Shop

the art of jumping

the-art-of-jumping-1i used to be scared of heights. i barely remember it now, being the kid who spent all her time in the tops of pine trees getting sap stuck in her hair and on her hand-me-down jeans. we moved south when i was twelve and the trees changed. something happened. i fell out of an old magnolia tree and landed flat on my back. it must have left a crack in me where the fear seeped in.

sixteen years ago i stood ontop of a 150 foot arch overlooking the atlantic ocean. the people and tiny cars with virginia plates kept on motoring by me never once glancing up. life is always in a state of motion that way. even when major life changing events are happening just above your head.

the wind whipped my ponytail in rebellion. flaunting its power, humbling me. i couldn’t believe how far i could see, how clear it all was from up there. i could see the coast of north carolina.

i wanted him to just drop me. or rather, i wanted to close my eyes and have him push me. this was not so much a choice for me, this jump was a present from my older brothers. a way to get over my fears. happy high school graduation, you get to jump first, baby sister.

we rode the ricketty cage elevator up together, he the summer employee with no name or face. me, the stomach full of nerves after signing my weight and life away on a two page waiver. i was strapped to a harness by the ankles and carried a very large padded spring. we got to the top of the arch, the very center of it, and he held me by the back of my beltloops. i leaned out real far and wondered if i was really going to do this. my brothers were waiting 150 feet below me. i had handed them my camera, the one i used to photograph their skydiving jumps and parachute landings. the camera that always kept me grounded for reason on earth.

i wanted him to push me. this guy i didn’t know. i wanted it to be a surprise, something someone did to me…so i could have someone to blame. this is my game, my lesson. i wasn’t ready for this to be that something, a choice i made for myself. something i actually did to myself, for myself.

he must have sensed this and let go of my beltloops. “i’m not going to drop you. you’ve gotta jump on your own.” we were up there awhile with my toes to the edge of the highest high dive i ever looked down from, leading into nothing but air with a cord that could hold the weight of my eighteen year old body.

this was the jump that took my breath, that made me smile with wind dried teeth. this was the time in my life when i screamed and no noise came out. it came as a surprise, my lack of voice. just like in my dreams. but this was real.

jump.
free fall.
bounce.
empowerment.

life goes on repeat. just like each bounce until i hung suspended by my ankles upside down over the ocean. i caught my breath and only after it was over could i enjoy the freefall and what it meant for me personally.

for me life is always cyclical events in a constant state of repeat. this is the nauseating churn in my gut that i am making decisions either based out of fear or in believe of something much much bigger that conquers fear with hope.

if i stop to think of logic i freeze with my toes on the edge. i stagnate out of fear even when i know it’s no way to be true to myself. i stagnate out of fear and it eats me alive. i’ve learned that if i listen to my heart i can hear it beating out belief and trust. it’s in that instant that i jump. quick. without thought. if i’ve learned anything over the past four years it’s to listen to my heart. it keeps me true.

it never gets easier though, this jumping.
it just gets bigger.

laughing in the wind

we cruise together like this, you and me. we are only new in this way of time passing, days growing longer, feet reaching the pedals, wind in our faces. we needed this. this today of memories. this today of thoughts to be pulled from your mind with the wind in your lungs.

bicycle-built-for-two-1

this is you and me. this is the image and memory i want to engrave in your mind. our good times, real moments occur around us all the time. i sense them near and i want to reach out and hold them forever. we are beautiful, you and me. like today, our first bike ride this way. you are so grown here in this photo, this day of firsts. i see so much for us. i hold it all in my heart and with strong hands holding tight we make our way up and down the hills. the excitement of the breeze and the speed of free fall then the soreness of the strength needed to climb up the hills.

we were laughing so much today. you and me. laughing in the wind down big big hills. we were all picnics. snowcones. bike ride enjoyment. mother and child. two people enjoying one another’s presence.

we were laughing so much that i forgot all about the fixation on death you have these days. how true sadness pours from the corners of your eyes and catches in your throat when you think of death. “i don’t want to die, liam will miss me!” the words i speak to comfort you. your dreams leave me speechless and wanting more. “momma how did i dream i wanted one last hug and kiss before you died?”

in-a-tree-1

all this death talk ages me not just in your dreams. “i was old right? i had white hair?” i ask to which you say defiantly, “i won’t tell you.” all through the eyes of a serious soul, with just a hidden smile, a boy in a tree, a hug around my knee.

