Category Archives: Nonfiction

Lost cat

If I’m going to let you in
you better show up.
If I’m going to lower this guard
you better put down all your weapons.
If I’m going to expose my heart
you better be gentle.

This fear is like a little lost cat
who can’t find it’s way home,
who’s hungry and cold and miserable.
This anxiety is how all the kids
on the little league team feel
when the worst batter is up to bat
and they already have two outs
and the score is tied
and it’s the eight inning.
This impatience is like a sailing vessel
in the 19th century
before modern navigational technology
with its wanting mates scanning the horizon
desperately.

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My open hands

Everything around me is falling down,
sleepily,
and facing crisp death,
heads turned upward toward the moon,
toward the heavens,
to the universe,
but my broken pieces
have come back to life,
have made me whole. I am wide awake
watching death
with a smile.
I want to touch each delicate piece
of death with grace,
graze them with my fingertips
and my lips,
brush up against them with my chest.
See how death sparkles,
see how it shines,
but I still don’t want it,
I will still let it’s confetti pieces
fall toward the ground from my open hands.

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What if I can’t be the light

Lately I’ve not been who I want to be.

This year has been challenging in so many ways: a tough relationship with I man that I cared for deeply and had much in common with, but we were up against his drinking problem, a general lack of long-term chemistry for us both, and my inability to trust; my insomnia; healthy weight loss followed by gaining it all back; yet again losing myself in a relationship and thus losing sight of what’s important to me; an all around personal lack of self trust and self love; a diagnosis of anxiety and being medicated on Zoloft for it, which may or may not be related to a scary amount of hair loss and thinning; my closest friends moving thousands of miles away; the struggle to balance being kind and having grace with speaking up for myself and being myself, and the fear that perhaps I’m not as kind as I thought; weekly physical therapy appointments for far too long costing more than I can easily afford to try and fix the knots in my back, ulnar nerve entrapment in my elbow, and a labral tear in my shoulder; growing pains and growing frustration at work; the realization that my parents are growing old and deteriorating in health; fear of being a woman in a city and country where sexual harassment is rampant and where our own human rights as women feel jeopardized; and the feeling that I am letting myself down, over and over and over again.

I so desperately want to be kind, to trust myself, to believe that I am enough, to be able to love and trust a man, to not be terrified of the possibility of heartbreak, to truly believe that I will be okay, to be able to deal with my anxiety, to be able to sleep at night, to do what I say I’m going to do, to not be living paycheck to paycheck so that I can pay my bills on time and pay off my credit card debt, to not let others down, to be a loving and caring friend, to grow, to eat healthy and exercise, to be smart, to challenge myself and not fear failure, to write, to finish my novel, to travel, to find my soul, to feel at peace with myself, to enjoy time alone with myself without feeling lonely, to run fast after my dreams, to try spoken word on a stage in public, to excel at my job, to be a good example for others, to help those in need, to be happy, to do the things that I love doing, and to be the light.

My life is a complete mess right now and with all I feel I’m up against, I don’t know where to start or how to do it. It seems exhausting, and what if I don’t succeed?

What if I can’t be the light?

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I hope the stars sing you a lullaby tonight
and the sky teaches you how to dance.
I want you to know that it is up to the Universe
to teach you how terrifyingly beautiful this life is.
I want you to know it is up to Life to reveal how
beautifully terrifying everything beyond the heavens is.
Drink it all up: the galaxies, the mountains and the
pink painted sunsets, sleeping in soft meadows,
the expanse of the sea. I want you to have it all.
Lay your head down on me. Wrap your fingers in mine.
Let me care for you. Let me see your smile.
Let me have the space and the time to be vulnerable.
The magic in this is that we are our own people,
with our own lives, our own passions,
our own battles, our own demons. And yet,
we’ve grown slightly together,
we’ve shared stories and fears and sadness,
together we have made choices
to share just the tiniest bit of our lives
with someone, with each other,
and I hope that the stars sing you the sweetest lullaby tonight.

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Poetry

I.
My soul,
my well-being,
should always come first.

II.
It can’t be my fault
if I didn’t do anything wrong. And I AM
good enough. I am better
than good enough for myself.
I am strong.
I am the perfect person for
my own story.

