December 23, 2013

Light Years

Bright snow, bright moon
Mornings of bright breath beside mine
Such aching, such light


Though I've shown up here less this last year, Landing on Cloudy Water is still a special place for me, as are all of you. Thanks for your continued community and support. Here's to a spectacular, gentle, and joy-filled 2014! 
Merry Christmas!

December 16, 2013

All Ignorance Toboggans Into Know

all ignorance toboggans into know
and trudges up to ignorance again:
but winter's not forever,even snow
melts;and if spring should spoil the game,what then?

all history's a winter sport or three:
but were it five,i'd still insist that all
history is too small for even me;
for me and you,exceedingly too small.

Swoop(shrill collective myth)into thy grave
merely to toil the scale to shrillerness
per every madge and mabel dick and dave
--tomorrow is our permanent address

and there they'll scarcely find us(if they do,
we'll move away still further:into now 

-- by e. e. cummings

November 10, 2013

Wild Animals: One Mom on Holding On and Letting Go

Dinner on a weekday means this: something basic, something hearty yet fast, like soup with a slice of unbuttered bread, because the moment I am up and at the kitchen counter--my face four feet from his face, my hands not tickling the length of his wiggly body--my almost-nine-month-old son is at my legs, standing and pulling and leaning against them, his faultless countenance a half bowl of instinct and need. He wants to be held. It is both beautiful and heart-wrenching, the way he grips after me.

"Elliot," I say to him, reaching under the nests of his arms, lifting him like a bird before settling him on my hip, pecking his nose, calming him instantly. "Baby, you're fine. Haven't I told you before? In this northern savanna, there are no cheetahs."

Of course, he thinks I'm hilarious. Which is one of the thousand reasons why I keep lifting him up, holding him close, stirring the soup with one hand, not buttering the bread.


About a month ago, though, there had been enough soup. So in the first truly cold hours of Autumn, our breath smoking out ahead of us into the night, my husband and I left Elliot already sleeping in the care of a dear friend, and drove toward a different kind of dinnertime. 

We took G's car. We blasted the heat. Turned up the music. And as we drove down the highway, we started laughing, just laughing, because it seemed so funny, for it to be the two of us, in this small car with manual locks--less safe, more young, another life--a vehicle we hadn't ridden in together, we realized, since before our child was born. We held hands and laughed, the headlights illuminating the pavement ahead of us, the backseat as dark and carefree as it had always been.

At dinner there was no plastic. Instead: glass. Instead: china. Sharp silverware. A white tablecloth. We enjoyed a series of focused and sustained conversations about politics and music and teaching philosophies. Everything we ordered included artfully prepared, fresh salmon. We ate at a leisurely pace and finished at the same time.

"This is nice," G said.

And yes. That night we were a strange mix of earlier yet older versions of ourselves. We knew a child's weight--that solid force we had learned to carry. But for those few hours we could let ourselves be free of it. We could just be us. And there was a slight shock at the buoyancy that came from such a letting go.

For a while, we reveled in that lightness. We remembered Costa Rica and Strasbourg and the first time we had sushi together back in 2004, after I'd picked him up from the airport and before we'd returned to my apartment in a small midwestern town.

And then, long before we needed to, we went home to Elliot. There was suddenly nothing we wanted more than to be close.


Some mornings I wake before my alarm, the day still pregnant and dark, and instead of sleeping I wait. I am eager and grateful and I wait.

When this waiting gives way to weight, I bring my twenty pounds of boy into bed, and the room is lit with the energy of him shifting between his father and me. "Dadt, Dadt, Dadt," he says over and over. He buries his face against G's neck, offers up a contented sigh that is otherworldly. Then he raises his head and finds me, grins bodily at six in the morning as only a child can, and launches himself into my chest. I wrap him up. I rock him. G caresses the top of his head, squeezes the pads of his feet. If he had the words, I swear, our son would speak a steady stream of "hold me, Mama, hold me and hold me and hold me."

That is what I hear anyhow, in the way he moves. And the happiness is such that I would give up buttered bread and even fresh salmon for the rest of my life if it meant he would always fall into my arms like this, if my presence would always be enough, the thing to turn toward, reach for, the answer. No where else, not even in the arms of our lovers, can we ever hope or want to be so complete.

"Elliot," I whisper. I can feel the fullness and firmness of his cheek against me. "Baby, can you remember the moment when Mama held you for the very first time?"

