You Have to Go Back Down Again

Day 5 Blog Post
January 5, 2017

Head’s up: This is a book-nerd post (the book-nerd is me). It’s also about healing.

***

pexels-photo-414616.jpeg

 

When I was 16, I got to be one of 4 high school juniors (along with 3 of my close friends) in an otherwise senior-filled lit class entitled “The Story and/of the Community.” I went to a very intellectually supportive but/and also privileged/ pretty inaccessible high school. One of the incredible gifts (and massive privileges) it gave me was classes like this. But this course in particular was, and still is, one of the best literature classes I have ever taken, including college and grad school. It was a discussion seminar based around texts that dealt with stories about community, but also with stories about HOW communities’ stories, mythologies, and beliefs shape and limit those communities, and how they are passed on or changed. We read Exodus, The Canterbury Tales, Toni Morrison’s Paradise, All The King’s Men, Ridley Walker, Angels in America, and others. At the end of the year, we wrote our own version of the Canterbury Tales for our high school, each printed out our particular story, and went out on a walking pilgrimage, reading the stories aloud to each other as we made our way towards the Flying Biscuit Cafe (best brunch in Atlanta).

The class caught me (and I think a lot of us) when we were about to fall through a lot of different kinds of cracks of both adolescence and adulthood, including sudden and catastrophic losses, personal physical and mental illnesses, family and social stuff, myriad other things. It was, in and of itself, a community, in the context of a larger (tiny) school that was supposed to feel like a supportive community but which, to me, often very much didn’t. Have you ever been in a class where you might laugh till you fell out of your chair crying with hilarity? This was that place.

And it was also the place where I first read Beowulf.

Two things happened when we learned about/ read Beowulf that are still so alive for me today that I can taste them . First off, that book is full of this beautiful poetic thing called “kennings” (I think I remember that word right), which is when you combine two nouns with a dash: a boat-flute, a hammer-song, a knot-gut. I don’t know how to describe the utter visceral magic and pleasure this gives me, other than making some more kennings, so let’s do it: knife-tongue, thunder-mountain, song-rain.

And second was the reading our teacher, Clark, guided us through surrounding the monsters in this book, and Beowulf’s interaction with them. SPOILER ALERT FOR BEOWULF (a centuries old book but you really might want to read it) FROM HERE ON! This story’s imagery, metaphor, archetype, is so alive for me right now that it’s keeping me going through some deep well-dives, cavern-tumbles, briar-blood reckonings I am moving my self through (or that are moving me through myself) right now.

Here’s how, according to my decade+ memory, it went down (literally): Beowulf’s community is being terrorized and slaughtered by a monster, so at some point Beowulf, a warrior, and his crew travel down into the deep caves underground, to find, contend with, and slay the monster. It gets pretty intense, they do some slayage of said monster, and head back up to feast and celebrate.

In the night, as everyone is sleeping off the giant feast, something else comes up and keeps on slaughtering. The community wakes up to devastation.

What happened? Did the slayage not work? Was the monster still alive?

Beowulf and friends have to go on the journey into the unknown danger underground a second time, and this time, they have no idea what they’re even dealing with (I think? memory is a little shakey here) – is it the monster come back to life?

What it turns out to be is the monster’s MOTHER.

What we learned, what I hold onto and remind myself of today, the powerful sinew of the story, is this: it’s not just the thing you have to contend with, it’s the thing that gave birth to the thing. The pain, the cycle that keeps swallowing you, the pattern that keeps hurting or devastating – there’s the journey to change that, to keep it from devouring. And then, there’s the journey back down, again, into the well, into the cave, into the unseeable space, to find the thing that gave birth to that pain in the first place. You have to go down there a second (third fifteenth hundredth) time, to find the origin, the mouth before the mouth.

Today, for me, this is a story about old wounds, traumas, patterns (both individual and collective). Yes, I have to go down into the cave-well and get the thing that’s hurting me, address it, get some relief from its immediacy. And then, when I really just want to rest and feast and sleep, the cavern-dark demand that I go down into the unknown again. So I go down into it again, into the darkness, to find the source of the thing. The blades that gave birth to the blade. The mother of the monster. I don’t know its shape or scope or location, but I go looking.

There is the pain of the wound, and there is its source, both, down there in the cool dark shadow-bell stone rooms and echoes.

There is the thing, and the mother, father, parent, day 15 years ago, or 15 years of days… of the thing. You go back for it. You go back and stand and face her.

And I think I have to stay down her with her until she reshapes herself along the blade at my hip or the brightness of my eyes, until she shifts from something that swallows to something that feeds, feast. You will not devour this place. Compost, the change underground, the shapeshift, monster to medicine. Or until she subsides at least enough enough, until I learn the dance of her pattern just enough, to live alongside her rattling the boards in the basement, and still, fully, live.

***

Cross posted at gatecitcygardener.wordpress.com and patreon.com/racheleconomy.

The Morning Routine - INTERRUPTED

January 4, 2018

Day 4 (I am not posting what I wrote for day 3 for a variety of reasons, mostly that the things that emerged need more time to season before I decide if they’re public or not – we don’t have to be resolution/intention purists! Skip your day 3 if you need to! I got you).

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

pexels-photo-641038.jpeg

 

Lately I have been interrupting myself a lot in the middle of my morning routine.

Like, interrupting myself out loud.

In the second person.

As in, saying, out loud, alone in my studio apartment, “What do I want for breakfast?” and then answering, “Well, you had eggs last night so that’s probably not what your’e in the mood for, and…” AND THE DIALOGUE CONTINUES.

Which is all fine and good, living alone is one of my great pleasures much of the time, I like befriending myself, talking to myself in the second person, being my own partner and bestie, it’s great a lot of the time. And I’m right, I did have eggs last night, and I’m not in the mood for that!

Even more, speaking to myself in the “you” (a habit often treated as culturally strange or dangerous enough that I get nervous when I think my neighbors can hear me) turns out to actually be extremely healing.

Why? Because unlike a lot of people I’ve talked to about inner stories and conversations, the self-critical narratives and voices in my mind don’t speak in the “you.”  They speak in the I. As in, “I have completely ruined this friendship” (a thought I had today that was wildly inaccurate), or “I should have done way better at that text I sent I need to be more conscious of how I might impact other people” (news flash: this is also inaccurate). Some people’s self-critics speak in the “you.” Mine doesn’t, which makes it slippery and wily and extremely hard to catch red-handed.

