—I somehow begin melding with The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” Again.
 
Year after year, sometime before the last day of November, returning to the ballad where John sings that he once had that girl but wait, no: she’s the one who had him. 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017,….my space becoming the quiet solitude of an evening around the warmth of a fire and a girl who just landed in my life.
 
And I remember that day of holding Livy. Knowing in an instant (instinct) that gathered into my arms was now the potential for every single bit of love and agony possible to have within one life.
 
For I’d even worried I wouldn’t love her as I did Julia; that was a real thing for me. Julia was early, born 7 weeks before she was ready then hooked to IVs—“she might die; be blind, deaf; have disabilities”—and before I left the hospital, I’d managed to move the mountain called “should I let my heart fully know her lest she die?” Because that’s what people do; they stand guard over their potential devastation, trying to sweet talk it. Yet I’d found it in me to love her with a passion that conquered the saddest parts of myself and floated through sterile, hushed corridors like magic, with air under my feet like a fairy. Like a rainbow. Like an angel.
 
Julia was to love beyond words and platitudes, in a way I couldn’t see what I’d even been before. Julia was a Now moment of revelation, my best self, my biggest heart. I didn’t see a “me” capable of being better.
But Life moves us into the more beautiful homes of ourselves. Sitting in rooms of rugs and warmth is the uncertainty of it all, ever pushing us to surrender to vulnerability in order to write melodies with sitars and wood.
 
And on November 30th, 2000, Olivia Grace Plimpton was born at LDS Hospital. Three weeks early. My mom and 2 year old Julia at the hospital for the entire labor—Julia carrying her stuffed Cat in the Hat, me coloring with her through the pain—and James rushing in from a business trip seconds before Livy’s birth. The hospital staff having told him to park in the loading zone and run upstairs or he’d miss it.
 
And I held her, my baby, my second girl, and like the song’s first line, she had me.
 
For of course, I loved her—them—in full knowledge at that point of the attempted deceit of my own heart. And at the core of my self discovered that they were not mine but rather I was theirs, with a certainty that had already invited doubt to have a seat in a warm room belonging to a bird that would fly away.


From my “Me” page

I once read that “Om” is the sound that was made at the inception of the universe. That when the entirety of all things was somehow formed out of a void, Om was the vibrational emanation that erupted when the energy transferred from one state to another.

And “Om” is deceptive, for when said clearly, it’s actually three sounds, “A”, “U” and “M” and it’s in our haste to utter it as a cohesive unit that it often comes out–incorrectly–as only two.

And of course, to believe the universe made a sound at it’s “birth” is a story right there. The “big bang” is the current working theory explaining the universe’s known physical properties and it’s hard to imagine such a bang not making a sound but because the emptiness of space doesn’t carry “sound” (current science: except for gravitational waves) we would actually have to redefine sound in order to understand it. What can something say if it can’t be heard? Begging the question of the deep existential unknowings, asking who is the observer in this? Who is the one who hears? Is there a consciousness humans don’t have that experiences energy and light as it explodes into being? Questions which probe our growth, bringing us back to “Om” and the communion of heart. Where cross-legged on the floor we make space for the quiet, and in so doing, come to chant those three emanations from our voice box which no matter what the science or philosophy reveals is actually and truly the universe creating the sounds of itself.

The site title “Aimless” is a moniker I received from my AP Economics teacher Mr. Rosen at Aptos High School (CA) in front of a class of my peers–who didn’t know me except as the shy, new girl whose face turned red when she had to speak. The moniker which hit an emotional target that’s taken me over 30 years to fully understand. Because I was someone born looking for the deeper meaning. I read spiritual books at an early age, took religious studies courses as my “fun classes”, and purposely-geared my University of California, Davis psychology degree into the “pseudo-science” of what consciousness was, simply because I respected science enough to see that the full arc of its story is that science is ALWAYS in its infancy. So the description of being “Aimless” was not only an insult but a fear. For to be “Aimless” was like saying I’d never find the enlightenment the Buddha described, or walk the earth in love with humanity like Jesus. “Aimless” was someone ambling purposelessly along a road of meaninglessness, the glancing blows of love and experience barely reaching into the deepest significance of who I was and what I thought was possible. But now at 52 years old, I see things more clearly.

Because over the course of my life, I did feel aimless. I’ve lived in four states–moved in and out of towns and cities, and relationships. Became a single parent in 2007 after a savage divorce, went back to school for a masters degree in teaching and started a pet sitting business to supplement my income then graduated in 2011 into Life’s cosmic sense of humor where I didn’t get a job, experienced unemployment, financial hardship, the traumas of my beloved daughters, irreparable rifts with the unkind judgment of those I thought were family, and all the other full catastrophes (grief, fear, isolation, desperation) until I began to question the validity of a life which could deliver such experiences. Who cares about deeper meaning when things are so hard and why do I even want to be here for this cruel social experiment known as “humanity”?

