I miss making things with my hands
A pen between my fingers and thumb
Scissors heavy and paper shreds falling
Making an image from many
A story with a small marks on a page I can turn
I miss the urgency of a creative thought
The birthing feeling when the words want to spill
and then the rushing flow of me
running after them with a bucket
It is sometimes a sea, sometimes a spoonful
but it doesn't matter either way –
I am making.
I am leaving a trace.
I am marking a page I can touch
and molding a life I can taste
art I can see on my walls and
words I can hold in my hands
I miss making things solely for myself
because I like them, love them even
these forms that emerge from some rough hewn clay
I miss looking at my life
through my own eyes and with my mind
shutting out the saturated noise
and reclaiming this – spontaneity, presence,
listening for what wants to speak through me.
A spoonful of sea, but still, the sea.
– June 29, 2019
Mother, I remember
The texture of the skin on your face.
The scent of your perfume before you left the house.
The bedding with the frills and the tiny green flowers.
The way you (still) sit down to dinner with a smile.
Days under the lemon tree,
The smell of the citrus leaves.
Your presence, and your absence.
The way your face changed after you put makeup on.
Your sigh whenever you returned home,
and said ‘cup of tea time’
half a dozen times a day.
Your love of bread.
Your different haircuts.
Your endless support and organization.
Going to the mall after dinner on Thursdays
with me, the edge of thirteen,
and buying the expensive jeans that I loved.
Picking me up from drama class after dark,
and coming home to eat leftovers while we watched
new episodes of the Naked Chef and home renovations.
the steaming pork buns from Chinatown,
and the jam donuts you would bring us in white paper bags
in the car after school, before the trips to IKEA,
the grocery store, the bank,
reaching for the paper at the ATM,
wandering the aisles choosing any flavored milk.
running down the corridors at the hospital you worked in
hurtling towards the cafeteria with its endless free cookies.
asking you for a razor to shave my legs with,
and a sports bra when all the girls at school wore them.
I remember the way you handed me a box of tampons for the first time,
and the incredible birthday celebrations you would throw us.
The way you set the breakfast table the night before,
and covered the table with gifts.
I remember the only time I saw you cry, really cry,
when your uncle passed away.
I remember the smell of the gin and tonic
you would drink with our dad after work,
and the little crystal glass of sherry
in the blue bottle that you
poured for yourself while making dinner.
I remember watching you chop garlic.
I remember watching you chop onion.
I remember watching you stir pots and
wash dishes and fold laundry and carry
groceries and I remember the way you
insisted on being independent, and capable
and making the most of what we had, and
turning everything into gold. I remember
the giant buddha head in the back of the
car one day after you picked us up from school
crawling into your bed when I was
a child, and the scent of
your breath in the night.
At five o’clock last night I was making dinner when I turned to Julius and said, do you want to have a picnic on the beach and watch the sunset? A pause. “Yeah!” So we packed a tiffin box with chili and went to the ocean.
It’s a place called Seaside Wilderness Park, fifteen minutes from our house. We walked under the freeway towards the shore, crossing the railroad to reach the sea. We found a patch of grass and I drank red wine and watched the waves rolling in on the water softened rocks.
Then the train came. Slowly it sounded it’s refrain, warning people of its presence. A great rolling machine just a stones throw from the beach flowers and the weather worn driftwood and the little boy with his dog playing in the sand.
We stood up as it passed, like a great beast, or a carnival, and we waved. Something in me needed to wave. The child in me and the child beside me, we waved our arms high in the air and searched the windows for a response as it passed.
And then, the silhouette of a body and it’s arm held high just like ours, waving back at us from inside the train.
I cheered hooray and then began to choke up. I still have tears in my eyes writing about this moment. Someone, I do not know who, saw us on that wild beach and waved back. The powerful thing about this moment is that I don’t know what they were wearing, or how old they were, who they vote for or where they grew up. I couldn’t even tell if they were male or female.
But in that moment, we were just two humans, saying hello. One in the wild, one inside a machine, and we were connected. I will never forget the power of that magic. I hope my story reminds us all of this irreducible truth.
