Sunday, September 25, 2011


this one if for my brother.  about my brother.  possibly in honor, to honor, my brother.

the brother who is older, bigger, taller, a whole lot more wild than i am.  the brother who lived crazy for a long time while i watched, horrified mostly- sometimes amused, and just prayed that he'd live long enough for a child to call him uncle.

the brother who taught me to roller skate on the sidewalk of west one-seventy street, to fight mean and sneaky when you are out-sized (note: he didn't directly teach me this, as he did with roller skating, rather this was a skill i developed to combat his girth and slight tendency to be entertained by annoying me in his bear-like affectionate manner), and who also demonstrated a slew of slightly less useful, more destructive behaviors that i, for the most part, chose to steer clear of as i grew older and was supervised less often.

the brother who tells me stories that pop back up in my mind just as i need them.  like this one.

on a recent morning, after not getting enough sleep, i walked into the backyard to release the chickens.  despite their charm- i was not moved from my place of grump.  i topped the porch stairs and took a moment to smell morning and take stock.  i had no real reason to be in a sour mood.  no doctor diagnosis, no pending repossession, no phone calls i was avoiding.  the small bits of irritation that chaffed under my skin were just that small- and yet- lack of sleep makes my skin thin and sensitive to unwashed dishes and cats that want to sleep on my head.

the view from the back porch is peaceful.  the neighbors old fence dips down gradually with lush land and in that green shallow a few horses often graze.  the sun sparks up the sky, the wind blows clouds ever northward and the small mountains hug the horizon with their solid arms of rock, trees, deep roots.

here i stand- talking myself down, or up, and just waiting for grace.  i do this often.  i get to this place in my mind- always in  my mind- where i simply realize that i need some grace, a blessing, a sign, a anchor, a kite string, a token, an open door that leads me back to where i really am- which is not in my mind.  slowly the elements worked away on my crust, i could feel the wind blowing a bit deeper through me.   a whispering to my soul that i didn't even need to strain to hear.

the chickens began to look charming again.

and then, here comes the squirrel.  we used to have several squirrels about us- but since the hazelnut tree was dug up and mulched up, the furry rodents have found other nuts to steal, other car hoods to hide under, other kids to charm.  this squirrel was simply passing through, nose to  ground she scampered south- no doubt heading to the mecca garden of our neighbors.  her black eyes glance up at the assorted hens pecking away at various plants and bugs, and the squirrel pauses.

whenever i see a squirrel i think of my brother.  he is nothing like a squirrel in his physical stature.  he is all bear.  even his mannerism are not squirrelly.  my association comes from this dream he had and shared with me. 

no, i normally wouldn't share a dream- but this is a good lesson for us all.  and my brother is a firm believer in The Teacher.

in the dream, a squirrel was running all of over his body and he couldn't quite catch it, couldn't quite get it off him.  on arms, legs, head, torso- seemingly everywhere at once.  you've seen squirrels circle around on a tree- their small velcro claws, their twitchy tails- speedy lil bastards.  and imagine if one was determined to be on you.  not attacking you- just wanted to be on you. no matter where you twisted or how fast you grabbed- and even if you managed to fling it off- there it was right back on your back.   

no doubt he didn't sleep well that night- and later mentioned his dream to a co-worker who gave the sage advice: "some believe everything, everyone we dream about is a manifestation of ourselves."  this got my brother to thinking about what this spastic little squirrel represented to him.  after some thought- he settled on the part of his personality that is very impulsive.  the part that sparks him to say mildly offensive comments, drive really fast without the use of a either the right or the left indicator, and jump into various pots of hot water.  that part of him that at times really irritated him, the part he wanted to cast off.

now, if it was only the dream this wouldn't necessarily be anything worth remembering.  it would just be another strange animal dream, another brief glimpse into the psyche.  time to move on, time to watch some tv.

which is what he did later that evening.  i can see my brother on his couch- sprawled out, his eyes slightly unfocused, brow a bit heavy from working all day.  flipping through channels- rather quickly perhaps- and stopping on the news.  local stuff.  small pieces of lives snipped down into thirty second segments: storms, reunions, money found, fires raging. 

a brief clip of a news report of a fire- a building ablaze.  i can imagine him watching this a bit detached until attention was brought to the roof.  the place where so many wind up during a fire- trying to escape the heat, the smoke, the flame.  yet, once you get there you don't have so many options.  the lone inhabitant of the roof was facing that reality.  there was a squirrel, trapped on the roof a burning building.  if my brother has glanced to his left, he would have seen The Teacher next to him.