But one night while sitting on the stairs of my former home–the wreckage of my life hitting with an incomparable loneliness–I somehow reached a stillness. And from that stillness I rose knowing that within the external circumstances of my life—within the hardship I was still actively engaged in— rests the opportunity to see the profound purity of the love I’ve offered this world. And that it is in fact the ego-less love any of us offer this world that is our only true possession–the only thing we ever get to keep– and is what turns back to speak to us on the carpeted back stairs of 1531 Garfield Avenue during the depths of our dark night of the soul.

And it wasn’t magic. It wasn’t some voice from the sky. It was my self, and my muscles, and one moment free of ego, showing me/us that love is bigger than Amy and her family, and her goals and her loneliness.

I currently live in Salt Lake City, UT (no; I’m not Mormon), was 52 on 10/1/2020, am a single parent of two girls (Julia, 22 and Livy, 20), a business owner/pet sitter, an animal lover, a teacher, a writer finding her voice, a devoted believer in the emotional freedom that comes with complete authenticity, and an aimless soul intent on expanding into the ever-changing self of a single second.

Because the search for a deeper meaning to life is actually an unsolvable logic puzzle unless we can find a way to not “be” anything. For you can’t be anything or go anywhere or see any truth until you find a way to be alive inside the peace and unity of just one moment. For that is the only meaning we ever truly are.

And such it is that all these years later, I bow to the wisdom of Mr. Rosen, the painful clarity of emotional targets, and the dark nights of the soul that forced me to explore the deeper significance of no thing and no self.

Beyond this site, I’m scattered around and nowhere. But here’s some more pics of my life. Thanks for coming by.

Aimless/Amy Palleson. (Permanently: TBD).

Yellowstone

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 were whipped into submission by the frigid ocean wind, and—guided by no plan— moved east, north, then back toward the coast in a zig zag of unrepentant spontaneity. Landing once in a campground a few miles off I-5 that was so dusty it’s dirt never heard of rain and still yet was such a small fare to pay Life in order to feel free and unencumbered.

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

Because on that day, my daughters and I bore the mark of unresolved grief. Where their dad cheated then moved to the opposite coast to live with his girlfriend and her young son, leaving myself, our two daughters, our pets, our life, threatening with lawyers if I contested our decree then bringing his girlfriend back to town a few months later—to hotel rooms they’d share with our girls—asking them, “why can’t you stop being selfish and just be happy for me?” They were 9 and 6. But he had his new family and the urgent need to justify his actions.

And I’d withstood the tears of my self and my girls from rejection that cuts the soul and had come face to face with truths we weren’t ready to handle, 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.

So on that day—on that slight hill, next to at least a hundred other spectators—I briefly joined Livy in wondering about that mama elk. About the world that Mama and I live in. Wondering how she can see and carry this. Wondering about the inherent indifference of it all and how we can find the strength to survive this world.

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[One of the great mysteries of existence rests with the moment of the “big bang.” If that event had obeyed the currently-accepted laws of our physical universe, the Big Bang would have created matter and anti-matter in equal amounts, a circumstance which should’ve been so condensed that matter and anti-matter would have annihilated one another, leaving only energy. But that’s not what happened.

And given enough time, it’s hard not to make everything the domain of the bittersweet. Impossible, really. I was walking through the grocery store writing this, thinking about how the struggle for my girls didn’t stop after that Yellowstone day or for years after yet ours is still such a beautiful story, now making the seemingly-disparate aspects of it connected as two conjoined truths.

For that there are tangible experiences of predation—bears eating babies, daddies creating emotional wounds—is the easy-reader version of a story. But the stars we look upon glow as matter conceived via a known improbability, and in so doing, pass on to us legends about who we are and the poignancy resting inside every tangible experience, as one aspect of truth forever looking for its other].

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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, and trees fell like sticks on each other, resting now in 2008 as in permanent homage to the dignity of their past.

That fire 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 only days after the fires, so to now—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—a pragmatist—lifted Julia in her arms to look at the bear. In 2000, the year Livy was born she’d told me that God never gives us more than we can handle. Julia—born in ‘98–had been challenging; hadn’t slept longer than two hours in her life, was colicky, every arriving tooth making her wail and sleepless, and James was constantly gone either physically or mentally, and I feared for what the second child could bring. Mom isn’t religious and neither am I, but in those simple times, “God never gives you more than you can handle” was enough. Yet now I stood with the knowing that it wasn’t enough, and never had been. Such words are inert— placeholders passing for lore–and shaped by hope into a feeling just good enough to persevere.

The park rangers were directing traffic overlooking the meadow, and I held Livy in my arms. I wanted everything for my babies. To feel loved and safe. Free, unencumbered. Wanted them whipped by ocean winds daring it to make them cold. Wanted their only miseries to be courtesy of choice and adventure.

And the 1988 aspen groves that had burned were direct clones of groves mammoths and camels had probably grazed on, And it reminded me of something I once read: that the pull of gravity from the sun is precisely what’s needed to keep our planet from flinging itself into the abyss. That for billions of years beyond placeholders, the sun has anchored us to the safety of our Earth as we eternally balance, falling always into the sun but forever missing.

