Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Do you see what's happening in Baltimore, Mom?"

You know, I can't possibly write about every instance of a Black man killed in suspicious circumstances following encounters with police. I can't live in that place emotionally. So I didn't write about the South Carolina cop shooting a fleeing but unarmed Walter Scott in the back after pulling him over for a broken taillight. To write about it I would have needed to immerse myself in the details, so that I could be sure I had them right. I didn't want to do that again. I've done it so many times now. I could spend my whole life running down such details, so often does this particularly story of deadly but unwarranted police force occur. In this case, a bystander's smartphone camera caught the cop pumping nine bullets into Walter Scott's back as he ran from the scene.

Some reports say Scott owed child support and didn't want to go to jail for it, because of course his rap sheet was revealed in a by now typical effort to demonize the victim after the fact. It's easy to say he shouldn't have run. But maybe he feared for his life. I mean, we all know the stories. In this case, after cutting Walter Scott down in a grassy field, the cop, who didn't know he was being filmed, then walked over and planted a taser next to Scott to support the story he told that Scott was threatening him with it. The phone camera footage caught him planting the evidence and revealed his lie. The cop has been charged with murder. Kudos to the powers that be in making that call based on the video footage.

And now we have Freddie Gray in Baltimore, a young African American man who sustained fatal injuries to his spinal cord and larynx after being arrested for possession of a so-called switchblade. His death sparked riots and looting in Baltimore on Monday night as protesters vented their frustration at this history that just keeps repeating itself in a nightmarish loop. I'm not saying the rioting was in any way helpful, but I really didn't feel like delving into the details. I've barely watched the news this week, though I did field calls from my daughter saying, "Do you see what's happening in Baltimore?" and asking in a voice both bewildered and so very weary why this keeps happening and is there anything at all we can do to change it? Sometimes her idealism breaks my heart. But I'm glad for it, too. I try to help her believe that we are each capable of increasing what is good and just in the world by the choices we make in our own lives every moment. Even so, I didn't head off in a quest for the facts because, you know, I have to keep living my life.

But now.

The Baltimore police department issued a report yesterday saying that another prisoner heard (not saw; he was separated by a metal partition) Freddie Gray trying to injure himself inside the police van when he was being taken into custody. He says he heard Freddie Gray throwing himself around inside the van. Wow. Are they really trying to sell us this one? Do we really think Freddie Gray strangled his own larynx and severed his own spine?

I might have to follow this thread after all, just so I can decide what I think about the whole sordid mess. Again.

One thing I found right away: The cops didn't have cause to arrest Freddie Gray. The knife he was carrying was not illegal, nor was he brandishing it in any way. The knife was a reason fabricated after the fact. So why did they arrest him in the first place? Apparently Freddie Gray saw the cops in his neighborhood and ran. Why did he run? Because one of the cops had beaten him up several times before, and Freddie decided he didn't want to be whaled on again. But in a cop's mind (and America's mind too, if we're being completely honest) a Black man running is automatically a suspect, so the cops gave chase, and then they arrested Freddie for resisting arrest, and after searching him found the pocket knife. Which was legal to carry. But they charged him for possession of a weapon anyway. Never mind that they knew full well it would be thrown out at the first pass.

Freddie Gray wasn't supposed to be in police custody at all.

And now he is dead.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring fever

I cannot tell you how many times each week I have the thought, I need to call my mother. Outside my window, the trees are putting out buds. All over the city, puffs of cotton candy pink blossoms strut along branches, wanton against blue. Spring is here again, my first without my mother.

This will be a year of firsts.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


This painting, one of my favorites by the Trinidadian artist Brianna McCarthy, is my hedge this morning against all the pain and loss unfolding in Nepal, and the more familiar sorrows happening closer to home. This morning, I'm holding fast to the simultaneous existence of beauty, and souls like Brianna who I think must be here on the planet to help soften the harsh edges of this human incarnation. We are so puny in the face of massive shifts in the earth's crust, as happened in Nepal yesterday. Thousands lost as the ground beneath them rolled and broke. Sometimes the only thing to do is pray. And drink in what is good.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Feast Day

My daughter's classes this semester remind me of what a vibrant time of exploration the college years can be. They include:

Thinking Black Intellectuals, which examines the evolution and responsibility of intellectuals in society, telescoping out from the development of Black intellectuals in global history to the socio-political and philosophical origins of modern intellectual traditions.