But in a strange flip, speaking to myself in the “you” means that I mostly only associate the second person voice with kind or funny things I’ve said to myself. It’s easier to be compassionate sometimes from this position, because there’s a little more breathing room between all the concentric circles of self. Like when you do a lovingkindenss meditation, and picture a younger version of yourself: a slightly different person, a slightly different reference point, with a little breathing room from but still a lot of overlap with your center.

So that’s all great and healing and everything, but meanwhile it’s 7:23 and it’s time to get up, and a different thing is happening, which is that I’m lying sideways on my bed having a second-person “you” conversation with someone entirely separate from me, like maybe a friend or family member or estranged co-worker, and the conversation is going full force deep into heavy territory. And I’ve been having this conversation for, oh, about 23 minutes, since my alarm went off at 7. Sometimes, it’s a funny or sweet or exciting imagined interaction, but most of the time, it’s dramatic, intense, charged, sad, fearful, painful- all that fun stuff. It’s almost always with a “real” person (imagined version but they actually exist somewhere), I do both sides of the conversation (Why yes I did act in high school thank you for asking! Flowers? For me? Oh you’re too kind), and we dig in to something heavy. And I completely lose track of time.

I started doing this when I was in middle school, completely unintentionally, and for a long time, I hid it because I thought something was really wrong with me. Like, something dangerous was happening to my brain. It turns out, it’s not totally unheard of for people with wildly energetic imaginations, intense sensitivity, but also a high desire for intense experiences/ sensations, to do stuff like this.

It’s not unheard of, but I still feel a little exasperated and weirded out every time I realize I’ve been standing ready to crack an egg for half an hour, and haven’t cracked it yet, because I was busy telling a friend (who isn’t there) about my experiences as a depressed 15-year-old. Sometimes, inner critic jumps in – “I am so ridiculous what is wrong with me” – and sometimes self-friend jumps in – “Oh you did that again you sweetie! Let’s make breakfast now” – but I can lose large swathes of the morning this way. It’s particularly likely to happen on days when I’m in an emotional or physical funk that would, ironically, be particularly helped by going through my carefully crafted, extensive morning routine right away and as attentively as possible (Morning routine (NO SCREENS): kettle boils while I get dressed, bed made while tea steeps, make breakfast, play guitar in the kitchen while eating breakfast and drinking tea, write 3 morning pages at desk, light candles/ small ritual time, water garden, plan day and get ready to work out, work out). It can become hard not to get frustrated with myself in that context.

To be clear, I never, ever actually think there is another person there with me, except in the way that you do when you’re watching a play, or a movie- suspension of disbelief, but not actual replacement belief. The part that is disorienting is how deep I can go into it- it’s like writing or dancing or making art, in that I completely lose track of time, something I hardly ever do in any other context.

What I’m starting to wonder, in my fits of self-criticism about sliding from talking to myself into talking to others, is: am I doing some sort of healing work that I don’t understand here? Sometimes, I’m trying to work through a conversation I’ve been too scared to have, while other times I’m off-gassing a conversation I’m not going to have, either because the person is dead, or not in my life anymore, or I need to have an imaginary conversation that gets me to a place where I can have a more concise or different actual conversation.

And sometimes, often, actually, it’s just me figuring myself out. I have learned recently that I often have no idea what I’m feeling, what has impacted me from the past, what I feel in the present, what I’m longing for in the future, until I have the chance to lay it all out in some way. Especially in a way that leads to (but doesn’t necessarily start with) words. Particularly, words verbalized, with sound, embodied language in my mouth and throat and hands and gut, and even more particularly, words verbalized to another person. Even if that other person is imaginary and I’m filling in all their lines.

When I think about it, I’m not sure this is so different from a lucid dream state.

The past few years, I have been reorienting my relationship to the word “surrender.” It has to do with not understanding all of something, and still being willing to be in flow with it. I am a stubborn, stubborn human, and I often fight tooth and knuckle against surrender. And I also need it. Consensually, on my own terms often, but I need it.

Maybe whatever this thing is that I do, that is biting huge chunks out of my morning routine, is something needed, is time that’s worth it (cue inner critic disagreeing and pulling receipts on how hours in the day are spent and what’s actually most efficiently healing). Maybe there’s something in it to trust.

And also, if I’m late for brunch, now you know who to blame/thank: all those friends of mine who would not stop talking to me while I was trying to get out the door in the morning!

***

Cross posted at gatecitygardener.wordpress.com and patreon.com/racheleconomy

The Overcorrect

“What are you going to write about for tonight’s blog?”

I was standing in a friend’s kitchen earlier today munching on sweet potato fries hot out of the oven when she asked me this. And my honest answer was, I don’t know. Not because I couldn’t think of anything, but because, as I explained to her, the thing most alive for me right now, the thing I really want to write about and wish I could find anything to read about, feels like something I definitely. Cannot. Write about. On the internet.

“Why?” she asked. And when I explained, she agreed. “Write about that instead,” she encouraged, “write about the why.”

So I’m going to write about the why, which still feels pretty vulnerable. But I think it’s important.

I am, amongst other things, an educator. This continues to take many forms at different times- I’veworked as a kindergarten classroom teacher, a farm educator for young adults, a middle-school garden science teacher, a writing facilitator for adults, a permaculture educator for twenty-somethings, a spoken word teacher for high-schoolers, and a collaborator with elementary school kids who were weilding power tools and fantastic drawings of the wild structures we were about to build (e.g. the moon, an upside down house, the bay bridge- you know, stuff like that). And even though I’m not teaching in a public school setting right now, it’s something I’d like to do again, and soon.

That’s where things get tricky when writing about myself on the internet.

pexels-photo-625219.jpeg

For starters, I did not grow up here in the Bay Area.  My perceptions of what teachers can and can’t be out about / open about safely at the schools where they teach, either amongst the faculty or the students, are probably regionally skewed and also dated. I did not know a single queer adult until I was a teenager (or so I thought – it turns out I did, but I didn’t know that I did, because none of the queer teachers at my elementary school were out).

But context and specifics – not just region or type of school, but the specific school itself and its culture and community and pedagogy, not to mention the given day or constellation of people and how they’re feeling at any given moment – have so much impact on this issue, that I can’t possibly know anyway ahead of time what’s going to feel like a fit.

But I do know this: in my experience, and the experiences of other queer educators I’ve talked to, queerness is often automatically assumed by those around them (parents and faculty and administrators) to be a sexualized identity (whereas straightness is not- this is much wider phenomenon that goes way beyond the classroom). This can get internalized- I do it to myself sometimes by accident.

