Thursday, 31 December 2015

Facing it.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the Light gets in."

- Leonard Cohen

Ringing in the New Year, y'all. 

I started 2015 knowing something wasn't right. I felt it in my bones. I asked for space and was met with resentment. I stated my needs and held my ground. I could feel my life breaking, cracking, crumbling into grist. I started thinking it was me and how much I hated myself. I friend posted something about how mother photographers are always behind the camera and their children don't have a record of their own mother. I started taking selfies.

What I didn't know was that this project, a selfie a day, would become a record of my grief. My husband of 17 years asked for a divorce in April, or rather informed me that it was what I wanted. I wanted, begged for counselling instead.

In the wake of that world shattering, gifts started showing up at my metaphorical doorstep. An invitation to AWP, a fellowship in Prague, a job offer in Savannah, an offer to buy my antiques, a good lawyer, publication offers, friends holding space for me, another fellowship. As I was wading through the grief and rebuilding my own life, these things brought me small joys and more importantly something to keep me busy and getting up out of bed in the morning.

My sorrows compounded because of other people's choices that were out of my control.  It was like driving through a torrential rainstorm with traffic all around. Do I pull off the shoulder? Do I trust that others are in control of their 1000+ lbs of steel? Do I crash? Will there be a flash flood? Panic. Hold on. Cry a little or a lot.

And then the rain stops. All that's left is wet road and darkness, the stead thumping of the road beneath tires and a warm engine. Maybe there is even a rainbow. Maybe you are in Nashville now.

And finally, on Christmas Day, under the full moon in South Carolina, I held my sorrows in my hand and blew them with a kiss into the Atlantic Ocean. This mermaid is no longer landlocked. This is my offering. My grief.


I read a hilarious piece and then watched a parody with Tina Fey on "girl squads," the new jargon-y hip word for a group of girlfriends. I love watching Taylor Swift's Bad Blood video. I love hearing about groups of friends supporting each other. For so long I didn't have anything like that.

The last two years though, everything changed. I may even go back and say it has been the last 5 years- when I first met Holly and Breann, and three years ago when we created an online community and added my sister Jen, and two years ago when those folks (not all ladies, actually) facilitated and pushed me back into writing and taking a few risks (like riding the MegaBus to Georgia for a writer's retreat).

My "squad" isn't all women, but I am grateful every day for the support, the late night phone calls, the visits, the encouragement, the friendship and support. This last year was especially difficult for me and through it all I had folks sending me more encouragement and love than ever.

I can't list everyone here, but I am going to call out a few.

Thank you to Jennifer J, for actually flying out to be with me after the kids and I moved out and then again for Christmas so I wouldn't be alone. Your friendship and family love means more to me than these words can tell. May you find true love, good work, and creative space this 2016.

Thank you to Breann for being my random chat gal, holding my dearest fears and hopes, and generally encouraging me to laugh and love with reckless passion and write that way too. Your house burned down and you still showed up for all of us. May your tummy cease to be queasy and you finish your novel in 2016.

Thank you to Holly (Hollywood) P. and your incredible humour and grace. A conspiracy of oestrogen may have influenced you, but your support in my leaving Iowa was key. It was your words that ultimately gave me courage when I was doubtful and scared. I was in an abusive and toxic marriage and too drowned to see my own way out. You were my lighthouse. And now? I can count on you to talk me out of panic, get me to write through it. You've been my light since 2010 when Isaac was born. May your light burn bright and you keep on speaking your truth, fiery and brave, this 2016.

Thank you to my Ossabaw Literati. Tamara and Neil pointed me to the Vermont Studio Center, Neil also introduced me to James which led to the summer in Prague (which I needed for graduate credits to keep my job, a breathtaking space to recover from heartbreak, and the writing......), Tracy who emails me at just the right time as we each make our way travelling all over the world, Patty who gave me the very first advice through her advice column wisdom to put my own and my children first and let go of trying to care for and fix someone who needed to make the journey on their own, Tony who started the retreat that brought us all together to create a community and continue an island legacy, Victoria of the Midwest Crew who also has great taste in music and food and will be in Tybee soon, Lenore and David for opening their home to me on my journey South and for encouraging me to write the monsters out of the woods, and so many others. Thank you. May you all write your way back to the island soon!

Thank you to my mother, for your grace and forgiveness and your apology too. Thank you for sheltering and clothing all the lost souls who show up at your doorstep. Thank you for doing so with my children too while I recover from drowning and build our new home. Thank you for dedicating your time and home to creating a safe space for us. May your 2016 bring more laughter, more family, more stories, and more of everything good.

Thank you to Ms. Sparkles. You really do leave a trail of glitter everywhere and hope too. Watching your path through the mess that is divorce, one that is similar to mine in the reasons, the wounding, and the toxic aftermath, special needs parenting, homeschooling, and now healing and finding your way too, has helped me and others more than you know. Thank you for sharing your truth so we all know we are not alone.  May your 2016 bring you more love and more magic.

