I haven’t been here in awhile, and it’s for good reason(s), the main reason being I haven’t known what to say. There’s an element of realizing I haven’t been entirely honest in my work here, too, and if you can’t be honest in your writing, then can you be honest at all?

Realizing it has mainly come from living life. That’s about all I can really say about that, at least right now.

I had hoped for this blog to be a platform for something bigger than myself, but as events transpire and change unfolds, I am also learning that maybe that’s not possible. Not on this scale. Maybe this is just a piece of that something-bigger, or a refraction of it. I still stand by a lot of what I said here when it comes to what’s happened over the course of the last several weeks (and months).

In light of that, I remain wary of any action that seems like it won’t last, or make a difference in the long-term. Or acknowledge the breadth of our collective humanity. There’s a lot out there right now (i.e. on instagram) that warns about letting this turn into a PR opportunity and I think that’s really great advice to heed. Because any kind of justice-seeking is a piece of something larger, and that something larger is a culture that does not value who you are as a person at all. And the more the language around this moment gets commodified, the less likely it is to reflect any kind of reality, and that cheapens any good intentions.

The way the average person is conditioned to have knee-jerk activist reactions is not unrelated to how the culture at large has trained us to be hyper-responsive to any and all needs. And it’s not sustainable and it’s not okay.

So that’s what I mean by wariness — it comes from how easy it is to perform a certain perspective, especially now. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s possible to break completely free from that performative nature, not in 2020, but the reason I’m not convinced is because I know I have the tendency to get sucked into it too. Being reactive is exhausting, and I know because I can be a pretty reactive person and thus I’m often pretty exhausted.

I’ve also come to see that there’s a huge performative element here, in this space. And so I’ve been trying to deal with it by archiving a great deal of what I’ve shared. I don’t know if it fits anymore.

And I also don’t know that this matters that much, except to me. But this is my blog, so. Posted, said.

It’s not to erase anything I don’t agree with anymore or make myself look better (okay, it’s a little bit curation-y). But moreso it’s an acknowledgement that some truths can’t actually be communicated in words. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just hard to come to terms with it.

And I do think there’s a lot of truth getting overlooked out there, right now, regarding the fact that none of our actual human-ness is really being valued (I’m looking at you, phased school reopenings in Virginia), but maybe we’ll all get clear on it together before the year is over. It’s not like it ever can be hidden for very long.


in the rubble of self-righteousness

on letting go | part 4

in the rubble of self-righteousness

In keeping with the theme of letting go, and of moving forward, there are several thoughts that have come up with me in the wake of several (additional) crises that have played out over the last several weeks. While Marianne Williamson (yes, her) put some of them in much more succinct terms than I possibly ever could in her Washington Post column, I am sure it cannot hurt to reiterate them, and go on about them, either.

We need all the help we can get.

To start, trash. This will come off mildly humblebraggadocious (eat that, Mary Poppins), but the urge to pick up trash, bits of it lingering on the sidewalk and in the gutter, is a strong one with me. What a confession, I know. But I find it baffling and cannot explain why. It’s a reluctant urge, which I suppose translates to a compulsion, of which I have a slew in my arsenal. So, in the end, most likely I want to pick it up simply because it is there.

It’s a reflex, that said, that is much easier to bypass in my current home of Richmond, where a plastic bottle that’s been run over one too many times is moreso a part of the landscape than it is in my hometown of Sterling (aka Potomac Falls).

Sterling/Potomac Falls is a highly developed area of Northern Virginia, which is a region already defined, all told, by development. In Richmond, the pick-it-up programming can be countered by, yes-but-there’s-so-much damn trash, you-can’t-clean-it-all-up, there-are-bigger-problems, now-keep-walking. Pride, shame—I can’t say this decision makes me feel much of either, because there is only so much one can reasonably do in a city of any size, including of a Richmond-size, and I’ve come away from these mini crusades with enough questionable sludge spilled on my hands to know better.

In Northern Virginia, though, it’s curious. There, my visits always involve long walks in spaces and on trails that look overgrown, and far removed from civilization, when in reality they are about fifty feet from a subdivision. Just recently, one of those walks led me to a well-worn path I used to run up and down all the time while growing up here. As I followed it, I noticed the path, usually so perfectly pruned, was pockmarked with freshly drained and crushed Twisted Tea cans, Meyer lemon-yellow and bright against the crushed gray gravel, two of them dropped at a time at points separated by about two hundred feet of distance.

A story. There was a story there. Or at least I wanted there to be. One of, maybe, teenagers on a late-night outing, a stroll of their own; they were out of school, home for the summer, aimlessly wandering and drinking and swapping stories—

but fast-forwarding through this half-story led to the thought of, I wonder if I should pick those up.