We are one.
soft cream cheeks
honey tangled hair
limbs growing longer each day
he feeds himself with a spoon
says words like “recognize”
and tells me I am a masterpiece
three and three quarters
hundreds of captured moments
photos and footage of a different boy
always altering, like a landscape
cobalt watering can in his hands
sun blessed bottom and bare feet
sun leaves, sun wood, sun face
My delight is bigger
than my body
a poem for women approaching birth
. . . . . . .
My dear sister.
You are embarking
on an indescribable journey.
In one month or so,
you will leave the harbor
you have called home
for so long,
and find yourself
on a shamanic journey
like no other.
You will go to depths
I cannot tell you about,
for they will be yours.
You will experience highs
I cannot imagine,
for they will be yours,
tethered to the soul
you have been holding space for
and will continue to hold space for,
a soul whose face
you will come to know
so very well.
When you look in the mirror
in several months
you will see a very different woman.
Your heart will be raw
from all that loving,
and all the waves that await you
on the unfathomable sea
of this journey.
Your body will ache
From the weight of the
love in your arms.
You will be reborn
in a way only motherhood
can mysteriously make possible.
I have come to believe
that there is no other initiation
more radical in its reshaping of a woman
than the process of
onto the earthen floor
of this very planet.
Blood of our blood,
bone of our bone,
veins like vines
within our garden,
forever turning, ever evolving,
We deliver renewal
with the fierce grace
of our babies entrance.
Your birth will reshape you
and everything around you.
Your child will become
the sun in your life
around which everything
You will become
the sun in your child’s life,
an entire cosmology revolves.
You will also become
the sun around which
Your family revolves.
You are the light from which life beams.
You are the cup from which
your family drinks.
You are the flower bed
from which it all grows.
Your beloved must remain close
to fill and refill
your cup, tending the Earth of you
in the way only he knows how.
Your friends and family
must retain a keen listening
for how they may support you
in the planting and
replanting of the flowers you love,
in the filling and refilling
of your cup
which will be emptied,
many times in one day.
You must remember
in the ancient weave of your soul
the ways in which we let go
and so let in.
I’ve come to believe that when
we are emptied,
as a flute is emptied
by a skilled creator:
carved out, hollowed,
with sacred intention
from raw material,
the music of our lives
The phenomena of the
most beautiful notes
can be heard with clarity,
and there is a resonance
that heals not
only the naked vessel,
but all those who
hear our song.
Do not resist the sacred hollowing
Welcome the hands of the master craftsman
who has already begun to work on you.
Maiden To Mother,
Mother to Music.
We are the ones who sing the song
through the sacred mundane of every today,
guiding, loving, listening
calling in the heavens
and bringing them here to earth.
I bless you, oh graceful one.
May your passage through the ring of fire be infused with trust, love, surrender, and beauty. May your child’s journey to earth be a marvelous adventure, a sacred dance, with a gentle landing… and may the love that will be ignited within your new family ripple across time and space, informing us all.
I love and cherish you and I wish you all the best.
I could write a long list
of all that I’m not
but I won’t do that
I don’t have the time
instead I will write a list
of all that I love, about us
the blue sweater on the brown bear
the books of dragons and Max
the flute music
and your long blonde fringe
your feet at night
your smile when you walk through the door
weary but glad
for our warm home
sweet porridge in the morning
your muscular hands and dancing heart
I could write a long list
of all that we don’t yet have
but I won’t do that
I don’t have the time
instead I will write a list
of all that we do have
all that we are
all that I am
a mollusc in a too small shell
a frustrated caterpillar
longing for the briefness of sky
a cat on a leash
or too tight shoes
I know I am bigger than this
blessed with this exploratory space
a nasa queen
making loud noises as I suction thin air
learning about this new place
where I am not my worst enemy
and our thrones are still covered in roses
I took a blanket off the back of the chair and went to lay on the grass. Feeling aimless, a little lost, an outsider returning to the house I grew up in, I wrap myself in wool. I feel so small here and then realize it’s because the trees have all grown so much. I always thought I would feel bigger, coming back. It’s odd to feel so little again. A few stars lay bare in the sky and I spread one of my mothers handmade quilts out on the lawn under the wide leafy shrub that wasn’t there when I left. New friends. I enjoy listening to the sound of the biggest leaves in the breeze, chafing up against each other.