Thank you Dawn of Morning Rain. You helped me heal. Blew oxygen on my nearly dead ember to help kindle the fire again. Your touch pulled out the fear and the grief. You have a gift, love, for healing. May your 2016 bring more fire, laughter, and may you find good bacon again!

Jen H.- thank you for your time and words too. The website design, Art on the Prairie, and artists worry sessions. You know. May 2016 bring peace for you and space to create and more friends and music and also a trip to Savannah to see me, love.

Jen B- I do have a whole crew of Jennifers! Thank you for your sobriety. I am so proud of you. Thank you for being you, for lifting me that day when I could not stand on my own. You were a lifeline in a crisis, and so so brave. We are all lucky to have you in our lives. I miss you so much, love. I raise my glass of handcrafted local root beer to you and make secret plans for a girls getaway and beach time with you. 2017? Maybe? Yes? May your year be full of glitter and stage lights and feeling pretty and feeling loved.

And so many others too. This is but a short list and my gratitude goes so far beyond this. When I can't fall asleep at night, instead of counting sheep I count all the people and things I am grateful for.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Reclaiming Space

This is my blog, my journal. For years I have let it be used as a marketing tool for my husband's family's farm and let others have editorial veto on content.  The divorce, which is finalized as of November, was a surprise to many because I kept our personal lives very carefully presented.

The truth is somewhere in between. I considered starting a new blog. I have actually a second place where I write about art and poetry. This space began as a journal of motherhood and self and that is what it will return to, slowly.

For now, here is the update.

The children and I are moving to Savannah, Georgia. I have work here and the climate is much better suited to us than Iowa. I have family here too. Mostly, I need the buffer from the hostility in Iowa. The hostility from the divorce was taking a toll on my health. I cannot be the mom I need to be for my children while weekly sometimes daily, facing someone and others who are so hateful, hostile, and sometimes outright violent with actions and words. I can deal with that four times a year, but not daily and not while suffering the brutally harsh Midwestern winters and living below the poverty line. I needed breathing space. Since moving out I have had only one panic/anxiety attack. Before, it was near daily. My health has improved. My finances are stable. Life is calm.

My aunt is looking at property here. That was one of the biggest reasons behind choosing Savannah, actually. Ashville, NC was higher on my list. Galveston, TX was too. I had even considered moving back to SW Louisiana to be closer to my extended family there. A long conversation with family and the revelation that my aunt was looking here and may need/want my company and help? Well, that changed everything. I have to say, Savannah has a sweet spot in my heart and it wasn't hard to convince me, not really. SCAD is here too and I am seriously considering furthering my education, perhaps there.

I cannot update on Chad. Though he is the father of my beautiful children, he has chosen a different path. He is paying the required child support. He has a good job. A wonderful support system. Anything else, you will have to ask him directly. I ask that you treat him kindly. He has found happiness and love and that is a blessing for all of us.

In the next couple weeks, as I get settled here, I will update on my reunion with my family, the fellowship I just finished in Vermont, and maybe a few posts about the place I am currently working and living, a five acre permaculture farm here in Savannah.

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Clock is Running

Everyday I have things I must do.

Feed my family, laundry, dishes, breathe.

I can get lost in these tasks. Not just lose time, but actually lose me.

I breathe. I remember. I catch glimpses of my own reflection and barely recognise myself.

This time of transition is hard. It is like there is both- not enough time to get this right and too much time spent waiting for the next part to happen.

There is a great sadness that has fallen here too, like the way that a storm that comes suddenly casts a shadow on the pasture and everything is dark.....but the wind has not yet picked up and the rain is still a ways off. We know it is coming. We prepare best we can. Yet? There are still unknowns. There are still cruelties. Still small affections. All at the same time.

This is the scariest part. Waiting. Not the breaking. Not the end. This in the middle where the air is still and we hold our breath.

This is why...make food, fold laundry, wash dishes, breathe. Over and over.

How do I keep myself moving?

My friends who are runners said this: put one foot in front of the other and run until you can't. Then walk home. You don't need special shoes or special pants. You just need your feet to move. And so running has made its way into my life. I run until my heart can't take it. I break down and cry in the darkness. I walk home. The shadows of the woods have never scared me, so this is the path I run.

Sometimes I run down the gravel roads. Not as often though because the neighbours teenagers drive a little too recklessly around here. That is not how I want my story to end- roadkill. I run.

I used to tell people if you ever see me running, you'd better run too because something big and nasty is chasing me.

Y'all. I am running. This is scary and big and the only way I can make myself cry anymore. I need to cry. If I hold it all in I am going to explode and that is also  not how I want to end.

These next 18 days are pretty intense. Starting next week I have training at Drake for fall term. Holly's birthday (which I keep forgetting to plan), then ballet rehearsal for Holly, recital and more training the next week, and then pretty soon after that I leave for Europe. 18 days more or less.

