Sunday, December 30, 2012


5:30 moon in the west luminescent on snow, baby sleeping in crook of arm, cat snuggled between my legs, four-year-old calling out, “What time is it?” and blessedly drifting back to sleep. Arm slips out from under baby, cat stirs, I (who love to be alone) tiptoe downstairs (moon following), boil water and pour it into my new, handmade, lovely, big-enough-for-my-tea mug, throw another log on the fire, pull up wool socks, turn on tree lights (luminous, gleaming, luminescent). Water boils and I put a tea bag into my mug in the dark (don’t wake the sleeping child upstairs!), pour water, carry steaming cup to light to find: two bags floating.  Last night’s chamomile mixed with this morning’s black. Shit. But don’t make a fuss over it. (Sleeping child!) Sips of tepid, strange tea, fresh cat food in dish, feet near now-blazing fire, new book on my lap (Mink River, so good I awoke in the night smiling), but don’t pick it up now: this quiet in the near-dark too precious, too quickly gone to spend it in another life (I who love to be alone, who loves the early morning darkness, who wants to nothing more than to be. Here. Now.). And then? 6:05. My children. Calling for me. Oh good morning dear ones. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

snow winter moon

It's the dawn before Christmas and miracle of miracles the third day in a row that my entire family has slept until six. Which means, I am here by the wood stove with tea, the glittering lights of the Christmas tree, and you. The snow that fell two days ago was quickly covered by a thick coating of ice, but no complaints: the ground, at night, under moonlight, is white and we have all attached spikes to the bottom of our boots in order to make it to the car and if it snows just another inch we will be able to take out the new sled and, well, fly.

The world feels (surprisingly) very much full of good things to me right now and ripe with connection. Connectivity: the reason woodbird is here, and for the past few days I have felt a bounty of strands of love and common ground slipping between the trees into our clearing here in the woods and forming a web that bring me joy and levity and deep gratitude. I have many e-mails and letters I want to write, but for now: thank you for that. We hold each other up in this world. You and me and you and me and you and me.  And this stunning piece of art above? I found it at Deborah's blog where she has sweetly shared our winter song "Stratton Mountain Tragedy" and the story behind it. It is a song of winter miracles. Enjoy.


Friday, December 21, 2012


Happy winter solstice, friends. It snowed in the night (at last!) and the cat and I snuck out in the early morning to dust our toes with the stuff and peek both up at the still-dark sky and into the brightly-lit windows of home. Both made us frisky and bright eyed and grateful. It has been a season of making stuff: nightgowns and mittens and house additions and cookies and ginger bread houses and snowflakes and new songs and, if experience tells me anything, it will continue to be a season of making things for the long road ahead. Which is, I think, a wonderful way to spend one's brief time here on earth: with our hearts and hands busy in the creation of things which bring us and others joy and warmth and light and (hopefully) make the world a more enjoyable place to be. May today and the days ahead be filled with love, light and busy hearts and hands for you, too.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


What a tender, heart-sore week. I've spent the last few days making gifts and baking and trying to keep my heart afloat on the bright-lit faces of my children. I've also had some moments to read but have found that most of the fiction I've picked up has drowned out, with loud cacophony, the tender, quiet, luminous, sometimes tragic light of the real world we live in. And so I have found comfort in:

The most recent issue of The Progressive, in which writers (Terry Tempest Williams, Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibbin, to name a few), answer the question of what it means to live well. Which, as you know, is a question I care about.

Also, the first two chapters of The Woman in the Woods, by Ann Joslin Williams. This collection of linked stories is painfully beautiful. And yes, a child dies, which is perhaps why I turned to it now.

And, at last, Mary Ruefle's collection of essays, Madness, Rack, and Honey, from which I offer you a few lines, which are about poetry, but also more:

I do not think I really have anything to say about poetry other than remarking that it is a wandering little drift of unidentified sound, and trying to say more reminds me of following the sound of a thrush into the woods on a summer's eve--if you persist in following the thrush it will only recede deeper and deeper into the woods; you will never actually see the thrush (the hermit thrush is especially shy), but I suppose listening is a kind of knowledge, or as close as one can come. "Fret not after knowledge, I have none," is what the thrush says. Perhaps we can use our knowledge to preserve a bit of space where his lack of knowledge can survive. 

