Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Awe

I have spent Easter with a very weepy 11 almost 12 year old. He cries because he thinks he's disappointed me. His face clouds up, the long swaths of his hair fall into his face, he won't look at me. I suggest going to the beach though his favorite sandwich shop is closed because it is Easter. He cries because he doesn't know what to do. Because his computer is slow. Because he is, in his words, confused. About everything. We have been at odds for a few weeks now--any criticism or hint of it and he falls apart. My radar for him has been humming at high frequency; I know when he's not okay, when there's something going on. He won't tell me what. Just--I'm confused. About everything. He tends toward absolutes when he's depressed. He has been depressed, off and on, for a few years now. I recognize it, see the storms that cloud my own spirit move across his in familiar ways. It tends to manifest around traveling, around those seismic shifts in his life between here and there, between this life and his other life. But we haven’t traveled for weeks, and won’t until the end of May. But then, every day he also hugs me, tells me he loves me. After dinner tonight, he wrapped his arms around me and sat on my lap.

We spent an hour at the rhododendron gardens today, feeding the ducks. When we left, he was sad. By the time we’d emptied our bag of cracked corn, he was better. Himself. We talked about Jesus, the concept of resurrection, of what might happen to the soul when we leave this earth. Christians believe that Jesus came to conquer death, I said. But death is a good thing, he countered. It saves us from endless pain and suffering. Would we want to live forever and watch all of our friends die?

Death is a good thing.  This stuck with me later, a cold seed. I asked him—what did you mean by that? Just that no one wants to live forever, Mom. Do you think about these things, about hurting yourself? No. I think about what happens when we die, but not the other thing. 

Before he went upstairs to take a shower, he sat on my lap and hugged me. I tried out my internet-search knowledge of 2017 slang. He cringed, like any 11 year old would do.


*

When R. and I were at the coast last year, the beach trail appeared and disappeared with the tide. At low tide, we could climb over old lava flow to the hidden beach, then the scarp that led to woods (Beware: bear, cougar, unstable earth). At the entrance to the woods, a rope hung from a tree to pull hikers up the slope. It wasn't high, but I was too scared. R. disappeared onto the cliff for a few minutes leaving me with the rope in my hands, the smell of sea air. I began to panic. Called his name. His voice floated down a few dozen feet above me, then he appeared a few minutes later next to me.

The first night I spent alone after my ex-husband left, I slept. I hadn't slept in years. I let my legs cut across the bed, let Jonah curl into my arm. Though he had a bed, and a bedroom--in our first house, then the apartment, then our house in the suburbs, we rarely used it. He slept with me most nights, and the dogs, and the cats. This continued until we all moved in together, R. and D. and Jonah and me.  He sleeps with the dogs, sometimes an errant cat. A string of Christmas lights twinkles all night in his room over the glowing Totoro nightlight.

The first night I slept in my own bedroom at 15, I couldn't sleep for the silence. I was used to the breathing of someone else, even if it enraged me. Even if I pummeled my sister B. from the bed above with a Cabbage Patch Girl to shut her up. It was weird being alone.

I got used to it. I was a really good single mother. I became fierce and terrified, all at once.

*

The surgeon, whose accent was thick and familiar, finally admitted to being from Chicago. He said, of R.'s last name, Armenian? I thought so. I'm from Chicago--

I cut him off. I knew you were from Chicago! So am I!

He asked where. I ruefully admitted the North Shore. He chuckled--not much older than I, we'd probably graduated from high school the same year. Oh, that's not Chicago. That's soft. I'm from where it's a lot scarier.

Where? I asked. Evanston. I guffawed--really? You're going to Out-Chicago me and say you're from Evanston?

What I didn't say, but thought all the way home: what do you mean by "scary" pal? What do you mean by tough?

We decided later that day not to go with surgery, but with brachytherapy. The surgeon was knowledgeable, but I watched our body language go smaller and smaller as the conversation went on.  We tried to fold ourselves up like origami cranes. Or something smaller. Something untouchable. I put my hand on R's shoulder, pulled it away. We drove home and laughed at the surgeon's athletic socks, his sensible shoes. How weird the office was. Beneath it was a hum, a small panic.

