Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Cultural Topsoil Erosion

“They are vertically integrated, from animal genetics to grocery store. What they charge isn’t based upon what it costs to produce, and it’s not based on supply and demand, because they know what they need to make a profit. What they have done, through government support and taxpayer support, is to intentionally overproduce so that the price stays low, sometimes below the cost of production. That kicks their competition out of the market. Then they become the only player in town.

“Over time, it has extracted wealth and power from communities. We can see how that has impacted rural main streets. You can see the boarded-up storefronts. You can see the lack of economic opportunity.”


I feel so many things about this. I implore you all to read this, and understand what's going on with our food production, and what's happening where there were once breadbasket communities.

I grew up in Missouri, outside of a small town of ~2,000 people, in the midst of cattle, soybeans, horses, and corn. In that small town, I was given a quality education, which frankly far surpassed the schooling I received when my family moved to the shinier suburbs of Denver. My classmates and I have mostly moved away, equipped with tools gained in a functioning community in a rural, agricultural area.

My family used to farm--not my parents, at least not during my lifetime, but certainly my grandparents did. My grandparents' farm is now part of a conservation area, which is a fairly happy ending as these things go, but it is surrounded by endless miles of fields to feed factory farms, dotted with wind turbines that light up the night sky with their red eyes blinking throughout. It feels very empty.

Visiting there last summer, my father recounted the places where the other families had lived, this house and that one, all gone. I listened to him describing the erosion of an entire way of life. He sounded a lot like the farmers in this article.

I am now the owner of some property in Trump country. When I was growing up in Missouri, it was more politically mixed. Now, so many of the towns seem to be drying up and blowing away on the wind. Sam Brownback hastened Kansas's version of this demise by sucking away the tax base for small-town schools and post offices, but the same destruction can happen more gradually and get to the same result.

Who wants to live in a town with no grocery store? What do you do if your kid can no longer go to school anywhere nearby? What if utilities don't serve your underpopulated or depopulated area?

The way of life my dad grew up with is almost gone, but I actually think the way of life I grew up with is nearly evaporated along with it. I don't know how the odds look for rural kids these days. This is part and parcel of why angry, poor white people voted for the goddamned monstrous administration we have now, which is only selling them out in the same ways faster than ever. These people are rightfully enraged, though their votes remain misdirected at the same economically ignorant Republican grifters that helped them shuffle into this death spiral in the first place.

I wish they could see this for what it is. Poor people in many parts of this country used to understand very clearly that voting GOP was not at all in their best interests.

The destruction is rampant, callous, immoral. Communities of small farms are being razed to rape and pillage our environment, to cram animals together in their own sewage, wages driven down so low that cheaper labor is imported to finish the job, and those migrant workers are demonized and subjected to wage theft, harassment, sexual assault, fear of deportation and family separation.

As ever, a few people at the top are getting very wealthy by demolishing every other living thing in their paths.

It matters how we get our food. It matters that we respect life and the quality of it, whether we're talking about people that do work we need or the creatures and lands that sustain us. And, heaven help us, we cannot survive a world that emulates and propagates this model.


Tuesday, 5 February 2019


Tonight, I nursed you down to sleep.
I held you in my arms, 
cradled your little elbow, 
your soft fingers holding onto my thumb, 
and I could feel how you are another part of me, 
glorious and unique, 
destined for the future.

Precious baby, now a boy,
little though you may be.
We've been holding hands since forever,
you one hour born and me but minutes a mother. 
Feeling the wonder of you,
the mystery and exhausting joy,
not knowing what would happen next
but along for the ride, all the way.

I live for you already. 
When day-by-day boredom strikes, you smile.
When my hands ache with the umpteenth wash,
I reassure myself that you have never had a bad belly as yet,
even with all of your adventurous eating and the rest.
When my heart aches with opportunity cost,
I can also feel how much it has opened in seeing just the opportunity
to see you,
glorious and new, 
destined for the future,
with your little old soul 
and wonderful big heart.

Part of my heart flies on in you.
canines flashing,
white and careless,
baby belly laughs to silly sneezes,
theatricality at the fiber of this adventure.
Performing weird acts 
of life's explanation
even while flying blind 
in the dark.

Whatever little way this absorbs,
or profound,
I've held you close. 
How could you not absorb at least some of these 
hopes and dreams?
Some measure of my heart poured in,
wishing you love and ever-growing strength,
onward with your maniacal energy and destiny in the future.

