{8 Stanzas are Enough for Now}

The boys sitting in front of us at the concert keep their
shoulders touching the whole show, hands on their laps,
and they lean in, mouth toward ear, to speak.

At breakfast, we sit around a table
and we gesture-speak our stories,
voices and laughs loud in the early morning.

My friend is having her blood taken,
drawn from a needle to a tube to a bag rocking beside the chair,
when she tells me that her grandmother has died.

There is a spider building her web over a manmade pond,
her shadow falling on the water
where orange fish swim.

The setting sun lights up the side of the branches
I can’t see from where I’m standing in the courtyard while
the same orange light hits my face.

//

Lately it seems I can’t write a poem without at least
two shimmering images waiting
in the recesses of my mind.

I’ve been haunted for years by this idea that
the words don’t come unless they feel welcome, so I do
my best to make my space/heart/life a home for them.

I keep the windows open so the wind can blow in.
I keep the quilt untucked so my legs can kick in the night.
I keep my chest turned toward the sky so God can march right in.

My Year in Books: 2019

I am proud of my reading in 2019. It is the first year I’ve ever kept track of everything I was reading and I so enjoyed the practice of it. I love now, too, that I can go back and remember my year through the lens of the books I was reading.

I would love to write great reviews of all the books I read, or at least to rate all the books I read, but, for reasons that include lack of time and also insecurity about my opinion being valid at all, that does not happen.

What I have done instead is created a kind of year in review with a few categories that I made up and a few that were inspired by other readers. Because of the things mentioned above, my categories and picks won’t come with a lot of explanation, but I enjoyed going through my books and categorizing them.

I hope you, too, enjoy my not-very-serious but maybe still interesting Year in Books for 2019. 🙂

Here we go.

This year I read:

  • 42 fiction books 
  • 2 poetry collection
  • 2 graphic novels 
  • 1 collection of short stories 
  • 4 complete series or some books from a series
  • 1 book I had previously read
  • 25 female authors 
  • 20 male authors

Easiest Book I Read: The Penderwicks series, by Jeanne Birdsall

The two easiest books I read by far were the last two books in Birdsall’s series, the first three of which I read when I was younger. I loved her books then and I still love them now.

Hardest Book I Read: Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon

The Yiddish slang in this book made it a little difficult to get in to, but it was definitely worth it for the story.

 

Most ~Enlightening~: We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled, by Wendy Pearlman

I had not previously known very much about the Arab Spring so reading this book felt like a revelation. Reading it has allowed me to learn even more about the Arab Spring and has really enhanced my understanding of events in the Middle East.

Most Beautiful Cover: Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan

(Also a fantastic book, the cover of this book is just striking to me.)

 

Most Beautiful Content: Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver

I loved this book for the story and the characters, but also simply for the beautiful descriptions of the land and the creatures in rural Virginia.

Out Of All the Books I Read, You Should Read This One: The Overstory, by Richard Powers 

This is an incredible book. Story, character, heart, message. It reads like poetry and is so important. Trees are so important.

Most Important: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A necessary read for all of us who are white.

Newest: graphic novels

I had never really read graphic novels before this year. I read two, the one below, The Prince and His Dressmaker, by Jen Wang, which was simply adorable. And I read a graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred. I’m looking forward to reading more graphic novels and seeing what the combination of word and visual art can do.

Longest: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

This book took me many months to complete, reading pretty consistently. It was dense and at times sad, but it was compelling and so well written, and taught me so much.

{How I’m Beginning This Year}

Also known as: {Personal Affirmations}.
Also known as: {Truths of which to be Reminded}.
Also known as: {How I Take Care of Myself}.

1. I build a routine that feels good and, recognizing the value of structure in my wellbeing, I stick to it.
2. I recognize when I need to slow down and listen, instead of speak.
3. I recognize places that I do not need to be in charge and in so doing, remember that the world runs without my micromanagement.
4. I let others take some of the weight off my shoulders: it wasn’t all mine to begin with.
5. I release jealousy because my worth is not tied to how useful, needed, or special I am to someone, in someone’s life, or in the process.
6. I recognize the cycle and the trap of my own negativity, pity, pain, and helplessness because none are 100% true and none are everlasting.
7. I remember that writing it down gets it out.
8. I allow myself to dream, regardless of its possibility.
9. I remember that though I am alone in my skull, I am not alone in the world.

{The Pools}

At the 9.11 memorial,
the sound of the pools,
so much water going over so many edges,
almost drowns out the sounds of the city.
People, however, you can hear
just as well.

The body holds a memory the mind
cannot remember, so I
put my fingers to the names
cut into stone.
The people flock to the pools,

take photographs of pools framed
by trees framed by city’s buildings.
The waters rushes forward in its endless practice.

Guards with guns stand by doors,
pose for photos with admirers and
I remember the Wendell Berry poem:
there is no answer
but loving one another,
even our enemies, and this is hard.”

I remember it could’ve been any of us.
It could be any of us.

{Today, I Took the Life of a Grasshopper}

right out of its body as
I was extracting it from the leg of my jeans after it somehow got itself there as
I walked through a field in the fall with a friend by my side with
another friend’s binoculars in my hands as
I was trying to get closer to a bird I saw in the trees
just beyond the binoculars’ focusing power from where
we sat in the grass drinking hot water with mint while
we felt the wind in our hair.

