September 20, 2017

"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!

June 12, 2017

What I've Been Into - Spring 2017


It's...the middle of June! How that happened, I can't explain. Well, I can, but the explanation will be a very simple one: baby. Baby, baby, baby. How sweet she is, and how sweet it is to be her mother. All the feels. All the gazing. All the lazy afternoons in bed. And now that her brother has joined us for the summer, all the ways in which we are settling into the new dimensions of our days (and nights). Who knows when I will read a full book again!? No matter. I am reading other things: cries, coos, wide eyes, the width of her milky thighs, the way she responds to the wind. It is not for everyone, this mothering, but I am glad it is for me.

  1. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into The Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett -- I really truly think this was the only book I read this spring. And if I was going to read one book only, I'm so glad this was it. It was one of my favorite books that I've read in years. It's not one to read quickly. You can't, really. There's too much to think about, too many quotes to transcribe somewhere, too many moments of authentic wisdom. I checked it out from the library, but when I find my feet again, I will walk leisurely through a nearby bookstore, buy it, reread it, and keep it near.
TV and Movies:
  1. Avatar: The Last Airbender -- My husband stumbled across this Nickelodeon animated series when he was in his early twenties, and he's loved finally being able to share it with our son. I've watched some of the episodes, and they're pretty good! Lots of humor mixed in with kid-accessible morality & philosophy. My husband insists I'm Katara, and our son has gotten really good at pretending he's bending the elements. ;) 
  2. Hook -- Yes, the one from 1991 with Robin Williams. We watched this days after our daughter was born, and we felt a lot of nostalgia for our own childhoods.
  3. Poldark, Seasons 1 and 2 -- The newest BBC Masterpiece set in Cornwall in the late 1700s. So melodramatic, yet so gooooooood.
  4. Manchester By The Sea -- Heart-wrenching. Lord. But superbly acted.
  5. Gilmore Girls, Seasons 1 and some of 2 -- Because I was uninterested in it when I was Rory's age, but now that I'm Lorelai's--and now that I have a daughter--I get it. (Some of my students insisted I would.) Cute literary references all over the place, too!
Find and Arrow Signs:
  1. This Dear Sugar column about deciding between having and not having children, and moreover, about the sister life you aren't living.
  2. "The Blue House" by Thomas Transtromer, the poem referenced in the above article.
  3. Luna Bars. The chocolate cookie dough kind. This spring, they've saved me. 
  4. Three-letter-words. Our son is starting to read. Makes me all melty and eager and proud.

Enjoy these full and lovely months, friends. As always, please pass along your recommendations for anything and everything. xo

May 2, 2017

Baby Girl

In the middle of April--all the leaves reaching up and out above the marsh, the ground covered with green shoots and blades, the air full of fresh breath, the sky blue with rain--our daughter was born. We named her Charlotte. And to us, she is sweeter than anything else that is clean and fragrant and hopeful this spring.

With my first child, words came naturally, and fast. I felt a need to say all the things, to record somehow the way I was feeling, the way it all seemed, how particular were the moments I spent getting to know him, getting to know myself as a mother, getting to know the newly defined world. I reread those musings now, and they still feel exactly right. I can remember who I was when I wrote them. I can remember how that version of the world felt, as viscerally as I can touch and sense my own skin.

But with this baby--there is less urgency. I'm not sure exactly why this is, as she will be my last child. I know she will never be eight pounds again, her days of being seven pounds already something that slipped away with April. I know there will come a day when I will realize her sounds are less murmurs and more requests. When her gaze is less dreamy and more direct. When her cheeks are not this impossible softness. I guess, this time, it is more about being still, being quiet with her, watching her eyes blink open and shut, thin petals blooming in my arms.

Tonight, the maple leaves are wide enough that they obscure everything but my neighbor's twinkling porch light. All winter I have watched its reflection in the ice and water of the marsh, a kind of star: Here a child would be born. Soon the leaves will wave so thickly that everything that came before them will be memory. Which is why, I think, I watch that shimmering light tonight upon the water, beautiful and mysterious, with me like this, in its perfect and transient form, right now.

March 1, 2017

What I've Been Into - Winter 2017

Hey all,

I don't know about you, but this has been a strange and sometimes scary but often wonderful end-of-winter. To say that it is already March feels bizarre, but at the same time, here in Minnesota we've experienced one of the warmest winters on record, so...despite my reservations about what this means for our planet, I'm already in spring mode. And since I'm due to meet my second baby in early April, there is no rewinding for me: Spring is arrival. Spring is wakefulness. Spring is revelation. I say: Welcome, welcome.

I'd love to hear what you've all been up to. I'm not sure how much reading I'll get to in the coming months (buh-bye, hands-free bedtime routine!), but I always keep a will-read-later list running. Suggestions, please! And I hope the sun warms you in these coming months all the way down to the bone.

