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Archive for the ‘foreclosure’ Category

NOVEMBER 11th

Time moves slow.  The ache of the heart a long slow cracking after the initial break.  Thousands of aftershocks that travel across a year, add months, count the days.  New mistakes stream in and stretch out inside the ravines, touch the canyon walls, and flow on top of the scars.

Take stock of the present.  Orange lamp hangs overhead and casts its familiar glow on the pillow and couch, on my fingers as they move over keys and trace lines in my journal.  Silent apartment, save the passing the planes and occasional scuffing of boots on the sidewalk or wheels turning over wet leaves.  Yesterday’s breakfast pan soaks in the sink.  A cold beer on the windowsill.

From my ledge I see other people in the open sky.  The vast space around them as they touch hands, unwrap gifts from tissue paper, smile in ways that communicate the complexity of joy and sadness and living.  I see what I hoped for in my life and my family and my love, and know that it didn’t complete me the way I thought it would, the way I wanted and needed, because I wouldn’t let myself be whole.  I cannot imagine building a new life, although I know I’m doing it everyday.  Dish by dish, word by word, moment to moment.

2010 harvest moon photographed by chris updegrave

Notice that my body marks its own time, with signals that fall outside the calendar of dates and anniversaries.  Another harvest moon rises and pins me to the spot, to the moment.  Memories stored in the quality of light, released by the Fall chill settling in the air.  The memory of organs swell the body.  The well of sadness opened by the senses and the body’s recollections.  But this time there is a quiet joy marching alongside.  It’s new and weak at times, but gaining strength and momentum.  I stand on this edge and my lungs clench.  I see the size of my wounds, so long in the making and don’t know if I can cross to the other shore.  If the scars can soften and stretch and let in the light and air.  I hear another bottle break on the sidewalk outside through the closed window and know there will be something to clean up in the morning.

Time moves fast.  OWL’s growth, so ordinary and so exceptional, impossible to track.  Loose notes on the calendars waiting to be transcribed into a baby book.  The feel of those moments so vivid at the time hardly seem describable now.  Watch as baby C, now 4 months old, gorillas sits with his fists on the floor as he slumps forward, and marvel as he pops up.

NOVEMBER 7th

In the morning after a previously amazing day and an evening spent writing in tears, I lay across my bed and mark what is right.  What is going well.  A two page list in columns, turquoise ink.

OWL is healthy.
He talks & talks & signs.
Trots around with little stroller.
Sleeps clutching books like The Secret Life of Plants and Crime & Punishment.
We have heat.
The cat snuggled me through last night’s sadness.
I can read.
I have a practice.
I write.
I walk and run, and sometimes cartwheel.
OWL stomps through puddles in frog rain boots.
OWL & baby A hold hands.
He kicks a ball.
I laugh, cry & feel.
Sweep the floors that ground us.
Cook the food that nourishes us.
We ride buses.
Have teeth to brush.
Bodies to wash.

On the cushion later that morning, the sangha shoulder to shoulder in staggered rows, I open without cracking.  I carry myself back up to that eye-level view of Mt Rainier, and sense my presence among the other mountains, my icy peaks rising above the blankets of green.  The sky passes and mingles, the clouds appear and dissipate.  And I think, I could do this anywhere.  On my feet.  In a courtroom.  At breakfast.  I can be this mountain among mountains anytime.  Struck by the sheer confidence of the open sky.

By nightfall, I slip back down.  Self-arresting, I land not at the bottom, but catch myself in a point of utter aloneness that is sad but not sorry.  It carries me a ways outside the room.  To a place without walls.  All I want is OWL in my arms, in this room, among these friends.  Wait anxiously as the openness battles the rising fear of seeing the ex in the coming exchange.  The fear of directly seeing the embodiments of my failures and success from the open sky where my heart beats raw and tender.  I feel exposed by the moment where everyone around me seems transformed and held by something that I’m not even sure I get.  I feel quiet.  OWL arrives and my world tumbles together and in to pieces all at once.

