Sunday, April 21, 2013


I perch on the doorway between who I was and what I am to become. The crystal, wrapped in rabbit fur and rivets, leather and braiding, hangs between my breasts. I'd like to say it came to me, but I searched for it. But the other things, the elk antler, the hawk's wing, turtle shell, the apophyllite that takes my breath away, they came to me, laid themselves at the foot of my altar.

Use me. Heal with me. Honor me.

It is safe there where the wrapped crystal hangs. No one cares about that cleave now, except my husband who stares at it and tells me I'm gorgeous. But I am not. I am the deep summer earth, warm and loamy and writhing with living things, and things that look unalive, but breathe vibrations and energy. I am the fire, a sun that burns for my family and my art and my writing. I am the water, flowing into and out of notice. I am the air, nothing but a tickle and urging, silent but persistent, to acknowledge me.

I have no time for games. Rattles must shake. Incense must be lit. Deities worshiped. Energy runs through my palms, and into bodies and crown chakras up from earth, down from heaven. It is all coming together--I am started to see the picture of the puzzle, but not quite. There is healing there, ceremony, circles, rattle-shaking, drum-beating, bare feet and no makeup and people who let go of the tightly wound shit that prevents them from feeling anything.

My daughter brings home a book on wolves every week from library. She howls and tells me obscure facts. She says she wants to be a red wolf, no no, a gray timber wolf. And I nod. I understand both paths. And I understand why you want to be the wolf. Our people are both pack animals and lone animals.

I perch at the doorway between buying a little house in the suburbs and the home. I have dug holes and created memorials, designed mosaics and built shrines. This year, I have abandoned the hope of growing anything but grapes and raspberries in this sandy, clay-dense soil, rather I make a field of containers on my back deck. And in the center of the yard, field stone from Pennsylvania, maybe the quarry not far from my childhood home, lay piled, ready for the fire pit we are digging today. We have managed to shield the neighbors, and feel alone here, somehow. We grew a sanctuary here.

I turn and stare at the pieces on my walls--feathers, butterflies, hex signs and horns, jizos, old photographs, angels, poetry, and a huge sign that reads, "EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY." And it has been and it was. I hang inspiration on every wall in my house. I worry it is cluttered when I clean for company, but mostly it serves its purpose. It reminds me:

I must create. I have to paint. I want to write. I accept my divinely creative self. I speak in affirmation even when I think it is hokey.

I hung a new piece on my wall from Please Be Still. I just wanted us to see ourselves differently. It reads, "From here on out, Nothing but Blue Skies."

I am happiest when my bare feet are buried in earth, and begin rooting. I take my shoes off on hikes, and my children warn me of snakes and spiders and poison ivy, but my thick bear skin protects my feet. Callous so deep and hardened that I walk over spiky rocks and hot coal with nary a whimper. No yogi hoodoo, just hard massive cave lady feet. My callous cracked last week, and I rubbed aloe and vitamin e into it. Beezus looked at it, ticked her tongue, "This wouldn't happen if you wore shoes in the garden."

It is true, child. 

All my holds on this world, and in this house are loosening. It is not a lack of love, but release of attachment perhaps to the place where my child died and the others lived. We can create sanctuary anywhere. We dig it out in the yard today, stack field stones, make a fire pit and an altar. I love it here, but I must go soon. I can tell, there is a calling elsewhere for something more than a measly little container garden on the deck. I need space to howl at the moon, and my children do too.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Three years ago, I gave birth to a live kicking baby. I was in awe, mesmerized at his mere survival in my womb of death. My sister and I always joke that as a baby, Thor looked like a snake that swallowed a baby pig with his gigantic newborn belly and goodnaturedness. (Are snakes goodnatured?) Still, a baby Buddha. All smiles and farts. Big belly and huge smile, arms stretched far overhead. His long limbs hang over me now,  more than half of my length, the impending man in him stretching his little bits farther than his age. He will be tall and broad and handsome like his Papi. I can see the man in him, and I want to bundle him up and eat his tummy because I can and this time is so fleeting, I feel it gone already.

It hardly seems possible that three years ago happened. I was filled with anxiety and anger and grief and rebellion and Thor. There seems none of that anymore. I'm still learning to live without a baby in my belly, or a child at my tit. And that my body is something is my own.

Thor is so funny. So animated. So emotive. So sweet, and demanding in a way only a three year old can be demanding. How can someone so annoying be so cute? He asks me now after every statement and request and instruction, "Why, Mama? Why?" And I want to bundle that curiosity into bouquets I can give to my most seasoned friends.

Remember when you wanted to know why?