May your hearts also find the light.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

songs in the lunar phase

Red Heart the Ticker, the band of which I am one half (and of which my husband is the other) has a new hair brained scheme for you: Songs in the Lunar Phase. What is it?  A music subscription plan in which we send you a new song on the full moon of every month for a year. What better way to celebrate (and remember) those days of bewitching lunar splendor?! (And hear tunes no others will...)

You can read more about it (and subscribe, if you're so inclined) here:



Saturday, December 8, 2012


Today's menu:

The chair where I plan to sometime sit and read (with a cup of tea):

Nature in Winter, by David Stokes
Hunger Mountain
Winter World, by Bernd Heinrich

I'm willing to wait all day.

Friday, December 7, 2012


It's the one time of year when I put all my other projects on hold in order to become crafty. This year I've put my vintage Singer on the kitchen table and will let it live there for a few weeks while I make:  these stockings for my children, a flannel nightgown for A, and felted pants and mittens out of an old hand-me-down sweater. I'm an absolute sucker for this time of year. And I'm as far from a perfectionist as you can get, which makes the work both ridiculous and fun.

Happy making to you too.


PS: My friend Desha has reposted a piece about my house (originally on enhabiten in May), in case you want to see what my house looked like back when I was a mother of one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

winter lights

Good morning. It's still gray here, yes, but the glittering sound of that soft C is reflected in the Christmas lights strung from the French doors to the wood stove, and light is abundant, in: All the Living, by C.E. Morgan, which both frustrated and amazed in equal measure (and when you get that close to love, it is a light worth sharing); apple and arugula salad with rosemary dressing; old wool sweaters turned into snug baby pants and felted mittens;  two barred owls and one bald eagle; the first few pages of Things that Are by Amy Leach; ice on water and light on ice;  early morning dance parties full of baby you can drive my car and toothless grins; cranking the woodstove so we can all go barefoot; sky between trees and trees under sky; the moon that wakes us at three am through this purple curtain; the snow that comes and goes and comes and goes again; my daughter's voice; my son's eyes; the glitter spilled across the floor that no-one has yet bothered to sweep up; and that bath, yesterday. Oh yes, that bath. In the late afternoon. With piping hot water and a candle and the most recent copy of The Sun. That was a dizzying bright light amidst all this gray. May your day be pocked and diaphanous and perforated with the particular light of winter, too. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Avah 3

I swore to myself I was done with Avah poems here on this blog, but this one was irresistible. The inspiration comes from an erasure book made by the dear gal Jennifer Bowen Hicks and her talented son Oliver. Happy morning to you all. 

Pretty maid
you come my dear
ladies near
baby's bum
sing and low
honey bird, sweet and high
cricket come, woods 
cricket near
cricket’s ear
woods is near
come quick
congratulations, apple man!
The word that made
crow stack (yes I said crow stack!)
horse made
pretty laid
my dear is gone
eyeball near
and far away
the thing that made the gal come near
dog howl
whatever comes near
I simply feel
the one that he’s forgotten
the one that made the pretty-o-o. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Artist Mother/Mother Artist

I have kind of a fetish about the subject of mothering and creativity. Not creative mothering (though that's always a good thing), but about trying to be a professional artist and a mother at the same time. Clearly I'm obsessed because it's what I'm trying to do, but also because our art and our children are such natural competitors of each other. They both demand our undivided attention and limitless amounts of time. Neither one of them pays us a lick. They demand deep attention of the kind that means you can't just sit down and draw a picture with your daughter while thinking about your story or sit down to write a story while thinking about your daughter. If you do your daughter will fall to pieces and your story will turn to shit.

They demand complete presence in the moment. Time with just you. Time when you aren't hopping up to turn off the beans (burning) or hang up the laundry (starting to sour). They demand our love. And devotion.

And what woman has enough of that to go around?

If I had more time, I would like to start a website called The Mother Artist Pages (or some such thing), featuring women artists who are also mothers. I would like to interview Sally Mann (who lugged her kids around in the back of her truck while she took pictures) and feature my grandmother, Margaret MacArthur, who lugged her kids around in the back of her Jeep while collecting field recordings. I would like to talk to my friend Beth Orton who just took her two children (ages five and one) on a four month musical tour, and Alice Munro, who wrote her first story while her newborn slept in the cradle beside her. In other words, I would like to interview/feature both the mother/artists who are in the thick of it and the ones who have made it through the other side. The ones who have found success and the ones who are hoping to someday find that elusive fruit.

