Monday, June 29, 2020


The valley is ablaze. Fireworks in undesignated areas. Human stupidity. A blunder. A fiery catastrophe that threatens hundreds of residential structures, prompted the evacuation of thousands. What will be charred? What will remain to call home?

I feel no shame, only growth. It’s hard to know a person well, and knowing me well is hard. For every tale I tell there are a half dozen behind it more traumatic and disturbing than I am prepared to share. K— knows most of these. I don’t keep secrets from her. She’s become a repository for the bleakness I want to empty from my soul to make way for flowers and rebirth. We have misunderstood each other in ways completely understandable once you know the stories we only tell each other. Can trauma survivors survive together without causing each other further trauma? It’s not that either of us is innocent, and we are both victims. You try to blow away the ash and come up against the remains of whatever caught flame. You have to look at the destruction, acknowledge it before you can even begin to evaluate what you can keep and what must be built anew. Neither of us wants to return to the previous structure. We fled because it was about to collapse.

Six months, at least, of struggling to decipher what needed to be addressed. We didn’t even know the house we were living in. And all we had to keep it from being consumed were maladaptive behaviors that helped us each survive in the past. Behaviors that we didn’t identify as accelerants. It’s difficult growing out of the rubble of your childhood. I am reminded of the Thomas Wolfe novel, the Chet Baker album, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” I believe that in trauma recovery one must come to inhabit themselves as shield against threat. In the weeks and months before that I’ve slowly moved my belongings from the burning house inside myself. I’ve accounted for feelings, behaviors, desires, fears, motivations, and come out a stronger, more recognizable self. I am materializing. I’ve seen myself through the smoke. That image/body continues toward a corporeal mode. I believe at this point I am able to make out the faint outline of self-actualization. I am the haunted house of my dreams; shifting rooms and material contents making room for what I need to safely inhabit myself.

And while the point of this entry was to gingerly confess that she and I are trying again, it’s actually an essay about me and what I think I can cautiously negotiate to meet both my needs and desires.

We won’t return to the ruins of the consumed structure. We have an incredible therapist who’s helped see us through to this point in the relationship. Now I need something entirely different, as does K—. Not shared domesticity and dependence. We need a house of worship; a unified church—separate bodies and minds exercising independent mechanisms necessary for union. Without relying too heavily on a Christian interpretation, we are in need of Atonement. Self-preservation in order to contribute to the greater good. It will not be easy. Primarily, because I don’t think either of us has lived what we are attempting to create. This is virgin territory. And fledglings that we still are, I’m certain there are more blunders to come.

It is because of the harrowing nature of the past six months that I have hope. We’ve told our separate narratives and bent our perspectives in such a way to make room for a richer interpretation than either of us could alone. I’ve come through this difficulty for which I have no comparison in my life’s experience. I have new respect for her. I know she has respect for me. I am nervous because I know this won’t be easy, but this bond we share is irreplaceable. I have hope. I trust her. I trust myself. That’s good enough for now. It may be all we ever need to weather the struggle, again with hope, for years and years to come.

This is as much as I will say on social media. It's best if I don't mingle Facebook with relationship drama. I may talk about how we're doing here. But I need to keep what goes on inside the house private for the sake and safety of the occupants.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


If I could, I’d offer myself for archery target practice. Then at least I’d feel something besides empty nausea.

This is my dry, dark wit journal entry. It might not make you laugh, but I’m chuckling and I’m the only one who seems to matter right now, as I’m the only one talking to me, feeding and dressing me, holding me on the couch while I Netflix and chill, replacing the batteries in the vibrator.

I’m pissed. At myself mainly. If I came to me and explained what I’d been through in the last six years, how much energy I’d put into it, how much I sacrificed, the first thing I’d ask me is, “Weren’t you a little underpaid?” Then, “Why do you let people take advantage of you?” And finally, “Have you considered raising your rates?”

How many fish do you think get caught and released more than once? And I want to know why would any creature impale itself for an insect, a fly, a worm? Do you think those fish have Borderline Personality Disorder, or were they traumatized as minnows? Catch and release fly fishermen think they’re so skilled. Tying lures, putting on their wadding boots, wearing those straw hats that only look good on Brad Pitt. Cast and pull, cast and pull. Ten and two according to Robert Redford. Artistry. Brad is only sort of catch and release. He devoured Jen, fileted Angelina. Jen’s the one I worry about. How can they still be friends? An affair can’t get more public than box office cinema. The Smiths need to GAR. It only got a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We all knew it wouldn’t last.

So the Brown trout, Lenny and Bruce, I see them tagging alongside Jerry the Rainbow, watching him size up that lure as it dances across the water. And Bruce says to Lenny, “Didn’t Jerry just do an R&R stint in the shallows over one of them flashy dames last month?” And Lenny shrugs, which is a hilarious thing to see. A shrugging fish. Those are some incredible pelvic floor muscles you got there, darling.

Jerry, oh Jerry. When are you gonna learn, buddy? A guy like Brad will flash his fly, jerk you off the line, and send you back whether you’re a Rainbow or a carp. Now, if the person on the other end of the pole happens to be a lesbian, that’s a whole other story. It’s rumored that Brad is bi. We should hope. But he’s still catch and release with his fish.

Okay, so that was tasteless. Fishy.

Maybe I’m a suckerfish. There’s no hope for me, really. I’ll be weighed and measured. Someone will stick their fingers in my fishy flesh for a trophy photo, and then I’ll be tossed back. Ad hominem. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseam. You’d think I’d get it. Remain a bottom-feeder and you never risk getting yanked from the water. Or maybe go on a diet. You might live longer either way.