If I’m going to write publicly about my queerness (and that’s a BIG “if” – I’m still pretty newly out, the internet is not that friendly a place, and the whole thing feels vulnerable and shaky, like a newborn calf trying to stand for the first time and then immediately trying write a blog post with tender little hooves…you know, like calves do…don’t they?…#cowblogging)

Ahem. Where was I? IF I’m going to write publicly about my experiences with my queer and bisexual identity, it feels like I have to work extra hard to overcorrect, to de-sexualize what I’m writing about, in order to protect my future professional life and possibilities. This might not be true in every circumstance, but the fact that it COULD be, that I can’t be sure, and that I have to worry about and plan around it just in case in order to protect myself and my future- that’s a problem. It’s a problem I’ve never felt like I could articulate or claim, for fear of being told that I was “overreacting.” But it’s a problem nonetheless.

It’s a problem for a lot of reasons (which I can’t fully delve into on a 20-minute blog day although let’s be real I’m clearly way past the timer at this point), some of which have to do with wide and deep issues like respectability politics, sex-negativity, homophobia, double standards, and a myriad of other intersecting threads and threats. Many people are at much higher risk than I am- I am relatively protected by many privileges, including where I live right now. But there are two issues on my mind I want to briefly mention before I sign off, because they have specifically to do with being an educator, and wanting to honor and be responsible to both myself as a queer writer, and to queer youth.

The first is: young people of all sexual orientations, but especially LGBTQIA+ and questioning kids, need to hear adults, including queer adults, talking about sex and sexuality that INCLUDES LGBTQIA+ PERSPECTIVES. Having to be extra careful to “desexualize queerness” undermines queer educators’ ability to support LGBTQIA+ and questioning youth, and those youth are, statistically, in a lot of danger, most especially when they don’t have sources of information, representation, and support.

And the second is: I’m an educator, but I am also a writer, and a human in my own right, and there are things I need to write about, that feel important to me personally and in conversation with community, that I can’t write about under the “overcorrect and desexualize” rule.

I don’t have an answer. Just these queries (queeries!) and opening thoughts on what is a much bigger issue. I’m not certain what decisions I’ll make- I need to season and ruminate a bit more. Folks with internet presences- writers, educators, artists, people with more than one livelihood that might conflict in content presentation, others – what are your strategies and needs around this? Have you found things that work for you? Let’s talk!

Welcome to the Workout

January 1, 2018

Day 1 of 2-week daily blog (20 mins or less) challenge

20170224_095147.jpg

I decided this morning, in a fit of vision, to choose a set of new year’s goals (which were split into two sub-categories: habits I want to build, and one-off goals I want to check off a list), and to also choose a set of challenges - little or big “month of daily____” type-things that I want to try during the year. An 8 week meditation self-directed course for chronic pain. The Whole 30. Things like that

And even though I haven’t finished my New Year’s goal-setting/ intention setting process (I have to generate and then hone or else I drown in the overambitious unachievable sea of of my own ideas, and I haven’t honed yet today so we're looking at perfectionist hell right now), even though there are markers all over the floor and my inspiration has been replaced with exhaustion and an unsettled stomach and some intense grief or tenderness about some of the journeys I find myself in the middle of, nonetheless I am starting on challenge #1. (That says “number 1,” not “hashtag one;” it’s an archaic text choice that you might never have heard of but I promise that's what it means).

Because challenge #1 is: write a blog post, writing for 20 minutes or less, every day for two weeks. Post each of the first week’s blogs on the day they’re written. Save the second week’s posts as a backlog. And then, shift over to the habit of posting once a week.

That's what I'm committing to. Y'all (if anyone is reading this) feel free to hold me accountable in whatever way floats your boat. Belligerent and encouraging and everything in between is welcome.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I get excited to do it quite often in fact, except for the exact moment, every time, when I actually sit down to, you know, do it. At which point, I realize I desperately need to clean the kitchen, research how to plant tiny succulents in cute ways, read about the midbrain, call my chiropractor, put reflectors on my bike, glitter paint my nails, etc. I’ve told my incredibly patient wondrous patrons over on my Patreon that blog posts were coming. I've reformatted my blog on various platforms. I’ve even started this habit and let it go several times. As I write this, every muscle in my body is screaming for me to GET UP AND GET OUT OF THE CHAIR AND DO LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE.

Why? I'm a writer. I want to write. I want to write in the world, not just poems that pile up in a corner. So why the resistance?

It’s been so long since I started a new writing practice. I think I forgot that even poetry, which now just sort of tumbles out of me almost any time I ask it to (not always good or even okay poetry mind you, sometimes its the kind of poetry you find on the bottom of your shoe in a dog park, but poetry nonetheless), even poetry was a rust-wrench, tooth-pull kind of disaster when I started. Every night, in the Providence bite of dirty ice and 4 pm sunset, 18-year-old Rachel would sit down with her tiny Moleskine (which she knew instinctively she was not really cool enough to have and couldn’t really afford to keep replacing), and write a poem.

This nightly “practice,” which at that point felt sort of like weight lifting with a small twig and yet somehow still spraining multiple muscles every time, was a mandatory part of the Poetry 1 workshop I took my freshman year. In retrospect, I’m pretty certain that one of the reasons I forced myself to keep lifting up that absurdly heavy twig was that I was a lot in awe and admiration of, and a little bit in crush with, my talented, poised, very kind grad student instructor (hi Nicole if your’e reading this you’re great I hope you’re having a happy new year!). It was kind of miserable, this nightly routine- possibly this was not the poetry’s fault but rather the immense hours of darkness at sub-freezing temperatures (I grew up in Georgia so...). It was beautiful and important, but it was also wrenching, and it didn't get easier very fast, or sometimes at all.

But I did it. And I did it again. And I kept doing it. And then, at many points, I stopped. And then started again. But I did it for long enough at the beginning, and for long stretches at other points, and have kept doing it for long stretches enough, that the poetry muscles, almost non-existent at first, became established. And once your body knows how to use and recruit a certain muscle, it does it during daily activities as well, not just when you’re working it out. Once I had a poetry practice established, and re-established, my body, my metaphor muscles, could get back in shape faster. Their baseline has become very different. If you asked me to write a poem right now, I would resist for maybe 3 seconds, and then I would do it. I could do it Whereas I am still resisting the idea of this blog post. I'm not sure I can do it.

And the timer just went off.