Yes, there's that ubiquitous word "balance" to ask about. And house-cleaning and money and childcare. But I'd like to ask the deeper questions, too: questions about sanity and loyalty and guilt and sacrifice and failure and anger and desire and regret and transformation. Because I think every mother/artist out there thinks about these about a million times every day and could use a little solidarity on the matter. Some community and some empathy and some camaraderie.

Wouldn't that be a nice site?

And since I don't have the time to create such a thing, here are some appetizers for you:

Enjoy. And maybe someday...

Today's Menu: All the Living

Books books beautiful books! My bedside is bountiful with beautiful books!

And so, today's menu:

Reading: All the Living, by C.E. Morgan.

Drinking: Typhoo, sweet with milk and honey.

Thinking: A beautiful novel that I'm also finding immensely frustrating. I find that lyrical fiction writers often struggle to find a balance between aesthetics and character (or maybe that's my problem, so I'm extra sensitive to it). Morgan errs (to my ear) on the aesthetics side: beautiful (if strange) prose, beautiful landscapes, beautiful details, and characters that are...flat. Damn! I was so hopeful and so wanted them to step into the lovely, textured weft of the fabric with hearts and words that felt genuinely alive.

I welcome your thoughts on this...what writers get the balance just right? Louise Erdrich? Marilynn Robinson? Alistair MacLeod? What books are genuinely beautiful but real feeling at the same time?


Your house-bound, November-bound bookish friend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

the language of insects

 In honor of my son, Owen Cricket, here is a poem by the devilishly handsome man pictured here (W.S. Merwin) about insects:

After the Alphabets 

I am trying to decipher the language of insects
they are the tongues of the future
their vocabularies describe buildings as food
they can instruct the dark water and the veins of trees
they can convey what they do not know
and what is known at a distance
and what nobody knows
they have terms for making music with the legs
they can recount changing in a sleep like death
they can sing with wings
the speakers are their own meaning in a grammar without horizons
they are wholly articulate 
they are never important they are everything. 


Monday, November 26, 2012


Avah and I have a new ritual: she picks up a book of poems from my nightstand and "reads" them aloud while I transcribe her words onto my computer. And so, this late November (indulgent) song to share with you.

the celing hung
with hookers

the words that I said
steaming here
and now
upon the window
it made it pretty
when I saw
the window
it was painted
with blue and white
to see
the window sill
it was easter egg
at me
the little window
yellow sill
it made it pretty
it was made with pretty lines made with
sallow wills it made
my dad’s little pots made with hand me downs
made with hand me downs
my father said
it was made with fancy ones
with silver thread
when the window sill was on the little
sallow nill it was painted
silhouette when it came on the dale
it was painted silverness when it came on
the window sill
made the father’s
made the window
on the silver dale
it was in the sill!
in the sill there was an ant who did not fail
inside the world
that he said
inside everything
that he said
and made it bonnyo
and made it
in a poem
in the night of llamas
it was made with hand me downs
I heard my father exclaim
and it was fancy hand me downs
when I spring up to play!
it was filled with hand me downs
when I saw it

Wednesday, November 21, 2012



one another
pumpkins and the women and fields who grow them
milk and the women and cows who make it
milky necks
children (and the men and women who birthed them)
greens (& the long-legged deer who cross the garden to eat them)
that we are not hungry
that we are not cold
record players
the stick figure drawings of four-year-olds
that i am here
that you are here
 to keep each other warm through the long winter

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The poem Avah "read" to me last night while turning the pages of a Robert Frost book:

We are grey
and the trees are grey
and the sea lions lie on the waves
as we go in
as we go in
and we are grey
and the trees are grey
and it is grey
and we are grey
and the trees are grey, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

how does one

Today's Menu: Scott Russell Sanders' A Private History of Awe. 

Drinking: Typhoo, Typhoo, and more Tyhpoo

Thinking: I just finished the last pages of this memoir (thank you, Emily Brisse for guiding me there). Memoir, yes, but also a beautiful and quiet and immensely earnest meditation (entwined with a personal narrative) on love and faith and nature and wonder and fatherhood and literature and war and peace and the question my beloved Christianity professor asked us on the last day of class: "How does one live a good life?"

That beloved teacher nearly whispered the words because she was choking back tears. Looking out across at our young faces she continued (still whispering), "You are so young. You have no idea how hard it will be to find the answer to that question."

Which just might have been the most potent and terrifying and educational moment of my four-year education.

