One Summer

There was a time when I rode a Greyhound bus from the Port Authority in New York City straight through to Medora, North Dakota. I cannot remember if I carried a cell phone way back then, but I do know that my sister was carrying my nephew back on Long Island and the journey lasted about three days and as many nights.

I saw Milwaukee brewing establishments from the window and sprinted down a sidewalk in Madison as far from the bus as half my time allotted. I must have been all of twenty four.

I had never been to Medora, nor heard of it, to be honest. This was during a time in my life, just after college, when I experimented with different short team, seasonal, data collection jobs for various scientists. In those days, I was able to name myself a seasonal, migrant worker and that did cause some of the more genteel folk I came upon to startle.

When you sit on a Greyhound bus for days and nights on end, there is a blurry quality, you hope, to the experience; no person or persons being too loud, no experience too jarring, just a serene land-based excursion across the hinterland. So, I wasn’t sure how I would know my stop as distinguished from all the other small towns, except that it bordered the National Park where I would be working which was named after Teddy Roosevelt and contained North Dakota’s badlands.

The road had been flat for quite some time and then to the right outside of my window the plains seemed to break into swiftly falling cliffs and ravines of many colors and just as I observed this and registered it as a land that might be called “bad”, I heard my stop called and I swiftly alighted from my diesel steed.

Medora was (and I presume is) a small town and with that, a cast of characters. I walked an easy half block to a timber built bookstore (where I would later be lucky to be both employed and surrounded by excellent literature native to the plains) and after inquiring from the owner, learned that the parks’ housing I was seeking were a scant three blocks further on away from the main drag and towards the Park.

I lived in a small house, first in a row that looked across the pavement to the park itself. I shared it with my field-mate, a very nice young man and that first night we affected nonchalance at the idea of bunking together in a shared room; twin beds separated by an average sized nightstand, when our only slightly older employer gave us the word.

This part of North Dakota, in the summertime, is unlike anywhere else I have been. Wild horses and buffalo were about the land. Wildflowers, rattle snakes, biting flies without a doubt and mudpuppies once or twice in a proper pond. It is quiet and beautiful, the heavens are bright.

Our job was to collect data on the area’s amphibians; eggs through adults, location and frequency and the like. The land there is often dry and the little guys were likely to breed after rains, we would hunt out the footprints left by buffalo where a puddle might form long enough for eggs to be laid.

The plains break, so I learned to call it, and colored layers thread horizontally through the broken parts, looking like birthday cake and letting us stare down the years.

One friend worked in the town’s bike shop. At the end of this summer, he would pack my bike and ship it to Brooklyn, where I would quickly be relieved of it after falling to lock more than my front wheel at the Botanic Gardens; swift teacher, that Brooklyn.

The Maah Daah Hey Bike Trail ran nearby and there was some passion for off mountain biking in the area, including amongst my set of friends. I made some evening forays on my own, because I have never been cool enough to ride with reasonable abandon off road, up and down small stream beds, past wildflowers, to the river and it’s swallow-built nests and smooth, cool stones.

Another friend, who grew up outside of town, up on the higher lands, brought me to ride horses. The horse stepped on my combat boot shod foot, I shoved and she stepped off and it was all right. We rode and rode west and then she pointed further on and told me, “That’s the Breaks up there” and then I knew what to call them. Later, I’d learn that Brooklyn comes from “broken land”, too.

The main saloon in town sat adjacent to the railroad tracks. We drank there and urinated off the other side of the tracks when it got late enough to warrant such behavior. One night, extra young science collectors in town, we all emerged from the saloon into a drenching rain and played football in the street. It felt emblematic in the moment and I have never done that again, to be sure.

My field mate and I spent long days traipsing over the land, employing compass and GPS to visit our froggy sites and mark newly discovered ones. My uniform was galoshes, mud caked pants and my aunt’s old button down shirts with a sun hat to top me off.

One day with a cool breeze and a strong sun, we came upon a group of wild horses eating from the grasses and we crouched behind boulders to gaze at them, time slowed down to a near stop. That was the time when we most nearly held hands and I felt ashamed that I did not know if I could do so for just that magic moment and not feel beholden ever after.

Too, we played at bowling where the rocks were the size of bowling balls on pedestals of softer, eroded rock. We went bowling for real in a bigger town, near the Walmart, due east. It was there I felt ambition rise: to see my name on bowling alley walls across the land for high score, another as of yet unrealized dream.

