Monday, 28 December 2020

A Snuggle in the Chair

I’ve just had one of those beautiful, fortuitous moments of parenthood; lovely and serene, bonded and treasured. I got a do-over.

Last night, Dash was messing around at bedtime quite late. He has been figuring out the technologies of his bedroom, and the lights were all the way on at 9:30pm. (Lights off is officially at 9pm, and flashlights have been confiscated.) I snapped off the lights as Dash was building a flower garden. 

I shut the door, and then I went back. I opened the door again, and said: “Dash, I know you were having fun designing flowers. And I’m proud of you for playing quietly. But it’s late, and if you don’t get some sleep now you will be very tired and sad tomorrow. So it’s time to go to bed.”

He was clearly tired, and he said, “I want a snuggle.” I said, “Okay, I’ll pick you up and cuddle you, and then I’m going to put you in your bed.” I duly did so, and he seemed giddily awake, pretending to shiver. (Admittedly, I had just washed my hands, so they were probably chilly, though Dash was delighting in the theatrical rendering.)

I tucked him into bed, and he said, “Can we have a snuggle in the chair?” I, feeling that I should hold to the law, declined gently, told him I love him, and exited the room without drama.

I relayed the tale to James, admitting that I wished I had stayed, as Dash won’t always ask, and won’t always be little. James confessed that he would have caved, for those very reasons. And, so, it stuck with me. I reminded myself that I made my choice to try to help Dash get rest, and I was trying to choose the best thing for his next nights’ rest as well. 

Tonight, I’ve been in the spare room organizing the heap of treasures and detritus on my work table. I’ve felt a creative spark in many directions, nudging at some preexisting projects and ideating about others. There is a breeze of initiative in the air tonight, and it’s blowing some of the dust off my soul as well as the laden surfaces of productivity. 

This is, of course, thirsty work, and I needed to deposit some cans and make a cup of tea to continue. As I was pottering around the kitchen, I heard a stirring in the hallway. The door was open just a crack, and into the light beamed a small, cute human in stripy blue R2D2 pajamas. 

“What is going on here?” I inquired, and Dash seemed very pleased with himself. James had informed me earlier in the evening that Dash can now open the door to his room, previously sufficiently difficult as to contain him in the evening. He had intended to take himself on a little adventure when I intercepted him, clearly, and so I scooped him up and took him back to his room. 

“Can I have a snuggle in the chair, please?” he asked groggily. “Yes, I’d be happy to,” I said. He relaxed into my arms, and we got all snuggled into the chair, pillow under his head and ever-longer legs draped over the edge of the nest my legs made sitting criss-crossed and pulled onto the seat cushion. He’s so big these days, almost big enough that this trick will require a small sofa soon, but for now we can still sit in a modified version of how we ended nursing sessions: my baby asleep at my left breast, in just the right position for me to scoop up for a rocking walk over to his bed. 

“Do you want me to sing you some songs?” I asked. Eyes closed, he said yes, and gently, sleepily snuggled into me. “You are my sunshine…” I sang him the same songs I’ve been singing him since he was a newborn, a rhythm that has changed a little but really not much in the last three years. It feels like everything else has changed around those songs, but this moment of the two of us doing the dance of sleep in the incredible shrinking chair has been a steady, if distancing, refrain in life. 

Sometimes, I cry. Tears sit at the edges of my eyes even now. These moments in the middle of the night most connect me to my own parents, remembering in my bones having limbs the size of my little one’s, being held close by the invincible, omniscient adults of my early days. And what a cosmic thing it is, to live through such a transformation, from baby to mother, and back to baby yet again through the borrowed eyes of new life and the empathy required to connect to nonverbal communication and raw intuition. 

After I sang my songs, I sat with him for a little while. At the second-to-last song, I felt a nervous rush of being one foot out the door already, and I realized it was because the usual rhythm’s end was coming soon. Of course, a millisecond later i observed that no one was dictating that I stop singing, or what I could sing, and certainly not how long I could enjoy sitting with my son. 

I stroked his hair. I held him close. I thanked him for coming down from the stars to be my baby. I marveled at his beauty, and for a moment felt connected to the divine.

“I’m going to put you in your bed now,” I whispered as I belayed him into a cloud of cottony quilting. I tucked him in, kissed his forehead, and felt that silky hair I’ve loved since the day he was born. 

“I love you so much,” I reminded him. I quietly made my exit, heart full to bursting.

My tea was still hot when I got back to the kitchen.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Holding Up the Towers

We have had so many 9/11s-worth of deaths due to coronavirus here in the US. If you have ever posted in remembrance of those lost in the Twin Towers, but persist in spreading fatal idiocy about this damned plague: leave my life. 

My family has been hit, and trying to protect our elders has remained an ever-present thrum, with some successes and some painful losses. 