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Quite a week or weekend around here, or whatever the semi-graciously unemployed call 5 sequential days.  Forms at the doctor’s office.  Sex: female.  Children: yes. Marital Status: foreclosed.  I mean, divorced.  Divorcing, actually.  Mind wonders back to the first question.  Sex: maybe, eventually.  Hopefully sooner than later.

A Saturday to clean.  Top to bottom.  East to west.  OWL’s walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom, my bedroom, bathroom, hallway.  Living room, the clothes-sewing-crafting-photographs-storage-closet.  Look for thoughts & lessons & learning between reshelving scattered board books and discovering 3 of the 7 stacker rings under the bedroom blanket.  Tender flood of excitement about a good friend’s pregnancy, knowing that one day soon she too will find these treats hidden in their bed.  Sooner than seems possible, but I see how quickly time marches & swirls forward & about these days.  Imagine lessons & hopes under clean sheets warmed last night only by me and the curled up cat.  Clean floors.  Folded clothes. Empty dresser tops.

Sit at an old table.  Beer in the early evening darkness.  Light rain kissing the air on its way down.  He wears a shirt I’ve never seen before.  Looks faded & old & soft, like something I want to curl up against, feel the heat of his shoulder through the flannel threads.  Instead we exchange books, keys, a mug.  Words say part of what I want to say, but so much of it is a feel, a spectrum of time & place – a currency I cannot exchange over drinks.  Drive home under the weight of absolute ease turned to an absolute goodbye.  Who would have thought ironic detachment was bullshit? Well, me.  But I always second guess myself.  Move on to the kitchen.  Dishes. Countertops.  Pantry.  Table.  Dust shelves and baseboards.  Mop floor.  Sulk out in the cool wet evening to avoid watching a scary movie alone.  To avoid 9 pm sleep on a Saturday.  To avoid the silent & blank screen of my phone.  To avoid no more words.  Sometimes it feels like life is only for other people.  But the rain runs rapids down 15th Avenue East, pools and moves on.  Recall the texture in the gap between the out & the in-breath.  My life runs in those rapids, snags on branches & rolls over leaf jams & around crumpled potato chip bags.  It’s just not very glamorous.

Rain cascades in sheets, white-orange under the glow of street lights.  I dry & sit & drink & stand & listen & drink.  And talk.  Life without the details, without the storyline.  Feel human.  Memories in this place strong.  Late night dance floor spins with the sister.  Wedding song slow dancing.  Sold out club.  Me, at the end of the night.  Standing.  Dancing.  Beaming.  A million years ago.  In the rain I discover that I was a witness, too.  Select groceries & cook meals.  Buy textbooks & study astronomy.  Performances.  Tears.  Witnessed you curl your fingers around OWL’s endlessly small fist minutes after he was born, hold his face against your cheek. Stand in the room of this bar and see my life in the running rapids and hard sheeting rain.  Feel my life in the smoke as it drifts inside towards the warm air. People come & go.  Short exchanges & extended stays.  Long breaks.  Years of friendship. Rekindle & break.  Kids as common ground.  I cycle through it all – roar like a lion and sleep like a lamb.

Four full days in solo mode.  Four days of decadence & endings.  Out late. Foreclosed. Mopping floors.  Nyinthun in hangover.  Hostessing & food & wine. Good friends & old friends & new friends.  A little little baby learning to roll & watch this world.  Pick up OWL from his papa only to find, within a few hours, an absolutely transformed creature shouting & twisting & convulsing with “no-no-no-no-no’s” and the strength to back it up.  Goat-like resolve.  Tangle in car seat straps.  Walk home carrying his crying shaking body parallel to the ground.  Shrieks induced by everything.  Diapers.  PJ’s. Stroller parking.  Socks.  Sweatshirt.  Bathtub.   Hand-washing.  A 5 minute temper tantrum is an eternity.

I’ll say it again.  A 5 minute temper tantrum squeezing through the lungs & throat & mouth and twisting body of a 16-month old is an eternity.  And there I am in that eternity: foreclosed, divorcing, solo, incapable of doing it all, not everything, faking my way through, not x-y-z enough, jobless.  No gaps or breaths or breaks, no full nights sleep.  In that eternity, there is a full sink of dishes, unswept floors, laundry spinning about in machines & reproducing in the corners, diaper covers to air dry, a noisy cat to feed & scratch & snuggle, the next snack to prepare….