Advanced Supply Chain Management, which I think (but I'm not sure) is about managing the ordering and operating of chain restaurants, apparently making my girl want to put her head down on the desk and go to sleep.

Ethics of Eating, which looks at our food supply sources and processes, nearly turning my daughter into a vegan and certainly convincing her to avoid processed foods altogether and to mostly buy organic or free range, with the result she's lost 8 pounds this term without even thinking about it.

Intergroup Dialogue Discussion, in which the class breaks into smaller groups to tackle "ripped from the headlines" social justice issues that include race, gender, disability, socioeconomics, and sexuality from the perspective of individuals who bring diverse experiences and backgrounds to the discussion. The idea is to make each person's truth real and to open eyes to personal prejudices and unconscious stereotypes. My daughter, for example, discovered she had been holding a stereotype about entitled White males, when a White male classmate from a privileged background defied her expectation and revealed himself to be a thoughtful individual willing to examine his own prejudices and the realities of walking through the world in other shoes.

But perhaps my girl's favorite course this semester is Seminar in Culture and Cuisine, which looks at the cultures and cuisines of the world, and invites each student to choose a culture for a final project and do a paper and presentation on the development of the cuisine. They then have to research and create a menu of food from that culture and lead the class in preparing that menu during a 4-hour lab in the school's industrial kitchens each Friday. There are several students in the class who are in the school's joint program with the Culinary Institute of America, so whoever is leading the lab that week has major expertise on hand. At the end of the cooking, they all sit down and eat the meal together and then divvy up the leftovers to take home. My girl said to me: "Mom, can you believe this is a class?!" It sure beats chemistry lab! In any case, my daughter chose the cuisine of Jamaica (surprise, surprise) and yesterday was her day to play head chef, directing the 15 or so students in her class on the preparation of her menu.

All semester our daughter has been peppering me with questions about the food I ate growing up in Jamaica, and asking her dad about his recipes since he does the cooking in our house. While we were in Jamaica for her grandmother's funeral last month, she and her dad and one of my cousins who is a fabulous cook and passionate foodie, went shopping for local cookbooks. They made sure one of the titles my girl bought was the famous Enid Donaldson cookbook The Real Taste of Jamaica, which includes my mom's Eastern Caribbean inspired recipe for Johnny cakes. (My mom sent me to cooking lessons with Enid Donaldson when I was growing up; she really did try with me!) The menu our girl finally settled on:

Ackee and saltfish
Festival (a version of Johnny cakes)
Escovitched fish
Sweet plantains
Ox tail stew
Beef patties from scratch (very tricky crust!)

There were some other sides and sauces and things that I'm not so clear on. My girl messaged me as she was doing the lab, texts like, "Is the vinegar for Escovitch fish served hot or cold?" and "Didn't even realize till now that the smell of salt fish reminds me of home." When it was all over, she sent me these photos from the feast that was. The last photo is of all the students dining together in their chef whites, which I think is pretty awesome.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts."

This piece by Betsy MacWhinney, which appeared in the Modern Love section of the New York Times on February 26 of this year, just floored me with its sheer beauty and stubborn hope, its imagination and commitment, its terror and love. This is the human spirit ablaze with light. I want to remember. 

Bringing A Daughter Back From the Brink With Poetry

By Betsy MacWhinney

When George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, my 13-year-old daughter, Marisa, was so angry that she stopped wearing shoes.

She chose the most ineffective rebellion imaginable: two little bare feet against the world. She declared that she wouldn’t wear shoes again until we had a new president.

I had learned early in motherhood that it’s not worth fighting with your children about clothes, so I watched silently as she strode off barefoot each morning, walking down the long gravel driveway in the cold, rainy darkness to wait for the bus.

The principal called me a few times, declaring that Marisa had to start wearing shoes or she would be suspended. I passed the messages on, but my daughter continued her barefoot march.

