Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Secret Side of Me

"You are living the life I always wanted."

HA! If only you knew!!!! Yes, I feel proud that you've said this and for a moment, I even forget the truth and the secret side of me. And yes, someone asking if they can publish a piece of my writing feels GREAT. But I also know the cost and the secret side of me. The vision that blurs around my periphery because I am concentrating-focused, racing from thing-to-thing-to-thing, trying to hold it all together and I care so much about it all that I can't bear to drop a single shard cuz I'm sure the whole caboodle would be shards if a strong enough wind came by. I do love it all: grad classes, new teaching job, MY STUDENTS (are awesome times 10,000,000!), my colleagues, my family (oh yes, they're in there somewhere), my mountains. The outside look is happy, happy, happy cuz I do love it all.

But the cost. Man, I know the cost. Nights like last night where I cannot drag myself to the pool. Instead my car steers itself to Target and the Oreos are open before I leave the parking lot. Potpies ensue - comfort food for the frenetic. I allow it. One night of total abandon. (I know, sexy abandon this. Feel free to add yoga pants and baggy sweatshirt for the full effect.) That somehow recharges my batteries and makes me able to get up the next day, get on my bike and charge uphill (yes, it is literally 5 miles uphill to my school) to see my students again and teach them math and writing and music and... life. Followed by the downhill ride where I plunk again in front of this laptop and respond, respond, respond to grad level reading but connect it to me. I have to make it who I am. Then to eat and exercise and have any kind of social life that is permitted at this point.

HA. If only you knew, colleague of mine... the secret side of me.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Autumn's Kiss

Kissed by autumn
sunlight and cold
their lips meet
and leave pure gold.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Picture of Fulfillment

Today, I walked into an eighth grade classroom where "my" kids were. The students I had last year. There was a groundswell of "Ms. Triiiiteacher, Ms. Triiiteacher..." And smiles. Let me tell you about the smiles. Every one of their faces swiveled in my direction, lit up in shining recognition.

I felt famous today. And gratified and fulfilled.

I said a brief piece about how I'd be co-teaching in that particular class two days a week (more cheers from the crowd) and then yielded the stage back to the eighth grade teacher. Throughout the class period, I worked my way through that crowd, asking about this one's horse, that one's favorite book from last year, checking for pretty shoes on the girl who shared my shoe fetish... reconnecting with the kids to whom I grew close last year. I have a great job.

It makes me more committed as I start my new role this year. I am teaching English to speakers of other languages. In this role, I get to be with many, many students across three grade levels. I have an opportunity to be present, to weave together my knowledge of 11-14 year-olds and my different areas of expertise: math, science, literacy, Spanish. I have the chance to do it all.

Vow: I am going to be the best, hardest-working, biggest-hearted, most attuned advocate and teacher for these students. I want them to excel, I want them to feel great, I want so much for them... let me see the way to give them the best in me.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Diamond Necklace

“You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck!”


I find the diamond necklace 
In the scramble up a chimney 
to a summit block 
and friends
In the easing of slight nausea 
as I descend to 10,000 feet

In the full body wag
of the creek over rocks
In the sight of a wild rose
and the rush of my dad
posing by a rose for Mom
backpack on his 70 year-old back
His goofiness
His steadfast neediness

The sight of a Shooting Star
and hours later humming
"Don't you know that you are a shooting star
Don't you know? Woah, yeah!"
And feeling it must be me
In sunlight on my face
daydreaming on the narrow gauge train

I reach up and feel --
Yes. Necklace.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Today I want to write about the way that grief inhabits your body. The way you breathe around a lump in your throat, the way you hold the steering wheel and your shoulders hurt, the way your chin feels wobbly. The way your stomach has that sinking feeling all the time walking around. People say grief gets better with time.

In a way it is true. In another way, it is not. There is vestigial grief, vestigial digits and fingers of hurt that come back. My sister and her husband have to put down their dog this week. She has been their dog for 13 years. She was young with them when their marriage was young. They were exploring California after they left Wisconsin, taking her on hikes to explore mountains and beaches and the American River. She was with them when 9/11 happened and comforted my sister when her husband was traveling.

I have my own memories of Daisy. She comforted me. When I first moved out here after my divorce,  I lived with them for a period of time. One night I was crying, silent tears rolling down my cheeks. I was trying to be private about it. I was in the basement away from everybody. Except Daisy. She came down to check on me and with an empathy I've seen only in her, she laid her head on my knee and just rested it there.

As I grieve Daisy, I feel the old pain inhabit my body. So quickly the body relapses into the interstices of that old grief. I feel for this loss and it feels like the old loss. I feel for my sister and her husband. To contemplate that most horrible thing. Putting down your friend, letting her go. There is the decision-making, the second-guessing, the effort to be rational when your emotions are cloudy. Then there's the pain of watching her in pain and wondering if you've done it soon enough. It is a horrific proposition.