See what I mean about not enough time?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Back To Work, Normal Things

One of the things I was taught growing up was simple: check my car's oil. I was also taught how to change the oil (and spark plugs). 

I take this a step further and I teach my children too. Every gas tank fill up, one kid gets to pump gas and the other gets to check the oil. They both wash windows and help clean the car up of any trash.

This task is important. Why? Why check the oil if I have no leak?

Well, this is not as obvious.

If I pop the hood open as often as that, I get to know the engine. What it is supposed to smell like. What it looks like. What the sounds are. If I am paying attention? I may spot a problem well before I become an evening news item, a burning carcass of a minivan on a rural Iowa highway. Not that I know of anyone that has happened to. Cough cough.

Seriously though, I have been able to spot issues before they become major expensive or dangerous problems. Bonus, good habits and routine keep my car cleaner than most moms I know. Every tank fill up, instead of standing there looking bored while the gas flows down the hose, I clean out the empty water bottles and discarded apple cores. Gah, I hate apple cores. I love that my kids eat them though. Better than twinkie wrappers, yeah?

My point is, now, when my breaking heart sometimes wants to give in to the chaos, little details like this make the day stay on course. Making my bed in the morning, keeping the spaces around me a little bit extra tidy and sparkly, helps calm the inner mess. The nagging that I failed at my own life, that broken home is now my reality (more on that next post), these things creep up on me and to meet them on the battle field, I come armed with Dawn dish soap and a Norwex cloth (not to be used together, no worries.....).

Back to the blog post at hand.....

To check the oil, find the oil stick. On my cruiser it is labelled with words. Sometime they are not. If it isn't super obvious, check your owner's manual.

Alright, now, pull it out, wipe it down clean with a paper towel, insert it back in and pull out again. Now you can get a reading.

Mine was half full.  It gets that way after 7 fill ups or so. The mechanic says not to worry, but to add oil when it gets below the 1/2 mark. Be careful to never put too much in though. The hash marks on the stick are where the line needs to be, somewhere in that range is good. Less is bad, more is bad.

So I needed to add just a little.

My oil cap is labelled with words on the cruiser. One past vehicle I owned it wasn't. That vehicle may have once had windshield washer fluid accidentally put where oil goes. Or vice versa. I don't remember. That wasn't the highway fire though (that wasn't me, y'all).

Anyway, be careful unscrewing the cap. It can be hot or dirty or both. Don't lose it either. Seriously. It is an important piece of your vehicle.

Add a little at a time and repeat the process for checking the level. One time on my old Volvo I added too much and the gasket cap broke. That's the kind of thing that too much oil can cause. That, luckily, was a 5$ fix. Not all things that can go wrong are that easy or cheap.

Screw it on carefully too, when you are done.

I then take a good look at everything else, wiper fluid on my car is obvious without touching it, but power steering and transmission fluids can be checked too (though I don't as often as oil).

The last step is a walk around, visual check of the tires and a peak underneath. If you can see anything leaking, make note of it.

Cars are expensive investments. They need to be taken care of. I have found that this habit is easy to put in place, get my kids involved it, and it makes driving nicer too. Clean cars just make for better travel, in my opinion. 

Before I was even allowed to learn to drive I had to know how to: change tires, change oil, and identify basic parts of the engine. Oh, and clock in 2,000 miles once I was learning to drive, before I could get a license. I had to parallel park. I had to spin circles in an icy parking lot to learn how to recover from a spin out on slick roads. I had to learn to read maps and navigate. I had to know how to pop a clutch (function of driving a 71 Beetle with a bad starter.....) and how to jump start a dead battery (love those old VW's)....

These are things anyone taking a heavy metal killing machine out on public roads at high speeds should know how to do.

If you don't? Fix that. It is important.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Feeling the Wind

Today I stepped outside, in the sunshine, with a big basket of wet clothes for the line.

These daily chores are a mediation of loss. This is not my view. This is not my clothes line. Not my ducks.

Not my farm. Not my house. Not my life.

Yet here I am, like a ghost, still inhabiting this landscape.

Last month I posted about our divorce. That post got 2000 hits in 4 hours. More than anything else I have ever written.

Yes, my life is pretty open and public, but? I have written about way more important things, y'all. Disability advocating, motherhood, peach pie? This felt simultaneously like being hugged by our community and also feasted on by vultures. Not the best feeling.

And then the hateful messages started rolling in. Not to Chad, just to me.

Accusations that I am choosing art over my family. Choosing poetry and photography and travel over my marriage.

I never said that. Not ever.

I never once said why we are divorcing, nor will I. It is a private matter and will stay one. It is not up for public critique. It is not a decision we made lightly or in the heat of an argument. It is hard and scary and one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I am not abandoning my family, in fact, I will spend more time with the kids than before and quality time. Chad and I will still be friends and I will actively be involved in the farm for a while at least. We are still a family, just not to be married to each other.