After about four months, she donned shoes without comment. I didn’t ask why. I wasn’t sure if wearing shoes was a sign of failure or maturity; asking her seemed like it could add unnecessary insult to injury.

But all of her rebellion that year wasn’t quite so harmless. I feared she was acting out in dangerous ways.

As we walked through the grocery store one day, she reached out for an avocado, causing her sleeve to fall back, revealing a scary-looking scab on her wrist along the meridian where a watchband would be.

I grabbed her hand. “Oh, Marisa. You must be in a lot of pain.”

She looked away, saying nothing.

I tried to squelch a wave of nausea, chilled by the knowledge that my daughter was harming herself.

I did what parents do: I engaged with professionals and took their advice. Marisa went to a counselor alone, and we went to a different one together.

I felt a pit of horror in my stomach as a psychiatrist told me, in front of Marisa: “She shouldn’t be left alone, and she shouldn’t be allowed to handle anything dangerous. No knives. If you have any medication in the home, keep it locked up and away from her.”

Later that evening we were unloading the dishwasher together, her on one side, me on the other. I unconsciously passed her a sharp knife to put away.

“Mom, are you sure you can trust me with this?” she said jokingly.

I had held it together pretty well up to that point, at least in front of her, but started sobbing uncontrollably when she said that.

She looked surprised, and gave me a hug. “I’ll be O.K.,” she promised.

I started Tuesday Night Dinners, to which I’d invite everyone we knew who would be fine with the chaotic scene of a weekday family dinner.

Sometimes three people would show, sometimes 20, and we would eat the kind of simple food that a working mother can throw together between getting home at 5 p.m. and having people arrive at 5:30.

The parents of her friends would come with their teenagers, and at least for that one evening the house was lively with people. I wanted life to come to her. I wanted her to float on the current of rich connections.

Other evenings were filled with sullen, delicate silences punctuated by minor conflicts: me resisting the urge to ask how she was doing, because I was afraid of what I might learn, and her courageously struggling to understand teenage-hood.

As she played the guitar in her bedroom, I tried not to lurk outside the closed door, but when the music stopped, I had to breathe through my panic, wondering if she was still safe.

It wasn’t clear to her whether she should bother growing up. She would ask me, “Do you like your life?” Her tone implied judgment of my life without her having to spell it out: You drive, work in a cubicle, do chores and are terminally single. What’s the point?

One day my son came home from school talking about vandalism that had occurred at the elementary school. “Someone spray-painted stuff all over the schoolyard,” he said. “Things like, ‘Too many Bushes, not enough trees.’ ”

I glanced sideways at Marisa. She met my eyes and looked down, confirming my suspicions. I’m no fan of vandalism, but I was actually glad to learn she cared that much about something.

It turns out, she did the deed with a boy, who was caught and required to pay a fine. I asked my daughter to call the boy’s family and confess, which she did, and offered to pay half the fine, which they accepted.

I started leaving poems in her shoes in the morning. She had used the shoes as a form of quiet protest, so I decided I would use them to make a quiet stand for hope. When one of your primary strategies as a parent involves leaving Wendell Berry’s “Mad Farmer Liberation Front” in your child’s shoe, it’s clear things aren’t going well.

What I wanted her to know is: People have been in pain before, struggled to find hope, and look what they’ve done with it. They made poetry that landed right in your shoe, the same shoe you didn’t wear for four months because of your despair.

Before she went to school in the morning, I wanted her to read the poem “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver that talks about not having to be good and not having to walk on your knees for miles, repenting. As Ms. Oliver writes, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Or this, from Mr. Berry: “Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.”

Would that matter to her? Would she get my message that the world loved her and she should really try to start loving it back?

I wasn’t going to talk her out of how dire things were on the planet, but could she, even so, find reasons to put shoes on each day? Raising a child who had no hope for the future seemed like my biggest failure ever.

I normally don’t invite poetry into my daily life. As an ecologist, I embrace science. But all I had to offer her at that point were the thoughts of others who struggled to make a meaningful life and had put those thoughts into the best, sparest words they could.

It suddenly struck me — I the one who loves science, data, facts and reason — that when push comes to shove, it was poetry I could count on. Poetry knew where hope lived and could elicit that lump in the throat that reminds me it’s all worth it. Science couldn’t do that.