The clouds are coming from the west, pulling across the sky like the sheet I pulled over my feverish son. Today was hot, but there’s a strange wind blowing. I watch the sky getting whiter and then pinker and then slightly orange. Flashes of lightning puncture the air. I think about the fires back in California and how the sky turned that eerie shade of brown. I remind myself of where I am. There’s no rain, just wind and lightning. An electrical storm. Is that what they call it? I lay still next to the cabin with the big leafy plant sheltering me and remember, pachamama, pachamama, she is still here, she is with me, beneath me, holding me, she’s always been here. This part of the world seems so foreign and strange to me, even though I grew big here.
The wind picks up and I test myself to see how long I want to stay in the tension. Am I creating this? Is this me? When the fig tree starts swaying in grief I have to close my eyes because of the dust and debris barreling through the air. I get up. The tree above the cabin is washed with the chaos of the wind. Seeds and sticks are falling from the branches onto the corrugated tin roof. I walk inside to the shelter of a sturdy house and close the doors with their curtains flirting desperately. I go upstairs and get my laptop and return to the back patio. When I arrive the wind is gone. The fig tree is still, quivering. No more lightning, no more chaotic wind. I wait and I watch. A few raindrops on the roof? A summer storm. The fever has broken and the rain comes now. Driplets then droplets and then a steady sheet of nails hammers down. Rain. A novelty for my dusty Californian feet so used to a land parched of this exoticism, a different kind of drama.
I heard today that a writer needs three things, something to say, the means with which to say it, and the courage to say it, which is the hardest part. I’m not sure I have so much to say anymore. I am intent on observing at the moment, just watching, bearing witness, learning from my inner landscape without sharing it, except in the transformational sense of it becoming who I will be tomorrow. I certainly haven’t been the most graceful parent of late. Julius has been sick and I have been frustrated by the sheer length of the virus pervading his body. I’m tired. It’s hard parenting alone. I’m bored, restless, uncertain. I forget who I am when I am not surrounded by the things that remind me of who I am, or at least who I once was. A potent experience this is, then. When I do not have Isaac, and I do not have an active child to create entertainment and adventure for, when I do not have my daily chores, my community, my beaten paths, the familiar faces and comforts of home, who do I become? What is left? I watch my mother cleaning and making bread and running her errands, and my father goes to work and comes home and goes to work and comes home, and my brother reads and writes, and Jules and I just lay on the bed and doze in and out of reveries, some peaceful, some not. His voice pierces through the house when he needs me, crying out for water or just some company. Another week until my beloved arrives, and then we will be together for Christmas before heading back to California.
It feels as though I am part of a system, an organism, a family, and when I leave, or we fracture apart, the singular parts of the system become compromised. I once felt so sure of myself, so solid and self-sufficient and full of valor and enthusiasm for my life and my dreams and all of the golden bricks I was laying in front of myself, one after another. Now I live amongst those golden bricks and they have forged the path of my life – the devoted, passionate marriage, the vibrant and loving community, the quirkily elegant home of our own, the sweet puppy, the satisfying work we are both doing in the world, the sensational soul of the little boy we are raising. So much gold. And yet I do not grasp any more, and I do not dream like I once did. There are things I would like to work towards this year, but my yearnings are not as they were when I was 20. I think this is a good thing. I am wiser, tempered by the wind and the electrical storms, battered by the falling branches, and aware of when to get out of the rain, and when to go out in it. I feel the maturity within me like the sturdier branches of these trees here, the bigger ones, their bodies so much more able to withstand the storms and winds that roll across from the sea, their girdles thickened with the strength of their age.