It was a simple summer, ice cream cones, bbqs and work without direct oversight. The Iyengar Way came in the mail, from a NM friend, and my outdoor yoga practice, under shade cast by cottonwood trees, began. I contemplated a job in the Florida Keys, monitoring the fall hawk migration, but instead returned home to Long Island to await the birth of my nephew and wait tables for a spell. I’d like to go back.

Meta

dear readers,

i have recently returned to teaching and, though i have kept up my morning pages (daily writing) to the best of my ability, i have been away from this page for quite awhile.

yesterday, i conducted some deep household reorganization as we adapt again to having a curious monkey about the house. i unearthed from my desktop some essay attempts from back in the springtime when i had a writing circle and we would print things out to read together. i put them all on my freshly de-papered clipboard and this morning, when partner in crime met my request for time to write with some hours by myself at home, i retrieved the board and got right to it.

i like when things are that easy and i am thinking of it as the iceberg metaphor; so much happened before to make this simple moment of ease, easy.

did you know that i put links in my posts quite often? they are embedded in words or phrases (the text is dark blue rather than black) and if you click on it, you will be led to some more information or a song that i hummed while writing. want to practice? scroll back up to my first sentence and find the blue words, then click on them.

that’s my psa for today, thanks for stopping by,

dev

Street Life

Rather begrudgingly, over the last three years, I adapted to the car-based lifestyle that is the common way of getting around in modern, U.S. communities.

It’s not that one cannot ride bikes here. In fact, many do, but our home’s location relative to the places we elect to go has not presented many opportunities for purposeful riding. That and circumstances: moving through a second pregnancy towards toddlerhood was not so fancy free as to allow for bike rides.

I say all this because I relish nearly everything about being a bike commuter: the breeze on my skin, the freedom from non movement, gas use and traffic, the revolutionary act it still seems to be.

In Brooklyn, biking was cake and cars were to be rented or borrowed to get out dodge on the weekends. I was one human, there were well marked lanes everywhere and there was a flow that one could drop into: buzzing past cars parked on the Belt Parkway and heading to the freedom of the Rockaways or gulping the fresh air of Prospect Park’s forested heart on my way to or from P.S. 93. Those days were golden. Oh, and the drinking and biking as opposed to drinking and driving-way better.

Then, we moved onto Boulder, which now seems to me a mecca in terms of alternative transportation. One of my first days there on a bike, I pulled out without signaling (in my defensive NYC style) and was aggressively chastised by a motorist who didn’t want to kill me. A change of attitude was quickly required on my part.

We two had become three and eventually acquired a car for grocery trips and hiking outside of town, but other than that, I biked, he biked, we all biked. And there the bike paths run alongside of creeks and tunnels zip you under the roadways. A bicyclist is respected and cared for by the, pre-dominantly Prius and Subaru, driving population. I biked my toddler to school and playdates, I biked to work and yoga myself. It was rather divine.

Now, we are four and working our way up to family bike rides and family bike commuting. Last week, I biked 35 commuter miles by my self, after three years of relative un-biking, and I felt just like myself again; cool mornings headed to teaching in Brooklyn and Boulder and now Santa Fe, breeze rustling up the sunset grasses along the Maah Daah Hey Trail. My knees are still readjusting, but my legs, heart and mind have been thanking me wildly. I am back and it feels quite good.

 

And the skies did open.

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We are rounding out our third year here and the landscape has been revealing itself to me in slow time: gazing, walking, dreaming. The mountains arc around us, embracing little, old Santa Fe and it’s spread. I had a bias to see the peaks aligning north to south, my Front Range frontal lobe imprint, now my perception has shifted. Recent long coveted acquisition: a map of the Pecos Wilderness, and subsequent daydreams; myself wandering peak to peak, lake to lake, all summer long, Gary Snyder-like.

Quel printemps! This spring has been a tempest-tossed affair, veering from sunny days to hailstorms and back again, snowing on every garage sale we have attempted and requiring woolens and boots more days than one would expect in May, but mostly consisting of low cloud cover, gusty winds and enough moisture to put the curl back in my hair once in awhile.

Our yard is a bounty of iris blossoms, baby grape clusters and flowering weeds. I mowed the lawn (yes, we have a small, inappropriate and luxurious lawn. what can I say? it’s our “existing landscape conditions” per our rental agreement); it felt like a natural extension of my daily sweeping. Set me right back to dreaming about adventures in landscape design, an herb covered hillock here, a shaded fountain there…

I have spent vastly more time weeding then planting foods this year. My cat is a garden terrorist and thinks every tilled bit of Earth is his new litter box. The deterrent that I am trying is making the surface of the garden as unwelcome as possible for little feet, which means sticks strewn about every which way. (you’ll see these elaborate measures if you peer behind the iris blossom; isn’t she purdy?).

