What Mama’s do

While I attend my body
and clean the house
commute to work and home again
walk the dog and pet the cat and feed the hen
plant the garlic and rake the leaves
dance through the night and lie with lovers and walk with friends
I wonder why the world does not stop?
in the presence of so much suffering
I wonder how I can go on with life?
while you exist in crisis

My Mama-self has declared a state of emergency
she does not go on with the routine
she does not eat nor sleep
she holds constant vigil
bowing and praying, praying and bowing
casting spells of protection
making offerings to the spirits
beseeching our ancestors to stand behind you
I seek counsel as you struggle
to find your meaning
your why for coming to earth

I sense you
wandering too far afar
into the shadows
where hungry ghosts, chaotic consumption, and lurking predators
pull and tug at you
I do not know how this came to be
though I have theories
I scan my memory
searching for the moment missed
when I did not love you well enough
or I said the wrong thing
I search for the moment we slipped off the map
the one I drew in my dreams while you were forming in my womb
cracks and ruptures and losses come to mind
the countless mistakes I have made
I believed, once, it was all up to me
I was so arrogant
I believed I could rule our little world
keep you safe from harm
provide the tools for survival
the inspiration for thrival
the skills to observe and question
a code to live by
the freedom to become and belong
I believed I could create a whole new paradigm
a current just beneath the surface for us to swim
perhaps I still do, believe
only I can not do it alone
and not on chronos time

I am scouring the earth for the medicine
if only I knew what you needed
if only it were up to me
if it were up to me
you would know your worth
you would spark your own fire
remember the bright star you fell from
you would transform your pain into medicine
sharing with others
I trust you will do all of these, and more
centering and manifesting
on your time, in your way
I am no good at sitting still
and yet this is my task
so I will wait
I will live my life
and I will wait,
I will hold constant vigil
and I will be here,
imperfectly, at the ready

A mother’s love

when I open books
on grief
on living beyond loss*
on the wild edge of sorrow*
I find parts of me in every chapter
living with losses
perforated with wild edges
I can call some by name now
traumatic loss
sudden loss
anticipatory loss
ambiguous loss
unacknowledged and stigmatized loss
unspeakable loss
the invisible loss of absence
each one
a chasm
in my heart

where does the immensity
of a mother’s love go
when children are estranged?
does it surround her aura,
a throbbing, aching hum?
does her love multiply,
devouring her from the inside?
does it radiate off of her,
a searing heat?

how does a mother channel her infinite love in times of disconnection?
sing it to the moon?
keen, weep, and shed it each night?
bury it under every cedar tree?
rub it into her lovers’ skin?
light in on fire to signal a rising?
store its nectar away for their return?
apply it to her own heart, making medicine of the pain?

*I make reference to the following two books on loss and grief:
Living Beyond Loss, Edited by Froma Walsh & Monica McGoldrick
The Wild Edge, of Sorrow by Frances Weller
**If you are viewing this on a smartphone, line breaks may not be accurate and this may impact your reading experience.

to find my voice in song

there have been countless moments
like this one
an autumn evening
in the kitchen
roasting tomatoes
blending pesto
when I think of Mother
of her life
her laugh
the softness of her fingertips
her voice calling my name home
the pleasure on her face while dancing
there are countless moments
like this one
when I think of death
in an abundant season of harvest
death
in an abundant season of dying
oh, Mother
38 years and 65 days after
birthing me forth in love
your death taught me
to find my voice
in song

They remember

cloud-watcher
eyes skimming sky
plant-tender
body bearing water
the world is on fire, again
and they are learning to pendulate
learning to trust their senses

they remember
how good they were at pretending, until,
dysfunction, illness, the prospect of death
awakened their senses
to the need to get out
they remember why they stayed
they remember the leaving
the pain of the losses, unfathomable
years, soaked in tears
heart bleeding rivers
their mind and body detoxing
from lies, false hope and rage
they remember the fear
of provocation
how they moved their body
in the presence of men
how they chose their words
how they shielded their heart
learned to avert their eyes

they eat roots and drink moon water
they light candles at dusk
and sit before the altar, transformed
with questions in mind
curiosity in heart
the sensation and scent of lovers still in their skin

