Category Archives: Pregnancy

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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word to the mama

We have so many things to tell you,
about how we are literally inhabiting different bodies,
in which entire hormonal plotlines have been cut up
revised
and rewritten

about how our understanding of the Feminine Mystique has evolved
and how quaint we now find the memories of our former selves,
about our newfound empathy for mothers in ratty yoga pants everywhere,
battered by sleeplessness and worry and exquisite joy,
and for people everywhere who are doing all they can

just

to get

by

how brutal, capitalism,
on the caregivers, the aging, the children, the laboring, the exhausted, the sick….
how unromantic, the trips to home depot for paint and nails and replacement toilet parts

how heartbreakingly beautiful small conversations can be,
how vast and bottomless your love

and how nothing we anticipated intellectually could begin to come close
to This

but when someone wakes up from their nap 15 minutes early,
or wants to be picked up
or fed toast
or grapes
or directed to the nearest bulldozer dumptruck airplane
immediately,
or they refuse to wear pants,
or come out from under the train table
or they bust out a pretty loud and articulate argument
for why you need to watch them throw a ball
right now
and then someone spikes a fever out of nowhere,
and the the diapers have to get moved
to the next wash cycle
or you won’t have time to dry them before your shift tonight,
and sorry, i hear silence, something must be wrong
and hold that thought, i hear crying, someone’s hurt
no, that’s a play cry,
continue with what you were saying
oh, i was talking
i can’t remember what about
yeah, sometime we’ll save enough for the new furnace,
in the meantime why don’t you shoo the dog off the couch and
take the seat by the space heater

and we might earnestly try to work out which wave of feminism
This is
for a moment
but someone has to run to pick up the kid from preschool,
and the kettle is boiling
again

when this is your life,
it is hard to form coherent sentences,
let alone finish the thought in your mind
that bore them.

word to the mama.

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birthplaces

We’ve moved into “anytime now” mode.  I regard every kick, every cramp, every shift the baby undertakes with new fascination, and I nap as if I’m making a career out of it.  Ryan’s been reading bedtime stories to my belly, and the dog never strays more than a few feet from my side.  It’s a dear time, quiet and unhurried. Hard to believe one can be pregnant for forty weeks; harder still to believe its possible to feel this good at the finish line.

A few weeks ago,  our birth class instructor asked us to do birth art.   Despite our mutual enthusiasm for art, we felt a little odd about doing art about birth after a guided visualization sitting on the floor in a tiny room crowded with 14 other people.  I had trouble focusing on an “image of birth,” and midway through the instructor’s visualization,  I realized I’d spiralled off into a reverie about our trip to India last summer, and was contentedly imagining sunrise over the Ganges, and mornings drinking black tea in our little room in the Himalayan foothills.  When the birth class instructor told us to pick up our art supplies and render our images, I was thinking about mist and blue water, and green leaves and bamboo silhouettes in the fog.

“What are we supposed to be drawing?” Ryan whispered in my ear.  I grinned at him.  “Dunno, really. Our concepts of birth?”

I figured the soft colors floating around in my head were as good a thing to draw as any, so i peeled the wrapper off a blue pastel and swirled the entire length of the crayon in concentric circles. Realized that in thinking about water and mist in India, I’d begun to picture our birth tub in my head, and the place its going to be set up in our living room when I go into labor.  Realized that in thinking about greens, and plants in mist, I might also be thinking about the maple in full leaf right outside our livingroom window, and how I would perhaps be able to see it from the birth tub.  Started playing with the green pastels.

Looked over to see Ryan sketching out a square pool of water and a tree, and realized I knew exactly what he was drawing. Realized, somewhat startled, that we were in fact, drawing the same thing.  Sort of.

Birthplaces.