Which is why I love every occasion (or book) that leads me back to it. As this one certainly did. And what a thoughtful and humble and mild-mannered man to do the asking, and in such perfectly inscribed sentences. Thank you, Scotty (and Emily, too).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


It's looking pretty silver and frosted outside the door this morning. At six the thermometer read sixteen, which means: winter. Which will okay with me if Obama wins (which I think he will!), and not if he does not. If he does not win it will take some serious linguistic acrobatics to convince myself that all is okay in the world and that we have what it takes to face this long winter. But why go there now (when I'm sure, in my heart of hearts, the right man will win)? All I can say is this: if the wrong man wins, and you are spinning in a vortex of disgust and despair, go get yourself the most recent copy of The Sun. It has three things in it you should read: an interview with Parker J. Palmer on politics, faith and what we can learn by listening to each other; an essay by Gillian Kendal on first loves; and an amazing story by my dear friend Miciah Bay Gualt. Remember that story I raved about a month ago? Well this is the one!  And you can now all read it and feel its beauty and sing its praises on your own. And, if the worse-case scenario unfolds, feel a little warmth still emanating from the silver-brushed world.


Saturday, November 3, 2012


November. If I were to choose one month to describe the place I live or the songs I sing or the stories I write it would be November: the trees bare, the ground gray and tawny and umber, the sky at last visible through the branches. In other words: stark. Like Stark Road, which joins MacArthur a quarter-mile uphill, named after Molly Stark, the revolutionary war hero. And like Route 9, the federal highway at the foot of our road also known as “The Molly Stark Trail” because it is the route Molly walked two-hundred-plus years ago when it was no more than a trail. And so MacArthur—this road I live on, named after my grandparents and their determined hubris to make a home out of an abandoned homestead up an otherwise empty logging road—is a bridge between The Molly Stark Trail and Stark Road. A bridge, then, between Stark’s staccato sounds: sharp-pointed t’s and k’s like the whetstones, used for sharpening knives, that line the brook our road runs along. But Molly? What muted loveliness is in that name! M and l’s and rolling vowels.  And November? It has my favorite letter in it—v—and my favorite vowel—o. It’s thus the bare trees and the cold ground but the woodstove, too.  It’s the wool sweater and the leather boots and the crunch of leaves and the walk through them. It’s deer in the garden and hunting season’s rifles and the last stray geese. And that three-syllable lilting song-ness of it—No-vem-ber? Is the muted lullaby, the quiet, still, clarity this month allows before the bright frenzy of December with its soft c and all the glittering s’s of “Christmas lights.” And so, November: the great window, in all my favorite colors. Through which the light—gray and clear and luminous—makes its way through the dark (stark) branches above. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


Good morning. Woodbird has been quiet of late for a few good reasons: 1) the day my daughter decided to start sleeping until six, the baby and the new cat decided to start waking at five 2) I've been busy dreaming and scheming and changing my life. Remember that post a month back where I said I wanted to start bringing some money into the household? Well, a few days afterwards we felt, for the first time, an earthquake here in our little house. The dishes on the counter shook and things started...moving. Tectonic plates shifting, slowly. This week I begin a freelance manuscript editing job and have an interview for a part time teaching position.

On other fronts: the big storm is moving in. Rain on the roof, the yard milky with fog and the air disquietingly still. And where is my early-rising family? We bought my daughter a CD player for her fourth birthday, which means she's up in her room listening to one of her favorite Margaret MacArthur records and tidying up with a joyful hustle and bustle. Holy. The cat: she's making a general ruckus. The baby: he's fallen back asleep with T. And me? I'm here for another three minutes or so drinking this milk and honey Typhoo elixir and watching the light come. Oh how I love watching the light come.

Hold tight everyone through this big storm. Lay low. And if it's dark for a while? Savor the candle light and the quiet and the unpredictable and sometimes irascible way the great world spins.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Morning. It’s apple season around here and my brother and sister-in-law, (the masterminds and laboring hands behind Whetstone CiderWorks, a blossoming artisanal hard cider business), spend every Sunday a pressing bushels of apples with beautiful, complex names and even more beautiful and complex flavors: Dabinet, Harry Master's, Yarlington Mill, Cox's Orange Pippin, Reine de Reinette, Jonah Gold and Orleans Reinette...

