It’s a different view from on top of the world

My sister is a poet of the ancient kind. I’ve never read this particular one until now, but it’s a gem.

The wandering soul will find it a harmonious muse. Enjoy.

Nothing Was Said

written July 2013


p style=”padding-left:60px;”>I’ve got no land and I’ve got no name
I’ve got no money, no debts to claim
I’ve got no family, no reason to stay
I’ve got no plans, no mission today
But I’ve got time, and plenty of it
Maybe it’s not a thing to covet
But I’ve got time and I see the road
I’ve got days, I’ll lighten my load
Uphill downhill and then ‘cross a lake
I’ve tied my shoes, got footprints to make
I’ve got no house and I’ve got no home
But I’ve got streets and places to roam
I’ve got no pillow, for my head
But I’ve got the mountains, for my bed
I’ve got no shower and I’ve got no car
But I’ve got two legs that’ll wander far
I’ve got my backpack, name’s on the strap
It’ll hold my water and maybe a map

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“If to borrow is to take and not return
I have borrowed all my lonesome life.”

My hand tapped to the rhythm of Fleet Fox’s Bedouin Dress and I stared forward. Sitting in my open doorway as the sun sank away to the west and the breeze picked up and gathered force, I allowed the old, beloved images and sensations to sweep before my eyes.

His eyes danced with the same merriment as the leaves that swirled around us, and his laugh rang out in musical defiance of our dying and distracted world. As if in slow motion, I recall the sun setting in the same ancient west, but the dusk that grew upon us then was a welcome mystery carrying unforeseen adventure. Color swept around our feet in the form of fallen leaves and the sound of traffic, which in reality was yards away, echoed in the distance as we allowed ourselves to be far away from this grey city. Our souls hummed with the tune of the Piper as he led the children into the sunset; the dream, the powerful joy of youth and love fastened wings to our hearts that no autumn gale could loosen.

The music ended abruptly as the record crackled into silence. I blinked and the color diminished as the memory receded. My tapping hand for a moment lost tempo as it patted Liam’s small back. His cries brought me sharply to the present and I shook my head clean.

That was the beginning, those memories. Just one year ago. Now we have Liam and no time for sunset walks in the park. We love our baby and the family who are now much closer to us, but the core of me can’t help but look backward into our golden past. The time will come again. The sunset and the wind and the colors are there, waiting for us. For now, I will be content to enjoy them in memoria.

“But I don’t, I don’t know who to believe

I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see.

If I know only one thing, it’s that

everything that I see of the world

outside is so inconceivable 

often I can barely speak.

Yeah I’m tongue-tied and dizzy

and I can’t keep it to myself.

What good is it to sing helplessness blues?”

10% Vegetable: Grace and Pain

motherhoodSometimes, I find an unexpected grace in pain.

In fact, this discovery is becoming more common in my life, as I speed my way through my ninth month of pregnancy. Today I was reminded again of how suffering can be a potentially graceful phenomenon.

I teach the fifth grade, which is composed of nine disrespectful and demanding hooligans. Eight of these monsters are boys. Or at least that’s what their parents think. Based on scientific proof and loads of experience to the contrary, I can with confidence assure you that their collective DNA is 88% monster, 10% any given vegetable, and only 2% boy. While the only girl in the class is sassy and stubborn, she’s not so bad.

My monster vegetables (or vegetable monsters, if you prefer) seem to have caught onto the fact that there are only four weeks left of school. This appears to have triggered the full, unhindered force of their monster-like capabilities, leading to the need for me to establish (and re-establish) my alpha, dragon-training dominance of the classroom on a daily basis.

In any event, I’ve come to dread walking into my classroom everyday, knowing that the monsters lie salivating in wait for their daily 7 hour dose of terrorizing. Kids who for many months were tolerable, perhaps even somewhat enjoyable, have grown a new set of fangs. A job that I once found relatively rewarding is now painful.

