Tuesday, March 27, 2012


"Are you thinking about Papa?" I ask my son as I knead a sticky lump of dough. From the kitchen floor, my son looks up at me. He understands that I'm questioning him and that I've mentioned the name of his favorite man worldwide. He has no answer for me and turns back to his pile of kitchen utensils: a few red and black spatulas, a toaster oven insert, and canning jar grippers.

"I'm thinking about Papa."

I think of my husband when he's away at work. I think of elaborate and simple notes I would like to leave for him. Declarations of love and admiring prose. When I do leave him a note, it's often scrawl on scrap paper: IN GARDEN.

Moving like satellites. Life can be so busy. Never thinking of each other until the day is over.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Inner Experience in the House of the Snake and Tiger

Milk Snake 
Hollystone Preserve, Hopewell, NJ

"No time for Inner Experience. He's awake," I say to my husband who is sprawled on the floor reading Inner Experience by Georges Bataille.

"Yeah," he replies, kicking a leg out to propel himself upwards.


Our son, teething his upper canines, is difficult to put to sleep. He takes a long time to fall asleep, sometimes. He wakes easily, sometimes. Unless he's had a short afternoon nap, then he goes to bed easily, sometimes.

I had pulled Beren from the car, asleep. We crossed the derelict lawn to the house, a cool breezy night, no stars. He'll go right into his crib. Didn't have to do The (bedtime) Routine. 

Once across the threshold of the house, he began to stir. I nursed him. Though in the dark, I could see his eyes blinking. I sang lullabies.

We began to wiggle. He said, "Ah!" and pointed to the fan. I tickled his foot and bit his toes. He sputtered and giggled. We're toast. This baby is awake after an hour 'nap' in the car at bedtime.

I turned on a light and went to find my husband who initiates The Routine.


Together, my husband and son transform our bedroom into a campground. 

My husband cries, "Blanket time!" He tosses three sleeping bags over the baby gate and onto the floor. Our son gleefully pounces on the pile. They spread out the sleeping bags and add lovely homemade quilts  to the display.

"Pick out a story," my husband requests. Beren toddles to the drawer filled with books and selects several. Sometimes he tosses the books aside, as though bored with the same books.

Beren settles into Jared's lap. They read several stories. Beren flips the pages. Just before reaching the last page, he flips back through the book, perhaps he wants story time to last longer.

I'm The Closer. After story time, I come in and Jared turns the lights go out. I cuddle and rock and sing and nurse.

We improvised this routine. The crib wasn't working. Co-sleeping wasn't working. Jared cuddling and rocking wasn't working, if I am home at bedtime...when I am not home, everything goes smoothly. The Routine is working, except when it doesn't. And then, at least we have The Routine.


Morning is my time. I wake with energy, ideas, fully formed lists. Jared is peaceful, quiet. I try to hold back my lists, my demands. I'm ready to do. 

Saturday we awoke at 7:30 and left the house at 10:30. Somehow that entire three hours was consumed with tasks, packing day bags, making breakfast, getting dressed. Me getting cranky while endlessly preparing for the day already wearing on. 

Halfway down the drive, Jared made a pistol shape with his hand and said, "Bang, they're out of the gates at the speed of a slug." We both giggled and then laughed longer.

"If I just had tons of money, I'd forget the water bottles and packing lunch, and just buy water and sandwiches. All the time," I sighed.


So, Jared and I are giving each other solo time. Our son can be away from me a whole day and not even take a bottle. He's a lanky, running and jumping, cheese, chicken, broccoli, and cracker eating toddler. 

This morning is my morning to take solo time. Before Jared and Beren left, I hung laundry, watered the greenhouse, and brought the diapers upstairs.

Jared looked at me, perhaps wondering why I was squandering precious solo time. I need to do, go, work off that nervous energy of the morning.

My husband accesses inner experience through his endless hunger for books, music, new places, creative endeavors. He's quick like a snake. A beautiful day is a day to visit a new place.

My son accesses inner experience by running through open doors, finding ways through difficult passages. He can play quietly for several minutes, examining an object, but he can walk endlessly and far like a tiger.

I consider cracking the hazelnuts in the cookie jar or meandering through the yard.

Like a rabbit, zig zagging down the road.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Negative Space

 Emerging leaves of Virginia waterleaf, Musconetcong Gorge. 

