2 Haikus for a Peaceful Summer

We stayed at my sister’s house up in the Skagit over the weekend and it was great to get out of the city and relax. Jack and I did our reading together, he, Charlotte’s Web and me, Love 2.0.

In the morning Jack sat on the couch with his legs up and book perched on his lap and I sat in the window nook, wrapped in a blanket, occasionally gazing out on a gorgeous day heating up.

He eventually drifted over to me so we were two in the nook, cozy and calm. Two haikus came out of this weekend.

Pictures of seashells
cedars on blue sky outside.
Settle, breathe, relay.

Fingers race through counts
as we tally up things. Shift.
The heart’s breath steadies.

Happy Birthday Eddie

Oh Ed! you’d mimic in our co-worker’s tone, feigning annoyance because you always got the best of him and your talent soared over the rest of us.

At Cafe Fidelio, you’d emerge on the stairway, up from the kitchen, brandishing a layer cake. Or a quiche. Or a chocolate torte you had just made. You’d put it on a cake stand under a glass dome, eyeing me in my apron behind the bar with that mischief that ran with you. And then we’d be ready for customers to come in.

You called me Blair Sweeney Todd the Demon Espresso Girl of Spring Street. Because that’s exactly what I was, but not so demon. I pulled espresso shots and rang up croissants for the pretty Soho people in their crisp shirts with the New York Times under their arms on their way to the C train.

You quoted Bette Davis and Joan Crawford like no one else could, and when you moved to San Francisco your boyfriend’s last name was actually Wright and you’d always tell me, over the phone, how you’d found Mr. Right.

I remember the black & white photos we took the day we rode bikes on the West Side piers that were crumbling and reeked of tar. I wore my green and white striped bandanna. And the time we brought a picnic and champagne in when we went to see Valley of the Dolls on St. Mark’s Place.

Later when you were a busboy for about a second on the Upper West Side, you’d clutch forks, knives and napkins in one hand, and with the other you’d tear off some butcher paper and trail it behind you to the table you were setting crying, “Hit the sky!”

You made my mom mincemeat at Thanksgiving and she loved that. You guys were like schoolgirl best friends together sitting on her sofa in Sty Town, drinking vodka tonics.

And then in Chelsea when it was all starting to fall apart, you’d always leave our little party around 11 and go out looking for more, always more.

So we lost you for good and for real, but your face, your laugh and your gorgeous black curls — always with us, Ed. We’d sit across from you in a booth at the Elephant & Castle, cracking up as you held a fake phone up to your cheek and ran through the lines:

I want to order some liquor. It’s Jane Hudson.

What do you mean, you can’t fill any more orders for me? My sister did?

Well — well, wait a minute I’ll — I’ll put her on…

Riding It Out

Sometimes in life you gotta ride it out. In the short-term and the long.

Today is Saturday. We woke up early and I had an idea to go to our old favorite park, Carkeek, in the neighborhood we used to live in. Turned out to be a great idea.

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See, we used to live up the hill from Carkeek, in a townhome on Greenwood Avenue when Jack was young. I always say, “Jack grew up in that park.” Because we didn’t have a backyard so I took him down there all the time. In boots, sweatshirts and rain.

In the fall, we’d find maple leaves as big as a giant’s hand, pick them up by the stem and wave them around. The meadow would also be dotted with mole hills, just these little mounds of fresh dirt, and Jack would go from one to the next, stamping at each of them in his red boots with tiny yellow animals on them.

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To get to Carkeek, you drive down a long, windy road with overhanging trees at all angles above you. You park, and walk along a path with the stream on your left and wide grassy meadow on your right that the robins like to hop around on an early spring day like today.

You hear the stream and the birds chirping. You pass stands of cedars and a willow tree.

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You cross a little road and enter a woodland trail. There you may hear the train rumble through, the west coast BNSF coming down from Canada and going on to Oregon along the eastern ribbon of Sound. You can go left over a man-made boardwalk that crosses back over the stream, straight to the railroad tracks, or right, up a little diagonal hill which we usually take.

This brings you to another path that hugs the park road leading you up to the railroad trestle. You cross. The trestle is bordered by chain link for safety. The tracks below smell like tar and beam. The view of the Puget Sound opens up. In the western sky, the Olympics are in full view when there’s sun. Today they only came out for a few minutes, full of snow amid cloud. After crossing the tracks you go down steel steps and make sure you don’t fall. Then your foot hits the soft sand. We’ve roamed the low tide flats and played with pails and water wheels on this beach many times.

So Jack’s had seizures in this park. I remember the exact spots. Once in the meadow in the secret little side trail along the stream. He just fell over and started shaking. Once on the beach at pretty low tide, and I had to carry him all the way back up with our pail and shovels because he always sleeps so hard after a seizure.