When you start training a muscle for the first time, you don’t start with way overloaded barbells. It’s hard for me to remember that everything is a muscle, sometimes, but that’s what I keep coming back to. You stop, as my physical therapist constantly reminds me, when you’ve still got a couple reps left in the tank. That’s how you avoid re-injuring, sort of traumatizing the nerves and muscles into lowering the threshold of what they can handle next time. So even though I don’t feel like I've said literally anything yet, I’m going to stop, and I’m going to come back again tomorrow, and write again, and post again. Everything is a muscle. And, as some obnoxiously wise and somewhat corny part of my otherwise resistant and panting brain decided to tell me while I was running a few months ago, having trouble pacing because I just wanted to open the throttle and run fast and hard into or away from everything that was swallowing me:

you have to go slower than you want to, in order to get farther than you think you can.

Ugh. FINE. I get it brain. You're right, of course. Here goes...

Happy New Year, folks. It’s practice time.

....

Cross-posted at gatecitygardener.wordpress.com

"Express Myself?" What Self? - Notes on writing and uncontrol

The problem (/grace) with writing is that I can't ever seem to control ahead of time what the writing is going to say.

How do people write books, theses, treatises, laws that in any way stay on topic?

typing-vintage-technology-keyboard

Artists talk about showing up to the table and getting out of the way of the words, which is what happens to me too, but sometimes I find myself simply reiterating the comfortable, the familiar shape of a mountain's spine.

Yet there are difficult things that need to be said.

So I show up and practice saying them, badly, clunkily, until eventually, slowly, sometimes, not so badly anymore.

This aspect of writing on topic makes sense: practice meets getting out of the way to create the muscle of diving into, learning the bones, the verbs of the unfamiliar. This is what I must do. I want to do. As a person with many intersecting privileges, there are places I have been taught not to see, not to talk, topics that I have been taught don't need words, or at least not mine. These teachings are violently incorrect. There has been damage done. Damage is being done. I am actively (often unwittingly or unwillingly) damaging. I cannot in good conscience and integrity write only in the realm of the familiar, my familiar. The magic and urgent importance of writing: that I can follow its tracks in the dust, out of the narrowness where I start.

To get away from the familiar or the comfortable, to go out of the house without a map.

amazing-beautiful-beauty-blue

To do this, I knit practice, over and over, to the showing up and getting out of the way. Notice what is around. Write. See what comes. This makes sense to me. The saying muscle becomes at least warm, at least flexible, with use.

But I still can't control what I will say about, or in, or from that terrain. I can intend, I can nudge, I can explore, get started, get startled, learn. But I cannot control.

And this is what gets me. I can't really control anything.

I had no idea, for instance, that I was going to write any of this. I was just sitting here, musing about how the project I am writing keeps receiving completely confusing feedback, and that no matter how many times I outline it, I find myself at the mercy of whatever comes out of my mouth or my keyboard. The pain of wanting to write a certain thesis or book, and realizing over and over again that whatever is writing itself through me bears almost no resemblance to what I had planned, what I am longing for.

It would be easy (and extremely accurate) at this point to roll my eyes, sigh, and acknowledge with begrudging humor (and frankly grateful resignation) that the serenity prayer is going to dog my heels until I get the message: mostly, I can't control things, and trying to hold myself accountable to doing so, holding a wide-flung web of absurd responsibility in my hands, keeps me from walking, writing forward into actual creative power. Response-ability.

But it's that "longing for" part that I keep coming back to.

pexels-photo

Of course, mostly, the fact that poems happen to me repeatedly saves my life (not an exaggeration). Mostly, the humbling stumble of sitting down, showing up, and writing into that terrain, to scrabble after the dusty paw prints, widens me back up when my body seizes and wails over in the doorway, when my chest collapses in the tunnel-breathing narrow of all the stories that used to be my lifevests but are now my suffocators.

Mostly, uncontrol constitutes wild, fierce, grace.

An advisor told me: There is writing about what you already know. And then there is writing in order to know. Let yourself write in order to find out. (And yes, this does constitute viable and legitimate learning and even- dare we think it- research. Re-search: to go looking, again and again, to delve and to delve and to delve). Suddenly, I understood what had been bothering me for years about the idea of "using art to express yourself"- it was wrong. Incorrect. For me. I don't, generally, use art to express, share, or document a pre-existing self or complete idea. When I make, when I write, what I stand with, looking out into the vast wide open, is a seed in my hand, or a pain in my gut, or a question biting at the nape of my neck, go, go, go. 

I don't have a self when I sit down at the table, when I show up and get out of the way. I have an inkling, and a social context, and an intersection, a location (or seven), but mostly what I have is a longing, a wondering, a little bit of self, and a lot of no self. A lot of elipses. A lot of abyss, of universe unformed, unexploded yet.

I never got all that "just be yourself, it doesn't matter what people think" stuff. How on earth could anyone think that at seven, or fourteen, or twenty-seven, I had any  idea who I was yet? No act of "expression" for me has ever been a performance or a documentation of a shaped or extant thing (except maybe life drawing- although that probably has other identity explorations associated with it that I never consciously noticed). My clothes, my aesthetic, my gender, my writing, my art, my weird experiments with fermented foods: they are all play, conversation, tussle, exploring at the boundary, mixing, tracking. A trying on. A seed, and then seeing where it goes, where it grows. I think, maybe, that they are all poetry.

Writing discovers, constitutes. It weaves and unvweaves and reweaves me. I don't write in order to express myself. I write in order to find out my self(s). I write in order to know. I write in order to have a self at all.

And this brings me, meanderingly and wholly accidentally, to the topic of the very project that I am working on these days, but can't seem to control or even corral. Because when writing constitutes, when it is weaving me, it's never in isolation. It's never just me. Creating converses with all the things I impact and interact with, but which I do not in any way control.  Writing, conversation, play at the poems edge, unweaves and weaves me, but it also unweaves and weaves the world. Human stories don't just describe the matter around us: they shape it.

World shapes story shapes world shapes story shapes world.

hobodyer-large

 

 

 

That concept- story that co-constitutes the world - forms the core topic of the very document I can't control , that I am longing to render in a particular way. The rogue document that keeps jump-shifting on me, that keeps derailing itself, grabbing the steering mechanism, and running me where it wants, making off with the trip-planning and gobbling all the maps.

