The book of poetry was sitting on the porch, half held by an envelope the dog had torn apart. The only word on the cover: salt. I lay down on the couch, boots still on, and start reading. Every page is a punch to the throat. Every tiny poem, a flinching strand of pain. How did she know to send this one? How does she know which knife will so effortlessly cut me open?

'What's that?" Rob walks in the room, seeing the torn paper next to me. 

"A book of poetry." Tears are clouding my vision. 

"Who sent it?"

"She did. She sent everything." The children's books and board game are upstairs, unwrapped but untouched. I don't want to field the girls' questions about where she's been. I don't want to tell them which desert she's walking through now.

"Oh," he says. I think he's afraid of my tears. When we met I used to cry like it was breathing, as if it were essential to my survival. I used to feel so intensely and so freely and without shame. Feeling was my primary function. But all of this, motherhood, marriage, responsibility, has turned me into a doer. Feeling has become frivolous, a luxury for the childless. Now I cry only when something threatens to break me. Now when a crack runs through that essential armor, I am afraid too.

I find it more than a little ironic that I've become just another person who makes painful art in her honor, just another person whose plans were destroyed by her whims. I hate feeling unoriginal. Don't we all, I guess. But I was never supposed to feel this way. I was supposed to be immune from the wrath of her flippancy. I was supposed to be the calm to her storm. And yet my attempts at getting out of this storm are so futile. She can rip me open in a single page. I am just as weak as every man that has foolishly fallen for her only to find promises that shatter like glass. 

It takes me two nights to finish the book and when I do my own poetry spills out of me. The poems are dribble, nonsense words written in haste. But it feels so good to finally write, to feel like I've been washed clean of so many months of my own suffocating thoughts. This is why I will never give up on her, I think. Even when she wrecks me she still manages to remind me just who I am. That's her magic.






The work of happiness


The work of happiness

All weekend I've felt socked in; a thick fog settled beneath my eyes.

There was so much happiness surrounding me, so much lightness and celebration at the wedding. I sat in the crowd watching the wind whip around hats as people clapped them to their heads. Ophelia and Beatrice stood against the background of the entire Monterrey Bay, holding their baskets in anticipation. The hills behind them were layed up against each other; slate against periwinkle against endless sky.  Theta flailed in Rob's lap, whining and trying to break free. My eyes pinched a few hot tears, tears I didn't quite trust. I couldn't say and still can't whether they were tears of sadness or anger or something else.  I didn't know what lay beneath and I was afraid to find out.

I slept deeply on the car ride home and when I woke I felt just a little better. That night when Rob asked me if I was ready for bed I finally let go and cried. Cathartic, yes, but again I woke today and there was something still sitting on my chest, stubbornly refusing to leave.

Depression is a strange disease. It can make you afraid of yourself, afraid of your diving and soaring emotions. These days I tiptoe lightly around my own moods, hoping, praying, that a two day sad spell doesn't mean I am about to plummet again. All morning I could feel it tugging me down. That ugly old companion had come back around. And for the first time I didn't just accept that it was back, that I was heading down that road again. I realized I had a choice in the matter. No, I do not have a choice in my propensity for depression. I do not have a choice in the fact that my brain does not exactly know what to do with serotonin. But I have a say in how I deal with my depression. And the first thing I did was to simply acknowledge it. And secondly, maybe more importantly, I didn't push it away. I sat with that hollow ache. I felt it move through my gut. I heard it whisper its nasty words into my ear, hissing my failures into the air. I let it materialize around me. For once, I felt my depression without being afraid of it.

What I've realized is that happiness, hell just contentment, will always be work for me. That is my lot in life. I can't say whether this is true for others who suffer from depression or people in general but I know it to be the case for me. It must become a practice, like writing or yoga. It is not something I can simply access whenever without having put in the time day to day. And I've realized that those seeds of happiness are planted in the little things. Watering the house plants. Wiping the counters clear. Fruit in a glass bowl. The symmetry of brown paper bags lined up on the counter. There is potential for happiness in every single moment.

I will never deny the enormity of depression. It is not my intention to say that you can study an orchid and be cured. But I am finding power in accepting that not all of this is out of my control. If I am willing to put in the work, happiness and I will always find each other again.