Today, after being gone from Carkeek for so long, I could really see just how far he’s come. No longer did I need to corral him to not dart out into the roadway. He has more self-control. He can manage that huge set of unforgiving stairs himself. Still a bit sway-y going down but I wasn’t grasping his arm and pulling him into me for fear of tumbling. Because there used to be a lot of tumbling and red, dented knees. What’s clear now is that he’s come out of those early years not unscathed but strong and spirited.

There were no seizures at Carkeek today. Just rediscovery of mud to stomp your boots in along the rutted path. Sand to scoop in your pail at the wide wide water’s edge. And a strong southwesterly beating against your cheek blowing away the cobwebs of the week, the month, the year.

We rode out that time, that time of failing medicines and slow realizations. We’re in junior high now, and we can see the future a little more steadily.

Carkeek will always be Jack’s park. In sickness and in health have we enjoyed that grass, those trees, that sky. And when the railroad rumbles down from those northern tracks, we’ve lifted our heads and waved out to the conductor who blows the horn two times, calling us to the moment.

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I’m Published!

Hey I’m happy to report my poem Handmade Kites has been published in Kaleidoscope #74, their issue on Inclusion. I’m on page 80. I’m very grateful to editor Gail Willmott for accepting my piece. The poem is about a classroom in a school I had to pull my kid out of. And about eight other families in Special Ed had to pull their own kids out of that year. Horrid. And Seattle Schools doesn’t make it easy to change buildings. But yes, it made us all stronger.

Hope you like the poem and feel free to comment. I love to hear from you.

Male Power Got You Down?

The news is littered with their faces.

Flynn, the bird of prey, cocked for strike

McConnell, doughboy of disaster

Ryan, white turtle whose shell repels reason

Sessions, the Dixie cross shines in his eyes as the past rises from the dead

Bannon, toxic clown, pockmarked with rage

We were so ready for the feminine in the White House. So ready to let others set the table and decorate the tree.

Shock has a way of turning to strength. I know, it’s happened to you too.

Next time.

Hope & Infinite Hope

I drove up to the Skagit today to visit my mom in her new place. Going north on I-5, we approached an overpass, with a chain link fence. My eyes drifted to the one word someone had woven into the steel: HOPE. The lettering was crooked. But it stood out against a caged sky.

If they looked up, all drivers could see it. Couldn’t photograph it. Because you’re barreling up the highway doing 65 or 70. It made me smile.

Of course it conjures Obama. Of course it brings up the resistance of now. That one simple word reminded me: we are all human. We all feel hope. We all live through despair. We all overcome. We sometimes utterly fail. But there is always hope. In unexpected places.

Driving south after our visit, I wasn’t expecting anything else related to HOPE. What I do, in my day-to-day, is try to keep my own fire burning. Optimism and peace are things I go for. In the past, I’ve done the opposite. I’ve lived my roiling years. But that way destroys me.

On the same fence, somewhere around Lynnwood, the same person had woven the words INFINITE HOPE. I smiled.Going north, HOPE. Going south, INFINITE HOPE.

Today, my sister, sister-in-law, nephew, our babysitter and a bunch of people we know marched in NYC, DC, Seattle & Bellingham. I know turnouts were huge and that makes me so happy.

We are a united people, and I feel so reassured.

My New Year’s

This new year’s I’m committing to more connection with friends, more self-care and less running around. I know we’re all busy with family, work and all sorts of commitments. But it gets to be too much, and we move from one thing to the next so fast now. There’s no reflection. I know I need that. And to just exhale.

For myself, I’m swimming which I love. I’ll apply for at least 3 writers’ residencies and see how I do. And I’ve got to send my story around before March 31.

For myself, I’m swimming which I love. I’ll apply for at least 3 writers’ residencies and see how I do. And I’ve got to send my story around before March 31.

I’ve invited a few cool women to a monthly women’s group so we’ll see how that goes. I also need to READ more. I’ve been pretty lazy in the department.

My goals for Jack are around his reading, social life and sports. I’ve ramped up his reading time and it’s starting to show – it’s really coming along. I’d love him to be reading Harry Potter in a year. It’s definitely a stretch goal!

We’ve kept up his Special Olympics sports since summer when golf started – golf was a surprise winner, and my friend just gave us some hand-me-down clubs. It’s a small gesture but I need to let the good things just build and expand like that. As far as the sports, I’m keeping an open mind and seeing what fits well for him. He’s done basketball with S.O. but it was mostly adults, so that wasn’t perfect. His swimming starts next week and I’ll report on his progress here. I know there are more kids in swimming. He’s taken 1:1 lessons for most of his life but it’s still hard to put it all together for crawl stroke. His S.O. team will practice in the deep end so he’ll have to break his habit of kicking off the floor of the shallow end. It’s probably just what he needs, and I’ll be in there to spot him.

So, into the new year, bravely. Slowing down, though, is a priority. I think I’ve already proven I’m capable of doing a lot. This year is about doing less, and doing the things that matter most. Ready, steady: Go!