III.
The carcasses of Christmas trees.
The cold caress of falling snow.

IV.
I am tired of being strong,
not that I want to be weak.
I just want to be.

V.
For once I want to be weak
for once I want to be vulnerable
for once I want to just
feel it all
feel the universe
feel without being ashamed:
I want to be strong in my vulnerability.

VI.
Some days are a struggle. Some days
you don’t want to be strong, don’t want
to carry that weight on your shoulders,
some days you want to just let it all fall.
Some days,
you don’t want to force a smile,
don’t want to wear eyeliner
and pink lipstick
and rouge on your cheeks,
don’t want to pretend that everything is okay.
Some days are for pain,
for letting yourself feel hurt,
for crying.
These days make the golden days all that much brighter.
Some days,
life is messy
and that is okay.

VII.
I’m tired of
pretending everything is okay,
of being the perfect woman – or
trying – let me wear my bitch face,
let me wear my regular, contorted,
angry, disconcerted face
without you labeling it,
let me be mad and angry
like everyone deserves to be,
I’m tired of looking fabulous,
I’m tired of trying too damn hard,
I want to be allowed to
not look pretty all the time – or trying to –
I want to be ugly,
to be messy,
to be vulnerable,
I want to be able to lie on the floor
shivering and shuddering
as my tears pool by the sides of my face,
whimpering, screaming, punching walls,
and not be judged
because you have felt that way too.

VIII.
What am I doing with my life?

IX.
I am living.

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To accept

Realize that you made things the way they are because of how
frightening it can be to have dreams and to go after remarkable
dreams – to keep your dreams in an open jar at your bedside.

Feel disconnected. Feel like you’re crazy: just hold on. Hold on
to your mother, to your father, to the memories of your
grandmother with wrinkled frail hands – to hold on tightly.

Don’t put bravery to bed. Shake it, and wake it up. Be incredible,
be your own best masterpiece every single day. And be the best
damn street sweeper that you can be – to accept who you are.

Climb the mountains in your life, becuase when you stand at the
summit that feeling of insignificance, of catching your breathe,
of wonder and honor and fear – to accept who you are becoming.

Be okay when everything is not right, with loneliness, with distant
empty hope. Know that the longing strengthens and awakens you – to
accept the days and moments and breaths that you have been given.

To speak softly, to touch gently, to let go, and to live.

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Our days

These days of being young and wild,
reckless and rather free
when we go out and dance in the streets at night
when we spend all day in bed hiding from the sunlight: these are the days.
These days when we say
we have no regrets – but we do –
we keep them like secrets
and only bring them up
drunk at wild parties,
when we whisper in ears
when get lost in crowds
when we forget the nights like sweet drugs gone bad: these are the days. 
The days when we run through the city
run through the woods
run though our days like we’re running from
the ghosts born from our forbidden ways;
the days when we can’t wait for darkness,
can’t wait for the sunrise,
when we can’t wait to see someone smile
and pass on a tiny glimmer of hope,
or see what type of surprise tomorrow holds.
The days when we can’t
quite
let
go,
the days when we pray,
when we wonder if God is real,
how the world was made,
if this is all there is:
these are the days.
Days of golden,
days of tears,
days of troubles and days of fears,
days of bright blue cloudless skies
that make you feel invincible: these are our days.

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Redwood Buzz

In a busy city of decision and indecision, power politics and greed, with so many faces just passing by, hearts bruised and beaten, skin thickened by force and cold weather, fragile souls gripping fast to something so intangible that we’ve all almost drowned, I live a life that’s half removed from everything I’ve ever wanted to do. We are born to make choices, we are born to go to heaven, we are just human.

My Old Navy overalls that I wore in the 5th grade had these yellowgreen grass stains on the knee caps, rolled at the cuffs above my dirty Keds, with buttons tarnished. And I can remember a faded photograph of me somewhere buried in my mother’s albums when I was much younger than that standing on top of a huge dirt pile in my father’s driveway, three times as big as me and I was queen.