I was drawing my conception of a tranquil birth space, one situated in our cosy little house with a pool of water and windows looking into the trees.  Ryan was drawing a similarly tranquil birth space, also featuring a pool of water and plenty of trees,  one also rooted in memories of our travels in India last summer.  His was a place where a birth had already occurred : a sacred and well-marked spot outside of the tiny village of Lumbini, Nepal, where a woman named Maya Devi gave birth to a son she named Siddhartha, sometime around 500 BCE.  Siddhartha would become known as the historical Buddha, and thousands upon thousands of pilgrims would venture to the site of his birth in the centuries that followed.

ruins of ancient monastaries on the site of Siddhartha's birth

The site of the birth, partially excavated, is protected from the elements by a simple roof and unadorned walls, and a wooden boardwalk allows pilgrims to circambulate the site in meditation.  We visited Lumbini in the monsoon, and the air inside the birth-site smelled of damp and dust.  We stood at the site, staring up at a carving of the birth scene, installed on the site many years later by a Buddhist emperor paying tribute.  Maya Devi labored standing up, supporting herself from a tree branch, with her attendants close by.  In the carving of the birth scene, the infant is shown just before the mother, seated on a lotus blossom.     I stared up at the carving of the laboring woman, and noticed that so many pilgrims had touched their hands to the stone in reverence, her face had been worn off, as had the face of the infant Buddha.  They were a mother and her son, not royalty or spiritual leader incarnate.  The birth that happened here was, for all intents and purposes, as ordinary as it was sacred, a quality I felt certain the Buddha would underscore were he here to converse on the matter.

I wandered back outside to stand in front of the pool, built to commemorate the pond in the woods the mother had bathed in after giving birth.  The water was still, disturbed only by the occasional raindrop and the slow-moving ripples of turtles swimming beneath the surface.  A giant bodhi tree branched out over the pool, grown from a cutting of the tree in Bodh Gaya under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. A little girl and her father were tending the shrine under the tree, and offering incense to the pilgrims in exchange for donations.

We spent three days in Lumbini.  In the calm and quiet of that little village, and hours upon hours spent wandering the massive peace park dedicated to the Buddha’s birthplace, we had conversations about our visions and fears and hopes around becoming parents together.  We shared delicious food in a restaurant in which we were the only customers at nearly every meal.  We listened to the rain, and bought incense and umbrellas from the tiny shops on the street.  By the time we left, we had decided we were ready to bring a child into the world.

When I saw Ryan drawing the pool at Lumbini, our time there, and the significance of it, came flooding back to me in a wave.  The next day I had prints made of the tree and the pool, and I hung them around our house so we could be reminded of that tranquil place as we bring our son into the world.

Dove back into my India journals to re-experience the memories more vividly… excerpts below for anyone who wants a little vicarious time abroad.

Boarded a train in Varanasi to Gorakhpur, experiencing our first taste of “sleeper class.”  no AC here, and close quarters with other passengers after the busy stops.  We sit as still as we can, sweating and watching an exquisite sunset unroll across the countryside,  glowing on dozens of kids laughing and throwing their weight into makeshift swings hung from trees with bicycle tires tied together…

6 long hours later, we pull into Gorakhpur… get a room for the night, then hire a taxi to take us to the India-Nepal border in the morning.  Walk across the border in the rain, our first taste of monsoon.  its a dry year, we’ve been told… we experienced no rain up till now in the other places we have been.  It is creating great pressure across the countryside, as farmers cannot plant their rice until there is adequate water.

We get our visas in order and our passports stamped, and hire another taxi to take us the rest of the way to Lumbini, the village on the site where the historical Buddha, Siddhartha, was born.  The countryside is rich, verdant green, and the rain is pretty much constant.  Our taxi driver leans out the window every now and then to wipe the rain from the windshield with a rag, as the wipers are apparently not in working order.  Mango trees, more kids on makeshift swings, tiny brick abodes with bright laundry dripping in the rain and each home with a water buffalo tied in the yard eating from the center of an old tire.  Around 11 we arrive in Lumbini, a tiny village with only one main street, and a quiet one at that, more traffic from herds of goats and cows and water buffalo than anything with an engine.

take a tiny, dear room on a 3rd floor balcony, looking out over the rice paddies.  discover, as the hours pass, that monsoon has arrived in this part of southern Nepal in earnest.  it rains at all times of the day here, sometimes slow and steady, sometimes hard and fast… riotous birdsong all the time, and the power is out as often as it is on.  its cooler here than it was in India, which we’re grateful for, but the humidity is still very high.  If we get wet in the rain, our clothing does not dry, and we realize we’re going to have to buy umbrellas, as we’ve only got a few sets of clothes each.