Whenever we leave to head out to the Indian restaurant for dinner, which we do most Wednesdays, Beezus says to Thomas, "Aren't you excited? We are going to see your friends!" And he nods vigorously. The night before he was born, we went for Indian food at our favorite restaurant. I told them I would have the baby the next day, and they cheered and gave me a mango lassi. Now, when we walk in, the men all scream, "THOMAS!" And he runs in their arms. My introverted little baby, the one that will not speak aloud in crowds, runs out from behind my legs, and into the arms of these Indian waiters. By all rights, these men should be strangers, mustachioed strangers in particular seem to instill some sort of inherent fear in little ones, but not Thor. They hold him and rustle his hair and pretend to take his cars, and he laughs. He loves them, and them he, as though in some past life, they walked arm in arm down the street of Jaipur as equals. When he runs to them, I always think of that night before his birth when they held my husband and I in some ancient ritual. They fed us rich foods with cashew, coconut, curry, spicing it up to move things forward. They celebrated without knowledge of Lucia's death or my fear, just because pregnant mamas should be celebrated and babies welcomed. It is then they forever held my Thor in their food, a basket of naan with navartan korma, and watched him become three. During my labor dinner, I let go of the fear and anxiety. I had done all I could do--now I had to birth him. There is a joy in the birthing that I had forgotten in my pregnancy with Thor. Ruled as I was by the fear of stillbirth. The Indian food, the Indian men with crosses tattooed on their hands and red vests, brought in the joy.

Thomas' favorite color is truck, his favorite animal is a truck and he wants to be a truck when he grows up. He only wanted a baby truck for his birthday, and a truck cake, yes, Mama. I wrap him up and kiss each eyelid. He squirms out of my embrace.

"Too many kisses, Mama."
"There's never too many kisses," and I laugh. He screams.
"NOT FUNNY!" He stomps and juts out his bottom lip, crosses his arms. Growls at me. He is Sam's familiar, and I nurture that connection, because it seems ancient and soulful. I buzz around him, and try too hard for kisses. I can see that teenager, not wanting to acknowledge his little brown mama, and me waving like a fool at the curb of the movie theater. "BYE HONEY! I LOVE YOU!"

I have this sense of generations, watching my children, imagining myself as their children's grandmother, already that feeling of what will come simultaneously living full in the here and now. I suppose children do that to you, remind you of your mortality force you to be present. That existential pull and pondering, my death and my parenting and my grandparenting, stood on my chest as I baked the truck cake. Will I do this for his son one day? And if I am here, I will, and if not, then I will be the breath that helps him blow out the three candles on his cake.

My littles are born within a week of each other. My little Thor turned three on the first. Beezus turned six on the sixth. My neighbor says this is Bea's magic year--six on the sixth. Six seems magical to me. I remember reading that six is the age where one's true nature emerges. When I first read about mizuko jizo, there is this idea that being is poured into the body like water, slowly through years. Mizuko, meaning water, represents the idea that the child is all water, and no being yet. The Japanese idea is that this process continues until the child is six. Six is the year you become who you are meant to be.

Six, from my thirty-nine year old point of view, is this place of wonder and curiosity and kindness and generosity. I am in awe of this girl. She weaves flowers into her hair, and tells me stories of fairies and miracles and tries to convince me that she moved something with her mind.

Six. Three. These ages that seem distant and yet feel piled on top of one another, because all of it happened so fast. Beezus, then Lucy, then Thor in three years. Three babies, and a mess of a mother trying to figure out how to do all this parenting and grieving and arting and becoming who I am. When they speak, and think, and make art, and sit silently to clear their little minds, and tell me about the world, I cannot believe how creative, interesting, amazing they are. As I write this, my daughter writes in her dream journal and draws the dream she had last night. She wears fairy wings, and flowers in her hair. Thomas is pretending it is raining, and he is jumping in puddles behind me. My kids. My children. And of course, there is the ache between them that I have somehow made peace with. This acceptance feels natural now, when three years ago, I was absolutely certain I wasn't ever going to feel acceptance, hell I wasn't even aiming for acceptance, or peace, and most definitely not healing. That was not my goal, and yet here it is. Lucy died, and she is still part of our life. I could never imagine how to integrate her into our lives. It seemed so forced to have a dead child and make her live in our family, and yet she does. When I try to explain it to others, it sounds strange and morbid. I think others who have lost children know this life our babies have after they die. She changed each one of us, and I think we are better for her life, wiser for her death. It is the way it is, and we cannot change that. But we have accepted that the past is not open to change, but her life, how we perceive her place in our family, is.

On the night before Beezus' birthday, I told her that if she woke early, she should come into my room and wake me up. I didn't care what time it was. And at 5:50 am, she poked me under the covers. "It's my birthday and I'm awake," she whispered.

