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!

My short story memoir, Rowing in Dulce de Leche, was recently published at the Lowestoft Chronicle. It’s about a young feminist-vegetarian who goes on a high school exchange to the land of meat and machos. In Argentina, “rowing in dulce de leche” means trying to navigate one’s way through a challenging situation.

An excerpt from the story:

And that’s when I spotted a thick, broad-shouldered jacket in distressed black leather that hinted gray in the folds and creases. It looked too rugged and boxy for my thin shoulders, but I didn’t care.

“Can I try it on?” I asked the sales attendant. She assured me that this jacket was for a man, and tried to show me the ladies’ section with its soft, supple, form-fitting leather garments.

No importa,” I responded, and tried it on anyway.

The oversized, faded jacket weighed almost eight pounds. The rugged leather coat, made from the cattle of the high plains of Tucumán, became my armor. Putting it on exchanged my sadness for resilience. The thick skin I wore shielded my own thin skin. Wearing it, I didn’t feel sad; I felt invincible. Like I could row through a sea of dulce de leche.

The fact that it was a man’s jacket made me love it even more. Men were powerful. Men held keys and could go and come as they pleased. Men made decisions and called the shots. Men didn’t have to go on diets or get catcalled by other men sitting on sidewalks. Wearing this coat made me feel strong, like a man. Although I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the flesh of the Argentine cattle, I could wear one instead. In this way, I became part of the ritual of the preparation and ingestion of the meat.

I purchased the boxy coat and proudly wore it every day like a tattoo of freshly earned street cred.

Read the full story here: Rowing in Dulce de Leche

Photo by Agustín Lautaro 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?

 Wind’s hands reach
with fingers of amber leaves,
grasping for the deer that
disappears into the night

When does a deer become a pet? When you start to feed him apples? When he comes around regularly enough to earn a name?

It’s deer-hunting season, so I’m surprised he still comes back.

“He looks tasty.” My husband licks his lips.

Don’t even think about it, my eyes shoot back.

The deer and I are kindred spirits – solitary, quiet, we prefer leaves to meat. We both have widely spaced eyes. (The better to watch out for predators, they say.)

My spirit animal comes to visit us nightly, undeterred by the hostile wind that spits leaves like popcorn and men toting rifles. The mechanical monsters with headlights for eyes that occasionally snake down our dirt road have not scared him off.

I ask the children what we should call him. They have already named the resident seal at Nana’s house “No” and the porcupine “Yes”. Recently No brought by a friend to visit; they called her “Not”. I’m wondering if this deer will be called “Maybe”.

Fall gusts snatch the coffee right out of my cup, splattering it all over my coat. My ghost-like reflection spooks me in the mirror. The wind that promises me a bad hair day slams the door back in my face, telling me to stay home. It smells of snow. Yet the buck comes back to steal leaves off trees and fatten up for winter, knowing that the bright white will soon blanket all in its peaceful slumber.

With luck he’ll live to see it.

He crept in quietly, like a chameleon.

His lingering kisses took me on a voyage, told a story, with crescendos and denouements.

Usually he chased the sun in one of his rebuilt engines or on one of his many motorcycles, but he hit the brakes when with me.

Smooth, I thought he was water. But in reality, he was fire. He never met a blaze he didn’t love, and he raised it to the high heavens.

It was best not to carry matches around him, best to stay on his good side. He was fuel-injected, his engines modified.

His bonfires were so big they burned your legs, then your back when you walked away. Then he poured gasoline on them.

With others he was a bomb, an ax to grind.

But with me he was soft, spongy moss on the rain forest floor, slowly filling my spaces. Breaths like mist between my trees.

As long as I stayed on the soft side of his blade.

Photo: Maxim Tajer on Unsplash

In the morning, we take our paddleboards out over sleepy Auke Bay, still peaceful in her slumber, before the whale watching boats stir her up. The water is so clear you can see the bottom of the ocean. The gentle sun, low on the horizon, warms the salty air. For a moment I worry I might add another line to my face today, a face that resembles a map of where I’ve been, but then I remember that each one is a token, a souvenir, an adventure.

We glide over to check our friend Rocky, where my four-year-old daughter disembarks, summits the barnacle inhabited crag, and calls out: “I am queen of the mountain!”She insists on swimming out to me on my paddleboard, which floats over the water like a feather on a breath. One small movement can send her spiraling off into the deep or cutting into the rocks. Each slice into the water incites ripples that continue until they break on the shore miles away. 

Paddling like a puppy churning up the placid bay, she arrives at my board and crawls on. A humongous salmon jumps up and plops next to us, clearly enjoying the hushed morning. My son, yellow and gray like a canary in his wetsuit, soaks up the rays on his back while fully submerged in the water. Is he sleeping? 

“Are you alive?!”I call to him. In his blissed out state he does not respond until I holler, “Hey look, there’s No!”

The resident seal always comes when he hears the children’s voices. And look, now he’s playing peekaboo with us, popping his head up, then disappearing into the deep. My yellow canary son chases him on his paddleboard until they are just a few feet apart and engaged in the most epic staring contest.

At this point my daughter has already jumped off the board and is swimming towards the shore, just to prove to herself that she can.

The sun warms my face. Not to worry, I tell myself, I remembered sunblock today, fragrant like honeysuckle under the warming sun’s rays.

Photo: Kelly Renouf Sorensen

 Air dense with trees and pollen, 
I couldn’t get a breath in.
Sent to live in an oxygen tent at age seven.
Short breaths
Left their autograph in my health,
And I am left with gratitude
That I can exhale chatter
And inhale what really matters.

One morning my jaw couldn’t move 
Because I could not speak my truth.
Locked up, clicked when I chew,
It taught me to speak my truth with candor.

Infections next level settled in my feet,
Blisters festered where rivers and ocean meet.
My feet grew into bigger boots
Packing babies and packs over slippery routes,
And because those feet have filled bigger shoes,
Talents for balance increased with my standards.

And it’s true that in protecting my heart
My back grew askew, 
Like hiding for cover could protect it from ruin.
Years of pain I now work to undo in yoga studios
But I am more nubile now than when I was new.

In my litany of complaints 
I do not seek sympathy or saints,
And the meekness of my weather vane frame
Will not be in vain,
For within my weaknesses lie my strengths.