Gone in the Morning

“Never, ever, get yourself into a situation where you have nothing to do but write & read. You’ll go into a depression. You have to be doing something good for the world, something undeniably useful; you need exercise, too, and people.”

This passage by Annie Dillard wakes me to my surroundings: my lazy, disheveled state, sitting on the couch in my night shirt & messy bun, nothing to do today except write & read.

It is the third time I reach for my coffee & realize I let it go cold again. Instead of pouring the contents into the pot on the stove, standing & stirring it to life, I dump it into the sink & resolve to take a shower.

The shower head hisses in streams then drums down on my head. I start the water cold & gradually bring the temperature up until steam fills my lungs & the air feels heavy. Shampoo then conditioner. I run my fingers through my long hair & pull out what looks like a hundred thin strands.

How am I not bald? Am I balding? I let the hairs cling to the shower wall & look at my collection miserably. I’m definitely balding.

I can’t find my razor, but I see my husband’s & reach for it.

No, I don’t want to use my husband’s razor; I want to leave him. I want to scream at such a sickeningly loud & desperate volume that the unwanted prickles will just fall off my body & leave me smooth & pure as a baby.

I am a baby. A naive, proud, impatient, impulsive, 25-year-old baby. I made a mistake. People will understand that, won’t they? After all, it’s only been eight months to compare to the rest of my life.

The cello that floods the bathroom mourns with me. For a moment I am emotional & soaring, looking at my slender silhouette in the foggy mirror & picturing I am the tragic protagonist in a glamorous movie. I swipe a clearing into the glass, narrow my eyes to my blurry image, & pretend to contemplate my soul in a deep & sultry way. But suddenly something about my sad stare becomes too real, & I defensively kill the brief amusement with another scene; the beautiful, pitiable character I assumed morphs into nothing more than a melodramatic mime, sobbing ridiculously while holding out her cup for a tip.

I let the music play, but my heart goes numb to it.

Still the mime, I paint my face. Creamy, organic paste the “crunchy” bloggers say is better for my health, but it’s just another thing I use to hide who I am & what I feel. The marks of acne I spend a shameful amount of time disguising. Less time now, though, now that they are mostly scars & not the active sores I almost bargained with God to take away in exchange for my first born child.

The child I will probably never have if I leave—I am panicked with a sudden thought. Did I somehow trade my hypothetical daughter for acne relief? Is that why I have clear skin & this unshakeable urge to disappear?

I say a quick prayer, as if to take it back, but I can’t take anything back, even if I don’t fully trust what I’m feeling, even if it terrifies me to make up my mind—because look where making up my mind got me. I just had to get married. Now I just have to run away. Or do I? Will this feeling pass? I know nothing for certain. How should I know what I really want?

I am not scheduled to work today, but I can do nothing productive around the apartment or elsewhere until my appearance is changed & my soul is cleansed by routine. So, fully made over & ready for any opportunity the day brings, I sit back on the couch & stare at the wall.

Because I’m stuck! Because I want to leave, but I can’t—not without abandoning every comfort of my “normal” life. My sunny apartment, most of my furniture, my gorgeous wedding photos, the security of a steady income, someone to take care of me when I’m too lazy to eat, someone to run to when something falls apart.

My marriage is comfort. It’s comfortable, & I may take it for granted sometimes, but my insides are vibrating with the deep, unspoken knowing that a comfortable life is not enough for me to feel alive.

I find my phone & slowly begin a text: “Hey. I think we need to…”

No. I start over.

“Good morning. We need to talk.”

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Deep

Constant waves of words
Surge from your laughing lips
And crash against your chest,
Washing away the rescue—
Not a soul can touch you!

But I plunge into your mouth,
Hold tight my small breath.
Let the dark water take me.
Sink me in the lonely blue
Moon ripples like a starry sky
But even less ventured.

I listen to the distant song
And feel the crush of longing.
I know you are here,
Somewhere in the sound,
Floating in the deep.

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Misty Muse

Can I be the misty muse
Of your young-heart years?
Fit me into to anywhere,
Fear it is not forever love,
But be too alive to care.

Can I be a soft blanket
Jumbled on your bed?
Not your dream in the sun
But a safe place to whisper
When you come undone.

Or just music in the hall
Drawing you from sleep
Or sweetly back at night
To poetry & fresh bread
After soaking in starlight.

Or a sparkle on your cheek
Rolled into a tear
Sliding slow against you,
Finding home on your lips,
Dissolving into tissue.

Can I be a pink flower
Fragile and fleeting
And tucked into your hat?
How long might you love
A little something like that?