I love their cider, but I also love what it brings to our hillside and our lives: weekends of apple pressings and farmers markets and children running around with dirty knees, cold fingers and sticky faces.  Which is worth a whole lot more than they’ll ever make on their artisanal cider. It turns out both of my parents' children have chosen to dedicate their lives to labors of love. Or, love of labor. But oh, how I love that word--labor--and all it now connotes! The deep, concentrated, hard work that brings forth something entirely new and original and radiantly itself. And without all of these long-labored efforts, and the beams of light they bring forth?  What a dull place the turning-cold world would be. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


It's feeling an awful lot like November around here: cold wood stove mornings, leafless trees, stashing clothes under the covers to warm before slipping them over bare skin. Yesterday A and I cleared out the vegetable garden and moved the potted plants from the porch. Today we'll make applesauce to freeze for the (long) winter.  It's time to hunker down into a good book, to stay up later than one should reading it, to get lost, but I haven't yet found what book that should be. Last night I picked up Jim Harrison's The Woman Lit by Fireflies and Mary Oliver's The Leaf and the Cloud. I'm in that limbo I arrive at occasionally, in search of the perfect book for this moment but unable to settle on it. I peruse my bookshelves: Jane Eyre. The Lives of Girls and Women. Housekeeping. The Angle of Repose. Love Medicine. So Long, See You Tomorrow. I'd like to encounter each of those books for the first time again, to feel the magic delirium of falling into the spell of a masterpiece. To feel my cheeks brushed by its feathered or chilling beauty and thus want to change my life. River Dogs. The Meadow. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. 

Which means that will have to be my quiet, secret goal for the day. While coring apples and stacking wood and reading Blueberries for Sal for the umpteenth time. Which one will it be? Into which river of pages will I make that headlong leap of faith?

And you?

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Morning. It's 4 AM and when I wake at this hour I get at least an hour to myself in the dark. Steve Almond signed a book for me yesterday. It said, "Owen Cricket! Go towards the darkness and SHINE!" Which is what we should all be doing. Almond was speaking at our library and Cricket was strapped to my chest, first chirping, then babbling, then sleeping. It's the second reading he's come to with me in the last week and he's my favorite partner in crime. I want to bring my children closer every day. Every day let them further in.

Go towards the darkness and SHINE! It's raining in this morning's early darkness and the house is cold. I pull the covers up around my knees and listen to the rain on the metal roof and Cricket breathing beside me. In a while I'll get up and light a fire in the wood stove. Put some water on for tea. But right now I'm content with this luminous screen and cold dark room and sleeping child tucked against my bare legs under warm down. Every day closer. Every day further in. Every day go towards that darkness and shine, you lovely little soft-heart-beating ones. Hear me? While outside a cold rain drenches the earth and the last leaves fall: shine.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Morning. It's 7 AM and still dark. The birches outside our bedroom window are leafless, the garden hazel and brown. Our four-month-old just popped his first tooth; our first born will turn four-years-old in a week. We light a fire, snuggle cold toes under warm covers, contemplate TIME and the passage of it. A tooth?! Four years old?! Don't leave this bed, my darlings. Let's live in this bed, a little ship in the darkness, floating to and fro, holding tight and holding light while outside nights turn to day and days  to night. And if we grow bored? Or restless? Or long for other company? We'll just gaze into each other's eyes and watch the ghosts go marching through: trumpets and horns, mouths wide with song, limbs doing the fanciest of footwork.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Thank you all for your kindnesses and ideas. This morning the skies are grey but I'm feeling much better in body and spirit. Rain on tawny leaves, rain on bracken ferns, rain on gravel and on the woolen-covered heads of my young ones. One of whom is off to school, the other of whom is sleeping. Which means? I'm off to make my dreams happen. Happy rainy morning to you all. May the tea be strong and the honey ambrosial.


PS: Here is a wonderful interview my dear friend Jen conducted regarding good books and indie book sellers. I'm already reaching for My Antonia.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Louise Bourgeouis, drawing

Morning dear ones. It's been pretty quiet here in the dream trailer for two reasons:

1. I've had a head cold for five days and a head cold is more than I can handle with two little ones (the laundry hasn't been done either). 

2. I'm doing a little re-visioning of my life these days, trying to figure out some changes that would make me and mine happier. I.e: I want to start bringing a small amount of money into the household, and have a few hours to myself each week to do so. Since I've been unemployed (other than Red Heart) for four years, it's taking much walking (with children and head cold) to try and envision just what that might be. And I'm not fully there yet. It's a bit like trying to decipher the Louise Bourgeois drawing above. Your suggestions and ideas are welcome. 