You ever hear of a professional fly-fisherman? Someone pays these folx to endorse a fishing product because they catch the fish who don’t get caught and taken home the first time by the amateurs. These sportsfolk are the players of the aquatic kingdom. It’s their thing to catch a fish, but the real treat is the release. It doesn’t matter how tasty that trout might prove to be, these pole-holders live and die by the mantra: “I caught you because I can.” And because they do, other people flock to them. Endorse my tackle box! Endorse my jigs! Hey Brad! What are you using for attractant and bait this season?

And what’s funny is it’s all camerawork. No, the Smiths do not pull off their own stunts. They’re too busy in the makeup trailer to take on any hard work. And I’m pretty damned sure that Brad Pitt doesn’t know the first thing about anything besides his own pole. Especially catching fish. Those cinematographers though…they know a thing or two about capturing a thing that lives forever, they can take their catch home, and eat it too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


She's gone. Really, really gone from me.

I slept some, walked through the cemetery at 1:30 a.m., tried to go back to sleep around 5 a.m., but laid in bed staining my new pillowcase with mascara-infused tears until 7 a.m. I had therapy scheduled with W— for 9 a.m., but I called in a cancellation. I’m too raw to therapy today. I’m scheduled with L— tomorrow. Hopefully by then these dry-heaving, air-gasping spells will subside.

My folly is that I’m too trusting, too hopeful. Like the time I wanted so desperately to be included in the comradery of the neighborhood kids that I took my green ceramic piggybank across the street to where they played, popped the cork on the bottom, and offered up the contents so that Shelly, John, Greg, Rob, and Aaron would like me. I was probably five or six. They let me stand by them for the afternoon. Shelly held the dollars and change in her fist the whole time, but nothing more came of my investment.

Weird girls don’t get invited to join the club, and if they try to form one finding inductees is the first matter of business at the bored meeting of one.

There were the five girls who lived in the house just north of mine. I was invited inside a few times, but the air seemed perpetually musty and the furnishings smelled funny. The girls frequently said things like, “You’re not the boss of me!” “Get off of our property!” and “We get to go to gymnastics!” Their father worked at one of the three cheese plants in the valley. What with a 45-minute commute to and from he was rarely home. But he brought the girls plentiful supply of cheese curds or “squeaky cheese,” which I coveted. My relationship with them was ever tenuous. They all wanted to be school teachers or nurses when they grew up rather than an archeologist. We played “school” together, although I didn’t get the point. It seemed an exercise in establishing hierarchy—teacher, teacher’s pet, other pupils—rather than mimicking educational pursuits. They all played with baby dolls. I liked my dollhouse figures, but I found little entertainment in changing the clothes on a stiff, plastic person with irrationally fixed blue eyes. The point of feeding, changing, rocking, burping, repeat escaped me, and the idea of leaving their yard to explore anywhere else seemed entirely unappealing to them. So while I was in their proximal vicinity, I can’t say that I played with these girls. We had yelling matches over whose mother was better. We combined efforts to look for cool rocks for roadside sales. When their mother let them play in the irrigation ditch in their swimming suits, I snuck in alongside them in my underwear. There wasn’t ever a sure bond. They had each other. I had the audacity to come unequipped with a genetic gang of my own. But they taught me words I didn’t know, like “gossip” and “sassy.” These words had no place in my home lexicon. The first wasn’t done and the second wasn’t something I dared attempt.

Enough of the neighbor girls.

I hoped to be liked rather than being likeable. I’m like the Brussel sprouts of the homosapiens. Some love me, but I’m generally an acquired taste. I trusted everyone I met as a potential playmate. If I had a penny for every time I suggested “Let’s be friends!” I’d be able to replace the money in my green ceramic piggybank.

I hold on longer than I should, longer than would seem appropriate. If I’ve made a friend (at least on my end) I’m devoted to a fault. Do you know what it’s like, decades later, when you realize that you may have been no more than a tagalong to those nearest and dearest to you? There was rumor I didn’t want to believe. I’d send out feelers to find out now, but I’m not sure what I might learn from such an exercise. You love and then you let go. It doesn’t matter how much you’re loved back, except that you deserve to expect a return. Maslow would’ve been proud for how hard I worked to get from the second step on the pyramid to the third. My understanding is it’s difficult to get that far if the stability of step one is tentative.

I’ve lost people. I have lost many, many people. People with whom I believed I shared an unbreakable bond. And I don’t know what I could have done differently or better within the scope of my formative experiences. I’ve struggled, struggled valiantly. I’ve looked for better ways to fit in than handing over the innards of a green pig. And I’m proud to say I hold a few people near and dear to my heart, and that they let me.

Eventually these crying spells will end, but for now, in the heaviness of grief, I’ve taken stock. Yes, I still trust and hope too much. But loss such as this has put me in a hospital behavioral health unit in the past. Before, I’ve lost my desire to live over hurt and mental taxation. And even though this hurts the same, if maybe not just a pinch worse, I’m not given in to despair. I think, even though I’ve lost another human precious to me, I’m growing in strength. I think I’m healthier. I think I’m grasping the concept that I don’t have to do all the work to keep those I love bonded close, knit tight. I think I can trust that I was worth holding on to, that I adhered as best I could to the rules of friendship, and that hope and love aren’t something you should have to pay for in order to keep.

Thursday, June 18, 2020


Deep, long, restful sleep. Is that too much to ask? I’m in bed by 9 p.m., because at my age you figure out that going to bed early is a privilege. But then I’m awake again, struggling to lose consciousness at 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 5 a.m.. I’m in the habit now of rising between the hour of 5:30 and 6:30. I remember my father being an early to bed early to rise type of guy. He was up creaking the floorboards by 4 a.m. at the latest. Granted, Viet Nam veterans often have nightmares too, and from the way his body twitched and coiled, ready to spring like a wildcat during his afternoon naps on the gold velour couch in the Family room, I shouldn’t complain about my dreams being bad, ever.