Still, in the stillness of the farm day the loss hits me. I look around at all the budding trees. Not mine. The mulberry fruit setting. Not mine. The newly planted trees, finally, and not mine.

None of this was ever really mine anyway. Legal issues and family arrangements kept me from being a legal owner in any of it. I was expected to labour for the farm under a promise that someday it would, that we could buy it. Now? Now I leave with nothing but my spice recipes and a lot of experience, perhaps the bonus of a determination not to be undersold and invisible when I start my own farm venture.

And I will. For now, I am a landless farmer, but I carry the knowledge and the blood on my hands from Spring lambing, the milk stains from staying up all night feeding a kitchen pig, the terror of crisis management after a predator attack and sewing up open wounds, warding off fly strike, the mindset required to tend bees, and the breath of the earth deep in my lungs.

These things are not negotiable. They are mine.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Like a Willow

Yesterday Holly came to me while I was brushing my hair. She said, "Mama, my chest hurts like when Oinkers died."

Oh honey. I know. I do know. Still, I asked her, "What is making your chest hurt, love?"

"You and Daddy breaking up."

Yes. I know.

This is what has silenced me for the last month. In the midst of attending the PV2 conference, AWP, attending an art retreat in NW Iowa, getting published in Literary Mama, and being accepted to a residency in Prague this summer....

Chad and I came to the mutual decision to divorce. We've been together nearly twenty years. We have three children. We've built this farm together. Yet, neither of us are happy. Our lives looked near perfect to everyone else. I'm not going to bog down these blog posts with whys and reasons. There are so many little ones, a few big ones, and none of them make any difference in the outcome. I'm not interested in people taking "sides" because we share a community and we both really need that community right now, for support and friendship and not pity or resentment.

Yes, we are both heartbroken. Yes, we are both grieving for a future that is no longer possible.

It is time for me to stop referring to the "we" and being an "I" is scary as hell.

For now we are still living in the same house while we figure out the legal aspects, plan for the care of our children, and generally untangle twenty years of co-dependance. We have a shared history, our entire adult lives. I have never been a grown woman not married to Chad.

This is where we are. If you see me and I look distant? This is why.  I know my friends and family are worried as hell about me. Just know? Know I am resilient. Know that while I leave the farm behind (because it belongs to Chad's parents) it simply means that for a time I will be a landless farmer and I will find a way back to that life. It will just look different than it does now.

Making this public? This is part of the process too.

This is the right thing to do. It is moving faster than I'd like. Still. It is moving.

I do feel like I am being grafted, removed from the root stock of hardy timber. I feel like I am dormant while I find where to graft to, or maybe grow new roots. I am like a willow, I bend and grow. Versatile and resilient. Weeping too.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Love and Punk

Of course, when I get time to sit down and work on PV2 notes....they are outside in the cruiser. What to do?

Chad played a show. A punk show. At a gay bar. For pride week. It was pretty darn good too.  These are raw photos. I am working on a flickr album of the whole set. I have quite a few really good pictures. But for now? Here are these.

This week was a hard week for our local GLTB community. One of the local bars received a threat letter with hazardous materials in it. FBI called in and all. Lost a day of business to a grammatically horrible hate letter. This reminds us how far is left to go, to love, and accept.

So Chad and the Dalektables rocked downtown with old school punk covers. Our friends came out to see the set and support all the folks at the variety show. It was a house full of love. That's something, right?

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Do The Task In Front of You

This is my mantra, Do the task in front of you, do it well, do it all the way.
I have a Spring full of busy, so much that chaos is building up around me. 5 online classes, a conference presentation on Monday, a week long training session in May. Lambing. Planting. Children ready for outside play, cleaning the mud from them when they come back inside after a good day in the dirt and sunshine.

This is my life. There are ebbs and flows, there are moments when the intersection of poetry and art cross with the tall grass and muddy boots. I was telling a friend last night how last Spring, I climbed into the farm truck after a truly brutal day of lambing, the worst one yet, and a poem appeared. I wrote it on the back of a co-op grain order receipt with a pen that died half way through the scribbles and a broken crayon for the rest. I was determined not to lose those words.

But sometimes the words are lost to me anyways.

Right now, writing is last on the list of priorities even though it is the salve that gets me through these times. I am not sure how to shift things around so it fits back in without toppling everything.

Lambs in my kitchen still. The seasons switching back an forth, not making up her mind, clothes from two needs are piling up. I must find time to attend to it or I'll end up buried in sweaters, muddy play clothes, and jeans. Goodness, and dress up many princess and pirate dresses.