And so I suppose I am a different woman, a much different woman. The maiden in me is still there as a spark, a flash of electricity, but she doesn’t live in this body any more. She is a memory. A grateful one. I am delighted by my time with her. Oh the things that we wrote!!! The words that tumbled out, a menagerie of wilderness, my heart in motion. I was 23 and 24 and 25 and then I met my husband, and I didn’t need to shout anymore. The New York streets and the Pennsylvania river valley carved the edges of my soul like Australia did. I put it all in a book, and closed the cover. Seven years later, I am whispering. And when I’m not doing that, I am finally listening again. In a culture of so much noise, that feels like a really good place to rest.
It’s 11pm and I should be asleep, but as I lay there listening to the sounds of an electric guitar coming through the night window, many thoughts come to my mind. I should be pushing these thoughts to the back of my head and getting some good rest, you are a mother! my conscience shouts. You have much to do on your feet tomorrow! But somehow now I am not tired and I find myself drawn to the familiar green velvet couch to dance in this fabric awhile. A flame burns in my mind and becomes a bonfire. Ah yes, this is how it starts. I remember. The lyrics to the song from so long ago return to my memory and it all feels familiar again. Not so very far far away. This writing business. This telling the story of my life as it is, and as it was.
I think to myself, with this new moon and total solar eclipse approaching, I want to remember. I want to pull fragments of the past back into my present and weave the future onto this weft. I think about how I’d like to get up early, before my son wakes, and meditate in the luxuriously dark closet I decorated for myself. How I’d like to use the yurt halfway up our hill for yoga in the mornings. How I might start up morning pages and, gosh, artist dates again, because I really need an excuse to try out acroyoga and exotic dance classes at the neighbourhood studio. I witness a fear living like a rug across the shiny washed floor of these new ideas and get a sudden urge to rip it up. All this thinking about freedom and delight gets me remembering how I would paint vivid watercolors of my dreams in a moleskin journal every morning that summer I turned 23. I think about my friend in New Orleans who inspired me to do this after we came across a gargantuan book of Fellini’s dreams, each furiously etched out in Italian, all bosom and curve.
All of these ideas of how my days could be more, my own… they give me life. I know I will be tired tomorrow. But it’s somehow only taken me 7 minutes to write this, and we have an espresso machine, so everything is going to be okay after all. The drums have kicked in to back up the guitar down the road and my heart is beating fast. It’s true I hardly recognize myself anymore. Which is why I must keep writing. I must write in order to know myself. I must. I must. I must not forget who I am, I must not let these years pass by with no trace of their existence but for some filaments of social media. I must create something of meaning and depth to chart this precious world of mine that I swim in. I must. Who am I? I write to find out.
I must also try not to shout at my three year old anymore. Today was a doozy, and a miracle, all wrapped up in those 90 minutes before a toddler sized dinner is lain on the crumb strewn table. I’m kinda beginning to get the hang of this parenting thing, but I’m sure, as they say, a new challenge will pour over my head in a few weeks. I figure that the most interesting terrains feature various kinds of flame: volcano, bonfire, candle – so maybe it’s okay that things get a little heated once in a while. Wasn’t I a tempestuous artist at some point in time? I am still sewing her back into this life with its forever capless washable markers and light-up Star Wars toothbrush. My husband fell asleep peacefully before I got up to write this – it’s the only time I have to pour these little shards of my light into some kind of container. We will all drink from it later.
Meanwhile, time is a wicked ghost. In my retreat from mass media I’ve reconnected with many of yesteryears relics. On our recent trip back to Australia I came across a fascinating cassette tape in the bottom of a bin of toy trains. Today whilst reading a book I am desperately devouring (‘How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen’) I read a passage about a little boy choosing to play his Sesame Street tape in the bathroom while his mum takes a shower. Fantastic! Why do we not use these anymore! I’d much rather my child have his own cassette player and vintage tape collection then an iPad or an iPhone beaming white light and marketing for plastic egg toys at his synapses. I’ve made up my mind. Give a child the freedom to put his own book tapes and vintage music cassettes on, and I think we will all be so happy.