He pushes up to sitting, looks at me wide-eyed. Even in the muted tones of early morning, I am amazed at how much of everything his eyes take in. What were those eyes, what substance, when he was just that speck of cells, floating inside me, held onto by my heart?

He doesn't answer, of course, and of course--perhaps inevitably, in spite of the person I am, with so many intentions of marking moments and sifting out significance--I don't even consider what comes next with anything but pride. 

First he wiggles in the way he does when he wants to move. So I hold out my hands, and he grabs them, pushes himself onto his feet.

"Dadt!" he says again, grinning at his papa.

And then all at once, for two or three bright seconds that intimate so much that is just ahead, El looks back at me and releases his grip on my fingers. Just lets go. 

We gasp. We cheer. We clap our hands. We will cheer him on for the rest of his life. It is instinct and need. Beautiful and heart-wrenching. A lesson I'll realize I've been taught after it's already passed. Notice: I did not say learned. From this side of nine months, I can't imagine I will ever feel adept at releasing something so precious. Instead, I will no doubt find myself waiting at the window some cold November night, imagining wild animals, a blanket wrapped around my arms for warmth.

October 27, 2013

What I've Been Into -- Fall 2013

Hi everybody,

Hope you've been enjoying these cooler days, what ever that means to you in degrees. Autumn is my favorite season, and October my favorite month, which is lucky because it's when I was born, and hiking at St. Johns University with family on my birthday suited me quite well. Hello, blue blanket skies! Hello, quilt of leaves! I'm grateful for all the reasons this season gives to pull those I love closer.

Things have been quiet on the blog these last few months, which I both expected and didn't, if that makes any sense. I've been a working mom for over two months now. Definitely a transition. We've found some semblance of "flow" to our days, though, which feels good, but it has come as a result of simplifying, doing less of some things, and giving in more to unplanned present moments. I still find myself longing to write, missing the particular energy and time that I need to create something fresh and weighted with these lovely little things called words. But then I blink and kiss this lovely little person called Elliot and, really, the rest of it just fades.

He has three teeth! And loves when we chase each other around the kitchen. We are sleeping less and living more.

And, of course, sometimes we live when he sleeps, too. Here's a bit of what I've been into lately, especially between the hours of 7:00 and 9:00 (such a night owl over here!):

  1. Glossolalia by David Jauss -- Fabulous collection by my former professor and advisor. A modern-day Chekhov? Yes.
  2. Disobedience by Jane Hamilton -- I enjoyed Map of the World and The Book of Ruth more, but as I read all stories about mothers and sons differently now, this one kept my attention in a new way.
  3. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter -- Easy and breezy and full of pop culture references set in romantic locales. Haven't read a book like this in a long time. Enjoyed it.
  4. Gryphon by Charles Baxter -- A collection of short story gems: before Glossolalia and Gryphon came into my life, I had almost forgotten how perfect the short form can be, especially as a way to wind down from the day.
  5. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg -- Only a third of the way in, and as someone who has practically no experience with the business world, some of it feels very... bottom-line? But I do appreciate the way Sandberg encourages women to go after their goals. 

TV and Movies:
  1. So You Think You Can Dance -- in my next life, I will be a professional dancer
  2. Breaking Bad -- My students fully grasp complex, unreliable characters now because of Walt. Pop culture has a purpose after all!
  3. Lots of TED talks -- interesting, sometimes inspiring, and...short! Who has two hours to devote to an actual movie?!

  1. "Dear World: Postcards From a Prison Teacher" by Jennifer Bowen Hicks -- a beautiful account of the power of humanity, by a fellow VCFA alum
  2. "When Mom Died," by Stacey Torres -- sad, blunt, and moving; used it to talk about personal narratives in my creative writing class
  3. "Has anyone else tried pouring this stuff over dried cereal? A-W-E-S-O-M-E!" -- Amazon reviews gone funny
  4. "Most Famous Book Set In Every State" -- I still feel a bit frustrated with Sinclair Lewis over Main Street
  5. "Reading literary fiction improves empathy, study finds" -- yes!