This much on the to do list means I have to organise the chaos inside my own head too. This means inevitably that I pull away from friends and family emotionally, because I have no time for the effort that goes into nurturing those relationships. I get snappy and curt. I hate myself when I hear the words spilling out and the fallen faces of the victims. My children, my dearest friends. Destruction and devastation. Then I have to clean up the mess. More time. Time I don't have.

This year, I am trying to divide my time and corral my words so that I can nurture and grow my life instead. I am making time. Making time for friends, for my kids, for art. My art. These things come first, get my attention fully. Then second comes the job that feeds us. If laundry piles up? Well, too bad. (Though it is making me twitch just thinking about it.....) The term will be over soon enough and summer load is much lighter.

I can do this. I can write, sing, dance. I will cook in the kitchen with Bessie Smith on the radio, dancing as I stir Rooster Gumbo, taking up hands of children who join me and spin them around in a waltz. I will feed my family and friends with joy and my attention. I will learn to play Ukulele and sing with all my off tune heart. And summer will come, warm the air, and I'll make sweet tea and laugh at silly jokes, draw chalk dragons and pirates and poems on my sidewalk with the children. I will swim with them, like a mermaid, the algae will catch in my hair too. This. This is the dream.

And yes, I will, soon finish my PV2 review and tell you all about California adventures. I will. Soon.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A break to show some beautiful things....

 I am still working through notes and it is keeping me from actually writing. Bah.

Here are some beautiful things I can write about.

After the conference I took a train from San Diego to Los Angeles.

About an hour of the train ride was this view. The ocean. I stared in wonder and terror until....I fell asleep. Or passed out. Let's just say it was sleep, ok?  Ha.

I am still unsure how to work through this terror of mine. I guess I am lucky I live land locked in Iowa. Maybe. We'll get to that.

So beautiful view. Train ride. I highly recommend it. There was a cafe on the train. It was comfortable. Everyone was really nice.

Then? Hello LA. Nice to meet you.

I was so excited to see my friend Bridie. She's a pastor now and a community organiser for human rights. In many ways, nothing has changed and everything has. It is amazing how much we are the same and grown at the same time.

I have so many Bridie stories and they all end with her rescuing my stupid teenage angsty self from real trouble. She extended me so much grace, much more than I deserved for sure. She stood for me at my wedding too. Lifted me with her friendship from the dark ages of self destruction and saw me into this life, which sometimes feels like a parallel universe. And now she does the same for others as her life work. Seriously. Amazing. Lady.

And this is who showed me her LA. Her California. This is how I like to travel to cities. Have people dear to me show me what they love about where they live, you know?

I even ate raw oyster. And then later? Squid. I ate squid. And soft shell crab. And Korean candy. Because travel is the chance to experience a place through someone else's life and I did not want to miss even a taste of it. Plus, seafood is so much better closer to the source.

Soon, I will post photos from all the adventures and places we went. Just a Monday through Thursday morning, then back home to Iowa. I'd post them now but I can't find the sd card. Ah. Photographer problems.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Day 1: PV2: Keynote and settling in.....

Keynote: John Liu
My tweets:

It took me a while to settle in. Not sure I really did at all, anxiety was pretty high the whole time, sensory issues amplified. Not sure why, but it was progressively worse the entire time.

The keynote and opening were pretty awesome though. Diego welcomed us with a rally cry of DO EPIC SHIT!

Oh, we are. And so is everyone in the room. That's why this was so cool. Everyone, gathered from around the world, is working on changing some small or big thing for the greater good. And this agricultural system sees the big picture and intersectionality of social justice, poverty, climate, and food growing issues. What do you care about? This is the question asked over and over again.

Figuring out what I bring to the table is another question all together. I'm an artist not a business person or an agri-scientist. I'm a story teller and moment catcher. What can I bring to the world that furthers the ecological healing?

This is the question I pondered through the whole conference. Caught up in my own thoughts, it was difficult to engage, so I turned to the coping mechanism of hand written notes. Which turned to poetry rather quickly.

My tweet about the folks in the room being able to, through design and influence, solve the problem of the West Coast drought? Spot on. Some of these folks are turning desserts to food forests, refilling aquifers with only 1 inch of rain every 4 years. Science applied to design and working within cultural and social frameworks. It's complicated, sure, but possible.

*Special note for future conference attendees? The hotel menu has a kids menu that is 1/2 the price and there is no age restriction. Pretty much the same size as an adult serving too. Ha. Once I figured out that lifehack, food budget became a lot more reasonable.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Almost Home.....

Actually, I am home physically. I am jetlagged from two coasts, a stranding in Texas for 3 days, and daylight savings.

I have so much work to catch up on. "Do the work in front of you," rings in my ears as I take it one task at a time. My children are all clinging to me, making each task more difficult. I understand, I missed them fiercely too.

But I had an adventure to distract me from the heartache of missing someone, so I get that they are feeling it harder.

I am tired. Tired in my bones, my flesh, my heart, and my head. It may take several cups of tea, wistful gazes out a window, and several dozen loads of laundry before I return to the normal rhythm of things here at the farm.