But I lost a child to the ocean last night. It engulfed her. She was small and daring and naïve like her mother, and the wave that took her seemed to rise out of nowhere. Her cries of glee, skipping through the rolling water went instantly mute. The quiet paralleled the eerie silence when the birds suddenly hold their breath in the forest. Something is potentially dangerous. Something is wrong. And she was gone. I had no time to prepare; the instantaneous grief snuffed out hope that she might reappear. I cried out in my sleep, loud enough that I woke to my own voice before I slipped back into REM cycle and found myself in another strange house, with strange rooms, and strange objects, trying to find a way to keep my children safe and accounted for in the two small bedrooms we occupied. I have read a dozen articles on the scientific explanation of dreams. In the end, it’s anyone’s best guess. One claimed they are the brain’s memory dump of useless waking detail. So why do dreams recur? Why do they agitate?

I’m struggling through the tangles of my attachments. It’s hard. I’m reading a book on self-compassion that reminds me I am supposed to acknowledge that this experience happens to other people too. What do I want in life? Freedom and lightness of being. Creativity and exploration. Self-love and the embrace of my children safely rooted to the ground, far from the sea. I want loyalty from friends and lovers. Enough of my needs met to feel free to flourish. Calm. Peace. Hope. I had a realization yesterday about my capacity and limitations for intimacy, and I believe this may explain my need for self-isolation. Dysregulation of the self. I need rigid boundaries. I also need love. I want to believe that if I focus on self-love and firm edges that whatever the future brings I will be emotionally prepared to continue, like a buzzing thing, to journey flower-to-flower gathering happiness—that the waves of life won't knock me down.

Loss is rough. Knocks you down like an unexpected wave. And like my dreamchild, you don’t come back from it. Loss washes you up on another shore, or may even pull you down deep into trenches you never thought to explore, the hidden body cavities of the earth. I’m waxing toward the sentimental, and I apologize. All of this reminds me of a 90s chick-flick that my step-brother gave to me on VHS for Christmas over 20 years ago. Sometimes those waves are crashing down on every side, with power that flattens you where you stand. I’ve heard this called “rock bottom.” And while I think in the past I’ve sunk to depths that felt more painful, perhaps this is deeper, and I’ve learned to live with the weight. I’ve learned to gather sleep even when storms are raging. Enough of my need for rest met that I don’t give up. This is when all I can do is muster that golden speck of light every human carries and believe the goddam cheesy adage: hope floats.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020


I feel the muscles of my back broadening my shoulders. Parts of the whole expanding the parts of which the whole is comprised.

The fourth shelf is a collection of titles, each with a story of its own; not just the contents of the books themselves, but a wealth of history about how they came to be in my collection. World Religions, Metaphysic, The American Garden Book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, The Brain that Changes Itself. Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Eli Wiesel, the complete Griffin & Sabine volumes by Nick Bantock, Austin Beckstrom, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Emerson, Donne, Dickinson, Edith Wharton, George Bernard Shaw, and Robert Frost.

At this juncture I should mention that intelligent, headstrong, troubled students intimidate the hell out of professors. I say as much because this shelf reminds me of a particular individual, whose name I shall not divulge, who seemed to get himself beneath the skin of all the philosophy professors I know well. He still intrigues me, but I haven’t seen him in years. Trying to crack his social barriers to become closer was like trying to befriend a brick straight from the hottest coals. I know he appreciated my mind. I appreciated his. But ghosts get in the way of even friendship. He’s ridden the rails, read more than most bibliophiles, experienced loss and suffering that I haven’t heard put into words but have read in the frightened fire of his eyes. He is a Marxist. I’ve lost track of him, but he privately read thirty-six pages of my thoughts and ideas on the basics of ethics and philosophy seven years ago. I believe he’d read more. Sweet, troubled man. And so I had to go find him, which I did because I can. Which makes me a seeker. Which is not far from a stalker, although except for twitter I have no intent to follow.

The last two items on this shelf are a small ceramic statue of Jesus of Nazareth knelt at a rock in Gethsemane, and a corroded iron railway spike. I’ll start with the statue. My oldest step-sister is six months younger than I. We are both the eldest, but like Jacob she is good at making soup, and like Esau I am good at wilder things. I do not see her as usurper. She would not be displaced when my mother and her father married, and I had no place where with to begin. I dreamed about my step-brother last night. I dreamed many things. He kissed me and I kissed him back and we acknowledged the pain we experienced as teens, together and separately. In that kiss was completion, a wholeness and a healing. I did love my step-brother, although I hardly recognize him as the man he is now. I assume the same could be said for me. My step-sister and I have danced the two sides of our religion of origin for years, often at opposite ends of the spectrum at the same time. I did escort her through the LDS temple the first time she went, which is a pleasant memory. Her mother died a year before our parents married, and my mother was yet to be a mother-figure to her at that time. Things change. She is quite close to my mother now, and I am glad for that. My mother deserves a daughter who meets her expectations. When my sister offered to create this statue for me she asked how I wanted it painted. The craft of ceramic painting seems popular among many Mormon women. I could never get into it. I always had different artistic sensibilities than ran the mainstream of our culture. And so I do hope she wasn’t offended when I told he I wanted it all white. Opalescent white, with no detail aside from the mold itself. I wanted the Pieta, really. Someday I may even visit the Vatican. I also hope she understands the significance of a marblesque statue as opposed to something painted with colors to match something when I’m uncertain of its original hue. I cling to certain aspects of my Christian upbringing more than others. The Sermon on the Mount, Sermon on the Plain. The parables. At least some of them. Atonement has come to mean something quite different to me than it was taught in Sunday School. Rather than a singular salvation, I meditate on the universal nature of oneness. Sacrament joins body to body. We ingest this symbolic flesh to fuel acts of charity in the kingdom. And of course, the kingdom is all. We are not without one, and one is not without the other. I understand the need to focus on this statue to remember that my suffering is not solo. I am consumed in a cosmos of dukkha. My works will not alleviate this pain, but it is my charge to meet needs where I can to eliminate the suffering of desire. Whether my “faith” makes sense to others doesn’t matter to me. This little statue is my personal Jesus, a reminder that I must have compassion.