you are growing and absorbing the big wide world around you. it is beautiful. it is scary. it is unkind words, it is hurt feelings, it is disappointments, it is skinned knees and melancholy souls. it is all things i’d protect you from but cannot. life is simply being human and feeling it all. and you do.

tunnel-vision-1

“i want you to stay new.” you tell me surrounded by water and boats that float in the tub as night falls. i didn’t understand. “i want you to stay new like you are now.”

new.

that i am. and so are you.

together, i think we’ll stay this way for a long long time. it’s most certainly a good place to be. where you’ll always be my little boy riding behind me catching my laughter as it rides on the wind.

kneel before nature

there’s a story my grammy would tell all the time. you know how it is, how some stories become legends because they are told so often by our elders. i love how she told it, because it must have had a profound effect on her. me in my four year old-ness and she much much older than that.

i was four. much like my own son is now. and we had just moved from the west coast to the east coast. it was the beginning of my memory really. i mean, there are snippets here and there. a diaper changing table, a high chair and me feeding green beans to our dog, a hole in the fenceline in napa valley, the neighborhood pool, a dislocated shoulder, the orange VW bus with brown plaid curtains.

at four, the world began to feel solid. atleast in memory. people fit into their pegs, i was grasping the concept of time much like my own four year old is now: “mom, how much longer until it is tonight?”

it was sometime during this year of my memory that we were walking through new york city. my grammy was a walker. i come from a family of walkers. my grammy was a bostonian. i come from a family of new englanders. much of my memory is walking through boston with her and going back home for fluffernutter sandwiches. we never ate out. ever.

so, new york city. the smell of pretzels on street corners that mixes with truck exhaust. driving through a tunnel no matter where i am in the country and how old i become, will bring me directly to NYC in my mind. it’s all about the smells. when i was older it would become about the views as my brothers and i would lay like sardines in the back hatch of our datsun staring up at the skyscrapers as we whizzed through the city, i mean as fast as one little white datsun can go in a sea of yellow taxis.

maybe we had just moved and that’s why we were visiting. we often went for culture or museums or for that tiny shop that kids were not allowed in where my dad bought his stained glass supplies.

but it was St. Patrick’s Cathedral this day, during this visit. and i remember the steps and the steeple leading straight up. the feel of it being placed right in the middle of the city. something so old alongside something so new. we most likely went there for architecture and beauty. my grammy most likely went there to feel close to god. i really dont’ know.

the light from the candles made it feel magical to me. what i would give to tote my camera in this cathedral and photograph those memories now. 

my grammy would tell the story: that i walked up to the candles and knelt, put my hands together and bowed my head. she asked me what i was doing and i replied most honestly, “i’m praying to the pigeon.” because there before me was a stone dove. it all made sense to me then. and it still does now. it made her laugh and until i was 23 years old she told that story to me each and everytime i saw her.

vine-1

i thought of this today because the sky was crazy and the air stood still with that eerie calm that texans refer to as the calm before the storm. when the sky turns just a little bit more green than you want, when you know somewhere possibly close by, there’s a tornado touching ground. and people all around you start sharing stories of windows bulging of hail hanging suspended in mid-air just seconds before rooftops are ripped off. just moments before the hair stands up on their neck and they think to grab ahold of a beam or post or whatever the fuck is around that is concreted into the ground as they scream “shit!!!!” and think for real that they might just this once get sucked up into a funnel cloud.

i thought of my four year old self because i was feeling like a kid conjuring up a bit of conversation in those moments of lunch break when i am not momma or teacher, but simply meredith. and i fumbled with my words because i always do, because really nothing much has changed since i was four and so very shy. and all the tornado talk had me all creeped out and needing to find some grounding and not think of all the lives i was currently responsible for being at work.

“i’m going on a walk. because it helps just to get away.” there’s a bit of chatter as the gate is opening and closing because it’s lunch time. there’s a curious look and a little bit of a smile like a secret was spilled or shared unknowingly.

“yes to photograph nature and trees and flowers.” this is who i am when i am not mother teacher older woman wishing the kids would nap already so she can go outside to take a breath and find her feet and walk and walk and walk

“i like to kneel before nature.” did i just say that outloud? yes because it’s true because when i’m lost in my lens when i dont’ see you watching me, that’s what i’m doing. you’ll find me crouching in the bushes or along the sidewalk with my camera jammed up in my face and i won’t even see you ride your bike past me smiling under your helmet as you cruise back to work because i’ll be lost searching for something beautiful.

and i’ll come away with an image that makes me happy in my own pagan way because really what i’m doing, still after thirty years, is praying to the pigeon.