I believed, inexplicably, that it was urgent to deliver the perfect words in her shoe each day. It felt like her life depended on it.

One day I called in late to work so I could purchase scissors and a glue stick from a gas station minimart. I took the supplies and a stack of discarded magazines into a cheap Mexican restaurant to drink bad coffee and assemble poems in the form of a ransom note, as if my daughter had been kidnapped and I had to disguise the writing to get her back.

I frantically searched for the word “bones” so I could nod to her budding sexuality with Roethke’s “I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,” but superstitiously didn’t want to clip the word “bones” from a grizzly headline. I hoped no one would ask why I was late, because I had no idea where to begin, how to explain.

For a few weeks she didn’t comment on the poems. She had to know I was doing it because she had to remove the poems from her shoe before putting them on in the morning. I felt encouraged, though, when I’d find a well-worn, many-times-folded poem in her pocket as I did laundry.

As the days grew longer, she became more involved in life. She made plans, took up running, planted seeds, decorated her room. I could see that her putting on the shoes wasn’t defeat, but maturity.

At some point, I knew she had come out of a long dark tunnel. I also knew it wouldn’t be her last tunnel.

The most optimistic people often struggle the hardest. They can’t quite square what’s going on in the world with their beliefs, and the disparity is alarming.

She was temporarily swamped at the intersection of grief over a bleak political landscape, transition to a mediocre high school, and the vast existential questions of a curious adolescent.

In retrospect, my poetry project was a harmless sideline that kept me benevolently out of her way as she struggled not just to see the horizon but to march bravely toward it.

A few years ago, she was interviewed to join a group of students on a long trip to Sierra Leone. The professor explained that it was likely to be a very difficult time, far from home, with physical and mental hardship.

“What would you do,” he asked Marisa, “if you get to the abyss, and it begins talking?”

“Well,” she replied, “I would have a lot of questions for the abyss, indeed.”

Betsy MacWhinney, an ecologist in Duvall, Wash., is working on a memoir about single parenthood.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The life cycle of blogs

So many bloggers I have absolutely adored and came to count on for wisdom, humor and honest sharing are hardly or no longer writing here. A few come immediately to mind.

Deb C.
Miss A
Dottie kee
Denise M.
Others too

A few of them I am still able to connect with on email or social media, so they are not lost to me, just mostly or completely gone from here. But the ones who simply went poof, Deirdre for example, I miss with an ache akin to losing a dear friend.

I remember when one of my earliest blog comrades, Steve Reed, closed up shop for a while, I actually felt bereft, my first clue that the connections forged through the sharing of lives here can be quite real. I know this must have surprised him as much as it did me. I was thrilled when he sent me a note a year or so later letting me know he was blogging again. I was happy to fall right back into the fold. When Tearful stopped writing for what seemed like years I felt the same way, but at least I knew he was around and thriving though his wife Yolie, also my dear friend. Sometimes a friend stops writing after a period of obvious struggle, and I worry for them. Are they okay? Did they get through that bad patch? Where did they go? Sometimes, the friend just one day ups and disappears, just never puts up another post, and then one day when you check back to see if there's been any activity, you find the blog closed down, or it is now open only to invited readers, and you're not one of them.

Summer is approaching. For some reason at this time of year, I feel suddenly revealed, possibly in a way similar to the exposure I experience when the swaddling winter coats come off and we emerge uncovered into spring. I start to play with the notion of letting this blog lie fallow for a while, or closing it down completely. I never do it because I would miss the regular connection with people here whom I have come to love like family. But I wonder, would I announce that I am taking a break for a while as Steve did, or would I simply disappear, not write for weeks that turned into months and then years? Then would I one day feel moved to put a toe back into the water and hope a few familiar swimmers were still there? Would they welcome me back or would they have emotionally moved on?

I'm a little weird lately, it's true, but I'm not going anywhere. I might be a little occupied with outside writing from time to time, but I'm here for the laughs, the fists in the air, the tears and the outrage, daily life and spiritual confidences. I'm here for the writing and to chase down the truth. I'm here to process out loud. This blog keeps me a little bit sane. It is a kind of therapy for me, better sometimes than actual therapy, which left me feeling all churned up yesterday.