I was never afraid of rolling in the dirt, climbing trees, or pretending. Back then lives revolved around make believe. Princesses and kings, polar bear adventures, fortresses of our imagination. We were never who we were then but now, now we are only who we are.

With heartbreak and responsibility, with time and pain, we grow. I can’t climb up those jungles any more. I can’t live at the top of forests or galaxies far far away. I can’t be animals in story books with blonde haired best friends who have since disappeared. I’ve become who I am.

Homemade cabbage soup for dinner with parmesan sprinkled on top. Piles of smelly dishes pilled up in the sink from a life that lives too fast. Once clean clothes on the bedroom floor. Messy sheets, dust bunny floors. This is the orchestra of a life being lived, the skin of my days, the twinkle of passing time, the single notes that make up the cacophony of my life. We sleep, we wake, we are shaken, we fall.

In shady alleyways figures bend and end their days hugging those they love, shrugging those they loathe. In these gray moments you can only see silhouettes, black against the zest of life and light. Some figures lean cool against brick walls. Others lean against each other, lightly, slightly, making contact with each other’s hearts. Still others stand with spaces the size of Antarctica between them, so far from each other. Facial intricacies – smiles, eyes, freckles – become invisible.

In these dark city alleys between mountains of buildings and rivers of sidewalks, among putrid dumpsters, rats and cats, amid shops and homes and dreams and things, something floats through the air and drifts between bodies. Out of the darkness comes mystery, emerges enemies, friendships, and lovers. But I grew tired of standing in alleyways, leaning against cold concrete.

I have a distant memory that replays in my mind
of cliff jumping into a golden blue cold lake
on a sweaty hot sunshine day. The air glitters. My fellow cliff jumping compatriots are laughing.
Happy noises
and splashing noises from bodies tumbling falling gracefully
into the water echo back from the cliffs.
There’s so much beauty, everywhere. Just picture it.

We’d stand back from the edge – almost naked in our bathing suits – run across the rock in bare innocent feet, let out a scream of joyexcitementfearforgiveness
and plunge our bodies out from the rock, fall fast long and down into the water
SPLASH. We jumped for hours. Never got tired of that thrill that splash
that cool refreshing feeling.

This memory makes me smile, but also confuses me a lot. I can’t
remember if it was real. How weird is it to have such a strong memory, something so tangible in my mind, but there’s this doubt hovering around it that makes me think it may not be real. Perhaps it’s just some dreamful resemblance
of an experience of my lustful youth that I’m holding onto
created in a lazy afternoon of boredom or sleep.

I want my life to feel like that jump. Every day: joyexcitementfearforgiveness.
Over and over again
in the late afternoon perfection neverstop glow of the end of an innocent summer.

So in August I went off trying to find that joyexcitementfearforgiveness among the forests and the rocky West Coast. I dreamed of seeing the vastly pointed redwood forests in all their lush and reddish brown glory, so I flew across the country to Portland and made my way down the Oregon coast, hiked through and camped among the perfect redwoods, and ended up in Jack Kerouac’s old hood of San Francisco.

In search of the perfect cup of coffee, the most holy coastlines, redwood trees that end in the heavens, kind smiles and conversations with strangers, the most comfortable tent spot, and adventure specking the sidewalks of West Coast cities.

When my mother, who thought I was crazy for going, asked me why I was doing it, I told her that I was soul searching. I wanted to find myself. Adventure is so inspiring because these unfamiliar places and unfamiliar faces are unexpected. They thrill you. You don’t know what’s around the next corner: it could be God! The word ADVENTURE seems so contrite, it’s for little kids imitating Where the Wild Things Are or National Geographic explorers or North Face bearded men with Go Pros. But I can go on an adventure too and there is nothing wrong with it and I don’t have to be guilty for it. Trees look different, the sun looks different, the air blankets me differently. More softly or more harshly depending on where I’m coming from and where I’m going.

One of my favorite poems (by Gary J. Whitehead called “A Fist Year Teacher to His Students”) has the line: “Be glad, or be sad if you want, but be…” We lose sight of just being. It’s so hard for folks these days with all the noise and rumbling of society (SOCIETY! Cough Cough!) to just BE.