But even in this glee over lugging the old gems from yesterday into tomorrow, I feel a familiar stirring. An ambition. Is it that? A sense of purpose. A sense of a mission. I know I have not come here simply to tend to a beautiful house with a beautiful family. I wanted them with all my heart, and I created them, in the flower of my heart, I blossomed all of this. And now it is here, and we are swimming deeply in the nectar of this heaven and earthliness: a family life of repetitive physical labor and the sweetest nuzzling cuddles and the smell of a child’s neck. A world of beauty. A bonfire at dusk on a freshly stained deck. The amber of sunlight fading behind the cool of protective mountains. In some sense I could stay here forever enjoying this nectar, and live quite happily my days on this mountain, producing child after child and meal after meal.
However. There is much disquiet in the world, even in the world just down the hill beyond our home. A world where people put bananas in plastic bags at the supermarket. Where single use cases of water bottles are normal purchases. Where sick whales and birds are discovered with their bodies full of plastic. Where white-supremacists march in Berkeley and Washington Square Park on a Saturday in August. Where unarmed young black people, or Native American people, or women, march for freedom and their voices before being shot down by a brutal militant police force in full SWAT uniform. A world full of conflict. A civilization trying to work out how to live without violence. Heck, I am wading through this problem on a daily basis in my own home. How do I stop the small boy from biting the puppy? AGAIN. How do I prevent the boy from using his fists whenever I say no thanks? I am remembering that anger is the next emotional evolution after sadness. Being sick for days after a 15 hour plane journey that started at 9AM in Australia? Not exactly conducive to happiness. Cabin fever because we can’t go to the library/museum/playground/creek/beach etc etc? Ugh! He just wants to be happy. He told me himself. We really need to remember to address the root cause (unhappiness) not just the symptoms (violence.)
So. There is a list. Things That Make Jules Happy: Mummy and Daddy. The playground. Being outside. The museum. The library. Reading books. Fire. Toasted marshmallows. The Sky. Quite simple really. Now when he feels the urge to hit, we are going to hit the giant PAUSE button in the sky and go to that list on the fridge. We will pick something to do that makes him feel happy and thus avert the problematic behaviour with other more benevolent options. Honestly, I feel like this is a major win for the future of mankind on the planet. If I can parent a small man this way and prepare him to deal with his strong emotions responsibly, I will be so grateful for my patience within this intense work. There will be a boy who will grow into a man who will be peaceful and loving and self-reliant. And I will be able to give myself a break about not writing a million books already, and let myself paint those watercolors, and take that dance class, and live my dream life because dammit, I’m doing a great job, and I deserve my own self-respect in this season that I’m in. Volcano, candle, bonfire – this flower has still got some bloom left.
I have just returned from five days in the southern Oregon woods with six hundred women, learning how to make fire without a flame, how to weave, how to let go. As I integrate back into my daily life, I am struck by how much clearer I am with my inner compass. And how honest I must become if I am to carry on with my life peacefully, gracefully, happily.
After sleeping in a tent on the earth all those days, returning to a house with square rooms and a ceiling felt strange. After reveling in the company of so many hundreds of singing women, returning to my usual daily flow of cooking, cleaning, mothering felt natural and ancient, though typing my thoughts into a computer screen and driving in a car to get places feels jarring and distracting.
I love the way these five days had me be. Present to the steady energy that flowed within me upon return, I was so grateful. I felt a buoyancy I hadn’t in years. I feel at peace with who I am and I feel the integration of my many selves finally landing in my physical space. After years of rebelling against my obligations, both self-created and circumstantial, I recognize the ancient flow and direct my canoe to return there each minute that I am conscious of it.
While I write this, my son is crying for me from his darkened bed while my beloved puts him to sleep. While I attempt to fulfill on creative promises to myself and others, he calls to me from the driveway, from the garden. His innocence and desire to connect fill my focus in the now of the present. In the past, I would have felt painfully frustrated. Today, I cannot turn away from these moments. I know that these are the glimmers I will miss when I am old, when he lives far away or just lives his everyday separate life from us. His helpful offerings, picking wild flowers with me, shredding cabbage with me, carrying library books with me, nestling his sleepy body into mine on my side of the bed in the morning.
