A Clear Midnight

I’m off for a weekend completely by myself. Let me type that again: I’m off. For a weekend. Completely by myself. Alone. No one else. Just me and some books and some knitting and some coffee and some wine and my favorite writing utensils. And, of course, my fleece-lined leggings and coziest, fuzzy socks.

When I first planned this little trip, I made a list of goals to complete with all this time to myself. I haven’t been alone for more than a few hours at a time since my five year old was born. I’ve daydreamed about what it would be like to have hours and hours to do so many things. But yesterday, I was starting to make lists of what to pack and I realized I don’t have the mental or physical energy for a to-do list right now. I’m behind on literally everything and everyone I care about, including myself, in a way that a weekend is not going to be able to fix.

I felt pretty disheartened when these thoughts crept in. I have a lot of guilt piled up from all the things I haven’t been able to do, things I haven’t had time or headspace to write, and all the lovely people in my life that I haven’t been able to connect with the way that I want. My cup runneth over with blessings and is somehow empty at the same time–a feeling I’ve become well-acquainted with since becoming a mother.

Then, just as I was setting myself up for a nice, long guilt trip, a favorite poem came softly and gently and quietly to mind. It’s by Walt Whitman and it goes like this:

A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing,
pondering the themes thou lovest best
Night, sleep, death, and the stars.

Now, all I hope for the next few days is to step away from lists, away from goals, and to give my soul a free flight into, well, probably not the wordless, my soul really likes words, but you get the idea. : )

This is SoCo.

Short for Southern Comfort because my identical cousin in Tennessee shipped him out to me 11 years ago and since then, he’s been a little part of my Southern home I get to keep with me wherever I go. He is the sweetest, most snuggly pony and has a heart that needs closeness.

When Tris (my horse of 18 years) passed away, I pulled back fast from any kind of connection—human, horse, or otherwise. And now, four years later, the love is still right where I left it, but I’ve got some big work to do on rebuilding our trust and partnership.

We’ve gone on a few, short rides but mostly, I’m focused in the round pen, on the lunge-line, and on taking naps together—communication and being a warm, happy, reliable presence in his life.

Picking up the pieces after painful losses can be almost as heartbreaking as the losses themselves. I’m still working through my guilt at how I all but deserted this precious pony when he’d just lost Tristan, too. And he’s clearly working through a fear of putting faith in me and being left in the cold again. It hurts but I can’t go back and change it. I can only start where we are now and go forward showing him I’ve grown, I’ve learned, and I’m back for good this time.

These naps and snuggles are some of my favorite moments and fill me with hope for where we’re heading. No matter what kind of relationship it is, love isn’t enough to sustain it, but love can sometimes hold you together while you work out the rest.

This Body

I went to feed the horses this morning
but the sliding barn door
that almost blew off its hinges yesterday
actually blew off its hinges today
so heavy
I almost fell underneath it
but these arms and this back
these legs and this core
this body
that holds my children
while we dance in the kitchen
that throws bales of hay from the loft
to the ground
that carries buckets of water from out back
to the stalls
that moves the furniture for sweeping
that carries the over-loaded laundry baskets
that catches my wild babies when they jump
off their beds or the rock wall or the end table . . .

this body
caught it
and even against the wind
was able to set it down
without breaking it
or getting hurt.

Such relief
heart racing
I closed my eyes
and took a shaky breath.

Such gratitude
for this body
this vessel
that holds me
and my life together
that holds my children
and the laundry
and the hay and the buckets
and the sliding barn door
that blew off its hinges.

Bedtime, Glitter, and Disappointment

My Sunshine is five and since she started school, she comes home most days a little maxxed out. It’s no good asking her for details about her day, she usually needs to eat then move her wiggly self as much as possible whether that means running up and down the stairs and through the hall with her brothers, heading outside, or dancing in the kitchen. But after dinner, when the boys are in their bed, and all is quiet, she’s ready to talk.

For a day or two back when she first started school, I discouraged this. I worried she wouldn’t get enough sleep if she was up chatting too long, but by day three-ish, I decided it was more important for her to have a time when we can just talk about whatever she wants.

Now, nighttime conversations with my girl are one of the best and most interesting parts of my day. She asks me questions, tells me what she’s been thinking about, and I get a glimpse into the inner workings of her busy and complicated mind.

A few nights ago, when we were done with books and had moved on to the snuggle portion of her bedtime routine, she said, “Jane got purple glitter and I got silver.” It was clear from her tone that purple was far superior to silver and she was quite disappointed.