The iron spike is a treasure I brought home from the switch yard. I say ‘treasure’ only because it is precious to me, not because it is rare or valuable. The spikes come away from the ties with time. Like a splinter pushed by the body out of the flesh. I don’t know why I am so fascinated with trains and rail systems. I may be on the autism spectrum. I may have been born to a Union Pacific lineman. Trains, connectivity—they are in my blood. As is iron. As is in this spike that held secure a connection that allowed another upholding yet another. The circle is universal. The stories flow title to title because of what’s come before, because of what’s next. We are tied together. We are our own makers and destroyers. Stasis is but illusion. This book case. Its volumes and adornments. I used to tell myself that such was the nature of poverty. Things come, things go. But I believe the concept applies on every stage, for every creature, for all things we assume solid until they fall corrupt to corrosion, dust, and rust.

Sunday, June 14, 2020


I still have a shelf yet to tie the first bookcase together. Tomorrow.

I've hit two #BLM demonstrations/rallies in the last two days. There's a die-in for transgender awareness early this evening. I might make that one too. Every day, I try to find new ways to wear myself out. Yesterday morning before the rally I rode 36 miles in 2 1/2 hours, a great deal of which is at a significant grade. I sat down with a calendar last night and pencilled in a schedule for hiking, cycling, lifting weights, and yoga. Today was yoga. Instead I smoked two cigarettes, wrote a letter, made a shopping list, and then sat to gather the impetus that I need to move me out to the car. 

She wants to be friends. I am trying. It's is so much easier to live single. A relief. I have a hard enough time balancing myself; adding her mess to my mix was overflowing the capacity of my bowl. And I'm not backing down. I don't want back in, even when she love-bombs and teases. Go ahead girl. Make a fuss. Go love you. I'm gonna love me. We can go for a walk once a week. I don't need more. Even that seems barely manageable, but right now I don't have to worry because we aren't together and I am breathing. Breath. It's an incredible act. I am in the world, and the world is in me.

It's a pandemic. I'm battling for a few safe feet. But I would gather my friends and activities back together and live my life as it looked before my husband came along. That's where the healing should have started. I'm always playing catchup.

Friday, June 12, 2020


The third shelf is one of contemplation. Titles mostly, and a single 2x4 inch pillar candle set on a holder of black wrought iron. Where to go from here? So many stories in those details alone. That’s the beauty of most of my possessions; their worth is primarily in the stories each elicits.

I pause here, because I want to assure you that I do not fetishize my own poverty. I’ve recognized over the decades of living simply that I do so with pride. Not for the ascetic discipline, but for the joy offered in small things. Joy enough. Plenty. The poor cannot be held accountable for the comfort they find in minimalism. The minimalist movement is more about fluid monetary means rather than necessity. The only time I groan over the weight of my possessions is when I am forced to move yet again. The books. Boxes and boxes. And I am proud of those. When they were young I told my children that there is always enough money for another book. Irony would have it, the majority of my volumes were passed along by others who wished to free up shelf space. I have done the same. Downsizing material goods happens naturally as children reach adulthood and move on to survive on their own. This past year I donated four or five boxes of children’s literature to my youngest son’s school. It was a bittersweet parting. My heartstrings still vibrate knowing that this part of my life is gone; the hours upon hours of reading aloud to my children at bedtime, napt-ime, whenever they wanted. Books are my wealth. I don’t know much of anything beyond the grave, but if any luggage were allowed I believe I could take my stories with me. I do not feel poor, even though I subsist entirely on public assistance and the charity of friends and family. Oh, if only. I have a million stories to tell. If only a dollar for each, a dime. So let me offer what I have. Let me impart. This is all I have to give.

I forget how long I’ve carried this candle. Nineteen years at least. Besides books we can never have enough light. Its pedestal reminds me of the balcony of my childhood home, of the acquisition of building supplies in Mexico, of tile shops and marble turtles, of watching glassblowers, of flea markets, of my earliest crimes of theft, of apprehension, of restitution. I will stop there. You see how many tales? I know I’ve lit this candle a number of times, because what is a wick if not for burning? My mother never lit her candles, although I sometimes did even knowing the severity with which she doled out consequences. There’s another story; my fascination with fire. Another time. Another time. This particular candle has migrated from piano top to a small bookshelf that dissembled and reassembled in several of my residences to this third shelf of my bookcase now. When lit, it gives off a light vanilla scent. The three slender legs of the holder curve outward, and then bow toward each other ending in spirals on which the holder stands. These graceful curves are similar to the railing design that skirted the balcony of that childhood maze. I wasn’t allowed onto the balcony for a number of reasons. No one used it except for the kestrels that nested in the eaves, and the bats that lived in the attic, and every so often a girl when she was left alone, which was often. The balcony was easily accessed through the French doors in the room adjacent to mine, although stepping out onto the unfinished weathered wood required cared not to come away from the sneaking with slivers in the bottoms of my feet. But I wander.

