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.

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.

Love Stuff

It’s a quiet, snowy Sunday before Valentine’s Day and I’m diving into some of my older poetry about Carl and I. We’ve been together for seventeen years now and somewhere in there, I came to understand what people mean when they say it takes more than love to make a relationship work. I write a lot of “Marry the One Who . . .” posts, but those are all little things. Don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely little things; they’re important little things that add up to a beautiful day to day life that I do not take for granted.

But they’re still little.

The big things are how you handle it when one of you royally screws up, what you do when you can’t do life fifty/fifty or even sixty/forty because both of you are running on ten percent, when life changes and you change and your needs change. Whoever you are when you choose each other, you’re both going to change again and again and again and it can be so hard to keep up. Love won’t make your relationship last, but it can sometimes hold you together long enough for you to figure out the rest.

So today, I’m combing through roughly seventeen years worth of love poems and sharing a few on my Black Ink Birds Facebook page, in my blackinkbirds Instagram stories and here on the blog. Some of them are awkward and clumsy, some of them painful and sad, and some of them are beautiful and sweet; that’s how it is when you’re looking at love as a whole.

Awkward Girl: Thanks Tobyn!

Hi. For those of you who know me, none of this will be new, but since I’ve been writing more and sharing more, there are quite a few of you who, even if you know me in passing, don’t know certain, key things about me as a person.

I say and do a lot of things that would be really embarrassing if they weren’t so funny. I also struggle with small talk, especially with people I don’t already know, because I don’t watch t.v. or movies, I don’t keep up with current music, and most pop culture references and jokes are completely lost on me. When I have time to read, I’m always reading poetry or novels from the 1700’s-early 1900’s, I don’t follow any sports, and I’m lucky to be married to someone very tech savvy because I am very the opposite of tech savvy. Basically, I was born 150-ish years later than maybe I was supposed to be.

So, you can see why it would be important for me to have great friends in my life who love me, have my back, know my limitations, and aren’t afraid to be honest with me. Friends like my girl, Tobyn, who sent me a message on Instagram last night, complete with screenshots and circles (which I’m grateful for because I needed), demonstrating how to include actual links in my Facebook and Instagram stories:

I HAD NO IDEA!!!!! If you didn’t either, BOOM, there ya go!

So, thanks, Tobyn; I am not the least bit annoyed! I’d 100% still be typing out my Black Ink Birds web address every. single. time. and editing my bio (which also took me two days to figure out) making it harder for people to read my stuff if it weren’t for you! You’re a total keeper and I love you to bits. : )

Letter from the Bottom

This morning I was looking through old drafts; I have nearly 100 starts I’ve never finished and I’ve been going through each one to either publish or delete. I was surprised when I ran into this poem I wrote in 2018.  It was completely finished but never shared and I’d so completely forgotten it that I really felt like I was opening a letter from an old friend, which, in a way, I guess I was.

I may have cried a little. I spent a good, long while at the bottom, but I’m not there anymore, and reading this poem was a lovely reminder of just how far I’ve come. 

Here I sit.

I’ve asked why,

why me, and

why them.

I’ve tried to climb out

only to slide back down even as I claw at sides too steep

for tired fingers.

I’ve been angry to be here

and sad.

I’ve been desperate to leave

and keenly felt the expectation

that it’s past time to get up and dust off and move on.

I’ve scratched tally marks into my soul–

noting each day as it passes,

the way the moon and stars change position

but I can’t.

And then, just yesterday,

laying on my back and looking up

from my lowest point,

I realized why I’m here

and all my efforts to leave have failed.

It’s not even a secret.

But it was still a revelation–

Rock bottom is where you rest.

where you catalogue injuries and sore spots

where you identify and cast off the heavy things

weighing you down.

where you gather energy and resources for the difficult climb ahead–

Rock bottom is not comfortable

because you aren’t meant to stay

but it is quiet,

and empty

but for your self,

the broken dreams that dropped you there,

and everything you need to leave . . .

when you’re ready.