how to have a beautiful day

wake up at 8am (that’s two hours of sleeping in!) the first thing you should hear upon waking is “let me give you a hug!” and “momma, what if the whole world were made of volkswagon buses?!”
what-if-1
sip hot chai and build with legos for four hours. listen to a young one tell stories of all his creations. the police boats, the trucks with skiis instead of tires, the amphibious trolleys that carry passengers on water… it goes on and on.

stay in pajamas until atleast noon.

organize your closet by moving all the winter clothes to the back and pulling all the summer clothes to the front (because in texas there is no real season called spring and it’s gone from rainy and 50 degrees to sunny and 85)

finally put away all the clean clothes that have piled up on the floor (because “hey momma? whenever there is a basket of clothes, i just want to dump it cause i’m a curious little kitty…”) vacuum your house. hang your collection of sewing threads in your sewing room (the second walk in closet) unpack four boxes from january.

make a huge pile of things to donate to goodwill. feel lighter because of it.

take a walk to check the mail and head down to the trail near your house. say outloud how lucky you are to live here, to simply walk out the door and be here. find out that the ‘rocky place’ is now pooled with water. watch the dogs splash. watch musicians create makeshift stages on rock plateaus. watch a hiker stop to collect enormous rocks to build sculptures with. watch him for a long time and get inspired. “hey momma, i want to do what that man is doing!”

six-foot-cairns

see your little one bend over in surprise and come up smiling “hey!! a heart rock!” know that he is learning and watching and enjoying life too.
heart-rock-1
hike and hike and love your life.
peering-up-a-stem-1
carry your little one piggyback after three hours of hiking and a steep hill to walk back to the house. stop in the sunlight to take a photo of this most beautiful day. a day of reconnection. a day most needed. share the laughter and hear the sentiment when he tells you in your ear “hey momma. even when i’m grumpy i still love you.”
even-when-im-grumpy-i-still-love-you

photo and words

published

i opened my mailbox and found two copies of midwifery today magazine smiling back at me. something so full of beauty, that came to me just in time. it’s always the perfect timing even when i think it isn’t. even when i signed the contract and made final edits back in november, even when i knew it was coming. i didn’t know it was coming today.

thank you, universe.

i am not a midwife. nor do i want to be. they have the hardest jobs on earth. but i will do anything for my midwife, i’m an avid supporter and i’m a writer. and i’m just that cheesy that i wrote an essay for her and got it published in a magazine that she and all her midwife friends will see.

my insides are smiling.

it’s many things that give me that sense of fulfillment, but right now it’s my words in print. this is something i will never grow tired of seeing. and i think of the bitter and the sweet now when i see my name listed as ‘contributor’. i flipped to page 16 of the spring issue and saw my photo there as well. that was a first for me, photo and words! what a beautiful combination.

this is what i do. i know this now. it’s finally after all this time, becoming familiar to me. i ride the waves up and down, all the while getting green in the face from seasickness. i can’t keep the words from getting out anymore, nor do i want to. i cast my nets out while i’m riding the crest of the wave. i hope to catch something that won’t slip through the holes. most often it comes back to me full at just the right moment.

like today. a very good day.

you, who are not me

him-and-me-1

i see your eyes. i see the way you carry the lunchboxes with overflowing arms. i see both your kids; the way one hides behind your legs and one bursts forward greeting everyone as family.

i knew it about you even before i knew all the details. as if i could smell it on you, passing between us with casual words of morning exchanges. even though i couldn’t put my finger on it, i knew it was there. it floated over our heads in the space between us and our children.

‘it’ is this thing that sometimes happens to people. people like you and me. and many many others. i see in your eyes all that you are doing, wanting to do, wishing to do more of, wondering which things you’re doing wrong. i see your eyes tired the morning after putting them to bed and needing space to zone and not think or go over pounds of paperwork. i see you only for a few moments at a time.

i wish i could tell you it will get easier. i wish you would believe me. many people told me it’d get easier and i heard their words, i read their words. but they went right through me like hot water through a coffee filter. they came out steaming on the other side before i could grab them and rub them into truth. believe me, i wanted to. i knew those words could shine. but one cannot will life into existence. everyone must go through this alone. at a time when what you need the most is to be anything but alone. i’ll never know why that is. but i think of it the same as i think of birth. no one can do this but you. and somehow on the other side, you realize the gift that was hiding in all those layers of pain.

