Yesterday I took a slow, needed walk in the woods. It was slow because my eight-year-old walked behind me drinking his apple cider the whole way. (That was the only way I was able to get him to walk in the woods with me.)

It was much needed, because I have been dealing with all sorts of change/decision/anxiety-related fatigue this last week.

Problems no less weighty than:

How do I form a bubble cohort for my kids during the dark, wet, cold days of fall/winter that stretch on forever in Juneau, Alaska?

How do I keep my kids from experiencing the same kind of isolation trauma that was inflicted on me in elementary school and informed my entire life, that molded me to the adult I am who still deals with such demons?

How do I educate and care for my kids while working? How do I teach Spanish to middle schoolers over a strictly online platform?

How do I find a bubble that is small enough I don’t get sick (I’m high risk) and don’t expose my children to long-term health heart and lung damage?

You know, small, petty stuff.

While John Muir-ing through the stormy, windy trees under the slight pitter-patter of raindrops, I started sensing the bears lurking under the broad fans of devils club leaves. Without a dog, and just me and my eight-year-old (forgot bear spray—bad mom), we wouldn’t stand much chance against a black bear. Due to the wind storm, we were the only souls on this trail. And my poor little son with his stick—not much of weapon. I started oodey-ooping loudly into the forest.

I was also watching the trees closely, swaying strongly in the gale force winds, just in case one decided to come down on us.

In any new world—whether in nature or another culture—the only choice is to adapt. As the tree bends in the wind so it will not break, so must I. So I try to adapt by sensing with all senses— most importantly, my sixth sense, intuition.

With my senses on heightened alert in that forest, the most remarkable thing happened. I started getting tingles up and down my spine. The constant heightened state of awareness felt akin to that feeling of being high on drugs. It felt as if I was using more brain power. My body was washed in a feeling of wisdom and truth that hued green and the red like the inside of spruce trees.

But in the calm of the green woods and exhale of the warm wind, I did not feel fear. Instead, I felt a tingling under the skin that bloomed into my arms and legs and vibrated at the end of my fingertips, fluttering into my heart and lungs, and culminated into my head almost to the point where I could spill tears and cry out Oh my goddess, I feel alive!

How I wish that we as a culture we could vibrate at this level at this energy. To slow down, look, listen, breathe, and feel. To feel time more palpably than ever before. It’s like adding years to your life. But, of course, this totally goes against our goal-, action-oriented culture, geared towards rapidity and efficiency.

The best way to experience the wilderness is to have no clock, except for daylight. No destination, no goal of miles or calories burned. The only goal being to take in the green, wet, wild world around you.

The same could be said for travel. No goal, no check list. Feel the world with all your senses. Slow, stop, look, listen.

Feel the vibrations.

His hair is the same color as the bark of spruce

Goodday mateys! I’m excited to announce that my essay Alaska on Fire was published in the latest issue of the Hellebore, Black Moss.

An acquaintance called it an “insightful, well-written piece on last summer’s wildfires, budget destruction and the Tlingit idea of shukalxs uxs’— where the end is called back to the beginning”.

You can read the essay here: https://thehellebore.com/alaska-on-fire/

I have also included some stunning art by featured artist Reyna Noriega — in my favorite colors, rose and teal!

You can imagine my delight when Plumtree tavern literary magazine sent me an email to tell me that they included my poem as one of the selected favorites from the past year. And lo and behold, mine was listed first!

I wrote this poem during a walk on one of the coldest, driest days of fall. Sounds muted, nothing stirring, and even the wind was dead. The next day life returned in the first snow.

Enjoy this time of quiet solitude. As Crosby, Stills and Nash say, the darkest hour is right before the dawn.

Featured artwork by Watanabe Seiti

At the edge of the gumdrop forest waits a door to swallow her whole

deep, deeper down the rabbit hole she hopes to lose her mind or find her soul

or a better way back than before.