It takes every ounce of my strength & courage at 6:27 am to throw the blankets over my head, find my silly voice.  The voice, with an audible smile, giggling “Where’s Mama?”  Peek out & hear the echo of my giggles.  Duck back under as happy snorts dry big puffy tears.  Footsteps racing to the bed.  Outstretched arms.  Lift & snuggle. The courage to coo and play.  Fearlessness to let the eternity dissolve into the emptiness.  To let my solid mythical self dissolve into the emptiness.  The compassion to come back to it again & again.

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Cool morning warm day cold night.  Scarf and coat to none to leggings.  Sleep-weary too early, OWL runs through the park across the street under the faded day, steps up and steps down low stairs on his own two feet.  No knees.  No big hands holding his tiny hands lifting & steadying.  His body sways and balances.  About face at the top and down.  Something new.  Just today.  Shriek & go-go-go to the alley.  Big hands call & make freeze.  Learning the boundaries, an edge of predictable safety. Planes as lights in the darkening sky.  Tramping along the garden path, learning boundaries set by twine & enforced by big hands.  Walk benches like a tightrope, small hands holding big index fingers.  Smiles in the dark.  Lap-sitting and snuggles on the cool concrete.  Skips the bath for a bottle.  Stories in mama’s bed.  The Ear Book.  Owl Babies.  Who Hoo Are You? Diaper & PJ’s & Goodnight Moon. Rolling snuggles.  Lullabies.  15 seconds of tears.  Sleep.

Garbanzo beans begin their evening soak on the stove.  Tomatoes red & yellow & purple & green ripen on the windowsill, inching towards the altar.  Tomorrow we bake a chicken and beans with yogurt sauce & smoked paprika.  Need to buy more tomatoes.  Cookies if I pull it all together.  This is the mama I want to be.  Prepared. Cooking & baking.  Fresh food.  Made with love.  With care & mindfulness.  With small hands stirring veggies as they saute, mixing flour & salt, nibbling chocolate chips, cutting shapes from freshly rolled sheets of dough.  Tomorrow, I think I can pull it off.  Even though I sleep to a sink full of dirty dishes and dream about SF’s 50-lb bag of flour & non-existent glass jars full of pasta & cornmeal.

OWL’s appetite graduates to teenager.  He sneaks off with 2 pears, one right after the other, out from the fruit bowl & into the living room.  Eats them both entirely. Including most of the seeds from the 2nd one since it was hidden from my view longer than the 1st.  Dinner plate full of turkey sausages & chard & yogurt.  2 cups of water.  Slice of almond butter toast before bed, eaten like a cat.  Face & mouth & tongue & no hands.   The bulk of yesterday spent scrambling eggs, slicing up cheese & plums, toasting crumpets, sauteing squash (from SF’s garden), cutting tofu into squares, dishing up 3 servings of pasta….  16 months today, but I cannot imagine him any other way.  “Old” videos prove me wrong.  Learning to crawl, inching & grunting forward off a blanket.  Fingers clumsily find a chunk of avocado and rub it across his once-chubby face.  Fingers and fruit finally find mouth.  One tooth vs the now 6.  Crawling now a novelty, an act undertaken with great laughs.  Forks & spoons & open cups.  The banana-lock on the back right side of his head made by many meals & a dislike of wet soapy hair.

Another day.  Beans cooked before 9:30 am, scents the apartment with an earthy sweetness.  Talk on the phone with a good friend that I miss even though we are less than 10 miles apart, prepare and bake the chicken.  Drop the raw breast halves (yes, plural), on the floor.  Forget to reserve some of the spice mixture for the chicken.  Forget to add the salt.  So much for made with mindfulness. But the baking is at least completed.  And she was the only one who called about the latest articles in the papers, and it felt good to talk, even when I was spinning backwards in time.  Sometimes reopening things brings compassion and dissolution.  Funny word. Tomorrow the house forecloses.  Working to finish the divorce before a January trial date.  Ugh.  Ready for closed chapters already.  Ready to untether.