The truth I've chased down this morning? I'm not in the mood for emotionally churned up. I'm in the mood for inner peace.

Just know I'm grateful for all of you longtime friends who are still writing here, and for new friends whose blogs I've discovered this past year. Onward.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Note from the Universe

"What if every wrinkle, scar, or gray hair only made you more beautiful? What if every tear you've shed, mistake you've made, and challenge you've faced, only drew you closer to the light? And what if, for every breath you've taken, every sentence you've spoken, and every path you've chosen, your fans in the unseen multiplied? 

"Well, I'd say it's about time you found out.

"Be proud, we are—"

The Universe, as channeled by Tut and sent to my inbox this morning.


The photo is just an old snap I found that I didn't sufficiently appreciate before. Maybe I like it now as a portrait of our old car, which served us so faithfully from grade school across town to college five hours upstate. The car was donated and towed away to a children's charity last week. This picture was taken when my son, newly a college graduate, was trying to fit four years of possessions into and on top of our old Jeep, which was already filled to the brim with his sister's things. She had just completed her freshman year in the same town, and my son was indignant that she'd left no space for his stuff. He and his dad eventually decided to drive back up to Ithaca the following weekend, a men's road trip, to get the rest of his accouterments.


What does any of this have to do with Tut's Notes from the Universe? Nothing. Everything. It's all connected. We're all connected.

And I think you're beautiful.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Elizabeth and Oliver

Elizabeth and Oliver teamed up for a powerfully moving presentation to a classroom of fifth graders about the inherent rights and dignity of the disabled. Sharing stories from their lives with their beloved Sophie, mother and son together created a powerful service project that opens not just eyes, but hearts too. We need it desperately. I hope they will take this show on the road.

The photo of Elizabeth and her youngest is from her blog, A Moon Worn as if it Were a Shell, "where poetry, politics, disability and parenting intersect."

If you read nothing else today, go there and read this.


Elizabeth sent me a wonderful poem this morning, knowing no doubt that it would capture something of my own feeling about my daughter, who is is no longer 17 and on the verge of leaving high school, but 21 and on the verge of becoming a college senior. Even so, this poem by Sharon Olds expresses just how it was, and how it still is.

High School Senior

For seventeen years, her breath in the house
at night, puff, puff, like summer
cumulus above her bed,
and her scalp smelling of apricots
— this being who had formed within me,
squatted like a wide-eyed tree-frog in the night,
like an eohippus she had come out of history
slowly, through me, into the daylight,
I had the daily sight of her,
like food or air she was there, like a mother.
I say “college,” but I feel as if I cannot tell
the difference between her leaving for college
and our parting forever — I try to see
this apartment without her, without her pure
depth of feeling, without her creek-brown
hair, her daedal hands with their tapered
fingers, her pupils brown as the mourning cloak's
wing, but I can't. Seventeen years
ago, in this room, she moved inside me,
I looked at the river, I could not imagine
my life with her. I gazed across the street,
And saw, in the icy winter sun,
a column of steam rush up away from the earth.
There are creatures whose children float away
at birth, and those who throat-feed their young for
weeks and never see them again. My daughter
is free and she is in me — no, my love
of her is in me, moving in my heart,
changing chambers, like something poured
from hand to hand, to be weighed and then reweighed.

Sharon Olds

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Okay, really

The photo here was taken by my niece Arrianne. She has a wonderful eye.

I'm doing okay, really. Sorry that last post was a bit of a downer. Happily, I didn't stay in that place. I haven't been writing much here, though, because I am trying to get up to speed on a book project. The first-half delivery due date is looming, and I mean to meet it. So that's where my energy has been going lately, and one can't stay wallowing in melancholy too long if one means to meet deadlines in the book business.