My son is the most joyful part of my life these days when I speak from my heart, and yet when I speak from my mind, he is the distraction that keeps me from writing as I did before. Two things immediately bother me with this statement, the concept of distraction (I could easily name writing as a distraction from the present moment, though as Anais Nin says, I like the idea that writers want to taste life twice) and the focus on ‘before.’ I am starting to track these inauthentic aspects of myself, as well as the part of my psyche that habitually gives me a hard time when I think I’m not doing as ‘well’ as I ‘should.’
The truth is complex and contradictory: I know I will be so glad for these words when I am looking back, searching for memories and tastes of this mothering time, and yet I know that by hammering out these feelings I am sometimes keeping myself from the joyful flow of my current work: raising a beautiful living boy. I write this as a kind of public service announcement. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to live this jam packed life without creating imbalance. I sneak away to write down fragments of my thoughts while my husband puts my son to sleep, while I’m at the side of the pool with family, while I have any free moment.
I once thought it was possible to have it all and live every dream under the sun, but I’m seeing now that perhaps there are dreams that don’t overlap, dreams that need our full presence, and sometimes we have to let go of old dreams in order to stand guard at the birth of the next. I treasure these everyday moments with my son deeply, savor them with profundity when they arrive, and yet for some reason I cannot now write about them. Like a tiny bird, I know I need to remain fully present to his growth. I cannot yet tell anyone about what we share. He is perhaps the greatest creation of my life.
People tell me to write about motherhood, to write about the sacred mundane in my everyday world, and I can do that, though sitting in front of a computer in my spare time (what spare time?!) feels uncomfortable when I want to be cooking, or picking flowers. As always, I squirm and twist inside when I know some great change has happened to me and I have not been writing about it. This is, after all, my subject matter – the inner life. I recently realized the fact that as a mother, my time is condensed while my growth is accelerated, making it somewhat more urgent and yet somewhat less meaningful to write about these mountainous landscapes. I don’t know where I stand yet. I compare myself to the prolific writer I once was, but I cannot bear to beat myself up any longer for not writing.
So I weep in the seeking of peace.
How do I do this life thing again? I try to see my challenges as blessings. My complaint is that the experiences of my life are so difficult for me to describe, not to mention to find the time to describe. The blessing is that perhaps this is helping me to become a better writer. More economical. More direct. As always, I rebel and reel against the awkwardness of it all. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t even know if I can make poetry of it all anymore. I damn the feeling and curse my work. This all feels so disjointed as I write it over many moments across many days.
Then a voice says. Perhaps it’s all okay. Perhaps I am exactly where I need to be.
I admit I question the idea of having a second child, but only because I have some part of me that echoes with the words of my mentors and guides on this writing path: “You are one of the best two writers I have ever come across in my 29 years teaching university.” A publisher likening my words to T.S. Eliot, “like garlic and sapphires in the mud.” Another referring to my work affectionately like “a bizarre form of music.” As a very young woman, these words were intoxicating. I thought I could be a brilliant and prize winning author and write best-selling but critically acclaimed novels and find my place on the mantlepiece of Australian literary achievement. How am I to do this balancing two babies on my hips? In California?
I suppose that in this last ten years of leaping into New York City from Australia, starting my own publishing imprint, and publishing two of my own books, I was driven by some external expectation to “be a great writer” or at the very least, attempt to be. The truth I’m waking up to, however, is that maybe I didn’t really want that. Maybe I didn’t really want to be the sought-after novelist or even the most talked about. Maybe I’ve never wanted to be famous. Money doesn’t drive me either. I can create luxury with one candle and some olive oil.
