Presently

Muttered sighs at my collar bone. Milk leaking onto everything. A baby, a bird. A son.

I drift through days, willing my body to heal, taking things slow. Coffee and reading. Old movies and knitting. Nursing and nursing and nursing, growing chubby baby cheeks and baby thighs and baby brain. Adrift. No goals, no expectations. April sliding away. Am I doing the Right Things? (‘You do not have to be good…’) The toddler and the husband off on their own again.

Green things sprout and begin to bloom. April showers.

Words inked onto blank pages.

Unburdened

I just finished watching Tracks*, the story of the woman who crossed 1700 miles of Australian desert in the 70s with just four camels and her dog. I could tell within minutes of starting it that it would be dangerous, the temptation of Eve. The itch comes along every once in a while, to leave everything behind but a backpack and start walking. Often in spring. Often during the first straight week of nice weather. Even more so this year, now that my body hasn’t run in months, has hardly taken wandering walks all winter, has been wrapped in warming wool and kept inside, has been weighed down with baby and all of the extra blood and and fluid and exhaustion that accompanies the task of incubation.

This is when I tear through my home like a cyclone, paring down possessions, clearing out clutter. This is when I dream of the trails and wild places all over this country. This is when I am outside every day, fingers deep in the soil of my yard. I test the balance between allowing my body the recovery time it needs after pregnancy and birth and the need to put one foot in front of the other. My toddler only wants to run these days, a trot or a gallop, climbing, jumping, thundering across wood floors and racing down dirt roads, and I feel the same. Strap the baby to my chest and go.

Six years ago this month, I dropped off a boy at the foot of the Appalachian Trail and ached to be the one shouldering the pack and walking north, rather than the one climbing back into my mother’s old minivan and writing my final college papers.

Five years ago, I was newly detached from a failed engagement, just beginning to plan a solo trek across North Carolina, hellbent on convincing my parents that I would be safe, when a different (and, in retrospect, rather important) opportunity presented itself, and I headed higher into the mountains instead.

We don’t need to go far fast. Find a route that allows for toddler pace. I just want to be out, away, off the grid. Sun darkened and feral-smelling. There is so little wilderness left here where the settlers landed four hundred years ago. On the dirt road we walk each day, my son runs each time into an undeveloped plot, up through a path of mulched leaves, and I want to give to him acres of that. I want land where you can’t hear cars or chainsaws or trucks or lawnmowers. I want him to see more than just neighborhood birds and squirrels, occasional rabbits, and the flock of turkeys whom my neighbor lures with corn thrown across her lawn. I want both of my sons to know wild places

The grass will always be greener, I tell myself. Be content with where you are, with the good of what you have.

I recognize that good. But I cannot be content with it.

*The poster on the link is wildly inappropriate…

the story within the story

The point of a story is always the point beside the point.
[Hollis Summers]

There is the story, and there is the story within the story. The moral and then the meaning. The life and the interpretation. Nearly all of my fiction, all of my poems (and nearly all “creative” writing, I think) is real experience (or at least real dreaming) filtered and mulled over and mixed and distilled and scribbled over and reimagined until it best expresses what life presented in so sloppy a manner.

I gave birth to a baby boy three days and one hour ago. Numbers and facts were noted by midwife hands as events unfolded, and my own initial response I’ve written already. I’ve talked it through a little with my husband, my mother, my mother-in-law. But the story is still unfinished. It’s what happened on the outside, not the inside.

Sometimes the plot twists. Sometimes your body throws you curve balls, holding onto your baby long after you thought it would want it out. Sometimes the firecracker baby girl you imagine for months and months is the sleepiest little chirping newborn boy you’ve ever seen.

And sometimes the plot finds a theme and won’t let it go. The same emotions as before as labor goes on for longer than you want. The same sensation as the slippery, squidlike body separates from yours. The same curl on his forehead, same hairs on the edges of his ears, same weight on your chest as he sleeps.

It’s a new section to my(/our) narrative, A period and a blank page and a fresh beginning. A new season. Finding our shifted balance as a family as I rediscover the balance of my own unburdened body.

When I gave birth the first time, I thought I would find a wellspring of inspiration, creativity, fertility for my work, and instead I found the shock of new motherhood. This time I expected a shock, and though I know it won’t be easy, something tells me the words, too, are there waiting.

maybe

distant thunder.
the kind that wakes you from sleep not because you hear it, but because you feel it,
because the hair at the base of your neck prickles,
because there’s a charge to the air
even if the clouds outside the window haven’t fully gathered yet,
still loitering just beyond the tree line.