In the late afternoon, we rent bicycles from our hostel and pedal down the short road and through the gates of the international peace park built around the site of Buddha’s birthplace.  Its late day and we simply want to get a feel for the place, so we pedal down the narrow dirt roads, through tall grasses and past still, quiet ponds and slow moving rivers.  There are beautiful monasteries from a dozen countries set back in the trees as we go, and giant white cranes flap slowly overhead every now and then, on the wing from the crane sanctuary at the south end of the park.  We are pedalling along a brick path lining a long pond when the monsoon begins again in earnest…

we take shelter for a while under a thatched hut and listen to the downpour, watch it soaking into the dirt road and running down the tall stalks of grass, tiny beads sliding along the fibers of the thatched roof, piling onto each other until their weight becomes too much and they carry themselves downward to splash up again from the puddles below…

calm suffuses this place, and we drink it in.  The park alone would be something indeed, but to know the story that is rooted here, the birthplace, literally, of a spiritual tradition dating back hundreds of years before the birth of Christ… a tradition rooted in contemplation, in this very landscape.  There is meaning in the damp air and the muddied earth that settles into your bones and asks for your heart to consider it.

Realizing the monsoon isn’t letting up, we venture out from under the roof into the torrent and climb onto our bikes… i pocket my glasses, useless in this sort of rain, and the landscape’s edges blur into softness, green on brick on greysky. we pedal through the mud and the puddles, laughing and grinning like fools… soaked through, and no reason to care, the rain is warm and we’ve got no where to be.

my kind of honeymoon, i holler to Ryan, wiping the sheets of water from my forehead and eyes

he grins back

we splash along the road near the entrance,

locals smile at us and shout namaste as we pass.

In the village, I try to bargain with a woman shopkeeper for a set of black umbrellas.  She doesn’t speak much english, and calls her husband out to help translate.  Since my negotiations appear to be failing, I decide to attempt the “walkaway,” and tell them I don’t think I should spend so much, and am going to ask my husband.  Her husband begins to laugh. “She never asks me what I think.  This is her business.”  I grin back, impressed by her chutzpah, and pay full price for the umbrellas.

That night, we take cool bucket showers in our tiled bathroom and then spend the evening reading on our beds before the open windows, watching the endless raindrops soaking into the rice paddies.

The next morning, we walk down muddy paths, rain thudding onto our umbrellas and cascading down around our feet.  White cranes flap overhead, wide-faced water buffalo feed in the tall grass.

As we attempt to visit monasteries, we are turned back by closed gates and flooded paths, but make our way anyway, by walking. Walking, walking.  Two thousand years of pilgrims here, prayers, contemplation in this place.  Even though I hesitate a bit to call myself a pilgrim, I begin to feel it in my body, my subconscious.  Mind softens, quiets.  Feet sting, where blisters are opening under wet sandal straps.  We keep walking.  The rain keeps falling.  Cranes flap overhead.  At the monasteries, we shed our shoes and walk barefoot over smooth marble and stone paths, made slick by sheets of flowing rainwater.  It feels divine on aching feet.  Monks sitting under monastery eves laugh and watch the monsoon.  Others chant softly in the temples.  We find our own sanctuary from the rain, and unwrap the newspaper from a pile of samosas I’d bought earlier from a street vendor, lost in the sound of the unceasing rain.

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A 21st century thank you card

a very nice house.

Once upon a time, Ryan and Sarah bought a house.  It was a very nice house, solidly built and ostensibly requiring little in the way of fixing up.  They thought:

we’ll just pull these carpets out, and slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls.  A few hundred dollars, some paint samples, and a little elbow grease.  It will be fun.

They had, of course, heard the old adages about the surprises of home ownership, the unforeseen costs and projects, the tenacity of Murphy’s Law. They figured on a few surprises along the way, and they knew they’d need a little extra help from their friends, as Sarah was 6 months pregnant and unable to do much in the way of remodeling or heavy lifting.

