Cooper’s Hawk, or possibly Sharp-shinned, 3 times.

3 times now,
this hawk has visited our 1/3 acre piece of the world,
which has a half dozen big old trees,
and sits a little ways southwest of Seattle, on a hilltop.

The first time I was sitting out front,
editing my book manuscript in a lawn chair
I heard the screeching cry
and looked up to see a small-bodied
white-bellied
brown speckle-winged hawk
swooping across our yard to tackle a giant squirrel on the power line.

Our squirrels are bold, and large,
accustomed to taking dares from our giant Great Pyrenees Mix,
and this one did not submit to death
it screeched back, and clung to the bobbing wires
the hawk grasped on with yellow talons
and I watched,
mouth agape
as they tussled over the driveway.
The squirrel won out
and darted for the trees,
and the hawk disappeared into the neighborhood skyscape.

A week or two later, it reappeared, screeching once,
I spied it high overhead
coming in for a landing in one of our evergreens.
It lifted up after a moment,
and Ryan and I pointed it out to Callum
floating ever higher in slow fixed-wing looping glides.

This morning I was drinking coffee on the back stoop after a thunderstorm
savoring the damp autumn chill in a light brown sweater,
and white knit cap,
and it returned, screeching once or twice,
soaring over the back driveway.
A woodpecker thudded several times on a telephone pole overhead,
and I texted a friend,
“Does that mean I’m supposed to read some Ann Lamott?”
“Ha!
she replied.
“that’s a good read on it.”

I look up the hawk online after I put our son to bed,
maybe a Cooper’s Hawk,
probably a Sharp-shinned
immature, whichever species.
A common woodland hawk,
“among the bird world’s most skillful fliers,”
that primarily hunts other birds.

My first impulse on seeing a wild animal in the city is exhilaration,
followed by sadness, assumptions about habitat degradation and the like,
followed by the calming epiphany
that some creatures can cross worlds,
that the natural world suffuses everything.
Adaptation
gives us all a chance
to survive.

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Filed under basic goodness, habitat, outside, poetry, stories, watching it all go by

15 august

They do not stop, the stories.
Just when you’ve had time to return to your ordinary life, finish the dishes, get caught up on the laundry, have a glass of wine with a friend, feel selfish,
they come cascading down on your shoulders,
rending your heart,
teaching your lungs and your pumping muscles
things they may have always known
loss is coming
death is imminent
the ones you love will perish too.
And you bend over the sink,
sobbing into the dish water,
tasting the truth of love
you cannot keep bad things from happening
even if you
curl around your core
keep the world from your heart,
or smother the ones you love under your wings,
you cannot hold pain at bay.
and your heart becomes a weaker organ
your skin loses its thickness
becomes brittle
and so you open
again
and again
and again
making yourself stronger through surviving
bearing witness doesn’t have to break you down.

it feels that way at first, sure.
and you think about your Jewish ancestors
who tore their clothes in grief,
and you lean in to the power of ritual.
learn that if you allow the grief to tear you open
it will teach you things

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Filed under basic goodness, cancer, death, fathoming, love, Nevada Test Site, Nuclear weapons, Ordinary, stories, unrepentantly unedited

ask questions. people will tell you their stories if you promise
to listen
roll “history” around in your mouth
and see how it sounds when you say it out loud

test it out for righteousness
and the metallic taste of propaganda
coated in sugar

understand that the difference between those hours and these is not a flat timeline

the past inhabits the present
and the present inhabits the future

and you feel your familiar ghosts crowding in;
unknown ancestors
dreams of your former self
storied poets
anonymous nannies
and private photographers
college dreams
and immigrant fantasies,

Americana writ thickly across the land

and you in the midst of it
becoming a part of the past

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Filed under Americana, art, basic goodness, Change, fathoming, History, howard zinn, meditation, memory, photographers, stories, waitressing, watching it all go by

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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Filed under aprons, basic goodness, blue collar, Family, Garden, gratitude, love, motherhood, oceans and mountains, stories

mending a pair of pants we bought because we could afford them

This morning, while my son watched children’s television in the other room,
I sat by the open window on the bed and mended a pair of corduroy work pants
sipping my coffee and letting spring wash over my skin through the screen.
As I worked to knit the button hole back together,
I noticed how few stitches had been used to assemble the belt loops,
how there were loose threads
and poor workmanship here and there
and then I pricked my finger with the needle.
while swearing and applying pressure,
i glanced at the label,
and realized that the fabric I held in my hands
had been been held by a woman, or man, or child,
in China

i read “made in china” a hundred times a day
but i don’t realize much.
i think:
“ugh.”
then: “we can’t afford to buy things made fairly,
and “after all, i do try to buy second hand, so that helps, right?”

and there’s not much realizing after that, just an unspooling narrative of rationalization

like so much tangled thread
sure we bought the pants because we could afford them
and we could afford them because that person in China
made a few dimes
for these seams
and went home to a crowded room in a toxic city
hundreds of miles from their families
who they might see once a year.