Forgive me while I gather my thoughts.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Permaculture Voices 2: San Diego

A couple of highlights, for now. This week was amazing. I live tweeted as much as I could. It was kind of hilarious when a speaker gave me side eye for using my iPhone while she was speaking....I was live tweeting all her key points! Ha.

I'll write more about the conference when I stop running, tomorrow early I catch a train that runs the coast to Los Angeles.

For now? Pictures of the bay that the hotel was right on.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015 San Diego

We arrive around lunch time, after a 5am flight. I barely escaped the drama of having a standby ticket from the Chicago to CA leg of the trip. No wonder it was so cheap!

We arrived, checked in, and headed straight for food and conference name tags. Soon we were swept away in the introductions, the welcome speech, a World Cafe exercise, and ...... I crashed. The keynote hadn't even happened yet. Chad nodded to me and I slipped out the doors and took off back to the main hotel. Too much. Too much.

Regrouping now. No wifi and my data plan which has another 20 days on it sent me a usage exceeds warning. We will get this figured out, but first I need tea and to wash my hair.

Hopefully I can rejoin the festivities later tonight.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Every Breaking Wave

I don't fall in love easily. I just don't. I didn't return the verbal sentiment to Chad when he first blurted it out and even then I had to start by saying it in French. Words are important to me and they make things real.

When I say that I feel like I am falling in love again, with poetry? I am not surprised that it took me a year, and a bit, to get to this point. I recognise and am cautious of lust and passion, because those things feel out of control to me. Fleeting. My feet need to be on the ground, a steady footing. Not necessarily a well worn path, I have no problem with climbing through brambles and thorns and exploring the darker parts of the wild, but do not unground me or put me out to sea.

That is why the ocean scares me so much. The rushing, powerful waves, the music, the rage and power that ebbs and recedes. This is pure and utter terror to me. Fist clenching, dizzy, panic inducing terror.

This is what falling in love with poetry feels like. Again. Feels like standing on that sandy beach with high tide rolling in, storms on the horizon.

I hope now that I have a few more decades on me that I can handle it this time around and not turn and run from it. I think I may have a handle on how to write the monsters this time around, bring them to life in ways that can't hurt me. If I am wrong? I'm much better with a sword now than at seventeen. The rules have changed.

Home. Finally.

After three days in Texas, I finally got a flight home. Still arguing with American Airlines about compensation. They offered me $75 for the inconvenience of sitting on a parked plane for 6 hours and then getting off again with no word for two days on when I could get home. Yeah. $75 isn't going to cut it. Not even a little bit. We will see.

When I got to the Iowa airport, I swooned. Not in the good way, in the oh dear God I am blacking out way. I managed to sit on the floor before I fell, and brought myself out of it. Yay honey cough drops that Candice put in my pocket before I left. I greyed out one more time while talking to the baggage lady, but the honey was already working and it didn't last too long. Got the baggage and twenty minutes later managed to haul all that mess out to the parking lot and find my car.

I drove home slowly, mindful of more dizziness signs. I didn't get this far just to end the story bloody in a ditch.

Once home, I hugged children, passed out gifts, and then actually passed out. I slept for a few hours, then sipped some tea. My heart was racing and my bones rattling- so I knew I had an electrolyte depletion. gatorade was brought out and soon I was sleeping again. That was about all I could manage.

Today, the kids were super clingy. Isaac learned new words, how to use the computer mouse to play PC games that are not touch screen, worked on potty learning, and seems to have grown up a lot. I missed those slow moments that growth unfolds because I was gone. Trust me, this hurt.

Holly and Lily were eager to just be in the room with me. Everyone was loud and high energy and eventually all the moving and noise was too much. I left the house for a few hours, got some coffee and took care of paperwork.

When I returned I made fancy ramen for dinner, folded laundry, and packed.  I'll probably repack tomorrow, just to make sure I have everything I want to take, equipment wise. Tomorrow Jessica comes to help clean, and I have so much work to do before class.

What I am getting at? I will, I promise, get more posts up from the island and from exploring Atlanta with Jen. Right now? I am barely above water.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Journey Is Perilous

I was supposed to arrive in Iowa at 4:30 this afternoon. A freak snow and ice storm hit TX just as I was flying in. The plane was delayed. Made friends with fellow travellers so I could borrow a phone charger. Chatted with a Ft. Dodge women who missed her baby and was carrying breast milk. What a warrior mom! Every obstacle known to mothers regarding breastfeeding from tongue tie to abscess that needed surgery and here she was at her one year mark, stuck in an airport. She was close to tears.

Kids were running around. Parents were screaming. Someone made a snide comment about a mother publicly breastfeeding. I missed it, else that awesome mom would have been treated to being thanked by me on behalf of everyone else, because good job!

