HELICOPTERS AND PEPPERCORNS

As the vibrato chop of the helicopter rushes over our night-drenched house, I remember. I remember the dusty trails and the peppercorn boughs. Little dangling trinkets in the sun. I remember how the oil drills filled the space between the horizon and me, and how I turned away. My son dropped his wide little knees to the dirt and put rocks in his mouth. I pull them out but don’t care too much. “This way,” I tell him, “this way.”

It’s hot and dry, and I am so very thirsty. I remember what it felt like to give priority to this flowing. This trickle which when I let it turns into a gushing river. I remembered today, as I walked that eucalypt mountain, the wilder girl in me who doesn’t bother with the time of night, the provenance of the menu, the state of the floors. Now with my son, my precious darling son in my life, I am encouraged yet again to break free of my self.

It’s a sacred thing, this receiving, this offering. I’m seeing how very vital this creating is. I had forgotten that with this giving, we find each other. We become closer to the heart of ourselves and our humanity. It’s all I seem to write about these days, but that’s okay. From the moment my eyes open in the morning, I am in a constant state of doing. Wash this, boil that, rinse that, cook that, strip this, clothe, wipe, nurse, respond to this, wash that, cook that, clean that, and so on and so on it goes and goes and goes.

You can’t imagine (mothers you may) how refreshing it is to just sit here at 12:19am after all has been said and done, and just write. Let it all drop off the edges of my fingertips. My eyes are so tired and my back aches from carrying my son up a mountain today, but I don’t care. This is my church. I am listening. I am here.

It’s been a long time coming, this trickling back. I know some part of me shut down when I experienced a miscarriage seven weeks into my first pregnancy. In that frenzy with all the ambulances and tears and ginger movements, I lost my courage to give. But something is changing in me. I am gathering the magic again. Slowly I am walking the trails, looking back through the shadows, the forests of trees, and I am seeing myself in it all again. I am participating in this sacred river again. There is more to life than meets the eye, I know it. I feel it. I remember it.

They breathe deeply next to me and I feel so content. I don’t need much. Just a few minutes to swim in this sun river, this beloved dance. Can you remember what it was like, my soul? What it was like to be so incredibly YOU? Let’s go back there again. I will take you. Hold my hand. Don’t let go! Until next time – my eyes are open and my pen is poised. Bring it on, magic, oh yes bring it on.

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THIS FAMED RIVER

It’s 12:37pm on a Thursday afternoon and I am a hot pulpy mess of relief and recognition reading Mama, Bare which arrived in the mail this morning. My husband opened the package and I handed him a cup of tea before holding it in my hands. Just the image on the cover sent a strange warmth over me. I had to sit down to let it rinse my heart further.

And then I couldn’t get up. Reading these stories of motherhood – of mothers bare, of women who have gone through what I’ve gone through, who are going through it now with me, who understand and articulate the wild land that one enters upon becoming a mother – my heart is carved open and strange animals are falling out.

As I push deeper into my twenty ninth year on this planet, as Saturn swells overhead and the days open and close, I am seeing more of myself: my San Andreas fault; the piles of gold within me, guarded by some jealous dragon. I am seeing who I was before, who I am now, and who I might become. The path is filled with danger and delight in equal measure. Every moment requires total focus.

Motherhood is like a famed river I had put on my itinerary. I’d heard of its curves and falls, its glory and magnificent views. Like planning a trek, I had much to prepare for. I read all the trail books – mostly just plotting geography in X’s and Y’s, a few lists of how-to’s and what-to-bring’s, and geared my mind for the adventure ahead. I was excited, giddy really. Naively so. My mother in law said to me, “Everything else is like kindergarten compared to this.”

I yearned to fling myself across that cliff. I knew I wouldn’t do it in any other area of my life. Motherhood was the one thing that would keep me committed to something much, much bigger than me. As soon as that fusion of nuclei hit my womb, I knew my old life would be over. Something in me wanted that. I think I knew what was in store, the dramatic shifts, profound changes, sudden drops, euphoric highs. This was something I couldn’t turn away from.

Julius and I, a few days postpartum

As I read Mama, Bare, I am reminded of the crippling loss (and so the incredible gift) that giving birth is. We prepare so much to meet our children, but little is spoken of the years following. I stumbled across a quote before my pregnancy which haunted me in the best way. The midwife had said that the first year of motherhood is more difficult than the birth itself. It is ‘the year of travail’, when a mother must give birth to the woman inside of her, the woman she is becoming.