The emergence of plants every spring is a miracle of sheer explosive life, even the most ancient clad in perfect fresh soft foliage, physically reborn in a way completely inaccessible to our animal experience

 Dormant swards of little bluestem, Brigantine NWR

 The infinity of possibility, the freedom of expanse. Beren is at the beach for the first time, exuberant.

 These diamonds and millions upon millions more. Sunset Beach, Cape May

 Beach plum stem from a copse deeply buried in sand. Sunset Beach, Cape May 

Marsh blue violets, mountain seep, Catskills

 Foamflower, Catskills

View from Giant Ledge, Catskills

*       *       *

The abyss, the negative space that makes our culture discernible. 

It is not necessarily black but infinite, filled with a darkness that upon intimacy is revealed to be other. Kelp and sand and quartz crystals reflecting the sky, with clouds patterned by the moon and the shape of the waves.

Ungraspeable, uncontrollable abundance. We have myths about abundance, infinity, creation. In our earliest myths of gnosis, we sought knowledge and lost abundance.

We tamed.

Now, we have only a few places that are abundant, that remind us of the infinite. The beach, the mountains. Some thousands of acres of old-growth forest.

We have degraded land, with tracks in the litter and holes where life should be. Our habitat, a murder of humans, a glorification of weeds.

Looking out from Giant Ledge, seeing mountains deeply clad in plant life. Feeling not small but giant, free of society, standing in the sea of possibilities.

It is our birthright. Food, medicine, the companionship of other beings.

The negative space.

Stuck City

Along the Musconetcong River we hit Stuck City. We had the same conversation about moving on. 

We admired the bloodroot growing in the railbed cinders. Sometimes not too picky, that lovely white flower. 



J.K. + G.K. was here Oct. 14 1967. How did they get out of Stuck City? 

Why is this whole place uphill?

 More bloodroot in cinders.

The most beautiful places are the dangerous ones. Amelanchier in bloom.

 We noted the cruciform bloodroot with overlapping petals.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Items Unlike Cape May Diamonds

My son ponders the long road without Babies R Us return merchandise credit. 
The Nature Conservancy's South Cape May Meadows preserve

No Wiggl n Lern & Jump n SafeT Plageer. No that's not Gaelic, that's how manufacturers of baby items spell circa 2012. Correct spelling is not appealing to the adults that purchase babies items. Correct spelling makes them close their wallets in disgust. "Don't they care about my child? Don't they employ marketing people to assist with spelling so that I must stare at the box wondering 'What the h*ll are they selling here?'"

An era has passed. All of our Babies R Us gift cards and returned merchandise credit has been spent. No more wheeling a purple shopping cart through aisles of plastic debris, long distance baby control devices, learning toys, learning blankets, learning bibs, learning diaper pails, learning sippy cups, learning headphones and learning telephones, and many other momentarily and never useful items.

Our mantra was "We really need this Item. We must go and purchase this Item immediately. We have Babies R Us store credit, we might as well use it." After storming about the house without the Item, agreeing that we surely needed Item. Look, how hopeless the house, family, baby, and future all were without the Item. Shortly, we relaxed and agreed, "Let's wait to see if we really need the Item. Maybe we can get it used, borrowed, or won't need the Item." Often we forgot about the Item.

Nursing bras were necessary Items. Diapers, thin terry cloth washcloths, a small dresser, all pretty handy Items. A good selection of board books, necessary. Devices and Gadgets were not necessary Items.

Ergo Baby carrier - we were enthusiastic about stepping up from the hand-me-down Baby Bjorn. It was pretty good for several months of hiking and shopping, then my son got the idea that he too would walk like his parents. AdiĆ³s, necessary Item.  Ergo Baby, you were built like a tank, no baby would fall from the clutches of You, Ergo Baby. (One might experience near accidents with a wildly convulsing baby who exclaims, YOU ARE NOT PUTTING ME INTO THIS BABY CARRIER. NO NO NO.) Alas, Ergo Baby, your useful life was so brief. You are survived by several worn out pairs of shoes.

So, let us turn to the Ancients. How did the Ancients live without Babies R Us return merchandise credit? Were their toys imaginative? Safe? I'd bet yes because the Ancients are credited with many other outstanding achievements recorded and unrecorded, buried and revealed. The Ancients were fruitful and prospered. Without Babies R Us.