  1. Books and Bars -- a very cool book club for the local set
  2. Prairie Oaks Fall Festival -- happiness and peace live at POI
  3. Brain, Child -- billed as the only literary magazine in print dedicated to motherhood, and full of great content (thanks, Kris!)
  4. The Beat -- a radio show in Northern Minnesota that broadcasts the work of local poets, including yours truly. I particularly enjoyed viewing the list of contributors, as a good number of them are familiars and colleagues. 
  5.  Twitter
  6.  Instagram 
Okay, so those last two aren't really finds, as I've known about them for years (and I actually feel quite conflicted about their usefulness in my life), but... I recently signed up for each because of my students. I do teach communication, after all, and social media--the big kids tell me--is a serious part of how they understand themselves. In any case, follow me here and here if you're into those things. Instagram is mostly baby and Twitter is mostly writing, teaching, and oarfish.   :)

What have you been into lately? What's caught you by surprise? 

Have a great week, all! Wishing you beautiful moons.

October 7, 2013

How To Find Who You Are

For me it is always
about color, about wind, about movement, about
sun, rain, storm, stars, soil, 
smells and sounds and yes.


September 13, 2013

Words I Whisper

Hush. The light is fading.
Hush. The ducks are flying.
Hush. The smoke is sifting.

Hush. The moon is rising.
Hush. The owl is hunting.
Hush. The trees are creaking.

Hush. The fall is coming.
Hush. The fish are sleeping.
Hush. The sky is stretching.

Hush. The light is fading.
Hush. The light is falling.
Hush. The light is lightness.

August 30, 2013

Ways to Say Summer

in Danish: sommer
in Swedish: sommar
in Old English: sumor
in Dutch: zomer
in Czech: éto
in Greek: καλοκαίρι
in Quechua: chakisqa pacha
in Arabic: صيف
in Lakota: blokétu
 in Chechen: akhke
in Chinese: 夏天
in French: été
 in Japanese: 
in Latin: aestas
in Fijian: vulaikatakata
in Russian: лето
in Somali: xagaa
in Spanish: verano
in Thai: หน้าร้อ

Or, in Me:
lazy mornings
barn swallows
playground swings
small stones in clear streams
farmers markets
aluminum canoes
back porches
flower gardens
wide skies
baseball hats
leaves, shaking
baby, laughing
late nights
white wine
love in the afternoon

August 20, 2013

What I've Been Into - Summer 2013

I've decided to try something new here. I was talking the other day to a friend about our summers, and I realized two things:
  1. I loved hearing about what she'd been doing, what she'd read and seen, where she visited, what she'd been mulling over.
  2. Although I had read/seen/visited/thought over actual adultish things myself, I could hardly remember any of them. 
I am blaming this on my dear sweet little boy and the scientific FACT called "Baby Brain." And I am using it as a reason to put together a post now and then--maybe once a month? once a season?--to remember what I've been into between the rocking and feeding and human-jungle-gyming exploits that soak through so many of my waking hours. A good number of other bloggers do this same thing, and despite the fact that there's nothing overtly lovely or inspiring about a list of television titles, I look forward to these posts. They open the door to that writer's humanness, I think, and they establish a sense of community. That said, I hope you don't mind my intermittent forays away from the sublime edges of life and toward its muddier middle. I'd also love for your to share some bits of what you've found interesting lately, too.

So, to start us off, here's my first installment of what I've been into:

  1. The Round House by Louise Erdrich -- my hands-down favorite read of the season
  2. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides -- +++
  3. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg -- thinking about how to use these insights in my classroom
  4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green -- sweet and sad; will recommend this to my students
  5. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb -- couldn't really get into this one?
  6. Stacks of picture books, most notably Frederick by Leo Lionni and The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins

  1. "Snow Fall" by John Branch -- I'm a bit behind, but I thought this was a well-told story presented in a fascinating fashion
  2. "The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In" -- fascinating as I think about mothering/working/etc.
  3. "The Tragedy of the Sunset Photo" -- forgive me, world
  4. "Dear Prudence" -- guilty pleasure #1
  5. "Kissing" by Diana Whitney
  6. "In the Community Garden" by Mark Doty

TV and Movies (mostly via Netflix and Hulu):
  1. Breaking Bad -- the only TV show in years that has made me wish we owned an actual television 
  2. Dexter -- we have a thing for complicated characters
  3. World War Z -- husband's idea; kind of liked it?
  4. Jim Gaffigan stand-up
  5. So You Think You Can Dance -- guilty pleasure #2

  1. "Treasure" -- spoken word written and performed by a former student
  2. Sheep protest -- oh, the power of the herd!
  3. The North Shore of Lake Superior
  4. Red Heart the Ticker -- love this VT musical duo

