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)

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{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.

{24 May 2018}

I’m washing the dishes with Gilmore Girls playing on my laptop
which is sitting on an overturned pan on top of the microwave.
The rain outside is the kind of rain that is constant, more than
a drizzle but less than a pour.
My hands are a little cold from the water and the suds and
I’m thinking about how lucky I am and, staring out the window
to the rain falling on the green fields,
I can see my life stretched before me like a ribbon.
I’m waving at my future self

who is also standing with her hands in a sink in front of
a window as she washes dishes.
Rain falls on her garden and she remembers
how this moment felt, when she
saw that everything was glowing,
that the shimmer of joy gleaming on the edge of the dripping dishes
was a gift she did nothing to deserve.

{5 May 2018}

I’m thinking that today I don’t have a poem to write but the sun flashes
across the train tracks on the other side of my eyelids and
the words of a book pour into my ears and

I think about my friends and
their hearts and
they keep saying to me we are here with their smiles and
piano-playing fingers and

my face feels warm with a sunburn that will bloom tomorrow and
food offered to me in kindness is still on my tongue and
the sky is as blue as I imagine it to be and
the sun will go down late tonight after I’ve had a cup of rooibos tea with honey and
the spiders outside have begun spinning their new home and

I will climb into bed and
I will rise and
begin again and
I am still pretending that I don’t have a poem to write.

{17 April 2018}

I muck actual bull shit into a four meter deep pit
Below the stables that are home to 55 dairy cows
On a small island in a lake in the middle of Holland.

If you didn’t know the dignity of the land,
You might not even call it an island, just
A collection of fields and small canals.

I’m wearing a pink tank top my mom’s best friend and
My namesake gave my mom.
The shirt feels tight with meaning and the
Sawdust covering the front is suddenly bothersome.

Through the huge barn door, I can see various songbirds and
The eurasian magpie, which my friend says is the only
Beautiful bird in his country.

I’m thinking about the first line of my memoir.

I’m thinking:
This is merely what happened when the problem began
to look like a life-sized problem.

Later, after the cows have been fed,
Their heads draped over the edge of the stalls,
Their tongues, long like giraffes’, eating the hay urgently,
I sit outside on a concrete slab in the middle of the grass,
Writing on the back of my Wendell Berry book, and
I wonder how these words push their way out of me,
Onto a page of paper torn out of a notebook, and
Into this world.

The cows are eating as if it were
The most important thing,
Which, I guess, it is, right then.

Learning from example, urgently, I take in this moment,
This life-sized moment:
The cold concrete under me, the wet grass against my boots,
The pen in my fingers, the words in my throat,
The cows in the barn, the magpies gliding,
The blue sky slowly darkening,
The new day coming.

{Windows}

Every evening, if we remember, before it is dark enough to turn on the light,
We pull the shade down over the window,
Blocking our neighbors and people on the street from a view straight
Through the glass of five friends chatting over chocolate and tears and sacred words.

Every morning, when enough of us are awake,
We pull open the shade to a view of the street and the neighbors’ dining table:
Bare winter branches and telephone wire and
Two yellow chairs and a laptop and occasionally a person.

Tonight when I take the train out of the city,
It snakes through apartments, tall buildings made of little boxes made into homes.
Through the brightly lit windows,
All the kitchens look different, counters and tables and chairs.
I catch a mere second of the inhabitants’ actions,
The turn of a head or the placing of the hand or just stillness,
Only their eyes following the movement of the train.

I think about how many people we saw everyday on the streets.
We are not city folk.
The cars and the trains and the noise and the exhaust, well,
We could wax poetic.

I don’t know how to say that it seems unnecessary to be living in small cubes
Of one’s own decoration surrounded by others doing the same.

We walk the same streets, breath the same exhaust.

Regardless, we return to our room every night and pull shut the curtain,
Enveloped again in our box of artificial light,
Our stories spilling out of our mouths,
Leaking through the cracked window,
Staining the old concrete in the East Village of Chicago.