When I was pregnant with Ophelia I kept a journal just for her. I wrote to her about my hopes and fears, the shortcomings I worried would spill from maidenhood into motherhood.  On the cover of that journal I wrote a quote from one of my favorite poets, Rainier Maria Rilke: Think of the world you carry within you. Of course it seemed fitting. My baby, my child. She was the world I carried within me. I was casting a world of flesh and blood within my own body. When I look at that journal now I feel something entirely different about that quote and about the world I carry within me. This world, this Motherland, is so very different than I imagined it would be. It is a rougher terrain, yes; steeper inclines, more abrupt precipices. But it's an extremely isolated one as well. The world I carry within me is mine and mine alone, to enjoy but also to bear. My children don't even know it exists.

I have been walking around with a brick precariously balanced between my shoulders for days. I move slowly, speak softly so as not to let it fall and thud to the ground, so as not to let them know: mama is not all right.  We walk through the plant nursery, past lavender and honeysuckle, through air so sweet it nearly chokes me. I give them all of the sweetness I can feign. "Put that down please" "Let's go this way, love. " But I wonder if they can feel the pain roil in my gut. Can they sense that solid, stubborn mass at the heart of me? Do they notice that I sit down to meals with them but don't eat? How much of that desolate Motherland, do I actually succeed in hiding from them.

 Tears sting the backs of my eyes but they know their place, they know to stay hidden. And then a song, one long-shelved, almost forgotten, plays and I lose my balance. The brick falls. A crack runs through me and I am weeping, weeping, weeping. It's the kind of weeping that leaves me breathless and wrecked, the kind that leaves my face swollen and makes my eyes retreat.

A voice says, "Mama? You ok?" I choke on my own tears and snot and try to look her in the eye.

"No, baby," I say after a moment. "I'm not ok. I'm so very sad."

She looks at me worried, like a wall has crumbled around her. I won't explain to her the layers of my pain. I won't place this burden on her little heart.

"It's ok to not be ok," I tell her. "It's ok to be sad."

And I try my damnedest to believe my own words.



the dreamer's affliction

I often wonder what it must be like to be a person I love.

I am highly critical, rarely satisfied and always on the move: body, mind and soul. How does it feel to love someone who can't stop thinking about the mechanics of breathing long enough to take a breath? What is it like to live with a woman whose eyes constantly dart from one task to the next, never quite settling on you? I wonder and I worry that the ones I love are only choking on the dust I kick up.

I've spent the summer going full steam ahead, trying to get my school licensed. To say that I've had help from my family is a vast understatement. But I'm the one with the vision, the ideas that have rustled between my ears and kept me awake in the small hours of the morning. I'm the one who refuses to blink. And that's how it should be. One frantic dreamer in a family is plenty enough. But it can be lonely to be awake in the middle of the night, with only a head full of tired thoughts to chew on.

I want to say that this will all be easier, that I will be an easier person to love once everything comes together and the business is up and running. I want to believe that I can, for once, be satisfied with something I've done. I want to believe the dreams that orbit my consciousness like ethereal satellites can somehow coalesce into certain goals. But I always worry that satisfaction will lead to complacency, or that focus will turn me stagnant. Again, I am stuck.

How do I feed my dreams without allowing them to eat me alive?



eyes at half-mast

The night starts innocently enough. A decent hour. Clean teeth. Gentle yoga by the open door. We climb under the covers, limbs slipping into place, tired muscles settling before we close our eyes. But soon she is stirring, searching for me. I pull her to me, nurse her and finally try to slip away again. Some nights I haven't even fallen asleep when another small body sneaks into the bed. Some nights I roll over mid-dream to lay my hand on a back or foot, one that wasn't there an hour before. Some nights the baby and I spend the small hours of the morning rolling around the periphery of sleep but never fully making our way in.  Some nights sleep is more elusive than the night itself.

The morning is wrapped in brown paper. New but familiar. The scramble for socks. Clean teeth. Food wiped from budded cheeks. We are out the door, the morning air on our faces. Or some days there are tears and jagged words before we've even gotten dressed. By the afternoon sleep has dragged me to the couch where I become but a thing to climb, a pair of breasts to bat, a sluggish, mother-like object. Some days seem to mock me with their absurdity.

