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.

White Noise

This morning I felt it. As I sometimes do. I woke up early before the world to see the quiet, and the cool stillness.  Nature–the Great Mother–was baring herself to the unconditional acceptance of the sky and falling back into the wonder of itself. And I paused on my front porch while my soul connected to the place of it’s true home, devoid of the white noise of people and air conditioners and cars and flurry and chaos.  And as the sun rested in self-assured imminence behind mountains which stand guard like new parents, felt called into remembrance, that at every turn, nature—The Earth—will impassively stand in non-judgment of our human drama and flaws until we either save ourselves or perish.

And the indifference of it didn’t make me feel small; it made me feel reverent.

Continue reading “White Noise”

Spray of Diamonds

[Just popped in a Paul Simon CD, and now St Judy’s Comet rides shotgun, rolling across the skies and leaving sprays of diamonds in its wake. Music, poetry, words left out like cat food for homeless cats….it’s all part of love].

I’ve been waking up at sunrise to love like lightning shaking til it moans and rainbows in the high desert air.

For I’ve got a Nikon camera that gives me the greens of summer, and from the light across my room, follows the music seeping through,

saying. “honey take me dancing” but instead we love like lightning and sleep
In a doorway
By the bodegas and the lights

on Upper broadway


Wearing diamonds on the soles of our shoes.

And I watch the night receive the room of my day late in the evening, taking photographs about the arc of a love affair. —Paul Simon (abbr. 😌)

[Edit for Paul Simon novices: St Judy’s Comet; The Obvious Child, Hearts and Bones, Kodachrome, Late in the Evening, Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes].

Animals in order of appearance: Sadie, Cat, Lucy, Skippy, Tux, Boyfriend, Tala, Mildred, Snaggle, and Izabela. I sit for these creatures—or at least I did, pre-pandemic—and no matter how much time passes, they’ll live always in my hearts and bones.

“Cat”

 

“I’m not what you think I am. You are what you think I am.”—Unknown.

I’ve been blessed and cursed with an overactive, curious mind, swaying from science towards philosophy then beyond to where Rumi lays in that grass and the world is too full to talk about, and always I come back to “I don’t really know.”

Because it’s the only place I’m truly comfortable.

The kitty above—one I sit for, and love—is part of the social experiment known as “humanity,” an experiment in which everything has been labeled—“cat”, “dog”, “love” etc.—by the subjects of the experiment themselves in a process of proving what exactly the experiment is even while we’re in the middle of living it. Meanwhile, 90% of the known universe is matter (“dark matter”; they posit now it’s a “fluid” of negative mass to where if we pushed on it, it would move towards us) that we can’t even experience with senses or instruments, and in the last 100 years, philosophy became science and just last month, an actual visible mini-moon was discovered that had been in earth’s orbit for three years completely undetected.

And for someone not prone to taking herself seriously anyways, to walk around like the big human expert on what anything is feels ridiculous and counterproductive.

For when even the most basic physical properties are 90% unknown, tossing labels and theories like darts are akin to hitting a “target” we can’t aim for or see and only designate as such after it exposes itself.

If humanity was the one that labeled this experiment, and there’s no objective template or guide outside of ourselves then “I don’t know” shouldn’t be shameful or fearful; it should be natural and lovely. Like accepting the complexity of the universe isn’t ours to maintain, rather it’s ours to experience as the joy of a connection. Where “I don’t know” comes to mean we breathe in a continuously-evolving state of unknowingness, and moments of leaning down to a “cat” becomes “Olivia” looking into our eyes with what looks like magic, and maybe even could be.

 

Buds

3:20 p.m.: I was just carded at Harmons in the self check out while buying two bottles of black cherry Redd’s, and when I looked at her all elated for wanting me to produce my ID—asking, “are you required to ask people for IDs, or Did you just feel you had to in this specific case?” and then fangirling at her response—I didn’t even worry she might think I was insane because that’s just where we are in America.

Of course I’m insane. This nation is going to shit and I’m a fucking patriot.