And in the bright sunshine of a June day in 2008 that bear’s fur blew in the breeze, floating in air I didn’t even know was moving. Perhaps whispering to me about mysteries of Nature as Julia comforted Livy—“Maybe that bear also has babies it needs to feed”—among RVs and tripods and foreign languages.

And maybe there are moments that stand still on one point, as if Time can pivot and catch. When you’re standing on the earth in the sunshine with your daughters and also falling into the sun and forever missing.

Because in the absence of a deeper knowing, the power of our love must be taken on faith but when we shield one another from the emotional brutality of our darkest truths, we bear witness to pain as an infinite-love seeking the comfort of itself.

And so it was that my soft-hearted seven-year-old child–Livy, her eyes red from love for that elk family—was in my arms comforting her stuffed panda, and her older sister—Julia, then ten, surveying the adventure, calling us back into stronger selves —comforted us both.

And inside a tangible scene, we welcomed ourselves home to the surety of our deepest safety, growing from and into each other—free and unencumbered in our devotion—our love filling in the incompleteness of a burned landscape with groves of trees now in full bloom.

On this day’s sun

Stella this morning looking towards the sun, her position concealing the large open, untreatable tumor on her face that is the reason she is currently in hospice care.

Stella’s human is enduring a personal emergency and was called away from her girl but Stella is a cat that gets twice daily insulin, pain meds shot down her throat and painful cleaning/dressing her face wound then mere seconds after these insults, pulls herself back to center.  Sitting then with me on the slope of their driveway, watching squirrels perform their life on the roof across the street.    The silver lining to Stella’s pain is her very own self.

As she and I watched this morning, one of the squirrels parkour’d down from the roof of the tan building on the left and ran to the yard next door.  Then, standing up and looking around casually, surveyed the scene as if having decided that the vibes were real good.

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A few years ago, I had an experience with a kitty named Melman where I leaned down to him to tell him that I loved him, and he (uncharacteristically) started rolling around affectionately on his cat tree as if he knew exactly what I was saying.   So I added, to keep this thing going, “Do you know what love means?” intending to breezily describe to him–with a mini-channeling of melodic words–the answer.  For this is what I do for my life:   I love creatures for a living.  I come into their homes and listen to what they need to feel loved and safe.   I read the room, and vary my words and my vibe until I nail it.   But all at once, right there near Melman’s cat tree, I stood up and was speechless, unable to verbalize what I wanted to say.  What did “love” mean for me and for Melman?   How does the word or the vibes combine inside the body of an anxious orange introvert on a cat tree to where he rolls around in pleasure and I immediately want him to keep feeling that?  What makes that happen?

And I had nothing–could say nothing/said nothing–suddenly understood that “love” isn’t something words can make truth from.  And that “love” is so much bigger than me I can’t encapsulate what it is from within the limitations of myself.

So I left it alone, intending to just rest with the concept of it as it existed inside me until perhaps some day, from the brew of experiences—with self, daughters, animals, sunrises—I might have another go.

And for several years, I’ve done that.

This morning, as I looked up the driveway at Stella—her shadow reaching back towards me—the sunshine was like this Navajo folklore (pic).

My initial worry that her mom wouldn’t get back to see her before Stella’s end time has faded out from our visits together because animals aren’t like that. They don’t live where we do in that way.   They live in the sunshine of the Navajo, where each day it rises to be the most beautiful sun there ever was.  Where those squirrels jumping around in the gutters on the house across the street are the most entertaining thing she’s ever seen.

And as I made to leave her house after our visit, I walked up the street a bit towards my car and looked back to make sure she wasn’t following me.  And she was.  So I turned back, and sat with her again, in her sun.  

Then when I got to my car, the music from my speakers was saying “… it’s the same old story, all love and glory, it’s a pantomime; looking for love in a looking glass world is pretty hard to do.”  Mother of Pearl by Roxy Music.

And 2020 has been a year of potential disaster, and the trip wires were all set for me.  Financially starting back at square one; trying to find my way to other opportunities but doing so unwillingly, with a bank account to match.  And for a while this year, it felt personal.  As if all that work—all the struggle, all the sacrifices—was going to start over, and repeat.  Carving out a path of “this shit again?”, with all the players dancing around in convergence of a targeted apocalypse.

But the bigger truth about struggle is that the trauma can change you.  It can crack you open to where you know you have nothing to fucking lose but to start seeing yourself and the world you’ve created differently.

Because, in sitting with “what is love?” I’ve come to understand that love is everything.  Love is all of these words; it’s the struggle; the opportunity to see ourselves, to become, to reach around outside the barrenness so as to rise.  

And had these days not arrived, again, I wouldn’t have believed this to be true.

Yet from this shift of worlds, with no idea of my next step, I drove home from Stella’s house living inside a moment where the sun is only alive for one day.   For Love is growing and experiencing itself constantly from within us, and is a story we’ll never stop writing, nor would we want to.

Stella‘s mom got back several months later— it got really rough for Stella before she did—and said goodbye to Stella in the way we’re sometimes called to do.
This is Stella before her tumor. Stella, means star, like the sun.