There are more shades of green than I can shake a stick at, so I employ the boys for stick gathering, shaking and tossing. Mud up to our ankles and the big one is convinced that we ought to all be outfitted in waders. Puddles and lushness, get it while you can.

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What’s blooming by you and in you this Springtime?

 

 

 

Stardust, baby

Muse, hurumph. She is arriving at all the “wrong’ moments these days. Stretching my imagination, I can see that perhaps she is pointing to all these moments, acts and breaths, being of equal value, rather than simply the ones where I Get Stuff Done. Perhaps I am struggling to trust my muse these days, ripping up to do lists as fast as I can wrestle pen and paper back from little fingers and get them written.

 

It has come to my attention that one way we can mark our time on this Earth is by 18.2 years, a lunar cycle’s length. I understand nothing of what this indicates, but the math shows I have just rounded an astral curve and passed into my third go-round. Following the moon has ever felt right to me and it is satisfying to do simple arithmetic, so I bow down and await further insight.

 

Spring has been arriving as if yoked to a pendulum, swinging us this way and that away with high winds and all that brings. “Vata Deranged” is the term my yoga teacher used to describe how such prolonged airy and disruptive forces affect us. Resting in trust of mother nature is, perhaps, the real underlying tension of these days.

 

This week, though, we have been luxuriating under gray clouds and frequent rainfalls; the clouds with their heavy moisture are lingering still over the land. Last month’s generous planting of peas is beginning to push out of the soil and plants are opening up everywhere beckoning us all towards Summer.

 

There is an ancient and clear reverence for water infused in the culture here and it’s in my bones as well. Orchards, acequias and quiet fountains fill my heart space with humanity’s struggle to live wisely. I fling myself into shade cast by stately trees and imagine digging holes, establishing more trickling fountains where I can perch and be watered by them daily. Gladly, I will drive miles and miles to be near a stream and lie down for awhile.

 

Again, I breathe to slow down, I practice pausing before acting to lessen the weight brought about by mindless reacting, always hoping to solves problems before they arise. I am feeding my muse her requisite fresh air, beauty and laughter, best I can under these oftentimes absurd toddler rearing conditions. Dreaming of the next eighteen-plus years, wondering how my bones will be feeling under my skin by then and if this restless mind will be any more capably reigned in under my heart’s care.

Minding the Irises

IMG_1280 I have this feeling; I am awakening from a long enchantment, part winter’s last gasps in the deep calendar of Spring, part two years postpartum, (…or seven), part thirty-seven years since my own birth.

At any rate, time has been moving along in it’s swift, relentless way while we have been dealing with the waves of regular life with young ones and the irregularities of trips, illnesses and visitors thrown in to the mix.

The yard and, now hypothetical, garden are begging to be remembered, as are my drawing tools, my writing pads and correspondences. The yoga practice has been consistent, and therefore I am sometimes blooming, and the hiking is coming back into a regular cadence, praise be for this beautifully functioning body.

I woke up today and realized that I have an ever deeper network of beautiful friends here, in Santa Fe, more so even then I did in Boulder or Brooklyn where I treasure so many. Here, I am watching us lean into one another, asking for tangible help and receiving it, and suddenly we are celebrating life itself like we stumbled into a kick-ass party.

Yesterday, I spent the morning in our sandy, neighborhood arroyo with some wonderful mama friends and little toddler urchins. We howled at the sun and each other, scraping fruit from pyrex, digging bare feet into cool sand, laying back for precious moments of daydream and relaxation; the very arts I fear that I am losing.

Emerging from the carved earth, I was astounded again and again by the shades of blue brought to my eye. Increasingly, the colors of this land soothe me and move me, rusty oranges of earth turned homes and the lusciousness of the sky that is reflected everywhere, in painted house trim, hidden art and shiny old sports cars.

In my own unkempt yard, the Ponderosa shades my yellow café table and the emerging Irises. I keep watch over both, writing many words and pondering which to share and in what precise order.

Put a poem in your pocket

(untitled)

Of all the things I

could choose to tell

about this morning

 

The one I most

wish to remember

today

and someday further on

 

Is this:

kneeling under the cherry tree

In her full bloom-

the wind whipping,

bright bloom against blue sky rockets by

the wind gusting,

petals fluttering in clear imitation

of the butterflies

 

And

 

If not that

 

Than this:

sitting in the shower stall

my toddler

stilled at last-

and silent

Warm water pouring down upon us

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