Should, I suppose, is the operative word, and the one that stuck. Should. Another compulsion, more externally imposed this time, because picking up trash is what you’re supposed to do, what we all should do, because it makes everything look and feel better and is good for the earth and the birds and, while we’re at it, builds character, I suppose.

And, sure, it’s a meaningful should. Ultimately, I am not as against trash removal as I sound; in this situation, doing so may have served all of these purposes. But the impetus, I realized, was none of the above. It was to make it look as though the litter in question was never there to begin with. To erase this very ugly human artifact. Which is a very nicely packaged metaphor for suburbia and all of its trappings and how it came to be. And, by extension, the kind of aspirational nature of the so-called American dream.


Growing up in Lowes Island, my particular suburb of Sterling/Potomac Falls, said aspirations were, on the whole, within reach. It’s an interesting place to grow up. Like any suburban area, it is not entirely removed from the collateral damage that comes from development. Like any place now, it has a wide economic gap that seems to have grown an inch wider every time I return. Yet in spite of that edging-away, the expectations of ages ago have remained, and if they were heavy ten years ago, I cannot imagine what weight they have gained since. Expectations of surpassing a 4.0 grade point average, of following a subscribed college-to-career path, of filtering into said path by grade 10 or sooner.

You can embrace all of it or you can decidedly question it. From observation, it seems that sometimes going in one direction leads you to an opposite destination. I guess you’d call that failure, or something like that. I have not yet discovered a middle path—one of being grateful for stability and safety and a good education while otherwise saying sayonara to the incomprehensible blanket standards. But after several years of failure to integrate either way, I am searching.

To clarify, I spent most of my adolescence in a state of irritation, never really breaking rules or going against the grain of the culture surrounding me, but never really being a part of it, either. (Not a path I’d recommend, offhand.) I found a niche and stuck myself in it and didn’t voice my myriad concerns. It might have served me well. Instead, I was the girl who lived in a nice neighborhood and whose parents made decent livings but still had the nerve to sporadically interject such high-horse tidbits into class discussions as: “I think wealth just gives people a false sense of security.” (Which I suppose I still believe to a degree but, I hope, with a little more nuance. And/or empathy. Since some of that security is not false.)

(Also, I was quickly shut down by a friend’s response about money meaning you could afford a good security system, which is telling, so that’s where it stopped.)

Yet that left me with the feeling, however untrue, that for some people, this was It. And if it wasn’t my It, there had to be something else. But what?

The question I never really asked—instead of that initial, very usual one—was, what if this was nobody’s It? What then? And if it wasn’t, why not?

And I am wondering if the litter on the gravel path was offering an outright answer, or a suggestion toward one. Or, more specifically, my reaction to those off-color cans held a potential answer. That is: the compulsion to “clean up,” maybe, is often misused, even abused, and that is why this land of admittedly excellent schools and well-kempt roads was not and is not any sort of Utmost. Maybe it was meant for something good, or maybe it was meant to shelter the wealthy from the problems of urban decay. But has all been cleaned and pruned one too many times, sidestepping deeper problems and actual decay too easily, letting the experience of being fallible and human fall to the wayside in the name of so-deemed perfection. Betterment.

Which leads to another question entirely: is there a reason any of us still believes in this strangely distant/nonexistent Utmost?


Today is September 11th, 2019, and ten days ago (already) there was a shooting at a shopping mall in Odessa, Texas. The live coverage was tremulous and terrifying. Even in the wake of Saturday, August 3rd, 2019, which was, if it’s already fallen out of conscious, what some were calling a landmark day in this recent-but-stark history of American mass shootings.

Even to those who’ve become numb to it all, all of this should be at minimum, jarring. It should be a wake-up call. Or it should be a sign—a sign that the turnabout of self-righteousness, that which has become cultural currency, has reached a breaking point.

Another unintended turn: it’s been 18 years since a landmark day of terrorist violence spurred our government toward what else but further violence. And there are layers of self-righteousness in that, too. It still exists: you can still taste it in every word of the exploding-word Facebook-friendly culture that has bred more and more of the same.

Self-righteousness. That’s what it is. But, oh, how bad could that really be? Is that really so integral to these shootings? Because, with self-righteousness, all you really do is think you’re right, even a moral authority. You’re stuck in your ways. How “bad” is that if you’re still “good”? At least you’re not hurting anyone. Stealing. Breaking the law. Crossing the border without documentation.


Until you’re crushing the spirit of someone you care about. You’re taking your anger out on others. You’re judging those you know nothing about.

And then. And then. Someone kills other people with that same fuel. And you look on in outrage, but outrage that is wavering, because deep in your gut, you know that what drove them sometimes drives you, too.