My text exchanges went like this:

 "We are boarding soon. Maybe. I don;t want to jinx it by putting away my laptop."

" Stranded airport passengers can be entertaining and fun. My voice came back and I encouraged introductions, got folks helping each other charge their phones and sharing pics of their families. One lady started crying because she needed to pump for her baby at home, we've been here since noon! 

2 hour wait now for the deicer. At least we are on the plane. 

Everything is an adventure, a moment to cherish. Even if it's crowded and people are cranky. "
Talk about boarding new plane. Then broken. New plane. Crew recalled. New crew. Wait for de-icer. Board plane. Wait for de-icer. Crew recalled......wait 2 more hours on the plane until they can taxi back to a gate. We were on a runway. No food, no drink. Two screaming babies and a special needs kid, a plane full of business women were were PISSED,  all wrapped up in a small metal tube.

Finally, after 8 hours of this nightmare, they let us off, told us all hotels were booked and good luck. The contingent of angry Iowa women freaked out and became hysterical, calling other airlines, figuring out if driving would make sense, and more freaking out.
"Seriously though. I keep telling myself, it's ok. It;s not a plane crash. It's a delay. A delay is not tragic, it's annoying. "
I found a ticket counter that had a short line, it was pilots who didn't have answers, not really. But they told me that flying home wasn't likely until Sunday. And that I should just go home.

My texts turned to oscillating between swearing and calming myself down. But mostly swearing.

Iowa group followed me and were still frantically making calls because they had to be home! They had to pack for something or other and where was the luggage?

My head began to hurt. At some point I had scrolled fb for Dallas area friends. Bam. Cousin Candice. A good cousin to boot! Sweet. I fb asked her if I were to get stranded, perhaps she could put me up so I don't have to sleep at the airport? (Ticket agent said that all flights for Saturday cancelled too, fun).

She said yes! Goodness I am so glad for this warm bed right now. But all my clothes were in the checked bags.  I had airport yucky clothes on and kinda stink, but my cousin, who I hadn't seen since my aunt Chris's death five years ago, and before that it had been ten, she welcomed me into her home and her husband braved the icy roads to come get me. We had lived next door to each other as children for a year and done a couple family vacations as kids, but Cajun cousins are close always. For that I am so grateful.

Though the exchange with both our husbands was...cousin? Um, which cousin? Because...... yeah, we have some pretty interesting cousins. I guess she told him I was totally cool and Amish.

Yup. She told him I was Amish. So when I said on the phone, "You can't miss me, red coat and purple hair......" confusion ensued. I shook his hand and right away blurted out. You don't have to worry, I'm not one of those cousins. Though I am not sure he believed me at first, or now, but we'll see.

I'm going to try to coax sleep into hanging out with me tonight. This insomnia is no longer normal, but getting in the way of things like, you know, functioning. Candice made me tea and gave me chocolate, a shower basket, and is being so sweet. Now, if only sleep would get here. Maybe the ice is a problem for her too.

Also, I seem to have picked up a southern accent. It happens.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Parallel Universes: Leaving Ossabaw

I'll certainly write more when I get home, sort pictures, and come to my senses. Still, I need to get this down so I remember exactly what this feels like.

I have spent the past year researching and studying mythologies and folklore. Many of those stories have an element of faerie magic. I am holding those tales at the back of my mind as I process this.

The last hours on the island, I spent cleaning and polishing and helping people gather their thoughts and belongings to depart on the boat that returns to the mainland. Ossabaw is a coastal barrier island, one of the few that is nearly pristine wilderness and not housing or commercial tourism development. There are no grocery stores, no malls, no gas stations. It is perfect and as silent as a wild forest can be. Every morning I would wake and quietly slip out of the bunk room around 5am. I'd start the coffee pot in the kitchen and then slide on boots and coat, walk in the darkness the long narrow path to the dock.

I was never frightened of the open water at this place, at the dock. The marsh was in reaching distance and the view was more river than ocean and it felt like home, something manageable and beautiful. Every morning brought something new: the first was total darkness, walking alone I met a small group of Ossabaw pigs on the path. I couldn't see them, but hearing them close in the dark? It was frightening. I raise these pigs, I know not to meet them alone in the dark, even the gentle ones. The next few mornings,  fellow writers joined me in my early morning meditation. Watching the sun rise, quietly and subtly over the water, no blazing dramatic production, just a slip of blue, silky white, and the darkness falling away. The next to last morning it was pouring rain and I went anyway. Standing the the cold rain, I saw piglets playing the marsh and I felt so much wash away, I had been burning with ideas all day, writing furiously and spilling it all on  to paper, too fast and I was beginning to burn at both ends. The cool rain brought me back to grounding.