As for authors on this particular shelf, I note Kerouac, Borges, Virginia Woolf, W.S. Merwin (only because it hasn’t found its way to my poetry shelf on another bookcase across the room), Sophocles, and more C.S. Lewis. The last is a collection of The Chronicles of Narnia, which I read to my children on Sunday afternoons after church meetings, one book at a time. We have had a rich life. I offered my little family a garden of poverty the worth of a thousand tales. Forgive me for the nostalgic self-indulgence. I lose myself. I am not yet dead, and I am already carrying my wealth in the next world.

Thursday, June 11, 2020


This next is a complex shelf. And what titles here! Works of Carl Marx, Toni Morrison, C.S. Lewis, J.D. Salinger, and Kazuo Ishiguro.

In the right corner, a replica of a Russian Orthodox Madonna and Child that I picked up second-hand a year or so ago. While my husband and I were still living together, and he yet to become disabled, we actively sought out religious art for our home. During that short time I acquired a 9th century bust of Buddha, a 20th century lithograph of a Shinto shrine, and a Hindi 19th century oil lamp icon of Lakshmi. My husband wanted Christian orthodox artwork. Wouldn’t it so happen that we were separated when I found this little gem, richly ornamented in gold overlay, just small enough to be both important and unobtrusive. Meek. I suppose the art on this bookcase is largely Christian, although my house is filled with pieces from a variety of religious traditions. It seems right to keep the symbolism of Jesus of Nazareth a prominent fixture in this room. I am a cherry-picker, and some of the sweetest fruit in my bowl of ethics comes out of my Christian upbringing. Not all. But some.

And then sometimes I forget where a found thing comes from. Take the gnarled length of a dead tree branch laid across a makeshift cairn in the left corner of this shelf. If memory serves me correctly, I picked it up on a recent hike up Slate Canyon, believing that it might be bone. Instead, the wood, particularly the tapered tip of the branch, is covered in what looks to be a dried fungus. The effect is eerie, giving the stick the appearance of a witch’s or demon finger bone. It reminded me of the story of Hansel and Gretel, which was a childhood favorite, gruesome as it is. Of course, the bone Hansel passed through the bars of his cage so that the witch could inspect his fattening was chicken rather than witch or demon, but my mind made the connection nonetheless. Curious, curious tale to love as a child.

The stones beneath this boney twig came from the summit of Provo Peak. Each embedded with a fossil that can only be ancient sea life. Mollusk. The peak’s elevation is 11,068 ft. It’s prominence is only 3,442 ft, but it proved one of the most grueling ascents I’ve attempted. From the mountain’s base to summit is a 2,700 ft elevation gain in 1.5 miles. In preparation I’d set a treadmill at its steepest incline and push for 3,500 ft in an hour. The problem is the thinning of oxygen around 10,000 ft. I can train all I want in a gym at 4,500 ft; it simply could not prepare me for those last 1,000 ft, most of which I climbed on hands and knees because of the radical incline. The entirety of that hike was ten miles; three to the foot of the peak, 1.5 up and 1.5 down, and four on the return trip as I circled Maple Mountain below Provo Peak to descend Y Mountain. From there the trail meets up with Bonneville Shoreline and returns to the Slate Canyon parking lot where I’d started the hike. By the time I reached the popular Y Mountain trail my feet and knees ached, I ran out of water for the last ½ hour, and I knew the soreness in my legs would continue for the next 2-3 days.

However, I confronted demons and God on that hike that needed confrontation. I was in the last six-month stretch of caregiving for my hemiplegic-stricken husband—I was angry, exhausted, feeling abandoned by anyone who could truly help. I needed the privacy of that summit to scream at heaven, to acknowledge and openly announce my fragility and aloneness. I needed crawling on hands and knees, cells in lungs crying out for thicker air, the moment some 50 ft from the top when I had to stop and admit to myself that I might not make it. In all the mountains I’ve scaled, I’ve only ever cried on reaching the top of Provo Peak. Wept. Great heaving sobs that eventually turned into a quiet reverence for myself and what I’d accomplished. I was reaching for God, and found myself alone, surrounded by the remnants of marine life at 11,000 ft. I could have brought home an ancient seashore, but instead settled on seven small landlocked fragments of creatures found in unlikely places. At the top of Provo Peak you can find the bottom of the sea. This is when you begin to piece together that God is all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


The top shelf of my bookcase contains titles by Camus, Dostoyevsky, and Jane Austen. Occasionally I think about organization, especially of my poetry volumes, but any progress in that direction seems to happen a book or two at a time. If asked to fetch a certain title I likely know where it might be found. Isn’t that organization of a kind? Memory.

Over the last decade the popularity of vinyl clings among Mormon women has made the business lucrative. I admit to being sucked in, if only in small measure. These clings are often affixed to ceramic tiles bearing inspirational thoughts, quotes, and scripture to serve as decorative kitsch in the stylish home. I wouldn’t classify my home as stylish, and I don’t subscribe to collecting kitsch, but I am guilty nonetheless for ownership of two such tiles. One of these, a 6”x6” square the color of dry oats, rests against the left corner of the shelf in front of the books. The vinyl lettering “I am a child of God” is written in Segoe Print, a font popular in 2008. This phrase is iconic in Mormonism, doctrinally meant in the literal sense, and clung like vinyl to the minds of children ages 3-12 through song, wearable trinkets, and tiles sent home to decorate their bedside tables. My three oldest children each brought one from their respective Sunday School classes. I have only this single tile left. I discarded the other two, although I couldn’t say when. We’ve moved five times since 2008. My kids never showed interested in these religious tokens at all. This single relic of my religious upbringing and theirs isn’t meant to serve as a reminder of what we’ve left behind. I kept it as its meaning changed over a decade to something more inclusive of my place in the universe. Pantheist, it’s called. Not only am I a product of the divine, I am a part of the divine whole. I have sprung from what already was. I subsist on what is. I will become what is to be. Eternal life. And here I am conscious of myself as facet to the magnificence that is all. And it is a reminder of the tradition that produced me. I’m conflicted by my retention of this tile. It reminds me of my children when they were small. It reminds me of my struggle to teach them their place in the circle of charity. It is tacky, and yet I allow it to remain.

