So we are leaving this place. We sold the house last week, and we are going back from whence we came.

The move is prompted largely by Tom’s wish to return to hospice nursing, something that he can’t do here in the way he wishes to do it. But there was also the underlying sense that we just never fit in here. I expected people to be warm and friendly and welcoming, and while some were, they were the exception, not the rule. It’s the kind of thing I would have expected from a move to New England, that sense that even if you have lived there for 30 years you will still be “the new people.” I have actually had people ask me where I am from; they can tell by looking at me that I’m not from here. I have had others know things about me on first meeting—“Oh, that’s right, you moved here from Arizona.” It’s disconcerting to know that people have obviously been talking about you, but, with one exception, they can’t be bothered to actually talk to you, to make the effort to meet you and say hello and welcome you to town. This kind of thing makes you defensive after a while. “Fine, if you aren’t going to make any effort to get to know me, then I certainly am not going to give you the time of day.” And you pull back into yourself. Even still, I have made some dear friends that I will cherish, and I will miss them.

From my time here I have learned that, outside of being a horribly sporadic blogger, I am a city person. I miss the collective energy of a very large group of people. That said, this morning I was ready to stay. It rained hard and long last night, and the grass is greener than it has been since this time last year. Mist hangs at the base of the hills in the distance. The lilacs are beginning to leaf out.  As the dogs and I walked this morning, I saw a deer down by the point, heard turkeys gobbling in the distance. I will always associate that sound with spring. As we turned to come into the house, a flock of geese lifted in formation and flew low over our land, headed northeast. In a few days, we will head in the opposite direction, our days at the farm done. There is so much more I could say, and I expect I will say it, after some time and some emotional distance. In spite of the few negatives, this place will always stay in my heart.


Today would be the 52nd birthday of a girl I grew up with. Unfortunately, she died, what was it? A year ago, I think. We lost contact, and I Googled her a while back and got her obituary. I wonder what happened to make her die so young. I think she may have had heart issues. She married in 1981 and was with her husband till the end. It must be hard for him. She lost twins not too long after her marriage. I don’t know if they were stillborn or what. She did have a daughter, but it sounds like she might have been a handful. She had a granddaughter that she doted on, the obituary said. I feel like so many people (and, yes, animals too) that I have known in my life are gone. What is it like when you’re really old, when all your contemporaries are dead? Does the thought of dying get easier? My mother-in-law told my husband it does.

I wonder why loss is such a recurring issue with me. I wonder sometimes, not to get all sentimental or anything, if it doesn’t have something to do with the fact that I was immediately separated from my biological mother. I try to play that down like it’s no big deal, and truly I don’t feel any giant, aching, must-find-her-now loss. It’s more of a sense of accepting regret (I was going to say “regretful acceptance” but I think “accepting regret” expresses it better–it’s that fine of a line) that things are the way they are…but they are that way.

But if I think about it intellectually, divorced from emotion, it does make sense that that would have an impact on someone, right? I mean, I was with that woman for nine months. I began my life in her. I came out of her. Then I never saw her again. Did she want me? Did she put her palm on her abdomen and talk to me like I did Daphne Oat when we were in the car together? Did she love my father and want to be with him and to raise me, did she hate him and want to raise me, did she not want to raise me at all? I know I could have been a burden that she would have just wiped away if she could. I certainly wouldn’t have blamed her for that. All the ridiculous talk you hear now–“What if your mother had aborted you?” Well, what if? I most certainly would not know it, so it’s kind of hard to get all ginned up about the possibility. Stupid question, and, frankly, if she had, as I said, I wouldn’t have blamed her. How hard it must have been to have gone through nine months of whatever she went through. Either missing my father, being tortured with the knowledge that their baby was going to be taken from her, or living with flashbacks of a rape and just wanting to dig me out of her, or of some sort of “Well, what are you going to do about it?” conversation and the sight of him turning his back and walking away, maybe hearing that later he started dating her best friend while she went off in shame to the home for unwed mothers.