I understand that, given what I just said about the grace and salvation in the uncontrol of finding myself constantly and wrenchingly and gratefully re-written by poems, it might make sense for me to give in to this invitation with the rogue. It might seem obvious that I follow where it crashes through the undergrowth. It might seem a given that I should trust this crashing, as a version of the very process of rendering self and world that I am, in fact, chasing within the pages of the rogue.

But I want it to be clear. I have a longing, a longing for a cohesive thing, a document that opens to people other than me and leads them somewhere useful, somewhere readable and pragmatic and profound. And what comes through me when I sit down and put pen or keys to the rogue, is just more poetry, more wandering in the woods. Ideas, hot and bubbling in me, have been waiting, waiting, waiting for this time. They want to be said. They hunger, they insist, the chomp at the bit to say themselves clearly, concisely. I am a poet, and a verbose one. Clear and concise is not my metier. But I think it's vitally important for fairness, for access, for writing outside of some artistic or academic elite or obscure esoterric realm.

I know (sometimes) how to show up to an unfamiliar what, a topic, and practice, and let the writing happen to me. But how on earth do I become familiar with a different how, a different, on-topic, clear, intelligible, style of writing, without control? Especially when it's not how I love to write? If it doesn't feel good or right? If I sit down, and show up, and get out of the way, long, verbose, gerund-heavy poetry comes out. Even with an outline, the ideas don't want to come clear. They want to come muddy, slow and oozed. They want to circle back on themselves, a swamp, the boat crashing into the mangroves again and again and again. I know this is acceptable for art. But I want accessible, not acceptable.

book-exposition-composition-poland-51369

Because ultimately, I want what I say to matter. I want it to help, or intrigue, or tickle. And to do that, it has to be readable. It has to render itself somewhat coherently, sensibly, trackably. It has to honor attention spans, even if it pushes them.

How do you honor uncontrol, wildness, tracking, going deeper into the woods, at the same time that you honor the grace of the people? Of the readership? There are two kinds of humility here: to the writing, and to the reader. I don't know, yet, how to truly balance both. I am longing to. I hope it's what me and the rogue will learn.

"Love Note for the Rough Days"

It’s Poem-a-Day/Post-a-Day Week! No editing, no perfectionism, no publisher/submission-managers mediating the place of art in public. IMG_2659

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Day 3

A first draft from 10 days ago, Hawk Campground, Marin Headlands, under the cypress rain

_ Love Note for the Rough Days

Rest easy in that storm heart, those thunderheads gave it to you for watering roots and shaking bones into dancing.

Sometimes it's dark inside the beating water of the sky.

Rest easy in that storm heart you got, let relief crack open the way summer breathes in Georgia when something bigger than human hands decides there will be no more fires set, no more fires allowed to burn.

The way lungs fill with electric ease when it finally finally finally rains.

The First Question

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

~Mary Oliver, The Summer’s Day

IMG_2582

When you come to a print on a muddy streambank, the first thing you say is not “This bobcat was thirsty.” The first thing you ask is not, “What should we do about all the thirsty bobcats we now know exist in this woods?” The first thing you think, on a good day in your walloping, galloping mind, is not even “Hey, a bobcat track.”

The first question is: Who is it?

And the first answer is: No answer.

It doesn’t matter if you think you know. If you are as certain as your own left foot. Because the truth is, there is nothing certain, nothing given about even your own left foot.

IMG_1980

The trick here, the hard hard tightrope dance, is that there is space between noticing and meaning-making. And in fact, there is a space before noticing as well. For most of my life, nobody taught me this. I thought curiosity had to with voracious, rampant questions, answer-driven or aimed at taking down assumptions somewhat sharply (“critical thinking”). No one mentioned that I was skipping two major steps, steps that, if skipped, tend to leave certain mental and physical muscles atrophied and stagnant, until your starving spirit or soil-working hands suddenly need them decades later, and you feel the awkward, unfamiliar strain.

Welcome back to your animal.

IMG_2669

The two steps, the two muscles I largely missed from age 6 to age twenty-whatever (what age was I yesterday?), were the slowness of noticing, and the capacity to stay inside of not-knowing, to tolerate curiosity and multiple possibilities.

Have you ever noticed how unconscious we have made our noticing? Wait, there’s a catch-22 in there somewhere…

We perceive first with our senses, in mutual subjectivity, as ecologist and magician David Abram tells us, with the matter around us. Our sensory perception happens so quickly, in these animal bodies we live from. It makes sense that a lot of this noticing would go uncatalouged in the conscious mind- if we had to take time to consciously list every color we perceive in order to move through our day, it would take a very long time to get anything done (conversely this is why sitting and listing every color you see is a great way to get out of an addictive pattern to getting things done). And even our almost insantaneous meaning-making from the things we notice makes good animal sense- if something is dangerous or there is a very short opportunity to take advantage of a food source, our body-mind needs to be able to go without a ton of articulated, analytical conscious thought.

But we have created a strange world of billboards and car horns and sirens, of rooms without wind or water or food where we spend our days, all these sensory spaces that our animal bodies might very well perceive as extremely threatening. Starvation spaces. On top of this, though we create beautiful music and tender things, we also fill these worlds with extreme injustice, oppression, cruelty, and torture. And then we ask each other, in our jobs and transit and home spaces and waiting rooms, to move through these worlds at breakneck speed. No time or safe container to deal with all that truly perceiving these things would imply for us. No wonder the noticing muscle goes not just under the conscious radar, but under-used altogether.

Noticing, presence, whatever you want to call it, asks us to stay in relationship with a bigger body, a larger organism or ecosystem. The meaning-making that follows, in this world we’ve woven, can bring with it extreme grief, stress, and pain. For many of us then, it has become a survival tactic to turn down or shut down most of our perception.

The problem with this tactic is that it leaves us out of relationship with the bigger body. Suddenly, we are stuck in starvation mode, alone, without the “family of things,” as Mary Oliver puts it, to hold us if any of that pain or joy from perception does get through to our lanky, rough, tender hearts.

So simply walking up to something, a track or a feeling or a knot, walking towards it instead of immediately assuming meaning or danger (“it’s a bobcat!”), and asking, Who are you? brings us instantly back into relationship with our ecosystem body. Suddenly, we’re not alone anymore. Then, too, this practice relieves us of the intense secret pressure so many of us carry around to already know what’s going on. In this way, too, the practice releases a bit of the hubris that “knowing” and certainty bring with them, a hubris that often becomes cultural structures of harm for our world-body.

