Origin

 

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Zero

My mother wrote songs as she rocked me

Singing lyrics aloud, her eyes blue on mine brown

A song of the mother Mary rocking the Christ child

A lullaby that soothed until heavy eyelids closed in sleep.

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Five

We cut holes in shoeboxes

Then covered them in paper, pink and red mostly.

Scissors sliced thick paper into hearts and letters

While scented colored markers etched our names

In grape purple and lemon yellow and licorice black.

On super hero valentines,

I wrote To’s and From’s to each member of my class

Except I wrote two for Michael, the boy who made me laugh.

I liked-him-liked-him

The way Chris liked Michelle and Jason liked Desiree.

At the Valentines Party, I placed each small card in each small box

And two in Michael’s.

But I only wrote a From on one of his cards, leaving the other blank.

If I gave two to him, the other boys would know I was different.

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Fifteen

“You are indeed one of Heavenly Father’s choice sons.

Do not in any way disappoint Him.”

The patriarch spoke kindly, firmly,

A direct message from God to me on his breath.

Weeks before, when I had told the bishop my shameful secret,

the message had been the same, kind and firm.

“God loves you, He does not tolerate sin.”

The words of the prophets, kind and firm again.

“Pray, do everything God says, and He will cure you,

Make you straight,

Because He loves you.”

And so I ket my eyes just that, straight

Focused, unerring.

Dad was gone,

And my stepfather spoke with fists and angry words.

I was a fairy, he said. I would never measure up to a real man.

But God, He heard. I just couldn’t disappoint Him.

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twenty-seven

She looked at me sincerely, tears streaming down her face,

And asked why, why after six years of dating, we hadn’t kissed,

Hadn’t held hands, not even once.

I thought of the familiar excuses, used again and again,

About trying to be moral and righteous,

About saying it wasn’t just her, that I’d never kissed anyone,

Never held anyone’s hands.

Those were true words, but not the whole truth.

She needed the whole truth.

“I’m gay,” I said. “But I’m trying to cure it.”

And she didn’t mind. And so we kissed, finally.

There was affection and regard and kindness behind it,

If not chemical attraction,

And relationships had been built on less.

And for her the feelings were real.

And so, three months later, we married.

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thirty-two

The day my second son was born, I got that same sense

Of holding my entire world in my hands.

That word again, Fatherhood,

Overwhelming in its possibility, its responsibility.

Here, a new miracle, different from his brother in every way.

But this time, our lives were different.

Early drafts of divorce papers sat on the desk at home.

I was sleeping in the basement now,

And her heart was broken,

While mine, though sad, had come up for oxygen

After three decades of holding its breath.

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thirty-eight

Pen to paper, I think back on six years of firsts.

First authentic kiss.

First try at an authentic relationship

And first authentic heartbreak.

First time dancing, euphoric and free.

First friends, real friends, finally, friends.

First realization that I like myself, powerfully,

And that I have no need to be cured of something that was never wrong.

First freedoms, from religion and deadly self-expectations.

I live now, loudly.

My sons thrive in two households, and they will tell anyone who asks

That their mother likes boys who like girls

And their father likes boys who like boys.

They are thriving, and smiling, and real.

And so is she.

And so am I.

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Waiting Places

In his immortal and inspiring book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss tells of a boy going on a grand adventure that is all his own, with many unexpected twists and turns. And in the center of his journey, he is warned about lingering in the deadly Waiting Place, where people get trapped as they wait for something to happen.

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Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting places can take many forms.

Oftentimes, people are trapped in place by a seemingly impossible situation: living with a terrible health condition, taking care of a child, or trapped in a terrible marriage; they wait for someone to come to their rescue, not seeing any way out.

Other times, people get trapped by their own emotional states, crippling depression or anxiety, and the world around them seems bleak and dark.

People are trapped by fear, or sadness, or chronic pain, or heavy weight, or responsibility, or a lack of resources, or family traditions.

It seems I spent most of my life waiting, finding ways to be content while standing in one place. I kept waiting for someone to show me hope, or to see right through me, or to help me understand what authenticity was.

And now, at 37, I willfully participate in setting and achieving my own goals. I patiently measure out ways to achieve my goals, and then I must be patient while they are achieved. And while that process is happening, it sometimes feels like I’m waiting again, but I’m not. It’s not the same as waiting. Losing ten pounds takes time and energy, and it happens one workout at a time. Actively goal-setting isn’t waiting, it is patience with consistency. Waiting looks more like sitting on the couch and hoping the ten pounds comes off on its own while I eat a pint of ice cream.

I’m in a period of transition in my life, yet again. And I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t a waiting place, even when I grow impatient to achieve the results I want. Both of my children are in school now, which means no more day care payments, which means more financial freedom. I have more consistent control over my work schedule now, which means more time to travel, and more time to exercise. I can now do many of the things I have wanted to do for years and haven’t been able to, some of them simple (like getting braces) and some of them more complex (like a long term plan of a road trip across Canada). I greet this period of transition with both welcome and impatience, and it is w9ndertful to feel full of potential and opportunity. I’m also making slow, steady, and consistent progress on a book I’ve been writing as well. It’s a good and healthy space to be in as I watch the days turn to weeks and, in a few days, August turn into September.

