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Archive for the ‘home’ Category

Something inside is starting to give, a deep sort of opening without words. A sadness and a letting go. And maybe that space is making some room for something else to come on in. On my evening travels I walk past a black cat strewn across the back of a couch who peers out a picture window and gives a lazy nod in my direction. On the next block an orange cat drops his head and rubs the side of his face across my shoe, his body curls around my calf. I hear a woman talking with a heavy southern draw, and notice there’s a TV on in the next room, and one in the basement, but I can only hear her voice through the closed kitchen windows at the back of the house. An ordinary life in an ordinary night. These are the words I write in my head in between my breaths.

At home, a flash in the dark kitchen startles me, reflecting white off the pans where lentils and quinoa simmer. Across the street a man photographs the earth, the view blocked by a fence and shrubs and rise in grade, while another steps in and out of the way. A white sheet flutters in their hands. One of the men is in all black, the porch light catching small flecks of the shiny material of his jacket, his latex gloves highlights among his dark mass and the night. The back of a truck opens, wheels scrape across the street, and the crinkle of thick plastic hovers over the city sounds of planes and bikes and people on their way out. I light a candle. And incense. And on my couch with the window open to the cold air, I bear witness to the moving of the body. Concrete to bag to stretcher. Brakes lock in rapid succession. Wheels cross the street. The click of truck doors.

And then I cry.

I don’t remember sleeping, or even thinking, just laying very still and quiet until the cat came in at 2:30 am and I let him out.

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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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First pumpkin ale of the season.  Car ride home discussing autumn soundtracks. The poetry of being left recorded and imprinted, a map of notes and newsprint and digital information.  Span of our history.  San Diego Times.  New York Times. Pitchfork. Background music on a home loan commercial as our house sits empty, winterized by a stranger’s hands.  Hands that never sliced bread or made love or pulled stumps from the ground or swooped up a crying baby at 4 am in that house. Hands that never held on under that roof during hard times.  Seasons of asking questions only to be reassured only to become a living-breathing-sad-generic-pop-song. Honeymoons and camping trips.  An unborn & unknown baby OWL.  Ghosts. Outside, behind garage doors, the 8-track records.  In heated and dimly lit space I sit, immerse in the act of breast-feeding, give my body again & again.  Sustain and nourish this new life, this life that I grew & carried & birthed.  Terrified.  Sore. Elated. Depressed.  Layers peel among laundry piles and wet diapers and more time sitting on the couch then seems humanly possible.  The act of being present.  Being one with another human being.  The depth of lies reflected, apparently, by the number of stars in the sky.     

In one month I turn 33.  Recall hostessing then-husband’s 30th birthday party, OWL a full on swimming being inside my low abdomen.  Body swells with rising organs.  Fall asleep among jackets & purses & scarves strewn across my bed.  Scent of cigarettes and perfume and cold air mixing with the dirty pillowcases.  Cat curled warmly among the layers.  Love’s Forever Changes skips on the turntable in the next room as friends chatter over the sounds.  Carrot cake forgotten & stiff in the freezer.  People like waves wash over me.  Sleeping, I imagine bringing OWL into this world of friends & food & great neighbors & music.  Relief.  Anticipation.  Joy. Remember the year before, walking into the basement and hearing that first new song.  Water.  Desire to hold so strong it had a taste.  Letting go again & again.

Everything these days is touchy ground.  Everything a memory.  A place or a drive or a wedding dance or a laugh.  A gesture.  Whisper in the dark.  An offering.  My new autumn soundtrack needs to be the antidote.  Falling leaves carry introspection. Calls for redemption.  A need to set things right & prepare to start anew.  Sow seeds that emerge strong in spring.  Reconnect with the basic ground.  Redefine home. Family.  Work.  Cats and dogs and rooster calls….

Try as I might, I cannot pick myself out of the past, out of our shared life, out of the years at that house.  Out of who I was before we met.  Before we fell in love.  Moved in.  Bought a house.  Got married.  Had a baby.  And autumn has me reaching for Nico.  Leonard Cohen.  Devendra Banhart.  Bob Dylan.  At least Bruce Springsteen was always mine….  And there is the sound of my scarf wrapping around & around my neck.  The sound of sweaters fresh from the dryer.  Leaves crunching under OWL’s eager feet shrouded in little yellow rubber boots.  His breathing from behind the pink animal-print curtain.  The sound of his hair as he turns clockwise over & over again on my pillow in the morning as he settles in to finish sleeping.  Wind through changing & drying trees.  Times for coffee with the ex, with papaOWL. Random texting about Sesame Street, how everyone other than Big Bird is a puppy. About making OWL faces & making OWL sounds.  Reports on lullabies.  The smell of heat turned on for the first time.  Pumpkin ale and baking pies.  Afternoon sun.

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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 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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