I know in my bones that this won't always be the way of things. There will come a day when I will roll over only to find the cool surface of the bedsheets, my husband's quiet breathe. There will come a Saturday morning when we wade in sleep for hours, just the two of us. And, sadly, there will come a day when we will ache to be wanted in the way we are now. There will come a day when we won't be needed much at all.

I find it funny that I used to dream of being needed like this. Ten years ago when I cared for other people's children I wanted so desperately to feel the swathing love of motherhood, to be a little person's sun and moon. It always looked so luxurious, the way they would call for mama, the way they reached for her. I couldn't imagine that that kind of tenderness would come to feel suffocating. I couldn't imagine that I would one day want to peel love from my skin like wet cloth. I didn't know something so sweet could drown me. 

Lately I am running out of silver linings. They are there, for sure, but be it lack of sleep or general mama burnout I am not finding them. So for now I am putting out a wish that tonight's sleep will be regenerative and the morning will find me with more to give. As I know quite well, a little bit of hope can go a long way. 



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"Can I ask you a question?" you say, entering the room.


"Why did you say you eat copious amounts of pancakes? You haven't even been eating grains for a month. You barely eat any pancakes when I cook them."

"Are you serious?"


"You haven't so much as mentioned me getting published and that's what you're choosing to say to me right now?"

"The essay was good. I liked it."

"Should have tried leading with that."


Everyday is work. Work that I wish somebody else would do. Everyday is two steps forward and one step back. Everyday is negotiation and swallowing words I would rather spit out. Everyday is a tedious dance, side-stepping hurt feelings and miscommunication. Everyday is fucking exhausting.

On nights like these, nights when the far corners of this house can't put me far enough away from him, I remember the beginning. I remember the bonfire, drunkenly slipping into his lap and kissing for the first time. The next morning when he watched me putting on mascara in the mirror and he wondered aloud earnestly why I thought I needed makeup. I remember the weeks that followed and the novelty of feeling unable to be apart from him. I remember feeling seen.

You know what I like about you? You're witty. He said the words like he was placing a crown on my head. Like he had struck gold.

Too many lesser memories have dog-piled onto those first tender ones, the ones I wish could be wrapped in something soft, put somewhere safe. But they are there, waiting to be unearthed when we have a moment to sit, to remind ourselves what all of this rides on. This family, this house, this life lies heavy on the foundation we laid six years ago.

Tonight there have been too many words. So I will slip into bed beside you, wait for your hand to find the small of my back, your lips to find my shoulder blade. I'm sorry, you will say, or maybe not. A silent reconciliation, so as not to wake the baby. Tomorrow we will forget our harsh words, the ones we couldn't manage to swallow. We will speak gently and listen carefully. We will try again.

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this must be the place

I spent the morning in the rose-hued light of the first grade classroom. I spent the morning watching, tiptoeing around their desks trying not to let my presence alter their movements. Through their invented spelling, the sweet illogically logical words; through their beeswax modeling, small, warm hands shaping beetles and bees; through the rehearsal of their play, the way they strived to learn it all by heart. I spent the morning in wonder. For a few hours I was the observer of a self-contained universe; 16 satellites orbiting their sun. And I remembered, longingly, what it was like to be that sun, to dwell in that secret world.  In the still air of that April morning, I could feel the rush of the classroom sweep me away again. Yes, I thought, this must be the place.

That is why, when I opened the email just a few hours later, the email which said thank you but no thank you, the gentle yet firm pat on the back, I had to catch my breath. I had convinced myself that this thing, this job, was just an idea hovering in the ether, perhaps ready to coalesce, but perhaps not just yet. The interview was a step, a foot just barely in the door. Someday, I thought, without holding too tightly to when that someday might be. But I should have known: my wanting so rarely stays small.

I've spent the last week rolling around in my regrets and self-doubt. But the questions that keep rising to the surface, unwilling to sink down: What good are you? What do you have to offer beyond the care and keeping of children? They are questions I never dreamed I would be asking myself. They are questions I know insult and degrade the very necessary and worthwhile work of childcare. But here I am, nearly half a decade into motherhood, and I am unable to call upon those parts of myself that once stood to define me.