*

If you had shown me this life ten years ago, I would not have believed it. Or, rather, it was the kind of life I desperately wanted to believe was possible, and for which I leapt into the abyss. This house with thirty steps and a new garden and coved ceilings and five bedrooms and a fireplace and Douglas fir floors in the bedrooms, narrow oak in the living room. Four cats, two dogs, two boys both as tall or taller than I. We spent yesterday morning at the nursery picking more plants for the front yard; afterwards D. and R. put flowers into pots, I scaled the front yard and transplanted perennials, Jonah drew in his bedroom and around dinner time,  Jonah and I played gin rummy and made calzones and then he hugged me with my head on his shoulder.  I love you I love you.

I woke last night at 4:00 from a nightmare: we were on the deck of a beautiful house that we wanted to buy--a house perched on a cliff face in the woods and the ocean sparking through the firs-- and a landslide swept half of us away. At first I thought we were all safe but then i realized R. and D. and Jonah weren't there, and how would D. get his insulin in the woods and how would I ever find any of them again?  I woke up because I thought I heard Jonah calling my name. I heard someone come down the stairs and I got up, walked upstairs in a t-shirt and my underwear and found Jonah asleep, his arm thrown over the his head like he did as an infant. I kissed his forehead, tiptoed back downstairs and then stood in the hallway to see R. come out of the bathroom, kiss the top of my head.

Everybody was home. Everybody was okay.


*

We learned that R. has prostate cancer almost a month and a half ago. It is a rare strain, aggressive. It must be treated--surgery or radiation. For his age, the general reccomendation is surgery but the side effects are severe and life-long. We learned a few weeks ago that the cancer has not spread; it is curable, as much as cancer can be. 

As curable as my cancer was, is--this virus I carry with me forever, this little time bomb.

I curl next to him each night, able to breathe normally because he is there, because our boys are upstairs and okay.

*

When we were at the coast writing this summer, I spent seven days writing about miracles.

*
By “awe” the Greeks meant pain, grief. To love means to lose yourself in the weeds, the trail tapering off into thicket, bramble, to wrap the body of the beloved in cloth and anoint her head with oil, it is to see god in everything and nothing. God is dead. God is alive. 

In between my boy crying, the ducks, a run up Mt. Tabor and down to the nursery where I bought seeds and ran home beneath a sky that was growing thicker, a tentative warmth settling over the city—I jimmy-rigged a temporary cold frame on our back deck, planted seeds for our garden-to-be: tomato, basil, dill, pea. I held Jonah in my arms and told him I love him. I kissed my husband and picked cherry petals from his shoulder, where the wind had blown them. 

I don’t know what will be enough.

Oh God most strange in all your ways.




Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dispatch from Trumpistan



I am writing to you from the outpost on the ghost boundary between my old life, and the new. Between our old life and whatever life we are entering. It is cold here; small pellets of snow drive against the window and the lake is frozen, though not as much as usual, though the waves crash a few feet off shore instead of the customary fifty. It is colorless; the fields and the sky a long stretch of brownish grey and the trees are frayed nerves.

I come back and I drive over familiar country roads, run down the dune path to the Lake, watch wild turkeys and deer move about the dun-colored meadow. I could almost slip into my old life, but I cannot because I have a new life, a real life where fir and mountain and river and my husband and boys sleep beneath the roof, beneath the rain.

And to say this is a new world is to speak from enormous privilege. It is the world that has existed and which some of us have recently been plunged into.

It is the Midwest, so people say hello whenever I pass—on the trail, on the sidewalk, in the aisles of the grocery store. But it is also a place I feel profoundly scared; a place shot through with despair and anger and salt-streaked Trump/Pence signs still anchored firmly in lawns, Christmas lights still twinkling on the eaves.

I don’t know how to write anymore. For months, I’ve been angry, vehement, driven. And then, a weight fell. I cannot write. I cannot think. I am numb and I wake in the middle of the night in a sweat, in a panic. We are a world moving closer and closer to war, a nation abandoning democracy. I can barely look at the screen of my phone and can’t bear to look away. The world is burning. The world has always been burning.