I am struck by the pale purple hyacinth in the dining room
the bold rose-coral hydrangea in the living room
the sprouted green cabbage
the white budding citrus.

this morning I want a hot, steaming bowl of buttery oatmeal
creamy and sweet and thick.
ginger tea.
regina spektor and feist and ani difranco
bittersweet, bright, unstoppable.

ready for the sudden downpour.

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Pink Moon.

Egg moon. Fish Moon. Flower Moon. Duck moon. Easter.

The month of sex and birth and rebirth, all jumbled together.

Flowing and flying and flowering.

And with all of this change, the snow melting and wildlife moving and plants surging from the earth (daffodils! tulips! not yet flowering, but soon), my own body has grown still. My hips don’t ache the way they did a month ago. I have a little more space to breathe, a little more room for food, since the baby has settled as far down as it can go. My due date, arbitrary as it may be, was four days ago, and while my brain, the “I” of myself, is restless and anxious and frustrated, my body and baby seem content to wait for the right moment. So we make plans and follow through with them. Dinner with friends, errands, household tasks. The cabbage seeds I wondered if I would have time to plant have already sprouted in their little newspaper sprouting pots, the peppers and gooseberries, I imagine, not far behind. The baby’s quilt is finished, and the knit blanket widens as I knit around and around, counting the stitches like rosary beads, begun with only eight and adding eight more every other row—now 100 around, now 300, now 450.

I squat low, stretching toward the earth. I circle my hips, an awkward belly dance. I drink pints of raspberry leaf tea, eat black licorice, spicy food. I bake morning glory muffins and honey oat bread. I marvel that my belly has not burst open like an overripe plum. I welcome days without coats, days without mucky boots. I spy frost outside only early in the mornings. I point out to my son the flock of turkeys that loiters around our house, feathered tails flaring, fluttering on and off of fences. The worms in the soil.

Everything is changing quickly these days, and I feel like a stone at the center, still and unnoticed.

dig down deep

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I can feel my mind burrowing down, away from the winds of the world and into that place it will soon need to be to birth and nourish and properly adore a new baby. I can feel the distraction tugging me away from work, from other people, from to-do lists. My nesting is not scrubbing floors or stocking the freezer (these things are mostly done, but out of practicality as opposed to biological need); it’s starting to knit a baby blanket a week before the due date with the baby quilt still on the quilt frame and needing many many stitches. It’s reading beautiful words. It’s listening to my body, waiting for the sonar to ping back with the signal that Someone is Coming.

On the first day of spring, after a winter without illness, I started battling a cold. For two days, I wasn’t sure who would win, but by Sunday it was clear that illness would. Now I am congested and without sense of taste or smell, stuffing cloth wipes and napkins into my pockets in case of sneezes that lead to rather devastatingly disgusting consequences if not caught in time. I’ll admit, I’m very much hoping baby will wait until it clears to arrive.

So it’s tea and fire cider and watching the snow finally finally beginning to melt away. It’s staying close to home, reading and doing puzzles with my son, knitting every free moment. It’s waiting for the gardening seeds to arrive in the mail, hopeful that we can get a few planted inside before there’s other life to tend to. It’s breasts beginning to ache, belly unbelievably big and so crowded by this child. And just as spring will one day soon surprise us by being real, so will this new little life.

The quilt pattern is called “flying geese.” 

February Blues

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Nothing expresses itself as makes sense. A need for sex comes out as snappish anxiety. A need for time to myself, journaling, or mind-wandering, can often only be noticed when all I want to do is stitch. A restless mind and a desire for 90s music translates to a need for a good night’s rest. Frantic cleaning is usually sign of missing friends, of wanting someone to clean up for. My body and mind and soul speak different languages.

As of yesterday, I am 35 weeks pregnant, meaning that soon this baby will no longer be hiccuping and stretching and kicking and prodding from the inside but on the outside. Meaning that sleep will no longer be interrupted by weird aches and compressed lungs and heartburn and needing to pee but for endless nursing and mysterious fussing. Meaning that soon I will be leaking all over. Meaning that soon there will be a tiny, snuggly, beautiful, milk-scented new person in my life. It’s no longer a thousand years away, but soon. I’m beginning to stock up on birthing supplies, beginning to think about the After as something tangible. There will be a spring, even if it’s hidden under three feet of snow.

Meanwhile, my back complains and the baby, slowly realizing that space is becoming scarce, jabs at my ribs and grinds into the base of my pelvis. Sometimes I feel round and ripe and glowing, but mostly I just feel soft and sun-deprived and weighed down. It has been too cold to even spend much time outside, even with our rather lenient standards on what is “too cold,” and so my son is frantic, sleeping less, having trouble focusing without his usual hours of outdoor activity. He is still bright and loquacious and creative and mischievous and affectionate, but space between us has been nearly as limited as space in my belly, and my patience thins. Friends are too busy to meet, or toddlers or sick, or weather interferes.

