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.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Martian Skies

The photos of the Bay Area skies this morning are just choking me up. Really apocalyptic. 

So many friends with go bags packed, up and down the West Coast. Looming evacuation orders. Record-breaking wildfires, year after year. 

We have to do better than this. Fires are part of the ecology, sure, but where humans go, fires go, too. Lightning strikes, of course, but what about fireworks? Drought comes and goes, I know, but do we choose to build a society that embraces that or exacerbates it? 

In the midst of crisis, can we even contemplate any of this, or do we just hunker down in whatever shelter we can get, huddle around the air purifier and keep our N95 masks close at hand? 

I'm not big into astrology, but I've seen people talking about Mars in retrograde starting today, and now we have the sky to match. This bastard year just won't quit. 

Please, stay safe. Make your plans to vote. Check in on your loved ones. Do what you can to deepen your resilience through this relentless chaos. 

Sending you all love, and wishing us all easier breathing soon.

Friday 21 August 2020

Sirens On, Buckle Up

Well, last night I did not hear Joe Biden's speech because my Dad needed another ambulance ride. TBH, a pretty rough night.

Tonight, James and I were talking about what it takes to get Americans to vote in their self-interest. I'm savvy enough to negotiate down a copay, but who needs that at 3am after a mad dash to keep a parent alive? 

Y'all, the personal is political. Keeping an old man alive is uphill battle enough at the best of times, and I don't wish for anyone else to have to do it in the midst of this plague. Regardless, countless of us will have to do so, with more mortal peril and less money than usual. 

Life goes on, and it's the stuff that's happening while we have other plans. I'm cruising along on too little sleep and the occasional adrenaline burst of a loved one's near-death experiences, just trying to keep everyone's airway clear so we can breathe through to a more stable moment. I vaguely recall the possibility of life being different than this. 

Honestly, triage should be a temporary state. We pay taxes to alleviate some of this uncertainty, not to ensure its perpetuation. People are sick, homes are on fire, and we all deserve coherent responses to those known unknowns that are the reality of human life. We are social creatures for a reason. We deserve better than pernicious ignorance and denial of our lived experiences. 

Please, get your shit together to vote. Check your registration, and consider being a poll worker. Talk to your loved ones about what's going on, and try to save them from bubbles of misinformation. Make sure they can vote, too. 

This autumn is going to be a ride, and we need to buckle up and dig our heels in. 

I love you all. Keep fighting the good fight.

Saturday 15 August 2020

Blessed are the Nurses

 Being in the rural Midwest during these COVIDeous times to care for an elderly man who is medically vulnerable is really wild. 

Having weathered the initial lockdown in San Francisco--a city which easily could have been hit as hard as New York but rather opted to take early, impactful action--I have some very clear ideas about what works to mitigate the spread of this damned plague. It feels normal, considerate, even comfortable to wear a mask. I wash my hands a lot, I keep hand sanitizer in easy reach, and I stay home as much as possible. If I'm sick, I do not go anywhere. 

Around me here in mid-Missouri, however, the picture is like a fever dream of a virus-free world. Bars and restaurants are open, and full. The radio advertises local happy hours and tryouts for the beach volleyball leagues, while the DJs discuss how live music events are back and the worst has passed. It's surreal. 

For the most part, medical professionals seem to be acknowledging reality, but it's very uneven. The first time I took my Dad to his primary care clinic, no one but my Dad and I had masks on. When I took him to the podiatrist at the hospital, the doctor and his aged receptionist also skipped masks, even as the doctor inhaled my father's toenail dust during the most industrial pedicure I have ever witnessed. 

The people that do seem to understand the severity of this are the nurses, social workers, and administrators who serve the elderly. These women--and they are all women--have taken it as their solemn duty to maintain a science-informed bubble around themselves, even as the society around them pretends nothing is happening. 

They amaze me, in the best way. I can speak from experience when I say that it is much, much easier to maintain rigorous protocols when your friends and neighbors are doing the same. Having moved from one context to another, I can testify to the temptation to engage with the rest of the world normally when that option is freely available (if very ill-advised). 

These women go to and from work, masked and aware of their surroundings, passing by the happy hour crowds and the invitations to socialize with friends. They have been doing it since March, and they are committed to serving vulnerable people who need them now more than ever. They do it in isolation and with great resolve. 

