Tag Archives: basic goodness

burned tortillas

I drop my son off at preschool three mornings a week at 9:00,
and after circle time I sprint for the car
get home by 9:20
and work feverishly till 11:50,
when i dash back to preschool for pickup.
at home I make his lunch while he plays or watches a show

not infrequently, i burn something while trying to multitask
sending off the last few professional emails in broken bursts
while sweeping up the mud from rubber boots and eight large dog paws
opening the mail
filing bills
talking about his day
and confirming childcare swaps via text message

the acrid smell of a too-hot skillet eddies in from the kitchen
snapping me back to the primary task at hand
and i rush in to tend to lunch two minutes too late

stand over the sink cracking crispy bubbles of burned tortilla
off his quesadilla with a wooden spoon
quietly cursing myself for doing too many things at once
while he breaks down into tears over the news
that I have to work at the restaurant tonight
(as i do every Wednesday)
and I watch myself trying to handle his separation anxiety
wondering if i’m making it worse
and if my networking emails were coherent
and if i moved the laundry into the dryer

i wonder if he associates the acrid smell of burned tortillas
with the heat of his anger
or the bitterness of his disappointment
over things not being easier
I certainly do

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Filed under motherhood, Ordinary, work

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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Ravens and Aprons

"Ravens,

Pressing cold fingers against a sharp-edged metal key
in a stubborn lock
after running back into the house
to grab a clean apron
i am startled
into the present moment
by the guttural exhortation of a very large black raven
perched directly across the driveway
at eye level

.Pause.

The bird’s dark eyes gleam
January wind cuts through the yard
the raven holds its perch as the power line sways
the moss growing on the shingle overhead is damp and green
and the key is painful against the skin of my fingers,
dried out by a long night of bleachrags at the pub.

Another four ravens fly overhead together
squawking and calling into the cold
wings flapping against the sky like
black aprons on the line.

I see ravens everywhere on my drive to work.
Swooping into naked winter branches,
rising up from the rocky beach by the ferry terminal,
picking at cigarette stubs on the sidewalks of West Seattle.

Tie on my apron and wade into the slow current of Sunday night,
cleaning and serving, emptying salt and pepper shakers
leaning into my work instead of out
noticing the edges of moments,
water landing in a pintglass,
footfalls on time-worn wooden floors.

Damn Raven might’ve been a Rinpoche.

(genesis. orderpad poem 6 January 2013).

(genesis. orderpad poem 6 January 2013).

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Filed under basic goodness, Ordinary, poetry, stories, winter

Offerings to the Utter Brilliance of the Present Moment

As we were leaving, the sweet Vietnamese woman at Chu Minh Veggie Deli on Jackson and 12th bent down to stand face to face with our son in his rubber boots and his raincoat, and handed him a crispy vegan springroll wrapped in a napkin. “Because you are special,” she said,

and I felt my heart in my chest, standing by the window in the cramped deli as the birds took off in a mass from the telephone line outside and swirled into the grey sky, feathered bodies reflected in the puddles of rainwater laying on the pavement.  There was a sign on the wall behind a potted plant that said “We care more about compassion and protecting your physical and spiritual health than we do about making a profit” and it was as if they didn’t need to advertise it, they just needed to affirm it, somewhere, commit it to the visual world in case someone bothers to look closely,

which is how i feel about the tattoo on the back of my neck, which says

basic goodness

and is usually covered by my collar and my hair.

:like a declaration of compassion tucked behind the leaves of a potted plant,  like the reflection of birds swirling into a grey sky in a puddle of rainwater on the pavement, like the momentary connection between that woman and our small son

Offerings

to the utter brilliance of the present moment

 

 

 

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tiny debacles and beautiful circumstances

“we are more often involved in farces than in tragedies.”
-Dharma teacher Randy Harris

a week or two ago, Ryan and I were taking a load of boxes from our old rental to our new home. He was driving his scooter, and I was following behind in the fully packed station wagon. Assata was riding shotgun, and the kayak was strapped to the roof.

The car was lagging on hills, which I attributed to our gradually failing clutch. We were hoping it would last through the move, and driving gingerly. I failed to notice the car was also running out of gas.