The rest of the decorative items on this top shelf are all naturally occurring fragments of life come and gone. The vacated nest of some buzzing colony, the width of my hand. Dozens upon dozens of hexagonal walls formed of chewed wood. Paper before Cia Lun began his craft in second century China. How many wasps does it take to build such an intricate structure? How many were born from each cell? How lucky was I to find this abandoned palace? Beside it, acorn caps. And on the opposite corner, a handful of oaknuts; a supported cupped nest the maker of which I am unable to identify; the eggshell of some finch, or robin, or starling found independently of the nest; a lump of raw coal I collected from the switch yard; and the porous finger bone of a dead Cholla branch. The shard of slate tucked neatly into this grouping has two or three stories of its own. Rocks are like that. Like children of God, they originate as magma or sediment. They rise up through the crust of the earth which was the generation before them. They are forced heavenward, and then violently assemble and dissemble like a stack of playing cards. We call this game orogeny: mountain building. And each of my precious rocks, although each rock is precious, fit a role in that drama until I placed them in my pocket and brought them home to my shelves.

My shelves hold volumes. Stories, some a millennia in the making. Some only a season. All children of God.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


I must distract myself from heartache.

This particular idea came to me in December or January, during a period of time I was processing a great deal of childhood trauma by spending hours each day at one of the local thrift shops. That may seem strange except that, at 45, the finds in second-hand stores are often right out of the 70s and 80s when I was a kid; some of them identical to items found in the home where I grew up. They were interesting confrontations. Especially the ceramic chickens. I can’t get them out of my head. My mother had a set— one blue, the other red, with checkered indentations I used to press against my fingertips for their satisfying texture. She positioned these on the kitchen counter just below the “see-through” that looked in on our family room. But enough about that memory.

My idea is a simple one: essays on my possessions. I live at poverty level; most of what I own I found second-hand or was gifted to me. And then there are my “finds”—objects I’ve collected from hikes, urban, rural, and mountain. Like the kid that I was, I have a mass of precious treasure that most would designate as refuse. But each item has a story, and each story is part of the wealth of being human in a poor, simple life of survival.

With that introduction, the first corner of my apartment. This morning, I’m listening to indie house as selected by Google Play. I guess it supposes this is what I listen to when I’m feeling lucky.

Let me start with the bookshelf. It is the first item of furniture that I bought retail. Knotty pine, natural finish, four individual shelves, sturdy. I believe I made the purchase in 1995 while I was living in a studio apartment above a bookstore in Logan, Utah. The shelf was the crowning center of my life and my décor. I still think it’s lovely.

On the wall, just to the left of the shelf, I’ve hung a photograph detail of train graffiti I took in 2014. It made an appearance in one of UVU’s Touchstones volumes. The composition includes the black steel of the train car amplified to midnight blue, a stamp from Union Pacific stenciled in blurred white paint, a triangle of yellow, pink, and green graffiti strokes, and the mottled texture of rust and corrosion.

On the top of the bookshelf I have a framed print of medieval Christian art featuring Jesus on resurrection and Mary Magdalene kneeling at his feet. This piece was gifted to me about twenty years ago by a friend who converted from our childhood Mormonism to Catholicism. The yellow graffiti in the photograph ties into the yellow sky and tomb in the religious art, which ties into the heavy egg-yolk oil strokes that contrast the purple in an original abstract Blaire Ostler painting gifted to me by my ex-girlfriend last year for Christmas. 

Between the two paintings I’ve a porcelain bowl painted in geometric patterns of blue and white. There’s no question the bowl is Chinese, but I am unfamiliar with the figures stamped on the base. This is a second-hand acquisition. I’ve long been fond of this style of pottery, but didn’t find this piece until two years ago. The China blue stretches out pulling the amplified steel blue of the photograph into the combination. It works. 

(At this point I’ve realized that this essay could become ten. And since I only require myself to write a page or two a day, I either need to find a wrapping up point, or a juncture that could lead into the remaining contents of this shelf. I’m leaning toward the latter. “It works” works.)

Monday, June 8, 2020


I'm just like everyone else. I'm doing great and then 5 p.m. rolls around and I have things I want to tell her, I want to make certain she's okay, and I'm also mad as hell that she took so little responsibility for the breakdown of this relationship. So oxytocin/cortisol/dopamine depletion. In a pill box, I'm one chill ass motherfucker.

I'm whining. I hate whiney people. Pull yourself together you sap! It's not like it was so tough for her to show you that she respected and cared for you, that her professions of love were more than lip-service. She knew you were wide open until that final exchange. And then she said you didn't have to say anything.

I know it's 15 minutes to 7 p.m. I'm going to bed early tonight. I despise that I'm 45 and going through this again as if I were in my late teens. She could have been perfect for me. She could have been the rest of my life. Grief is a spiny bitch. 

I'mma go cuddle with it.


This morning, I blocked her everywhere she has any chance of staying in contact online. If she happens onto this blog, it's the only way she could monitor my comings and goings. I don't think I'm that important to her, though. She'd only monitor to make sure I wasn't speaking ill of her. If we bump into each other in the world, it will be random. I'm hoping we never do. Time to close this book.

It's over.

I've returned to relative quiet. I'm breathing easier. 

Note to self: You have done the right thing. You have done the right thing. You have done the right thing by your self. Keep taking good care of you, please. You deserve it. You deserve peace.