The rubbish scattered on the ground all around them, and around you? That’s been picked up. It’s the shit inside that’s gone unnoticed. Outside, that paved road and that perfect school and, while we’re at it, that Porsche—they’re all still there.

But even with the presence of these trappings, it’s suddenly clear that the cost at which they come is something deep.


In 2004, Lois Lowry published a beautiful, tragic, and eerily prescient novel called Messenger. Connected to her more prominent book The Giver, Messenger features a village that has long been home to people seeking refuge from other villages and towns, those more dangerous and less welcoming. But the village also becomes a place where a strange, malevolent figure appears, and encourages all of its residents to trade away parts of themselves for things they think they want. By parts, I mean traits—of personality, of character. That which makes them human. By things, I mean occasionally, objects; other times, objects of vanity. Youth, wealth. It is all a game to this visiting stranger.

As this village is steadily drained of its kindness and vitality, it becomes a place of angrily construed borders. Yes, those outsiders who were once taken in start to be met with hostility. And the once-open-hearted villagers start to build—if you can believe it—a wall.

So it becomes, you could say, “clean” and contained. Just, in the story, without giving too much away, this so-deemed cleanliness is not without cost. The forest beyond that wall starts turning violent, swamplike, horrid and foreboding. It is as if it has taken on the natures of those who’ve lost themselves. And it is that change, ultimately, that comes with its own cost.

As it always does. It’s a simplistic metaphor, but its truth is sincere and big: we are always a tradeoff away from a new story.


There are so many layers of problem linked to the many massacres that have unfolded since Columbine, and that of gun control is only one of them. By that I mean not to take a stance, because while I have one, it’s not the point here. Rather, my point is to pose questions, because there seem to be several that have not yet been asked (except in the earlier-linked piece, of course).

For instance:

Beyond that of why guns remain accessible, why are they being chosen in the first place? Maybe because they are the fastest, the loudest, the most domineering of weapons. Maybe because, not only do all of those traits translate to effectiveness, they also have come to serve as thoroughly American.

Maybe because fast, loud, and domineering have stayed ingrained as some people’s idea of freedom.

Save for family history, I have so little experience with guns, I scarcely am positioned to say much about them as objects, as tools. However, there is a family history: my great-uncle, for example, knew how to make them, and he kept them on hand for protection in his isolated hillside Roanoke home. He would certainly be, were he still living, firmly in the camp of retaining access to firearms because some people use them for those purposes. And I can see why, when I take his perspective and recall the contexts in which he lived and grew up.

But yet, in so doing, I am reminded that two separate cultural contexts have bled together, or rather, have always been blended while still at odds, and they are as follows. There is the idea of an America where everyone starts with nothing, and everything earned is deserved. And there is the reality of an America where nothing is equal but everything is supposed to be.

Not everyone has reconciled these. It is all too easy to cling to an idea. And if the competing voices are loud enough, you can bet a great many people will remain confused for a very long time, and let their confusion turn into something worse.


With the rhetoric both on and of racism that has poured forth lately, perhaps it is finally okay to say that these mass shootings both are and are not about guns. Even if it is not, I was hoping for a space to say: perhaps this both is and is not about guns.

I know how helpful that comes across. But, bear with me for a moment: for better or for worse, guns and the right to own them are very, culturally anyway, American. And for better or for worse, guns themselves serve as extensions of the self for many people, apparently. They are tools, but they are also outlets for aggression and for action, and they package and concentrate these forces and send them forth to burst out and cause whatever result they may. Sometimes that result is damage and death. They are a manifestation of the Manifest Destiny, and some people love that, and use that manifestation as a means to hunt and for sport and, I suppose, to feel alive.

Others use it to express fear.

And then a few others, as we’ve all seen, channel that fear into action. By which I mean, bloody murder.

All of this, at least when it comes to heritage, is, again, very American. And that leads to the part about why this is not about guns. Because, on a larger scale, it is still moreso about the reasons they are used. That need for force, and domination. At this point I could repeat every song-and-dance about why this group of mostly young white men believes they need force and domination anymore, and why they are seeking to grab it for themselves, but it would make no difference, because you know those rhythms inside and out, and anyway, all of those reasons have only proven to translate to racism and violence and hatred, and everyone knows that now, even if they pretend not to know.

That is the part that needs guns to survive, yes, but is not about guns.

(Do you see the distinction? There is a distinction. And both thoughts need addressed, but distinctively. Separately.)

That part of this problem that needs guns to survive is about ideology that, for a breath, for a fraction of a second, I nearly called “dead” in this sentence, before remembering it was a misnomer. It obviously has never died. Shadows, after all, loom larger when left unexamined. And most of us, myself included, can be too self-righteous to look past the surface-level trash, and the pockmarks, of which gun violence is one.