On a long, S-curve hill, it gave up the ghost. I hollered Ryan’s name out the open window, but he couldn’t hear me with his helmet on. Assata and I coasted to a stop. I put the emergency blinkers on and called Ryan’s cell a half dozen times, knowing full well he wouldn’t answer till he’d gotten off the scooter at the new house. Feeling tired, vulnerable and overwhelmed (read: pregnant in the not-fun sense), I left a message and spent a few minutes crying and swearing and smacking my fist against the dash.

He called back in a few minutes, and promised to race to my rescue with a gas can. I took deep breaths, and apologized to Assata for my meltdown. She witnesses me like this more than anyone else does, and I wonder what runs through her head as I sob or rant at the walls. I am hoping she understands that something is different right now, in her intuitive dog-way, that the hormonal tide is running high and the fuses are short and these outbursts have nothing to do with her.

She regarded me seriously from the passenger seat for a moment as I petted her head, then began to retch and dry-heave. Panicking, I leaned across her, trying to unlatch and push open the door so she could escape to the roadside to vomit.

My pregnant belly smashed up against the gearshift, and the angle of the hill worked against the angle of the door. i managed to heave it open, pleading with her to “go back, back, back.” Gagging, she chose to go forward instead, wedging her 95 pounds behind me in the drivers seat and smashing my six and a half months worth of baby bump under the steering wheel. From this position, front legs dangling between the door and the seat, she proceeded to vomit out the open drivers’s side window. Mostly. She couldn’t position herself properly so a fair bit ended up inside the car as well. It was a thoughtful effort on her part, though. Realizing there wasn’t much to be done, I sat tight and waited for rescue, patting her awkwardly over my shoulder. Like most of us, she hates throwing up.

It was at this time that the Good Samaritans of southwest Seattle began to pass by. We must have made quite the picture… stranded Subaru, blinkers flashing, woman bent over steering wheel with chin practically resting on dashboard, large dog vomiting out the window behind woman, kayak and full car of boxes, on side of steep s-curve hill. The aforementioned Good Samaritans would slow to a crawl as they passed, taking in the picture, then find a place to turn around at the top or bottom of the hill. They would drive by a second time, faces the picture of puzzlement, leaning out their windows to ask:

“do you need help?”

By now I’d switched from crying to laughing. How could I not? “No,” I merrily replied to each, patting the dog over my shoulder. “My husband is on his way.”

Once Assata finished her prolonged vomiting spell, i realized I had to convince her to stay put, given that any backing up on her part would result in vomit on my clothing and the seats of the car, a reality I felt I wasn’t up to handling. Continued patting her and calmly asking her to stay, as if the situation we found ourselves in was, in fact, quite ordinary.

It was, actually. Very ordinary. Cars run out of gas. Women are pregnant. Dogs vomit. People offer to help. A tiny debacle, easily resolved, and worth laughing about later.

There have been many such debacles as Ryan, Assata, Callum (in utero) and myself make the grand transition to our new 80-year-old home. The clutch failed a few days after that, and a few days later, we had to replace all four tires on the car. In addition to a fresh coat of paint, the bedrooms needed fresh wiring, insulation, walls and ceilings. The lovely pine floors were revealed to be contaminated with asbestos glue after days of backbreaking labor chipping up the tiles that had covered them, and we emptied the last of our savings to install bamboo flooring over the pine. Removing the trim around the doorways and baseboards to permit the installation of the bamboo ripped huge chunks of old plaster off the walls. The rewire job in our bedroom turned out to have been done incorrectly, tying in all four outlets to the overhead light switch. Easily fixed, but only after a week of calls to an electrician hesitant to make the drive back out to our house. The range was suspected to be a fire hazard, and at the very least, smelled toxic and acrid when turned on, so my folks bought us a new one (along with a lovely energy efficient new washer and dryer. Thank you Mom and Dad. Thank you a thousand times.) Sears didn’t have the new range in stock right away, so we waited two weeks, only to discover the range had been damaged in delivery, leading us to wait another week for delivery and installation. Hello takeout, hello crappy hot plate. First time I tried to make tea, it was revealed they’d improperly wired in the new range. I am waiting for the repair tech now. I had a cough for a month, which gave way to an allergy-induced sinus infection which has lasted ten days. We qualified for the first-time homebuyer’s credit, then discovered its taking twenty weeks for the checks to be disbursed, meaning we’ll have to make it through my maternity leave with very little in savings. We are tired, and the boxes are still piled high.