In other news, it's full blown autumn here: the dirt roads leafy; the wood stove hot; the hillsides russet; the air burning apple; the highways speckled with cars from away.

Come find us if you want to.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

self portraits

Mother Breast-feeding her Baby, by Louis Fleckenstein, c. 1900.

Dorothea Lange, Blythe, California, 1936.

Monday, October 1, 2012


A few photos from yesterday's early morning splendor. @ Whetstone Ledges Farm.
This morning the tea is sweet and all the leaves are falling.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wings, 1989

I'm both elated and terrified to say that my first published story is now up at the amazing literary journal Shenandoah. Shenandoah is one of my favorite journals, one that I dreamed of publishing in long before I'd ever read an issue because its name kept showing up in the front pages of all my favorite collections. In other words: the writers I loved and admired were publishing there, and I wanted to as well.

And now...the story is called "Wings, 1989," and you can read it here. 

I can't look at my own work once it's in print, but I can pour myself a big glass of wine. Which I'm off to do now. Enjoy, dear ones, and thank you.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

wish list

Morning yous.  I miss reading. I miss hours (or even an hour) of uninterrupted immersion into another world. But since that's not exactly my life right now, I make lists of book I want to be reading. Here are a few from the top of this early-morning's list. One of these days I'll get myself to a bookstore with a fist full of cash. And sometime, even further down the line, I'll dive in. Until then, I sit here dreaming...of:

What's on your reading list on this fine morning in early fall?

Monday, September 24, 2012

first light

miracle of miracles, it's 5:30 and my family is still asleep. which means: prayer time. tip toe downstairs. put water on. don't bother with a sweater...too risky to go back up for one. when i grow up i want to be able to wake at five and write for an hour. don't get socks...too risky. i'll freeze my butt off any day for a minute like this. hot water. tea bag. milk. honey. the tick of the clock. the windows dark. i read a story so good last night it renewed my faith in fiction (which has been on the rocks of late). it was written by a friend and it hasn't yet been published. so good it made me gasp and so good it made my chest hurt and all of that gasping hurt enshrouded in love and beauty. what more could one ask for? it made me want to get up at 4 am and write stories again. it made me want to look harder for things i really love. it made me want to teach a class so i could stand up in front of the class, arm trembling, and say "read this!" this is the way to start a day. this is the way to bend down, as m. oliver would say, and kiss the earth. that story and this quiet house. this still darkness. this reverent, breathless waiting. every minute a pot of liquid, feathered gold. and when it's over? my darlings.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Happy Sunday morning, friends. The autumnal equinox has come: dirt roads spotted in leaves; mornings dark; us all wrapped in boots and sweaters. This morning we’re off to eat pancakes at my parents’ house up the hill. This afternoon we’ll make applesauce.

Here are some photos from Avah on her way to a gig this past week. Donning: an old dress of mine, the child-size dulcimer my grandmother gave me when I was her age, and a bag full of crayons and rocks and raisins. Also, picking her nose with excitement.

May your day be crisp and clear as a good apple. 

Friday, September 21, 2012


Sometimes when you take your child with you on the road to your artistic or semi-professional obligations you come out looking like a super-hero. As in, wow, that child slept the whole time while that mama did her thing. As in, wow, we women really can do everything! And with such grace and ease! When I was twenty-two I saw an independent film director answer questions after the screening of her film. Her some-month-old baby was there and the director, cool as a cucumber, would pick up her baby, lift up her shirt, and nurse that baby in front of one-hundred or so people while intelligently answering questions about casting and funding and writing and directing. I have always wanted to be that woman, not so much for myself, but for the other young, impressionable, not-yet-with-child young women in the audience who might be wondering if they can be both artist, professional, and mother. I want them to know they can, and that they can do all of it well. That it doesn’t have to be an either/or equation. That our breasts and our babies can be an integrated part of our professional and creative weft and weave.

So that’s what I was thinking about yesterday when we took Owen Cricket to our lecture at Dartmouth College. Only it didn’t turn out quite like I’d planned. First of all, there were only six students in the class, and they were all boys between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. Not that boys shouldn’t see a mother/artist at work, but I didn’t think it would have the same inspirational/impressionable impact as it could have had on girls. Or, it might have been impressionable in a way I wasn’t at all interested in impressing. Secondly, Owen started making a racket the minute I started talking, and wouldn’t settle down in his chair. He didn’t want to nurse, or shake his rattle, or chew on his expensive French Sophie. Which meant that the co-teacher ended up taking him out into the hall so we could do our thing, and that I kept bopping in and out of the classroom to check on them, and thus missed out on half our lecture and half the discussion and ended up feeling like both a mediocre mother and a mediocre semi-professional.