I don’t know what kind of writer I ‘should’ be, but I do know that I am the woman I want to be. I am the best writer I can be, an accomplished author, and a joyful mother. I do know that I am living my innermost dreams. What do I really want to do with my one precious life? Stay present, that’s for sure. Enjoy. Revel. Surrender (gosh, the terrifying and tantalizing idea of surrender. To let go and let the stream take me – to where?!) To write when I can, as best I can. To make things with my hands and heart. To create more than I consume. To make things better. To serve. To grow. To learn. To trust that my path is perfect for me. To remember that whatever my ego can cook up in this illusory game of ‘success’ pales in comparison to the streets of gold in my heart.
In all honesty, I’ve never felt so gratefully full of abundance than I do today in my life. I can hardly write about it because I can’t tear my eyes away from the moments unfolding before me. My son is making me imaginary coffee from a trumpet lamp as I write this. Ripping up the couch and throwing himself onto cushions on the floor. “Do you love me?” he smiles. Yes I love you, my dear son. I love you more than anyone can express. Least of all, me. The tears roll down my face and he tells me not to be sad. I’m not sad my sweet, I am happy. I once had a thousand words a minute flow out of me. Now, I have a thousand moments of bliss surround me. Yes, I think a second child would be lovely. Vine upon vine, bone upon bone growing within me. The ancient music singing within. Concentric circles. Yes. These are the days that I dreamed of. These are my days of heaven. This is exactly what I came for. All of this – the struggling, the chipping away, the tears and bliss and sweet, sweet surrender.
What do I want to say? I carried our boy in to his bed and pulled the duvet up over him in the room filled with him and our love for him. I made myself a sandwich. I put the groceries away. I find the old oat groats that the mouse has been eating. I sit down at the table. I feel the presence of something as I look out across the mountains. I am eating when a large brown hawk catches my attention. Circling, lifting, turning. Circling, lifting, turning. The hawk seems to be trying to look into the house on the hill, past the Italian cypress trees that frame the deck and in through the windows. At me.
Who am I? Yes, I still ask myself this question. I feel I have arrived at some kind of peace lately. A beautiful surrender, where the silence sits without taunting me. My critic abated. My soul awash with thank you. But still there is the curiosity. What next? Is this…. the end? The beginning of the end? My life up until motherhood was a series of chapters with rollicking sentences and full paragraphs. Sentence sentence sentence sentence comma sentence comma sentence hyphen sentence and so on. But motherhood, or more accurately giving birth, was a full stop. The end of a chapter. A conclusion. New page. New chapter. Not a new book – it’s still the book of me – but a total and complete end.
I never imagined it would be this way. I imagined I would sail through motherhood seamlessly like it appears in films and fairy tales, with my sweet bouncing baby and myself a joyous mother. There have been so many moments like that, AND there are the other moments too. The moments so taboo we do not dare speak of them. The moments that can consume a woman with doubt and dismay. The moments of not enough. “I often feel useless,” one mother told me a few weeks ago. She has two year old twins, a beautiful house in Ojai, friends and a nanny. Of course the question arises, how can it be that we still feel this way? With all the rights we have fought for, as women, as mothers, to return to work, to start businesses, to work from home and away from home? I believe we still feel this way because we are mortal and immortal. We have tasted freedom, and we know the sluice of bliss beyond form. We have touched it in sex, in risk, in letting go. But we are bound. And with children, we are further bound. Bound to the sweetness, to the slowness, to the patience and the path. In birth, we touch the beyond. In motherhood, we retreat back from infinity to the rawness of now.
I keep thinking of Patti Smith and her words in M Train about how when she was a mother she read book after book of Japanese literature. No shows, no new music. She was mother. She focused. Her two children slept in the room she had wall-papered black in the hopes of having a small Japanese tea room for herself before they were born. I think about her because of the surrender and the wisdom I feel she offers us, we women of today. Raised in a popular culture of having it all, but somehow knowing that the simple things are the blissful things. Waking into the ancient ways, the old ancestors whispering their messages to us: “Slow down. Take stock. Be grateful. Make soup.”