*if you are viewing this on a smartphone, line breaks may not be accurate and this may impact your reading experience*

Engage me

I felt its presence 
envelop me slowly,
entering through pores
seeping into thoughts and dreams
churning in my belly
thumping in my sternum.
In the before, I would move away,
side-step, run, 
dance around the edges,
feign indifference,
anything not to risk feeling devoured by absence.
Neither time nor escape nor transformation
have quieted the call for a holy surrender.

There are too many echoes
in the chambers of my mind,
too many losses in my life,
too much love in my heart,
to contemplate, or grieve, or love, alone.

Speak to me, please,
in your mother tongue
so I may know the pleasure 
of the sound of another, 
of the sound of you.
Engage me,
seduce me, 
with words and tones.
Describe other worlds and ways
existing alongside this one.
Then, show me
with your body
a new dance of reciprocity.

A vivid visceral spectrum

in the long trauma

we are future beings foretold

some blindly pine for the past

some grasp for control

others labor to reclaim and remake

every moment anew

empty, then heavy and ripe

with loss and love and longing and loss

my eyes scan for safety

I seek recognition

reaching for kindred, beloved

inherited language has hit a schism

my words dissolve into the void

caressed by an internal wind

the tones of my body are amplified

sensations intensified

my body is nature herself

calling my presence

calling me home from dissociation

to all that is

a vivid visceral spectrum

of wretchedness and beauty

of awe and fascination

It is time

On morning walks,

I am rediscovering my own rhythm.

I am silent and absorbent,

taking in dew drop and birdsong,

zinnia bloom and amber light,

distant traffic roar and leaf rustle,

spiderweb and tree shadow.

The chestnut trees are giants towering above,

rooting beneath, resisting concrete.

I stand in their sheltering embrace,

their enclave, their microcosm.

Three buckeyes lay at my feet.

I see memories of small hands foraging sidewalk and street,

filling pockets with good luck.

I roll them now in between my fingers and palms.

They feel smooth, cool, soothing.

I examine the surface of each.

The warm color, the wood-like grain, are soft on my eyes.

There are lines, none straight, only voluptuous curves.

Seasons of mothering are folded into my mind,

woven into my heart, and encoded in my cells.

The children who came through me,

they have awoken from the fantastical wilds of childhood

into a dystopian adolescence.

I think,

it is time to attend all I neglected in the name of survival.

It is time to thread truth and beauty into the new stories.

A reflection…

After sheltering indoors for a week, protecting our lungs from suffocating wildfire smoke and highly toxic air, a fierce and cleansing weather system brought lightening, thunder, rain and wind. I sat in my garden this morning feeling astonished gratitude for simple pleasures–for home; for a lush garden; for fresh air to breathe; for damp earth beneath my feet; for the pleasure of sunlight warming my skin; for the caress of wind; the sight of trees bending and swaying; the rustling sound of leaves and branches; the ability to see the blue of sky; the luminosity of white clouds; for the wide range of aromas filling the air—rosemary and basil leaves, rain-soaked soil, the neighbor’s freshly-cut grass, the sweet-dankness of decaying compost. A week long sensory-deprivation from these basic elements pushed me to a new edge, physically, psychologically and spiritually.

All morning neighbors have come out of their homes to clean up storm debris, to tend their gardens, to return their space to some sense or image of normal. I see their actions as acts of love, of renewal, of habit. I wondered about my reluctance to engage in this behavior today. I surveyed the damage and neglect, minimal compared to the vast destruction across the pacific northwest. I wondered at the contrast between the desolation I felt inside and the resilient vibrance of the plants and birds in my vicinity. I attributed my reluctance to fatigue, to loneliness, to laziness, to grief. I was in need of restoration after all. I could still feel the waves of toxic-exposure coursing through my body, mind and spirit. My heart was heavy with grief for the destruction of forests and ecosystems I have known for a lifetime, for the loss of habitats, homes and lives. Instead of tidying up, I wept. I wept until I didn’t know what I was weeping for. And then I wept until I knew I was weeping for lifetimes of violence, disconnection, for countless losses, personal and collective. My cat lay beside me, offering a comforting, silent presence. Thinking back, I realize the felines in my life have often been my companions in grief, bearing witness to tears my fellow humans rarely see.