In other words, not a super-hero at all. Of course this is all to be expected. Of course there are times when it works like a charm and times when it doesn’t. And it’s all fine—it’s almost always fine. One of the things motherhood has taught me is that true catastrophes are very rare. And that most days demand, like a mother giving birth, surrendering with ease to exactly what comes your way.

So surrender I did, to the imperfection of yesterday afternoon. And today? To this early fall splendor.

Happy day to you all. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

crimson, carmine

You know if woodbird has been quiet for a while that time has been scarce. As much as I looked forward to A returning to school it turns out that: 1) her being at school means she needs more love before and after 2) that the minute one has “free” time it fills up with other good work, immediately (water to the low spot) 3) that Cricket’s naps are completely unreliable, and 4) that time “to write” is the hardest time to carve and protect and fortress that I know.

I have spent these last few weekday mornings deep-cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, preparing for Red Heart the Ticker shows, preparing for lectures, entertaining Cricket, and reviewing grant applications for the Vermont Arts Council. All good work. But my work? It’s still waiting in the attic, pecking at the floorboards and chirping at an increasing velocity. Through children with colds and children with sleeping problems and semi-professional deadlines and house construction projects. Robin? It’s up there chirping. Robin? Robin? The floor filling up with feathers and sawdust. Robin? Peck. Peck. Chirp. Chirp. Squawk. Feathers. Sawdust. The chickens of my youth. SQUAWK. Chirp. Robin?

Friday, September 14, 2012


Because my dear friend Emily, who is expecting, asked in a comment yesterday if motherhood is really all so sepia-toned as I've made it sound of late, I feel some transparency is due. No, it is not all so pretty.  Like this scene from yesterday: my daughter screaming "no!" in the post office parking lot when I told her, quietly and calmly, that it was time to get in the car and go home.  Then her hitting me. Then her running away. Then her turning back towards me, pointing her fingers towards my face and yelling, "DISGUSTING!" at the top of her lungs.

Jesus. This was a low moment of motherhood. First I laughed, inside, because the scene was so shockingly appalling. As in, my worst nightmare. As in, when I was younger and childless I would have felt deep pity for the woman I was in that parking lot. Of course Cricket began to cry. I started bouncing him and looked around to see who was watching this scene. Then I thanked my lucky stars that no one was.  Then I picked A up firmly, set her in her car seat, and told her (firmly) that it is never okay to speak to another human being like that, especially someone you love. At which point she broke into tears and said through her sobs, "I'm sorry. I love you Mama. I love you so much. I love you to the sky. I love you past the sky!" And then, "I know what to say. Let's stop fighting, Mama. Let's just stop fighting. Fighting makes us both so sad."

Which is entirely true. Needless to say, at that point we did stop fighting. We hugged and kissed and told each other, repeatedly, how much we love one another. And then went out for ice cream. Which might not have been a good parenting move, but I'm weak like that (for both forgiveness and ice-cream).

So there you go. A brightly colored scene for you. I don't want to turn woodbird into a montage of messy parenting moments, but from here on out I want you to know that for every sepia-toned moment (which I capture because they're the ones I want to remember) there is another like this one by its side. Miraculously, they all make the love grow deeper.