For now, I am trying to find brightness in this moment and authority in this decision that doesn't feel like my own. I have a year to prepare before even the possibility of this opportunity will come again. A year to read and study and observe. A year to wonder and dream and wish. Much can happen in a year. My own life seems to be a testament to that tired yet reliable truth. So I will take this year. Or two. Or more. I know that someday will come and when it does I will be ready. This school, this community. This must be the place.




Today I woke slowly, swimming in shallow sleep for hours, a baby latched to my breast in her own quiet pool of dreams. In the other room we could hear voices, one big, another small, the knocking of dishes; the sounds of morning.

Today I drove Rawhide Road in a feral wind. The gales licked at the car and ran through the grass, moving it as if it were the pelt of something wild and immense. 

Today I sat in our newly mowed yard with my daughter between my knees. As we rocked I saw that her legs are a twins of my own, only smaller. The same slim knees, perpetually bruised from our distracted nature. The same colorless skin, translucent like candle wax or expensive Japanese paper.

Today I pulled the cord on the tiller, felt it jerk me forward and the earth turn underneath. I was reminded of my strength, the able body I often ignore in favor of more cerebral pursuits. But there it was. Muscles long ignored, sighed happily in the late afternoon. Yes, more of this, they breathed.

Today I stood with my husband in our yard, planting dreams of bigger, perhaps better things. Some chickens, yes. Maybe a teaching job in the fall. We surveyed the land, our land. Along with the weeds, our doubts were cleared. 

Yes. Today was good. And tomorrow will be even better.



three years.

You were 24 and you said no more babies, only books, only words. You drove to the mountains to sleep in the comfort of your parents' home. Not your childhood home, but one that would do for a soft place to land, a good place to rest your tired wings. You spent the week staring at the lake, not yet warm enough to swim in. Instead you taught your daughter how to throw rocks into the creek and yell  "dopes!" just like you did as a child. You waded knee deep into the cool water, the April sun hot on your back.  At night after she had gone to sleep, damp curls stuck to her temples, you ran upstairs and wrote furiously. And after you were done you read the words aloud and felt, at last, relieved; as if they had been burning holes in the tips of your fingers and you were glad to be rid of them. 

The summer came and blanched your eyes, not with heat but with loss. You stayed inside and remembered other summers that felt just as empty, months that blinded you with counterfeit light. You remembered the summer you found out you were pregnant and could barely open the refrigerator door. The summer that every bag of tomatoes you bought rotted on the laminate counters, leaving a sad orange ring.

You were 25 and longed for the softness of a new baby, the opalescent skin, soft as breath.  You remembered your first and longed for a second chance; a happy pregnancy, a happy you. To hell with books, you said. To hell with achievement and intellect. You wanted again to be doused in motherhood, in the sleepy vulnerability of new life. You longed for a ripening belly again. You made lists, promises to yourself, your daughter, your husband. This time would be different. This time would be better. This time those two lines would be a promise enough.

But the summer came again and you began to unravel. There was so much unraveling you began to see parts that had never been exposed to air before, parts you never knew you kept hidden.

You were 26 and had never felt so old. You could feel yourself inching further away from solid ground, toes teasing just over the precipice. How easy it would have been to pitch yourself forward, to free fall away from the pain. But you didn't. You didn't. At last you admitted the hardest thing, that sometimes strength does not come in the form of endurance but in the form of surrender. And although a thousand angry voices inside of you screamed NO! you opened the bottle and took the very first pill and you never looked back.

You were 26 and the mother of two small girls, girls that could be scooped up into your long arms, folded into all the open spaces of your body and fit like nesting bowls against you. You drove your eldest to school in the springtime down a country road shaded by leafy giants and at times you wanted to cry. This is what it feels like to be happy, you thought, in disbelief. The woods were lit up in technicolor green, so vital you could hardly believe your eyes.  You wondered why you had waited so very long to do something so simple as swallow a small yellow pill. 

You are 27 and at times happiness feels tenuous, as if your subscription could expire at any moment. But faith is a practice and this time you know that should you fall, should you skin those beaten knees of yours, you will stand again. This time you know that "help" is not a four letter word.