What does it mean to just be? It means that you’re really present, you’re consciously taking in life and breaths and moments, feeling the warmth that comes with the sunshine and the sadness that comes with the pouring rain. It means your mind is not occupied with distant thoughts, huddling in the dampness of the past. You are here now.

So soul searching – or something like it—was the basis of my trip. And I did, I found it, the first night I camped in a completely desolate campground alone in the woods in the dark. I found myself scared shitless, and I found my soul standing there, laughing like a lion, right next to me. It was embarrassing. My soul was there all along, there was just too much noise in between for me to notice.

I have this theory that the fragments of peace and blunder that make up our lives – it’s all just to pass the time. All of it. Look up and you’ll see the heavens seem so far away. You can try to find peace in strangeness, peace in strangers, but the heavens seem so far away. We’re all just waiting. Waiting for what – for our lives to end? For the heavens to move closer, the sky to come crashing down? We’re waiting to see our futures become something – more than they are. Moonrise after moonrise, just trying to fill our four walls with grand heirlooms to show we’ve come from SOMEWHERE, we are made up of SOMETHING, we have meant something to SOMEONE. This dark wooden rocking chair, that turquoise fragile lamp of my grandmothers – I remember her bony hands, her fierce blue eyes that could still look warm. Sadness, not even Sunday night oldtime Bluegrass from the radio can fix. But it’s all just background noise. The buzz. The rumble. The never ending beat.

Do you know that Banksy piece, the graffiti stencil of a young girl placed next to a run-down gas station in L.A. – if you don’t know it you should look it up, it’s beautiful – she’s got this big watering can and she’s watering an old TV antenna that’s growing out of the earth, leaves and all. She’s watering – causing to grow – distraction. Background noise.

The buzz, the rumble, the never ending beat.

I didn’t need to drive a $57-a-day rental car to the Mount Hood Wilderness down a pockmarked dirt road with holes so big that I was sure this little compact car was going to get stuck or I was going to bump the underside so hard it tears open the gas tank and explodes, terrified of getting murdered my some woodsman hillbilly junkie or attacked by bears in the middle of the night, wishing I had a gun, in order to find my fucking soul. It was there. All along. And I felt like a nauseous idiot.

But after that first night of camping alone, once the campground host checked me in at my site just before dusk saying “Oh, I thought you were two? You registered two people…” with a dumb, silent, scary pause, and me saying “Nope, just me,’ and after I tried cooking a Walmart steak over the campfire grill – which I am so proud to say that I foraged all of my own fire wood and built my own little raging fire – but realized that after about 8 hours of non-refrigeration the meat that looked a grayish white like my grandmother’s cheeks probably should not be eaten, I survived.

My favorite day of that West Coast soul searching adventure was the day I drove down yet another bumpy, narrow dirt road, Howland Hill Road, into Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Northern California. The trees that touched the road, right next to me, looked like big gray sleeping giants in sleeping bags from all the dust laying on them. That day I planned to hike into the woods to see the Boy Scout Tree on the aptly named Boy Scout Tree Trail. It was an easy hike, just 5.3 miles of little elevation gain down into a valley of the redwoods where the Boy Scout Tree was to be.

There, far away in the wilderness, lost deep in the fern-lined woods are trees that know no fear. Bark raised with freedom, roots ridden with hope, leaves touched with grace, so much so that they never stop shimmering. These old-growth trees are nature’s most elegant and powerful living things. Solid and still, yet humming with life. Tall and alive and buzzing with the earth’s internal lighting. They are complete in what they are. They yearn for nothing. I felt like I had a lot to learn from these trees and they wanted to teach me.

Sunshine radiates down to provide the simplest form of nutrients for them. They will never be cut down, they are immortal in their glory. I felt like their secret was, fed by the sunshine and the rain, they love their ground.
I had a lot of time to think on my West Coast hikes. Horsetail Falls and Oneonta Gorge just off the Columbia River in friendly Oregon, Ramona Falls with such an epic view of Mt Hood her majesty, and of course the Boy Scout Tree’s one huge base forming into two trunks towering high – I wish you could have seen it all.