They are mothers, worrying about how their kids can go to school safely. They have their own elderly parents to care for. They are desperately needed, every hour of the day. When we talk, they lift my spirits, and we relate to each other as people fighting an uphill battle together against this pandemic. 

The local ballots are full-up with conservative men pushing for bars to open before schools have coherent plans, but I can see where the brains are. These women are pragmatic and tough, truly essential workers who stand as the last defense between life and death. If their hands were a little less full, they might be able to run against the anti-science crowd that keeps them busier than ever before. 

Today, one of them told me that she encouraged a young biracial couple to register to vote. She saw the inequalities they face, and urged them to take their concerns to the ballot box. We decried the lack of national leadership that prolongs the suffering of our country. For a little while, we held each other up in conversation, and the exchange made me feel hopeful. 

It is trite to call our healthcare workers heroes, but so many of them truly are. Blessed are the nurses, resolute on the front lines. They deserve for their work to be valued, uplifted, and made safer.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Vice President Harris

 My thoughts on Kamala Harris as Biden’s vice president:

I like Kamala Harris. I have voted for her many times, and it’s been a pleasure to watch her eviscerate craven, powerful men with her expertise and without mercy. 

She was not my first pick for veep. Nor was she my choice in the presidential primary; I still believe that Elizabeth Warren is the leader made for this moment, and there’s no one I’d rather have in the presidency or within one heartbeat of it. Even as I type this, my nails are freshly painted in Liberty Green.

However, I am heartened that my Senator and my hero work well together. It pleases me greatly that they have consulted with one another on bank-busting legislation and other policies. I will take the table with at least two brilliant women already seated there any day of the week. I deeply believe in the power, strength and magic of black women and girls; indeed, this country would not exist without them—and we have much atonement ahead for how that occurred. This moment is historic and vital, and it occurred in response to widespread calls to elevate a Black woman to our second highest office.

Contrast this with Agolf Twitler and his creepy Made-in-Gilead fundamentalist automaton sidekick. As a woman who values my own bodily autonomy as well as democracy, I see considerable improvement in fortunes ahead when the orange oaf is trounced and the Democratic party can once again engage in repair work following disastrous Republican white supremacist kakistocracy. 

I like a future with a whip-smart, ambitious woman like Harris at the helm, with Warren free to take on the Treasury or Commerce or whatever cabinet post she pleases. I am already seeing a Democratic platform shaped by Warren’s policy initiatives, as Biden has had his ear bent by her intellect and energy. This shows up in things like discussions of universal child care and pre-k, and the basic understanding of how economic justice is imperative to our nation’s wellbeing. I believe that Harris will fight hard for those things; the plans are all there, and Harris contributed to many of them.

I have not voted for a white man (nor even a conditionally white man) in a presidential primary or election since Kerry in 2004. I go for smart women with plans, because policy is my love language and I deserve to be represented by people who understand that women’s rights are human rights. 

I found hope in Obama’s America, and I’d like to see that hope restored to whatever degree is possible, so I’ll break my streak to affirm his vice president who demonstrated that he could abstain from centering himself in the presence of our first Black president.

Biden has the glorious luxury of deep bench of talent in a diverse Democratic party; this is where unity can occur, in restoring government by legitimately valuing expertise and promoting it. The center can hold, and lots of voices can be at the table, as indeed they already are. We can subvert the paranoid rightwing narratives and roll forth with progressive policies that in fact poll well amongst Americans generally, but that are also life-changing and equitable.

Trump’s hideous swamp party has crushed us economically, emotionally, and internationally. It is depressing. The last four years of rampant corruption have left a New Deal-sized opening for Biden and his administration. Biden has moved with the Democratic party over his many decades in office; on this count alone, he could head the most progressive administration we’ve ever seen, simply because that is where the conversations and pressure are in this moment.

Look to the words of FDR, and see how essential it is to link notions of dignity to our national recovery. Look at how economic justice, environmental justice, and reproductive justice are joined. It is time for those conversations to retake our highest office, even as we acknowledge that maintaining those discussions will require vigorous agitation.

I’m voting for Biden for the sake of all of that possibility. I’m going to do what I can to get out the vote, and to see that it happens safely. After Election Day, I hope to have the opportunity to demand better from a man who is actually capable of meeting that challenge. I hope you will, too. 

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Angioplasty and Endless Days

A quick snippet from my new pastime/hobby/full-time job navigating the USA's totally fucked-up excuse for healthcare:

It is midnight, and I am perusing eBay for used medical equipment. The problem isn't that I am poor and injured, nor is it that anyone is without insurance.