I kissed her and wished her birthday happiness, and I saw it was still dark. "So, my love, should we..." And she nodded, "Mama, can we watch the sunrise outside?" And we ran downstairs, she grabbed her juice, and I grabbed coffee, and we took blankets and curled up on the big wicker chairs on the deck, and watched the sunrise. We giggled and listened to the birds and talked about her birthday party. We meditated and I did reiki on her, then we made a garden tea party with paper flowers and butterflies and pinkplosion, and cupcakes in tea cups, and a parade with handmade crowns while the girls held sunflowers and instruments and marched around declaring it BEEZUS' BIRTHDAY!

I ache for things between us to remain trusting and open. When I play guitar, she sings with me. Joni Mitchell and the Beatles and the Stones and when I hear her voice, I want to cry for its beauty. When we lay in the moss, and let it tickle our cheeks and stare into each other's eyes, I always say, "Thank you for letting me be your mother." And she says, "You're welcome." And I remember the year after Lucy's death, when I just stared at her in wonder at her mere survival--breathing in and breathing out. And we talked constantly, and read folktales constantly, and painted constantly, and were just together constantly. It is so different now, but when see that time in each other. This is the seed we plant for all our life--unconditional love and open ears and perfect compassion for one another. It is my wish when I blow my mama candle out this year.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


There is nearly a lake in the center of the parking lot that my daughter insists I drive through. Why do we have a big truck, she asks, if we can't drive through big puddles? It is a fair question. The splash spreads over the rest of the parking lot, and the children scream. Heavy iron work and fencing prevents rickety shopping carts from being taken into the streets of Camden. Automatic doors do not open automatically, making them too heavy for the littles, I turn my back push into them. Sunday and Monday, everything with a purple tag is fifty percent off, and the ladies won't sell you anything without a tag.

They speak to me in Spanish, because nearly everyone in there is Puerto Rican or Mexican, and the music blares with hits from Lionel Ritchie and Spandau Ballet. They wrap all the little trucks in plastic baggies and staple them shut, mark them with .60 and a yellow card. The clothes organized by size then color, and I find it an Organization Mecca. So much stuff all in their exact right place. I stand in awe of the cleanliness and preciseness of the racks of thrift shop clothes.

I always look for the same things--wooden boxes and interesting dishes and sometimes large wool sweaters that I can wrap myself in, fold my legs under me, and sip herbal tea. An old woman walks past me and my children, and stares at me. She says much too loudly to her daughter, "Who are these people in here today? I never seen people like these in here." And I know she means people with money, searching for petty extravaganzas. People like me.

I find a beautiful bright, almost fluorescent, muumuu, or rather a caftan. I want to be the woman in a caftan, floating through the rooms of my house with a turban and expensive floral arrangements, but I wear moccasins and wool socks, and drink muddy coffee out of hand thrown pottery. That muumuu-ed woman is an elder statesman version of me, and I'm not there yet. I shop at thrift shops on half-off day, and feel utterly alone in a group of poor people and Latina people, even though I was once poor and Latina. I weigh these things in my mind--alone vs. loneliness; happy vs. contented; sober vs. not drunk; vulnerable vs. unsafe. I have always wrestled with identity--half this, half that, half off, half on. I can't quite figure if I am sad or depressed or happy or fine or lonely or just alone. I keep putting myself in groups that seem like me, but aren't. Someone tells me it is my disease, but I think it is more of the human predicament of always being alone in your head while you are surrounded by people.


We spend Easter outside. In the grass, we take the trimmed grapevines, and twist them around each other, through themselves, over and under and over again, tuck them under another vine with its curls, strategically placed for maximum grape-iocity. We make wreaths for no one in particular, and crowns for fairy princesses eventually. Beezus runs off and picks purple flowers to wind into the crowns.

Maybe I will be wild one day, Mama.

You are wild now, my love.

I don't know what to write anymore. It all sounds ridiculous, and besides I'm so broken. My insides feel like they are dying the slow death of too many grey days in a row. The grapevines notwithstanding, I haven't been outside in a dog's day. I just don't have the energy for all that, and therein lies my existential contradiction--I need outside, but I can't muster the energy for outside. I want to drift away, but I am too rooted. I have wrestled with wondering if this is depression, or dry drunkenness, or what. In the worst of my moments, I wonder if I am even a drunk, or if I was just being a tad dramatic when I couldn't stop drinking those years ago. Then I wonder if I am just justifying a drink.