Anyway. So now that I think about it, she was likely living with some sort of loss all that nine months: either the knowledge of the soon-to-be loss of me, the loss of her former life, the loss of her boyfriend, her “honor,” whatever. Unless she was that girl the forced-birthers want you to believe exists–the one who stoically gives up her baby because she knows it’s best, and then moves on with her life unscarred, secure in the knowledge that she did the right thing. Quite honestly, that is the story my parents told me, and it is the one I have chosen to believe. Because why not? Why torture myself with imagined scenarios about how I came to be, about what my biological mother (I still can’t write about her without that qualifier in front, because it makes me feel guilty about my mom who loved me, I think, but who was so horribly scarred in her own right), when I can’t know if they are true or not. I mean, I think about them, sure, but I always default to the “she was doing the ‘right’ thing” scenario. What a ridiculous one it is, now that I think about it. As if she had a choice.

But to continue. There is that loss. That overriding loss that must have pervaded my development, and then was one of the first emotions I must have felt, in my little whatever-the-word-is mind, being carried away from that thing that made me feel safe, likely wanting to go back to it, but never being able to. Never. It makes me tear up now, so obviously there’s something there. I think about it with puppies sometime, oddly. That they are born, they are with their mothers for eight weeks or so, and then they are sold away to people who want them. How was I any different, except for the money thing? Well, the money and I hope to Christ my mother wasn’t deliberately bred. I do think my parents desperately wanted me. But that is not to say that my biological mother didn’t. Again to the forced birthers and that question I mentioned above, “What if your mother had had an abortion?” Well, I counter with “What if your mother had been forced to have you and give you up? What if she had chosen to have you and give you up? What if you never knew her? Suck on that, you self-righteous assholes. Because if things happened that way, you would know it. You would live with the knowledge every day that you could be sitting next to a relative on a bus and not even recognize them. That you could walk past your own mother–or father–on the street and utterly have no clue. You would have to deal with the thought that maybe she didn’t really want you, that all she wanted was to get you out of her and move on with life. You would have to sit on your couch and write journal entries wondering if perhaps that overriding theme of loss that appears in all your writing, the fact that virtually all your stories feature some solitary character dealing with some sort of internal sadness, has anything to do with the fact that you not only never knew your own mother, but you were taken from her as soon as you were born.” Those fucking assholes who think they know. All they want to do is impose their morality on other people. Honestly, like I said, if I were aborted, I wouldn’t fucking know. I wouldn’t fucking know it. I would just have ceased to exist, gone back to God, whatever. But being born and being adopted–let’s look at the effect that has on the baby. They never do though. They don’t think about the woman, they don’t think about the child–as differentiated from the fetus. They love that fetus.

Again, I’m not saying I had a bad life. I did get adopted by a verbally and emotionally abusive woman, though. I feel bad saying that, but it’s true. When I read about the cycle of abuse at work, I recognize it from my own home. The times that things were good. My mom was never sorry, but she would go through stages where she was pleasant, happy, considerate, fun. Then it would start to build again, and then she would blow up. I always felt like it was my fault, though, like I made her do it, if I could just be better, if I could just–I don’t even know what i did wrong, really. Smarted off to her is the only thing I can think of. I was really a good kid. I can’t even pin down what pissed her off. I think about it now, trying to remember those arguments, and it seems like my lip was always the problem. But I remember being really restrained, really holding back a lot of things I thought. And I never remember being antagonistic, like starting things myself–I was too afraid of her. And what kid doesn’t smart of?. I mean, blow it off, for God’s sake. Who really goes for days not talking to anyone because an adolescent smarted off? So it was her, not me. I know that. No I don’t. My training as a domestic violence advocate tells me that. I never realized that she as an actual abuser. I felt at times as a kid, that what she was doing was abusive, but I never thought of myself as being in an abusive home. Well, maybe I did at times, but I never just said, “Yes, that is it, I live in an abusive home.” But I did. God, I remember when Gary, my first boyfriend, came over that time and she threw the coffee cup or did something with a coffee cup and broke it because she got in some kind of fight with him. My freakin’ boyfriend! He hadn’t even done anything. She didn’t like him because he was Armenian–and dark–and he was kind of cocky, but he was never disrespectful to my parents. Yet she picked this fight one day. After that, I seem to remember, he wouldn’t come to the door anymore (who could blame him). I had to go out to the car. Then, no doubt, she probably blamed him for not coming to the door like a gentleman.