I miss sun-heat on my skin. I miss moisture hanging in the air. Two cold winters with a mild summer in between, and I miss the sense of balance. I know, all things in their time, but I think, too, that the wanting is part of what makes it good.

Snow Moon

Pregnancy-tired. Snow-day-tired. Full and warm and slow and sleepy all of the time. Like a bear overdue for hibernation. Not that drained, thin, anemic tired, but the way you feel at the end of the day when you’re doing good, hard, valuable work.

More than two feet of snow on the ground, and possibly another foot due over the weekend. More snow than we’ve had since, I think, the year we moved to Massachusetts. Great white drifts making dunes of the yard, front and back. Our neighborhood roads are slippery with ice and slush.

I’ve been barred from shoveling, and I only bring wood in on the very rare days when my husband forgets to stock us up the night before, but there is grammar to edit and there are links to fix. Laundry to do and bread to make. It’s perfect knitting weather, but I’ve not knit a stitch since finishing Thomas’s scarf on Christmas Eve. I’ve spent the occasional time, when curled up on the futon for a stolen hour with the husband, stitching a little alphabet sampler that’s been in my possession since before there was a Thomas, and even more forbidden, staying up late, past child and spouse and dog, to play the music I loved in college and work on the quilt intended for the baby.

And there are always the mornings. Mornings are for mothering. For potty time and breakfast and building the fire. For walking outside to stave off everyone’s cabin fever and keeping an eye on a little boy as he imitates the dog, climbing over the drifts and rolling down “hills.” For laundry and lunch-making and “Mama, let’s read the bird book together,” and “More iron and wine. More. I hear the banjo! They have a banjo.” For trying to keep hold of my patience as the world moves at toddler speed.

Another full moon past. Two more to the equinox. Two more to baby number two.

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It’s a delight. It’s a distraction. I work in all of the spare moments. When he abandons his second helping of oatmeal to play with his Lincoln Logs. When he’s napping. While they’re having bath time, after I finish the dishes. Often after I put him to bed. I’m driven not by greed so much as the delicious knowledge that I will most likely earn more money in the first quarter of this year than I did in nearly all of last year, money for groceries and gas and toddler clothes. I’m driven by the satisfaction of a job well done, the items on the checklist crossed off one by one. I’m driven by the prospect of all of the tasks before me. I haven’t been able to do this, to just work to my heart’s content, in I’ve no idea how long. Since college?

But then a certain someone rolls through my belly, digs into my pelvis, pushes against my sides, and I remember that I’m driven, too, by the ticking clock, the pages falling off the calendar. I’ve no idea what this baby’s birth will mean in terms of this work, whether the child will be easygoing and snuggly and sleepy or a sensitive, wild creature, or someone in between. Will I have naps aplenty for working away, or will I be exhausted and strained?

And so I work while I can. Make hay while the sun shines. The days and weeks dissolve, the baby grows, and the spring I’ve made in little pots and planters around my house, though seemingly buried so very deeply under the blizzard snow outside, makes its way nearer.

Full

The slump into three o’clock. The house warm and and the light soft, wood stove having been going for hours now, the light through just beginning to dissolve away.

My hips creak and snap like aging timber. My eyelids brought low by the fatigue of five loads of laundry, a long walk with a toddler and dog, a clean kitchen, growing a new and active person. I’ve work to do, plenty, and finally an interesting assignment after two that were dull and poorly written. I’ve an hour of nap time left, if I’m lucky. My body wants it full of yoga. My brain wants it devoted to sleep.

I open the only spicy ginger ale we have left, switch the music from quiet classical to the mid-90s alternative of my adolescence. Palms laid upon the table, I bend my upper body low, stretching back and hips and shoulders and hamstrings. This baby. This body.

Third Eye Blind comes on and I dance through it, stretching hips and thighs. I admire the legs that carry me through the days, belly that has made such a happy home for the child to be. I take time to notice that my body has not abandoned me, not altogether. My hands, my face, my shoulders, my ankles, these remain unchanged. The same freckles, the same muscles, the same bones, they are constant, what they were when I first heard this song and the ones that come after. This blood ran hot the first time I loved, and the next, and the next, and on the night this child was conceived, and every time since. These feet have walked and hiked and run for miles. These fingers have stitched possessions of comfort and beauty. These cheeks have blushed with drunkenness, and they will again.

I may be full of this baby and my life may be full of tasks, but the body is my own, still and always.