A week ago, R. and the boys and I joined the Portland Women’s March. After a week of being trapped inside by a freak snowstorm, it rained. We walked twenty blocks from our old house in Ladd’s Addition, across the Hawthorne Bridge, and joined the marchers already underway. The boys were grumpy, then not. R and I both wept, held our boys’ hands tightly, relaxed for a few hours in the community of like-minded people.

The night before the protests were met with flashbang grenades. The bodies of white women (and the white men who marched with us on Saturday) are sacred ground for White Supremacy. Sacred vessels, anyway.

My ex-husband ends text exchanges—civil, friendly-ish ones where I am sharing videos of Jonah’s band concert and details about what time to pick him up at the airport—with MAGA!

R.  was shocked that DT won. I wasn’t. Crazy always wins. This is what I have said about my ex, when his illogical attacks have gotten traction, and no matter of logic on my side could stop him. Crazy steamrolls sense. If you stick to an insane lie, and you have the power to maintain it, in this system you are unstoppable. Donald Trump is my ex husband empowered.

Another friend posted the interview with DT that ran recently on television, the myriad of people commenting how unhinged he sounded, how insane. He must be unwell, they said. He must have dementia.

But understand: DT is not an aberration. We have been living with him, people like him, for years. I have been on the receiving end of diatribes, broken logic like his. I have had my ex husband insist I was spying on him through my son’s iphone. That I should be barred by the court from ever writing again. That I hit him, that he never laid a hand on me, that he would come to my house and chop me into tiny bits with an ax, that he never said any of those things at all, that I was crazy, that it was his rights that were being hurt, that he was the victim, that I was his wife and it wasn’t rape, that—

My ex is a microcosm of White Supremacy Patriarchy. He is a reflection of the world we are all inhabiting, and have been. If you’re white and not a total fucking asshole, you’ve just woken up to the fact that we live in a dystopia that’s rapidly getting worse. If you are not white, you’ve been aware of this for a long time. My ex is poor, white and uneducated. He came from two parents who did everything in their power to raise their children poorly—he and his brother were passed back and forth between his parents until his father won custody in court, and sent the boys to live with their mother because he would no longer have to pay for them. He was never encouraged to go to college, to do anything but get high and drunk. I made the mistake, however, of feeling sorry for him twenty years ago. I was a white girl from the upper middle class suburbs of Chicago whose parents sent her out of state to college. And I was never allowed to stop paying for that. I learned while with him to keep that information from the people around me—never let them know I went to college, was a professor. Simply by saying those things I was accused of putting people down. I get it, poor white boys—you were raised in a White Supremancy Patriarchy and you are supposed to be Donald Trump, buy you’re not. And because being rich means being good, and being poor means being bad, you can’t admit that you’re poor and the system fucks you over too. Instead women are fucking you over. Black and brown people are fucking you over. You’ve bought the capitalist, hegemonist notion that this is a zero sum game and if someone else has something, it means you don’t get it because that’s how you think: this is mine and I’m not sharing. And no one is helping you out and you can’t see the privilege your skin and your penis give to you because in a WSP it is invisible; it is normal.

That when my ex was arrested for drunken driving for the 6th time, he was given probation—one weekend in KPEP. The Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program, according to the website, “KPEP began in the fall of 1980 to provide a live-in residence for those individuals who need more structure than regular probation provides, but where extended jail time is not judged necessary“. If he’d been rich and white, he would have been able to afford a lawyer and probably not gotten anything (as a friend of mine’s little sister did (white, blond, middle class)—she was arrested, drunk, for the nth time going 100 MPH on the freeway and had her license suspended. Her parents paid $50,000 for her to go to an alcohol treatment center.) If he’d been brown, he would have been in jail. That’s why the judge didn’t blink when he accused me of spying on him via his son’s phone. That’s why the police officer said to me, when I called after he’d threatened to kill me, that I could only hope he’d do something bad, that he’d actually really hurt me because otherwise the police couldn’t protect me. His word against mine, and clearly mine was worth nothing. MAGA! It’s your fault your son comes from a broken home, whore.