Each tiny debacle has reduced me to tears. They have not been tragedies though; mostly just farces, many with a fair degree of inevitability about them. Each one has been resolved, eventually, leading me to the refreshed knowledge that I am living in beautiful circumstances. The lament “things came up that necessitated we spend our savings” can be flipped on its head: “Things came up and we had money in savings to spend.” The car has a new clutch, and new tires. The money from the homebuyer credit will come eventually. We have lovely new bedrooms, lovely floors, and lovely appliances in our lovely new house, which we will live in fully for many years to come. Ryan has plotted out giant garden beds for us in the front yard, and Assata is the queen of a lot large enough to feel like a small farm, at least by city standards. My belly grows rounder and larger every day, and Callum passes the hours in there napping and entertaining himself afloat in the half-dark, hiccuping and kicking and stretching against my skin. Each time I outgrow another part of my wardrobe, one of the dear mamas I know randomly delivers a bag of adorable maternity clothes, rescuing me from the frustration of spending scarce funds shopping for clothing I will only wear for a few months. (Thank you Heather, Brandy, Samantha… every day, thank you.) The little boy will be here soon, sooner than we can comprehend, and our friends and families are providing us with practically every baby implement we need. These things, well-used and well-loved by their previous families, sit waiting to receive him in his brightly painted bedroom which fills with sunlight in the mornings and glows for most of the afternoon.

A parade of tiny debacles cannot be long mourned in the midst of beautiful circumstances. There is living to get on to.

Belly at 28 weeks, in the new breakfast nook.

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Filed under basic goodness, Ordinary, Pregnancy

I am picking my battles and looking out for basic goodness.

spend the morning watching rain beading on freshsprung march buds
daffodils are blossoming yellow and damp alongside covert crocuses
they seem more nuanced, as flowers,
when the sky is dim, and grey
more capable of the lesser human emotions

i am picking my battles and looking out for basic goodness

there are asbestos-containing-materials in our new house
and its not shocking, i guess
but i am furious anyway.
Not that a house built in 1930 would have
asbestos ceilings
and asbestos glue under ugly flooring
but furious that anyone was ever fooled into thinking this was a good idea
that the newest laboratory innovation was really going to make life better
and now we’re left to clean it up

midway through the morning it occurs to me:
there’s nothing shocking here.
maybe in getting pissed about the mistakes of previous generations i am missing the point
Everybody wants it cheap, and easy.
Everyone wants to have their cake
and eat it too
my generation is just as willing to overlook the risks
Goodbye Asbestos, hello vinyl siding and polychlorinated biphenyls.
goodbye styrofoam,
hello nalgene bottles with bisphenol-A
goodbye oil hello nuclear power
goodbye coca-cola with cocaine
hello diet coke with aspartame

i am picking my battles and looking out for basic goodness.

there is a wind gust and a raven swoops upward suddenly over the ravine
then turns its head into the invisible force
and strikes out northwest
i am looking forward to years of wandering my own yard
clipping branches from familiar trees
for ikebana
at all seasons

somedays i chide myself for writing much about Ordinary Life
when there are So Many Big Issues playing out in the World
big issues that i care about,
big issues where my voice is relevant to the discussion
and i have something to say
But then I have moments
in which i remember:

This is All there is.

This ordinary moment each of us is living:
right Now,
is all there is.
All those Big Issues are Here, Now.
in our breakfast cereal,
in the set of choices we have before us
Ecology, “Politics,” Gender Issues, Violence, Pollution, Economics, “History”
coffee, dogshit, bills paid, weather, food in the fridge, the water coming out of the tap, the inventory of the kitchen trash, the history my body carries as it walks around the house, the dust in the vents, the microchips in my cell phone, the corporate giants who own my organic feel good toothpaste.

i wander around the yard in a hoodie snapping pictures of spring flowers against the grey sky
the dog refuses to join me,
because of the rain
and stays inside on the couch
with pillows

i make soy hot chocolate on the stove top
put on an ani album from ten years ago
and start packing photo albums and journals
into discarded archival boxes

midway through the afternoon, i hitch my shirt up over my belly
and stare at it, waiting for him to move
I haven’t really been certain yet
if the flutterings are actually him
and not my blood pumping, or my stomach working,
or my ligaments stretching
suddenly,
the skin pops up alongside my bellybutton
and returns to level so quickly i’m not sure i really saw it
so i wait
and there he is again
and again
i watch, entranced, for forty-five minutes
as his limbs surface under my skin like the fins of whales

i am picking my battles
and looking out for basic goodness

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