It’s been a gnarly birth, that one.

Sometimes I think other mothers make it look so easy. How can it be that everything is so tidy? That their daily lives are so full of positivity and connection to the cosmic OJ? How is it that they don’t close the bedroom door and cry into their pillow or attempt a million adjustments to make that feeling go away? Maybe if I quit coffee, drank more coffee, quit sugar, treat myself, took a course, moved house, plant a garden. Maybe if I had a dog, or my own car, or different shoes, or more flowers, or a cocktail, or a new mop, maybe then I’d be happy.

Maybe if I write that book, or paint that picture, or keep everything neat and tidy and perfect, then I’ll be happy. No, mama. I’ve been going around in this circle for a long time, and I’m finally waking up to what I am running from. Myself. Dragon, I see you, and I’m standing here on this cliff looking into your eyes, feeling your heat, sensing your claws, and I’m telling you, YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE. Like Galadriel in Battle of the Five Armies, I’m telling you, go back to the void from whence you came!!! Yeah, this is me speaking, and I’m not willing to accept you ruling my life any more.

by Robert Hunt

I know now that this lull in energy has been my strength building, so that I can face you, mighty guardian and dispel you from my kingdom. The gold here is mine to claim, and I know you don’t want to share it Dragon (EGO.) But I do. The blinding light within me must be released. My own light is scorching me, and your claws have scratched at my heart long enough.

Oh yes, of course I have loved you. It has been a sordid and secret love affair, really. We had our fun, and you have served your purpose – protected my greatest gifts and kept our treasure well hidden. But where do we go from here? It’s really time you moved on.

Who am I without you? I don’t quite know yet. My son has been fending you off for months. Maybe we can live this road together somehow. Just like the little girl within me who I cradle in my arms, the one who was terrified of being left in the dark. Maybe you can live in here too with the girl who starved and denied herself, who slowly learned to love her body and whose shoulders I sling my arms around every day. Perhaps you, shadow, you can live in here too.

Maybe you’re not as scary as I thought you were. Maybe your anger is a wound. Maybe you need me to tend to your wound, to place my hands on your beating heart, and hold you close to my own. Oh great cliff, great river, great Love. You have changed me forever. This journey is no simple walk. I’ve never known my strength to be so great. I’ve become so familiar with your velvet cloak. All the better to see you with, my soul, all the better to see you with.

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WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE

This one caught in my throat and makes my heart thump. God I love it.

Women of a certain age are waking up
in the middle of things – birth & death feel
blessedly far away – the raw edge of real
departure & arrival a distant memory –
days fleeting in restful harmony like leaves
seen through a window, drifting with all
the others until they are reimagined
again by light, time & rain. Women
of a certain age are waking to the sound
of their breathing which through the long dark
hours has frightened them. In their worry
to light up a few inches of the universe,
a fraction of the infinite, however minute,
they are waking before dawn to witness
a victory of light, the capture of every single
trench of shadow. The dawn will be theirs
to hold a little while – its lightness –
they will forget some of what they have
experienced & remember what they were
born with, including that which is too early
to remember. Women of a certain age – loving
this lightness – are rolling onto their sides,
rising out of their beds & out of their bodies,
imagining themselves free of the earth
& its drive to replace them, they are speeding
like comets over the edge of the universe,
falling & flying out of the familiar,
plummeting into the unknown to arrive
at a new hospitable household, having slipped
away without goodbyes only smoke as they burn –
bluer and bluer – on the last drop of fuel
found only in the bodies of women of a certain age.

– Bronwyn Lea

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THE WHOLE NET TIGHTENS

I know what I need to do, what I have been missing. Why I have been so sad. I haven’t been breathing. I haven’t been present. I’m rushing through the chores of the day trying to get somewhere, attain something. But when I’m on my knees scrubbing the floor in the kitchen I ask myself, for what do you want to be remembered by? And then my throat catches and my heart catches and the whole net tightens. I have forgotten my gift. I didn’t think I was allowed it.  Let me go there.

Forget all the to-dos, all the posturing and pretending and trying to make it work. Let yourself feel it. I want to be (myself) an author, a writer, to be known as such and appreciated as such. I’m so many things, and yet nothing but this. I was born with this gift, born with this ability to see what I love and put it into words, capture it, a box full of memories, books full of time, frozen. Page upon page of this excruciatingly beautiful, desperate, heart-breaking dream called life.