I have friends getting sick. Some were knocked down for months. It's not just deaths, which are awful enough, but disability and suffering, too. Trying to keep children healthy, trying to parent when we can barely breathe, watching fevers spike and knowing that hospitals are overwhelmed. 

As with all things American, the fractures of our society are illuminated further by this crisis. Damn the incessant conspiracy-mongering nonsense, the can't-be-told attitudes, the anti-science tantrums! People are dying, especially the people who are always most vulnerable in our society. 

If your family hasn't lost somebody yet, there's still time. It's hard to keep holding back, and we all mess up. But, right now, our cock-ups kill. 

There is so much to mourn. I'm grateful for the encounters with friends and family that have lifted my spirits, phone calls and video visits that make it all more bearable. 

I don't want to lose anyone else. We're all in these towers, folks, and it's actually up to us to hold them up. 

Masks on, chins up, eyes intermittently dry, hands freshly washed. Let's hunker down and get to the other side of this nightmare so we can rebuild something much better.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Oro en Paz

I'm so in love with this city. I've been sticking close to home a lot since we've been back, but today I got a dose of that San Francisco magic again, and it just never gets old for me. 

This morning, I went to Cliff's Variety on a mission to pick up some odds and ends (and walked out with a heaping helping of totally unrelated goodies). I popped over the hill, and the big rainbow flag was flying high and proud in a perfect blue sky. 

At Cliff's, Delia delighted people coming through, and I talked with the folks working there and other customers about creative projects and making gifts for people we love. I felt ambitious again, eager to create and do beautiful things. I felt that bandwidth coming back after I'd had to set it aside for so long. 

I walked for a couple of blocks with a friar in his robes and a mask promoting his favorite dog rescue. Delia of course befriended the monk instantly as he walked out of a door on Castro, and his lilting Irish accent sounded musical in the morning traffic. 

We chatted about the magic of dogs, how his had passed at the beginning of the lockdown, and how he was working with the Labrador rescue to find another furry friend. We strolled through the rainbow crosswalk together and lifted each other's spirits. 

This is a city that decisively voted down fascism. We come from everywhere to build dreams here, and while not all of them come true, the endeavor itself shapes us. Families come in all forms, and love wins. 

This city is changed by COVID, but not crushed by it. There are parklets, makeshift alfresco spaces lining the sidewalks to provide a solution to the risks of indoor dining. The shops are open, with hand sanitizer at the door and friendly faces enforcing mask policies. Biden Harris 2020 signs proudly hang on Harvey's, evidence of decades of work toward progress and equality. 

Nothing and nowhere and no one is perfect, but the sun is shining here and there's nowhere I'd rather be. Oro en paz, fierro en guerra--I love you, San Francisco.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020


To concede or to not concede, that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the eye of the voter to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous democracy, or to take arms against a sea of neckbeards, and by opposing end them.

To concede—to sleep, once more; and by sleep to say we end the heart-ache of the thousand scandalous shocks that fascism is father to:

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Election Day 2020

Finally, it is Election Day. I awoke to many loving posts from LGBTQ+ families asking that we remember what's at stake for them at the ballot box, posts from Black families recounting generations of struggle against voter suppression, posts from new citizens citing their pride to help build the America of their dreams. 

And I also encountered a couple of posts from men I know emphasizing that they would never tell you who to vote for. Their studied neutrality offered safe space for those that would vote whichever way, some theatre of moral high ground fertile for false equivalence, open arms even for those that would vote to oppress others. 

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Desmond Tutu's words are at the forefront of my mind right now; they call us to use our best judgment to relieve the impossible weight of suffering for people in our communities, vulnerable by virtue of sex or skin color, age or orientation, paperwork or presentation. 

Today, US citizens have an opportunity to exercise our most potent weapon to fight injustice. Over 230,000 of us have died of COVID in a phenomenal failure of national leadership. White nationalist violence is surging, encouraged by the occupant of our highest office. Our economy is in disastrous shape, and an impeached president is on the ballot alongside his enablers in Senate, who could have done something about this mismanagement and repeatedly refused. 

The choices presented to us today are not neutral. They are not equivalent. 

Very personally, my rights to bodily autonomy are on the line. Healthcare is on the line. The rights of LGBTQ+ people to live openly and have families as they choose are on the line. Access to the polls for Black Americans is on the line. Our international standing, so much diminished over the last four years, hangs by a fraying thread. 

I will not stand in neutrality as oppression comes for me and surges all around me. I urge you to fight alongside me. If you don't have so much hanging in the balance, acknowledge your privilege and vote to improve the circumstances of those more vulnerable than you. 

This choice is binary: Vote to cast off a fatally damaging would-be dictator, who is shortening our lives and eroding our hard-won progress, or hold the door for the collapse of American democracy. The stakes are incredibly high. 

