Category Archives: Sustainable Chaos

Things That Feel Like Two Bricks Scraping Together

Strep throat, when you swallow, but that’s more of a
crash than a scrape. Or a crash then a scrape.
“There’s a wall in my throat! Pull back! Pull back!”
but whatever I just took in through my mouth says
“I’m going! Maybe it won’t be so bad this time”
but it is. It is bad every time.
 
Akin to nails on a chalkboard but not quite that
(and there are whole generations now for whom
that phrase means absolutely nothing),
infelicitous phrasing can sometimes turn my neck
to the side a certain way and those tiny, adorable
bones inside my ear scrape and because they are
right there inside my ear it sounds like bricks.
 
And when my son was still in diapers there were times
when I was changing him and he was being wiggly
or crying or otherwise developmentally appropriate
that I knew the resentment I felt could be overcome
with love but I resisted feeling that love, I fought
to hold onto the pain. There was a tie between
love beyond measure and something beyond annoyance
and they scraped at each other. Hard.

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We used cloth diapers. Over and over and over again.

Brushy Creek Runs Through It

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The beautiful Brushy Creek on the campus of UW-Richland.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman MacLean A River Runs Through It

“It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free”  Elizabeth Bishop “At the Fishhouses” 

Running water changes everything
and nothing. You can stand on the banks and count
the number of trout you see in Brushy Creek

just like you’ve done for half a century
or more, fishing or just thinking how
running water changes everything.

I like to pause there and pretend every morning
that some of my stress is floating away and down.
The number of trout you see in Brushy Creek

does vary, depending. I confess I’ve never seen
a single one, but that doesn’t make me doubt.
Running water changes everything

about a place. It gives our landscape meaning.
It shows us how to shift some things without
running the risk of harming the trout in Brushy Creek,

without giving up the goal of learning
who we are and what our genius loci’s all about.
Running water changes everything
except the number of trout you see in Brushy Creek.

 

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Post script:  apparently it’s BRUSH CREEK, not BRUSHY CREEK.  I think maybe I knew that at some point.  Or maybe not.  There’s not a sign anywhere, and I am very texty….  And I don’t hear well… But really, no excuse. I’ve been here since 1992.  I really ought to know better.  But I ain’t changing the poem because Brushy Creek scans better than Brush Creek.  Honestly, I think it should be Brushy Creek.  I might keep calling it that and see if it catches on.

And then you see the crossing guard dancing

She has the greatest hats, this crossing guard, cheesehead of course,
and jester’s bells, but lately there is no hat capable of covering up
her bare head so you know there’s chemo of some kind happening
which you haven’t mentioned to your kid but of course he’s noticed.

Sometimes each day’s a shithole full of rotted wood and spikes,
rusted iron ones that gouge you on the way down and down
and unfortunately you can’t stop knowing then, there’s always more
bad news and bad decisions and consequences you kind of did
but didn’t quite deserve but then the Pogues are next in the queue
and there isn’t anyone better than Shane MacGowan to illustrate
however much life sucks, however big a mess it is, there is joy
and music in the middle of it, in the goddam muck of the middle of it,

and then you see the crossing guard dancing as she points and signals
and you and your son together feel brought low by her being sick
then lifted up by her dancing and you nearly sob on the way to work
with happiness, with gratitude, for drunk tanks and police choirs
and you say out loud, “my heart” by which you mean your child,
and also the leaves starting to change color, and just your little, little life.

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All Right So This Is How You Meditate

Don’t get too comfortable. You’ll fall asleep
and dreaming doesn’t count. You’d have to wait
and try again another time. Who needs
that kind of failure? Trust me. Spend some time
just following the dots and blobs of color,
those fireworks, on the inside of your eyes.
Just kidding. Don’t do that. It is all or
nothing with this meditation shit.
Give yourself a little mental spank
for every single time that you forget
to think of nothing. You’re breathing wrong. You stink
at this. So many other people don’t.
Think what benefits they get. You won’t.

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Portrait of the inside of my eye. With Sharpies. (Also note: kitchen table now has this black pattern. Grr.)

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But I don’t need a magical t-shirt

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I was at a fun concert the other night & one of the musicians was hawking t-shirts and said, “they’ll make you look 15 years younger and 15 pounds thinner.” I thought and then said outloud, “But I don’t care about either of those things.” In that moment it was 100% true.

What an interesting journey I’m on. The Health at Every Size book has certainly helped.

Time to Get Weird

Having spent a fair bit of my life trying to fit
in spaces not designed for me, I’m now,
at 52,proclaiming fuck that shit—
I’ll squeeze in if I want or I will go
all rogue and say no thank you when the nurse
says “can we get your weight?” I swear I felt
like fucking Che Guevara. Own my mess
is one of my mottos. What I haven’t dealt
with yet I’ll either tackle or accept.
And if my tackling’s super slow, that’s also fine.
I now proclaim my life a modest success
chock-full of laughs. I’d rather be funny than right.
Ars longa, vita brevis, tempis fugit.
It’s time to write it all down before I forget.

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Happy Birthday to me!

We’ll see how well I hold to this resolution, but I am trying to accept my slow tackling. Acceptance–that’s the word from now until the end of the year. I picked a word for the year in January, momentum. Still a good word. Still aiming for that. But acceptance now, too.

Part of the fun of birthdays in this social-media-age is the flood of messages on Facebook. I’m trying (not always possible, thanks Facebook) to say thanks to all of them, and take a moment as I do to really be thankful for that person’s presence in my life. Some of them are very much from my past, so I try to think about that time for a moment.

This poem has Latin, which I won’t apologize for–people who don’t know it can Google, right?

And profanity–also won’t apologize for that, either.

It’s kind of a listing of mottos–the Latin ones, own my mess, my life a modest success, I’d rather be funny that right. It’s a middle-age indulgence, I think, the choosing and listing of mottos.

I thought of “I’d rather be funny than right” while I was driving and almost had to pull over because it made me laugh pretty hard. It’s just true.

My Mom often finds pink and yellow birthday paper for me because although neither one is my favorite color, the two of them together are my favorite color combination.
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The Insufficiency of Peripheral Grief

The wreck happened just up the road from me,
right when my brother and his girlfriend got to town.
Here’s the update you never want to see:
“The motorcyclist later died.” I didn’t know
I knew him until today. My mother kept
the obituary for me because she saw he swam
where I swim. I know his daughter from years past,
but hadn’t seen her grief on Facebook yet.
What can I say about a man I barely knew?
He was the perfect swimming lane neighbor.
Not too chatty, not a swamper, not a splasher,
not a drifter, nothing to distract me from the blue,
blue water I love. I guess he loved it too.
What good can writing a sonnet at this point do?

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The man’s name was Michael O’Leary–I didn’t realize I knew him until I saw his picture, and even then I had to imagine him without the glasses (because he didn’t wear them in the pool). His daughter was my student a long time ago. She’s pretty great & I’m very sad for her & her family. 67 is just way too young.

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