What is so terrifying about looking deeper, though?

Perhaps it is that getting to truly know thyself is a long, hard, painful process. One to which the temperament of the United States is not so accustomed.

If the supposed American ideal is little more than a superficial veneer, and such problems as this one are equal to rubbish that mars that veneer but alludes to a deeper difficulty… then there is a lot of work to be done.

But we all know this. And we all know that gun control is not the only solution thereby. Of course, to stop the bleeding from the deeper wounds, urgent action in the form of legislation is needed. That tourniquet can keep an awful thing from worsening.

What, then, is the next layer? Is it mental health? If our national discourse on mental health were not so wanting, then perhaps it could be. But there’s a defiance, seemingly, around deepening it, and freeing it of paid opinions and research, and including elements of the social, spiritual, emotional landscapes.

(Some people are actually doing this but they do not seem very accessible by the average person. There is still so much misinformation and mythology out there.)

Is it mental health, or is it something beyond that? I know and hear quite a few people talk about how central the family unit is, how its state of recent instability creates chaos in this manner.

But that comes from somewhere deeper, too. It is not standalone. It, too, is systemic.

Systemic. That’s a word we hear so much lately. What does it mean in this situation/anymore? Because systemic, by definition, means “relating to or affecting an entire body or organism.”

We talk so much about systemic racism, about making amends and reparations for the slavery-ridden past. But there is still so little action. And I wonder if that action is stalled because that long, hard, deeper look has not happened. Because there is still a majority of people saying, “I am not the problem, I’m sorry. I have to step out of this.” Because there are systemic qualities that led to slavery and racism, not unlike, mind, those qualities that are tearing people’s spirits in half.

Like self-righteousness.

But you cannot convince anyone that they are part of a problem until they are willing to do so. The only reason I know this is because, before I knew myself better (cannot claim to know myself as well as I want to), I was willing to absorb the beliefs of the people I thought were, I am ashamed to admit, more powerful by way of their knowledge. I thought for myself, but only to a degree. I already tend toward malleability, anyway, and a loss of self in favor of connection that can be as dangerous as it is freeing. It has taken, and continues to take, a great deal of inner work and outer growth to change that.

But, clearly, I am not alone in all of that. Maybe it is less a personality trait, and more of a survival tactic.

And no matter how much we as a people progress, in the end, survival is all some of us think we really want. Even if we have deeper needs than that.

So I do not pretend to have any answers beyond the idea of a massive collective self-examination. Or an attempt at one done top-level for the culture at large. But until there is any sort of reciprocation or return on doing so, who can say what will lead people there?

Usually—and for me, on a personal level, it was like this—it only happens when the pain of living into what is not right is great enough.

Are we there yet?

let go for dear life

on letting go | part 3

let go for dear life

if there are end times, well, they may
as well have been yesterday,
and the way
you walk out your front door
ought to be more examined, friend,
even if this lady Terra Firma
actually has no end.

the evidence of loss is woven through and sewn into
her superficial cracks; likewise, into
they could be beautiful, if only you dared to look
at their curves,
their softer turns, and
their sharpness.

these are the kinds of thoughts that arrive
whenever someone leaves the world.

yesterday, a voice was lost
to what some would yet call The Void —
but then, what is a Void except
another opening, another space?
a presence chaos dared to try erase?

is it something we can face? i’ll dare.
even, yes, if there is nothing there.

yesterday, a voice was drowned;
today, it echoes. what will follow? more of the
same noise?
a swarm of every other shouting voice?

wish i knew. i stare
out my window at the calmer passers-by, and wish
i, too, cared not to know.
one day your heart is beating; then, it slows —

it’s beautiful and stark.
those prose words on missing a stair in the dark
ring awfully thick-bellied tonight.

yet i burn here on earth
for those who, too, still want a

for all of you who have known grace,
that silvery bird that darts through life
like moonlight does on water;

for you who have known hope,
that wellspring that still bubbles up in drought;

and for you who have sought both,
even when your candle was snuffed out.

i burn and channel words for you,
for i am you, and yours is mine.

the breath we share is life divine.

you have distilled the love you have been shown.
you need not be afraid of anything.
or, if you are — as i have been — i hope you choose
to say, move forward anyway, and sing.

pour water on a dry and thirsty land.
let go of comfort you’ve gripped in your hand.

and know that even when you do —
others may still try to step on you.
somewhere, someone will believe
they are goliath enough to try and crush you underfoot.

they will be blind to the reality —
the fact that

your spirit is immaterial, transcendent —
more —
and you are like the phoenix, but
better, because

you are no myth.
you are no mystery.

they will fail to understand that
you have died one thousand times
by others’ hands — the hands of those
who cared not for the raw nerves of your heart.
they will not see — but how you will! — that
every time
you have revived.

now you are again reborn. in spite of spite, in spite of scorn.
now you grow tall — won’t turn away       from what you have most longed to say.

now you are made braver, and made wise.
now there it is: the wherewithal to rise.