Personally I’ve been grappling with the concept of it being okay to stay at home and be a mother, as confronting as that sounds to me sometimes. Shouldn’t I be off traveling the world!? Working, at conferences, book tours?! Free wheeling with the best of them!? For me, being with my son at home has been the greatest gift and the greatest challenge. To calm my fast and furious heart and tell my artist self, my muse, it’s okay. I love you. We’re not going anywhere right now. We haven’t given you up. Everyone loves you. Stay. Come home. We will write. We are learning from each other. You are learning how to put your feet in the earth and feel her. Learning not to chomp at the bit and throw your body at the gate. Stop running. Even with your mind, stop running. I am learning, as a mother, that it’s okay to be simple. It’s okay to be pure.
When I touch this place within myself, a lake of tears rises behind my eyes. How long you have been running, dear child. How long you have been trying to get to this, this home, this love, this purity of form. The tears come because I am grateful, and I am present to how far I have come and how slippery life is. I am 32 this August, and I still remember the smell of gasoline from our family road trips and the bond we shared which fractured. I remember that last birthday I had before it all fell apart. When ‘Across the Universe’ played on the black stereo and my two brothers and sister danced around while I sat at the head of the table surrounded by ripped wrapping paper and the remnants of croissants. “Nothing’s gonna change my world,” The Beatles sung. But I knew. The seer in me knew. It will change. I knew this was the end, even though I denied what I was seeing and feeling. There was a bitter sweetness to the energy in the air. I knew we would never be the same again. I tried very hard to hold on to the beauty of that moment, in the moment, but the tears were a wall behind my face and I could feel the train coming.
A month or so later, my sister got a phone call from IMG, the biggest modeling agency in the world, and was soon opening for Miucca Prada’s show in Milan, which set off a snowball effect of unseen proportions. The demand for my sister was staggering. Her career was spell-binding. But for me, it was devastating. I missed her so much, the energy of her being in my life. In leaving however, she is the one who got me writing, got my work published. She is the one whose actions carved me up and poured me out in ways I may never have done had she not walked that path. It’s only now I can see, in hindsight, that perhaps she did it all for me. In some pre-being place where souls make contracts with each other, perhaps we agreed to walk that path together so that I could be who I am today, and vice versa. For years I hated the effect that her fame had on me. I starved myself, I punished myself, I despised myself. I thought no one cared about me or even saw me. I felt invisible. She was on the cover of dozens of Vogues all around the world and I was nobody. But it got me writing. It got me dreaming. It got me really living.
I still can’t listen to that song without weeping. Reading the lyrics it seems to be a hearkening spell of the time to come, when I would go on to flow words like endless rain into a paper cup. I moved to New York to be closer to my sister and started a small imprint called Paper Castle Press, and a blog which I poured my heart and soul into. Literally hundreds of thousands of words. And now? That paper cup is becoming a book, and I am a mother. Everything changes. We live a simple life, and I still have endless dreams. In many ways, I am in the last verse of the song, with its sounds of laughter and shades of earth, ringing through my open views inciting (oh yes) and inviting me. To return, to ground, to remember who I am before all of this dancing across the film screen of reality.
I’m not sure about the chorus though, because everything will change your world. There is something so deeply melancholy to this line. It reminds me of my son crying to either one of us going out the door, “Don’t go! Don’t leave me!” Nothing can change who you are, your essence is beyond time and space, but the world, and specifically your world, oh, it will change alright. Nothing like motherhood, and childhood, to remind us of that. So I am learning to get comfortable with the constant changing. Not just my son’s evolution, but my own changing. I have been learning this my whole life, actually. Turning and turning like a plant in the face of the seasons. Tuning in to the call of my soul on the other side of the wall, where I have thrown my hat. Even a mountain does not stay the same. Even the sun is altered every moment by its own being. The only thing that doesn’t change is this limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns… The essence of me. The emanation of love that radiates from my heart earth-wise, starry souled heart. It calls me on and on…. across the universe. Chasing my hat, chasing the bliss, chasing the memories, too.
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me.
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
That call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box they
Tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Through my open views inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a
million suns, it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.