05 June 2020
pausing the once project right now, for a little bit. to reflect and to direct focus where it really needs to be. today, specifically, on the black life of breonna taylor, an emt from louisville, kentucky who was killed on the night of march the thirteenth when the louisville police stormed the wrong house, sprayed it with twenty rounds, shooting breonna eight times, killing her in her bed.
today would have been breonna's birthday. today, she would have been 27 years-old.
actions we must take: #birthdayforbreonna
28 May 2020
I saw myself tumbling down subway steps. knees buckling, limbs folding soundlessly beneath me. I saw it all-- the reactions of people standing on the platform, my bag following its own airborne trajectory. the way I might fight to recover balance, pretend it did not happen. I knew I would never stand at the top of another set of stairs and not imagine this very scenario.
27 May 2020
we took the back roads home from savannah, cut through small georgia towns along the way. spotted an old roadside motel and pulled over. as I got out of the car, I noticed a man in army fatigues, sitting in a plastic lawn chair the color of christmas trees. I could feel him watch me as I positioned my camera, knew the questions were next. what are you doin, girl? welp, I told him. I'm taking a picture of this old motel sign. I do that sometimes. I smiled and turned away then, looked through the viewfinder at the old sign. better do it quick, he said. before they tear this down. they wanna change everything about the south.
here's hoping, I thought, as I got back in the car. here's hoping we change as much as we can. because I knew he wasn't really talking about the sign.
26 May 2020
I watched as they walked into the woods together, towards the old cemetery that has always felt like a secret. I heard them laughing from across the field, heard them move through the trees, knew they'd return before dark with stories both true and false.
25 May 2020
I booked a hotel room with a clawfoot tub the color of eggshells and a window with a fire escape and a view of the streets below because on my fortieth birthday, I needed to feel a little bit like I was l living the life my fourteen year-old self dreamt of.
24 May 2020
23 May 2020
I took a walk down edgewood avenue, past familiar bus stops and bars, past new murals and the remains of old ones. I stopped to make small talk with the owner of a barbershop, who invited me inside for a few minutes. the soft metallic hum of the clippers, the occasional sound of the broom, layers of conversation. if I could have tucked myself into a corner there for the rest of the afternoon, I would have.
22 May 2020
I watched a painter work in new orleans, near the iron fence that encloses jackson square. she used a cardboard palette to mix her paints-- greens, red and yellows like fresh rainbow chard, the sounds of beyonce coming from what I could only assume was a phone. her voice muffled, as if she were singing through a sock. across the way, amber light on buildings, a scene that begged to be painted.
21 May 2020
I walked down aisle after aisle with my cousin at a sprawling fleamarket in rural texas, felt the scorch of the sun on my neck, thick layers of dust and sweat on my skin and knew (in my bones) there was no place else in the world I'd rather be.
20 May 2020
I woke up early on a wednesday morning to pick strawberries, arrived to find the field already teeming with pickers. I got to work at once, plucked berries until my fingers were stained bright red and sweat stung my eyes, until I'd completely filled the two buckets I brought with me. drove back home with the windows down, the air sweet and thick with the fruit, the juice still on my fingertips, on the steering wheel, everywhere.
19 May 2020
18 May 2020
17 May 2020
we spent an afternoon on the humid streets of downtown athens, georgia. flipped through records at wuxtry, books at avid. checked to see what was playing at the old movie theatre. chased ezra's neon yellow rubber ball as it pinged across a busy street. meandered down narrow brick-paved alleyways into vintage shops stacked floor to ceiling with musty goods. considered a quick lunch at waffle house but remembered the time ward found a spoon in the bathroom there and decided against it. landed instead at the burger place around the corner and as we sat out on the patio at the table with the poppy red oilcloth covering and waited for our food, decided athens might just be the perfect place for us to retire.
16 May 2020
15 May 2020
14 May 2020
we drove through downtown tucumcari, new mexico with the windows rolled down. slowed to a stop in the middle of an empty street, sat with the quiet and the color for a minute. a truck pulled up behind us then, blasted his horn, yelled something out the window and that was that. spell broken.
13 May 2020
while my dad stood at the kitchen sink and washed dishes, a cardinal flew right up to the window, landed on a sliver of frame, looked at him for a few seconds, and flew away. I've never seen a cardinal do that, he said. never.
he didn't say it, but he didn't have to. I knew what he was thinking. she'd been gone for nearly half a decade but, still. we saw her every once in a while. a crimson blur at the window, a soft pink opaline sky. mom.
12 May 2020
on the way home from the grocery store, I walked past a yard overrun with dandelions. I was raised to see them as weeds, to yank them from the ground at first sight, so as to prevent total dandelion invasion. we spent hours in the back yard pulling at them, took turns smearing the soft yellow pollen underneath our chins. if we let them go long enough, the heads turned to seed-- white feathery orbs made for wishes, as synonymous with childhood as santa claus. it would be years before I realized we were just blowing seeds all over the yard, ensuring their return.
it would be years before I came around to dandelions, before I learned they were medicinal herbs that magically open to the sun each day before closing up for the night. years before I'd come across a yard overrun with them and no longer see a mess of weeds, but a hundred bright yellow buttons staring back at me instead.