It's simply the reality that the bureaucratic hoops one must jump through to obtain certain things are convoluted and drawn-out, so even if you have a whip-smart detail-oriented impresario such as myself onside, it remains a tedious circus to just get what is needed when needs are complex.

So, here I am. Playing social worker, attempting to stitch together a patchwork of care that can leave the door open for increased mobility and decreased mortality.

Ask me if I am a doctor, and I affirm that I am not. I am an amateur nurse, an ad hoc advocate, a coordinator of care whose own physical needs fall to the wayside. I am not a professional.

I am thankful for all of the help I get, and yet I spend each day enraged that the entire system (if it can even be called that) remains dependent on the uncompensated labor of women such as myself, overstretched and under-resourced. It is a slow slog to pull together support in the best of times, and I don't dare anyone to withstand COVID in addition.

I need to go to sleep. I am tired, and tomorrow is another day of slowly mucking through, trying to push the picture on to a better scene.

We all deserve better than this. Needs go unmet, muddling through, and so much is lost trying to string together the basics in this hellscape of partial knowledge, burnout and disregard.

America, it doesn't have to be this way.

Dreaming of that mantra: May all beings be happy and free. Trying to contribute, and trying to keep my head up along the path, fumbling forward as I try to hold it all together.

Monday 27 July 2020

In Absentia

Some epiphanies from the place where I have fallen back down 25 years roundtrip from my precipitous climb:

—And, no, this is not about the absolute ruination of life; there’s no failed marriage saga underpinning this, but I am more aware than ever how I am one divorce away from losing a grip on all I’ve ever gained—

But I will tell you, fucking the patriarchy is not nearly enough. Girl, you have to destroy it from within. 

Because, genius and accomplishment notwithstanding, here I am, far from the front lines, trying to keep alive one old man who inadvertently utters racially problematic talking points even as I attempt to raise one very blond, rich boy through protests and pandemic, with outbreak of plague being brought to a crescendo by the very spectre of failed white masculinity himself. 

My husband remains a bulwark in this man’s world, and let’s also not pretend we are without struggle from the sickness that pervades our surroundings.

I have hit every rung on the fall, every trauma of dysfunctional family relived, the raw pain of begging a parent back from death’s doorstep, and I can feel every cut and bruise of loss from the past few years vividly.

Where am I in all of this? My rage is animal, and it tells me I will have to kill and kill or be killed to escape this morass. I am weakened, beset by vampiric forces, yet some primal energy will not allow me to fall down.

Survival. What does it even mean sometimes? Shall we limp along, prey to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, maimed and bleeding but technically ambulatory? 

Or shall we fight back from the precipice, fueled by anger and lit with righteous and riotous self-determination? 

Individualism is folly, yet individuation is essential. I remain, more dimensional if not fully complete.

Saturday 27 June 2020


Missouri, I love you. I come back here and eat pickled okra, sit in humid summer nights watching fireflies converse in the twilight and admire how life springs forth from every corner. I learned the dances of nature here, the intensity of seasons and the fecundity of imagination.

And also I am never going to live in a state with just one abortion provider, and the Trumpista delusions are literally killing you. Watching this sad spectacle detracts beauty from the rest and keeps you low. 

I remember in university—far, far away from here—when I argued that most poor, rural people didn't primarily wish for development to whisk them off to urban abodes, but rather diminish their suffering at home. I was slightly too articulate and rich-passing for anyone to think my words came from a place of knowing.

Yet, here we are. I sit on the porch, and contemplate the delights and pains of a simple life and a different world.

Riding that exotic tightrope of independence and self-delusion, we push out our own space in life until we are swallowed by the noise of cicadas and fragility of our own existence. Show me, if you will, the secrets of decay and renewal that remain intertwined in my heart, hopeful and fearful all the same.

Monday 4 May 2020


One, two, three, four…

Time slips sideways out the door.
Bleeding, stumbling,
days of yore
come flooding back into the fore.

And here I sit, forevermore.

Roll out my spine on the hardwood floor.

Remembering before…

How it felt,
to touch, to soar.
At liberty to explore.

I wait.

Grateful for the days
passed in childish ways.
How it felt to move in waves,
on the shore
in the middle of a dance floor.

crushed and crushing,
rushed and rushing,
in time,
locked away.

But I remember.
I recall
ready to fall.