6:06 p.m.: And later, when the high of getting carded wears off and it’s just me and the chill of a bare-faced reality, I’ll remember that today it was still light at 5:45 p.m., that the day began with seeing new buds on the trees, Mr. Baby doing his thang, and dame Miss Hiss hoarding the good bed while the Staff Cats she’s forced to share the residence with scurried around like maggots (her words).

For its soothing to remember that humans are flawed, vain, shortsighted, and filled with nationalized ego (at the expense of our planet) but that Mother Earth is powerful and giving and those of us who love her don’t have to worry for she’ll persevere even if buds now come in early February.

And to Love something this much means to join them on the path to their healing, willingly following into unknown realms, where you help her keep her promises to herself while wordlessly making our uncertain way together into the silence of sunsets so beautiful you can’t help but cry.

Fluttering

*This video is me yesterday, in one of the events that made the day so weird. I’m talking in my best Disney princess voice and yes, it’s embarrassing but this is what I am: an embarrassing mess who talks to birds in sing song through the open screen of her bedroom window. Coincidentally, a month before, another hummingbird had flown right up to me as I was on the porch of a sit house—no h. feeder nearby—and hovered, looking at me. I wasn’t sure what it was going to do and said something like “be careful” not wanting it to fly into my face or anything but then it just fluttered for another second and flew off.

Yesterday was a weird day.

One of those days when animals look you in the face, hold your gaze and you tingle because some “thing” speaks between you. The kind of day when as part of the wordless world of Nature, you become bonded to realms of the unspoken, handfasting to life givers that exhale our sustenance as a light that seems to freeze Time.

Because in silence there is love and acceptance; in silence there is Ginger the senior cat asking to be petted after a year of avoiding you; in silence, there is Delilah the dog staring at you with a joy that grabs your cells after you made time to rehab her wading pool. And that is a “thing”.

And it’s hard to understand from a human mind for we are taken with words and certainty. But in the zone of wordless experience these moments are like the universe is speaking to you.

For in the gift of silence, every “thing” is a voice, and in the quiet wondering during magic moments its as if we’re telling the universe “I’m awake, and I can hear everything” and the universe is responding with “I know.”

[8/2018]

Handful of Earth

At Coffee Garden googling “Native American Mother Earth sayings”, and came to this one which hit me in the tender spot unique to today.

For Ideas continuously swirl about who I am—and who we all are—with so much always in flux even while the earth forever balances herself by falling into the emptiness of space with the same force as she’s pulled into the sun.

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 the dad I’d grown up with wasn’t my bio dad until I was 13; see The Journey to ‘Amy Brook’—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 into 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.

Rustling

I’m hiking with Oscar and Pica—two dogs I sit for—up Emigration Canyon on a deserted trail I’ve never known.

And surrounding us is rustling from bushes and in my latent hesitation, the thoughts start whistling. Is the sound large or small? advancing or fleeing? Will this be that mountain lion up the canyon they warned about, or like that time I walked right past a coyote in a front yard and only saw it once I glanced back and it was silhouetted against the front porch light?

And ahead, a lone howl where there are no houses calls out the better of pushing through on this trail I don’t know, and as we walk out of desolation, in my mind is what I’d do if something (moose, cougar, coyote…) tried to hurt the dogs. I have the will to live, my daughters, pets, a life; yet as the sun becomes a predator, I already know what I’d do if something attacked the dogs. I’d do whatever it took to save them.

And it might seem a grand gesture hollowly-filled by hypotheticals but it eased my mind to push through acceptance of death in exchange for an honorable life.

And as we make our way down the trail back towards the road, Oscar looks back to make sure I’m okay like he’s already done a dozen times and in that one gesture suddenly I’m awake enough to realize that he’d actually do the same for me.

(7/2019)

Many different leaves

And it’s morning, and I’m walking Kora in downtown Salt Lake City, close to the big temple.

It’s the last two days I’m sitting for her family because they’re moving to Park City so I am feeling that—saying goodbye to Kora as well as Twix and Breezy—and confronting the dynamic nature of life and the beauty inherent in the savoring of something knowing in advance that it won’t last.