Vote for Biden. Fire Trump. Cast your vote for the opportunity to build something better together, because we all deserve the chance to live lives that are less brutish, nasty and short. 

Today, we have a sacred duty to protect democracy in this country and learn from the cracks that have been revealed in our foundation. Please don't feign neutrality in the face of someone else's peril.


Tonight, the Marigold Project’s Festival of Altars was rendered virtual, a gorgeous ritual made both accessible and distant by the coronavirus. I watched and listened, cried and smiled, had chills and connected with the universality of love and loss. 

I asked James to get the jar of spiced hot chocolate down from the pantry. I brought my grandmother’s jack-o’-lantern near for the festivities. I cuddled both alternately, hearing poetry and letting dance and art shake dust off of my soul as the thin veil flapped in the breeze to blow it away completely. 

In years past, tonight would have been an outdoor gathering, a soulful march through the Mission accompanied by our own renditions of second lines, visions of glamorous catarinas floating down the city streets. The procession would drift to Garfield Park, to an assemblage of altars amid a neighborhood of doorstep ofrendas and so many remembrances of loved ones held dear. 

Tonight, the park is closed. The remembrances now include the ritual itself, present but changed by this moment of viral compression, the altars private but certainly plentiful in a year where the Mission was an early hotspot of COVID tragedies. Multigenerational households full of essential workers felt the impossibility of escaping from this pernicious plague. 

In the midst of this, the acknowledgement of police brutality and anti-black, anti-trans violence remained focal points in the Festival of Altars. The earth was honored, and holding us to account. We are invited to contemplate not only our ancestors, but our shadows, too. How will our understanding of ourselves spur us to cultivate peace and well-being for those alive right now? How will balance be brought where things feel most lopsided?

I abstained from intoxicants, sat sober through the ceremony as is asked of us the night of the procession. Somber and savoring the depth of emotion. The moon is still heavy with fullness, and the days have an autumnal range that awakens me to shifting into winter itself in short order. Offerings of food, good medicines I also grow on the occupied territory I inhabit, laid beautifully before artistic elaborations on elemental strength. 

As the credits rolled, I felt grateful. The doorbell rang, and a grocery delivery arrived, resplendent with an edible bouquet of flowers and herbs, including marvelous marigolds. Marigolds were some of the first things I ever succeeded in growing from seed as a child; I’ve been meaning to plant more, and inhaling their particular scent fringed in mint and verbena made me ready to sow at first light. 

We all need rituals. Wonderfully, life in San Francisco has given me the unexpected gift of participating in some small way in this one. I lit a candle, put my herbaceous blossoms into water, and perfected the inadvertent altars in my dining room. The piano, once my grandfather’s, then my grandmother’s, then my uncle’s, and now in my home, has really become a kind of altar. I tidied and talked to my spirit kin, eventually eating some pumpkin cookies and sipping smoky mezcal. 

The marigolds arrived right on time, replacing the glorious amaranth that had been center stage on the dining table. The Jericho Rose finally got some water and began its magical unfurling. The corn and dried wedding flowers held down their spiritual places. I made a cup of soothing tea from the spare leaves of my bouquet. I played music that has become an annual winter ritual, because it is powerful and descriptive of these shifting seasonal energies. The magic of nourishment, life and renewal took over.

Tomorrow is a big day. This has been a year of survival. The stakes are high, and so are emotions. The veil is thin, but so too is our national patience. Souls hover around the decisions of the day, and we all must brace for what comes next. 

Tonight, though, I journeyed through the contours of what came before. I held my grief and my hope simultaneously. Just now, I feel fulfilled in the higher callings of human being. I’m trying to live my life as essential poetry in an animal dance; I think it just might work.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

COVIDeous Times

The longer Trump's COVID drama goes on, the more lies are revealed, and the more damage done. We are being jerked around in an abortive coverup, and the dishonesty remains absolutely shameless. 

And this is to say nothing of three-plus years with him bilking our government for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of returns *while he's supposed to be running it* and leaving thousands upon thousands dead and traumatized by his cruelty and ineptitude. 

The children in cages, the families separated, disease spreading through detention centers, calls for white supremacists to stand by even as he calls those that stand up for black lives extremists... 

I find myself quite low on compassion for Mr. Trump. Perhaps the biggest welfare queen of all time, even now he is receiving the best health care on our dime while trying to take ours away. 

He has been cavalier with our lives, in service of himself. History has a place for men like him, in all of its grimmest chapters. "Under this president, we’ve become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided, and more violent," Mr. Biden observed, and there is nothing great about any of this.

But, let's remember: Something comes after. And we get to decide about that, even now. We can get off of this death cult rollercoaster.