I’m finding my way back, through the hustle and bustle of other people’s dreams, the glittering distractions and the mud caked ones too. I’m slowing down. I know when I’m flat and bored and clutching at straws, that I need to go back. I need to return to my love, this love. Oh I have created so many distractions from it. Gatherings and cookings and parentings and meetings and cleanings and studyings. All I need to do is sit here and type.

My heart. I am here. (And then I read all your comments on my previous post and I’m sobbing hot tears of gratitude and relief. How did I ever leave this, this work, this play?)

Because I let other people’s expectations roll over me. I let my yearning for partnership take me over. I focused my lens on manifesting all that I had dreamt of, and I’ve arrived. I have made it. I am here. Now what? Oh yes, that thing you love to do but never make time for? That thing that has fallen to the bottom of the laundry basket? Oh, that thing, that beloved thing. Each day passes and I wonder what I could have done better. I’m filling the bath again and thinking, wasn’t I just here a moment ago, filling the bath at the end of a day? What did I do today that fed my soul? Why am I so hungry?

Time is passing, and I’m kidding myself that there are other things I’d rather be doing. For year’s I’ve pushed this gift aside and focused on developing some other skills. As if I didn’t want this gift, as if it wasn’t mine.

It is time. Time to reclaim this worn tome, this thumb-rubbed blanket that I used to sleep with, dream with, cuddle up and love with. This gift of mine. I’m opening the box where I stored you and it’s as if I see you with new eyes. How did I ever live without you? How much I have to tell you. Let us begin again. My heart, my soul, my only. I’m home. Now what? Words, more words! I will dance with you, and love you back to life.

Posted in LIVING ARTIST | 3 Comments

TWENTY

It’s early on a Friday evening and I just put the baby down. In the past my night might have been just beginning. I came across a friend’s tumblr page in the dark of the bedroom (aptly named Time Bomb Baby) and was catapulted into memories of the past. This year marks my twenty ninth rotation around the sun, and I am suddenly nostalgic. A decade of wild memories, sweet memories, hard memories, green and rough and candlelit memories. Suddenly this last decade – it ends in six months, has a soundtrack and a photo album and feelings and salty tears and the memory of freedom.

“At fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the moon.” – Fitzgerald 

What do I do with these whispers, these achingly beautiful memories? They open up like reverse origami in my consciousness and I wonder where on earth they get tucked away all these days. I particularly remember a time when I found myself torn between two gentlemen, one older, grounded, steady and calm, the other effervescent, ebullient, romantic, a bit crazy (the best kind of crazy) steeped in French culture, literature, cinema. I remember the milkshakes and the cake on the balcony and the bare feet and the hearts breaking in Cape May and the denim shorts and furious writing, writing, writing.

I remember the arriving in Australia and arriving in New York and leaving Los Angeles. I remember the arguments and the hidden truths and the hats. Oh, the hats. And the rolled cigarettes. The way we could stop everything and just sit outside, our muse the moon, and smoke. The space I had in my mind then to think about scenes we had just written, and stories we were moulding. I am recognizing now a part of myself I had shelved as I entered this process of becoming mama. I am recognizing a true part of my self. I saw it wave at me when I drove past Sony Studios near our new home two days ago. I saw it on the side of a passenger van waiting there printed with the characters of a film I enjoyed, reminding me of my storytelling love. Me.

“There is no reality in the absence of observation.” – The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

It is me I’m remembering, me I am missing. I see reflections of myself in the most intriguing places. It is comforting to find oneself again. I don’t want to stop writing. I don’t want to stop putting down these thoughts and feelings and memories and the mysteries I adore. I thought I might drop this ‘pastime’ for a while, see what happened. And I’m realizing that this is my breath. This is breathing for me. An optometrist asked me recently if I had a family history of glaucoma. Apparently my optic nerve is deeper than normal. If it gets any deeper, I may one day go blind. That woke me up. I realize that if I did ever go blind, I would want to have someone read to me my life’s work, these words that try to get at something I have lived.

So, this is where I am. Behind the memories of the last few years are the memories of the years before them and the years before them, as if it were a bookshelf of old tomes I’d forgotten to look at. Dusty. But full. You open a wormhole and the floodgates unfold. Stay with me words.  I don’t know who reads this blog; I lost my Google Analytics account years ago, and part of me doesn’t want to know. Some things I don’t want to do for the sake of branding or business or social media. I just want to write. I just want to feel what it feels like when I let it pour out like this. In the leafy night, in the nebula of nostalgia, unfurling through my fingers from these hallways, these milk white moonlit roads, they lead me back to myself. And I am happy for it. These words are me. This is my breath. This is life. This is me.

