dotted with certain life

The maple out front, coming to life again.


The other day, Ruth said, "I've decided I like pandas and zebras more than unicorns."

She was chewing on something from an unknown source as she said it. Likely old Easter candy she'd squirreled away in a pocket of her backpack, likely covered in lint and playground sand. She used the particular tone of voice that arises when she feels she's gotten to the bottom of a Great Truth on her own—equal parts valley girl, (S's doubled in length) and ESL teacher (over-enunciating, heavy articulation).

I love that, I said. Why leave magic only to the imagination? It's everywhere


Then, as if Ruth's pronouncement was a grand and masterful cue, 

Spring happened.

The oddly thin veil of winter and sleep and dormancy had been stripped away

like a bandaid, or a

tablecloth-swiped from beneath dishes

gathered and stacked like sediment,


a shattering may do us all some good.

What is exposed underneath is the circuitry—

the roots, the veins, the exquisite tangle 

that keeps this grand affair moving forward. 

In the slice of time between oatmeal and afternoon-pick-up, 

branches went from barren to 

dotted with certain life.


Hand me a daffodil that looks like an orchid that looks like a bearded dragon that the ground threw up on its own accord and I will hold that thing gently in my palms like a tiny birthed creature, careful not to allow the constraint of description remove me from the act of simply being there with the thing

Show me the spider, plush-looking, with a design on his back like an argyle sweater, as he sets up camp on our back deck and creates a display of lattice wonder, at least a foot in diameter, in the matter of days. The meticulous design comes from a silk-spinning organ on its abdomen! (What kind of sorcery is that? Like a tiny superhero!) We honor this creature and his creation simply by allowing it to exist without interference. We step around it with a wide girth and say little more than wow. Just, wow


Barbara Crooker says it perfectly in her poem, 


What must it feel like / after months of existing / as bare brown sticks, / all reasonable hope / of blossoming lost, / to suddenly, one warm / April morning, burst / into wild yellow song, / hundreds of tiny prayer / flags rippling in the still- / cold wind, the only flash / of color in the dull yard, / these small scraps of light, / something we might / hold on to.


Now give me a typical day, in all its mundane glory. 

There's no shortage of the banal in family life. The bottomless to-do lists. The prosaic errands. The perpetual and eternal house chores. The fatigue that originates from a source that is out of your control.

Our seven-year-old, Ruth, often wakes at dawn as if she lived on a farm two hundred years ago, and considers it still to be her ancestral duty to wake all the living creatures on her homestead. (In spite of consistent practice and guidance to do otherwise, from us, her tired parents.) 

There's that. And there's also the nagging-in-sheep's-clothing (but who are we kidding, it's still nagging) that is required from us to get her ready for school every morning. 

We even wrote a song about it in the attempts to make it all sound less naggy

To the tune of head-shoulders-knees-and-toes. Clothes, drink (vitamins), and teeth and hair, teeth and hair—you get the gist. But still, in spite of the catchy jingle, when left to her own devices as I brush my own teeth (or insert any appropriate action-step to get myself ready here), I find her jumping rope, detonating a toy bomb in some public space and/or piling post-its on the cat for kicks. Inevitably, the song evolves each morning from pleasant and sing-songy to more of a teeth-grinding spoken-word piece: Clothes, drink and teeth and hair DAMMIT DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO!!

Then I will hopefully walk away and widen my view a bit. Maybe I'll go examine a tiny, fresh growth on one of the house plants and think, Ruth has that in her, too. That fresh growth, that impulse to get it eventually, with encouragement. 

Maybe I'll think, ok mama, more support, less control. 



Human beings must grapple; there are no shortcuts in fresh growth. The caterpillar grappled in his cocoon just as the flower bud must have grappled behind the scenes to prepare for its very moment of emerging. 

I confide to the maple out front, "I feel nervous that I am not doing it right as a mom. I am frustrated more than I ever was before. I want to hide my new post-mastectomy body, lovely and strong beneath a sweater and puffer vest but now it's facing summer, flat as a park bench. I feel like an imposter with my trauma work and this stupid voice in my head still wants to harp that I should be more successful as a writer by now—." 

The maple doesn't answer. She's way too busy unfurling each tiny leaf from the bud, wrinkly and tentative as a new butterfly wing. One of the countless newborn leaves catches my eye and I notice how each opening-leaf resembles a tiny clenched fist before its release, how the vein structure is wildly similar to that of my own hand. The question became, who declares which is "real" and which is "fantasy" anyhow?

And I plum forgot what I had been so concerned about before.



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