And the trees are half-in and half-out of Fall—some with green foliage attached— and the leaves that are on the ground are not yet soggy almost as if the night is still hanging on to summer.

And people are always friendly down here. As they walk to their service work for the LDS church they wear name badges, and in suits and dresses, stiffly hold hands with their spouse of 30 years. In unwavering focus on their perceived devotion to God, they float Softly within a padded existence of religion, giving hearty good mornings to strangers because that’s protocol, and act out devotion, playing into the substance of the “Vast Other” through small talk and worlds external to their own vulnerable emotional spaces. She’s “happy”; he’s “happy”; and heavenly father walks with them in their union, like two human beings dictated into existence, floating by in an Elder Smith nametag and flowered rayon skirt like paper dolls astride the knowing silence of immeasurable potential that is (to me) the deeper experience known as God.

And inside my own (often) bubbling, frothy mental space this morning it’s becoming more clear than ever that two disparate truths can coexist. That these religious people and my self and Kora are living a unified whole.

Because on this morning of balancing between seasons, the leaves pull aside summer with such grace it becomes a seduction, and walking beside sterile couples searching for an experience of anything but, I’m inside my life with even more ferocity. For walking a path of meaningful togetherness is fertile for revelations of self when nametagged people (futilely labeling limitlessness) are the seasons of humanity bearing leaves of different growth. Where resting into a morning is a synchronicity in which we’re all just fragments of a larger creation breathing itself into being.�

And in the sight of such blending, I can see my depths more clearly, for we do not have to understand the truths of another to become more whole because of them. And so it is that from sterility and vastness, goodbyes and protocol, on a fall morning, I walk beside the seasons, like a Summer giving itself constantly to Autumn.

 

In an Oops/Fuck World

That moment when someone you haven’t seen or heard from since you were 13 years old messages (you’re not FB friends) to tell you that although his politics are near-polar opposite yours, he’s been checking in on your Facebook for over a year to see if you’ve got any new political commentary and in the process realized that he’s envious of you because you have a clear gift for wordcraft.

And for a millisesecond, you experience the peace of a simple act of generosity, then he adds: “except for all of those obscenities, you’re an amazing wordsmith.” Then, in way of explaining— perhaps just to himself, for I didn’t inquire—why he has kept coming back he adds, having clearly resigned himself to the defects, “But: that’s just Amy.”

Thank you. Really hits the spot. Now tell me, random acquaintance: do you like me better with eyeliner or without, smiling or more serious; should I wear low-cut sundresses or is that too flashy? What exactly can I do to make your experience of me more comfortable?

And even just a few years ago, I didn’t used to cuss as much as I do now. I took great care to stifle my own expressivity so as not to make waves, going out of my way to avoid offending someone because I not only didn’t know how to make space for myself, I also didn’t see my self separate from the societal conditioning that raised me.

But experience paves new roads to truth. And in the last few years things have gotten loud. Child trafficking, the meat “industry”, the double-barreled crises of anxiety and suicide, whales dying with tummies full of plastic and Trayvon, a kid, killed for wearing a sweatshirt…., all existing as cattle prods for evolutions. Since within the sights and sounds of this suffering world is the sights and sounds of a society structured on toxicity and denial which now must do better.

For the real shit of all these implanted social requirements is the starving polar bears, reduced arctic ice to reflect the heat of the sun and 12 years to unchain from lifetimes of human assumptions we were clearly mistaken about. And the truth of this world is that we clutch pearls about cussing, and not about some homeless person pushing his dog in a shopping cart. We speak our offense about a women saying whatever she feels is best but not about wealth inequality or a planet so imperiled we’re counting down years from only the number 12 to when we won’t be able to exist here anymore. We grant tolerance to a wordsmith and allow ourselves to miss that our opinion on the subject might be just a big pile of useless bullshit clearly enunciated.

And in panning out—in making the next 12 years our potential entire lifetime—we’ll all need to cuss—panic, rage, topple—and speak anger free of the societal constraints that have previously anesthetized us. Because conformity won’t get us to survival and when everything we said, thought, and did were all wrong, we now get to save ourselves by allowing one another the space to be all the things we never were.