my brother sat up at this sight- as if the football was steps away from touchdown in a tied game with seconds left on the clock.

as i remember the telling, the squirrel was frantically searching for escape from it's inferno in the sky- but there was only one solution: jump.  maybe he knew he could make it or maybe he thought he wouldn't.  maybe the risk was small or great- most likely he didn't calculate it at all.  he acted on impulse- or maybe it should be called INpulse as in something in our blood that screams "GO!" when we need it to most.  the squirrel ran across the building stretching his body long with each stride, gaining speed and launched himself into the sky like a bullet aimed on the closest target- and landed safely on the roof of the adjoining building. 

i can see my brother's eyes go wide with awe and hear him saying "no way!" in astonishment.  i can hear the "click" of his dream snapping into place, like the sound of a door clicking shut behind The Teacher leaving, confident that you got it this time.   i can see him gaining respect for his own "inner squirrel" and the many, many it has saved his ass through the years.  then i hear him laughing- with his eyes all squinting; his chest erupting with bursts of pure joy.

and each time he told that story, to our dad, co-workers, folks at a meeting,  i wish i had been there to hear it.  to capture that moment when that fortune cookie cliche "everything happens as it should" rings loud and true.

i stood out on my back porch and thought of all of this as i watched my own squirrel.  i noticed that a squirrel is like water in that she sees no obstacles, just alters her course.  this squirrel, deciding not risk chicken confrontation, left the grass behind and went up the play structure instead.  from the cedar beams she jumped onto the red maple branch- and from there to shed roof, fence, and gone from threat of chicken- back to grass, thistle, dandelion jungle.

i recognize this trait in my brother.  the things he has accomplished- it's like he sees no obstacles.  or rather- he does see them- and manages to find an alternative course.  it hasn't always been easy for him, i know.  sometimes maybe he even imagined some obstacles or maybe the course he took ended up far more difficult.  but the point is, the point was- is that he kept going.  he listened to "GO!" and we share some of that dna.

i turned around and walked back into the house of Things-To-Do.  in that few minutes of respite the only thing that changed was my perspective- now a bit lighter, a bit more risky, a bit more interested in overcoming the challenge of an obstacle rather than sitting there starting at it and bitching.

a bit more squirrelly all the way around- another lesson from my brother.  come to think of it- squirrels and bear do kind of look alike.  especially around the ears.

Monday, September 19, 2011

the plan

i am a planner.  well, more of a dreamer.  i come up with schemes and plots and adventures continually.  most likely this is a survival skill i developed at a young age when i fully realized that most real people in my  life were somewhat....inconsistent in their behavior.  that's a nice way to say crazy.  ok, maybe they aren't crazy.   they are probably just as crazy as anyone else- maybe they were even boring- and that's why i started making up stories, plans, escape routes.

in any case, i still do this.

a small gesture- like stirring honey into a cup of tea- blooms into an old woman living her last days in a nursing home, desperate for a cup of tea fixed to her liking, but alas she can no longer talk and no one pays any mind to her grunting until one day a soft-hearted visitors takes notes and....well, it goes on from there.  ending with lots of money being given to this kind person.

i like those kind of endings.  bright red bows on the conclusion.  neat and trim.  no messy crap like real life- where nothing ever really ends...until we do.  and stories that end with lots of money are fun to imagine sometimes.

because i sometimes like to wonder what it would feel like to just do stuff- like buy 4 tickets to a seattle play, kidnap friends or strangers and go.  or to send a thousand bucks to the food bank.  or to go to an art festival and actually be able to spend $39 on a pair of earrings made out of acorns and rock shards.  doesn't that sound fun?

hell.  yes.  it.  does.

so how do i get there?  plans, i got mad plans.

this one starts with garbage.  see, for some unclear reason we don't have the garbage picked up curbside.  once a month or so, we load it into the back of our 1987 Ford F150 and drive it to the dump.  and when i say "we" what i mean is "not me."  i like garbage to disappear- it's part of my american heritage.  i like to put nasty stuff in a big black bin and pretend it had disappeared.  leaving no trace.

except on monday- not long after the mustard on the back porch incident-  as i flipped open the lid and started to haul 13 gallon tall kitchen garbage bag over the lip of the bin into oblivion i see wriggling, white traces of last week's dump excursion.  stop reading now if you are eating chinese food or are squeamish.