  1. The Lucky Day collection at our local library -- books normally buried a mile deep under a wait list sometimes just show up on this shelf, and if you check it at the right time... ba-bam! 
  2. Norwex products -- who would have thought a wash cloth could win my heart?
  3. Nordicware popcorn popper -- okay, I actually found this a few years ago, but it's amazingness needs to be shared with other lovers of the perfect evening salty snack
  4. Grocery stores at 8pm on week day nights -- so peaceful you can hear the freezers hum
  5. Pureed sweet potatoes -- delicious? Yes.
  6. The Fourth River Magazine -- another place-based publication
  7. You Are My Wild -- beautiful photography of children
  8. Feedly -- I was a bit distraught when I learned that Google Reader would disappear in the beginning of July, but now after having used it for two months, I'm a happy convert. I really love swiping articles left and right on the iPad.

So that's that. Of course I feel like I forgot about one hundred things I intended to share with you here, but now that I've cleared a space for this kind of record keeping, perhaps I'll do a better job of making notes as various things inspire/move/humor/startle me. That's the goal, anyway. I start back at work in one week: eeeeeep! Here's hoping my baby brain doesn't fill with such a sweep of new need-to-knows that I suddenly forget how to type. :)

How about you? What's kept you thinking this summer? What did I miss? 

Be well, friends!

August 8, 2013

Six Months, or The Bewilderment of Mother Love

I have been a mother for six months. Half a year. Winter to summer. Brown to green. Snow to heat lightning. Egg to flight. 184 rotations of the earth, and so many moments with my cheek placed along the skin of my son.

I have lived delight.

And exhaustion.

And a breaking away of time. Those 184 rotations happened, surely, but sometimes I glance out the window and it is startling to see the clover, so lush and purple-budded, instead of white. Perhaps it is because Elliot came to us in this northern land when everything was insular and tucked away and, for the most part, still. What I do know is that despite my denial, he has grown as quickly as the clover, observant and beautiful and steadfast, and I love him more than all the other studied and cultivated sections of my wild-garden life.

I might have anticipated this, but I could not have anticipated him, this person.

It's bewildering, really: what it means to be a mother, to be his mother, to still be me.

On the night of the solstice--a dusk that goes on and on--I leave El sleeping with his papa, and I walk with the same steps, the exact same lightness that I felt at twenty-one, sneaking out of a clapboard cabin at 5:30 in the morning and tiptoeing through dew and fog to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, just so I could watch the sunrise in that unruly quiet. Just so I could feel the vibrations in my body, the way everything that mattered ran without motors into the perfect dawn. I walk with those same steps, the same sandals even, down the avenues and trails of my domestic neighborhood, and I am humming with that same energy, that same ease. I look up and the sky. The sky! It is just as big.

And days later I am out with Elliot along a lake, and a boy of about ten zooms toward us on his bike. He is wiry and tan, flip-flops and a baseball cap. When he passes us, he gives me a perfect smile, a perfect hello, a perfect pump of his pedals, and I think, You are my son. I see a boy at the park, flinging himself down the tallest slide, and I think, You are my son. I watch teenagers at the parade, flaunting and flirting, and I can hardly believe it, but I believe it: My sons. I see my husband more clearly than I ever have, all the way back to his days as a first-born blue-eyed boy brought home to Deep Lake. Elliot shifts in my arms--the wind off the water, the sun, the leaves skipping from shadows to light--and as I hold him I feel very old. It is one thing to watch a sunrise. It is another to bear the weight of all the sunrises and sunsets that your boy will ever know.

The heaviness and the lightness. I oscillate between them at such speeds that it is no wonder motherhood sometimes leaves me feeling dazed.

And yet I wake in the morning to baby noises--bleary-eyed, wrinkled, startled from some dream--and I go to this child. The light is sifting in through the blinds. I blink and I blink. The dream is still there, on the periphery of my consciousness, and it's funny because on most days it feels like it never fully leaves. Instead it floats around me like particulates, trails my body like streaks of cosmic dust, and it follows me into the space where my son is.

I see him and he sees me.

And then we are both smiling with perfect ease, both making sounds from our memories of each other and of moments we haven't yet experienced, from Chesapeake mornings, from big sky nights, from the sensation of the earth spinning and spinning and spinning on its finely pointed axis, 184 million times. When I reach for him, and he reaches for me, and I lift him up and the dream is still there, like the light, slipping all around us--six months feels almost silly. I have been this boy's mother my whole life.