“Perfection,” says the ballet director in Black Swan, “is not just about control. It’s also about letting go.”

What is control? What is it to let go?

Does freedom live in that in-between, too?

Can one only reclaim one’s life in seeking an intersection of those choices?

That is the crux of these words. It was written in the wake of Rachel Held Evans’ death, but how much more weight it has taken on since then. How many layers have unearthed themselves. All thanks to the massive waves of transformation and change going on all around each of us each day.

When we change, and when we look at what stays in the midst of change, who are we then?

It is so easy in the face of daily-reported atrocities to think of yourself as better than that. For grief and outrage to pour out of a sense that you cannot conceive of behaving in that way, of treating people so horribly. And perhaps you cannot, and would not, and that’s honest and real and part of who you are.

But none of us is good. At least not in the way that has been beaten into many of us by a Puritanically informed culture.

Goodness. Does it get in the way of real beauty? Of freedom, of a perfection that results from the presence of imperfection?

Maybe perfection and freedom are the same. Maybe perfection must contain imperfections, contrary to its very definition. The way every Persian-style rug has, by design, at least one intentional flaw. The way, as Leonard Cohen put it,

“There is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in.”

You wake up in the morning and you see the way things have shattered, and you grieve, and you rage, because you never would have let this happen if you had any say in it. But you have never been in charge. Have you ever let this happen in your own life, though, in any capacity? Possibly. Probably.

No, none of us is good. And yet in that, all of us are whole. Those things that break us, or that darken our doorways, make us so.

Never would I justify the horrors that have been exposed of late. But I would say, until one willingly looks at their own darkness, one cannot do much of anything about horrors of any kind.

That, I suppose, is what it is to die one thousand times. And one thousand times again. Maybe that is what could, someday, allow those who are only too aware of their flaws and darkness to summon the bravery to battle our modern beasts.


This piece was also published on The Urban Howl as of 8/6/2019.

uprooted from a sometime somewhere

on letting go | part 2

uprooted from a sometime somewhere


i miss a tender wilderness that
i’ve not ever (truly) known
it is a place so far away that
i’m not lonesome
though i am alone — because —

the columns of the
the colors of the sky
blanket all my being as much
as a lullaby.
and when i cry it is
more like a wellspring, like relief than

it is a drain, or pain — because
there is more underneath —

because it is reflection. it is
everything i’ve known. it’s

valleys peaks and
tender breezes
don’t you see it, how your spirit spies
the prize, which is
the way you recognize it — and the
way it knows you, too.

the presence of a buried wisdom:
living, breathing, even when you
know not what to do.

yet how am i to commence with this?
i long for that old abstract wilderness.


There are words for this feeling. I haven’t found any of them in the English language (such a wonderful language and yet so limited). Except yearning, but even that is so general, so vaguely-formed, in comparison to

sehnsucht, or

saudade, or


For some, the feeling does apply to a certain somewhere or someone that is far-away. To others, it is a sense more ephemeral. Right now, when I think about it, I’m decidedly in the in-between: there are moments wherein I feel close to having captured this elusive it, almost, mostly right at twilight, when the sun is hitting that perfunctory point above the trees as it sets, maybe glinting off of nearby water. Everything has clarity then, both within and without. I yearn for a place that I do and do not know, and is almost right there.

In those moments, the feeling itself does live within and without. Even though what I yearn for is also almost-present, all around and centered inside.

I fear I am making this sound complicated, when it is far from complicated. Is it not a feeling of everything’s existence and occurrence at one time — of nothing being absent — of alignment?

It doesn’t last. It doesn’t have to. You keep seeking anyway, right?


That kind of seeking can go awry, I know. It can lead you down roads you never intended, detours that sort of pit you against who you really are or what you really want. I think of Into the Wild, for the most obvious of examples, of that heartbreaking coda of a scrawled half-sentence: “Happiness only real when shared.” I have been reading Women Who Run With the Wolves, which also speaks to the tragedy of losing touch with one’s wild edge: how it can do you one worse; how doing so can slingshot you back into too much of everything, of intensity and chaos.