I have lived with that narcissism, with that wellspring of anger and a desire to crush everything in its path. I have had privilege that has helped me escape him, or somewhat escape him. I am, after all, here in a little apartment on the Lake in the frigid north. I went to bed the night of November 8th in shock that the world had changed. Silly girl; the scales had perhaps only just then fully come off my eyes.

I have been trying to sort this garbage out for a decade now; how I ended up in hell, how I got out, how to reconstruct a sense of self and sanity after living in hell. I don’t write much about what I have found: a family and husband and children who are my heart and my home and my tether to what is good in the world. Music, theater. All of the people I love in my life. I cannot write about those because they feel sacred and because I am perhaps still afraid they will vanish; that I am in fact crazy and all of these are temporary and hell is what is permanent. This is what abusers do. This is what Trump is doing to us. This is what white supremacy patriarchy does to anyone who isn’t in power.

The snow is hitting the windows tonight with a regular tick-tick, the Bradford pear, bare and spindly, taps its branches against the window. Beyond the dune, the Lake crashes and freezes against the pier. Somewhere south of here, my son sleeps in his father’s house and is learning to make two selves, to survive in two worlds.

I have not done enough; few of us have done enough. My white skin has protected me from a level of fear that I am only now feeling. I will not let my white son grow up to be a monster. I will do everything in my power to do the work to make this world a place where everybody is as safe as he is.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Against Despair

Here we are, on the brink.

Are we always on the brink of disaster? Is the world always on fire?

The world has always been on fire. Maybe not for you, or for me. But if someone else is burning, it's our fucking problem.

If you ignore it, you are the problem. We.

We have always been courting evil inviting it in, creating it with our own warmongering, hateful hands.

But we have also been making love, making joy in the face of horror. As much as we are people who elect DT, Hitler, history's long line of despots and evils, who invite monsters into our houses believing we can control the monster and we will be safe (we will never be safe)--

We are not only this. We are also those who fight back. I am listening to my children in the living room, my partner. I am listening to my colleagues, my students, my children.

Evil is not new. Look around: there is suffering and has been suffering. If we didn't see it before, shame on us. If we see it now and do nothing, shame on us.

I don't have much tonight, or have had much as I have felt numbed by despair, by terror. There is rain against my window, the snow has receded; the world  this evening walking out of my office smelled of earth and cedar, sky striped with light. Four hawks in bare trees. My boys lounging on the couch after dinner and now my husband doing the dishes, calling the dogs in from the dark.

This is not where the work begins. It it is where it continues. I've got your back. The world my children inherit will be one that is shot through with hope like a gold thread through the clouds, cascades rising blue and mottled through the mist.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Against Gaslight

When I bought my house in Kalamazoo, it was near a Catholic church; our road ended in cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac. My backyard overlooked reservoir woods, a herd of deer, the lights of the big box superstore twinkling behind the bare trees in the winter. My neighbors, most over the age of one billion years old, and original owners of our 1960-era ranches, discouraged me from putting up a fence. My yard was long horizontally, a quarter acre (same as that first house on Boylan Street), rose in a berm at the back border. When winter came, heavy and wet and silent as Michigan winters come, air thick with lake effect snow, Jonah and I would walk or drive to the Catholic high school with our snowboards, and spend the afternoon hurling ourselves down the hill for hours. We both wore bike helmets, we both fell and fell and fell and came home red-cheeked and winded, our bodies both frozen and sweating. Sometimes, a few times, we went to the popular sledding hill and I would stand with the other parents, too adult to hurl themselves down the hill, and Jonah would slide down, not friends with any of the other kids.

It was weird. Lonely. As much of my life as a single mother in the suburbs was. So we mostly went to the Catholic High School until dusk purpled the snow. We were almost always alone, and had to carve our own trails down the hill. I would often think how sad it was that the only person Jonah had to snowboard with was his mother, not a bunch of friends like we would see at the popular hills where the runs would get icy and kids would daredevil and knock each other off the hill.

But god, I loved those afternoons. I loved sliding down the hill on that child's snowboard (we both had our own) and laughing with my boy, coming home and making dinner and watching the world go purple and blue and then the blue-black of a midwestern winter night.