Why did she have to do those things? It was really a horrible existence, and I think it’s part of the reason, if not the entire reason, that I can never get enough of just being in my peaceful home. Of being by myself. Of being able to do what I want. Of being uncontrolled. Because I was controlled by her moods. There was that constant watchfulness, to be aware of when things were building. There was the trying to avoid the blow up, which was never possible. I even remember then, when I knew little about abuse, thinking that there was a pattern to things, that they would be fine, and then the tension would come back. I just remember that tension, the dread-filled realization that it was coming again. I remember walking on eggshells then, and I remember doing the same thing during her silent treatment. God, It just makes me tense to think about it.

But with all that, I love my mom. I think bad things happened to her. I think she wasn’t, for whatever reason, long on self-examination, self-reflection. So she acted out as an abuser, as she was abused. I didn’t, thank God. The other day the kids at my talk at the high school asked me about that, if you live in an abusive home, will you be an abuser. No. Some people are reflective. Some people say, “God, I remember what that made me feel like, and I won’t be involved in making someone else feel that way.” My mom was not one of those people; I don’t think she had the skills, the capacity. She grew up hard–I’m not even sure she had the opportunity to develop the skills. My dad grew up hard in an abusive home too, but he was not an abuser. He did marry one, though. Interesting.

I feel like I’m dogging my mom. I’m not, though. I’m just truth-telling. And I’m truth-telling because I was making a point about adoption. Bright, shiny, glittery, adoption. Sure it has upsides. But it has downsides too. Is it the reason that the theme of loss appears in my writing? I think so. Is it the reason the theme of loss appears in my life? Possibly. Maybe it’s not the reason for that theme, though. Maybe it’s a karma thing. Maybe I caused loss before and this time I needed to experience it–right from the get-go. Who knows. It is what it is. Lots of people hate that expression, but I don’t. It makes sense to me. Things are the way they are. I can think about them and try to understand them, but I can’t change them.

I’m not sure where all this came from. My friend’s birthday, I guess. She was adopted too, but she left a thread of herself in her daughter. I have no children. I had a miscarriage. Now I am in menopause, so it’s clear that my line, what I know of it, will begin and end with me. That makes me sad, even though I never had a burning desire to have babies. I did, however, have a desire to look at someone and know, just by looking, but watching them in a room, that I was related to them. Maybe they had my eyes. My unfortunate chin. Maybe we both made the same hand gesture or crossed our legs the same way. Now I will never know that feeling. I’m just, like, out here in the world all by myself. Sometimes that is a hard feeling to deal with.

Slice of Morning

The question today on my Day One Journal App page is “What is your favorite time of day?”  I don’t even have to think about that—it’s right now.  Morning, early morning.  Before the sun has come up, when all but the earliest of the early risers are still asleep.

This morning I was up at 3:30.  I set my coffee to brewing, got the fire stoked up, fed the dogs and cats.  All during my chores, our Yorkie was pretty insistent that I take him outside.  He’s been peeing in the house the past week or so, and has gotten in big trouble as a result, so I think he was wanting to demonstrate that he’s turned over a new leaf.  At least I hope so.

The past few days I have felt hints of spring even though it’s not even February yet.  It has been a strange winter.  When we stepped outside, it was somewhat cold, but refreshing as there was no wind.   I heard a rooster the next place over–not the one to the south of us, who sounds like someone yanks him by the throat each time  he begins to crow, but the one to the north.  He crows full throated and bold, like you expect a rooster to.

I looked to the east, wondering how he knew dawn was approaching.  I could only see our version of what they call “city lights view” in the real estate ads–the lights of the interstate on the other side of the river–against a black sky.  There’s a little sort of respite area there by the exit to Rock Port, Missouri—a MacDonald’s, a steakhouse, gas stations, a few places that sell fireworks.  I don’t remember what else.  No doubt a Subway, because they are ubiquitous in those locations.  From our place, in darkness, though, you can’t tell that.  You can’t see Golden Arches or fluorescent signs advertising competing prices for unleaded.  You can only see the lights, twinkling in the distance, beyond them, a row of flashing red lights marking the wind turbines which stretch from Rock Port up into Iowa.  That’s what I saw when I looked east. No reddish glow of dawn, yet somehow that rooster knew.