I responded with, “But silver is so beautiful! Like the silvery snow glittering in the moonlight or your silver, mermaid necklace.”

I knew I’d headed down the wrong road when she replied, “I know, but silver is just boring and it’s not what I wanted. I really wanted purple. Purple is more beautifuller and I didn’t get any purple.”

This was my moment to pause. Lord, it’s tempting to make everything sound great to young children. And I’m so lucky to have a firstborn who regularly and without hesitation speaks her truth. She didn’t want silver, folks, she wanted purple and purple didn’t happen for her. My unintentionally toxic positivity was not helping. So after a moment, I changed my tone to match the bummed out tone she was using and I said,

“Girl, I’m sorry. Purple is so beautiful and I wish it had worked out that you got the color you wanted. Sometimes things go the way we want them to and sometimes, they just don’t.”

“Yeah . . . Wait! Did you ever not getted what you want?” she said.

Ooooohkay, I was feeling really good about switching gears and as quickly as I felt like I’d made it to solid, parenting ground, I was back in over my head. I decided to stay the course and said,

“Yes, lots of times.”

“Like when?”

What followed was an amazing conversation about disappointment and how life can be unfair. We shared a few secrets, a few giggles, and lots of snuggle hugs; nothing too big or deep, she’s wicked smart, but she’s still five. And when we were all talked out, we concluded that some moments in life just suck, we can say that they suck, and we don’t have to like them or pretend we like them. No buts.

And I’ll just leave you with what I’m always left with after these moments with my wild child: Whatever it is I think she can do, she can do more. Whatever it is I think she’s capable of understanding, she understands more. And I only ever find out her capabilities and growth edges by giving her a safe place to explore (be that out in the world or in her mind/heart) and following her lead.

this wine (written in 2007)

this wine
tastes like forgetfulness
with a hint of plum
and i can’t imagine anything
more perfect
i love plums and horses
and forgetting
and carl
and my dog.
EE cummings wrote poems with
the punctuation all silly
which was brilliant
the first time he did it
but after that wasn’t he just repeating himself?
i repeat myself all the time
tell the same stories over and over
just like a dog
barking at passing cars.
this wine
tastes like i’m drunk
and i can’t imagine anything
more perfect than
that other than
tiramisu although
it creeps me out to eat something called
lady fingers.
lets not talk about eating

i miss you and i wish you were here
wine tastes better
on your lips
and you’re right about
goldfish not being the same

i hate the sound of your phone
and by your phone i mean my phone
on your plan that you gave me
because you were tired of my mom
answering the phone at 2am
is the phone you gave me like the ring of
our cell phone bill marriage?
everytime i hear it its supposed to be you
but its not
and every time i hear it i think of you coming
home from work, but youre not
i don’t want to wait for summer
to sleep by you every night
i’m going to sleep by you every night I ever can
you’ll never spend a night on the couch
because i’ll never take the feel of you
breathing against my back
for granted
with so much time together slipping
through our fingers
while we wait for our five year plans to line up
i could never waste a second of

the rest of our lives
sleeping cold

i love you

g night

Again

Sometimes it’s been too long–

the reasons I love you turn back into secrets

and the words I would have said, I can’t remember.

Time turns us back to outside out,

inside safely in.

You will come home

to too much quiet

I’ll look up

and your eyes won’t say a thing.

But after so many years

even this

is familiar.

It will take a little time

but you will be you

and I never could resist you

and I will be me

but that never scared you anyway

and just like always

we’ll roll up our sleeves,

uncross our stars,

rewrite the end of The Queen and The Soldier

and fall in love

again.

First Love

He was the the first boy to touch his lips to mine.
I was the the first girl to write him a love letter.
He was the first boy to ask if he could read my poetry.
I was the first girl to give him my heart.
And he was the first boy to return it in pieces.

And it’s not that we were so great at it.
We weren’t.
It’s not that our love was all flowers and birds singing
It wasn’t.
Our love was clumsy and awkward and
we didn’t understand it
or each other.
Our love was impatient and selfish and proud but
it was first for us both.
And it was honest in a way it can only be
before you’ve learned how it can hurt.

When I saw him again after three years,
just the two of us
sitting on a picnic table
talking toward our flip flops
I remembered it–
that genuine, one-time
innocence of heart we lost together.

It draws us close,
despite everything,
Binding us together through the years
more than the shoe box of photos and letters,
more than the necklace, the hair clips, or the books
ever could have.