What are you afraid of? I am afraid of what I cannot provide my son.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? I am afraid of being a single parent.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? I am afraid of never working again.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? Decisions that I need to make.  Decisions that impact my son, my future, my ex.  Grad school.  Moving.  Moving him away.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? That things will never change.
Thank you.  What are you afraid of? Bell rings.  Exchange stops.  Silent.

Contemplate.  Bring the fear closer.  Gentle.  Explore.  Accept.  Open.  My fear diminishes, although it doesn’t disappear, as I feel myself say the words out loud. Air passes through my throat.  Sound emerges.  Audible breath.  I hear my voice. Eyes and eyelids and cheeks feel the tears.  The heat.  The clenching lungs.  The taste of salt.  But in the silence that follows my confessions, I cannot recall my fears, their feel & presence & my experience.  I sit in silence and think of kissing.  Not anyone in particular, just the peculiar nature of two pairs of lips meeting, tasting, playing, exploring.  Teeth and tongues.  Softness and sweetness and dry skin. Placement of hands.  What the leafy shadows outside on the rail would look like cast across two necks leaning towards each other.

Walk downstairs.  OWL toddles among the legs, clad in airplane PJ’s, tote bag full with his shirt & pants.  His cheeks rosy red from the cool outside and sleepiness.  I catch his eye & he smiles, teeters forward, shows me his bag.  I slide the straps over his shoulder and he prances forth, back the way he came.  He eats cookies and sips my cooled tea.  Follows SF into the bathroom, TA chases him from the kitchen with smiles & giggles, and he climbs the couch to visit RR & D.  He runs circles.  I stand in place, roar as he passes.  He laughs that OWL laugh.  He is home here.  Comfortable eating & playing & hanging out while mama sits upstairs confessing her fears and practicing the presence of mind he masters without a thought, without a second guess.  Roar again as he passes and know.  This is all worth while.

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Lines cut from weather, like the lines on my face and skin. Pockets of snow trapped between jagged peaks.  Trees march upward and halt in uneven unison across the range.  Dots of orange in the ochre and dust-colored earth. Rivers winding like snakes, deep pockets of blue-black. Stretching miles all around. Roads like scraps of discarded yarn, cuts exposing layers in lines of colors.  Dusty khaki to grey to brown.  Near symmetry.  Pyramids with rows of green running up & down.  Red to khaki back to red.  Three fires in three valleys form plumes of smoke, white dissipating to translucent grey to transparent charcoal. Peaks with folding sides, sandy looking slopes and dark lakes.  Weather worn. Lifting above the fields, square and round.  Ridges rise skyward like perfect spines pushing towards the clouds.  A canyon in the distance distinguishable by the sharp drop on one side and the rise on the other, the space between them almost unseeable.  Clouds in the distance a nest of soft down, cool with the high air and mist.  Ridges and slopes forming horseshoes, reminding me of the gift of flight.  How lucky to sit and gaze from this height.  Maybe, just maybe, when I am tight in the lungs from too little sleep and an empty bed and a sink full of dishes and a near-empty bank account I can return to this place, breath myself back here.  Nourished by its existence.  On the breath.  Rise up and study my topography with the same awe & wonder & curiosity.

Even mountains erode under the wind and the rain.  Explode with lava from their core, our core.  Deform under pressure sent from distant miles only to rise up again & again, and erode more & more.  Land burns under hot winds and sparks.  Valleys flood as rivers bulge, cut new courses.  Connects and liberates.  I sat listening as men and women recounted their experiences alone in the woods.  I hope to forget most of the details, not wanting to color an experience I may soon undertake. Striking descriptions of the self shattering, speaking in beauty & honesty & reflection, and in only a few words.  So much like birth, like my fight to carve out this space for myself only to watch it shatter in surrender to the moment of mamahood.  Time and time again.  Letting go.  I could feel those words all night.