The sky was so blue & so full &
the air tasted soft & new & the lungs
of the grasshopper were pumping desperately.

{An Age Old Poem}

Belle Pepper the cow grazes this morning,
The push of her neck repetitive and calm.
I don’t think she knows that it is Easter,
But maybe she does.

Maybe this is how she is celebrating.
She eats the food available to her while
The sun lifts itself to our part of the world.

We know that it is Easter, so we sit
On the porch with warm drinks in our hands as
The birds fly by like always, singing.

Yellow and orange light sweeps over the mountains
And the mystery comes with it:
Washing everything,
Pulling back the curtain,
Rolling away the stone.

{In April}

We opened the windows to see if we could
drink the blue of the sky like a cup of earl grey tea and
we welcomed the rain when it came
rushing in like a mountain creek.

When the leaves heard spring had come home to visit,
they exploded in our throats like a clap of thunder and
when we laid on the floor late at night to sing,
flowers grew instead of voices.

{Landscape of a Life}

A poem of all the poems I haven’t been writing:
The birds that speak to me in a language
I do not speak but wish that I did.
The migraine feeling and the pain that
changes shape just when I’m not looking at it.
The crickets that lay beside me
under the muted color quilt,
singing a song without words.
The mist that sleeps in the valley.
The loneliness that sits on my shoulder
changing words before they enter my ears.
The learning that visits daily and leaves
me reminders of where to check for the light.
The gratitude that places its
gifts right at my fingertips.
The joy that sneaks up on me like
a slow snow, covering the land right at my feet.

One Year: Gap Year.

Approximately 13 months ago, I moved into my aunt’s home in Santa Barbara. I spent 7 months working at a coffee shop; biking around town; reading and walking on the beach; seeing more of California and the western states; and recovering from the sleep loss of my senior year of high school.

In March, I stayed for a week with my closest friends in a hostel in Chicago. I took an Amtrak train for twelve hours to Mississippi and saw both sets of my grandparents. I traveled to Kenya for two weeks to say goodbye to my once-upon-a-time home and to friends.

At the beginning of April, I settled on an organic dairy farm in the Netherlands. I spent a lovely two months there, and then two too-short weeks on a sweet biodynamic produce farm. I spent those long spring days learning how to muck cow stalls; teach a calf to drink from a bucket; make cheese; say 10 ice cream flavors in Dutch; plant lettuce sprouts; clean onions; eat tayberries; and pick red currants. I met so many kind people and fell in love with the flat, green land of Holland.

Returning to the present: I am back in the US, with my parents and brother in our new condo in our old home, Nashville, Tennessee. It’s such a joy to be in a familiar town with long-time friends.

In a few days, I will start university at a small school outside of Asheville, North Carolina. I will settle into the deep, blue mountains and continue to thank the Universe for my whirlwind of a gap year.

As much as I’d love to, I couldn’t possibly tell you everything. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of all the places I’ve spent at least one night in the past thirteen months and linked is a poem I wrote there. I think it says enough.

It was a journey, folks. Thank you for following along, and thank you for reading.

1. Santa Barbara, California (7 months)

Santa Barbara, California

2. Pocatello, Idaho (1 night)

3. Cody, Wyoming (5 nights)

The Phillips Cabin, Cody, Wyoming

4. Victor, Idaho (2 nights)
5. Salt Lake City, Utah (1 night)
6. St. George, Utah (2 nights)

7. DeBordieu, South Carolina (4 nights)

8. San Francisco, California (4 nights)

9. Cambria, California (4 nights)

10. Taos, New Mexico (7 nights)

11. San Diego, California (4 nights)

12. Chicago, Illinois (8 nights)

Chicago, Illinois

13. Starkville, Mississippi (5 nights)

14. Birmingham, Alabama (1 night)
15. Atlanta, Georgia (1 night)

16. Brevard, North Carolina (7 nights)

17. Nairobi, Kenya (10 nights)

Nairobi, Kenya

18. Tiwi Beach, Kenya (4 nights)

19. The Hague, Netherlands (7 nights)

20. Kaag, Netherlands (2 months)

Kaag, Netherlands

21. Amsterdam, Netherlands (1 night)

22. Lelystad, Netherlands (14 nights)

23. Frankfurt, Germany (3 nights)

24. New Castle, Virginia (1 night)
25. Albany, New York (1 night)

26. Indian Lake, New York (7 nights)

27. Scituate, Massachusetts (6 nights)

28. Nashville, Tennessee (1 month)

{19 July 2018}

For Nora.

There are some moments that write themselves
Into a poem by their very occurrence.

The sunrise, for instance.
The air still light with the moon’s chill.
The waking watchers waiting on the rocks and
The blanket over their feet.
The man and his dog panting into the water.
The singular, lucid moment when finally
Once again the Sun slides above the sea.

There are moments such as these:
When you move your body in a dance,
The way it was made to move from the
Very moment you rose from the primordial water.

There are such moments as these that write themselves
Simply by occurring, that write themselves
To tell you what your eyes have forgotten.