Tumbling down
the stairways of my memory:
drunken youth,
stolen moments,
blind hope,
wild courage.

It’s all in there.

I carry in my heart
a world,
A start.
A shard.
Broken for now.

But this is how
it comes together

The nucleus within,
rolling the gravity
to pivot,
Burn the unkempt kindling away.

March, now May.

Each day
much like the one before.

I store
these seeds,
to answer needs
as yet

Fire propagates.

And, still, I wait.
Eager to follow time,
just outside the door.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

A Little Earth Day Lunch Guest

When I was pregnant with Dash, I embarked upon an insane adventure to redo our sandy hillside backyard. To call it a slope is to understate the matter by quite a lot; really, I've built us a short, sweet mountain hike, straight up into the sky.

The old retaining wall was failing, and the ornamental terraces had long since fallen over, so I started from scratch. I put in geotextile to stabilize it, and have since been replanting the bare sand with (mostly) California natives, including a lot of edibles that the birds and critters are likelier to feast upon than any of the resident humans are.

Three years in, I've learned a lot in my efforts to rewild this urban turf. Giving this patch of land back to the life that was here before my ancestors arrived on the continent has not been easy. Invasive species creep in from all sides, erosion carries topsoil away, and there's still so much I don't know about the intricacies of plant communities in our microclimates...

But, the more I'm out there, the better I feel, and every day my ability to read the ecosystem deepens. And, particularly in this pandemic, putting my back into turning this land over to nature feels deeply good, like a sacrifice and a blessing both given and received.

This Earth Day, and every day, I wish you the joy of green, growing things and the living treasures they attract. There is hope in this exchange, and a wonderful, visceral connection to calm the monkey mind.

Gather your seeds, read the terrain, and let yourself be small in our big, beautiful world.

[Video: A female Anna's hummingbird sipping nectar from hummingbird sage.]

Wednesday 15 April 2020

A New World is Coming

I keep seeing jokes and talk about the COVID baby boom, and I get it, but it's so glaringly the observation of childless people discussing the experience of other childless people, the luxurious boredom of boinking like bunnies through this ceaseless isolation, seeking pleasure and connection to ease uncertainty.

Is it enough to counter the the opposite push, though? What about all of the women who might have had another, but have instead been forced to give up everything to tend to the child/ren they already had?

How about that sexism that has so many families choosing his job over hers? Or those households where her vastly increased emotional and physical labor to keep the ship sailing right are rendered invisible, even if she is also trying to work remotely as she becomes a substitute teacher?

What about this reality check that, at any moment, you could become solely responsible for your child, or children, and that help is really not coming? Or the creeping feeling--which many parents keep at bay in the best of times--that we are not enough for this task and that the math simply doesn't work, might actually be the reality?

I can tell you, I've got a husband who is working every day, not just at his job, but also to take on an impressive share of household and childcare duties. We are by far at the good end of how these things shake out, and I'm still feeling utterly spent most days. Hell, I started off feeling burnt out, trying to claw my way out of unpaid domestic servitude toward something that actually felt fulfilling, like a true calling. Yet, here I am again, in perpetuity.

Honestly, it's got me feeling like the only elective medical procedures I'd leave the house for would be a tubal ligation or an abortion.

I love my kid so much, and the idea of having another has begun to terrify me. He is amazing and magical, and most days he feels like way more than enough.

We work to correct the balance, but still a lifetime of sexism has brought us to a place of imbalanced incomes and opportunities. Our most active efforts are noble, and are still executed in a world of systemic bias and unequal outcomes.

My husband and I grew up in different classes, and in many ways we live in different classes still. I remember, when I was studying international development a long time ago, a discussion about this very idea: that partners in the same household could be in different socioeconomic spheres, and how this affected the impact of aid.

That insight was striking, but it took me over a decade to realize it was my reality, too, albeit in a softer way. My climb has been a steep one, and I'm never more than a few moves away from tumbling. And nothing has highlighted the precariousness of my position more than becoming a mother.

I wish for us to remake society to restore the communal joy of childrearing. Children were never meant to be raised in isolation, by one or one-and-a-half or even two overstretched adults. They require peers, intergenerational connection, a community to support them in exploration of the joys of existence.

I hope, when this is all said and done, that the women of this country go on strike. I hope we follow the lead of our Icelandic sisters and demand parity, that we take over the government and rebuild something equitable and efficient over the ruins of patriarchy. We must demand ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and we must grant women absolute power over their reproductive capabilities.