maggots.  hundreds of maggot all doing their nasty maggoty dance.  squirming blindly about on the lid, down the insides, at the bottom.  it's like the remains of a serious fly orgy- and it's fucking disgusting.  i do the "maggot repulsion dance"- that ancient move of flapping arms, goose bumps on flesh, shaking head in a quick whip- while i try to figure out what deity i have pissed off to deserve this kind of monday.  and then go right into problem solving mode of how to deal with these maggots.

because it is hard to get rid of maggots.  first, you don't want to touch them.  or look at them.  or think about them.  or write about them (unless you are me- and if have hung in here this long i really do appreciate it- cuz i know you are going to have to shower soon).  but what to do with them?  especially when they are already in the garbage where they are going to hatch into flies and have more orgies in your garbage and create the next 239 generations of larvae!

it's a conundrum. you can't vacuum them up- cuz then they are in there.  you can't flush them down the toilet cuz then there are down there- and oh my- you would never sit there again!  even if you pour some toxic sludge on them you still have to deal with their corpses.  so it's a big problem to contemplate on a monday morning with less than 4 hour of sleep and a toddler who still refuses attempts at cleaning or clothing and a big brother who is supposed to be at a ukulele lesson in less than 2 hours.

and then the dark clouds of my mind were cleared away as the solution appeared- all five of them. cue disney music...

chickens.  my lovely ladies: opal lemondrop, freckles la fluff, speedy cleo, matanewie, and amelia "jesus" one dot.

i flipped the lid shut and wheeled the garbage can into the yard.  the girls gathered round.  i lay it on it's back and opened the lid with a dramatic thud- revealing to the hens the hovering hoards all over- yes, this makes me itch to write- the garbage can.

they twitched their heads sideways and stepped closer- their claws clicking on the black plastic.  they plucked cautiously at the first maggot- and then, holy hannah- it was like the had won the protein lottery!  they couldn't gobble those grubs up fast enough.  peck.  peck.  heck- yes!  peck.

i stood transfixed.  it was disgusting and awesome at the same time.  i didn't want to watch but i couldn't believe it was happening so i needed the visual proof.   maggots truly disappearing right before my eyes!  maggot gone.  over and over.  and happy chickens to boot.  chickens that were giving me eggs as a thank you for letting them eat those lil' wormy bastards. in less than 6 minutes there was not one maggot in sight.

i'll take that over christmas anyday.

and then- that's when the plan hit me.

people rent out their goats to munch blackberries.  and their sheep to chomp pastoral lawns.  and their pigs to root up...whatever pigs root up.  you see where i'm going with this?

maggot patrol chickens.

got maggots?  get chickens.  my chickens.  my girls show up and eat up your maggots like they are powdered sugar from the donuts in heaven.  chickens give me eggs that i use to cook up french toast.  you give me money that i use to buy maple syrup to pour over my french toast.

genius, right?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

monday morn

i don't always sleep as i should.  meaning, i should sleep solidly, for long stretches of time without interruption from any other living thing.  i should sleep until my body eases awake with stretches and yawns.  i should sleep until i am done sleeping.

this stopped happening over 10 years ago now.

i wake up for strange unknown reasons.  i wake up for obvious annoying reasons.  i wake up when children wake up or when i think they wake up.  i wake up to make sure they are sleeping.  i wake up.  i wake up.  i wake up.

but they don't.  they sleep like logs fallen into a mossy green bed of lush fairy dust.  they sleep like a boat on calm waves.  they sleep like the biggest concern they had in the past 12 hours was that their mother didn't let them eat ketchup for dinner.  they sleep like they are sandwiched between the two biggest, strongest hearts they know.  they sleep until they wake up.

most of the time their sleeping and my sleeping are mostly in sync.  sometimes they are a few hours off- i get up at 6 am.  or i go to sleep at 10 pm.  they nap while i blog.  i nap while they....what are they doing while i nap?

and that's the thing.  who knows what they do while i sleep and they do not.  because this does happen sometimes.  sometimes the sleep patterns are so crazy confused because i am up taking care of them and their fevers, their nightmares, their bed wetting, their mindless demands to nurse at 2:48 am....that by the time they are fully awake i am dead asleep.

case in point: monday morn.