Descent.  Seattle.  Foothills a carpet of green against the memory of the Rockies, yellow and grey.  Mt Rainer once again a majestic wall of blue and white ice.  A peak to be reckoned with.  Observe and appreciate.  Thick clouds with peaks rising out like islands from a white sea.  Airport.  So tired of all these tears, never in short supply. A father holding a newborn.  Think of what I cannot provide.  A house, with people and a yard and a dog.  Our house sits days away from foreclosure.  The walls of OWL’s room still painted blue & orange.  Hardwoods shining.  Garden window empty, its contents crowding my kitchen table.  Lawn unkempt.  Trees & roses unpruned. Empty kitchen drawers.

Train home.  Olympics pale, lightly brushed along the skyline.  Flat in the warm sun and haze.  A subtle shift in the hues of blue.  Train moves north, mountains disappear from view.  A hard homecoming.  Afraid again that my legs are too wobbly to do this on my own.  To make this trek.  My mind too small.  Obstacles too big & slippery for my tiny hands.  Wanting something to lean on, even for just a moment, to recharge that core so I can hold myself while holding OWL.  Sitting on this train, after this trip, I realize the enormity of what I gave away.  I know it wasn’t always perfect.  Or unconditional.  Times I wanted to give so badly I could do nothing at all. Caught in the hope.  Caught in the fear.  Always trying to keep it together.  Today I feel old and unsteady between breaths.  Not knowing how to  trust myself.  Feeling the rejection in waves as we move over tracks, behind painted buildings.  Feeling not out of belief, but out of loss.  Life shattered.  All four walls down.  A year past.

I see that I am somewhere new.  Out of the crisis.  Into a different space.  Ready for what is next.  Feeling stronger.  Yes, I want to fall in to someone.  To collapse & sit shaking in all my uncertainty.  Keep telling myself that the place I belong is the place I occupy every second of my life.  Right here, in whatever the moment is.  Hard to accept when this alternative version competes with the present in my head.  Feels like there is no one to bear witness, but I bear witness to all of it.  Now, among the clouds & peaks & train stations, I start hearing it.

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A day of touching sadness.  Touching and not turning away.  No running.  Stopping the (in my head) conversations before they ran wild.  Breathing through.  Leaning in.  Moist eyes easily disguised as water from the bright sun.  Squinting down the hill, feeling the heavy mask of sadness as I board the bus.  As I flip through a magazine in the waiting room.

The list of what I want grows longer and longer.  Adding every day.  Someone to help change the crib sheets.  The surprise of an empty kitchen sink.  A grilled steak. Snapped back to the moment by dancing descent of yellow leaves as they catch the sun like coals from a fire and glitter on-off on-off on-off like fireflies but in the blue blue sky of this day.  And I wonder about my list for OWL.  What do I want for him? Health.  Nourishment.  Knowledge.  Confidence.  Love & happiness.  Fearlessness. At home with himself.  To see me happy and….  I don’t even finish the thought in words.  Funny, how that inserts itself into every nook & cranny, every list, every hope & fear.  Almost a year and I am still not comfortable.  This feels a mess.  Divorce.  Foreclosure.  Unemployment.  Living in the land where it seems like everyone is either married or gay.  Or 23.  Flying solo.  Wandering the trails, OWL in pack, while friends hunker down for family time.  Cooking 3 meals a day and at least 2 snacks.  No yoga.

But I also know that we are all very lucky.  No one is being beaten.  Or overfed like the sad 14-month old giant I saw on the bus this afternoon.  Or underfed.  We never worry about where to sleep.  OWL  is surrounded, blanketed, by love and acceptance and encouragement.  He learns.  Absorbs like a sponge.  He watches and imitates and acts.  He is bold.  Independent.  A snuggler.  I talk to his father often.  The three of us have polite family lunches where OWL is the star, even though I am at a slight distance.