So I suppose I wonder if it’s possible to let go of the search. To let people, places, things — truest selves, too — enter and ebb as they please.



on letting go | part 1



saw a girl get baptized in the
roiling river this morning,

grey morning, still sticky but
cool from the stormclouds chased away

and i remembered,
some people still pray.

they do because they must.
because, sometimes, it’s nigh-impossible
to see a path until you pause
and let your eyes adjust

to courses far unlike any
expected or perceived.

it is less overrun with weeds and
fibrous roots than
you believed

if you listen to the briny wind
between the leaves —
if you dare to breathe that rush of air
no matter how much grey you see —

you just might remember
everything around you,
every tree,

wants you to be cleansed now, too —
wants you to be
only you —
wants you to be





I like the river better when it rains. It has much more to say.


a very American anxiety

on letting go | an introduction called

a very American anxiety

Turbulence is the tone and timbre of late, here in America but also globally, and no reprieve has been promised. No end seems to be in sight. No captain is coming over the loudspeaker to let us know that this is just a brief foray, please fasten your seatbelts and hold tight, this will all be over momentarily.

I’ve heard it said before (and/or seen it on quotable cards) that peace has more to do with being in a place of chaos and staying with yourself than with finding a lack of chaos somewhere else.

Challenge accepted, I guess.

To go with the rising tide of chaos, anxiety is reportedly more and more common lately. At least on a clinical (?!) level (whatever that means). Anecdotally and statistically, though, this seems obvious. Here and here are a few interesting treatises on the matter, as a sidenote. (Skewing more cultural, for what it’s worth.)

As a lifelong anxious being (is that a curse I just put on myself? never mind), I am not all that shocked. I’m more impatiently here for it. Finally, I am not alone at this party.

I don’t mean to come off as cute in saying that. But when Sarah Wilson shared the nugget of wisdom that “if you’re not anxious, you’re not paying attention,” I felt that heavily. Sometimes that sense of disorder is a cue that something is wrong. Whether it’s a past or present something.

So if you are sort of already wired to pay attention—and if there are more people thusly wired these days—since there are more people overall—

Yeah. It’s something of a perfect storm. A gut-churning, eyelid-twitching, muscle-gripping, 4 AM-waking storm.



I really wanted this to start off on the level of a big, gushing waterfall of a reason for all of us to be anxious. Or for anxiety to threaten. But there are and have been so many such reasons over the last few weeks. So let’s start with two.

We’ve got the whole slew of recent women’s health related lawmaking events—that-which-shall-not-be-named. I say this mostly because I don’t even know what to call such a fiasco. Our Collective Almost-Handmaid’s Tale? Is that too melodramatic for this space?

We’ve also suffered the loss of a writer wildly influential to so many, myself included. Rachel Held Evans passed away at the end of April and left a void that is unbelievably vast.

I want to talk about both of these things because that’s what you do. It’s how you survive.

But also because there is no turning around from this.

There is no turning around because the coinciding of both events puts in stark relief the fact that there’s a lot of nonsense in what we are doing anymore. The old-world sort of stance of trying to legislate something very private, intimate and personal—an action which, mind, contradicts the original philosophy behind said stance—is getting very old and tiresome and sad. Humans have physical and emotional needs foremost, and how did we all forget this very basic thing so quickly?!

(Not to sound too surprised. Clearly most of our institutions and ideas were started with a foundation of ignoring said needs for most groups of people.)

And I understand the opposite perspective. Really, with all my heart, I do. It used to be mine. But there is no getting to a deeper place morally without reconciling with this piece first.

Furthermore, a very eloquent and measured writer who was part of the community that arguably planted the seeds of this conflict—which I’ll just go ahead and say because I used to be/am sort of part of it, too—is gone. She cannot chime in with wisdom and guidance regarding this mess.

This turbulence is for the remainder of the flight. This plane is not turning around.



None of this is meant in a battle-cry sort of way, but then, maybe it is. Because all of this, frankly, hurts, and on several levels. Personally, I am so sick of false lines being drawn that pit people against one another, and for people controlled by their fear and their pasts getting to make the rules, letting people stay stuck in cycles from which they may never emerge. It’s ridiculous: don’t we all want the same things, deep down? To be safe, known, loved?

Someone like Rachel Held Evans was in a powerful place: she knew how to cross those lines. We have so few people in that place: people willing to be unafraid, and who are unshaken by the fact that things are not as they should be.

That willingness is the only coping mechanism that counts, in the end.

Because there are so many coping tools we lovely anxious humans cling to, and if you’re only getting anxious now, these may be quite new to you. We get irritable, combative. Or addicted—to people, to substances. Or we freeze up, check out, dissociate. I suspect that last one has become incredibly garden-variety. Complacency—it’s a straightforward choice. Scrolling can be the sweetest thing.