We have to survive the shredded remains of this iteration, but I hope our anger can empower us to build an improved incarnation in the aftermath. A new world is coming, one way or another.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Processing a Pandemic

I'm trying to have a productive response to this pandemic chaos, and for the most part I am succeeding. My initial impulse in tough times is to make things, grow things, learn things.

But, I tell you what, if I had all of my time to myself right now, I'd be writing up a storm.

I stay mad about the federal response to this. I read more than I'm able to respond to about the countless ways Donald Trump and his squad of sycophants have exacerbated this crisis and gotten more people killed, and continue to do so every day with lies and bidding wars for vital medical equipment.

I could write all day long about the daily revelations of stupidity and corruption, how this administration is utilizing this crisis to punish political enemies, torch alliances, and line their own pockets in the process. How they would cancel democracy in this moment and saddle us forever with their crony idiocracy, pulling page after page from authoritarian playbooks.

There are tomes in this tragedy about the impacts of sexism and poverty, and the actions we must take next to build a better world out of this rubble.

And, actually, as Dash grows more accustomed to this strange new normal, he clings to me less when I sit down to write, so I may yet figure out some way to action on this regularly and effectively.

Meanwhile, though, I spend my hours trying to keep up with it all. Keep the child fed and healthy, keep the dog moving, keep planting seeds so that fresh fruit and veg stay in the picture as we brace for the apocalypse, make masks...

Remember those memes, about "whatever you think you would do in moments in history, you're doing it now?" Well... We're doing it now.

Stay engaged. Stay mad. Take whatever actions you can to stay strong and fight back.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

This, but make it early motherhood...

I have to admit, at times during this lockdown it is totally lost on me that everyone else is going through feeling trapped and isolated, because this shit is actually familiar as hell to me over the last few years.

Be warned: This is a post about my struggles as a parent. Anyone who tries to turn it into a gratitude exercise or tone policing will be gleefully eviscerated. I'm in the mood!

This morning I woke up, did my inhaler puffs (because that's part of my life now, but more on that another time), and rallied my spirits as much as possible to have another day of indoor circus time with a toddler.

It didn't work. Or, it did briefly. (The rallying. Jury's still out on the inhaler.)

Pretty shortly after I got up, I realized I needed to have a solid cry in the shower. I needed to actually feel my feelings, not try to keep my voice steady in front of a child while I was tumbling into the abyss within me.

I put on Sesame Street for Dash, and the tears started before the water was even warm.

While I count myself fortunate to have had the flexibility to stay at home with my child, both before and during this pandemic, I have also been attempting to conjure a life for myself that doesn't feel like unpaid domestic servitude.

I have spent so many days in relative isolation with my kiddo that you'd think that I'd be good at it by now. But, alas, days like this appear to still be part of the program. And they are brutal. With word coming through last night that we have another month of this, the physical sensation of my feelings could no longer be held at bay.

In a 30" square shower stall, I tried to resolve my feelings of desperation and claustrophobia, as I also attempted the steam out the persistent wheeze in my left lung.

Over and over in the last couple of years, I have tried to clamber my way up into a balanced life, succeeding in moments only to find myself sliding abruptly all the way back down the greasy pole to the bottom with a thud.

So, here we are again. But, this time, with yet more restrictions on movements, friends legally at a distance, and the deep reality of really having to muck through this without outside help.

As lonely as this feels, I 100% know that I am not alone. I imagine the majority of mothers have felt this, and are probably deep in it right now in much the same way. Fathers, too. Heck, all caregivers. We are all now in this WFH trap where our shift never really ends and tasks seldom get the luxury of our full bandwidth.

I am fortunate to have a partner who is an excellent husband and father, and who thankfully finds parenthood a welcome change of pace from his newly-altered, intense work days. He sees this all for what it is, thank god, so I am at least relieved of judgment from that side.

But, even in this isolation, I feel the guilt and fear. The feeling I usually have, that I'm earning my A+ in motherhood, slips aside to make room for persistent anxiety that my child will sense my disconnect, be damaged somehow by my lack of creativity and precariously perforated positive attitude.

There's more of this to come. There will be ups and downs. Life will have meaning again beyond getting through the days and serving others first.

And so the mantra repeats, until breathing eases again and falling feels like flying.