Of course, there were surprises.  Lots of them.  Suddenly, in addition to packing and moving, Sarah and Ryan were taking bids from drywallers, electricians, handymen, floor specialists, duct cleaners and dumpster rental companies.  They began to learn about toxic waste disposal, the weight of plaster, the stubornness of decades-old vinyl glued to wood floors, the  vagaries of knob and tube wiring, the standard measurements of drywall, the ramifications of asbestos tainted glue, the nitty gritty of floor installation.

A little fresh paint?

It turned out they were actually going to need quite a bit of help from their friends, and their friends rose to the task in splendid form.  What follows is what Sarah likes to think of as a 21st century thank you card. (no stamps needed).  Caveat:  large portions of the moving and remodeling era are somewhat hazy in our memories (it was a stressful time), so if one of your contributions has been overlooked, please accept our apologies and our sincere, unending gratitude!

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER…

THANK YOU, BELOVED FRIENDS and FAMILY…

Thank you, dear Robert, for the many many hours of labor chipping paint off trim and exquisite painting work. The man works without a dropcloth. Enough said.

Dear Gretchen... thank you for the boxes, and for helping empty the attic in record time.

Dear Kristine and Gorm... thank you for the endless advice on remodelling, the loan of innumerable tools, speakers, and hours of help painting and cleaning. And OH, did i mention... for putting us and the dog up for a week plus while the paint dried, feeding us, and reminding us that construction chic really is hip... thank you, thank you.

Jason Cornwell-Wright... we really didn't want to mow that lawn. Thank you. Thank you. Is it true you did it in short shorts?

Dearest Stephanie... for umpteen hours of painting help, sanity checks, and more recently, transportation coordination in the wake of the fender bender... THANK YOU.

Thank you, darling Andrea Fuentes Diaz, for devoting several days of your much-needed spring break to helping us clean both our rental AND our new home.

Laura and Sonja (of whom I do not have a snapshot!), and your contractor friend whose name I do not know… Thank you, thank you, for your expertise and the connection to the hazardous waste disposal kit and directions/help figuring out how to get it all to the right place.  The questionable tiles could have and would have been so much more of a headache without your help. We are so grateful!

To Zooey, of whom I do not have a recent photo, and her mom Monica: THANK YOU for the painting help and the use of the van!

Thank you, Peter Cramer (shown here taking a break) for the many hours of assistance chipping tile and moving flooring materials.

Ron... for the use of your tools, your expertise, and your elbow grease chipping up evil vinyl, we are so grateful.

to Em, for the packing help, the paint and wallpaper advice, and the sanity checks... muchas gracias.

to Em, for the unpacking help, the paint and wallpaper advice, and the sanity checks… muchas gracias.

To Grandpop; for your generosity and love we are always grateful! Your housewarming gift and your contribution to “support your local hardware store week” helped make the transformation of our home possible. We love you.

To Samantha and Lil' O, who ain't so little anymore... Thank you for all the painting and sanity and cleaning help, S, and thank you for balancing out Sarah's pregnancy hormones, O. xo

Dan Reilly... what would we do without you. For the painting help, wiring help, over-the-phone remodelling consultations, help getting real windows, and countless other contributions... Thank you, thank you. Big hugs.

Poppa Dan Reilly... what would we do without you. Without you and Mary Jane's help we might never have made it into this house in the first place. For the homebuyin advice, the painting help, wiring help, cleaning help, over-the-phone remodelling consultations, assistance obtaining actual windows, and countless other contributions... Thank you, thank you. Much love (and big off-the-ground hugs, of course.)

Mama-san Trebon... there never was a woman like you to make a move happen. You arrived on a morning when I'd run out of steam packing and you pretty much singlehandedly emptied our rental and cleaned our yard over the course of a day. Without you I might have sat in the middle of all of it and had a good cry and accomplished nothing, but you saved the day. We are forever grateful. so much love...

Poppa-san Fox... Your wisdom has been invaluable throughout this process. Thanks for the guidance during homebuying and sorting through the inspection report. Helping your children shop for major appliances is an act of love and pure generosity. Thank you, for making the trip down and spending the better part of the day comparing the features and efficiencies of washers, driers, and ranges. Somehow I found this task almost more daunting than the actual home purchase, and having your company, and your help, actually made it a not-unpleasant project. And, at the end of all of that, you and Ma were unspeakably generous and purchased these three major indispensible items for us, something we will be thanking you for daily for years to come. What a gift! What a gift. Thank you both, endlessly.


