A Reflection

What did you make this year? What did you learn? What big, loud idea took hold of you? What tiny note of truth found its way to your lips?

This year I made more room in my story, which is my life, which is my heart, which is this moment; all the same. In order to make room I had to shift, get rid of some things, allow some new things in. Here, a wave of incredible discomfort. The good stuff. What I’ve been waiting for. I learned that story is both real and unreal. Right now: The wind knocks snow from the branches of trees outside my window, a new window with a view I’ve not yet become familiar. My dog snores in between my legs atop a heavy wool blanket my mother gave me years ago. In the other room my husband sighs. The radio hums. My ears ring and buzz and it’s the loudest thing in this story. All of it real. Immediate. I’ve learned what’s less real are the thoughts that persist—binaries of good/bad, silent judgments of me and my work, of this page, of the relationships I cherish. All of it hinged on fear. I’ve learned to feel it coming on. To speak to it in kind, quiet tones that murmur hey, not today. I’m telling a different story now. Is there a bigger idea than this? Not for me, not right now. My ideas are not so loud these days but they grip me with a force I can’t understand. I am strong and soft. I am a sensitive being. I feel everything. I am not wrong. I am here. I don’t need to know anything about tomorrow or next week. I’ve always been fine. Truth, truth, truth. Tiny notes. Quiet notes.

What is on your  2017 "ta-da!" list?

I don’t know.

That’s the biggest one. That I simply don’t know. Also that I am sad, that my grief is multi-faceted and authentic. That I am happy, too. That I am both, all the time, and so is everyone. I look for it in you, in me. Pulsating spectrum of emotion in the body, skin, face, eyes. There.

What brought you the most joy this year?

Every single day that I look at my dog and watch his belly expand and contract, I feel a rush of joy. When I watch him growl at the wind, at the mailperson. At me when I tease him. For me this is nurture at its best, my one foray into motherhood. My heart is wider now. When Tommy and I laugh, when we make fun of each other and of this life, I feel deep joy. It is enough, I’m beginning to know.

What did you read? What did you write? What did you watch?

I read memoirs and books about memoir and memoir by women. I started a list of these books in January and never finished it. This year I’ll try again. I read op-eds and headlines and novels and self-help and poems. Always poems. I still read too many books at a time. I still don’t finish many of them. I still devour some of them in one day. If you ask me what I want to spend my days with I’ll always say books. And coffee. And a warm blanket. I wrote poems about marriage, I wrote poems as furious letters to the president, I wrote letters and postcards and pages of notes in my computer for a book, for a journal, for this. I wrote blog entries and made them public despite feeling self-conscious and narcissistic and afraid. I wrote emails to students. I wrote text messages to most people I love, and often. I wrote. And I will keep writing. I watched bad movies on the couch with my husband and some good TV shows, too. I watched our dogs play for hours, every week. Mesmerized by their energy. I watched a sea of women in pink hats move in synchronicity toward something they believed in. I watched myself age a bit, fine lines of gray in my hair, fine lines etched more and more into my face. I watched the astonishing mountain ranges in Colorado rise up to my view as I drove west several times a week this fall. I watched them disappear in my rearview as I drove back home.

What has made you feel most alive?

Change. Constant change. Out of control change. Out of control everything. Knowing that.

Moving my whole life and home and family to Colorado and then moving back again 8 months later. A story both real and unreal. Walking across the stage to receive my second degree. Hiking up 12,000 feet in the thinnest air I’ve ever breathed. Hating and loving every single step. Watching my husband move with beauty and fearlessness up the same mountain. He could run laps around me and seeing how alive he is there makes me feel more alive, too.

Paying attention.

Feeling my feelings. Talking about them out loud in therapy, with my dearest friends, to my dog.

My headaches make me feel more alive, my daily frustration, my anger at injustice, my fear for the planet and its dwindling resources, my inability to let go of control, my tiny steps I make toward letting go anyway.