Tuesday 31 March 2020


Literally spending my days caring for kiddo and my nights planning for my household's resilience. Maybe I'm doing more than I have to, maybe it's not enough.

A few years ago, I told James I had a feeling. I told him to get our finances on a war footing, as much as possible. We discussed scenarios for saving and investing, and I bucked like a wild horse about putting money in the market.

I told him we should prepare for Depression-era levels of chaos. The last time I felt the winds changing so strongly was a couple of years ahead of 2008's crisis. I wish this intuition didn't make me sound mad as a March hare ahead of time, and I wish I knew how to channel it more usefully and helpfully.

It is a privilege to be able to prepare. I don't come from money, and my family has lost a lot in my lifetime. I've got a very real sense of what poverty is, and it drives me to batten down the hatches and brace for impact when I smell a storm coming. I'm using the resources at my disposal to meet the next moment, like a squirrel manically stashing acorns before winter takes hold.

I seek solace in my garden, but I'm planning for harvests now, too. My mind catalogs canned goods, files away the flow of groceries, does the math about calories and nutrients and what a toddler will eat. These are ancient instincts.

So, in this lockdown, I teach my child to read books and biology. I show him how to grow. I explain about the nice, green leaves that volunteer in our sandy soil, let him taste a victory garden, and have him help me nourish these little sprouts as I try to illuminate the essential contract of care between humanity and the natural world. Providing, at the most basic level.

Our hubris is deadly. We are animals above our station. I bring it all low again, into the dirt, as lofty financial instruments wobble eccentrically on high in the wake of microscopic malefactors.

So long as we breathe, we still have to eat.

Friday 20 March 2020

Updates from Lockdown Town

Yesterday, it all finally hit me. I woke up feeling feverish and crappy, after the previous day feeling good.

One of the first things I saw was an update from one of my favorite people, who happens to be a doctor married to another doctor, and I've been worried about both of them and their family. I finally cried.

I've been worried about my own parents, my father-in-law, my husband's grandmother...

Dash's preschool teacher is married to an ER nurse, so I'm worried about that family, too.

Another friend is a nurse in the UK, who walked into a pub tonight to tell all those assembled there to go the fuck home and start listening to advice from the experts. Some walked out right then. The slow response in the UK worries me. How is it possible that Boris's response is perhaps worse than Trump's?

Today is better. I made sure to nap when I hit a wall. I'm having fun teaching Dash to read while we're all cooped up, and he's doing an amazing job at just 2.75 years old. I'm no preschool teacher, but I can feed a hungry mind.

The last 48 hours has been a clear reminder: There will be ups and downs. I'm gonna feel it all. Eventually, this godforsaken cough will really and truly be gone, and I won't have to wonder what's causing it. I'll be able to sip from my stockpile of Golden State cider.

I'm going to devote time to fixing up my shambolic hillside garden, which became particularly neglected through the rainy winter months of patriotic protest and getting the word out about President Warren. Maybe I'll even put in a victory garden to see us through these weird times with fresh produce.

Last night, the power went out, and James and I just lit some candles and saved our rations from destruction. We're a good apocalypse team. We'll make the most of this, together.

There are masks to make for medics, there's useful information to share, and I have people I can help from a distance. My kid, my dog, my amazing husband and myself are now a weird little apocalypse survival team, but we've been building the skills to survive this thing from the start.

Keep calm and carry on, even if you have to let your heart feel heavy for a bit between the good times.

Tuesday 7 January 2020


When I was 19, my coworker taught me phrases in Farsi and gave me my first glimpse into his culture through his generous spirit and admirable hustle behind a jewelry counter.

At 28, I took my Life in the UK test at the Iranian Association in London, and was welcomed along my journey as an immigrant in England by a building full of kind, motherly ladies, who told me with delight how highly I'd scored on the exam. They made a big hurdle into a safe passage among friends.

Whether in dance classes or late parties, I've had the honor of having a lovely introduction repeatedly reaffirmed for decades. In my years of running around the world, making friends, and learning about bits and pieces of humanity's tapestry rather randomly, Persians have continued to overwhelm me with their grace and hospitality. They are not the only ones, and I know no group of people is uniformly good-natured, but I have been blessed to meet some wonderful cultural ambassadors, and my impression of this particular group of people has been entirely benevolent and long-lasting.

I think of my friends, and the anguish of warfare, and how deplorable it is to have the United States and Iran run by the sorts of governments they have. We all deserve better than this.