I think about who made these pants,
and think about my seamstress great grandmother
an immigrant Eastern European woman
who fled the land of pogroms with (most of) her children
to Philadelphia
just a few years
after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
where, after her husband’s death from tuberculosis,
she made a living sewing theater curtains and
beaded bags
for wealthy women

and holding my mending by the window i think that these are not trivial connections
but literal ones
we can feel
as we bleed tiny drops of blood
into the same fabric

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Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, consumerism, crafty, Family, History, Labor, meditation, memory, migration, Ordinary, poetry

Fishing Family

My friend Heather’s husband Ross is headed to sea today,
or maybe yesterday or tomorrow.
They never know the exact date when he’ll ship out,
and they don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring.
They chop firewood
plant gardens
rebuild portions of their house
hang nets for the summer salmon season
teach their sons to climb ladders,
use tools
prepare food,
practice kindness.
They go on dates in canoes,
birth babies at home,
and snowshoe a few miles into the wilderness
to have family time
in a primitive cabin.
They volunteer in their community,
preserve hundreds of pounds of food from their garden,
and eat well.
I’m fairly certain that between the two of them,
there is nothing they could not do.
While Ross pits himself against the elements
to make their living
in the wintry Pacific a few thousand miles to the north,
Heather will keep everything going
with grace
and humor
while training to be a doula,
caring for ailing elders,
building furniture,
traveling cross country to see the grandparents,
and growing more gorgeous all the time.
Sometimes she takes the kids camping as a solo mama,
and laughs that its easier than being at home sometimes.
Depending on which fishing season it is,
she can talk to her husband daily,
or only once a week, for ten minutes,
or not even then,
but after a while,
the call inevitably comes
that he’s headed home.
Until then,
they labor through the seasons,
adding weft
and strength
to the warp of a marriage
seasoned by saltwater
struggle
and joy

my fishing family. Ross, Haven, Heather, and Liam.

my fishing family. Ross, Haven, Heather, and Liam.

(To read more about their family and their work, check out some of the words and pictures here).

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Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, Family, Food, Garden, habitat, Labor, love, marriage, motherhood, Ordinary

ordinary friday (list)

sure signs of spring in the yard

sure signs of spring in the yard

morning snuggle
tiny boy in fleece footie pajamas
three way hug before Poppa leaves for work
morning diaper change (a wrestling match on the kitchen floor)
breakfast debate settled
pot of oatmeal and toast prepared and served to a toddler who deigns to eat them
trash out
coffee made
comfort boy after a fall
take the mail out
notice birds singing as I walk back down the driveway from the mailbox
freshly turned garden earth glistening dark in the morning dampness,
waiting for my tweaked back to mend
so i can get out there and rake out the weeds
mop the latest iteration of muddy dogprints off the kitchen floor
move laundry into the dryer
3 emails answered
pack bag for boy’s weekend with Grandma
turn the house upside down in search of his Other Rainboot, (again), fruitlessly
edit press release for client
continue the great family paperwork Filing project
remember to feed myself around 10:30,
cold oatmeal with maplesyrup and soymilk in a wooden bowl with a kid spoon
boil water for the chickpeas I soaked overnight
change the sheets
check the chickpeas
make the boy more toast
help him fix a car
flip through Gary Snyder’s Collected Works while picking up the bedroom
stare for a little while at notes I scrawled in the margins when I was 21
and then put it on the shelf
and drop to my knees to look for the Other Boot
under our bed
add oil to the car that burns oil
grocery shop for the boy’s weekend away
deal with several separate tantrums, in various locations
pass two different people crying on the sidewalk,
5 miles apart from each other
and practice tonglen
realize I’ve added too much oil to the car
research the implications of this
and schedule an appointment to have it drained and changed before work
file more paperwork
make lunch
(kale chickpea quesadillas with vegan cheese and appleslices)
visit with Ma
bundle the boy off to Grandma’s
“I be back,” he assures me from his carseat
and I am glad that I feel like laughing instead of crying
If our son is independent
if our son is compassionate
if our son knows something about fearlessness
then we have done well.
get the oil changed
recycle the mail, because it is all irrelevant
dress for work

and practice gratitude
for all of this

even when its hard

its beautiful

"Beep beep."

“Beep beep.”

tilled and ready

tilled and ready

loves kale.

loves kale.

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Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, doldrums, facing east, Family, Garden, Gary Snyder, gathering, gratitude, Labor, motherhood, Ordinary, photographs, poetry, spring, stories, unrepentantly unedited, waitressing, watching it all go by