This world feels like a fold in time. I almost went to the college here, choosing the easy path instead (keep my museum job, have babies, and attend the local state university). Moving is hard. But these streets, these rivers, these people? They may have been my neighbors, my friends.....this place would have been my home. Or not. I mean, I could have been as easily killed by a rolling out of parking gear on a hill car, or gobbled by alligators, or married and have babies and moved away. I can't dwell on the what could have beens. Except for the feeling of having lived here already forever, knowing the landscape as if it were my birthplace. It is a strange feeling.

I thought that was that. The week was over and I scrubbed counters, stripped beds, put the clutter of books and pens away. I began to feel panic, I thought of the boat ride and dismissed my panic as the unreasonable phobia that I've been fighting for years. When it came time for me to get on the boat and go, I couldn't let go. I asked to walk the path instead of be driven. That long path I walked every morning, hoping the familiarity would ease the transition.

I began to cry. Or weep. Or completely fall apart. This place has hold over me that I can't explain. I feel at home here and enchanted by the music of the wilderness. Alligators and blue herons, marshes and bones. It feels like all the landscapes I have loved all rolled up into one.

No light mention that my love of poetry re-ignited here, just one year ago. A slow awakening, but I am working daily to bring it back to life. It feels like falling in love again, just as I remembered and maybe why I put it away nearly twenty years ago. Falling in love, the intimacy of words, especially poetry, is dangerous, always. I am careful and cautious, to a fault. But this? This is me falling apart and rising up from the destruction. Taking apart why I couldn't write, and re-mapping ways to travel around that.

The boat ride was as scary as I predicted, but it didn't rain so my fear that a monsoon would sweep me over into choppy waves was not realized ....this time. Friends held my hand, and eventually I stopped cowering on the floor of the boat and held my face in the wind.


Back on mainland, Jj, Holly (friend not child), and I walked the streets of Savannah in the delicate, cold rain. I started shivering, the deep down shivering that has only ever followed childbirth, by traumatic surgery. I knew it would cede if I slowed my breathing and calmed down and it did, but left me feeling dizzy. I bought what we now call a "Calm the Fuck Down" essential oil patch (Bergamot from Nourish) to help with the transition. This is when I remembered the tales of people stolen by faeries and then returned after living in the other world, the world of magic.

Ossabaw is a place that people see the poet and artist. Not the me that is a terrible housekeeper, a frazzled mother, an novice farmer, or a failure in all the ways that I struggle to keep all my busy in the air. No one cried because the bananas were broken, or fought over ponies, or made demands on my time ungratefully. There were chores to do, but always someone there to help. It was different than at home. I feel terrible admitting that, and I will go home and be more fully present.

I share with these writers this fragile and vulnerable side, my words, my histories, my heart. And they embrace it, know the struggle, and I feel so much less alone than I do on the range lands and rolling hills of my home. This magic is powerful, and the time precious. Just enough, even if I felt torn leaving it.

It was stepping on the shore of the return dock, the boat captain said, "This is the most dangerous part, when you get out of the boat, Watch your step."

Yes. This return is the hard, sad, necessary part. This is when the magic broke and reality settled back around my shoulders. This is when I started shaking. I can't pretend it was just the trauma of the boat trip. No, I really can't. I feel like the faeries have returned me and the enchantment has left me changed, in this dreamworld, like a cloak or a charm, an affliction that is hard to wake from.

Probably sleep deprivation and homesickness, but I had to write this all down before the feeling leaves.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Love Story, Coastal Barrier Island Style

 “Do not fall in love with people like me.
I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments, and kiss you in every beautiful place, so that you can never go back to them without tasting me like blood in your mouth.
I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible. And when I leave you will finally understand, why storms are named after people.”
― Caitlyn Siehl, Literary Sexts: A Collection of Short & Sexy Love Poems
This line of verse has really been stuck in the roof in my mouth. I taste it as I mouth the words. I am feeling it in my chest today, less in my head and more in my flesh.

This beautiful place is destroying me again. Destruction is what we need to begin creating, yeah? I feel this, the magic of this place, the really sharp sound of the silence and the water lapping and the darkness in which the whole house sleeps- this reminds me of home.

And yet, every time I stand under these live oaks I get that welling up that is just like falling in love for the first time. That sweetness and feeling that the world is slipping out from under me. Getting lost in the woods, or caught in the rain, or tripping over words and blushing deep down all over every inch of skin.

That's what being here feels like.

Layer on top of that the workshops and writing and being surrounded by people who listen and hear me, who know and love words with the same passion? Oh this is something I come home to. That's why it makes me sad to leave, but I know that this is special and I will return. I'll carry it with me through the year, in my pocket like a talisman.

And I will write.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Ossabaw Writers' Retreat 2015

I've been super busy this retreat, one because there are more writers here and two because I am actually working here too. Not just my college classes, but also the kitchen. I love it. It makes it feel even more like home, like I belong here, like I am part of the magic of the place. Last night I even hauled slop to the marsh edge to feed the pigs.

I'll write more when I have time, here are some pictures to tide y'all over.