Saturday, May 28, 2011

egg nest

robins love our skagit spot.  and we love the robins.  it's the light yellow eye liner they wear and that sassy deep orange breast.  it's the way they hear worms.  hear worms with their head cocked slightly.  it's the way they hop.  the way they sing.  and the nests they leave in our trees.

the nests of mud, dried grass and strips of our weather-worn tarp all woven together and littered with egg shells bluer than a glacial lake which is so blue you feel it in your nose when you breath.  the nests where the mama robin sits snugly and waits and waits.  the nests where small dinosaur descendants chirp always for more. 

the first nest i noticed was blown out of our poplar tree during a storm.  it landed in the yard like a message from a mysterious world.  like a gift for an altar.  a beauty sculpture never before touched by hands until mine cradled it, cupped it, and felt its weight in my joined palms.

this year i noticed another nest in the poplar, atop a solid branch, nestled near the trunk.  it was on the southwestern side of the tree so it would get good sun and too much wind.  i saw a mama head peak out once or twice but then spring unleashed another tantrum of weather on us and mama bird hit the wind- looking for another spot.

she didn't travel far. 

years back, ben scoped out a bright yellow, wavy plastic slide in a neighbor's field.  being ben he inquired about it.  and gave the folks his card just in case their relative grew tired of letting the cedar play structure decay amidst thistle and rye grass.  a year later they called us and we created a paradise of play.  over the years it has been added to.  doors, a lookout post, the "fire club" wing.  it has been written on with shamefully lame sidewalk chalk, carved into with knives nicked from the kitchen and hosted a thousand fits of laughter.

as you climb the ladder up into the pirate ship, the jail, the jungle, the -whatever-you-make-it- you pass under the empty sockets of a deer skull.  this skull was found in the mountains of new mexico, given to seren as a birth gift, set on an ant hill for a spell and brought with us back to the northwest where a slight sheen of green moss has begun to grow on it.  his six point antlers are dulled, chewed on by hungry rodents.  his crown is crowned by a crown that  hung on our front door five months ago, made by our neighbors out of a red-berry bush.  and in that space now lives the mama robin.

her nest is about five feet off the ground which seems low for a bird who can loop and swoop over our house effortlessly.  just like her old nest it faces south but it is under the canopy of our beloved red maple tree and so she has the shelter that the poplar could not give her.  when you go outside she looks at your with that mama stare, that mix of don't and i-dare-you.  seren discovered it when he climbed up the ladder and the squawking robin got him to thinking and then he looked down to see four bright blue eggs, that nose-hurting-blue, laid out like jewels in a case below him.

his excitement in telling me about them was really, really big.

it looks like an o'keefe painting- these blue orbs peeking out of a neat nest with a halo of twigs, all on the peak of a deer skull.  it speaks the same language of her paintings.

the language of newness on top of oldness.
a circular link of life and death.
this gentle shape of an egg and the jagged edge of bone.
fragile miracle of flight, song, hatching and hope.

and the delight of two boys
one eager to sneek and peek
the other to protect and cherish

both briefly banished from their castle, their cave, their refuge
to give some space to this space
where a robin mama waits.
and waits

Saturday, May 21, 2011


my boys love 'em.  the make stick ones.  buy plastic ones.  shoot nerf ones.  covet real ones.

i hate guns.

my boys have no real experience with guns other than some commercials, photos in magazines, hunting stories from their dad and endless hours of wild fun running about playing with them.

i have bad memories.

the first time i was ever near a fired gun was when i was 13.   i was at a party- standing in the line at the keg- when i noticed the crowd moving toward the front of the house.  the house belonged to one of my classmates, maybe he was 14.  his parents were out of town, he had an older sister, they had a party.  lots of my friends were there.  my older brother was also there and that's what got me worried.

my older brother was, and is, a force.  until about 9 years ago being around him always made me slightly on edge.  this story explains that too.

i migrated toward the front gate and peered over the wooden fence.  there was a crowd and some shouting and the thuds of punches.  i can feel them in my gut, under my heart.

and in that same place is where i felt the dread form a metal burning ball.  i remember frantically asking people around me what was happening.  i remember feeling like the blank stares were meant to keep me from knowing something.

then i heard the "snap" of a small pistol.  maybe i smelled the shot too.  it doesn't seem like a loud sound to me when i think back.  it could be that i was already racing through the house, toward the front door when the gun was fired.

when i opened the front the door there was a break in the fight.  well, a fight implies fairness and four-on-one is not a fight.  it's a beating.  it's a group of drunk football players spawned on by jealousy and songs like "the boys in the hood" taking swings at a large guy who is also drunk who has been pushed into the shrubs with his shirt pulled over his head.  someone watching this beating saw it as such too, took out his pocket pistol and fired it into the lawn to stop the fight.

the hammer hitting powder created a loud noise and a small space opened- into that crevice part of me erupted.  this fierce lioness that knows nothing about size or the odds of winning or anything else except defending through blind rage broke out of my shy-self into that warm night.  i have seen her since then.  the kali in us all that rips heads off of monsters and pours their blood on her purple tongue as her hair rises up in smoke and ash.

since i couldn't actually rip off their heads, not yet getting that super power, i used what i knew: swearing.   i unleashed that on the group.  i think the sight of this slight teen with too much eyeliner and poofy  bangs caught everyone off guard.  no doubt it seemed surreal that the younger sister would be defending her older brother when some of his best friends hung near by.  i wonder if they would have stepped up if the linebacker hit me?  i remember being pushed, the force of real hands on me- them sending me back even as i lunged forward, screaming more.  i think i probably egged them on even as the reality sunk in that these guys didn't play fair, probably were ok with beating up girls.

