At the moment of most abundance

My son calls about once a week, typically on his walk home from work or on his way home from class (sometimes sustainable design, sometimes women’s studies); and his brain at 9 pm is on fire, and the possibilities in front of him unlimited, and his capacity to ponder and purpose and pursue lines of thinking is exponentially expansive while my world steadily shrinks in the dark.

“I bought a new spice rack and a Q-tip holder today,” I tell him. “And I found a chai frosted pumpkin loaf at Trader Joes!”

Which is to say, I’m tired, and not just at 9 pm, but in 2018 and 2017 and 2016.

Has it been this long?

It won’t always be this way.

Once my guys (and the country) are set, I’ll rise up again, right? Just as soon as I dismantle all the photo albums and the bins and the boxes in the basement and the attic, 25 years of home-nourishing that in this empty nest weigh me down.

It’s just around the corner.

57 is apparently the peak of women’s happiness, not 18 or 21 as suspected. My mother died at that peak and my grandmother just before it, like the leaves who let go at the height of their beauty.

What is that poem? I have it somewhere. What’s her name? It’s something unusual.

Monza Naff, that’s it!

Wait, aren’t I FB friends with someone named Monza Naff? Did she write the verse that I’ve turned toward every September when the anniversary of my mother’s passing comes along? (Is that how we became friends. Memory!)


~Urge me to drop every leaf I don’t need
Every task or habit I repeat past its season
Every sorrow I rehearse
Each unfulfilled hope I recall
Every person or possession
to which I cling-
Until my branches are bare,
until I hold fast
to Nothing

Blow me about
in your wild iron sky,
all that’s puffed up,
all that in me needs
to go to seed,
send my shadows to sleep.

Tutor me
through straining night winds
In the passion of moan and pant
The gift of letting go
At the moment of most abundance
In the way of
falling apples, figs, maple leaves, pecans.

Open my eyes
to your languid light,
let me stare in your face
until I see no difference
between soar and fall

until I recognize
in single breaths,
faint whispers of cool air
through lungs.

Show me the way of dying
in glorious boldness
Yellow,gold, orange, rust, red, burgundy.


“At the moment of most abundance.”

Yesterday, I woke with the runs, today I woke angry. “Anger is sad’s bodyguard.” This is sometimes true about anger, especially if it is stuck. But I needn’t fear. She is coming. We saw her yesterday.

Dr. Ford–vulnerable, poised, transparent in terror and anxiety, clear, considerate, accomplished, tender, fierce.

What is leaving is just as certain.

We saw that yesterday afternoon too.

Petulant. Entitled. Blaming.

Kavanaugh and Trump are emblematic of the Patriarchy unhinged; and day after day this creaking of the archaic contraction that has long oppressed so many wakes more and more of us, especially the women–from our illusion that strength and purpose and understanding is outside of us–finally realizing that we can lead–through tenderness, strength and purpose matched with commitment to voicing what is true, while loving husbands and brothers and uncles and sons.

“I can’t think of anything but Kavanaugh and chai-frosted pumpkin cake,” I might have said to my son when he called home last night, but instead I marveled at his capacities, and how I helped bring them to bear, and how if I’m fortunate, they will help make life better for others, and for himself, long after I’m gone.

“Ready to die”

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-v1_at_8001.jpgMy son returns to college this weekend so I’m thinking about death.
Mainly my own.
How everything good ends.
And how life is such a trickster.
Sucking us in by love, disarming us of our defenses, distracting us with the infinity of doing, and then VOILA–death! Ending. Finality.

Having a family is the worse (or is it “worst.”) Simply because it seems so permanent. Particularly in the trenches. Like the diapers and the feedings and the messes will never end. And when they did, I was HAPPY.

But now, I’m 51. With a second foot into the decade that took the lives of my beloved mother and the grandmother I adored.

Plus it’s winter. A particularly hard and cold and frozen week of January in Vermont. The darkest time of year. And in Paris, a bunch of people were butchered.

“We’re ready to die,” said the terrorists.

A friend relays that he had a moment on his mat this week where he felt that it was okay to die. Really okay.

I had that once too. On my knees. In the garden. Rain soaked. My hands in dirt.

What if we woke every day with this aim?

Without saving any love or expression “for later.”

To be ready TO DIE in each moment.

But not like this:

there is a room…

gift-50-291Of all the lodging I explored in my youth, a single room stands out, and comes to me now, thirty springs later, as I place a glass and a bottle of water beside a bed in a stranger’s home where I’ve come to spend the week, alone.

The place then was Italy–Firenze–in a small pensione, presided over by an elderly woman who spoke as much English as I spoke Italian. (None.)

I was 20 at the time, off on a whirlwind tour of Europe, in this the first long break from a semester abroad at the University of London.

I hadn’t meant to be on a whirlwind tour. I’m much more of a solo steeper; preferring say, a seat at a café on the Seine sipping a glass of chardonnay to zooming through the nearby Musée du Louvre with a throng of friends.

But my intended traveling companion for traipsing around the continent on the cheap abandoned me at the last-minute for a free trip with his family to Sicily to explore his ancestral roots.

Thus, I haphazardly joined a trip planned by the maniacal Abigail (and friends) who scheduled a dozen stops in several countries in the span of 14 days.

Firenze (aka. Florence) was our only pause; and here’s why: a room with a view (and a shower.) Abigail had distant relatives who owned an exquisite villa in the hills outside the city; and her well to do father paid for her (and her minions) to spend a long weekend there, complete with meals.

I too was invited to a meal on Saturday night, but I had to find accommodations (and other meals) elsewhere , as her father rightly refused to add yet another person to what was no doubt a hefty bill.

In some ways, these girls and I were well suited to one another; in that we all gulped after life indulgently, no doubt escaping from some form of pain–of a lover left behind, of families torn apart, of innocence stolen by tragedy–and those were just mine.

Such was the case Saturday night when we continued our party into the lounge following a decadent meal. When the small bar finally closed on us, the girls headed up to their cozy beds while I stumbled off my stool to catch the bus back to the city.

I felt sorry for myself at the pensione, particularly as it punctuated that I had been an after thought to Abigail’s trip, and so I said yes when the bartender offered me another drink and a ride home. I failed to absorb his intentions (with twenty year age span) until he took me to the top of the city “to look at the view” and leaned in for a kiss, and I weaved with dizziness.  Only then did I realize how I had compromised my safety.

It was well past curfew when the frustrated bartender dropped me at the pensione, but the elderly woman opened the door and led me to my room once again.

Never before had I been so thankful to see a single cot in a narrow space beside a spartan table upon which sat a carafe of clear water. I drank as much as I could and slept through the remainder of the night, satisfied.

There were other such excesses on this trip–in Vienna, and Munich, and Brussels–to name a few, but the simple room in the pensione lingers on in my mind, mirroring the truth of who I was and what I wanted my life to become.

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

–Joseph Campbell