We also need to find a used car. We spent yesterday in the used car lot of Jeep dealers. I feel completely unequal to this process. I don't know when I'm getting a good price quote and when I'm getting ripped off. I study the Carfax like there's no tomorrow but I don't know which manufacturer safety recalls matter and which don't. My husband is comparatively casual about all this, or maybe he has more comfort with the process. In any case I feel as if all the research is on me, because I'm the one who cares most. We're looking for a reliable SUV that's maybe four or five years old, 4-wheel-drive, in good condition with no outstanding recalls, and roomy enough to fit my man, who is a big tall guy and who will be doing most of the driving. He is partial to Jeep Grand Cherokees because he likes how rugged they are and he knows the cab fits him and plus we had one that was four years old when we got it and it lasted us another 14 years! I kind of like how they look, too, but I'm open to anything that's a good deal. Advice from any quarter is welcome!

In other news, my son met the parents of a young lady he's been "seeing" and that apparently went well. Also, my daughter gave a public presentation on campus on Friday, a paper titled "Gramsci's Model of Intellectual Responsibility," which she wrote in and around her step team performance the previous evening. Who is this child? How does she know such things? The young man she has been seeing also had a presentation on Friday, his for a national entrepreneurial competition entered by hundreds of college students across the country and he won! Something about a new algorithm for determining scholarship grants. I will never understand the details. I barely understand the word algorithm. I just know it was a big day on all fronts.

All is well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


It's Tuesday morning and my heart hurts. The day outside is pewter gray and there's a tightness just below my throat, signalling perhaps that my "mood disorder" is fixing to have itself a play day.

I'm also anxious that I'm not far enough along in my book project, just a little overwhelmed by all the interviews I have yet to conduct, details not yet pinned down. This might be a normal stage of the process. The only thing I know right now is I will get it done. The how isn't so clear to me yet.

We're looking to buy a used car. Our trusty 1997 Jeep finally died. My friend Monique just got a great deal on a used car but she got caught up in her life and her license expired. She has to do the 5-hour class and road test all over again. She asked us if we would keep her car in our parking spot until she gets her papers squared away. She said we should drive it until we get a new car. Talk about good friends and the universe providing our needs.

Monique was the first friend I made when I moved to New York City. We were freshmen together at Barnard. She's an engineer. Back then, we were standing next to one another in a line to register for classes during orientation and we just started talking. She was stressing about Freshman English and I was stressing about my Math requirement. We laughed and pledged to help each other. And we did. And we do.

Last Thursday, I met my blog friend Susan Landry of Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie in the flesh. She was in the city for a few days, visiting her son. We had a lovely time discussing our lives over tea and cappuccino in the Hungarian Pasty Shop, a neighborhood institution that Susan used to frequent back when she lived in New York. It was great being with her. It felt like we already knew each other, just immediate comfort. And I have never seen a photo of Susan that does her justice. She is beautiful! We loved that we were able to finally meet; our children beat us to it though. Some months ago they had a meal together in Ithaca where my daughter is in college and Susan's very accomplished son has exciting ventures in the hospitality business. We fond mothers fantasize that they may work together yet.

I'm lucky in this world.

But so damned moody.

Monday, April 13, 2015


I've been binge watching Sons of Anarchy and I'm not sure what I think about it. It took me about four or five episodes to become invested in the characters, and I only persevered because my son was such a fan and kept saying I'd get hooked. I'm not sure if I am. I may finally have found the series that played better in doses of one episode a week. It's so unremittingly intense, and almost cartoonishly violent, and nobody trusts anybody, which wears me out. I want to be able to trust one corner of the action, but I can't. There's no place to shelter and put down roots. Disaster is always looming, and sometimes I have to just turn it off mid-episode and breathe. Nor am I truly in love with any of the characters. They all have their sordid, brutal sides. Some of the psychological characterizations run deep, though, and everyone's acting is consistently strong, especially Katey Sagal who gives a powerhouse performance as motorcycle club first lady Gemma Teller Morrow.

So tell me: Did you watch the series? How did you feel about it? Who was your favorite character? In your opinion, which was the best season? (No spoilers please! I'm only up to season 4 and I still plan to watch the whole thing.)

Pop quiz: What does SAMCRO stand for in SOA? If you know this without resorting to Google University, you're probably a true fan.