**What are your DESIRES / intentions for the new year 2018?

I’ve been writing to-do lists since I can remember. As a young girl until now. When did I learn to do that? Each list stitched together with the finest efforts to improve, get things done, make neat and clean, feel content. How I love her, still. More.

And I won’t stop making lists.

But.

There is a wellspring of desire in me that I will no longer ignore. Rumi said desire is something like an energy body inside us, informing everything we do. Moving us forward. I feel that. I don’t want to reduce it to what I should do. What I have or haven’t done. Those stories aren’t real. The only real story for me is vulnerability, the ways in which I resist it and embrace it. The ways I feel it in my body, the ways I try not to feel it because of some old story, the ways I honor that, too. The moment in which I share it, and see it in others. The moment when I give up, start over, make peace, fall down in sadness and exhaustion, fall back in giddiness and joy, crumple to the floor, my whole body like any body that breathes and knows little of why.

DAY 30

How long the day. How few memories. Sun shines warm enough to lay in the grass and watch the dogs fight and play. Over and over. Until no more.

DAY 29

I cry in my car. Because the songs are sad. Because the mountains are so huge and beautiful and covered with snow looming beyond the foothills. Because all of these women. Because silence. Because countless men. Things aren't looking up. But I am looking up tonight. It shines like always.

DAY 28

There's a fly in Bruce's hair. I stare at it for half a minute or more. Also there's a crumb. I wonder about the flies in the bar today. How it was 75 and sunny yesterday and today it's freezing. It's almost December. I watch a video online that tells me 200 species a day go extinct. Every day. I keep seeing a picture of fish swarming the stark blue ocean over and over. How there are half the amount of fish there now than before. When's before? I don't know. I don't know how to unsee these videos. These pictures of blue and fish. I don't know how to preserve the ocean and keep it for myself and everybody. I don't know how to not feel mountainous despair. How to not be guilt-ridden and sad. What do you do to make yourself not feel terrible? Or, what do you do to make a difference? Oh, to change. A woman I like sits at the bar and eats 1 slider and 3 deviled eggs. She swats occasionally at a fly near her face, her food. Her lipstick today is darker than before.

DAY 27

Sometimes I see my students' faces and all of their desire and fear and mistrust. They want to say things but they don't. They don't know how good they are. I get down close beside them and say too much. Fill the space. Look at their faces. One looks at me today as if I am telling her things she already knows, or doesn't want to know. I keep talking. I walk away. Today I saw two of them in the hallway and one walked right past me and another looked at me and smiled nervously and I held her gaze for a second to smile back. We don't know how good we are.

DAY 26

So little of what I observe is terrible, grotesque, or even out of the ordinary. To what do I bear witness, and what does it reveal about me? That I only register the mundane? This evening after I finished work a guy at the bar said--Look outside at the light right now, I'm going to go see it. I went out after him and it was deep pink touching down on cars and sidewalks in front of the hotel and lasted like two more minutes. I got in my car and drove to pick up dinner and the sky truly was spectacular. I kept saying to myself--isn't this just like a painting. The clouds really looked like brushstrokes of grayish-pink and they rolled toward the mountains like live currents. I looked away from all the blinding artificial lights on every store and house and kept my gaze upward once I parked. Would I rather this be something awful? Would I rather tell you that I suffered? Would I rather have not seen it at all? But I can only see what I'm awake to. I can't not see the sky tonight.

DAY 25

Not a winter sky, not yet. But a fat toenail of a moon and a slip of cloud in the blue-black night. Clear. Cold. Not all the way winter, not yet. We are still here.

DAY 24

I look at you two sleeping together and it looks like love. A twitch or shudder across the eyelid, the lip. A jerk of the shoulder. Is it restlessness underneath the spell of sleep, or a need to move, to stir, to change. Subterranean desire. You curl toward him; he curls toward you. Man and dog. On the blanket the swirl of a green leaves I trace with my finger. Smell of your skin. Your feet move beneath the sheets like swimming and I wonder how far there is to go.