I see that now, how I loved those afternoons. Then, I believed myself to be lonely, was  lonely. Had no idea what I was doing and it seemed so different than what everyone else was doing, in their intact families with minivans and two parents and thermoses of hot chocolate and houses that didn't smell of cat piss and a garden that was something other than a tangle of vine and wildflower, and a house that wasn't so goddamn empty three nights of the week.

*

I don't know how to think very far in the future right now. Everything that is happening in Syria, all of those people trapped in hell and here we are in abundance, doing nothing. The protesters at Standing Rock in the frigid Dakota winter. The incoming T(*&p administration and its parade of ignorance and hate. My ex husband who last week, after not contacting Jonah but once or twice since we returned after Thanksgiving, sent me a series of clearly drunken texts, ending in this:




November was my nine-year anniversary of my divorce being finalized, which means it is ten and a half years since our marriage was over, and my ex moved into his parents' basement. On Sunday, I was again contacted by a former student who has stalked me since 2011? 2012? Maybe earlier. I have multiple police reports, the college has blocked him, I've blocked him, but he keeps making dummy accounts to find me.

I don't mean to imply that those intensely individual threats are the same or on the same level as what is happening in Syria or the existential threat Donald Trump presents to the United States. But they feel of the same cloth, of the same terrifying vein that says you do not exist. you are not important. what you believe is not true.
I am the victim,
I am the wronged one,
I am who is owed restitution, not you.

The history of a woman [or a black man, or a Native American, or a Syrian refugee, or a single mother living in poverty, or or or] is essentially the history of a dog, my college history professor proclaimed when I asked why we didn't learn about women in medieval times, just Popes and Kings. A friend in high school, when I asked him angrily why history books ignored so many people, parroted back that old adage history is owned by the victors. 

We don't care about the people who lost, he said.

A student said in my office recently,  the individual story isn't that important. What's important is only the stuff that changes history, changes the world. That's not a regular person. Who really cares about that?

How do I write in the face of such terror? How do any of us go about our regular lives when the world burns and burns and burns? [it has always been burning; the only difference is now you've noticed.]

What matters is the ordinary life. How holy it is. How fraught. How fragile. Every Fred Meyer run, every stop at a gas station, every small spoonful the baby eats, every small flower growing out of the cracks of the wreck. And those of us who are willing to bear witness to the slaughter, to the terror, to say to the single mother in the airport whose baby hasn't stopped crying and who looks like she's going to crumble, you're doing a good job. I see you. Mastitis, missile, noodles in the bowl, snow falling unexpectedly from the sky and the roads stopped for miles. A school bus that pushes on through the night. The soft bodies of children, those who are alive, and those who are dead. Those who we kill and let be killed.

This isn't the life you thought you'd have at twenty, but it is a goddamn life.

*

Today I stood at the bottom of a makeshift sledding hill in our neighborhood and watched my D. and Jonah hurtle down the icy slope. D., who had never gone sledding before in his life, declared to his father this is the most fun I've had in my life! and after I stopped their attempts at racing (D. being smaller and not knowing the dangers of sledding, went a lot faster. Jonah attempted to steer and thus went slower.) A neighbor kid and his baby sister were with us, the fifteen year old brother on a wheel-less skateboard and the little girl on a saucer. I stood in the road watching for cars and watched everyone stream past me in the bluing light. R. stood outside with us for a while, taking videos of his boy streaming downhill, and then went back inside to work. Crows rose from trees and gathered in the sky in ribbons; flew west as they do every night.

And then I made dinner and the boys went upstairs and read and drew and played video games and are now curled on the couch with R watching something about science and dangerous experiments on television. The house smells of garlic and onions and vanilla and the sharp pine of the Christmas tree.

I will not think about how Jonah and I have to curl ourselves into a series of airplanes this weekend, or how I have to fold myself into another series of airplanes the next day as we manage what the courts believe is a rational balance.

Jonah and D., my boys, who are the best miracle I have every known.
The yard blue with snow, the windowpanes cold and cold air seeping through. The waning gibbous moon, just past full. She'll only hide herself for a time. The earth will only be dark, and then it will be light.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Alonesgiving, II

It is my fourth day alone, and I have driven hundreds of miles, have driven almost to the 45th parallel, which is as far north as Portland but which feels much further away here. I've walked and run as far as my legs would carry me; trespassed on the beaches of the absent, ultra rich, lost all feeling in my cheeks and fingers as wind blew straight and cold off the Lake and the water was stone-grey, then green, then the cold aquamarine of winter, capped with foam, steadfast, brutal, unforgiving.