papa is leaving town at 5:15 am on monday morn, so the big son decides he must sleep in the bedroom.  two boys in bed with two grown ups has proven to be tortuous- so he pulls in the futon chair cushion- dragging it along the unfinished oak floors- dusting a path through legos, laundry and cat hair- and plops it at the end of the bed.  small son decides immediately this is his bed and refuses to let big son do anything to this bed.  all pillows and blankets are banished.  it's 10 pm and i am repeating my mantra "it's time to go to sleep" as i myself drift toward drooling.

however, small son took an epic nap and all his cells are screaming "disco!"  everyone else is asleep- well, i am as asleep as a mama can be whose 3 year old is not yet asleep, and small son is collecting books on the small bed- as big son rests right where he wants to be, next to departing papa.

several times, the light that i am not allowed to turn off is eclipsed by a large head and a soft voice saying "mama" while he thrusts something toward me.  i mumble.  i turn over.  i try very hard to ignore him.  but even as i begin to dream i hear him commenting on the book he is studying "dat bug gots big claws.  he'll pinch you.  he's eyes are big.  he's scary."

i'm surprised i didn't dream kafka.

at 4 am papa awakes.  and so do i.  i sit on the couch like a mushroom, swollen and slow.  he talks at me- i cannot comprehend.  i have wild fantasies of making muffins to send him to the airport with but i don't even have the energy to imagine this.  and then suddenly big son is awake.  then papa is leaving, whisked away by a co-workers car and it's piercing headlines cutting through our dark kitchen.  then big son is crying- that irrational and untouchable fear we get when parents leave.  then small son awakes on the floor- frightened by the view of eye level rocking chair and the deep, dark, depths of the belly of the bed.  it's not even 7 am yet.

by 7 am- i am back in bed. small son joins me at some point- his small chilled body curls into mine- and even tho i worry big son is looking up lego wars on youtube, i fall asleep.

strange words filter into my dreams but i push them away.  i dream that i wake up as a big wind blows through the bedroom and presses the boys against the southern wall.  but the wind is cooling and spirited so we all just laugh at her.

from a corner of the my mind comes a repetitive "hey!" it's from the left corner of my mind to be exact.  from the left corner of the house- i realize as i wake more fully.  somewhere near the back porch.  the "hey!" is not hurried or worried, but persistent.  a bit annoyed.

like i was, stumbling out of bed at 7:28.  i walk less than 10 steps from the bed to the sun room- the back room of our home that faces east that is often flooded with morning sun- to find small son on the back porch.  he is wearing a green striped t-shirt and nothing else.  well, there is strange yellow smears on various parts of his chub.  i stumble forward 10 more steps to the sliding glass door that separates him from me to find it locked.

from the inside- because that's the only way this slider can be locked.

i unlatch it clumsily and am greeted by a cheery kid holding a bright yellow bottle of mustard sans lid.  his finger tips are also bright yellow i notice as he says "hi mom!" like it's nothing new to be locked out on the back porch, half naked with a bottle of mustard.

big son is below the deck in the yard, looking up at me sheepishly.

"did you lock him out here?" i croak out in my morning pre-coffee voice.

he replies with his eyes looking up at me "yeah.  he was trying to hit me with a hammer."

and my parting thought as i trudge toward the bathroom, not at all surprised by the morning's sense of humor- although completely still sleep-deprived and mostly numb is "how come i never can find the hammer when i need it?"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


on sunday i wore a long skirt to work.  it fanned out like the flower petals, cloud feathers, whip cream.  whenever i wear skirts or dresses like this i suddenly feel taller, expansive, grounded- despite cloud reference.  i think it's because my feet are mostly hidden and my legs glide underneath folds of fabrics like a mythical animal.  the swooshing of air with each step- like jelly fish i glide.

when i wear skirts like this i feel more connected to other women- women i have never met, from photos 100 years old or from parts of the world where they wear garments like this everyday- but choice or by force.

when i wear skirts like this i feel more protected, but not because i fear attack.  like i am cherishing the trunk of my own tree of life.  this miraculous womb.  because if i can create life- i sometimes fear i can also take it.  like kali- mad and wild.  i hide strength under my skirt.

when i wear skirts like this i can pee standing up with anyone knowing.  ok, eventually i could do this.  with practice.  without underwear.

i can herd children with the fence of fabric stretched from my hip to my hands.

i can smell the scent of the earth stirred up by my own rustlings- the musk of mold, the spice weeds, wet grass, dust, dirt, earth.

i sweep the ground with air created by my own strong legs.

the shade of my skirt tents the ground. 

when i wear skirts like this- long, full skirts made out of fabric made out of plant made of the earth-  i sway in a way that is all me.  and more than me too.