DAY 23

thanks to the man with the harry potter glasses and his daughter he was so proud of thanks to the bandaid on my finger and for not making a deeper cut thanks for pie and standing outside with Travis while he smoked a cigarette thanks for my friends feeling better thanks for the news not being so terrifying or maybe thanks for not reading too deeply sorry but I can't thanks for my dogs deep snore and his fat belly thanks for breath pretty much that's all the steadiest thing

DAY 22

scanning through my mind's eye for today's image a bowl of halo oranges a pot of simmering cranberries the dogs gnawing on sticks the lack of people in the neighborhood in the green space outside quiet days loud nights a circle of hands around our plates say grace someone says and I repeat the words my grandmother says knowing it is and isn't a prayer clean dishes dirty dishes again again full trash empty trash everything the same and in juxtaposition mundane extraordinary mundane extraordinary domestic global global domestic close one eye open the other what's the difference in the days from one to the next mood heart waving open

DAY 21

drive into the city listening to Dylan's Freewheelin' for the first time in too long still the same gold as ever after the reading I slow cruise up the block past the Denver Rescue Mission and the Catholic Charities and a Jesus Saves neon sign blares its wares I always have a good chuckle at this one but Corrina Corrina saves me instead just in the nick of time

DAY 20

what if life mattering is only a 50/50 chance

or less  meaning half the time this is important and half the time

it isn't  or

it only halfway matters all the time or

tonight I saw two cars driving with only one headlight

one after the other

50/50 light & dark

traveling without fear is how I imagined it

some sort of freedom

 

DAY 18

nearly every night, the same image: my little black and white dog curled into a letter c in between my legs on top of the gold blanket. ears perked up. breath steady and deep. an occasional whimper, a heavier sigh. as long as I am still he is still. the real sleep of the night is predictable in a different way. these days it's all turmoil. tangled blankets, ringing ears, wild mind. wild. up and down. all of it. how to anchor myself down? smooth the sails? when?

DAY 17

today = a study in rejection

my body rejects medicine health healing

I reject the news for weeks now

another rejection of my poems in my inbox

my own face unrecognizable in the mirror

featureless and searching

reject happiness reject fame reject stamina

the mountains the sun reject me now too

an image persists some adaptable picture

of home

DAY 16

the shape of my own body huddled underneath a pile of blankets. the perfect sphere of a seedless tangerine, network of white veins. discarded cups and mugs of lukewarm water at my feet. sick day. endless day.

DAY 15

not an image, just a sound: the neighbors howl and stomp and slosh their cups and cackle; the dog barks and barks and barks; I'm sandwiched in between.

DAY 14

why do dogs ache for the scent of something dead on their fur?

how shall you name these dried out plants? dusty beetle, elongated tail, crumpled mum, ember, barren arm, flat turf?

how is this to-do list from a year ago different from today's?

why do you concern yourself with it over and over and over?

how big the breath? how awake are you now on this walk, or ever?

DAY 13

morning. a ribbon of pink sky. fleeting fleeting. a row of birds on the street lamp. a ribbon of highway. cawing like jokes. like did you hear the one about? that one.

DAY 12

Today something beautiful today. Something joyful today. today joy. today beauty. I spend a lot of time around booze even though I don't drink anymore. Is that the beauty/joy? Or is that pride. Or is it laziness. Or is it this life. Joy/beauty of process. I say process so much lately and I wonder if I gave this word an image what would it be. Today. Peaks of citrus fruit in plastic quart containers. Glistening a bit yes the fresh ones glisten. I use a long serrated knife to halve these green and yellow bodies then quarter them then a little nudge with the knife across their bellies so they can kiss the lip of a glass and stay. I stay in this process. It's the shine of the fruit that's beautiful though. And joyful. My hand pushing the knife and keeping the ends of the fruit in little piles to discard after. Making something neat and clean and glistening and joyful and beautiful today.