* * *

as i write this story more than twenty years later i still feel the anxiety, rage and fear in me.  i realize now that my brother was probably not the innocent victim i imagined him to be.  he would go on to become more violent, more out of control until every phone ringing after 10 pm caused me to flinch in fear that he would be dead.  that he has become the man he is today is proof of grace, pure and simple.  the memories i have of those years are drenched in emotion and exhaust me- yet i go back to them over and over.  i try to write about them.  i try to learn from them.  i try to exorcise them.  to comfort and to confront them.

now that i have boys who love guns i do this more.  their guns are reminders.  to them they are toys.  tools of make-believe and props in stories.  i can see the guns as they do.  sometimes i even play with them.  there is a strange satisfaction in being able to hit a ceiling fan with a suction bullet.  i get it.

but then in the shadow is this fear.  maybe the fear of my own kali- because if she is unleashed for the sake of my boys- how could i ever contain her rage?  fear of seeing my children being hurt- every mother's stinging heart place where that small spark of love could easily ignite to burn down a whole forest before we felt the heat through our own mama bear instincts of protect-at-all-costs to show us the damage we had inflicted on those aimed at hurting our brood. 

* * *

back to that night in torrance- eventually we did get home without me or my brother being hurt anymore.  i remember clinging to the door to keep my brother from leaving again, seeking revenge.  finding another gun to try to regain his standing, his pride.  he left.  me sobbing in the doorway.  he left.

this would be the first time he would be beaten by cops and then arrested.

the first time i learned how fear chases away friendship, trust...anything golden.  

the first time i hid in my dark house completely terrified.

the first time i saw the ugliness of alcohol.

the first time i hated a person.

the first time i hated a gun.

                                                                 sadly, not the last time for any of these.

Monday, May 16, 2011


there are things we try to protect our children from- and while these dangers can be categories into several different types: physical pain, rejection, mean dentists....the most dangerous dangers are the ones that we ourselves have experienced as children.

i see this over and over.  sometimes it feels like i don't even need to actively express our concerns- somehow our kids just pick up on our worst fears and either avoid those scary places or dive in head first- depending on the age and demeanor of the kid.

for example, seren called electric outlets "no-nos" for the first several years of his life because whenever he got near them that is what he heard.  i have no memory of shoving a fork into an outlet but i know what it feels like to have an electrical shock.  it happened in college.

my first apartment was in the basement of a rumored old time hospital.  no doubt my pad was where they kept the corpses.  it had two windows in the living room and one in the bedroom.  the bathroom was smaller than a closet but it could fit about six people  if we squished really tight- which meant actually touching the molding shower walls (need less to say- this event only happened once).  as a basement apartment i had the joys of hearing all that happened above me from the artistic projects that included smashing the beer bottles on to the kitchen floor to hot-sex.  or at least it sounded hot.

i also had the pleasure of the flooding, mildew and mushrooms growing out of the carpet.  can you say slum lord? and blown fuses.  this lovely old pink building did not have a fuse box with nice little switches that you flipped on and off.  it had ancient looking glass tubes that you had to replace.  well first you had to find a place that sold them.  which i did after several days of no lights in half of the place- which considering the size of the place it was maybe three outlets.

i remember going into the cold damp area right next to the apartment where forgotten bikes of past renters were stored.  there was a door from the bedroom into this area.  which was so damn creepy i stapled a blanket over it- which sounded like a good idea except when the firemen chopped in to the door i didn't realize the door was open for several days- more creepy.  different story though.

so i venture into the basement area with new tube fuse and flashlight.  no need to wait until boyfriend gets home- carry on brave maiden!  i pulled out an old tube, put in the new.  nothing.  hmmm.  i reached to pull out another tube and an invisible fiery red snake shot up my arm.  the flashlight flew out of my other hand and hit the cement wall.  my head flew off and then bounced back on- leaving half of my body jittery, twitching and electrocuted- albeit mildly.

i was thankful my bed was only ten steps away.  i lay there- my face throbbing wondering how i got so damn stupid.  i guess that big metal switch was the off lever- and i should have thrown that one first.  i looked down at my hand and saw that all of my nails were charred black.  i wondered if they would stop tingling soon.

so yes, be careful of outlets seren. call them no nos and don't touch them.

cyrus, on the other hands, laughs when he nears them and i start twitching.  well, just the right side of me.