But lucky because things could be worse does not always cut it.  Today it doesn’t calm the sting of the sadness.  But it doesn’t pin me to the floor me either.  I look at it and see my fears and hopes for what they really are.  Alone is scary.  Terrifying even.  Mama & OWL do not fit the definition of family I never even knew that I carry so very deeply.  The presence of absence surrounds me, not him.  Because what I want for him is to have my definition of family right here, in our apartment, and this alternative version we have reflects that I cannot give him everything I want. Whether it’s for him or me or for us, I am not enough.  Today, touching that sadness, not turning away and leaning in, I begin to see that this okay.  It may even be good news.  A relief.  I grant myself permission to not be everything.

Looking at OWL through this broken heart, I am learning that I truly have nothing to do with who he is, and yet everything to do with nurturing that being and opening the space for him to flourish.  Introduce him to the world.  Watch him try new things and have the wisdom to let him fall sometimes.  The compassion to wipe away tears, blow on “ouies,” and hold him to my chest when he just needs to scream it off.  And looking at myself through this broken heart, I start seeing the wisdom in a cooling sheet of fresh-baked cookies next to our dinner plates full of tofu, kale, potatoes & corn.  Seeing and tasting and smelling the fruits of our family night.  Permission to redefine it all by looking honestly below the surface and leaning in.  And in those moments of squinting damp eyes and aching, joy joins the sadness as I begin to understand that everything I need, I already have.

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a house

A house is more alive than I ever could have imagined. The past recorded in demolished walls, gouged kitchen floors and scuffed paint. The present simmering on the stovetop, wind rustling through the long strands of an unmowed yard. The future in the number of bedrooms, the rewired basement, the stalled projects strewn about an untended garage. And the names on the deed a flat replication of the living that goes on between walls, the ecology of flower beds, the hopes & fears & promises of the days and weeks and months and years ahead.

A person can be a place where you try to build your home, and you can try to be another person’s home. Their base. Their mirror. Which, I am telling you from experience, does not work. For anyone. I always thought that there was a certain quality of home in my marriage. With walls soft from use, threadbare in places and with ink stains like a blanket held since childhood. A touch that memorized my form and could hold me again and again. Safe. Loved. Hard at times but never losing faith in the you-me-us.

When I was moving from our house, I found this essay written for a class project in 2003 called The Literary Home, while then-just-the-boyfriend was out of town.

… In thinking of home my thoughts first turn to him. After all, it is the relations and feel that make a space home.  It was this time of year when [we first met]. Late weeknight arrivals, out early for school and work. On Saturdays I would wake up alone in his cluttered but clean room, in his small bed with a spring breaking through the middle of the mattress, the sun glaring through the window. I was so taken with the warmth in the air….  Today, I remembered how much I love walking under the sun – squinting my eyes. I feel a stillness inside as I walk past his parked car, when I unlock the door at a time when he is normally home.

… I am slowly learning now, in this environment where I welcome familiartity, to love the constant motion of furniture and things…. For a long time home was a place I sought to escape.  I wanted to remove myself, to shed my herstory like an outgrown skin…. I wanted to build my own home… a place where I could stand still, where the ending was mine to make. One day I woke up and suddenly felt like I was home.

A house, in essence, is a character…. A location, a feeling, a reminder, an expression of the present and future…. Its meaning is in constant motion, its history constantly discarded, recovered and rewritten.

All good information, I imagine my therapist would say if she were here.

In the house I just left, there is the sense of the immeasurable. 2nd owners since 1942. The salt of tears when my grandmother passed. The hole dug by the garage with the lace leaf hydrangea where Hopper sleeps in decay with a toy mouse and a piece of green blanket. Drawing maps and plans of the wedding hall, the white butcher paper strewn across the basement coffee table. The yard of countless barbeques, streams of friends, cigarette smoke, soccer, cloud watching & star gazing. Wiping away at tears on his birthday. The streets blanketed in snow, covering our car, as we walked just to make footprints, wearing my special white winter hat. A wren nestled in the roll of the sunshade for the cold winter. The bedroom, the walls the color of a warm sea, where my son said his first word. The apple tree for housewarming, the lilac for my grandmother’s illness, the maple & the dogwood (planted in the snow!) and lavender and roses for the marriage. Endless glitter on the garage floor.

And today, exactly 21 days before the bank forecloses the property, the potential buyers walked away.

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