  1. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle -- Ruefle was a professor of mine in grad school, and the title of this, her craft book, about sums her up. I wrote the weirdest, most magical, most unpublishable piece in her class, but the experience of writing it is one that I'll never forget, simply because I felt myself in a space created by madness and honey, both. I didn't read every essay in this bunch, but what I did read made me wish I was back in grad school, notebook on my lap in Dewey Hall.
  2. A Sense of the Mysterious by Alan Lightman -- I liked the essays that verged closer to memoir more than the ones that examined--in lyrical style, no less--the difference between applied and pure mathematics. No surprise there, I guess. I am glad I finally picked up one of Lightman's books, though, and I'll likely return to another when I find the urge to understand how the STEM people think. :)
  3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo -- Who knew how interesting the proper method of folding clothes could be? I read this right after winter break began, and it kicked off a major nesting impulse. There really is something to creating a space at home that mirrors the state of mind you desire.
  4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi -- An incredible book following two ancestral lines--one that leads through the slave trade and colonialism in western Africa and the other that leaps across the Atlantic, following the experiences of African Americans coming to terms with their place in society. Ambitious and realized, I stayed up late to read this one. 
  5. Commonwealth by Anne Patchett -- I read Commonwealth because I heard an author say it was a "perfect book." I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I was interested in this story about two broken families, largely told through the eyes of the children as they aged. 
  6. News of the World by Paulette Jiles  -- Part western, part history of America (specifically Texas) after the Civil War, part heartfelt tale about an older man and his transport and eventual care-taking of a young girl who had been taken hostage by a native tribe, this novel started off slow, but eventually took off as the relationship between the man and the girl developed. I wouldn't have read it had it not been recommended to me, but I'm glad I did. 
  7. Open City by Teju Cole -- I was hearing a lot about Teju Cole, so I decided to pick up his first novel. Despite all the praise--and I can appreciate why that praise exists; there is SO MUCH in this book, so many ruminations--it just wasn't for me. My guess is if I had more time to read slowly and consider, I might enjoy it. But, in my experience, it was too much essays-in-novel-form, when what I was wanting was straight novel.
  8. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer -- Although I didn't read every essay in this large collection (it's comprised of over thirty individual essays tied together by theme), I loved many of the pieces I did read ("The Honorable Harvest," "The Consolation of Water Lilies," and "Burning Cascade Head" come to mind). I had a repeated impulse while reading to look up Kimmerer on Facebook, follow her, and somehow take a class with her in the future. She's a modern sage.  
  9. O Pioneers!, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Great Gatsby, and various essays and poems by Symborska to Hughes -- all curriculum rereads.
TV and Movies:
  1. Song of the Sea -- We just started official family movie nights with our son, and this animated film--an Oscar nominated one--was beautiful, and one that my husband and I enjoyed just as much if not more than our almost-four-year-old. It was based off of Irish mythology, and the visual style, music, and bond between an older brother and a little sister? Thumbs up from me!
  2. The Fall, Season 3 -- So dark! Why do we watch this stuff? Still, we watch this stuff. And we think about it and wonder at the limits of humanity.
  3. Westworld, Season 1 -- In a random conversation, my husband and I realized that both my students and his clients had both been talking about this show, so we decided to dive in. It's HBO, so it was violent in a way that was eventually too much for me, but the premise--a western theme park populated by highly sophisticated artificial-intelligence-driven "hosts"--was thought-provoking, and it's easy to see why it has inspired so many conversations.
  4. The Minimalists -- A well-done and great reminder of how little we actually need the stuff we buy. Reduce, reduce! Definitely something we are trying to bring into our home more consistently.
  5. Boyhood -- When this film first came out, I heard and read a lot about it, as the concept was interesting (a team of filmmakers and actors who got together over the course of something like fifteen years in order to show the true passage of time and how it might affect a boy through his formative years). The movie itself was good--sad--but likely pretty realistic in terms of what a lot of kids experience. I know it reminded me of a good number of my students. We all just want to know we are loved and have purpose.
  6. Jim Gaffigan's Cinco stand-up show -- Because we all need a little humor in our lives.
  7. The Americans -- Just started. Into it!
Find and Arrow Signs:
  1. Eula Biss. I've been taking an online essay writing class the last few weeks (I'm crazy. But with Baby #2 coming, I felt I had to take advantage of whatever clarity is left in my brain while I still have it.), and one of the things I've loved the most about the course is how the instructor has pointed me to a lot of great nonfiction writers I hadn't previously read. Biss was one of them. I'm pretty impressed by her. "Time and Distance Overcome," her essay first on the telephone, then on telephone poles, and later how they intersected with the lynching of black men, kept me rapt from beginning to end. I'm going to pick up one of her essay collections and swim my way through soon.
  2. Some dear friends have brought out their first books (Yes, this makes me both proud and stir-crazy. Someday, Emily! Someday!). Please do check out Kate McCahill's Patagonian Road, Cheryl Wilder's What Binds Us, and Tyler Dorholt's American Flowers
  3. Although I'm generally what I consider the farther thing from a political writer, I couldn't hold in my observations about our recent election and how it impacted my classroom. What I wrote (eventually titled "Silence for the Sake of Peace: On Politics, Huck Finn, and Lies We Tell Ourselves") was published just before the inauguration by Atticus Review, and you can read it here.
  4. This article from the New York Times about President Obama's thoughts on books, reading, and writing. It's no wonder he's always struck me as a deeply thoughtful man.

Birds chirping this morning as if it were May. Hope these words find you well, friends.

February 5, 2017

Lewis River, La Center, Washington: In Photos

A few weeks ago, my husband, son, and I journeyed out to the Portland, Oregon, area to visit family. As luck would have it, we arrived just two days after one of Portland's biggest snowstorms in years and years. (Apparently, when people out there encounter a snow event, they abandon their cars on the highways and somehow hitch a hide home, ostensibly on the nine snowplows Portland has for the entire city. Suffice it to say, this baffled us Minnesotans. :) Our luck involved landing at the airport after it was up and running again, and also being able to enjoy an already gorgeous part of the country under a blanket of fresh and frosty white. I took these photos on a solo walk along the Lewis River one early morning. It was a beautiful way to greet the day, and it reminded me of a walk I took at the very end of my pregnancy with my son. This time, I whispered to a new baby, and despite the single-digit temperatures, I was warm.

Happy February, friends. Spring is near, and yet let us not forget how important it is to be able to see through the trees.