Healthy transitions can also be very uncomfortable. I’ve found myself with many of my friends moving into new life stages and less available, meaning cultivating new friendships is necessary, and that takes time and energy. My family is getting older, my parents in their mid-70s and my siblings entering stages of middle age, and I find myself wanting to see them more frequently. And rebuilding confidence after several rocky setbacks takes time as well.

And so… I’m willfully waiting in a place that sometimes feels like the Waiting Place. And while I’m doing that, I’m exercising, and learning, and paying down debts, and raising my children, and reading, and writing, and making new friends, and it feels less like waiting when I am doing it actively instead of passively.

And so, I think I’ll rewrite Dr. Seuss’s stanza my own way.

(Actively) Waiting for gym to open,
and the source to call me back, 
and my chapter to finish,
and the debt to be paid off, 
and the friend to call me back.

(Actively) Waiting to help my sons with their homework,
and waiting for their good night hugs, 
and waiting to see their smiling faces in the morning again.

And (actively) waiting for my resolve to build, 
and new horizons, and unrealized potentials, 
and laughter and opportunity and dancing and every good thing.

Everyone is just waiting. But I’m not everyone.

My version isn’t nearly as catchy as Dr. Seuss, but it feels just right.

Waiting 3

Snoqualmie, Ferocious

Snoqualmie

There is a certain majesty in waterfalls. Rushing expanses of water falling from great heights, landing and continuing on its journey, reforming along its journey without thought. Waterfalls take many forms, from small isolated rivulets over jagged cliffs to wide blankets of rushing, gushing power toppling through valleys and into rivers.

Waterfalls inspire me. They fill my soul.

This morning, with a friend, I drove out to one of my favorite places near Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls. Snoqualmie, a Native American word denoting a ‘ferocious people’, is the name of the local city and river, and the name of the powerful falls. Powering through brown cliffs and rich green trees, the falls rushes somehow gently, almost silently, into the river, a deep percussion of the rush of its force underlying it all, felt in the ground beneath the feet and in the depths of the soul. The air smells of woods and water. The browns and greens startle the eye in every shade and hue, from deep pine to almost yellow leaves, from tan wood to deep mahogany rocks. I could stand there for days, pen and paper in hand, in one spot and just absorb it.

Men seek to harness the power of the water fall, as the do the wind and the sun and the earth in every level and in every capacity. Pipes and machines gather and divert parts of the natural fall of water, collecting it to be used for convenience. Yet the water powers on, unknowing and uncaring, following the laws of gravity and nature and pushing forward.

I stood at the waterfall this morning simply listening for a time. I listened to the conversations of lovers, of parents and children, of best friends. I heard the snaps of photographs on selfie sticks, trying to capture the right angle of faces and waterfall. I watched the footfalls of shoes on dirt and people walked up steep trails and stairs nearby. I heard wind in trees, water on rocks, echos against rocks.

After climbing an incline, I stopped to catch my breath. I felt the sheen of sweat on my skin, and air cooling me, and I felt refreshed. Similar climbs in the deserts of Utah leave me dehydrated, achy, but here it renews me somehow.

Minutes later, I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, marinated in a plum sauce and served on a roll with apple slaw, and I watched the falls and the river and the elevation and the rolling hills into the distance, all through a window of the local lodge. People inside and outside were still in a hurry, but the falls moved at a steady pace. I chewed and I watched and I breathed and I savored.

Snoqualmie. Ferocious people. I wondered if I was ferocious. That’s not a word that often exits my lips or works its way into my writing. Ferocious. I tried it out loud. I thought of wolves and eagles, teeth and talons, savagery and blood. And then I softened the word a bit. I pictured it inside me, applied it to drive and ambition, associated it with words like fury and power and ambition. Ferocious. Suddenly it felt right, there in this place, with the water thundering over the cliffs.

Snoqualmie sat within me as I drove away from the falls, determined to be more ferocious, like the waterfall.

wind

 

Wind1
i spread my arms to you today
and was met head on with your power
more than breeze
more than gust
sheer wind meets me, unafraid
your coldness, brisk against my skin
shirt tugging against me in an effort to be free
i long for exposure
“thank you” I whisper, as you fill my lungs
and you soften briefly
surprising me with an answer
showing me that tender breath can be more effective
than tornado or hurricane
now you push again, consistent
trees dance wildly against the sky
and i look up at your unseeable wonder
and shout a simple “YES!”
into you, your green and blue
invisible, intangible, ethereal
yet supreme and jagged and precise and unbearable
i only see what you move against
never you
i only feel you when you move,
without me
within me
were you the god i grew up believing in
dwelling within each of us
yet all over the earth
everywhere and nowhere?
you surround me now
“thank you” i whisper again
as i gather you within
to strengthen my strength