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.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Good morning. I've had a feast of free time this AM: Cricket is sleeping up a storm and Avah is up the road rustling in leaves and mud with her cousin. And though I could have spent this time reaching for profundity on this here "trailer in park nowhere," or working on a story of mine, or doing some Jane Fonda workouts, instead I baked a pumpkin with which I've made pumpkin cake, pumpkin pie, and  roasted pumpkin seeds. Which is to say: when the pumpkins are ripe on the vine? Eat pie.

Also, this housewifelyness reminded me of the Vermont photographer Heather Gray, whose work manages to capture the looniness of motherhood in a way I adore. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

like a rose

Morning. My babies woke up with sniffles, so I'm off to make oatmeal and sweet ginger tea. Here is a song for you...

Monday, September 3, 2012


Here are some photos of my late-August, threadbare garden. The cabbage dried up because I didn’t water it; the lettuce bolted; the broccoli went to seed early because of said water shortage; the beets are the size of my fingernails because they never got thinned. True, I had a newborn infant born in late May when I should have been watering and thinning, and I’d love to claim that as my excuse, but the truth is my garden always looks something like this in late August. A far cry from the other gardens on this road, which the womenfolk I’m related to tend to with diligence and care and glean great harvests from which last them the year. 

I’ve spent a few minutes of my life regretting this garden disparity, but truth be told, my threadbare, neglected garden brings me great joy. I enjoy the hopefulness of planting seeds with my daughter; the pleasure of harvesting what little it gives us; the beauty of a bolted garden (the Mason jar bouquet on my kitchen table is filled with bolted broccoli, bolted greens, stray amaranth & zinnias & cosmos); and deep inside? My threadbare, ridiculously gone-to-seed garden is a reminder that my mind and fingers are busy doing other work. I was born into a family of homesteading women to whom it was considered kind of disgraceful if you didn’t grow all your own vegetables and put them up for the winter in shelf after shelf of beautifully colored jars. I saw the satisfaction that could bring as well as the self-flagellation. As much as I love homegrown tomatoes (thank you, Guy Clark) and canned peaches and dilly beans, I also love what feminism did for women. And as much as I love the homesteading movement’s rebirth, I don’t want myself (or anyone else) to feel pressure to be any one kind of woman. And so this threadbare garden? It's my little feminist postage-stamp on this hillside. Isn't it a pretty one? Let us all choose the gardens we tend to and harvest.  

(And thanks to my homesteading Mama extraordinaire, my children can still eat plenty of them homegrown tomatoes.)

Happy (gardening) morning to you all. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

blue moon

5:40 am and, miraculously, my entire family is still asleep. I tiptoe downstairs, put the water on, and think about that red and blue moon last night. Blue, for being the second one in the month, red for rising through the sultry, atmospheric haze of a late-August night. Our family walked home from my parents' house under that moon--crickets in stereo, the murky trickle of the Whetstone Brook, our skin bathed in that blue and pink haze. Owen fell asleep in Ty's arms, then Avah in the stroller. We kept walking for a while after they were asleep, grateful for these quintessential summer nights,  for the cool wind, scented somehow with the far-off hurricane, and for our children, without whom we'd be made of a whole lot less love.

And now, from upstairs, "Mama?"

Good morning to you all.