Happy day to you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

multitudinous lives

Things to do on a perfect morning in mid-September: start bread; put on boots; walk to water; sit by water and watch leaves fall; try to catch a leaf on your tongue; spit out leaf ; guffaw; (the leaf’s lines are rivers, the lines of your hands are rivers, too); stare into the eyes of your child; hey! there’s a leaf in there! with rivers!; coo incessantly; look at that still water; feel that still water inside your soul; miss, for a minute, being nineteen, footloose with a pack of cigarettes; lift yourself up and walk more; stand under a maple and watch a downy woodpecker do his thing; think, downy? or hairy? how the hell will I ever know?; close your eyes and feel that sun; close your eyes and put your nose deep into the folds of your sleeping child; think, mmm, apples, think, mmm, cheese, think do others find this rank?; get back home; punch bread down for a second rise; look at clock; fall onto couch; close eyes; count the times you were awoken last night; think about all those road trips; think about the multitudinous lives; wonder how you landed on this one; think lucky; think grateful; think thank you and alive. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This morning the thermometer reads 38. We light a fire in the woodstove and drink tea around its musky warmth, watching the light come. Eleven years ago we were driving a twenty-year-old camper across Saskatchewan. We pulled into a gas station in the middle of nowhere and watched the news on a fuzzy TV propped up in the corner. All that day people waved at us, flashed their lights at us, said God Bless You. We had been planning on moving to New York two weeks later. Instead we took our time on the back roads of British Columbia: logging roads and decaying gold mines, redwoods and snaking rivers, skinny dipping and bottles of wine.  We were so young. We hadn’t yet given birth or loved someone who’d died. We were just beginning to comprehend losing.  This morning the big cherry outside our window sheds its last leaves, the ferns below turn mustard, and our children, still sleepy in this smoky light, look up at us with bright and shining eyes. I pull them to me. Hello there. Hello in there. Oh, dear bright ones, hello.  

Monday, September 10, 2012


Happy (late) morning, friends. It is Avah's first morning back at school, and I made the mistake of dreaming big. I would write letters to old friends! Make a hearty stew! Finish up some of those stories I've been working on for about six years. All in a morning!

As you all know, it didn't happen like that. I cleaned a closet. That's all. One closet. But that closet was in a catastrophic state of disrepair. And I feel better now that it's cleaned out. Which means, perhaps tomorrow will be a tad more romantic.

Also, it turned to fall here. The air is cool. An oak leaf bopped me on the head this morning on my way in from the garden. My almost-four-year-old daughter didn't cry when I dropped her off. My three-month-old son giggled when I kissed the cheesy goodness in his neck. And late last night I read poetry.

Here is a bit for you, a few short sections of Robert Hass's poem "The Beginning of September" from his book Praise. 


In the summer 
peaches the color of sunrise

In the fall
plums the color of dusk


little mother
little dragonfly quickness of summer mornings
this is a prayer
this is the body dressed in its own warmth
at the change of the seasons


There are not always melons
There are always stories

Good day, you all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Avah's new tattoos: pictures of herself jumping rope. Happy day to you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

because everything must change

Morning dears. It rained in the night and the leaves outside my windows--hemlock, cherry, birch, soft maple and pine--are dripping and slick. Even the crows are still. T takes the (still sick) kiddos downstairs and I drink my Typhoo tea in bed in the not-quite-light and pick up a book that I have kept near by bedside for nearly ten years: Steal Away: Selected and New Poems by C.D. Wright.

Wright taught at my Alma Mater (latin, I just learned, for "bounteous mother"), and though I was too shy to ever take a class with her (she taught mostly graduate-level courses), I frequently saw her walking her greyhounds through our Providence streets and I would quietly follow her for a spell. I was trying, at nineteen, to decipher what it meant to be a poet. Her poetry had found me at a time when I didn't understand most of the contemporary poetry I read. The first book of hers I read was slim and green. Further Adventures with You (1986), brought poetry to a place I could intuitively, if not rationally, understand: earthen, radical, quietly feminist, vernacular, rooted in place.  I still turn to these early poems of hers in times of confusion, because confused about poetry I often still am.

Here is one of my favorite poems from that early book. I loved it at nineteen before I had been pregnant in a house with electricity but no running water, before I had given birth and lived through "the great pain." I love it more now.  Happy morning to you all.


Wages of Love

The house is watched, the watchers only planets.

Very near the lilac
                           a woman leaves her night soil
to be stepped in. Like other animals.
                           Steam lifts off her mess.

They have power, but not water.
                              Pregnant. She must be.

The world is all that is the case.

You can hear the strike of the broom, a fan
                            slicing overhead light.
At the table the woman stares at a dish
                          of peaches, plums; black ants
filing down the sill to bear away the fly.

Everywhere in America is summer. The young
                           unaware they are young, their minds
on other wounds or the new music.

The heart some bruised fruit
knocked loose by a long stick
                            aches at the stem.
It's not forbidden to fall out of love
                            like from a tree.

As for the tenants whose waters
                             will break in this bed,
May they live through the great pain;
may their offspring change everything--

                because everything must change.

The man joins the woman in the kitchen. They touch
                         the soft place of their fruit.
They enter in, tell their side, and pass through.