As we turn the grapevines of grapes that will never be made into wine, breaking off the brittle edges, a hawk chased by three crows flies overhead, and I remember that last year my last baby died in me, and in the moments before the bleeding started and the cramping, I saw a raven chasing a hawk in the sky above me. We were camping. And it was the beginning of the end. We have been through so much. How does any family survive the death of a child, another miscarriage, sickness and grief and sobriety and recovery and staying up to late and getting up too early and someone working twenty too many hours with someone who stays in their home 90% of their day? I run inside for some water. I grab Super Hit and a jar of spray roses in my kitchen. Then I go around my house and collect the martenitsa that arrived weeks before. They came from a beautiful mother in Bulgaria, a call for spring and renewal and remembrance. I wore mine around my neck, my children on their wrists, but they are ready to serve the trees. I hung the martenitsa on Lucia's blossoming cherry tree, not yet blossoming, while my children play near my. I hung them for spring and for my babies and for the hawk and the crows. I jab the lit incense into the soil near our jizo and stepping stones that bear the names of our babies, under one a placenta and dark tissue was buried only a year ago.

My life is so completely different from then, even though it looks much the same.  This year, my chakras opened, grew receptive yet protective from those whose sharpness and dark judgment, even in their genius, wounds the way I see myself. I can no longer open to them. Yet I do want their approval, and therein lies another contradiction of confidence. It is why I cannot write, and need to write. "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on." Thank you, Beckett.

Weeks ago, I went to a convention for people in recovery, and we were each given a rock. The workshop leader told us to write a character defect we would like to get rid of on the rock. I sat next to my friend, and we stared at each other. "I don't know what to write. If I start, I won't stop writing. This rock is too small for all I have to release." He nodded. The workshop leader tells us to write only one thing, and when we write it, we have to act as if it has been released already. Don't overthink it, she warns, but be specific and make in manageable. "Don't just write FEAR on the rock," she warns. "You can never release all fear." The friend on my right groans, and we all laugh. He scratches off the word Fear from his rock. She warns us, jokingly, but in all seriousness, not to photograph our rocks then put the picture on Facebook. We are releasing, she says, that is holding on. The friend on my left says, "I have something, but I don't know if I am ready to release it. I'm still so angry." It was the first thing that came to his mind. I tell him to just write it. I thought of many things, but the one that screamed to me was the Need For Validation, so I write it down. Jokingly, I say to my other friend, "What do you think of my defect?" And he laughs as we walk to the tidal river that runs to the Atlantic Ocean, and she instructs us to pray, then throw the rock. And I throw the rock as far and long as I can.

The three of us, me and my three friends, make a pact to call each other on our defects if we see each other using them as a crutch. Last night, one of those guys reminded me that I was using my crutch. Then he hugged me and whispered, "Progress not perfection." And as I write this, I wonder if my whole blog isn't a need for validation. Validation for my tremendous grief in the early days, and later validation that I can write or have insights or that I'm an okay artist, or decent person, or a good parent. And as the comments left my blog, that validation left. And I wondered what I was doing here, opening my heart and being so brutally honest for all the internet to read without the words of comfort that served as a validation that I must go on, though I can't go on, but I will go on.


Dirt under my fingernails comforts my broken soul. I reach through the soil, pull out stones and rocks and hard knotty roots of plants that have long been upended. As we turn the earth in our side bed, we heard a squeaking, loud and persistent, and my daughter declared a MOUSE in the HOUSE! We searched through the dark loamy bed, and saw a furry thing, curled into a fetal position, crying. A MOLE! A VOLE! A MOUSE! EL RATON! But no, it was a teeny tiny baby rabbit, waiting for its mama. His eye sealed shut with early spring, and his nest disturbed in our vehemence to make a place to plant veggies. The children screeched in excitement. A BABY BUNNY! I search the area for more babies, but it was just this one. Fur from his mama lay bundled next to our shovel. We didn't notice before. So we took him to another spot, not too far, and dug him another hole, put the fur in there, cover it with grass and lay the baby in there. I place her in the womb of the earth, the hole that mamas dig for their babies. And I say the prayers that I myself need to hear myself:

May your mama find you before the hawks, baby.
May you stay in your hole only long enough until the danger passes.
May your vulnerability be your greatest strength.
May your fear make you alive and calm.
May you nourish yourself in earth and warm yourself the Spring sun until you are strong again.

* Yana's words about the tradition of Martenitsa. These are"white and red yarn, worn as an adornment on one's wrist or jacket from March 1st until the end of March (or until you see a stork or swallow that have returned from Africa to nest). They symbolize new life and renewal, health and purity, and passion...the custom may have reminded people of the constant cycle of life and death, the balance of good and evil, and of the sorrow and happiness in human life."