 

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Whimsy Love

Summoned to the black & white,
Given the spotlight in my mind.
The deep ripples reach my heart.
“He is gentle, he is kind”

Smooth as honey, warm as tea,
Waking songs thick with history.
My shell prevents me tell you:
“I long to hear yours & mine!”

Let me pull a chair beside you
With the music, stoop & sway,
Lay my timid hand upon yours
As it proceeds to softly play.

Allow dark eyes watch your lips
Curl sweetly at pink corner tips,
Float off into a whimsy love
That may only last a day.

 

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Cloud of Black Leaves

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I stood at the base of twin sycamores, watching the autumn breeze pluck the stiff leaves from their white, peeling limbs. They were tired & seemed grateful for the gentle movement. The wind, a friend, taking their coat & hat, ushering them through the door & inviting them to rest a while.

Suddenly I felt the wind reverse. My scarf & hair were sucked behind me to the west, like they were being pulled by an inhale from some terrible beast yawning in the woods beyond the trail. My heart rate quickened slightly in anticipation, knowing that with any inhale came an exhale.

And so it came, air rushing back in with an awesome force, different than before, whipping ready leaves from their branches & sending them twirling off in a spirited death dance. Russet, saffron,  titian, chartreuse—they pirouetted all around me, some brushing against me on their way to a final curtsy upon the wet earth.

With the next inhale from the woods, I looked up to every leaf on every tree quivering. But prematurely to the exhale, a sudden cloud of black leaves came pouring over the tree line. Before I had time to process what curious phenomenon I was witnessing, my finger pressed instinctively on the shutter button of my camera already in hand. I could not sacrifice even a moment to see where the camera was actually pointing. If I did, I would have surely missed seeing the scene through my own eyes, for as suddenly as the cloud came, it disappeared out of sight.

After I was sure it had passed completely, I simply stood in the thrill of what occurred. How delighted I was by the mighty, exhaling wind, how enchanted by the many dancing leaves, how wonderfully amused by the black cloud’s appearance.

With a small smile on my lips, I swiped open my photos to study what I had seen. Dense & massive as it was, the cloud came & went so fast over the trees that even the quick eye of my camera only captured the trailing tapers of it. But a couple times zooming in on the image revealed not a cloud of black leaves but the elegant silhouettes of small birds. So many! And what a hurry they were in—understandably so! Winter was fast approaching, & for any creature of the natural world, there was much to be done, perhaps many miles to travel.

The chill of the evening was weaving into the woodland breaths, & I decided it was time to head back. I slipped my camera into my leather backpack, adjusted my scarf, & set off down the trail.

I had not taken five steps before my body tingled with a change in pressure. I gasped in recognition of the dark shadow coming over my head & turned to the sky. Another extraordinary flock of birds, perhaps greater in number than the first, flooded the sky above me. This time I caught glimpses of individual flyers madly pumping their wings to stay together.

Do little birds always look so frantic when they fly?

After they were gone, I was left with the same sense of amazement as I experienced before. The child in me stood on tiptoes in the direction both flocks had come, hoping to see some stragglers still making their way. But the darkening sky was clear, save for a few yellow leaves exalted by the wind.

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Beets

BeetsThough only my third time at the task, I was utterly convinced, in the barely wakened gaze of day, that the ideal time to harvest beets was after a steady night of summer rain.

As I walked myself & a few crates to the back field, the clay-heavy soil grabbed at my olive muck boots like suction cups. I imagined there was a mischievous land octopus that burrowed tunnels across the farm, rising up to play tricks on those who dared work its land.

By the time I reached the highly trafficked alleys between the vegetable beds, the earth’s wet tug had caked a mud ring around each of my feet, which remained there for the good part of the day. Due to this added weight to my steps, I navigated a precise though less-than-graceful line between the butterhead & red leaf lettuce to the first section of beets. I set down my crates, began listening to a homesteading podcast through the headphone buds in my ears, & got to work.

Gently pushing aside the dew-covered leaves, I immediately spotted a beautifully large Detroit Red. I grasped the base of those lovely fuchsia stems, & the wet ground released the beet with ease. As I was instructed by the farm lead, I began removing imperfect leaves there in the field, plucking off any red-veined ears speckled with leafminer or browned with ground rot & letting them fall beside me. The sun would shrivel the discarded plant matter, & the soil would incorporate it into nourishment for the next crop. I sighed in satisfaction at this good work & pulled another beet.

Hours of peaceful harvesting passed, & I collected close to 200 beets of the Detroit Red, Golden, & Chioggia variety.  We loaded the harvest in the red farm pickup, & I hopped in along side it, bouncing & bobbing in the truck bed as we crossed the uneven field.