July 26, 2013


I look at you, and blink.
Wind, and the world shifts.
New shadows, new light.

July 9, 2013


Tonight I am not in London or Grindelwald or Strasbourg or Basel or the Alsace or Lahr. I am not in New York or LA. I am not in Costa Rica or Spain or over the rocky edges of Iceland. I am not in Chicago, or Montpelier, or even Minneapolis. I am not on the Chesapeake Bay.

Tonight I am here. My back pressed into pillows, a laptop under my fingers, the windows open open to the night that was yellow then orange then pink and now blue. There are clouds that look like hills, a sky that looks like ocean. There are lights in the distance from the ball park. There are shadows of birds flying toward nests. In the field, each individual blade of grass holds itself up, watching the last of the day slip west. 

I hold myself up. I watch this day, just as I've watched the others, sometimes from places very far away.  I think and I think and I feel and I remember and I imagine. The windows are open open. One star. Another. Fireflies. The moon. Breeze. Breathing. Baby noises. Husband's hand. 

June 27, 2013


Took a walk yesterday eve just as the sun was sinking. Baby was asleep. Husband had his feet up. The birds were winging as if it were their last hour on earth. I walked out and joined them, spirit right up there beside their bodies in the air, the air warm, the breeze blue, the clouds perfect, the light the same light that I've loved as I've loved all I've loved my whole life. The world is kind.

June 14, 2013

"In Spite of Everything, The Stars"

Like a stunned piano, like a bucket

of fresh milk flung into the air
or a dozen fists of confetti
thrown hard at a bride
stepping down from the altar,
the stars surprise the sky.
Think of dazed stones
floating overhead, or an ocean
of starfish hung up to dry. Yes,
like a conductor's expectant arm
about to lift toward the chorus,
or a juggler's plates defying gravity,
or a hundred fastballs fired at once
and freezing in midair, the stars
startle the sky over the city.

And that's why drunks leaning up
against abandoned buildings, women
hurrying home on deserted side streets,
policemen turning blind corners, and
even thieves stepping from alleys
all stare up at once. Why else do
sleepwalkers move toward the windows,
or old men drag flimsy lawn chairs
onto fire escapes, or hardened criminals
press sad foreheads to steel bars?
Because the night is alive with lamps!
That's why in dark houses all over the city
dreams stir in the pillows, a million
plumes of breath rise into the sky.

-- by Edward Hirsch, 
from Wild Gratitude, 1992.

May 31, 2013

Serendipity and The Secret Garden

Friends, tomorrow is June. June! Which means the students I didn't teach these past months are celebrating their freedom, the crab apple blossoms I blinked and missed this year are ripening into fruit, the thunderstorms I lovethe big and juicy onesare crackling on the horizon, and I must sneak in one more post before spring turns to summer, if only to share a few green-season quotes with you from Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. Quite by chance, it was the first book I read after Elliot was born, and I can't imagine I'll ever forget that serendipitous match. I read this story of Mary and Colin and Dickon when I was a young girl, of course, but I had forgotten how much truth swirls off every page. There were grand intentions of writing an essay about it, or at least a poem, and sharing that with you all, but instead I have become a master at the art of clipping small fingernails and mining out ticklish spots between the delicious rolls of my son's squishy skin. A fair and easy trade.

I hope these words nourish your spirit and inspire you to step outside and savor somethingthe wind on your face, the pebble in your sandal, the perfection of clouds at dusk rippled with light.



"She flew downstairs in her stocking feet and put on her shoes in the hall. She unchained and unbolted and unlocked and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, and with the sun pouring down on her and warm sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree. She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up in the sky and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light that she felt as if she must flute and sing aloud herself and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it. She ran around the shrubs and paths towards the secret garden."   (Chapter 15)
"The wind swept in soft big breaths down from the moor and was strange with a wild clear scented sweetness. Colin kept lifting his thin chest to draw it in, and his big eyes looked as if it were they which were listening—listening, instead of his ears."  (Chapter 20)
"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun—which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one's eyes."   (Chapter 21)
"Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow."   (Chapter 27)

May 11, 2013

Fields of Gold

I'm not sure what I thought would happen exactly after I did this thing called giving birth. I knew I would be called mother. I knew I would have a son or a daughter. I knew my husband and I would be parents. But as concrete as these words are, from the other side of now-knowing, I can say they feel like shells, shells full of light, but empty of the true weight that fills them when a baby that was hidden is brought into the visible world and placed in one's arms. I look at my son, and daily I think, pregnancy was work, birth was labor, but it was easy, so easy, far too easy for the fact of him, that he is real and really here.