Until this afternoon, I hadn't looked in a mirror, put on makeup, or spoken to a single human soul since I hugged Jonah goodbye at the airport Wednesday afternoon. I am a little afraid that when I see Jonah tomorrow my voice will be out of shape, will come out a croak, a rusted hinge. that's how it's felt lately when I've been singing, but that's another worry. My sole human interaction has been the Midwestern nod to passers-by when I've been out running: this morning, two women in winter gear, and an old man walking a dog. With him I made deliberate eye contact, smiled, nodded; he was wearing a red MAGA cap, chewing on a toothpick. I wanted him to see me in front of him, weird and unafraid. I smiled, croaked a weird Hi, and he nodded, walked on.

It's like I never left; as I drive and fields stretch out around me, shorn of their summer abundance and the air is shot through with woodsmoke, manure. There is so much I miss: my friends, my church, my singing career. The sky is heavy, woolen and the air is sharp and cold. My ex husband texts your flight is at 9:50 tomorrow, right? And I reply yes, get J to the airport by 9.25 we board at 9.50. And his response is to say i thought the flight was at 10:30!!!!!!! why are you lying?????? My face in the mirror is wan, my eyes puffy with jet lag and too much cheap wine at night (after a week or two of mostly sobriety).

Before I ran my last errand, I smeared lipstick across my mouth: purple, gaudy, out of place with my too-big leggings, my son's Skylanders sweatshirt, my filthy running shoes. My squawky voice. No matter. The trick is to just keep running, which is something I've become expert at in the last twenty years.

And tomorrow I'll gather my boy into my arms and we'll fly across the continent into our life. I don't know how I will keep doing this but I will. We will. What choice do we have?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Alonesgiving, Part I

2016 is brutal, yo. But in the worst personal months of my life, post-divorce when my boy was wrenched from me every three days and I was 30 and had never lived alone and didn’t know if I had any friends or would ever stop falling, i would force myself to write down, every night, three things I was grateful for, no mater how small. I knew that in order to fight, I had to have hope. So even now, when I regularly wake up in a panic, I am trying to remind myself of the radical necessity of hope and gratitude.

So today, while I’m 1,700 miles away from home, I am still hugely grateful that I met Rob four years ago at a writers’ conference, that we had the audacity and nerve to risk everything on a long-distance thing, that we are building a family where our boys play rage clarinet and can’t stop laughing, where i fall asleep every night and feel loved.  That I was lucky enough to meet someone whose intelligence, compassion, steadfastness, sense of humor and inherent goodness, not to mention how my knees go weak when he enters a room, moves me. I am far from a perfect partner, but I feel like I’ve met my match and I can only hope he knows how central he and our life together is to me.  And I am grateful for my boy, who taught me how to love myself and how to love the world and who is one of the most remarkable, compassionate people I know and for my relationship with him, how we travel together and lay our heads on each others’ shoulders and how I know that everything I do it is for him, so he can know that the world can be made of hope, love.


For being raised into teaching by my remarkable students and colleagues at KVCC, who saw me grow up from a girl of 22 to a woman of 36, who continually teach me about why writing matters, why being human matters, why listening to one another matters. 


For my singing family, where my heart truly lies, who have opened your homes and hearts to me in choir and in real life. I cannot write or speak about singing without crying. It is the same when i attempt to speak about God. I don’t think this is a coincidence.


For my sisters who have taught me ferocity. Who put up with a bitch of an older sister (hairbrushes to the head, anyone?), who are all bitches, thank goddess. For my family, who shaped me, who has made remarkable people. For friends I have kept for 34 years even though we are miles apart. 


For the people I have met at MHCC, and what I am learning about what matters most by being in a position that does not fit, but for which I appear to be fitted. For the opportunity to learn about the difficulty of power and revolution, of smashing the state from within instead of from without. Fo the gift of friends, when I came to the PNW with none.