11 May 2020
we sat on the curb at the corner of sandy boulevard and sacramento street. ava on one side, ezra on the other, both of them still small enough to curve their bodies into mine. the parades, the portlanders said. oh, you shouldn't miss the parades. you must see the parades. the junior rose parade, the starlight parade, the grand floral parade. they went on and on about the parades and we were brand new to the city so who were we to question? we promptly put parade dates on the calendar, in all caps, used exclamation points, multiple exclamation points. when the time came, we packed juice boxes and goldfish crackers, plastic drug store rain ponchos (just in case) and sidewalk chalk (just in case), walked the seven blocks down the boulevard to claim our small chunk of concrete curb to watch the first of the three famed, highly anticipated portland events-- the junior rose parade.
now, years later, they play back like 16mm film reels. homemade floats and costumes, middle school marching bands with the best of intentions, vendors who walked up and down sandy selling inflatable spiderman dolls for five bucks a pop. and that ordinary chunk of curb at the corner of sandy and sacramento now a personal landmark. a single dot on the map, multiple exclamation points.
10 May 2020
I stood in cold, cold river water and felt wholly alive.
I don't know how to explain the magic. the magic of walking through cold, clear water to find the falls nestled in the pueblo of nambe. I don't know how to tell the story of how we just sort of landed there, on a whim. on a friday afternoon in october, the day before a wedding of a friend.
I don't know how to explain how unprepared I was. how I didn't know I'd be wading through water in my shoes, that I'd be passing through narrow canyons on foot while light bounced off edges and wrapped itself around corners. how the whole thing made me feel strangely immortal, how in that moment, with my feet submerged in the water and the sun squarely in my eyes, I felt alive, fully and wholly and wildly alive.
09 May 2020
I found a vintage dress for ava at the thrift store. bandana print fabric circa 1970-something and clearly hand sewn. the seams were all off, which only charmed me, so I promptly paid the cashier the 79 cents they wanted for it and took it home. hoped she'd love it as much as I did.
she saw that cherry red color, her color, and slipped it right on. looked at me, grinned.
08 May 2020
07 May 2020
06 May 2020
05 May 2020
after barbeque sandwiches and bottled cokes, we walked the trail that runs alongside the train tracks in athens, georgia and stumbled onto the place where kids might sometimes go to have their senior pictures taken because they think it will look cool.
04 May 2020
we passed on old twistee treat on the way to the beach. tucked behind a shuttered bank, oddly situated in the parking lot of an old strip mall-- as if the businesses had been built around it, in spite of it, as if the great concrete cone had refused to move.
when the time came for ice cream, I fought hard for the twistee treat. even though there were fancier, far more superior ice cream shops to choose from, even though the protests from the group could be heard for miles, I dragged them all to that little twistee treat. I have zero regrets.
03 May 2020
I found myself at a farmers market in santa fe, new mexico on a crisp saturday morning in october. wondered how many tomatoes I could feasibly fit inside my suitcase. or how many I could eat before I got on the airplane that would carry me back home.
02 May 2020
we let the weeds grow in the backyard, mostly out of laziness. in the meantime, a patch of wild daisies popped up and brought such unexpected joy I couldn't bare the thought of losing them. when the time finally came (that is, when the weeds were nearly to our knees), I asked if we could please mow around the small patch.
and so afterwards, there it stood. a clump of daisies in a spot so random, it looked like a mistake. a missed patch, a sloppy lawn job. but upon closer inspection: an accidental cutting garden, an small island of happy, short-lived as it was.
01 May 2020
30 April 2020
we stopped in chinatown on the way out of san francisco. took one last walk around before ending up at the playground, where we let the kids run willy nilly before the long drive home. in the middle of it all, my brother called and somehow I managed an entire phone conversation about a recent job loss, the current state of the world and the uncertainty of everything while keeping one eye on the kids and the other on a heated game happening just a few feet below. motherhood, in a nutshell.
29 April 2020
I watched the performance of a tiny dance that took place on a tiny 4x4 wooden stage located at the base of the portland aerial tram. while silver capsules carrying passengers continued to slide up and down thick steel cables, a handful of us watched the limbs of the dancer slice through air.
28 April 2020
I left my family in a comic book store in downtown savannah, georgia. slipped out the front door and walked towards oglethorpe square, in search of painted doors and scrolling ironwork. wandered down an alleyway and found rothko instead.