Beyond the sound of the rooster, a great horned owl in the distance, the infinitely disturbing call of a screech owl coming from the edge of our woods (seriously–listen to its call on the linked page if you don’t know what it sounds like), it was completely silent, so silent that I was taken aback by the sound of my own voice as I praised the dog for peeing where he was supposed to.  Our porch cats had come out to walk with us, but I didn’t see them at first because of the complete darkness.  I herded them back to the porch, and came inside where our Westie was asleep in front of the fire.  In Phoenix, he used to go outside and sleep against a brick wall in full sun in summertime.  He likes heat.  My coffee was ready.  I pressed it down, poured a cup, took up my spot on the corner of the couch to read, to think, to write.

Why, Hello There!

I really don’t have anything to say at the moment, but I feel like I need to write something in order to get back up to speed on my blogging.  I’ve lost sight of the blog, of my reading, my writing, and I’m trying to focus on those things again.  So let’s just call this an I’m-back post.  Hopefully I will stay back and not wander off for a year or so again.

I’ve been quite busy in the time I’ve not been blogging.  I have two jobs now, one as an adjunct instructor of English and Literature and one as a grant writer/public educator/advocate for a nonprofit in the next town over.  I really love both of them.  It’s so great to have a job (or a couple) where I am in charge of what I’m doing, as opposed to a job where I am at someone else’s beck and call all day long.  It’s also great to have the opportunity to work as a writer.  It’s funny, because my dad was always really resistant to my following that path because he said there was no money in it, I wouldn’t be able to support myself.  I believed that for a long time, and not just because he said so, but because the world kind of tells you that.  You’re not supposed to take risks or do something different.  Instead, you’re supposed to find a traditional job at a traditional business, and you’re supposed to work there until you retire or your position is outsourced.  Heck, even the advice you get about MFA writing programs tells you not to pursue the degree if you’re looking to make money.  But here I am, doing rather well, thank you, because I’ve been able to parlay that degree into a means to earn a living.  So, yes, take risks.  Do what you love, the money will follow.  All that.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not raking it in hand over fist. But I’m making a good living, and I’m enjoying what I do for the first time in my life.

As a result of these changes, though, I’ve lost sight of my reading and writing.  Yesterday I had a wonderful discussion with my friend, Debbie, about Hillary Jordan’s Mudbound, one of the best books I’ve read in some time.  We had a book group before I left Phoenix, and talking to Debbie yesterday made me realize how much I missed that.  We’re planning our next book now, and I’m looking forward to taking that up again.
I’ve also been trying to make a point to write some fiction.  I worked with a lawyer years ago who wrote screenplays on the side.  When I asked him why he wasn’t pursuing that more actively, since he said he loved doing it, he said, “I have talent, but no ambition.”  I kind of feel that way, and it kind of makes me sad.  I feel like I’m a pretty good writer, but I simply am not driven to write fiction and get it out there.  I go in fits and starts, where I’ll research markets and send a bunch of stories out and get rejected or get published, and then I lose interest until the next time.  I actually forgot to read one story I had published; it was live for a month or so before I remembered to go look at it.  And it was a fine journal that I was proud to be included in.  I just lack that drive, for some reason.

I did, however, start fooling around with something interesting a couple of nights ago.  I’m not going to talk about it except to put on virtual paper that it exists, because I don’t want to jinx anything, or write myself out by writing about it instead of actually writing the piece itself.  It has potential to “go long,” though, as my mentor, David Carkeet, used to say about novels versus short stories.  So we’ll see where that goes.

That’s what I’ve got.  Things are great here on the farm.  Tom’s been off work for the past few months, or off traditional work. He’s been working incredibly hard around here, building the screen porch I’ve been wanting, winnowing down the monster pile of wood we had as a result of the storm a couple years ago that took out our beautiful old hackberry tree and our garage.  He has enough wood split for at least all of this winter and next.  His latest project is pulling up the hideous carpet in the guest room and our bedroom to reveal beautiful wood flooring.  I will never understand why people do that.  He’s also doing some really artistic work with deer skulls.

So that’s where I am right now.  Hopefully this post will kick-start me into writing on a regular basis, and writing something that’s a bit more interesting, profound, insightful, whatever.  Fingers crossed.  All that.


