{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.

{The Coming}

This is the way the sun comes up over the Indian Ocean:

A painting erupts
out of the long darkness
of a Kenyan night.
The clouds wait for the sun like
disciples who wait for the Coming.
They face due east, their edges slowly, slowly
turning white then orange with anticipation.

The birds, small white and black creatures,
flit over the low ocean, flipping and diving and flying as if
escaping a monster that has long since given up.

The sand — coarse and forgiving, “a pearly rubble” —
slopes down toward the ever reaching fingers of the waves.

The crabs scuttle back and forth, carefully
and methodically digging a temporary home for themselves,
knowing that the waves will come again and again.
Their eyes are attentive and their legs quick.

The palm trees lean toward the sea.
Always rejoicing, they offer their branches
in celebration.

The baobab tree stands in the shadow
of its own branches, the leaves dark green.
Grandparent of the ages, it is
playground and home to the monkeys.

What I’m saying is this:
We have been made as alive as the
ocean and clouds and sand and crabs
and palm trees and the baobab and monkeys.

You, too, are waiting.
You, too, belong here.

{Happy as a German with a Beer}

Happy as a bratwurst and a German beer.
Happy as a shuka in the shade.
Happy as a shuka by a river.
Happy as a found water bottle.
Happy as an under construction fountain.
Happy as a bridge with locks.
Happy as a free plate of pasta.
Happy as an astronomy student.
Happy as a gin and tonic.
Happy as a game of gin.
Happy as a hand to hold.
Happy as a book to read.
Happy as a football game.
Happy as a drunk man sitting on a table.
Happy as an apple.
Happy as an unbitten fingernail.
Happy as a setting sun on a church.
Happy as a singing rower.
Happy as a forest 50 km outside the city.
Happy as a park on a hill.
Happy as an old cemetery.
Happy as a park to nap in.
Happy as a breath in a church.
Happy as a quiet laugh.
Happy as a comfortable pillow.
Happy as a 7:30 alarm.
Happy as an echo in the valley.
Happy as a crawdad among the stones.
Happy as a wild cherry.
Happy as two kids on a train.
Happy as you and me.

{Eight o’ Clock on a Friday Night}

De Stek, Lelystad, Netherlands
June 2018

Renee walks in and smiles at me, humming,
one sleeve of her dark maroon shirt
rolled up over one shoulder.
Her mouth turns in confusion,
forgetting what she came for, then
Ah yes,
she nods.

As she retrieves a bowl, she says,
I’ve begun singing this old activist song,
from International Women’s Day.
I look at her, my eyebrows raised,
but she doesn’t say anything more.

She walks out the door, singing, and I hear her
pass through the garden and then
her voice fades.

The cork pot holders, four of them,
lay abandoned on the table and
the pitchers of water are half full.
I finish washing the dishes and laugh a little
at myself, stacking the dripping
pots and plates and plastic precariously.

To be clear,
I don’t know where this poem is going
or where it came from.
Only that Renee began singing and I saw
the words and I
obeyed their call,
like a voice floating through the garden.

28 July 2013 – 2 June 2018: Five Years in Apartment 8C

I remember how it felt to leave our little house on Cisco street in Nashville in 2013. It was weird to think about someone else sleeping in my room, guarded by my blue striped walls.

I remember the moment I walked into my room in Nairobi. The bed was the flattest mattress I could ever remember seeing. There was a white plastic chair beside the bed. The curtains were closed because it was nighttime. The dim light was yellowy. There was a quilt on the bed, handcrafted, but not by someone I knew, or wanted to know. I was tired. And not just ‘I flew across the face of the planet today’ tired. I was tired of feeling like I was leaving. And walking into the room didn’t feel like coming home, even when I most wanted it to.

In 2013, I couldn’t imagine ever loving that room, but I did. Eventually, it did feel like coming home. When I walked through the door and flopped on the bed. When I woke up with the cat on my chest and the sound of kids in the stairwell. When I did my homework sitting on the floor with the windows wide open.

A few months ago, I packed my belongings into bags and walked out of the cabinet-lined, wooden-tiled room that I had grown to love. Leaving, all over again.

{Bellway Park, 8C}

‒ a poem in which the walls tell me what they’ve been hiding

We’ve seen it all.
The homecomings and the leavings.
The suitcases dragged tiredly and excitedly through the door.

You and the dark-haired child used to be much smaller.
You used to laugh a lot less.

We told the cat we couldn’t speak.
We’ve listened to the him meow all day long.

We’ve heard the neighbors tell you to keep the noise down.
We agree.

We’ve seen every movie you’ve ever watched.
We love the paintings you have hung.

Tell the dark-haired child that we feel
the small sting of that basketball over and over.
The basket attached to the door,
we hear it is feeling a bit neglected.

Sometimes, when it is very dark outside,
we move in just a little.
We think all that pacing can’t be doing you any good.

Now, we watch the bags pile by the door, packed tight
and zipped, a sound we know too well.

Your secrets are our secrets.
They always will be.

Nevertheless, the door shuts firm behind you.
Do not forget the way we held you for these years.