27 April 2020
26 April 2020
25 April 2020
on the way to a family wedding in indiana, we stopped in cincinnati, the city where we first met and fell in love. we wanted to show the kids this monumental little piece of our history, wanted them to see where things began, but as we approached the apartment building that overlooked the city, the site of our infamous, storied beginning, as we looked at each other and got all soft in the eyes about it and told the kids the story, they made fart jokes in the back seat of the car.
and I just really wondered what my nineteen year-old self, the one who first lived in that old apartment building and really thought the cute guy who lived down the hall was just a summer fling, would have thought of this scene, of this particular moment in time. if she could have peered into her future, I wondered what she would have thought. of that car full of love and yelling and laughing and fart jokes at the wrong time and soft eyes and road trip music and years and years and years of marriage and life an love. I really wondered.
24 April 2020
23 April 2020
I spent a good chunk of time poring over howard finster's polaroids at paradise garden, his hand-writing in pencil on each and every one. banjos and wooden angels and abraham lincoln and students painting, colorado fields as seen from the window of an airplane-- or 'plain', as howard wrote it.
something about howard finster with a polaroid camera made me smile.
22 April 2020
21 April 2020
20 April 2020
I took the train south to california. one ticket, my first time on the coast starlight line. I wobbled through the moving train cars before dark in search of the dining car, stumbled onto the observation car instead. windows curved toward the sky, light like honey. the world outside racing past at a respectable clip. I could live here, I thought. I could make a life for myself right here, a home in this car, right now.
19 April 2020
I traveled to the oregon coast to spend three days with twelve women, most of whom I did not know, had not met in real life before. I remember flowers in jars and good food on the table, the ocean near midnight and the moon like a silver coin in the sky. the way my clothes smelled like bonfire, sand in all my crevices, the first time I saw a real shooting star. I remember an endless cacophony of conversation and cameras, a wild mix of personalities. the realization that maybe I was not built for this.
a few of these women would eventually show up for me in extraordinary ways. a string of handwritten postcards for two months straight after my mom died. a box of tiny frozen ice cream cones, too. texted poems, endless encouragement. an air mattress and home-cooked food in los angeles, tamales and morning light in oakland, good coffee and a fire escape view in brooklyn. shared epiphanies on subway platforms. a place to stay, always, in california, texas, new york. fellow dreamers, a few listeners, a few kindred spirits. I could not know this at the time, would not have predicted it. these women, this life, the years in between like a sieve.
18 April 2020
17 April 2020
we saw the world famous bushman in action, down at fisherman’s wharf in san francisco. there he was, hiding behind a trash can, shaking his branches at people, making them jump, yell out. I didn’t know he was famous at the time, didn’t know this was actually how he made his living. I just left a little something in the tip jar and marveled at how we all do what we’ve got to do to get by.
16 April 2020
15 April 2020
while I was washing my hands at the mexican place in nashville with the good tortilla soup and the rainbow string lights, I felt my grandmother’s turquoise ring slip off my pinkie finger. in a flash, it spiraled round the small white porcelain sink and disappeared down the tiny drain. I panicked just then, was sure it was gone forever, as there’s a sick permanence to things that disappear down drains. but I couldn’t stand the thought of losing it so I ran to the car to see what I could find in the way of retrieval. when I returned, I found a cook from the kitchen hunched over the sink with a wire coat hanger and my husband stooped over him with a flashlight. finally, after much angling and maneuvering, they managed to jimmy the treasured ring up out of that tiny black hole and I wanted to fall on the bathroom floor from joy and relief and the deepest, wildest gratitude, the kind that makes you want to plant sloppy kisses and hug people for maybe a few seconds too long, promise things you cannot deliver. but instead, I just stood there, said thank you. thank you, thank you, thank you. slipped the ring back on my pinkie finger, exhaled.
14 April 2020
I snuck away while they were all napping, walked the two blocks from the rental, crossed the major road and made my way to the ocean. found a small collection of empty beach chairs that belonged to a nearby resort, golden delicious magic hour light and, myself.
13 April 2020
I stood beneath an explosion of cherry blossom trees at the university of washington. watched my kids climb up into clouds of papery popcorn blooms. in that moment, I wished I could still climb. I wished so hard, wished my own limbs could still loop and hug tree limbs, wished my body could still do all the things it once knew how to do.
12 April 2020
with our legs still dusty from the road, we pulled into new mexico's tinkertown, bought our tickets and marveled at the walls, which were embedded with over fifty thousand glass bottles. and honestly, felt a twinge of judgment while doing so.
11 April 2020
we celebrated my birthday at the old oaks park roller rink in portland, oregon. that night, we witnessed a marriage proposal out in the center of the rink, beneath the old wurlitzer organ that hangs from the ceiling like a giant wooden truck. the young man got down on one knee, skates and all, she said yes and rolled right into his arms, skates and all. but this is not the first thing I actually think about when I think about this night.
I think about how they called for all the backwards skaters in the house over the P.A. system, how my nine year-old self jumped right out there and wobbled her way backwards, round and round the glossy golden floors of that old rink, underneath that magic wurlitzer, until it was time to call it a night and go home.