Our Boo


In my yard is the leg of a young rabbit.  It’s been there for two weeks now, gray, fur rustling in the breeze, all that’s left of what Boehner, our orange tabby, killed.  She ate only part of it, and each morning there was less and less, until finally all that was left was the tiny leg.  In the city I had friends who told stories of their cats’ bringing them “presents”—dead birds and mice, little creatures or parts of little creatures that they would place by the door, or worse, bring in the house.  We’ve had those, but we’ve also had larger mammals, squirrels and rabbits, left by the door.  Some of them have been nearly the size of the cats themselves.  Now when the cats yawn and bare their teeth, I notice how long they are.  How white and sharp.

Earlier this month, I was working when Rolo would not stop barking.  I finally went downstairs to try to quiet him down, and just to the side of our well stood two turkeys.  They began to move toward each other and bumped chests, then intertwined their long necks and joined their beaks.  It’s spring, and I thought it was some kind of mating ritual, but it never progressed in that direction.  Instead, they would separate, square off, then rejoin with the neck twisting, the beak locking.  They were so intent on what they were doing that they didn’t see me at the window, didn’t even notice when I slid it open a few inches so I could hear them click and sputter, the ruffle of their feathers.  They began to move closer to me, their necks spun together, held at almost a right angle to the ground, and I realized they were fighting.  They came so close that I could look in the eye of the one who was getting the worst of it.  I don’t know what I expected—some sort of intelligence, ferocity, fear—but what I saw was simply blankness, as if he hadn’t gone into this with any kind of intention; rather, he was simply impelled to challenge a rival without regard for the consequences.

Several months before this, last fall, Tom and I saw a black Lab scampering around the property.  He looked young, and I immediately thought about coyotes.  When we first moved here, there were very few, and the folks in town told us that the farmers and ranchers had shot them all.  They’ve reestablished a population now, and I hear them at night, yipping and howling, usually in the forest across the way, but sometimes in our woods and nearby fields.

We lured the Lab into the dog run, gave him some water and food, played with him a bit.  I called him, rather uncreatively, “Hoover,” because he ate all the food we gave him in seconds.  He was goofy and daffy and had clearly been trained, as he would sit on command and sort of wave his paw when asked to shake.  He wore a collar and we figured he must belong to the people up the road, that he was just on walkabout.  We let him out of the run, and he hung around for a bit, but then returned home.

We have a vast amount of deer here.  They wander around the yard, up and down the driveway, eat pears off the pear tree.  There are so many deer in this area that hunters are allowed to kill does.  This past winter, a wounded doe made its way into our neighbor’s field where it died.  I could see the body from my kitchen window, and I was surprised when the neighbors just left it there.  I commented on that to Tom, and he said that the coyotes would take care of it.

A few days later, I noticed that I couldn’t see the doe’s body.  It looked like something was still there, but I couldn’t tell what, exactly.  I told Tom that he seemed to have been right about the coyotes.  He looked at the spot with his binoculars and said that there was too much still there, that the coyotes would have eaten the whole thing.  “Who did it, then?” I asked him.  “Most likely dogs,” he said.

I watched the doe’s body for a few more weeks from the kitchen window.  It got progressively smaller.  Many times, I saw something black rooting around and digging in it.

A week later, the remains of the doe were covered in snow.  I was baking bread when I noticed Hoover coming up our driveway and heading past the spruces to the field, to the doe.  I went back to my bread until Rolo started barking.  I looked up to see Hoover, a long, white femur in his mouth.  He gave it a shake, then bounded down the driveway toward home.


I’m getting all into reading lately.  I should probably clarify that: I’ve always been a big reader, but since I spent the bulk of the last decade in school, my reading-for-pleasure train kind of got derailed.  While I’ve never been a fast reader—nor do I want to be—I was always a steady, consistent one, moving from book to book to book, always reading something, always moving forward.  Now I’m still always reading something, but my forward movement has been awfully slow.  That bothers me.

Things got in the way, legitimately got in the way.  School, as I said.  A thousand-mile move away from all things familiar.  That creeping bout of depression I had last year (all better, Ms. H!).  Current affairs.

That last one is bigger than it should be.  I was one of those people who got all involved in politics this past election.  I cared.  I worked hard.  I—okay, yeah, I wanted change.  Now I see I’m not going to get it, or at least the kind of change I wanted, and that frustrates me no end.  I’m becoming really cynical about the whole political process.  I listen to these idiots—you know, I’m stopping right here, because this is what happens.  I begin the litany of what’s wrong, what’s not being fixed to my liking, and I get all in a lather, all upset.  That leads to my surfing around the Internets to find more information on that topic, to read bills pending on it, to email my senators which is a totally pointless task because they don’t flipping care.  I mean, one of them is Ben Nelson.  I emailed him a while back about confirming Dawn Johnsen to the Office of Legal Counsel, and he emailed me back to assure me he shared my concerns about federal funding for abortion.   Not only are Ben and I not on the same page, we’re not even in the same library.