Waving at Ourselves.
Cape May State Park

The Ancients may have stared long into reflective pools surrounded by blooming swamp rose mallow while dragonflies alit their shoulders to nibble on the mosquitoes nibbling on the Ancients' flesh. What, no plastic mirror toy? Heaven forbid the child contract encephalitis, fall into the muck while father receives a cell phone call, be allergic to swamp rose mallow, have 'an issue' later life because the child did not have a mirror toy.

The Nature Conservancy's Eldora Nature Preserve

If Babies R Us had sold sticks, my son might have been more interested in our visits to the store. Then again, he would have selected one, then a other, passed the one in his right hand to me, changed his mind, taken it back, given me the one in his left hand, dropped the one in the right hand fifteen feet down the aisle for a stick with leaves, shaken it, picked off the leaves, selected a minutely tiny stick, dropped it, gotten angry at a too big stick stuck one the shelves, and thus, left the place a big bark strewn mess.

It's much easier to reshelve plastic, and possibly even rudely scattered plastic zippered pouches which customers have secretly opened, examined the contents for size and quality. The customer having become immediately bored by the color sage, improperly refolded and restuffed the Items into now bursting packaging. Why bother selling sticks?

Besides, my son would have soon noticed the door and ran outside with no sticks (I mean, STKKS n PLAY & LEARN) purchased.

Sunset Beach, Cape May Point

We, the Ancients, meanwhile, will amuse ourselves in the dunes, finding the debris of other Ancients who have travelled farther and more dangerously than we have. Their boats have capsized and led the survivors to a new places with new foods, new smells, new terrain.

We'll admire the red cedars, windswept and rooted, so different than their upright nature in our homelands where they grow on land tilled and then abandoned.

Cape May Diamonds 
Sunset Beach, Cape May Point

We'll search for diamonds, wondering if we've found them. Is this a diamond? 

There's always a cellophane balloon 
Sunset Beach, Cape May Point

We will find messages from other Ancients. We'll note their ability to create and greet, to leave their mark with some permanence. I'll leave their small marks behind - are they cursed like the tombs of the Ancients? Will I incur their wrath if I touch? 

A figure in yellow, a yellow rain jacket, walks aimlessly. His cheeks are lined. He grabs the balloon, it's just trash, not cursed or important. Just trash waiting to drift to the plastic islands in the sea. 

The beach has been the only place my son has parked himself and explored. 
Sunset Beach, Cape May Point

For now, my son points emphatically at the door. OUT. I want OUT. He doesn't point with desire at stuff in stores. He will. Soon even.

For now, I'll imagine us as the Ancients. He, his father, and I drifting down the beach our pebbles and reeds, the sky's gulls, the wide ocean, all play enough for us.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Skunk Cabbage (Getting out of the House with a Toddler: Zega Lockatong Preserve, Delaware Township)

Used to be that only skunk cabbage would bloom in March, then there's these 70 plus degree days in mid-March. Today at Zega Lockatong bloodroot, spicebush, and spring beauty were in bloom. Lesser celandine was, too. Single blooms on one plant each of toothwort and violet. Virginia waterleaf foliage was up. 

Except for some steep spots, a great place to walk with a child. Little runs to shuffle through, a deep creek to skip shale stones across. Greasy grass stems to pick, spring beauty to smell. Patches of hemlock to offer shade from hot sun. 

The Dirty Three have a song called "Everything's F*cked." For those who don't know Dirty Three's music you may be surprised to learn there is no angry vocalist, but a violinist, drummer and guitarist who play beautiful, intriguing music. I sometimes feel that everything's f*cked.

Like when I receive an email that emerald ash borer is just across the Delaware River in Bucks County. I think about that email as I sit with good company, eating the meal they have prepared for us, beneath the deepening blue sky of evening, next to the old farm house, listening to peepers, as we next to a stately, old ash tree. Driving through the Midwest two summers ago, I was saddened to see ash trees, saplings even, all dry skeletons.

And there's Thursday's predicted high of 76. It's hard not to think that well, everything's f*cked. I usually say that I wouldn't have had a child if I honestly believed the world would end or that I felt as though life was not essentially and purely a good thing.

There are choices and mistakes. Hardships and losses. Funerals and junk mail. Taxes and edits.

There is my son's jubilant face when I return from work and the time he clapped when his father returned from work. Ice cream and Anarchy in the UK. Eastern phoebes and a perfect photograph.

Still, it's ok when everything's f*cked because not everything is.