As I approach the inevitable birth of my Little Darling – an event that I’m certain will throw my life into spirals of intermittent chaos and beauty – I’ve been faced with the knowledge of my new life’s coming pain. Painful labor. Sleepless nights. Sore body. Sore mind. Burdened soul. Uncertainty in all fields – how does one raise a good-hearted, self-sufficient, brilliant, socially-savvy, even-tempered child in a world of constant ethical, social, and physical barrages? How does one nurse a baby? And how does one swaddle?! And what if the internet doesn’t have immediate, concise answers to all of my questions the moment I need them? Okay, so the last few questions don’t plague me so much as the first, but I think they serve to show how very little I know and how poorly prepared I am for this huge next step. Or leap.

The chant, “I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I’ll never be ready!” has grown to a towering crescendo in the last couple months. Today, I left another painful and disheartening day at work. Today I came home, expecting to turn and embrace the loud, cacophonous mantra that has lurked in my mind, casting a doubtful shadow over my impending motherhood. But today, in my first moments of quietude upon reentering home, I turned to face the chaos and found, instead, silence. Not an empty silence. A full silence. A blessed stillness. A small but growing certainty. When put in contrast with all the desolation of teaching, the previous plague of maternal uncertainty has broken into small and manageable pieces. The unbearable “I’m not ready!” is vanquished. I am grateful for the desolation which brought me to this turning point. I am grateful for the insane volume of my rug rat 5th graders which has forced my mind into docile silence here at home.

This is not to say that I’m ready, entirely. I’m far from it. But I accept the challenge, I accept the mystery of welcoming my Little Darling into the world. With God’s providence and the help of my always-wonderful husband, I believe I will be able to do my best for this little fellow. The fear that has shaken me for months is gone. Out of pain is born promise, the promise of eventual certainty, the promise of a warmth and joy worth fighting for, and a brimming silence in my soul which only ever overflows as song. No more mantra, no more doubt. I can do this. And that is grace in pain.

Heroic Hearts

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
                                    “Ulysses” Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Memories. What powerful and sonorous things. In the briefest moment, you can find yourself suddenly swept up and lost in one with little warning, as I often do. Here is one that swims to mind.


In 1999, we all lived in the mountains of northern New York. Someday I’ll tell you who the “we all” consists of. It was a cold winter that year, and since we were generally out-doorsie kids, we were rather disgruntled to find ourselves often trapped indoors. One such evening came soon after I turned seven, in late November. I had gotten in trouble that day for accidentally setting a children’s book on fire – a totally average mishap for a wild child like me – and I’d been scolded most impressively by my father who witnessed the whole thing in what he claimed was slow motion. In my excitement at being told we were about to watch a favorite movie, I tossed the book giddily into the air. Even I think time slowed as I watched it flop dramatically onto the back range of our kitchen stove. My mother had just removed a whistling kettle, so this range alone happened to be red with the highest heat. Heat. Fuel. Oxygen. Fire.  In any case, later that night, I traipsed carefully up to my mother and looked up at her. My head came to just above her hips. Hoping she had forgotten my earlier transgression, I wrapped my arms around her hips and squeezed. A moment later I came away and said in my childish innocence, “Mother, I think you’re getting pregnant!”


To which she replied, with a laugh, “No, silly, I’m not getting pregnant, I AM pregnant.”


This was her first announcement of it to us younguns. After a few moments of whooping and hollering and leaping for joy, I paused to say over my siblings’ happy racket, “Hey, I bet you’re having TWINS!”


8 months later, my sisters Antigone Marie and Mary Magdalen were born. I have always considered them a birthday present. (And I’ve always touted this as some indication of my mad intuition skills, since my mother didn’t even know she was expecting twins for another couple months.)  These cuties, Tiggy and Mary, turned 14 and started high school a few months back.