IMG_2707

The relief, the delight, the humility, of not knowing, of wondering and therefore walking towards, of suddenly being in curious relationship again with the matter and body around us, in direct defiance of a world that says we are separate individual isolated entities living on top of matter- I believe this is a radical act. For our own development, yes, but also for the way we live with this planet. I’ll return to this at the end.

First, though, let’s talk about how uncomfortable it is not to know! At least for me, it’s almost intolerably painful, even as I recognize its value. This is the second step, the capacity to stay inside of not knowing. To ask that first question, Who is it? To notice, and draw no conclusions yet, letting the first answer be: no answer yet. Instead of the drive to find out the answer, curiosity in tracking for me is the increasing ability to stay and play around in the space where I don’t know.

Tracking teachers Scott D. and Jon B. are amazing at modeling and guiding this process. The first time we stood and looked at a hole dug by an animal (probably) and were not allowed to decide whose it was, I lost focus immediately and started planning what to cook for dinner. The next time I tried to stay inside the question and possibilities while looking at a nimal sign, noticing more and more details and considering options without narrowing to any answers, I almost started crying. I was so uncomfortable with the physical experience in my body of sitting with the unknown. All of the other unkowns in my life rose around me like a flood, a deluge.

IMG_2970

For those of us whose sense of value and personal stake in the world have been built around performance, competence, whose education has encouraged us to be clever, to know answers, to volunteer in a group only when we have something concrete and correct to offer, whose sense of ability to receive gender equality has perhaps depended on maintaining an outer appearance of extreme independent competence, it is really, really hard to trust that your teachers want you to have the space to be wrong out loud. A lot. But as Jon and Scott so artfully and compassionately demonstrate, trying to be right immediately decreases the likelihood that you will actually perceive as much of the story in the landscape as possible.

To be in widely perceiving, expansive, deep relationship with the world I am a part of, to learn at a pace and with a humility that allows for my delight and deep learning, epistemologies (ways of knowing) that depend on proof, defense of ideas, and certainty must fade, in order to be balanced by a deep trust that information is present in my inner and outer landscapes, and I will meet it with the gentle, slow question, Who are you? And I will stay with what I notice, and I will wonder, and I will generate possibilities, not because I need to prove that there is something here worth looking at- that I can already trust- but because I want to track who it is and how they are moving, because I want to explore. The only agenda is not to have one. And to show up. And to ask.

Cowbird Pond

Then, when I’ve noticed things, and questioned, and made humble meaning, I can point to the trails of my knowing as a story or a root system. Rigor is still present here- the threshing out of a track-maker’s possible identities, and the continual noticing of details that support particular possibilities- this is a rigor of deep systems observation, rather than of isolated, replicable experiments. We still say, this is why I know what I know. But it is not a thesis defense. It is a story rooted in deep observation, and it arises out of not-knowing, and noticing, and then following the threads, bringing past observations and intergenerational teachings to bear on the curiosity play.

IMG_2577

These practices apply equally to a bird in the sky, a track on the ground, or a deep sense of knowing or experience in the self. I came to write this not because I am looking at tracks or birds (well actually as I write this a bunch of crows or ravens are dive-bombing what I think might be a raptor because of its shape and flight pattern and the way it’s being treated by the neighborhood birds), nor because I am anything but a novice tracker. Rather, I am embarking on two years of deep learning in a school setting, albeit an extremely unconventional one. I can feel my old ways of learning, of needing to defend and prove and protect my curiosities and sense of thread, attempting to sneak in. And they were delightfully harsh and rigorous and left me with a lot of distrust and atrophied inner muscles.

The last time I was a full-time student, I expended an incredible amount of fear and exhaustion trying to prove academically that all the things I thought were connected and important- poetry, education, ecological literacy, radical reclamation of voice in spaces under attack- were, in fact, connected and important. And I did it. But my sense of trust was shattered. And this has deeply affected my ability to stay in relationship with my own education. It has inspired self-directed learning, and transformed the way I teach and lesson-plan. But in my own relationship to academia, there is still this sense of being under attack, of a thesis defense, of the possibility that everything I believe is worthy could just be wrong. A hundred times while writing this, I have, in fact, stood up and walked away, because of the fear that it will be unclear, that the arguments or the writing will not hold up. Expression modulated by fear of outcome has become a disastrous energy-suck. It is not really freedom. It takes away a crucial part of learning: messiness, voice-ownership, testing, trying, curiosity, self-trust. Empowerment.

Last week at Goddard College, where I now have the immense blessing of being a graduate student, I made a commitment. In the past, I have had to defend and prove the very idea that the ideas I see and feel are connected are, in fact, connected. This is a warlike way to relate to my own knowing and curiosity, and to the world in relation with it. How can the act of my learning model the world-change I am trying to learn about/into? I commit to trusting that these threads are connected, that these prints form a trail. This is not in question. My task, my gift-burden (TRANSLATE?), is to approach with this trust and ask the threads, Who are you? To track, knowing that they are connected. To, with curiosity and an increasing tolerance for staying in this roiling, dark, strange river of not-knowing, begin to find out how they are connected, and what that might grow into in the world.

So I ask, Who is it?

IMG_2583

In the case of my study queries, who is talking about systems and eco-social resilience? Who are the people proposing applicable frameworks of changemaking, and what are they saying? Who has something to say about grief and cultural story in the context of structural revolution? What about art and individual action/expression? Who is here? Who am I in this conversation?

I'll let you know whose tracks I find  think I've found based on noticing and presence and staying with questions...

I am still in the dark on how this first question, this noticing and tolerating curiosity, leaning towards, lives its way through us into bigger systemic change. I don’t know. It is difficult to trust that this is a “good” or “correct” thing to do. That it serves. My impulse is to turn away, towards rational, critical cynicism- Who is this helping? If I don’t know, if I can’t prove it, I should abandon the track. We only have so much time here, and the seas are already rising.

This is all true, in one sense. But/and, to tend this world without knowing in my body how to be in relationship with the shadow, with the unknown, how to stay engaged in perception and openness to interrelationship- without these things, I might very well replicate the very structures I hope to change. Avoidance of interrelationship and shadow are one of the threads I want to track, in fact- how are these fears at the heart of the harms we’ve built? I don’t know yet. And so the question is simply, Who is this? Who is moving here? And, as part of that, Who am I? My body wants to follow and so I follow. Back into relationship, messy, shaking, unknown, with the body of the world.

IMG_2665

Kingfisher Zine

A few months ago I had the honor to contribute to Kingfisher, a collaborative zine currently publishing out of Providence (I think?). Just found the PDF of the issue, based around the glorious theme of Grunge. Here it is: Grunge

Looking forward to checking out other issues as well, saw some names of great folks in those tables of contents.