And they will miss her. There is that side yet to come.

There is a time-sucking quality to grief, especially in stores. Scene today: waking up from reverie so many minutes later in REI wondering what it was again I was looking for. Passed the dog section. That's what set it off. When I divorced, seeing willow trees set me off. Heh. Breathing set me off then.

I get why people have to die. I mean, how many layers of experience can the body hold? Yet then, I feel sad for Daisy dying. She won't get to see all the beautiful things in the world anymore. The hikes, the smells of piney woods, the splash of the creek, the doggy joy in catching a tennis ball.

The joys. The time when Sis and Brother-in-Law sent me on a 12 mile hike in California with Daisy as my guide. I was new to mountains, new to hiking, new, new, new. Daisy was my seasoned guide and boon companion, trotting by my side, carrying her joy in the loll of her tongue, the wag of her tail, the bounding steps of exploration. Crossing a stream, she would fetch a rock from the stream and bring it for me to throw again. Pure frolic.

The same joy I feel in water. And that's true too. As I carry the interstices of my old griefs, my body and mind carry the remnants of past joys as well. On the water kayaking with my sisters earlier this month, I remembered learning to kayak from someone who loved me. When you learn to paddle from a lover, your memories are of chasing moonlight across a lake, of ducking into "garages" made by bent willow trees, of stopping and kissing, pulling up alongside. That magical, magnetic pull. I remember nearly dying waiting for him to do the car drop and come back so we could be together. Of watching him log-jump, of being his cheerleader, his confidante. Of him watching me dive to the bottom of the river, running my fingers through the sand-rolling, pebble-running bottom. Coming up for air and his face, his smile. And the knowledge that he would be there, enjoying my joy.

I get why people have to die at a certain age. I mean, how many layers of experience can the body hold? There must come a time at which the interstices of joy and grief have carved deep enough wrinkles into the skin and that is the time.

Daisy has reached that time. In dog years, she is 91 and cancer has eaten up her body and carved an end point to her time. I salute the layers of joy - and grief - she has given my family.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Men Are Like Fishing

Since I’ve gotten back from my trip (three days ago) and re-posted my pictures on the online dating site, I have “talked” to several men. One is a quick hitter; he swooped in, liked me, blew up my inbox. We flirted hard for two hours. Good sense of humor, this one. Then *poof.* He disappeared. Like the turtles who nabbed my mom’s nightcrawlers, this one returned to the muddy depths with all my bait. *Sigh.*

Another is a professional correspondent. This type comes on slow, like 3-inch crappies working a 5-inch crawler. He nibbles around the edges of conversation. He continues to nibble. When I go on a trip, he grows fonder. I hear from him 4-5 times per day. When I’m in town, we set a blistering pace of 3-4 messages per week. These men (for the current correspondent is not an anomaly; he is a type) amuse me. I picture them with their iPhone in hand, thumbs working away, smiling and flirting. Glancing down, you see their feet - the polar opposite of all that activity above - potted in clay.

Others are the kind you land. They can handle the bait - 8 inch crappie on a jig. This kind can even follow the bait. Two of my 8-inch crappie have checked in with me since I returned, asking if I am now ready to meet. Then you disaggregate… one is a slow burner. I said yes, I can meet and gave him two nights that will work. Wait for it, wait for it… no reply yet.

The other was quick to choose a night, now is choosing our venue and time. I may actually land one!

And then what??

More types to come!

Monday, June 09, 2014

My Track is Good

That statement is true.

Some snow, lots of beauty at the start.
I took a hike up Herman Gulch today and broke the trail. It started with just some snow, but soon became all snowy and postholey.

Gushing stream.

I got my bearings on the stream at first (keep it to your left) and then the jaggedy peaks that peeked out in occasional clearings in the forest.

My track! I broke right on up this steep
snow slope.

And I landed on the top, turned right, and landed at the lake! I wasn't sure the whole time, and I am 100% sure I didn't stick to the designated trail, but I did land - as if helicoptered in - at the intended destination. It was beautiful. I feel so proud of where I've come with my navigating skills. Used to be I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag. Now, I can actually tell people, like the couple visiting from Ohio who followed me... "My track is good!"

Plucky, pioneering Globeflower
 This applies to other areas in my life. I feel like I'm living so non-traditionally and like there are no role models. Single, mountaineering, independent females were not the women around whom I grew up. I now take snippets from everyone around me, but sometimes, it has felt downright lonely and like I'm pioneering. Sometimes I've felt like my track is not good. Sometimes I had no sense of my life, my track, my legacy at all.

The snow is melting fast. Trail clearing in the scant 2.5 hours
since my first picture.
But I'm getting there. And I want to be there. It was such a joy to see the Ohioans on my descent and reassure them that my track would take them to the lake. I want to have something to offer. And I have, just as with my hike today, taken some younger women (and climbing men) under my wing. I'm starting to sense that, in many senses, "My track is good."