Category Archives: oceans and mountains

gone to the printers

I think this might be like arriving at base camp at the foot of Everest

I know its an awful lot like being 37 weeks pregnant.

maybe you dreamed of it

surely you worked for it

but as the time nears

you realize, increasingly

that you have absolutely no idea

what you’ve gotten yourself into

 

and the dark clouds form and disperse

as you reckon the size of the leap

you have made

peering at the place you think you’re going to land

readying the things you think you’ll need

asking for mentors, safety nets

realizing that when you need financial security more than ever you are sloughing it off

to pit yourself against the challenge

of doing this thing

and doing it well

aprons and layers falling

revealing the dream vulnerable to the raw air:

 

I,

Writer

terrified, quaking, tired and certain

there is no perfect draft, there is no truly ready time

the story is past due

 

and gone to the printers.

finally finished, and only just begun.

Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West.  November 2014

 

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11 June

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Before you know it June is half unspooled, your husband writing report cards and packing up his second grade classroom for the summer, the bean plants stretching up their poles and the toddler nearly three, baby no more, unfurled into an articulate, opinionated boy who will leap from heights twice his own and lobby you to buy carrots. Your new tattoo is peeling and settling in to the skin of your arm, and you’ll be 32 in a few days. Yesterday you and Lainie burned some scraps of paper in the firepit outside, toasting each other with small sips of bourbon in the midday sun. You both received word this week that you’d succeeded at something large, but it’s a twisting road from this success to a life where your aprons are relics, and the bills still need to get paid, and this makes you both feel very tired. so you had a ceremony, and the smoke swirled up into the sunlight, and it cleared both your heads. Run a fingertip now over a small scar on your palm from the day you hoed the garden without gloves, a blister that did not survive the subsequent 9 hour shift at the pub lugging kegs and trays up and down the weathered wooden floorboards. It’s healed now, but the outlines are still tangible. take stock of these things, laying in bed with a book of Richard Hugo poems and a mug of lukewarm espresso, savoring the fact that you’re up a good hour before the boy who will want cuddling, toast, and blues clues, in that order. And just now he pads in, rubbing his eyes in his too short fire truck pajamas, hair grown into his eyes again, having worn all night the new garden gloves his grandma sent him yesterday. He settles in next to you to read his own book, demanding a pillow that is not cold and a share of the blanket. List Today’s tasks: grocery store, bank to deposit the weekend tips, oven dehydrating the kale crop, Reseeding the 12 hills of squash ripped out due to powdery mildew, Decoding the draft book contract. Housekeeping emails for the meditation class I am coordinating, and through it all, Motherhood.

“I walk this past with you, ghost in any field/ of good crops, certain I remember everything wrong./ if not, why is this road lined thick with fern/ and why do I feel no shame kicking the loose gravel home?” – Richard Hugo, “White Center”

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Edges

Meeting the ocean at La Push with my Mama, 1981

i was born between the mountains and the sea

i grew to adulthood with both in sight, always

i am accustomed to living twixt coast and jagged peaked landmass

and while both may appear impassable, fixed, solid, impenetrable

i have learned that both are fluid, changeable, dynamic.

there are no solid edges

i am living these days with my bare feet in the changing tide

standing on the edge of the mountains and the saltwater

a mother already, and still just-Sarah, and a mother-not-yet

*    *    *

it has occurred to me that labor is its own landscape

like a river delta between the cascades and the salish sea

necessary for transitioning, sure

but unlike that river delta

populated with tall grasses and perched herons

labor ain’t no space for meditating, for Contemplating All that’s Changing

it is a place of work, of losing oneself and finding oneself again

so that while everything happens slowly, and for a reason, dictated by thousands of years of biology,

the arrival of that new person is still a sudden thing

one day i will be pregnant

the next day he will be here,

laying on the bed between us

and i know we will look at him

then look into each other’s eyes and drown a little

still on land and utterly at sea

*    *    *    *

Ryan and I found each other because of the ocean

I was missing the saltwater, living bound in by two mountain ranges

he was a stranger, who offered to visit the water for me, and toss a rock in

a few months later, 5 years ago this weekend,

we climbed to thirteen thousand feet in the Colorado Rockies

and the wind stood still

and the earth fell away beneath us

we sat on the ridgeline, on the razor edge of the San Juan mountains

on the edge of who we had been before

and we became Us

We spent a year after that with nine-hundred miles between us

living on the raw edge of love across distance

living off the words that we cobbled together to express the landscape we found ourselves in

We committed ourselves to living with this Edge in sight, always

Elderly couple hiking at La Push in the fog. Ryan and I want to be them when we grow up.

*    *    *    *

it is late on a Friday night, and he is due in eight days

i am watching his tiny back arching and curling under my belly button,

gasping quietly as his tiny knees and feet jab outward, forming tents out of my skin,

i am reading an interview with Terry Tempest Williams on the line between beauty and fear,

a concept she once compared to standing on the edge of the land, where Portugal met the sea,

fighting the urge to fall from the cliffs, “not out of despair… out of this sheer desire to merge.”

“I realized what Rilke was talking about: beauty as the beginning of terror.

It’s that realization that we are so small, and yet we are so large in our capacity to relate to the beauty of things.

So, again, that paradox. My life meant so little at that moment.

It was just much more important to be part of the sea.”


*    *    *    *

With Ma at La Push, 29 years after she took me there for the first time. 8 months pregnant with Callum.

I spent the day with my mother today,

she came to the midwife, and heard his heartbeat

we ate lunch, and saw an exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints

we noticed the way the lines of the mountains rested against the lines of the skies against the lines of the oceans

at home she helped me get the last of my planting done

so that i could rest easy and take comfort in our homespace in these final days before the babe arrives

we drank tea, and she showed me the journal she kept in the weeks before and after I was born

29 years ago tonight she went into labor to bring me into the world.

tonight she read two books to her grandson, who was awake and restless under my skin

and we said goodbye, knowing that there is a good chance that when we see each other next,

she will be meeting her grandson

and we will all be standing together in the changing tide

on the edge of all that has been

and all that has become

*    *    *    *

So on this, the 29th anniversary of the night my mother went into labor to bring me into the world

on this, the 29th anniversary of my father’s  journey into fatherhood

Happy Father's Day, Poppa-san...

on this weekend, the fifth anniversary of my commitment to Ryan

and the first anniversary of our public commitment, in the eyes of our loved ones

on this, the verge of Ryan’s first father’s day…

on this, the edge between all that has been

and all that begins when this little boy is born

i am sitting here in tears

writing these jumbled words

for each of you

Thank you,

for teaching me Love.

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