Daniel! I don't have your picture. I don't even have a good picture of Lily, so I'm using a stand-in Boston Terrier. Thanks for your help getting all that flooring material moved in. On an unrelated note, thank you for taking out the trash, taking back my ketchups, pulling in the sign, and keeping me in peanut butter and apples for the duration. Your help and support has made it relatively easy for me to work my most demanding and lucrative shifts through this pregnancy, and that helps more than you know.


Chad and Angelina... thank you for coming to the rescue with your truck and getting our beast of a couch and the planter barrels moved!!

Thank you, Dennis, for help moving flooring material, and thank you Billy, for help unpacking the attic!!

Todd, (shown here Calling the Wild)... thank you, thank you. For the many hours of labor chipping tile, for renting us the machine to chip tile with, for your painting help, for your research and help lining up legit toxic waste disposal, for your generous, generous gift card to the local hardware store. Thank you.

Thank you, Heather and Ross... for so many things. Sanity checks, delicious homecooked vegan food delivered fresh to the house, the repeated use of your dear veggie-oil truck, box runs, furniture runs, good food, ikea shelving installation, hacksawing, garden bed building, and lawn moving. Soon we will help you with your very own new home.

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Postcard to a pregnant friend

(written for Nora)

if i knew where my box of cards was, this would be a postcard, meant to be found in your mailbox after a walk through the sun-speckled greenleafed ruts of your lovely driveway. but, alas, i’ve got no inclination to go digging through the boxes looking for my postcards.

sunny friday in seattle…
i set my trays of vegetable garden starts out on the porch and spent a few hours sitting out in the sun with my shirt hitched up over my belly, reading a magazine Ryan bought me for mother’s day (World Pulse, lovely!) and eating my granola, sipping my 1 small cup coffee indulgence and stocking up on my vitamin D …

trying to get through a read/editorial survey of a book manuscript I’m doing pro bono for a friend.  My freelance career is a parade of unpaid projects lately, but i guess i can hope that somehow, they will all manifest in paid work this fall, with a little more gumption from me and the help and goodwill of the friends to whom i’ve lent my unpaid skills.

the dog is sleeping the day away, unwilling to meet the sunshine, and every now and then i hear her throw her body off the bed or couch and snap her jaws at the big black fly buzzing around the house. she always misses, but its hilarious and endearing and unusual to see her move with such fierce determination, eyes bright and ears cocked… then lapse softly back into dog sleep.

find that in a hundred moments each day, as my movements slow and my motivation for various projects wanes and my attention turns inward, to the movements in that that tiny universe of my stretching belly, that I am thinking about you.

thinking about you in your dear simple house in the clearing to the south, watching the light move across your living room and listening to dear songs and napping on the couch, rolling out dough and watching your little one rippling under your belly, waiting for that Time when the next Big Thing Begins…

a hundred times a day, I tell you, dear girl, my mind is with you,
and in a way i never knew was possible

a way born of sharing this physical-emotional-whatever else journey, watching our bodies change and playing intimate witness to the emergent personhood of these small, as-of-yet un-met humans who’ve lived out their days floating in our cores, sharing this matter-of-fact and also completely mind-stretching experience of waiting for our lives to change beyond measure, and marking the places in ourselves and our relationships we know we must preserve….
i cried last night trying to get to sleep because Ryan’s out of town and we won’t sleep next to each other for a week and lately i can only settle into bed if i’m leaning against him with his hand on the belly… and suddenly I was mourning that our hours together, sleeping uninterupted, only Us in the world, are numbered… but numbered in a sweet way, a sweet way neither of us minds, a way we welcome. maybe it was just hormones needing to vent in tears,  maybe the saltwater balance in my body’s ocean just needed adjusting. who knows.
not sure if i was really sad or just moving with the tide of all this,

i thought of you again
took such immense comfort in knowing you, your calm and your smile and your grace and your similar awe and willingness to meet all this as it comes, without some Master Plan for hygenic scrapbook parenting… to laugh at it and cry with it and share it on those precious days when we find each other’s company and pass the hours in such dear, unhindered conversation, with snacks and trips in and out of doors…
how grateful i am,
how unspeakably grateful,
to know you
and love you
and be doing this together!

i guess this would have been a very crammed postcard.

can’t wait to meet your little one. so soon.