I hold your hand.
I hold you close. 
You sigh.
I thank you for coming down from the stars
to be my baby.
I kiss your head.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Saying Goodbye to Gump's

Friends, my heart is heavy. I know there are other things going on in the world, but today I had a sad milestone, and it's weighing me down.

This morning, I did my last holiday shopping at Gump's. I went back, baby-free, to see what was left and to say goodbye.

I took one of the cardboard totes stacked at the front door, the kind you'd pack your things into if you'd just been told to clear your desk after a firing, and gently tried to persuade a beautiful, sculptural thing to fit into it.

Upstairs, I found a pair of ceramic flowers I had admired from the catalog, sitting lonely in a display case. I nestled them in, and looked through the art books selling for a mere $5 or $10 apiece.

As my time was running out, I made my way to the cash register. I talked with the lady helping me, and offered her my canvas shopping bags for the heavy haul back to the parking garage. She commented that I had done pretty well, and I agreed, though I was so unhappy with the circumstances. "Tell me about it," she said.

I had wrongly assumed that a lot of the folks staffing the rapidly-emptying store were from the liquidation company, but no. My associate, and her colleagues, were imparting their expertise on handmade carpets and fine crystal for a few more days. Their professionalism remained, even as the ship was sinking.

She came to my total, and took a breath before telling me. It was a fraction of what it should have been. I let her know that I didn't wish to find a bargain this way.

She said, "I hope you had a wonderful treasure hunt, and that you're taking some lovely memories of Gump's with you." I let her know about finding the ceramic flowers, a set of salt and pepper shakers in the shape of poppies, and she smiled. "They were probably the ones we photographed for the catalog."

Tears sprang to my eyes. I remember finding Gump's as I wandered around San Francisco starry-eyed and young. The catalog followed me, and reminded me of grown-up things that could sparkle in my home, an aspirational image of refinement.

Later, I found out my Grandma received the same catalog, and I was surprised she knew about my secret treasure store here in the city. Some of the last gifts I sent her came from there, and I hope it delighted her to see the careful wrapping. I'm glad she didn't have to see the end of this chapter.

Whenever I was nearby, I would wander in and catch a glimpse of glittering jewelry. Every year, I came to shop the ornaments, buy some special Christmas cards, and hunt for books and gifts.

And so, eyes closed against stinging of tears, I completed my last Christmas pilgrimage.

I used to work in retail. One of my first jobs in that sector was in a store that was liquidating. I sold jewelry at similar counters. I feel the loss of those jobs, especially among the seasoned staffers who took such pride in their work. I would have been proud to work there.

And, evidently, the lady who rang me up and her assistant on packaging felt the same. They took such care to lovingly wrap everything for my way home, with twine and bubble wrap and professional attention. Just as if I had paid full price for it all.

The sales associate that helped let me take the cardboard tote, and let everyone know she had said I could. Her assistant found me a brand-new boxed number of one of my finds. One the way out, they wished me a merry Christmas.

I'm going to miss this place. One of my last treasures was a bunch of faceted rainbow moonstone strands, very fine, intended for a jeweler to create pieces sold under their brand. The stones should have been nearly $800, but instead were a mere $157... one dollar for every year Gump's had been in business.

I will make something beautiful out of them. But, today, I just held them and cried, and tried to let go of a place that meant something to me, that I shared with my grandmother, and which seems to belong to a dying world.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Lavender and Love

Sharing some sweetness here. Almost every day, Dash and I do a garden happy hour. (Typically a dry affair, short of his splashing in hose water.)

At some point, I carry him up the hill on the flagstone path, and he demands a lavender flower. Dutifully, I pick out just the right one, with some foliage for good measure. He holds them in one chubby little hand while pointing ever higher on the trail.

When we came inside today, I set his flowers and foliage on his play table in his room. We got whisked away for dinner, and I forgot about them until James asked, "Where did he get the lavender?"

At bedtime, he had his flowers in his hand, and he held onto them as he was nursing. He knows I love to smell them, so he held them up for me to sniff as he nursed until his little arm was too tired. Even then, he held onto them, his hot tiny palm warming up that relaxing scent as sleep gradually took hold.

I was going to put him to bed with them, letting him keep the comfort of them in his grip and building the association with lavender and calm, but he eventually let them go into my lap. I will keep them for him, a sweet shared treasure from my loving baby, who already knows I love to smell flowers with him.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Within Their Sights

So, just a reminder: This awful administration is going to damage all of us, even you have not yet internalized a sense of being squarely within their aim.