Then again maybe this post is just an excuse to run that photo up top of Gemma and Jax. I think it's kickass.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


My son was looking for photos to post on Instagram in honor of National Sibling Appreciation Day last Friday. The Halloween photo of Cleopatra and the Ninja is one of my favorites of the pictures he found, though it's not the one he posted.

He posted this one of the sibs in the papasan chair when they were babies. My daughter says she remembers when this picture was taken. She says it is her first memory.

In response my daughter posted this picture. Then brother and sister proceeded to trade insults in the comments section ("Nobody likes you so I guess I have to love you." "You may not be the world's best sibling but you're my sibling and I wouldn't have it any other way. Love you sis." "Haha stop lying. I am the world's best sibling. Love you bro.") Just more proof of their love for each other.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Out in the city

My choir rehearsal on Monday was in midtown, near where I used to work, my stomping ground for going on 20 years. I took some photos of my old commute home, and enjoyed being out in that part of the city again.

The reddish brown building is Carnegie Hall and on the far right in the distance is the diamond-studded Hearst Building, home to numerous magazines you know and love.

This photo struck me as the juxtaposition of old and new construction in the city, stone and steel, church and commerce, sacred and profane.

Riding in a cab, I passed by the Julliard School of Music just as the sun was setting and the sky was doing something operatic. The colors. The light.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Life is running

My girl continued her 21st birthday festivities all through her spring break, first with her brother and cousins in D.C. last weekend and then in the city with her crew of six, four of whom came into town from their respective colleges this weekend to help her celebrate and some of whom slept over; in the midst of it all my husband did the altar arrangements for Easter in honor of his late parents and they were exquisite; we went to church as a family and to brunch afterward; we shopped for a car to replace ours that died but we didn't buy; my son bought a bike to ride to work and do triathlons this summer; my girl and I huddled in blankets and binge watched the rap soap opera Empire all day Friday and it was perfect; I filed Important Documents that needed filing; my son and I fussed and made up and fussed and made up; he brought home a young woman to meet the family and she was lovely and easygoing; I went to therapy; I went to choir practice in midtown and felt nostalgic for my old stomping ground; the man and I went to a fancy exhibition opening at the natural history museum where he is an ichthyologist; he looked rather hot in his dressed-up-natural-scientist uniform of tweed jacket, white cotton button down shirt and tie paired with blue jeans and docksiders; we sipped red wine in mood lighting next to the soaring Allosaurus skeleton and chatted with his fellow scientists; throughout I gathered pictures, not always of the actual event but of the moments surrounding them. Here are a few snaps from the week just past, proof that I am doing my life. Brownie points if you find the "Life is running" slogan in these pictures.

Friday, April 3, 2015

2.08 a.m.

I'm just so sad. Despite the daily functioning, I feel down, out of sorts, my emotions like a wave, advancing and collapsing, changing moment to moment, set swirling by any small thing. I sit here contemplating the idea that suffering is born of the wish for things to be different, and that we would suffer less if we stopped resisting what is. I try to accept what is, especially that which can now never be any different, the loved ones gone from this earth, but there are other things in my life that I don't accept, and I do wish they were different. And so I suffer. I know this makes no sense to you, it's almost 2 a.m. and the whole house is asleep, and I feel bereft and empty and out of sorts, even though my daughter is home for spring break and I wish to be happy for her, but I can't fake it. I am lost and anxious and sad and I try to block it because she is so empathetic and I don't want her to absorb these feelings. The house was full of people all day today. I was acceptably social even though I wanted to run away and hide and wallow. I wanted to sit quietly and miss my mother. Instead I talked and laughed and was social until everything fell apart inside me. And now, in the middle of the night, there is nothing left but this lonely desolate feeling I cannot name or truly share.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


"I am slowly, painfully discovering that my refuge is not found in my mother, my grandmother, or even the birds of Bear River. My refuge exists in my capacity to love. If I can learn to love death then I can begin to find refuge in change." 

― Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place


I don't have a clue what that last line means except that I am seeking a way to make peace with the fact that everything changes—everything has changed. I look in the mirror and I am not the same. The face staring back at me is older, sadder, not wiser. My mother died and I gained ten pounds and ten years in the mirror. My attention feels fractured. I cancelled my Atlanta trip. I think I need to stay close to home, gather myself, start over.