Sunday, June 7, 2020


If my behavior were about my human nature, it would not be far from correct to call me a fool. And yes, that means there's a sizable set of luggage to unpack. 

Charity is not blind.

I am painfully aware of Einstein's definition of insanity, but life isn't like a scientific experiment, where replicating behavior step for step, you can expect the same result each time. Variables shift. There is no control. And say you repeatedly attempt to remedy a problem, each time with a different approach. 

I've blocked her on my phone and Facebook, and started writing letters. It slows the communication process significantly. It gives me time to think clearly and to carefully articulate my feelings. Our exchanges went well for a handful of days, but even this mode of communication leaves me vulnerable to hurtful expressions when my goal is to promote healing. I've tried. I've tried. I am exhausted. The universe knows I have tried. I only have to offer what I've already given. I am tired.

Her last message: Don't go away. I want you in my life.

I am left to weep.

Saturday, June 6, 2020


Moods. Spread like rainbow sprinkles over peanut butter on an open-face what-the-hell-was-I-thinking sandwich.

Sometimes sad. Then angry. Resentful. Relieved. Deeply sympathetic. Sad again.

Yes, I think that's the pattern. I wish there were an easier way to get through this. If it weren't raining, if I hadn't already taken my meds, if I had clothes on, and a warm thermos of tea. I'd get high. I'd walk and think until my blazed brain had thought itself to a crisp. Then I would sleep. I would sleep long and deep.

Grief is a motherfucker in the middle of a pandemic, civil unrest, the beginning of hurricane season, an election year, raising a teenage son, trying to maintain any rational semblance of normal in the middle of all of that. Clustered. 

Sometimes, I want to hate her. Others, I wish she'd disappear. And still once in a while I shake my head because I don't know why it had to go down at all. 

I don't want to love her anymore. I don't want anymore fish hooks dangling before me. I want to give away all of my latent, useless hope to the sorry, sad world.

I feel used and manipulated and deceived and taken for granted and not really wanted for who I am or what I think I have to offer. I am an a demolished brutalist structure. Don't ask where they got a bulldozer large enough. Hurting is stupid for longer than it's good for.

Yeah, I just need one last cigarette and then I'll go to bed.

I wish attachment could be extracted like teeth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020


This is a journal, after all. I continue to struggle against the sticky boundaries woven into me and out of her. I don't know how many times I've said aloud, "So that's it. It's over." And now I'm doing what I can to stay present instead of dipping back down into this game's syrupy sap. Chess on a board tiled in maple sugar and marshmallow fluff. It's like all the other addictions I've acquired—tempting, titillating. I need to leave the table and wash my hands. I need to walk out of the building, get into a car, drive to an airport, and secure passage on oneway flight to a tiny Pacific island that only receives air travel traffic every year or two. I'm afraid processing the last 3.5 years might be even more difficult.

She told me the reason she broke up with me (yes, it was her this time) was because I didn't trust her. And not just because I didn't have faith in her, she requested my implicit conviction that everything she did was from the standpoint of one whose motives are solely charitable. 

So when I think now about her accusation, "You don't trust me!" It lands more gently. 

No, I don't. I don't trust anyone that way. Only a fool would readily give trust when trust has already been broken. But I do trust that she will always make choices and actions based on her potential benefit. Chess.

And so when she says, "If we have any chance of getting back together it is only on the grounds of complete trust. Those are my boundaries." I think, I've done it. I've arrived at that point in intimacy where there are two choices. I stay and live her lie. Or I let go. 

Let's think about that. Whom do you trust? How much?

I trust my perceptions, induction, and deduction. I trust that if I think long enough about most things, I can figure out the factuality. This informs my belief system, which in turn allows me to navigate my own decisions. If I don't trust myself, I am without belief in reality, and unable to make my own, rational decisions. 

A fool would so carelessly give up their trust. Which means her accusation isn't just gentle, it's the highest compliment. I will not uphold the facade.

I have a ritual—not religious, but deeply human. A couple of miles up the canyon, off the trail in a washout there is a large boulder situated in the center of the drainage field. The canyon walls tower above on either side, and trees surround so as to mask the area from the trail. I call this boulder Mother Rock, and she serves as altar in a weekly edification. Usually by the time I arrive I'm covered in sweat. I shed backpack, jacket, whatever encumbers me, and sit in the washout on a flat stone wide and high enough to serve as a pew. I smoke a cigarette (which, after the required cardiovascular effort it takes to reach the altar, makes no sense even to me: but it's part of the ritual), and then begin to babble. Whatever comes to mind, whatever crosses my lips. Often these are revelations, eurekas, or the solidification of beliefs based on observable evidence. Magic and science. I begin writing, line by line, to purge the fountain of thought. I learn more about myself sitting at the foot of the Mother Rock than I would sometimes like to know. It is a hallowed place, between the crosshairs of the concrete and the abstract. I undress my self-deception, and I see:

I have fallen in love with the Devil

and the Devil has as the Devil can
loved me back for her purposes.

Now I am living life without 

the Devil and his cloak of deceptions,
a life of possibilities,

stepping back into the world of the present
where the right photograph offers everything
you need to know.

I saw through it
from one side to the other,
through the multitude layers of anger and rage—
some more beautiful that you could ever imagine.

Are you better for having loved me, 
because it meant you were worthy 
of worship all of these years of my wanting?

When you are only a lost human
being inside yourself.

She could only withstand 3.5 years
of my worthiness,

as an end to my purpose 3.5 years of her
means. That's what love cost her—money.
3.5 yrs wrapped in the image of the good.

Really tho, to what end?
A new story about the milk of human kindness?

I mentioned that I loved

religion. It's fine with me 
that my performance was lacking,
that I wasn't living up to plan.
It took me three-and-a-half years to figure out
I was no more than a pawn.