What the Body Wants

The mint roots got tired of the windowsill water, so in the early afternoon today I pulled myself out of the mental bog and mire of second-guessed decisions that I'd been slogging around in and went outside to fill a cup with pebbles and dirt. There happened to be a hurricane helping water the weeds and native plant garden in the dirt parking lot. I was not particularly worried about it. I grew up on what I think is the fringe of a minor hurricane corridor (is that what they're called? or is it a hurricane foyer? the language architecture of weather seems to be a futile exercise in imagined control- we give it names, rooms in houses, corridors, so maybe it won't gobble so much. So maybe we'll have a better linguistic grasp on chaos and a better literal grasp on our roofs and beech branches and car windows.) I had heard distant thunder earlier in the morning and the rain was coming down pretty much in accord with regular old gravity- psh, I thought. Not even a good, drenching lightning storm to siphon off this end-of-August frenzy we've all been feeling, fall whispering its evening way in. Hubristic and barefoot, I opened the mud room door and stepped out onto the harsh pebble driveway, unafraid and frankly hoping the water might rinse off some of that mental bog mud. The dog, on the other hand, had been trying to climb onto my lap on each and every article of furniture I parked on all morning, and several times even tried to paw his way in when I was standing, lapless, in the kitchen putting blueberries into things. I have stopped checking the weather channel this summer because this dog knows when a storm is coming. And ain't nobody getting any work or sleeping done once he knows.

I thought that he, like everyone and their newspaper, was overreacting- climbing into laps, buying water at the grocery store (is there a reason not to fill up jars with the water we already have? is it unglamorous? I probably missed that memo...), parking their cars in other people's places to avoid the potential of a washed out road or an overenthusiastic tree branch trying to make love to the far away ground. Issuing a no-driving state of emergency at midnight the night before when it was hardly drizzling (which we ignored).

So I walked out in a t-shirt and sweatpants, holding two stems of wild mint I salvaged last week from a plowed-under row of zucchinni. The grass next to the parking lot had turned marshy and tasted delicious between my toes. Sometimes rain is all that breathing you didn't realize you'd been forgetting to do. I enjoyed the water, thinking how perfect and ordinary it was. And then I walked around the corner.

We live and work in on a hill in a building called the Creekhouse. On one side of the house is the road, on one side woods and rose thickets, one pasture (complete with requisite cows cowbirds and flies), and at the bottom of the back hill is the ankle-deep creek. Or what used to be the creek. Because when I walked around the corner, what I saw where the creek was supposed to was a living muscle of water equal in volume and rush-rapidity to certain parts of the Nantahala river, which I used to raft back when North Carolina was still close by.

I probably said something profane and thrilling (at least to me). I probably made noises I wasn't planning to utter. When the body sees water moving like that, busting out its banks, clamoring up the trunks of trees and frothing with intention, it starts moving too. The mouth, the tongue, the arms flail in wildness, look. Holy crap. That is a freaking river. Immature language because no language will be sufficient. The body does things, sends liquid into the blood, says run, run, whether towards or away.

When my body sees water moving like that, it wakes back up and demands a banquet with grapes, hammers on the door of the tiny room I keep it locked in most of the week, screams its way out and does wayward things with me even as I am determinedly trying to creep back to the mucky bog of self-doubt in the safe, immobile kitchen.

Umbrella. Camera. Click. Return to house. Shorts. Jacket. Waterproof sandles. I set off down the hill to see more wonders. The entire bottom of the pasture across the road, where I sat once for half an hour drawing Queen Anne's lace intently until I suddenly realized I'd been sharing the field with a coyote, is underwater. The pasture close to the corner becomes a marsh, birds returning to it like they know this ecosystem of old, even here in the hills. I walk through a road underwater and feel phenomenal. Not a familiar feeling lately. The storm drain expels a constant Charybdis roar. The gully on the left, usually a rock and flower ditch, now contains waterfalls.

I feel like something fresh, a bucket of tomatoes with the mud still on. The way the water gnaws on the edges of the roads reminds me of that poor small winged thing wanting hope. Not that I would give up the concrete. I simply want to live places where there is something bigger trying to eat it. This kind of chaos, unlike that in my mind, does not terrify me. I have crossed rivers up to my thighs with weight on my back. I have locked eyes with wild hooved things. I have confused earthquakes with the comfort of trains and sought of mountains I knew would destroy me because I trust even the destruction. I fear it, but the feeling is not terror. Weather. Something bigger that happens. The last great uncontrol. What the body wants.

Half the farm is underwater, which should make me unhappy. It's really going to be a problem for the crops. Instead I feel a great, lapping joy, unbound and uncouth and uncultured. I want to shout. I want to roll in the new marsh. I laugh in my throat and consider for just a moment being inside of the river (the second stream is also flooded past its own hips), what it would feel like to be that surrounded, that free. All body. No longer the one responsible for the chaos, the pounding water, the confusion. Just inside it, rush-water battered and alive.

Lately I have been angry. Or cruel, rather. Slinging slicing blades at my mind for not solving the questions of what I want. When I want. Who I want. Where I want to go to. And how. I stay inside the small house on the hill, erecting spiked fences to keep my own gentleness out, trying to force my own hurricanes into corridors because the weather looks a little grey, a little unpredictable. There is no house for a storm but the sky. I have been going about this journey the wrong way, compounding the problem, inverting and inverting. To stay inside with the mind trying to figure out what, who, where, how I want is to draw farther and farther from ever answering, to lose my boots in a that dark bog of self-doubt which turns out to have also been confined to the drawing room in this tiny house where I try to keep my chaos. My unexpected deluge.

It is the body that does wanting. Desire comes from there, not the mind. The mind is a secondary tool for desire. My particular mind is overdeveloped from years of getting in my own way. Engorged from a blessed, privileged, and terribly imbalanced education full of analysis and questions and hands folded or raised, one-at-a-time, polite and empty. My doing-things-muscles, my desire and will, my use and my wild knees that used to ride horses badly and collect bramble scars, are atrophied. And I sit here and keep taking x-rays, holding consulting sessions with experts in my head: what are all the different ways this muscle might move best, which part should move first, in which direction.