So.  I’m done with that business.  I will keep abreast of current events, but I won’t delve into them.  Instead, I’m going to focus on reading all the good writing that’s out there.  I’m deleting all but a couple political sites from my NetNewsWire feed list and replacing them with feeds from sites like Bookslut and The Millions and with blogs devoted to reading and writing. I want to read the books the big publishers aren’t necessarily embracing—short story collections, literary journals, narrative nonfiction, books from small, independent presses.  Books like these.

So this is what I’ll devote the bulk of my time to:  writing, reading and, if all continues to go well, teaching.  It seems I’m moving toward a life more and more centered on the written word, and it feels like coming home.

I have to get back on this blog thing.  I keep holding myself back because I feel like I have to “craft” something, that I can’t just do a simple post that says hey, here’s what’s going on.  But you know, sometimes if you can’t write the entire story, you can at least put down a sentence or two.  So that’s what I’m going to do here.  If nothing else, maybe it will kickstart me into regular postings, which, indeed, was the intent of this blog to begin with.

Of late I have been coming to the realization that I was kind of depressed for a while there, probably dating back to nearly a year ago when we had a tornado-ish thing blow through that took out a lot of our oaks and evergreens and snapped in half rows of redbuds and sumac.  It drastically modified the landscape.  It even blew every last pear off our two pear trees.  It’s only now that we’re getting close to getting all that stuff cleared out, and that’s only if you don’t walk down the path into the woods.  If you go there, it looks like marauding giants ransacked the land, tree after tree after tree is felled, some of them ancient, thick-trunked oaks that you can’t imagine giving in to any sort of wind.  But they did.  Roots and all.

Then we had a couple of cats disappear, the euphemism I’ll use for “killed, I suspect by coyotes.”  I took that pretty hard, because they were my buddy cats, a mother and her kitten who took up residence on our porch and used to walk around after me like two dogs if I went outside.  Ausch, the mother, disappeared first, and then, a few weeks later, her six-month-old kitten, Soxy.  He and I went for a walk in the woods the afternoon before he disappeared.  I’d not seen him go into those woods before, and I wonder sometimes if maybe I hadn’t gone down there, knowing full well he’d likely follow me, if he wouldn’t still be here.  I’m having a hard time getting over that.

Then winter came and it sucked.  Hard.  We had feet of snow.  Wretched, sub-zero cold to the point that we left the tap on drip for days at a time to keep the pipes from freezing.  Days before every storm, NOAA would issue these dire warnings about life-threatening conditions, lethal winds, no visibility.  Normally when we have snow, I go out and shovel if it looks like it’s going to come down for a while so I don’t have such a large volume to deal with later.  This past winter, though, Tom was working nights, and I was here alone. I was afraid to go out and shovel because if I slipped and hit my head (yes, I’ve done that here—twice), I might just freeze out there and die, my plaintive moans for help carried away by the howling wind.

But now it’s summer.  The garden is doing well, and I’ve blanched and frozen several pounds of peas, and the beans are coming in.  We’re staying ahead of the weeds, in spite of Tom’s rotator cuff problems and the stress fracture I managed to get on my foot.  The pear tree is loaded with pears and they look fatter and healthier than I’ve ever seen.  Tom thinks it’s the result of the trees getting that break last year after the storm.  Little surprises are cropping up, like I’m discovering catnip all over the place, blooming catnip.  It’s really lovely, deep green furry leaves and sweet little pink and white flowers. Our remaining cat loves it.  She’s moved onto the porch, where Ausch and Soxy used to live, and she’s been bringing another cat around who, judging by the way she bats him upside the head when he presumes to eat first, may be her kitten.  My roses are growing up the trellis support, and it looks like my dream of mounding a red climber up the side of our front porch could come true.  I discovered that this mystery plant I’ve been watching since we moved here is a blueberry.

Just little things.  Normally, I’d take them for granted.