What had I heard would happen exactly? Loss of sleep, a lot of diapers, warmth, deciphering cries, learning to soothe, learning to dress and bathe and feed someone small, and love--letting a new kind of love in. And each of these things has occurred, over and over. Yet they are not what has happened, not really.

What has happened is I wake in the deep of the night, less now, as Elliot is three months old, but still at least once, and I hear him next to me, stirring. Sometimes he is dreaming, or working with all his might to free his fists from his sleep sack, or raising his legs straight up just because he can. I touch his hand then, now fully free, and he clutches my finger in a way that is familiar to both of us, and often, seconds later, he slips back to sleep. When he is hungry, I scoop him up and I smell his hair, and if I think about it, amazement floods me. That I have entered us into the circle. That he exists in the way that I exist in the way that the earth is finally, beautifully green.

What has happened is that around 3:00 every afternoon exhaustion settles on my shoulders like twelve pounds multiplied by three months and I look at my son and I say, I love you, child, but is it fine if I don't sing? if I don't read you another book? if I don't lift you to your feet and let you stand between my hands, which is something you adore, but which in this moment would be too much? What happens is I lay him on his blanket and I reach out my hand, and he takes my finger, and I close my eyes for just a little while. And when I open them, he's still all right, still beside me, soaking up my face with a curiosity that is all his own.

What has happened is there's a third person living in the home my husband and I have made. This person is happiest when peering over our shoulders, like a bird. He stares and stares at the ceiling fan. He talks and talks to Panda. We say Good Morning, and with his tongue and his saliva and his throat he trills back through a smile as wide as the slats of sun coming through the blinds. What has happened is that I hold a piece of orange up to his nose, and his eyes get rounder. The ukelele or guitar comes out, and he is entranced. The breeze on the deck touches his face, ruffles his hair, and it is a wonder for me to see it: the moment of meeting some part of the world for the first time.

What has happened is that my wrists ache in a way I never anticipated, but as Eva Cassidy's voice sweeps us into another dusk, I hold my boy anyway, and we twirl and we spin and we sway, and I hold him and hold him and hold him.

I'm not sure what I imagined would happen exactly after I became a mom. The truth is, my husband talks about Mother's Day, and I think about my mother and his mother and our grandmas, and not myself, not right away. Maybe this will change when Elliot starts to speak, claiming me. Maybe it will happen next week: some feeling that I am not who I once was, that everything is different. Or maybe not. Maybe I am the same. Maybe I have always been the Emily who holds Elliot, who shares the smell of oranges, who tires in the afternoon, who wakes in the night deep from a dream. Sometimes I forget that he is a boy, by which I mean, sometimes I forget that he is not me.

What has happened is three months ago George and I said hello to a child and he is a part of our lives now. And whether we change or just become a wider version of who we've always been really doesn't matter. What matters is him and him and me, and the delicate and definite moments of our days.

Whether you're a caretaker of children, animals, or the earth, 
Happy Mother's Day, all! May you feel blessed.

April 30, 2013


This is just to say that the days are getting longer and our windows all are open, and the house feels thicker, full-lunged, porous, bare-kneed.

This is just to say that we skipped spring here, went straight to summer, sweaty t-shirts and pink brows, bicycles and bicycles and bicycles.

Mostly, though, this is to say that on the first hot day of this new season, I walked with my son to the lake where I'd told him it was time to arrive, and when we came home, for the first time in his life,

he laughed.

April 9, 2013

"Black Oaks"

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,
   or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance
   and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound though the blue jays
   carp and whistle all day in the branches, without 

   the push of the wind. 

But to tell the truth after a while I'm pale with longing 
   for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen 

and you can't keep me from the woods, from the tonnage 
   of their shoulders, and their shining green hair. 

Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a 
   little sunshine, a little rain. 

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from 
   one boot to another -- why don't you get going? 

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees. 

And to tell the truth I don't want to let go of the wrists 
   of idleness, I don't want to sell my life for money, 
   I don't even want to come in out of the rain.

-- by Mary Oliver

What a gorgeous poem, yes? For those of us who get a little drunk by a walk through the woods, Oliver's words are a perfect pocket companion.

