Seven, for Father's Day

(Below, an oldie but a goodie, published first by Literary Mama in 2015.)

You were never much of a hunter. Pheasants, yes. Squirrels and chipmunks, I suppose, when you were younger. But you never came home from a weekend away with a buck in the bed of your truck, because you never had much interest in deer season and you owned a sedan. I imagine some people from other places can hardly conceive of a Midwestern man without a shotgun over his mantle, a closet full of blaze-orange jackets, a copy of Field and Stream next to the john. And yet when I think of you, I do see an outdoorsman. I see you paying attention to landscapes, to the shapes of clouds. I see you teaching me to love the world. The lessons looked like this: leaf piles in autumn, the way you would dive into them wildly. And this: two ends of a strong rope -- one tied to the front of my winter sled and the other around your waist -- with which you’d tug me behind you as you cross-country skied. And this: you, walking barehead…

On Turning Six

There is something I want to say about you turning six. In some ways, it’s about how you look up sometimes, and in your eyes I see a knowledge that is more nuanced and vast than I was prepared to find. Yesterday I spent the morning of your birthday at your school, and while I sat with you at lunch—a room full of kindergartners and third graders and teachers and long tables and garbage cans designated for organics and recycling—I marveled at how you navigate it all without me. How you are doing so many hard things without thinking they are hard. How you are brave without knowing you are brave. How my instinct is to pulverize anything that would dare break your spirit, but I know I can’t, because now you are six, and turning at full tilt into the world.
But in other ways, it’s about the way you look when we are reading in bed, about the way you nuzzle into my shoulder, the way you choose to hold my hand, even though it’s no longer a reflex. When you cry, you look young. When you sleep, y…

The Grant Year

One year ago I learned the great state of Minnesota was trusting me with an Artist Initiative Grant in support of my writing. This vote of confidence from strangers gave me a specific kind of momentum, and in these past twelve months I’ve published essays in great places ('This Is My Oldest Story" in Creative Nonfiction's True Story #15; "To Be Held" in Sweet; "Look At It Like This" in Up North Lit; & "Clean Lines" in Ninth Letter), was a finalist in a nonfiction contest (Curt Johnson Prose Award), received two nominations each for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize (thanks, Sweet, UPL, and Creative Nonfiction!), taught an adult writing class through Minnetonka Community Ed (which I'll be offering again through the Plymouth Library system in late winter), and folks, I’ve gone and written a manuscript. I’ve barely touched its pages since school began in August, but something shifted over this last month, and the story is insisting …

This is How I Know I Love You

Of course, there are many ways: the way my whole body splits into joy when you throw your arms around my neck. The way the sound of you singing splits the parts of me that have already been split into finer and more radiant halves. I look for me in your face: I see my mother, a photo of her as a young girl in a frilly white dress. Every day I run my fingers through your hair, which is my hair on you, and I feel gratitude, that we can be dark and braided together, curls springing up at our temples and the base of our necks when the air is thick. I look at you in the almost dark, of course, and I can't believe how beautiful you are, that you are mine.

It is an obvious love, mother love. I've written so little about it this second time, with you, my second child, because it feels as natural as waking.
But tonight, you and your brother sleeping, I padded through the dimly lit kitchen searching for a snack. There in the fruit bowl was one perfect peach, pink and gold, just a littl…

"This is My Oldest Story" in Creative Nonfiction's True Story

I'm happy to share that my essay "This Is My Oldest Story" has been published by Creative Nonfiction's True Story.

The title doesn't say it all, but it says a lot. With these words, I finally found a way to write about something I've been trying to process since I was eight: the abduction and decades-long disappearance of Jacob Wetterling, a neighbor boy from my hometown. Even though--as I discuss in the essay--I still have reservations regarding writing about Jacob publicly, I had another conversation with another stranger just yesterday that echoed much of what I explore in this piece: how for Minnesotans, there was "a time before Jacob Wetterling's kidnapping and a time after it," how the entire region was affected by this boy's loss.

Sitting with these memories now still reduces me to fear and anger and heart ache. Which is why I wrote about them. Which is why I think we all do better when we leave the solitary shadows. By telling storie…

Artist Initiative Grant

Aside from Thanksgiving, which I love, November can be a gray month in Minnesota. But this year, it brought me some bright news: I was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in support of my in-progress essay collection. It's a big honor and a big responsibility, and to say I feel overwhelmed by the expectations I have set for myself is an understatement. But there is no time like now. Perhaps this--in addition to the new baby and preschooler and fixer-upper house and demanding job--explains why I have been so absent from this space? Fingers crossed that absence here means presence in some bound hard-cover pages one fine day.

"Confluence" in Santa Fe Literary Review

Popping in quickly here to point to you a story of mine that was recently published by Santa Fe Literary Review. It's called "Confluence," and it's a bit of a sad one. But sometimes life is like that. Here's a snippet:

"It was astonishing to her that the water just kept coming, that it passed by her for one instant and then was on to someplace else. She assumed the creek led into the Sauk, the river that ran through Albrun—the town five miles west of them—but then where did it go? What happened next? All this water mixing, these long trails that moved across counties and states and into oceans without anyone accounting for their individual particles—it scared her that there was no way of linking even one molecule to the snow on a hillside in a small country yard."
I wrote this one years ago now, so I'm grateful SFLR gave it a home. Thanks for reading, all!