For poetry, which sustains. For music, which allows survival. For my body, which I promise to someday love, but which allows me to be here, writing these things, drinking this wine, sitting in this little lakeside apartment on a late autumn night while cold rain spatters the windows and the lakeside dunes rise up dark and official against the wool-spun sky somewhere in North Trump Country, still speaking, still singing, still burning the small flame of resistance. For all of the protesters at Standing Rock, for the indigenous people from whom my ancestors stole this land. For everyone who will stand up for justice in the face of facism and racism and sexism and islamaphobia and homophobia and the deep-rooted fear of the unknown. For all of those people who are spending Thanksgiving alone for the first time.


At the Lake today, I found three Petoskey stones, two lightning stones while a pair of bald eagles circled overhead. It was the beach Jonah and I once went to where he found a fish skeleton and he kept it in a Ball jar in his bedroom and we first identified lightning stones. There is a bowl of Lake Michigan rocks in my office back home in Portland. And a hundred miles or so from me right now, my boy is sleeping in his father’s trailer and Orion is striding above the earth and my husband is at home, in the future where evening hasn’t fully wrapped itself around the earth yet, waiting for us to come home.

Friday, November 11, 2016

We Must Be A Small Fierce Animal

On Tuesday night, I sat at rehearsal for a Gilbert and Sullivan opera and watched my phone and my legs started to shake. The world was shifting--

No.

The world was revealing itself for what it was, for what it has continued to be. There is ugliness and sometimes ugliness gains power and fear creeps in.

I went home and R. and I turned off the television. I kissed Jonah's sleeping form and apologized, couldn't cry. R. and I slept, or rather didn't sleep, clutching each other. Near dawn, I got up, got ready to go to work. I, like so many of us, didn't sleep. I went into the college and wept when I saw my colleagues, wept at the English department meeting as the eyes that looked back at me were equally hollow, shocked, terrified.

I have never seen R. this upset, this shaken in his grasp of the world. Jonah simply wept, then hugged me and said "our family will be okay, won't it?" His father texted him gleefully, saying we got good news today!!!! We elected a president for all of us!!! Trump wins!!!

Jonah didn't respond for three days. I got an angry series of texts from his father today, demanding a response. Why aren't you responding? Should I text Ron? [this is not R.'s name, but is what my ex likes to do, call R. by the wrong name as if that's the biggest slight in the world.] I would appreciate an answer!!!!!!!

He likes exclamation points.

I have a safety pin on my shoulder. I have hugged more people in the last few days than I ever have. I have donated to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood. I have wept and said I love you to the people that need to hear it.

If we lose our health insurance, my stepson could die. We cannot afford, out of pocket, his care.

I had cervical cancer. I most likely would not be able to get insurance without the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

As a bisexual, feminist, small woman, my life is immediately in danger. Read what people are experiencing, just two days in to this new world order. If you are gay, disabled, not white, not Christian, female, you are a public target and the KKK threw a victory parade for our President-elect. And I'm lucky--that I am in a heterosexual marriage. That I am white and middle class and Christian (guess what Jesus would do in this situation? 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' And the least of these is HARDLY a white rich motherfucking man.)

But I'll tell you what--I have never in my life felt more ferocious. I have never felt more fundamentally that this is our fucking time. That we are not ignorant of history. That we know what happened in Germany in the early 20th century and I will NOT allow my son to be raised in that kind of a world. I will do everything in my power to prevent this from happening. I have never felt so clear that this is OUR TIME.

I believe Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice." But it is up to us.

I am so proud of so many of my former students. Of my colleagues, of my friends. I am so desperately glad I moved to the West Coast and will raise my son in a progressive city to act as bulwark against his father's hate.

I know I am small. I know I am just one woman, just one very privileged white woman whose struggles up until this point have been intensely personal. But we are all small. And goddamn it, I will not shut up or sit down, I will not be silent. I am the victim of sexual assault. I walked away from an abusive marriage, I saved, with the help of community, my son and my self.

We are all we have. I will stand beside you and use whatever ounce of privilege I have to fight for you. Every one of us is equally holy and valuable and important. Including us.

I love you.