Upon reflection, I acknowledged my innate need to process, to reflect, to be with my sensory experience, to be with my emotions and my thoughts. After a week of living in survival-mode, and after the loss of so many beloved places, I needed time to pause. I needed time to reflect on my awareness of the unsustainability of this way of life, of the futility I often feel in my small acts of subversion, of the impatience and longing I feel for another world, and the longing I feel to live in a community of mutual care and reciprocity. I needed to reflect on my feelings of anger at the centuries spent stealing from generations of youth. I needed time to hold my children in my heart even if I couldn’t be with them in the moment. My daughter is, among other things, a dreamer. From a young age her nightmares have centered around her home or her loved ones burning in fires. My son, among other things, is a seer of truth. His early artistic expressions through drawings and paintings were all of smoke and fire, labeled so by him. Perhaps part of them has always known what was ahead. And now, as teenagers coming of age on the brink of a paradigm shift, in the midst of mass-extinctions, in a world bound for transformation, I observe their fear and doubt of the future, their rage and disbelief at the willful ignorance and cruelty of uninitiated adults, and their resilient determination to love and laugh anyway. I commit daily to doing my part in service of their future.

Sometimes I make meaning through movement, other times I make meaning by sitting with my experience, however painful and messy, by attempting to learn and grow from it. I am my mother’s daughter. She taught me that whenever I am curious, confused, or lost, to ask questions. In the asking, I have learned answers do not abide our constructs of time. I have learned responses come from unexpected sources. In the asking, I have become a lifelong student of attentiveness, of listening, of patience, of non-thinking, of not-knowing. I am questioning everything. I am questioning myself. I am questioning the systems that I am part of, assigned and chosen. When layers of familiar constructions of reality and identity are stripped away, when who I have been before may no longer be relevant, who am I? What parts of me are dying, already dead? What parts are still living, breathing, germinating, or even blossoming despite toxic conditions? What can be resurrected? What must be buried, mourned, transformed? What emergent realities are waiting to be named, to be summoned forth?

In the garden

In the garden,

I sow seeds,

seeds of hope and beauty.

In the garden,

I grow food and medicine.

In the garden,

my presence is love.

In the garden,

I am embodied, strong and lithe.

In the garden,

the noise of society fades to music of winged creatures.

In the garden,

confusion clears and suffering subsides.

In the garden,

I am being.

In the garden,

I am breathing.

In the garden,

I belong.

Here, I am flow.

I am capable.

I am whole and purposeful.

In the garden,

I am a sun-kissed,

rain-drenched,

muddy-footed,

goddess of life and death.

Perhaps

you feel time expand and contract,

disintegrate and reconfigure

around and within you.

you have been losing,

letting go,

shedding,

for years.

you wonder if the experience of having

was an illusion.

you have lost loved ones.

some left you crawling on your knees

clawing at the earth

weeping and wailing into the sky.

some, you cut loose

for growth and healing.

others simply floated away, quietly,

seeds scattered on the wind.

you have become so comfortable with loss,

you have forgotten how fullness feels,

how it feels to be held by,

how it feels to be with,

bodies of others.

sitting for hours on end,

in the shade of your overgrown apple tree

you observe the garden that claimed you.

you become silence

surrounded by sound.

you become wordless

in a mind shaped by language.

you are a vessel of breath

dispersing thoughts that want to devour you.

you await inspiration, or instruction,

a moment of wonder…

perhaps the canyon carved into your heart

is an opening into infinity,

readying you

for the greatest love of all.