It doesn't work that way. You don't heal in the doctor's office. I know this story. I once spent 4 months unmoving in a bed. You do not decide what to do with those pathetic, tiny strings you are left to move with when you get up. You just move them. Painstakingly. You run half a mile and sleep for two days. Then you make an omelete and sleep again. You don't plan, you don't decide how your calves or your latisimus dorsi will move in the world. You move them in the world, and the world moves back against you. You use them. And after weeks of this, when they have returned to their minimal functionality, then you start to do things because they feel good. You start to want again. That 70% of yourself that was motion, that was doing, starts to feel like it can come back in. You dance to old motown in the kitchen. You go for a run and feel windy, not winded. To do this, the muscles have to already work. To already be developed. Only then will they know how, when, where, who to move toward. What to touch. What to hold on to.

And how are you to know what you want to do if your doing-things muscles, the wanting and the building which happen in hands and hip sockets and the small of the back, don't work yet? You have to give them practice. You have to give them flavors, things between their toes. If you keep them inside, they will starve. There is nothing to want there, only the mind, trying to plan the wanting before it happens. You have to let those sweet muscles out into the chaotic body of the world, go skinny dipping with strangers inside a hurricane and dive off the dock into water you can't see. You have to give them input, things they might want, might be thrilled by, might despise, so they can learn about desire. So they can give you feedback: yes, this, storm, no, not that, we don't like fennel, don't know, try again, not sure about her, not sure about that sound or that swerve in the road.

You go to plant mint in a hurricane. Your senses come, smell the grass underwater and the crushed mint strong in your pocket. Then desire, and then the word. In that order. You start with what the body wants. You give it options, things to smell and rub up against and drown in. And then you listen to the rain on the roof of the new house you are building, with open walls, no corridors, room on the edges of the concrete for the teeth-marks of a verdant chaos you forgot you needed in order even to breathe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I Love the Farm

On Mondays I wake up at 5:30 hating everything. I hate myself, I hate my alarm clock, I hate the pushpin next to my bed, I hate chaos theory, I hate cucumbers (I always hate cucumbers), I hate steamy movie scenes, I hate toothbrushes, I hate other people for being awake and not hating everything, I really hate other people for being asleep when I'm not, I hate fallen arches, I hate sun hats, I hate the once-soothing sound of summer fan blades in the morning air. I smear sunscreen onto my face without remembering to wash the sleep out of my eyes and hate that I now have to either leave the sleep there or rinse sunscreen into my soon-to-be screaming cornias. It's far enough past the solstice, and far enough into a day of sky taunting storms, for it to still be pitch-black outside. (I hate that.) The clouds hang low and cool in the hills east of the Hudson River. (Okay, maybe I don't hate that so much...). I eat maple yogurt made from milk from cows that are currently in the barn down the hill being milked by really weird, fascinating machines and farm apprentices, and I don't exactly hate the yogurt, but I do think about the fact that whole milk yogurt is not the same as low fat yogurt and which one is better anyway but who cares because I hate everything. Except my bed, which I am no longer in. My drooling dog mind, certain that the only reason we could be up this early is that we are UNDER ATTACK, kicks the adrenaline up and starts driving itself feverishly into the self-criticism button, fix this, fix us, fix the (non)emergency, fix everything.

I ignore the dog and continue eating yogurt.

The dog is catching more early morning burs, more of those crisp little "shoulds" in hard shells determined to lodge in my side, and getting them all over the place. I put on my hiking boots and rain pants (harvesting without them when the sun isn't up yet is about equivalent to jumping in the swimming pond across the road with all your clothes on) and wait for the other intern to come and lead us down the hill too fast.

And then this happens: in the mist, we harvest tomatoes and I speak with an apprentice about that illusion called future (dog mind throws itself against the bars in the tiny cage of my head). The tomatoes are firm and they have green shoulders. My hands turn green-yellow grunge from the leaves and smell of that pungent kind of salvation that comes from this late-magic summer fruit. Everything feels free, like it can breathe, the low sky a collarbone bending down to pick us up, small children protected by this out-in-the-open weather. Relief spelled r-a-i-n.

I am prepared to bet that I could make my first million by bottling and selling a scent called "tomato harvest infused with dark 6 am rain." In the face of rampant dissatisfaction and a pendulum heart that won't tell me anything about where or how to go next, and as someone who admittedly has some sleep issues, a rainstorm and 5:30 wake-up call should pretty much send me over the edge of horror canyon into the gorge of despair (imagine really deep echoes around both of those phrases for the full effect). But today I declare the following, won't you join me, say: I'm finished with "shoulds," they're evil little burs, let's all get over ourselves and spend a few days picking them out of our skin and the cuffs of our pants. And then forgive our stupid panting adorable shit-rolling curious insatiable lovely dog-minds for bringing us such wiry, piercing little seeds of doubt and chain.

I ride in the jolting back of the blue truck bed and grin like a mad boat captain, watching the road go backwards, the drizzle in my face fresh freedom, the spray of mountain-seas. I have been frenetic with the wild permutations of thinking about next month and invisible conversational nuance and my car battery and feet and was not expecting this kind of peace. This kind of joy in motion. The road only goes backwards while we move in a direction with no name. Here we are in this truck bed careening towards something, California or death or the field down the road, and I only see the potholes after they've hit. They are full of muddy rain. Spine already knows. Ass already knows. Slung sideways in the glorious dirt of the truck bed I finally feel safe. Heart shaped like those lopsided oxheart tomatoes that all had rotten spots already already  knows.

Most days I don't love the farm. I respect it but it is not my endeavor, I feel no ownership or belonging, I work most days in an office and resent my tailbone for getting so much use. I am a guest in the field and a bad early riser. I try to draw far-reaching conclusions from every minute thing I do or don't enjoy (perhaps a trait of many of us in this particular carnival moment of abject uncertainty). I could exchange my thoughts-per-minute for dollars and have enough to buy a three-hour trip down the river and all of Manhattan when I got there. I believe in farms, especially this one, I work for and on and around farms, but they have been hard for me to love. The first farm I ever really worked on got tangled up with my white blood cells decision to engage in open revolt and my first shameful thrill of heartbreak besides and also it was run by people who kept asking me if I could see the faeries outside my tent. I have been somewhat mistrustful ever since.

But today I love the farm. I love its people and their rough warmth, their hands full of competence I aspire to. It is not an easy love. I try hard not to draw conclusions, not to decide what I will and will not handle in the future. The farm alone among all my rattled loves and angry phone line snares, all my cover letter disappointments and friendship-wish travels that never put me on a real road, has offered me this: the smell of tomato leaves burned into my hands. It does not rinse off when I come in for breakfast.