The humid heat of noontime arrived, & I was thankful to be under the shade cloth at the packing station. All of the beets needed to be washed & bunched for a CSA pickup that same day, so our team had to work especially fast & efficiently.

I volunteered to wash; I found great satisfaction in wiping away the mask of muck from a freshly plucked beet’s skin, revealing its vibrant, unparalleled stain. Each one I cleaned, I pondered the seeping & swelling of such colorful flesh under the ground, all from nothing more than a tiny seed & the magic of the earth.

We completed the CSA order with only minutes to spare. The crates of gloriously plump & bright beets waiting to be loaded up shined with the sun & the pride in our eyes. All I could continue to think was, “What good work. What good, hard, miraculous work.”

And tomorrow would bring the harvest of another uniquely beautiful fruit or vegetable, with its own method of growth & way of being processed, more opportunities for the farmer to learn from its flesh, to better tend to it so that it might better serve its purpose to the soil & to its good steward.

Water dribbled down my chin & glistening neck as I guzzled it with gratitude. “What good work. What good, hard, miraculous work.”

 

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Dark Morning

Dark Morning

“… Like images in a puddle bent / Projected from the night.”

The misty morning haze
Paints thinly my coat
But kisses wetly my face
Unwelcome & contrite

And quite like a fuzzy mote
In the vision of the day
Floats dejectedly the sun
A lazy leak of light

And trees on the horizon
Hue muted & translucent
Like blue veins under pale skin
Rise then vanish from sight

And that dreary sun’s ascent
Queer’ seems to darken the day
Like images in a puddle bent
Projected from the night

 

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Mes Trois Chats

I opened my bedroom door this morning & was immediately greeted by the excited meow-squeals of the littlest, Evelyn. She was much too happy to actually sit & let me pet her, so I simply extended my hand & let her rub her own head against it. She continued to wiggle around my legs & bestow sweet love bites to my ankles while I went about my morning routine in the kitchen.

The rain pattering against the skylights echoed in the high ceiling space. A rumble of thunder reminded me that my Toulouse was nowhere to be seen; even the mildest of storms sends him into hiding. Before I finished pouring my coffee over a thick bed of coconut oil & cream, I deduced the most probable place he would be. Sure enough, I found him there, hunkered down behind the toilet, the farthest location from any portal that could expose him to the elements.

Like the wonderful cat mum I am, I moved the small trash bin & knelt beside him. I stroked his worried forehead & gave him kitty-kisses with the slow blink of my eyelids. It was not until I heard a soft purr start in his throat that I gave him a final kiss & continued to get ready for work.

Berlioz had been watching me from the bathroom counter all that time. When I went over to him, he arched his back in a big stretch, leaning into my loving neck scratches. He sat there next to me through my whole grooming ritual. This is most likely because I offered to let him sniff various things—the toothpaste cap, a cotton swab damp with witch-hazel, my contact case—as I went along. He enjoyed that.

My phone suddenly lit up & told me that I was running 5 minutes behind schedule, but a last round of goodbyes felt worth the inevitable hurried sprint across the flooded parking lot & dash up three flights of stairs when I got to work.

First I kissed Berlioz atop his giant head. Then I bent down to Toulouse & whispered assuredly that the storm would soon pass. And then I exited the bathroom to a delighted squeal from Evee who was squirming for another nuzzle.

“Have a good day, ma petite.”

Purse, lunch, coffee, umbrella—into the rain.

 

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The Marsh & Little Wood

Such a little wood can only drink so much rain. Its leaves of myriad greens droop from days of constant beating. Its dark, bulging roots lay drenched & gasping for air. The saturated top soil shifts & bubbles with the push of excess water flowing up from beneath it. So much water that a sizable pond has formed there, beginning somewhere in the woods & spreading out across the marsh, which slopes down from the tree line.

All around, the grass thrives in these swampy conditions. It has grown tall & vibrant green, needle heads poking out like patchy stubble across the surface of the water. Leaning in over the pond, the trees gaze into the shallow, shadow-speckled pool. When their reflections ripple with each drip from their heavy bows, they can imagine what it might look like to see their old bodies dancing under the soft grey sky.

Ducks & geese flying overhead make a stop to swim & snack on the spongey vegetation. One brave drake paddles all the way up to the edge of the woods, much closer than he might have dared if venturing across the marsh one clumsy step at a time. Now he floats effortlessly above it. Several of his friends, emboldened by his brave display, join him. They quack in a line back & forth, mocking the twisted darkness.

The scene—the whole of the marsh & little wood I look down upon from atop a neighboring hill—is full of movement & life. I want to throw myself into the middle of it, immerse myself in the grass-filtered water without care, my only thoughts those pertaining to the wondrous coming of spring.

 

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