Perhaps chance upon a homeless camp

tarp and dust pan,

flash backs to that woman & those men you caught with your 22—

old news, that was way back when— squirrels & John Muir wouldn’t even give it a passing glance

by the old growth hemlock & spruce, snow on ground & twisting roots holding down your queen

of hearts, ocean breath & song of thrush, old man’s beard on Dr. Seuss trees & mushroom musk.

If John Muir were a her on this frapcious earth day she’d prefer the form of a cheshire cat

rather than a girl without a dog, 5’5 122 pounds, a perfect rabbit for the hunting hieing through wonderland

& a homeless camp, lichen’s web catching on her hat, rain water pooling under boots,

nibbling at the ice, and at the trail head upon her return, I wonder if John Muir

the man would observe a ladies torn thong strung along a branch as if to offer

a warning… I wonder.

Oh my gosh you guys, I don’t usually talk like a valley girl, but when I do it’s because I am immensely impressed. The latest edition to come out of University of Alaska Southeast, Tidal Echoes 2020 is the most stunning literary magazine I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Leafing through the gorgeous prose and artwork is like taking a nature bath. Here are some of my favorites. (See if you can spot some poems by yours truly.)

One out of seven jobless, Venezuela size statistics,
but the Tongass is alive, listen—
 
the wilderness so thick, I could lean into this.
No helicopters to spoil, and there’s a 
part of me
 
that likes to do hard things— like fool 
myself
into jumping off this cliff sixty feet
 
into the drink, blue like a California sunset
reflected in a rear view mirror.
 
Hear the birds—  if they were words
they’d say gimme this, gimme that
 
so & so started it, and I don’t want you to die.
Word to your bird baby mama.
 
Oh wild wilderness, why do I love you
so fierce? Is it because I relinquish 
control,
 
is it because you show up in a flooded
beaver dam pool where you can’t tell
 
where the tree ends and its mirror 
begins—
the spider web that clings when you 
least expect it,
 
nurse log kind of love.
If it ain’t a good day I’m cryin’,
 
laughin’ and cryin’ at the same time,
inhaler in my pocket,
 
mask I’m rockin’
‘cause it’s not about me
 
this time— no one lives forever.
A girl cries every night,
 
she don’t want mama to die,
but I don’t wanna let it go yet
 
‘cause there’s still a part of me
that likes to do hard things.
 

A devil’s club graveyard all that remains,

bones of a mighty clubbed fortress

reduced to small brown skeletons,

silent, still scaffolds of what once was.

This is how you say madrugada in English–

the coldest, darkest, undead hour

when spirits roam the earth, right before

the first snow: 

the rainforest so dry and quiet

bones and shapes, negative space,

the air sucked right out.

This poem was first published at Plum Tree Tavern

Photo by Linford Miles on Unsplash

Because she is of the wilderness, why shouldn’t the rhythm of a thousand hustling feet induce her to run through TSA?

Because when riding an escalator, why shouldn’t she wait for the prettiest step, although it may mean losing Mommy who has alteady gone ahead and landing spread eagle upside down between five metal moving steps?

Because she prefers to pee on dandelions with the sun on her bottom, why shouldn’t she run out of the airplane lavatory with her underwear down around her ankles?

Because she is a magical fairy princess, why shouldn’t she pitch a next-level prima donna hissy fit when she doesn’t get a window seat?

Because she has a voice that bellows off mountains and belies her five years, and a mother who listens and encourages her to speak her truth in a world of men who won’t stop talking, why shouldn’t she use her voice to stand up for her tiny little self— because if she won’t, who will?— even if it means everyone on the plane goes semi-deaf?

Because she appreciates the ways of Miro, why shouldn’t she paint the floor an acrylic abstract masterpiece minutes after getting home from a two day flight?

Because my daughter is a mirror, why shouldn’t I expect her to run a bit feral like her mother?

And because God gave me over the top kids, and maybe I parent a little over the top, too— and because to whom much is given, much is required— why shouldn’t I expect that everything be too wonderful, too stressful, too much work, too satisfying, too unsatisfying, too draining, too hilarious, and too much?