                     Antigone Mary


I remember the electric anticipation that thrilled through me on the day of their birth. My mother was 2 weeks overdue, and was scheduled to be induced that day. I remember rushing around the house throwing things into our overnight bags, with my mother swollen beyond imagination with those two little wonders. Just before leaving to go to the hospital, my mother went into labor without the induction. During her labor, we were staying at a family friend’s house a few miles from the hospital in Plattsburgh. We could feel every inch of the distance as Tracy, my mother’s friend, tried to distract us with movies and ice cream. Unfortunately, we all caught some light version of the flu at her house and weren’t allowed to hold our new baby sisters for two whole weeks. But I remember that first time. My mother laid Mary Magdalen in my arms and told me to take care of her. I did so for many years. I raised that little girl because my mother couldn’t find the time to in her life. And it was such a joy, such a burden on my narrow little shoulders, and such a triumph. She’s the one on the right.


Time and distance have separated us in the cruelest of ways. She became a commodity in a battle between my parents, and then a casualty. Our communication is controlled by the winner of this battle, my mother, who does not consider me a friend, let alone a daughter. But I know that we are one equal temper of heroic hearts. I know that with her courage and determination, when she is free, we will strive, and seek, and find together. And we will never yield.


Little Darling

I do not know your name.

I have never beheld your face. Your voice has never touched my ears. I know nothing of who you’ll be, of what you’ll like. Will sunlight make you smile? Will the wind dance through your soul as much as through your hair? Will you be an adventurer, a barefoot runner of grassy paths? Will Bob Marley stir you up, Little Darling? Will you draw in the sand as I once did, for an audience of only you? Will thunderstorms thrill your growing heart? Will you like spicy food, and will you like pie better than cake? Will you be the mischievous one, with eyes sparkling in clever wit? Will you run to me after you’ve fallen, and let me kiss your little wounds? Will you come to me when you fall in love and tell me every thought and word? Will you remember, once you’re grown and gone, that I will always be thinking of you and watching you and praying for you, no matter what the distance?  I wonder, will you ask as many questions as your Mother always did?

I do not know you. Yet, you are flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone. You were chosen, and your name has been written in the stars from before the birth of the world.  In a way I have not yet comprehended, I am yours and you are mine. I made you. We made you.

Little Darling, you have been with me for 19 weeks. My most tangible experience of you so far has been pain. When you came to me, you fancied you’d conquer me entirely. I see you have a sense of humor, and that’s good. It’s a necessity in this house. There’s no graceful way to recount my now affectionate relationship with the toilet, where I tend to deposit any kind of food I eat, at any given time of day, with hardly any notice. My head pounds daily as it attempts to compensate for the new, higher volume of blood coursing through my body, blood that exists only to make you strong and living and pink. Making a human is exhausting, I’ve found.  Then there was the time that we almost lost you in an avalanche of red. A day later, we found out just how much of a risk we pose to each other. Placenta previa and a large subchorionic hematoma now color my mind a different shade of thought. Suddenly, the possibility of losing you made you real in a way you hadn’t yet been. That was four weeks ago, today. You made it. You’re my fighter, Little Darling.

I’ve pondered this thought for many hours since then: how can it be that my love for you is so deep and powerful when all I know of you is suffering? Can it be that suffering actually enhances my affection for you? We are taught today that pain is something to be feared and avoided, not a teacher from whom lessons may be learned or virtue gained. I think that whatever pain has transpired has only served to make you more precious to me than you immediately were when I discovered you. As though we are comrades fighting for the same cause, sharing, as our goal, the same light at the end of the tunnel. I will gladly continue suffering for you, Little Darling.

In a week, the anomaly scan will tell me more about you. Are those little organs developing properly? Am I giving you the right nutrients? Are you growing tall and strong and beautiful like your Father?  And, Little Darling, we will finally find out if you are going to be lad or lassie: will you be Vera or will you be Liam?

It is our bedtime, Little One. I have so many, many things to tell you. But for tonight, this will have to do. I can’t wait to meet you. God bless you and keep you. I love you always.

Little Darling

You and me, kid