“No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had.” – Gabriel Garcia Márquez

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BLUE SPANGLED SKY

How do I begin? It feels like a long time since I’ve sat still here battering away at the keyboard to put down some words. It has been a long time. I have almost forgotten who I am. (This could be a blessing.) Today Isaac and I dropped Julius off at his uncle and aunt’s house before driving to Venice beach. Coins in the meter, tired legs through the sand. We walked to the ocean and walked walked walked along the tide. We have not stopped. I said, do you want to stop here with me. As we lay on the coast and looked at the blue spangled sky I remembered what it’s all about.

A helicopter shot across the sea towards Topanga and we marveled, how quickly the metal flies, how many dreams the humans have. How clunky compared to the flight of a bird or design of a dolphin, flower, heart. We have strived so much to understand this matter of matter, to know ourselves and each other in relation to form, to the limitations and structures we find ourselves in and outside of. I choked on my tears as I realized how deeply I have missed the simplicity of sitting in wonder as the world goes by. Reflecting, ruminating, allowing it in.

It’s so easy to forget the magic when one keeps doing doing doing. I promise to change this now. The mundane can be glorious.  I know I’ve had the blinkers on, trying to get somewhere, when really there will always be lists upon lists upon errands upon chores to do, and the doors to the netherworlds will stay closed until I open them. In the world of form I forget those doors. I do not want to. Fling open the flimsy gates! Enter them!

As the days come to a close, I put away my sons scattered toys and reflect on the day – was this a day that I enjoyed? Am I grateful for my experiences in their entirety? What would I change? How would I do things differently? What did not work? How could I improve? I enjoy this reflection, this pause, this door of perception. Dancing in the worlds between worlds we are, and then we put the coins in the meter and push the buttons and bang the keyboard and it starts all over again. Dance dance dance.

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WHY DO WE WRITE?

Why do we write? Reposting this because I need to remember, again and again. 

Orhan Pamuk: “I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can’t do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. [...] I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can partake in real life only by changing it.’

“I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten.’

“I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it.’

“I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life’s beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but – just as in a dream – I can’t quite get there. I write to be happy.”

- Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2006 (excerpt from The Australian Financial Review Friday Dec 16 2006)

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COME TOGETHER

Isaac and I have been slowly building a community. Thirteen events later we are more inspired than ever.

Come join us!

More here: SALON // NYC // LA

Next gathering = INNOVATE

 

 

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TRAVELING MOTHERHOOD

I’ve been thinking about this post for many months. It came to mind when a flight attendant asked me on the tarmac, “Oh is this baby’s first flight?” I smiled at her. “Uhm, it’s his ninth.” Julius has just turned six months old and is going to take another three flights before December. This is a lot of traveling for a (robust and healthy) baby. What I’ve noticed is that he thrives, even adores this constant movement. Perhaps he was destined to. Perhaps he doesn’t know any better. What I do know is what has worked for us, for him, and for me.

What I’d like to share with you are our little travel routines – not only for families who travel, or are thinking about traveling, but also for the maybe-one-day-mothers who hesitate to start families because they’ve been led to believe that we can’t have it all. That their life would stop at some indistinct point in the future. That they would ‘finally’ ‘settle down’ with a cookie cutter husband in a cookie cutter house on a cookie cutter street. That they would finally achieve the American (Australian/ Western) Dream, and that everything will be perfect and complete.

I’m here to show you that you don’t have to walk that way.

For reasons known and unknown, the house plus car plus domesticated female paradigm has taken root as the dominant stereotype of achievement as a woman and mother. Forget it. The code has been broken. The data has been shredded, scattered to the wind. You don’t have to follow the American Dream. You don’t have to follow, full stop. You can go out to dinner with your baby (!) You can have a life after 5:30pm (!) Your baby can sleep in the restaurant booth (!) On the seats next to you (!) On you. You can travel around the world to different countries without a ton of baggage (I left my house a pack mule, I will return much wiser!) You can be healthy and happy and grounded even after months away from home.

My generation of mothers, lovers, peace-makers, global travelers – we are reshaping the world. I feel it. I know it. What do you want to do with your life? Anything you want. These are the days we are living. Don’t stop just because you have a baby!

Here’s how we have managed the details of our universe whilst traveling abroad:

* Pack light. Pack smart. Think ahead.