(p.s. thanks for letting me share this. xo.)

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in the name of our mothers

With my Mama... 1982

Last year, in honor of my mother, I wrote about the revolutionary roots of Mother’s Day. I invoked the words of Julia Ward Howe, the founder of Mother’s Day, which sound somewhat different than the average Hallmark greeting card.

Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly:

“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.  We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.  As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home, for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace…

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

—Julia Ward Howe, 1870

“Mother’s Day wasn’t founded for mothers,” I wrote. “It was founded by them—and with revolution in mind.  Acutely aware of the costs of war, industry, and greed, Julia Ward Howe and like-minded women initiated the first Mother’s Day as a day of activism, a day in which women would stand upon the basic principles of motherhood to demand a more peaceful, just world.  It wasn’t the first time women made such demands, and it would not be the last. Having gone through the pain and joy and struggle and exhilaration and labor of bringing children into the world and raising them to be caring, responsible, creative, moral members of society, many women have historically found it difficult to stomach the wars and social forces which then twisted the bodies and minds of their children—and the “enemy” children of other mothers—in the interests of ideology and profit.”

These words ring truer than ever for me this year. On some still-unknown day in the next seven weeks, I will bring a child into this world, becoming a mother myself.  My mother is becoming a grandmother. My grandmother is becoming a great-grandmother.  The lineage is deepening, and so too is my commitment to working for peace.

But today, on this particular mother’s day, my feminism, my activism, my hell-raising looks different.  As Ani DiFranco reflected a few years ago:

I find it metaphorically resonant that a pregnant woman looks like she’s just sitting on the couch, but she’s actually exhausting herself constructing a human being.  The laborious process of growing a human is analogous to how women’s work is seen… much of women’s work just makes the world quietly turn.

The past week has been filled with ups and downs and ups, and I finished it off by pulling three waitressing shifts in a row, which is a bit of a challenge on this end of the pregnancy.  No matter how well I sleep, I tend to wake up tired these days.  So, on this mother’s day, I practiced peace close to home and did small things, in honor of mothers.

I filled and hung a birdfeeder; in honor of Annie, the mother who raised six children in this house, and loved birds; in honor of my mother in law, Mary Jane, who gave me the birdfeeder some time ago; and in honor of my mother, Theresa, who has made her backyard into a veritable songbird sanctuary over the years.   As I hung the feeder from the wisteria vine, I heard the insistent, high-pitched chirping of baby birds, and realized that one of Annie’s old birdhouses is hosting a family.  Here’s hoping that bird mama realizes she can stay a little closer to home to feed the wee ones.

birdfeeders

I took a small walk in the Bigleaf Maple forest near our house, with my husband and our dog. The sunlight filtered down through the green canopy, and the forest floor was warm and earthy-smelling.

Back home, Ryan set to work constructing my mother’s day present: four giant raised beds for our vegetable garden.  He’s been mapping the pattern of the sunlight in the yard for weeks, and last week he staked out mesh to block weeds and grass from making their way up into the gardens.  Last night, he and our friend Ross picked up lumber and hammered together the first bed, and this afternoon he finished the final three.

I moved our three trays of vegetable starts out of the laundry room and into the sunshine, and sat at our picnic table starting seeds. Pattypan squash, three kinds of basil, kentucky wonder pole beans, cilantro and cucumbers.  Sorted through the rest of my seeds and lined up the packets I’ll direct seed once we’ve hauled in dirt for the garden beds.  Three kinds of carrots, beets, lettuce greens and sugar snap peas… more to come, I’m sure, just haven’t thought of them yet.  I know of few things more peaceful than growing food by hand, at home, and I can think of few ways more appropriate to honor the woman who raised me.