Among the redwoods I thought deeply and reflected on my life. Most days, in between and among hard things and hard places, when its dark under the covers and cold, I strive so hard, ivy leaves growing up and down against scratchy brick walks, to feel the light and see the light and still be the light. Red lipstick falling down my face. Eyes turned blue. Freckles burned on my skin and plumb blush stained. Most days I feel like a symphony of sadness. City walls being torn down are nothing compared to these walls. Concrete so thick an air raid wouldn’t even cause all souls to hide in basements. There’s no light there.

Still sounds, rumbling sounds, quiet sounds, sounds that rattle my bed frame and rattle me right out of bed. They are all part of this greater soundtrack.

But out there, in Jedediah Smith among those giants, there was no sound. No beat. No buzz and rumble. My thoughts – rather my soul – was the symphony I could hear.

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Steady praises

Golden roses floating down steady praises rising up. We are born to make choices, we are born to go to heaven, we are just human. My Old Navy overalls that I wore in 5th grade had these yellowgreen grass stains on the knee caps, rolled at the cuffs above my dirty Keds with buttons tarnished. There’s this picture of me when I was much younger than that standing on top of a huge dirt pile in my father’s driveway, three times as big as me and I was queen.

I was never afraid of rolling in the dirt, climbing trees, or pretending back then. Back then our lives revolved around make believe. Princesses and kings, polar bear adventures, fortresses of our imagination. We were never who we were then but now, now we are only who we are.

With heartbreak and responsibility, with time and pain, we grow. We can’t climb up those jungles any more. We can’t live at the top of forests or galaxies far far away we can’t be animals in story books with blonde haired best friends who have since disappeared. We’ve become who we are.

Warm rustic cabbage soup for dinner, parmesan sprinkles on top. Piles of smelly dishes pilled up in the sink from a life that lives too fast. Piles of clothes on the closet floor. Messy sheets, dust bunny floors. This is the symphony of a life being lived, the skin of our days, the twinkle of passing time, the single notes that make up the cacophony of our lives. Golden roses floating down steady praises rising up.

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Meaning of Life

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In August I went on an adventure. I’ve dreamed of seeing the vastly heaven pointed redwood forests in all their lush and reddish brown glory, so I flew across the country to Portland and made my way down the Oregon coast with a pit stop to camp at the base of Mt Hood, hiked through and camped among the perfect redwoods, and ended up in Jack Kerouac’s old hood of San Francisco. It was a glorious trip. When people close to my, really, just my mother, asked me why I was going on that trip and why I was going alone, I told them (her) that I was soul searching. I wanted to find myself. (And I did, the first night I camped in a completely desolate campground alone in the woods in the dark. I found myself scared shitless, but I still found my true courageous, brave and daring self…)

So often I think to myself – and I have a feeling that much of the world, or at least the American culture, often thinks this way too – wondering who I really am. What I’m doing with my life. I’m trying to find my soul. I’m seeking out what would really make me happy. I want to know what this, this life, my life, is all about.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?!

You know what I think, what I realized? We already have the meaning of life. YOU are the meaning of life. I am the meaning of life. The meaning of life is our happiness, the pain we feel deep down inside, it’s warm family hugs, it’s truly feeling love and loved, it’s lust, it’s forgiveness, it’s failing, and it’s getting back up and trying again. The meaning of life can be found in sweet and glittery candy stores, it can be found standing at the edge of the sea staring out into the gray nothingness at the horizon, it can be found looking up at the sky when you’re in the mountains and feel so damn close to what’s out there and you feel so damn small. The meaning of life is feeling contentment in a moment, it’s sharing laughter with good friends, it’s exchanging a smile with a passing stranger. It’s also feeling real fear, god-forbid you feel true gut wrenching heartbreak but it’s that too, and anger that drives you mad you literally punch a hole in your wall out of frustration. Life is feeling young when your fifty. Life is growing old and getting wrinkles. Life is living on your own and supporting yourself for the first time in a big city in your early twenties. Life is watching the passing of lives and then you’re gone. The meaning of life is YOUR LIFE.

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