My baby was delivered by midwives. My husband has a foreign accent, and is an immigrant even if he is also a US citizen. It would be convenient to imagine his documents would be respected, if we were afforded due process, but we are actually seeing US citizens with legitimate birth certificates deported right now because federal agents independently decided they were insufficiently American.

The erosion of due process has already begun. That applies to all of us.

I already know they are coming for me. I know it as a woman, as a protester, and as a traveler. This is a misogynistic, xenophobic, insecure government, and I tick all of the boxes to trigger them. They will come for my bodily autonomy, but they will try to restrict my rights in other ways first, I have no doubt.

I have also been worried about my family, knowing that my husband would present as foreign first, and there might not be an opportunity to protect him with papers. One of my contractors told me that one of his employees, Irish by birth but a US citizen, was rounded up at a job site here in San Francisco and taken to an unspecified detention center because he forgot his ID at home one day. He also has a family and children.

I must admit, however, that the stories of border region midwife deliveries being called into question open up a new avenue for concern. It hadn't occurred to me that my child's citizenship might be on the block. Here it is, though.

And it makes me so angry. I chose to give birth in the wonderful care of our midwives because they are excellent, attentive, and diligent, offering practical and supportive care to pregnant women and newborns. That the professionalism of these women would also be called into question, while simultaneously throwing children into bureaucratic chaos, is yet another reminder of the pernicious attitudes of this administration and its supporters.

I know they are coming for me. But you shouldn't have to know they are coming for you to push back against this.

This woman's story could easily become my own. This is how the slide into statelessness begins, and threatening citizens in such a manner is chilling, racist harassment: https://nyti.ms/2PvdXnN

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Choice, Time & Imbalance

I totally understand the dropping birth rate. I love my son so much, and I also often feel swindled about the motherhood deal.

The thing is, it's not even close to enough to have one reliable person at your side when it comes to kids. I have a wonderful husband, who is a fixer and a doer and an excellent daddy, who also works for a company that is portrayed as "family friendly," and I am still stuck with no help incredibly frequently.

I am the only one I can count on to look after my kid.

I am lucky that I do not have to choose between a conventional career or my child, because I do not see how I could reliably get to an office right now. And I'm the person that bears being constantly on-call so that my husband can have a conventional job. (Hats off to the households that are pulling off two parents having 9-5 gigs. I literally do not know how you do this.)

While it is an honor to be with my child each day, I also feel very stuck here. I have the flexibility to never be able to reliably plan anything, lest someone else's time become more important without notice.

It used to be the case that new parents had family nearby to ease the stresses of parenthood, extra hands that could either hold the baby or do the dishes or generally pitch in to the work of life. There used to be an economy of scale, with similar ages of children occupying each other, allowing for something less than a 1:1 ratio with supervising adults.

Women, very rationally, are doing the math, and realizing that at about the time they have built up enough stability in their own lives to support a tiny human, they will be constantly on the verge of giving up that vocation to ensure the little one has a caregiver. Kids require resources, but they really require time, and there is an unbearable tension that remains unresolved, pulling at mothers far more than anyone else.

In almost everything I do these days, I can feel how our society is not built to support women and children. I feel it like sandbags heaped upon my shoulders while I'm trying to carry a beautiful little being through the world and grow him up right.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018


This story is breaking my heart. It reaches right into new fissures in me that pulse with the primal universality of motherhood, and the suffering of children lost.

Today, I cried for this whale and her grief. I cried for black mothers interviewed on the radio, who were never told of extra risks their babies faced, part of the stresses of living under racism. Tears for the ruptured families seeking safety here in my country, only for infants to be kidnapped by a hostile government and misplaced within uncaring chaos.

I grieve with these mothers, even as I hold my own child close. I rage at the specific cruelty of humankind, but also find myself impaled on the animal emotion of delicate new life broken in so many ways, despite the love and care bursting forth from mothers of every kind.

I think of the lost children in my own family, those missing from their places, whose absence echoes through generations. I feel the pain of friends whose babies did not make it, often secretly held in the silence of miscarriage.

Tahlequah swims with her precious baby, her grief echoing that thing all mothers know too well. Her devotion cannot carve out a place for her spirit to rest, holding in her heart the intimate knowledge of the little being that is gone.

I despair that that love is not enough, because it is the core of my offering and I quake in fear that it will be bereft and inadequate.

Would that I could mend the Earth, and spare these sacred bonds such harm. There is so much healing to be done in us human animals, and our pain multiplies in the world around us. Life's longing for itself perseveres, fragmented and wounded by injustice and disregard.

May we all be kinder, and work to buttress each other. Strength is so tender, really.