* Bring food for you on the plane! Reserve a meal ahead of time!

* Put your feet on the earth as soon as you can upon arrival.

* Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and bring a backpack for the airport.

* Bring lots of toys, books and other distractions on the plane with you!

* Try to arrange family or friends to have a stroller, car seat, travel crib at your location so you don’t need to bring them..

* Use a baby carrier, like the Ergo! Put all your passports and oft-used items in the front pocket.

* Take lots of vitamin C before you leave and when you land – and wipe down all surfaces that baby will touch on the plane with anti-bacterial wipes.

* Don’t wear pants with a zip especially if traveling alone… hello one handed bathroom trips!

* Keep baby hungry until take-off, but if they lose it, just give them the boob/ bottle and let them get comfortable. The sucking helps with ear pressure, and settles them after the craziness of general airport madness.

* Use a light scarf to cover baby’s head while they are nursing and sleeping – sometimes bright lights can wake them, and if you want to sleep while baby is still on your breast, it’s nice to have some privacy.

* If they don’t sleep in the bassinet, let them sleep on you, or on an empty chair or two beside you, if you’re still awake and can watch them.

* Just go with the flow! Switch games, toys, flip through the magazine, go talk to the hostesses. Even run their hands under the water in the bathroom – anything to make it through those hours!

* When you get to your destination keep as much familiarity as you can – sleep sounds, toys, books, blankets, routines, etc.

* Lay on the grass, go to the beach, be in nature if possible! It’s very grounding for both of you after all that travel.

Enjoy!! Until the next flight. In which case, rewind and replay.

I hope this was helpful. (Longer and very detailed, possibly mind-numbing version here)

 

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GROWING PAINS

Even though I have felt stretched many times this past week, being with Julius by myself, I am floored with gratitude for the moments I get to witness of my little boy growing up. Yes, it is me who does all of the rocking to sleep, puts him down for naps, walks him in the stroller and the ergo and cooks and cleans and does the laundry and takes the car to the mechanic. My body knows it.

But –

Being the only one who gets to watch the way he picks things up and turns them in his little hands with the chubby wrists; the way he talks quietly to himself (‘weeb weeb’ ‘beeb’); the way he takes a wooden egg and puts it back in its wooden egg cup for the first time; the way he looked at me when we went for a walk outside this afternoon. My heart expands until it hurts. His two bottom teeth jut out of pink gums, his eyes turn to slits and his forehead bulges between his eyebrows as he offers me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. He is saying thank you, I love you, thank you, I am happy. Only I get to see that smile, that message. I cannot capture it in film or even in writing.

So, I tend to stop what I’m trying to get done (reading, studying, writing emails, paying bills) just to watch him explore. Tipping over baskets and feeling the woven base over and over again. Picking up fallen sprigs of parsley or onion skins and tasting those. Shaking things that make noise, his favorite blue cloth rattle with the face on it, or a tupperware container full of coffee beans. He can eat a whole small banana now and it amazes me that he has learnt how to chew and swallow. I am brought to tears with the love that I have for him as he engages with the world without me.

As I rocked him to sleep in the rocking chair tonight, I remembered the earliest nights. The dozens of pillows to prop us up. Tired limbs and devoted hearts. I can’t remember what his cry sounded like. He was so small, so vulnerable, so loving. He still is. Now he falls as he learns how to crawl and to pull up to standing and his body takes the blows. He complains but he gets back up. God I love him so much. He is my baby and he’s growing so fast. What will I do when there are no more toys on the ground and little hands to hold them? The teepee I built for him is still and quiet and the living room is darkened as I write while he sleeps upstairs in my bed. What on earth will I do when he grows up?

Julius Max, six months young, just learnt to crawl.

I will have my relationship with my husband back, all to myself, that’s what, and we will write poetry and dance and cook together and drink wine at our kitchen table with a hundred scratches on it, and we will be together again as we were in the beginning. Expanding and contracting. I saw this evening as I walked the frozen ground in the empty fields, not another soul around, that we will be back to this land. This place where I became a mother, where I escaped from New York with my lover, where we were married. I know that we will return here to burn sage and bonfires, to swim in the river and smoke joints in the cinema parking lot. It might be 20 years from now, maybe more, but I know it in my bones.

What a ride life is. I am excited for our new chapter in California next year. Give me desert nights and sun-touched skin, cactus and wild fennel and the ocean and all the lemon trees. I love you Julius. I love you Isaac. My family, my blood, my world.

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