Of course, when life keeps being scary and unpredictable, some of us get less complacent. That righteous anger bubbles up. Words are volleyed. Action is taken. Whew, that was a doozy. Now that’s over.

No. It’s not. This just keeps happening.

And so with these last several doozies, well, what do we do?

What, I’d ask instead, do we not do?

If life itself has truly become this ill-suited to everyone then a holistic overhaul is clearly due. Environmental reform. Maybe the kind that starts from within and works its way out on several levels.

I have no idea how to make that happen. That’s the goddamn million-dollar question, isn’t it? But this cycle is the unfortunate equivalent of trying many different kinds of band-aids (like an abortion ban! like a march in DC!) when the bleeding is internal.

And maybe it’s also to say, I’m aggrieved and exhausted of this national dysregulation—this existential crisis—and if you’re reading this, perhaps you are, too. Maybe all of these attempts at ideology are just twisting us more thoroughly into something not-us. And maybe we all need to take a breather from the way things should have been and used to be.

Maybe that’s the only road toward something better. Toward being all of who and what we can possibly be.


Residual | Part 6

residual | part 6

roots like veins


Roots like veins:
How gently they reach first;
Then, not at all.
Suddenly they’re shoots that call
Unto the soil, the earth’s
Very core.

So doggedly
Will not dissolve
Until you know what
They have done so for.

I know this rhythm
All too well:
Overplayed song
I’ve listened to too long.

My garden was
A mess, my friend.
I woke up in July,
Realized all the green had died off;
Every vine, gone dry,

All those roots, so much like veins,
Were fallow.
I knelt and wept, because
Not one had a tomorrow, and
I had nothing else left.
Was hollow; so bereft.

But when the sun
Had crested, and
The sweat smothered my skin,
Ruthless, I ransacked it all—
Reckless, I could begin

To unravel and to reckon and to unroot
Every tree,
Those parchment-thin remnants of
All that could never be.

Every page has filled up and
I repeat the words now.
Because I have met my shadow, because
I know now
That I was once the grasshopper, sleeping
Beneath the song
Of what seemed to be rifer days.
But that exoskeleton’s gone.
Now it is the crusted-over chaff left
For the birds.
And I’m starting over with these seeds;
All I have are my words.


More gardens. More roots. More of that old life cycle—sprouting growth, fading death, rebirth. Maybe it is the most obvious of metaphors but it works for me.

It’s one that my porch reflects well. Every spring since moving here I have planted literal seeds there in pickle buckets and aluminum bins: cauliflower, carrots, calendula, cherry tomatoes. Every year, they’ve started to get their roots beneath them before the heat and humidity or lack of space or shuddering shadows get to them.

When it comes to the more figurative seeds, it seems to be the same situation. Highly temporal, slow to get going, fading fast.

Perhaps it’s a lack of the right timing. Perhaps it’s not the proper environment or soil. Perhaps they need fertilizer, or compost, or some kind of herbal medicine.

Or perhaps I don’t really know what I’m doing.

But what I am finally starting to integrate is this: the act and the art of trying, those are the important parts. Process over product. That is wherein lies the beauty.

A simple lesson, to be sure, but maybe one to learn anew each morning.


Residual | Part 5

residual | part 5

What if I were smiling, and running into your arms?
Would you see then what I see now?

We wait for so much beneath the embrace of fluorescent lights—
Lingering is a natural state of things.
It pushes us towards entropy, that slow-consuming enemy;
It eats at order we desire, and renders patience faint.

How can we take in truth with slumbering eyes,
As if we’re in the cool of a coma?
Dreams try to tell us we still do, but
There’s still the clinging feeling, is there not, that someone’s forgotten you?

How can we go on waiting?
We have rooms for such things.
If there were a cavernous one for us all, well,
Those walls would be heavy with song, with sadness.
For waiting to give life, or to receive it;
To leave, or to return home;
To change, or to see change;
To find someone, or to lose him.

If this story has a moral, perhaps it’s this:
Our names are not our lives,
Nor are they graven with any chisel, safe as that would seem.

Yet why should not the opposite be comfort?
Why not tend another’s garden just to see the bloom?
Why sleep curled, fetal, on the floor in yet another empty room?

While our veins are yet undrained of second chances,
Let us be not timid—bravery comes in quiet ways.

Waiting is not wrong—perhaps purgatory is
Like paradise—

And it ends, eventually, and all things are made new.