Seeds and herbs.

in my Mama's garden, 1982

After I finished the seeds, I sat in the sun and pulled my shirt up over my belly to let the sun warm the baby, and called my good friend Nora, who’s also pregnant, and expecting in a few weeks.  We swapped pregnancy stories and laughed, talked over things like last names and placentas, made plans to visit soon.

As the sun arced out of the yard and the day began slipping into early evening, I wandered inside and sat down at the computer. Made a donation to FINCA international in honor of my mother, my grandmother, and Ryan’s mom.  Thought about the small, humble ways we can create peace in our everyday lives, peace which inevitably overflows into the lives of those who we cross paths with.  Maybe next year Callum and I will call up Grandma and find a protest to rally at.  But this year, we’re celebrating peace quietly, in the name of our mothers.

To my mama-san, Theresa, my grandmother, Marian, my mother-in-law, Mary Jane, and in honor of my Nana, Frances and all the other women worldwide who are loving and struggling and prevailing as they try to raise their children in a peaceful world…  Happy mother’s day, and thank you.

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Waiting for Annie’s birds

She was pregnant here too,
in this little house set back from the street
in South Seattle
I think of her sometimes, running her fingers over her belly,
standing in the hallway I stand in now
feeling tired, and curious,
wondering about the tiny person living under this stretched-out skin
wondering what lies ahead

She raised six children in these rooms,
and I know that there were mornings during the Great Depression
when she watched the sun come up through these very windows.
She prepared meals in the same kitchen i do, while the Second World War raged
and as the Atomic Era dawned,
I know there were nights she laid awake listening to her husband breathe
in the same bedroom I do.

She worried about money here,
and got bad news in the mail here,
and shed tears alone in this very breakfast nook
at least once
of that I am certain

She planted the cedar tree outside my bedroom window
and the flowering dogwood I gaze at from the laundry room
She cooked on a wood-fired stove for years, right where I stand now to make tea
If i run my fingers over the plaster I can find the place the stovepipe met the wall.
I think of her every time I roll out a piecrust

She watched news of Vietnam in this living room, I am certain,
shaking her head beneath these arched plaster ceilings
She welcomed visitors and grandchildren through this very front door
as Reaganomics trickled down poverty on the neighborhood around her

knowing this, today I wrapped my fingers around the dented doorknob
and did not turn it
but stood there
in her footsteps

she washed dishes at this sink during the First Intifada,
and climbed these steps as the Iron Curtain fell
She grew feeble here while I learned geometry formulas in high school,
and she filled birdfeeders outside these windows
as I drove past on the freeway, bound for college to the south

Her elderly son Roger told me she received a card on her hundredth birthday
from President George W. Bush
and that she quipped
“that’s silly, I didn’t even vote for him.”

Sometime during the second US invasion of Iraq,
Roger built her a platform off the back steps,
so she could wheel herself out to watch the birds congregate on her feeders on sunny mornings

As she began to die, they moved her into the room that will belong to our son
there was a bed for her nurse
and a hospital bed for her
and a white rotary phone
and now I want this stanza to sound like Goodnight Moon
but it won’t.
although I’m sure at some point
there was a comb, and a brush
and a bowl full of mush
and a quiet old lady,
whispering hush

She may have breathed her last breaths in the room where we’ll read our son bedtime stories
I do not know.
if she did, it does not seem macabre to me
but right, somehow.
She lived here eighty years,
and I know nothing about her.
Sometimes I bake pies in her kitchen and feel I know everything
that matters

When we came to see the house for the first time, we noticed the birdfeeders were full,
though she’d been dead a year
and in a few minutes, i saw over a dozen hummingbirds
Roger had been feeding them in his mother’s memory
and he made me promise that if we bought the house,
I would do so also

weeks and weeks went by before i acquired new feeders
and a few more weeks passed before I got around to filling them

in the meantime
we ripped out the ceilings and walls in her bedrooms,
we tore up her carpets and put down bamboo floors
i don’t know if she’d like the changes

The birds have stayed away
since there’s been no food for them
and the yard has been thick with the chaos of a remodel

but the feeders are full again
and the quiet has returned

and I am waiting for Annie’s birds
and baking pies in her kitchen

and hoping she knows that I will love her home
the way it ought to be loved

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