In the end, she couldn't
between us

at what was going on—

an animal she had to feed for company.
Like some pet. Like her cats.

After I write I place new stones upon the altar. I lean my weight against Mother Rock's cheek. I thank her for insight. I thank myself for the insight, and then I hike home.

Someday, this too shall pass.

Monday, June 1, 2020


A dating profile:

Gender: Fluid. I never know who I'm going to be, but sometimes it's male, sometimes it's female. Most of the time it's somewhere in between. I present femme almost always, but on my lipstick days it definitely feels like participation in social construct, and I've got no problem tossing out feminine stereotypes even when I'm feeling female. Just don't treat me like I'm not a guy—ever.

Orientation: I'm sexually attracted to people I find sexually attractive. I would say I have a type, sort of. But there are exceptions to those. I'm into minds first; bodies second. Most of the time. I probably have some kind of a crush on you.

Age: 45. I'm as developmentally fluid as my gender. I can usually hold my own with people younger than I am. I always feel like a kid around my peers and elders. Kids are awesome, but I think I freak out their parents.

Hair color: Salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper. At one point I was strawberry blonde, which is a gentle way of saying I had orange tresses. The aging process is presenting an interesting array of melanin production in my follicles. I haven't dyed my hair in five years. I don't plan to do it again. 

Eye color: From the pupil the iris bleeds out into a tawny aureola that bleeds into a light olive gray that is rimmed by a dark ring of deep sea blue. They sometimes appear blue, green, or gray depending on factors such as what I'm wearing, the lighting, and my mood. 

Skin tone: I am a white girl who has dallied with the sun. 

Body type: Athletic with plenty of evidence of childbearing. 36-28-38. Short, muscular legs. Strong feet and indestructible ankles. Mouth-watering calves. Thick hips and strong buttocks. Sensuous, slender arms. Long curvaceous torso. Shapely, firm shoulders that bear the weight of my head properly, and could bear the weight of a football player's head as well. That head is situated on a slender, muscled neck. 

Facial features: My nose refuses not to turn up at the end. It has character. High cheekbones plugged on to the sides of an oval. Full lips that don't necessarily want to be kissed, even if it looks like that's why they're on my face at all. My eyebrows and eyelashes are blonde. I use makeup to darken and define both. Besides mascara, blow pencil, and chapstick I don't bother with cosmetics. My forehead is lined from expressiveness. I wear the same scowl furrows that I was born with, and tiny crow's feet pucker the outsides of my eyes from years spent squinting into the sun. I've been told I am attractive, but more "cute" than "beautiful."

Personality: I am human. I run the gamut of emotions, sometimes situation-appropriate and sometimes not. I'm very good at most moods, although I admit I can be easily excitable. Like everyone else, I enjoy being happy. I'm also decent at lethargy and moroseness. My moods can change rapidly in response to events that may or may not affect others around me. I self-isolate and I like it most of the time. I get lonely, feel empty, or hopeless occasionally, but that's rarely in the presence of other human beings. I am fun-loving if not risk-taking. I suck the marrow out of life's bird bones. I'm intense, and I'm not going to neglect over-thinking everything. The following words can and have been used in reference to my demeanor: histrionic, melodramatic, deeply loving, passionate, intimidating, gracious, inspiring, resolute, determined, tenacious, annoying, loud, silly, immature, brooding, irritable, brash, light-minded, insightful, bright, clever, funny (on paper). My youngest son, when asked what three words he would use to describe my personality, said "mom, calm, and tomboy."

Interests: Art of all kinds. I love long hours alone wandering museums. I like the idea of creativity even if my own skills are limited. I play the piano, although not very well anymore. I dance, but without the range of motion I once possessed. I like watching other people do these things. I like music, my taste is eclectic. I wish I were kidding. I find live shows, concerts, and the symphony delicious. I especially appreciate street musicians and performers. I paint once in a while because I enjoy it, not because I have any skill. I like reading. I like the aspiration of reading. I'm into snobbish books, Pulitzer prize and National Book Award selections as well as some of Oprah's recommendations. I read poetry, but not as often as I like or as often as I think I should. I like reference books. I like academic journals. I enjoy the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and other such bougie periodical lit. I write every day, even when all I produce are Facebook status updates. Philosophy. I like moving my body. I could walk until my femurs ground down their sockets. If I'm exploring somewhere slightly sketchy on my feet, I'm a happy girl. Hiking is beautiful and meditative, and I wish I did it more than I do. Cycling has kept me sane since I was seven years old. I believe in going until you can't go anymore. I enjoy lifting weights, a lot. I intimidate my son. I like good food that other people prepare. Cooking is fun every so often. I'm jealous of those who are good at it to do it every day. I will eat just about whatever. I like Middle-Eastern, Indian, Thai, American Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Canadian fare. I like art films, dark, brooding dramas, dark comedy. documentary, shorts, gritty indie flicks, historically inaccurate historical epics. I'm okay with television, but I'm very picky. Very. Unless I'm intoxicated, and then it's a free-for-all. I dig people. I dig finding out about them, watching them, piecing together their stories, listening. I can handle being around them and giving my full attention for about two hours at a time, every few days. I rarely talk to anyone on the phone. I rarely hang out with my friends, even though I love them and think about them often. I'm cool with chatting up strangers when I'm out and about. When there isn't a pandemic I frequent thrift-stores, visit antique shops, and loiter at coffee shops. I love libraries for their ambiance and safety. I enjoy fairs as long as I'm alone. I like to be alone, I just don't want have to be.

What I have to offer: All of the above. That's it.

What I'm looking for: MYSELF

What I expect: Big, crazy, wild, kind, tender, patient, unfettered love.