I have little to say about this one. But I do believe that, eventually, all things are made new, no matter how blighted or seemingly depleted. Sometimes it simply requires waiting—patience—to get that full abundant result. That new breath of life. That grace-filled renewal that is real.


title drawn from Into the Wild (film version)

Residual | Part 4

residual | part 4

‘To ache is Human – not polite –’


once there was a morning when
the sun dripped out of bed
infusing the air with the violet
drops of a blood orange, just
as citrus just as sweet, and
it was harsh and threatening. it made
the day action, abstraction
to concrete form, now. now. now.

what could i have done?
every brain was churning yet
in dream juices and acid trips.
what could i have done then?
i pushed open the doors
windows locks latches

and ah the reprieve! to drink
the atmosphere – clean and strong
as black coffee, and
what then?

an inhale – fear despair sadness cynicism
helpless hopelessness pain the dark
the shallow

yellowgreen bruises burnt edges
weeds dark deeds

cheeks drop numb, and
heat prickles behind my eyes,
and words escape:

my heart bleeds like a river                my heart bleeds like a river
my heart bleeds like a river from my soul
I’ve got peace like a river                   I’ve got peace like a river
so roll              Jordan             roll.

and the sky rippled with the stark dance
and the skyflash was brusque
with this exhale of it all.
its path was watercolored on the map of the sky
in red
bright red
blood apple cherry rose copper blood
then darker, darker: scarlet maroon crimson
color, color gushing from my lungs in an arc

a fountain

a river.


While I’d like to fancy myself someone who can be Strong Independent Woman (™) enough to not let certain things get to me, if I am being completely honest, a number of others’ comments both to and about me have stung enough that they stuck. Which is unfortunate, because many times they were not meant maliciously. And even more unfortunately,
(a) of course my reactions only reflected my own insecurity as well as
(b) a sort of existential belief that how others saw me was, in turn, how I was.

Anyway, this conversation in particular was great fun:

Other Person: “I love how you never get too excited or upset about anything.”
Me: “What? No, I’m not – stoic…
Other Person Again: “Yeah, stoic! That’s the word.”

Oh lord. Not that it’s a bad word: the Stoics were wise folk, being placid is crucial at times, who doesn’t need composure, etc. Just, for me, the word is not really that (typically anyway) true. In fact, I get excited about really microscopic and/or silly things. That SNL sketch about how much Ryan Gosling hates Papyrus? Totally me. Once I wrote a series of essay-length rants about the more egregious parts of commissioning and publishing poorly-written SEO content. (If it were well-written, no problem, but…) After seeing mother!, and the movie ended and the whole theatre started complaining, to my regret, I replied to those complaints rather loudly: “Haven’t you people ever heard of an allegory??”

It goes on. I won’t. Better to quit while I’m, what, behind, and being revealed to be a very obvious snob.

But. But. All that aside, stoic is a modus I once used in contexts where being otherwise was, shall we say, frowned upon. Not a great idea.

Getting to a place of being not-stoic most of the time means something like this: being okay with dealing pretty words like blades that never deemed they hurt.

(It’s from the poem this poem’s title is drawn from – please read it! Emily Dickinson deserves all of the appreciation.)

All this is to say, I suppose, that sometimes, to actually get free from whatever bullshit is dragging you down, you have to relinquish everything you’ve been holding completely. A bit like an elimination diet: flush out all that’s not right for you so you can know for sure what is.

And maybe it’s an exorcism to and for no one in particular, except for you. Because it could be there’s nobody to blame anymore. And/or, maybe there never was. Still, it is release of some kind that each of us needs. Because, as the Great One said (and I’ll say it over and over): to ache is Human – not Polite –’.


Residual | Part 3

residual | part 3

And how does one truly Stay True

and how does one truly Stay True?
as if it were something to simply Go Do—
or, were it not, perhaps it could relate
to that letting the presence of
Innermost You

perhaps it is simple as
listening to
the whisper or trill of the pulse that is
something that’s
someone; that’s
all of that which rises
like vapor, like steam,
approaches like a steady friend, saying

And If You Believe You Can
Then You Will Begin Again.

and again and again until
there’s some new bloom,
that you swear to keep alive within
that solemn room
that is your heart.

and never again let it depart.

you have an explosion in you, too.
i hope you know.
there are colors that flow,
and enervate,
and energize,
and procreate;
do realize
how palindromes and postulates and poetry
and, at times, pain,
all frolic and gambol and twirl and surge
from those quietest crevices in your
Beautiful Brain.

don’t be afraid—
because its light
circles          around        again.

the outside world is stillbeckoning
still hungry for you to Be There
even in the face of this reckoning
even when you are unaware.

take that pain from in your veins and
let it go from you.
take the story from your core and
let it free you all the more,
to speak its piece
and let it flow
and be your peace
until you know
that this is that realest fullest breath of
real              release.



Who are you really?
Tend to her. Take him out to where he longs to be.
Or, be still and simply be with that truest you.

Isn’t that what the world needs?
Isn’t that what you need?