Which leads me to a request: can any of you point me to your favorite "place-infused" poem? I'm gearing up for The Poetry of Place workshop I'm leading in May, and I'd like to put together a reading list that hovers with inspiration.  Thanks for the help, friends!

March 28, 2013

God, Does It Feel Good To Get Outside


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March 22, 2013


It is officially spring and physically winter in this northern sweep of land before me, but honestly, these cold months have marched through my life so quickly this year that I'm astonished at all the growth that is soclose, that April is a hop-skip-and-jump away. It's with those wide eyes, then, that I steal a photo from twelve months ago and point you toward a poem of mine over at Every Day Poets. It calls up this same sweep of northern land, but all yellow and green and wild. For those of you with me here in the frozen climes of a long winter, I hope you read it like a promise. And in the mean time? There are always snowmen to make. :)

March 5, 2013

Events, Snow and Otherwise

A snow "event" is tapering off outside my window, dropping perhaps ten inches of new white, and where half the state's population is elated and the other half depressed (a friend reminded me it was 80' right around this time last year here), my mind has never been more inside, less focused on coats and boots, more in tune with another body's breath. I have decided that late winter is the perfect time to welcome an infant into the world. All there is to do is cuddle.

Elliot is wonderful, friends, and I hope each of you know how much I've appreciated your support and positive thoughts throughout his journey here. Right now he is beside me, asleep. This means I should start dinner. This means I should fold some clothes. This means I should call the insurance company. This means I should actually unload the dishwasher, which was a task I began this morning and got as far as, oh, opening its door. I'm learning that there are a lot of things that should but don't get done with an infant at home, because they just don't matter, not enough. Food, yes. It is important to eat, I suppose, but have I mentioned how much hair Elliot has? Can I just tell you how much of a spiky mess it is right now, which makes it all the more tempting to constantly touch? And it is what I've been touching. Not the dishes. Not the laundry. My son.

It still feels amazingly crazy to say/write/think that.

Anyway, I meant this as a general update post, and also as a way to say, hello, I'm here, and I will write and take photos and post again with regularity at some point down the road, but it just can't be right now. And can anyone speak to that? How to be a mother or father while at the same time being a writer/artist/creative, because wow, does that seem currently out of reach. These days have been a sweet fog of action verbs with very few pauses in between, and the pauses are where I catch my breath, not speak. You know? So: any insights from those who have come before are most welcome!

That said, I linked myself to a few events before Elliot swept in, for which I am thankful, as they'll force me to fly at least a few times from our little family nest and stretch these individual wings. I mention them here because I know some of you are local, and I think these events, unlike snow events, would be enjoyable for all who read this blog.

  • I'll be presenting in the afternoon on Saturday, April 6th, with two other local bloggers at the Chanhassen Library's Writer's Fair. We'll be discussing blogging and the myriad ways it can improve one's writing. Come and say hi! I'm excited to talk with others who've found success and inspiration with this form.
  •  On Saturday, May 18th, I'll be co-leading a Poetry of Place workshop with Minnesota's fabulous poet laureate Joyce Sutphen. The workshop is hosted by Prairie Oaks Institute in Belle Plaine. Prairie Oaks is located on a beautiful stretch of land, and I'm already excited about the wandering, musing, and writing the day will no doubt inspire. Check out the above link for registration info.
  • I have a few poems and writings coming out in publications over the next few months, and I'll do my best to link to them if they're online. Truly, I always appreciate feedback on my work. It helps me grow. It's one of the reasons I created this Landing on Cloudy Water space, and why it's survived.

Well, the babe is stirring, and in the middle of these paragraphs I did put a pot of water on the stove which I'm sure has boiled down to less than what I need for soup. But thank God for soup. I have found that such food thrives on imperfection and passing dashes of what-I-have-in-my-hand. This sums up life at the moment, and with a bit of crusty bread, some butter, and the sweet sounds of my family, it is, I've found, all a body really needs to be satisfied.

February 19, 2013

Baby Boy

Right now the side of his face rests against my belly, skin to skin, his warmth magnified by mine. It is a wonder, an absolute awe-filled thing, that just days ago he was on the other side of me, tucked away and unseeable, a secret.

Elliot. Elliot with the head full of hair. Elliot with the fifty-eight eyelashes. Elliot with the rounded nose that dips into rounded cheeks that slope to the tiny chin that quivers when he cries, lifts when he smiles in his sleep. A landscape. Elliot. Tiny boy so like and unlike all the other boys who have been born before. So like and unlike whatever small person I imagined my own son to be. Perfection is a rare if not impossible thing, but how could he not be, right now, so young, so soft, exactly as he is here, breathing in and out, making the sounds that all mothers and fathers know as first-speak.

Secrets. He is revealing them to me, unspooling them by the minute, by the number of his sighs, and they tangle around my legs and body until I am warm and rooted to the spot where everything is new, everything is a whisper. My thumb slides through his hair. I trace his eyebrow. He is sleeping. And I am wide awake.

February 5, 2013

For You

When I think back to these final days before your birth, I will remember several things: the cayenne pepper I mixed generously into every soup and onto every entree I made; the yoga ball I bounced on while your father put the groceries or laundry or Chunky Monkey away; the quiet powdery snow that came several cold nights in a row, perfect and smooth, leaving one or two new inches for us to discover at dawn; how I stopped dreaming of you, and instead talked with you during the day, the hours coated with my pep-talks, my explanations, all my hopes I knew you were hearing. In the dark hours I would lay on my left side, a pillow between my knees and under your weight, your father wrapped around us both, and he and I would close our eyes, so warm, as the world outside went on and on and on and we waited to enter it with you in our arms, too.

There were also daily walks where I tried my best to coax you, rock you into trusting the air. On a 12’ afternoon I bundled us up and trekked across the snow-covered sidewalks toward the trails surrounding Lake Susan. The water in the bottle I carried eventually formed ice crystals, my corduroys were perhaps a bit too thin, and I came home an hour later with a wind-whipped red in my cheeks that didn’t fade. A few times I slipped on ice patches, and when, on the last quarter mile I circled back to my original boot prints in the snow, I was startled at how small they were, how slight were the marks I left on the earth even while carrying a million moments of your future.

Your father furrowed his brow when I returned through the door, touched my face and took the mittens off my hands. Had it been safe to be gone so long? Were we okay?

We. I haven’t been anywhere without you in nine months, in 41 weeks. And where I’m eager for your birth, for you to meet your father face to face, blink up at your grandparents and aunts and uncles and all the good people who already love you, I might keep you with me, just me, for another month, if it were safe, if we would be okay.

For thirty years I’ve walked alone, my pep-talks for myself, my explanations taken down in a tiny print that only I read, my great hopes gossamer echoes I set floating in internal landscapes only. Solitude brought many things: insight, peace, appreciation. But it never brought the experience of that walk along Lake Susan. How I murmured about all I was seeing, to you. How I noticed the chickadees, pert and yellow on bare branches, for you. How the squeak of my boots on the snow and the pounding of the blood from my heart coalesced, made some music, some lulling melody, for you, until I was singing under that crisp-aired sky, until it was you and me and the birds and the frozen ground and the sky and the snow and the crackling ice and all the space ahead of us we were stepping into. For you, I kept thinking. For you. Look how my life is already changed, how it has already flipped inside out. Which is why I’m unsure what form I will find myself in when you leave.

You could slip from me in hours or a few more days. I do not know. Just as I will never know again in the same way that you are safe, that you are okay: always within reach of my fingers. I will welcome you into the world, this place of frost and softness, and it will become more about trust than I could ever imagine.

These days of cayenne pepper and yoga and easy nights in your father’s arms--they will be clear and beautiful memories, full of aching and outlines and wide-open promises that go on and on and on. They are our memories, yours and mine. They are the song I am singing, for you. For now, they are the way I hold you, the way I whisper into the folds of your skin, the way I kiss your eyelids. They are for you in the way that you have been for me. New and old. So new and ancient. A language as deep as time, as pure as the grip of your hand.

January 15, 2013

Ways to Say Winter

in Dutch:    winter
in German:    winter
in Danish:    vinter
in Icelandic:    vetur
in French:    hiver
in Finnish:    talvi
in Catalan:    hivern
in Italian:    inverno
in Spanish:    invierno
in Latin:    hiems
in Greek:    χειμώνας
in Persian:       زمستان
in Thai:    ฤดูหนาว
in Chinese:    冬天
in Japanese:    
in Russian:    зима
in Maori:    takurua
in Figian:    vulaililiwa
in Somali:    jiilaal
in Zulu:    ubisika
in Turkish:    kış

Or, in Me:
warm kisses
cold noses
old music
clasped hands
beards, thick with
snow-bowed trees 
red cheeks
long, finely-knitted scarves
people pressed together
wooly mittens
mulled apple cider
white white