you are in it now. in the thick of it, you see no one else but the two lovelies at your feet. one step infront of another, because laying down is simply not an option. i see it in you and it pains me because i was just there myself. somehow i came out, even though it’s still undone, i came out on the other side. now it’s just bumpy is all, now it’s just working out the kinks. now it’s just getting used to the new rhythm. now i hear my internal critic say “this is my life now and it’s okay.” now i really believe it. because it really is okay even though it’s not all good.

i know a bit about your fears. i know that anxiety is a black demon. quite real. it takes up residence in your mind, becoming your unwanted guest. it lives and thrives like a microscopic parasite: on one part truth, one part fear. no one can feel it there but you. and everyone is wondering why you look so sick and tired. it’s the parasite, it’s very real as it eats up your insides. anxiety becomes reality. i know this. i wish i could put my hand to your shoulder in the way that strangers sometimes do, i wish i could somehow transfer all of my mind into your heart. zap! then you’d know. then you’d believe. then i could somehow make it all better.

you’ll come through. but until then, try to find the light, it keeps the demons at bay. i keep your number in my pocket because i am obligated for safety. but also because i want to. i am momma bear and i hope to somehow share this weight. let me carry your burden while my shoulders are still strong. once i was anxious just like you. i know the thought of letting them out of your sight burns like bile at your throat. it’s the fear of the unknown. the worry of the unpredictable mind. and wishing a child’s love could conquer an adult’s  anger. i hope that it will. maybe not now in the thick of this jungle. in the heat and humidity and lack of fresh air. but maybe someday the breeze will blow sweet for you again. but until then i want you to know that your kids are safe with me.

literary me.

literary-me

my life seems to be the constant forgetting and remembering. it’s cyclical. and for that i am thankful. it’s in those remembrances that i am fully aware, as if waking for the first time. like my short term memory fails me, and when it kicks in, i’m simply remembering that i do indeed have a purpose, a dream, a tug at my heart in the middle of the night…even though it gets tucked away for days at a time.

in times when i forget, this is the gentle reminder of who i am. what i do. my passion. it’s in my bones silently patiently waiting to be seen, heard, felt, remembered. it’s much more patient than i am. it’s the wind that fills my lungs and keeps me afloat.  it’s the driving force behind the tired eyes.

literary mama was a pinnacle for me. a dream i lusted after. i wanted to join that circle, i wanted to show up invited and wearing the right shoes. me, the runon sentence, me the editors nightmare, me the choppy thoughts splattered like jackson pollack on a screen.

i have devoured everything written between the pages. every thought. and at some point last summer i was brave enough to shine up some words in attempt to enter. ‘knock knock’ i said. and i was welcomed with open arms. 

so here i am today, a literary mama.

me, happy.

me-happy

today i left the bookstore with my arms full. i wanted her to ask why i was buying four of the exact same magazine. but she didn’t. so i offered up my reasoning because i could no longer keep it to myself. “a photo of mine was published in this magazine.” she glanced at me in her ho-hum way of tedium that comes with full time work and the christmas rush on a sunday afternoon. “that’s great.” she said and asked me if i wanted a bag. i couldn’t hide my pleasure. it sprung from my heels as i headed for the door.

lighter. i feel lighter.
and somehow more complete.

i walked out of there with my camera slung over my shoulder like it always is, like some cheesy gunslinger pacifist because i bring it with me everywhere ‘just incase’ something catches my eye which it usually does, and then if i need to make a stop somewhere i can’t seem to leave it alone in my car. i can’t help it. i’m the hovering mother. i’m the shoulda woulda coulda woman.

it’s my only possession.
it’s my best friend.
my third eye.

today i was walking down a sidewalk with both arms full of photo love and a shit eating grin spreading across my face. a smile so big i almost didn’t recognize the feeling. those muscles have been hibernating, too scared to come out and see the light of day. those muscles finally pulled around my mouth and i let myself be happy. i let it out in a big ol grin cause i’m doing it, whatever it is, i’m doing it right now. and it feels really good. and i’m happy.

me-published

33 and 3


this is reality. this is 6pm on a saturday evening just before dinner is served. this is the kitchen door that slams. this is the back step, the concrete slab that soaks up sun and burns our barefeet. this is the heat, the need, the comfort we find. this is us.

i am noticing more.

i am noticing that i speak in exclamations, type in laughter, add smiling faces unnecessarily. i am noticing that i seek out the sunshine, the bouncing light, the hidden hearts. these are the things i notice when i go searching. these are the eyes that look out upon the world. as if i’m trying to convince myself of something. trying to fool myself with smiles and exclamations and pretty pretty things.

these are simply things i want. i want to gather beauty around me. i want to be surrounded by love. but i am noticing that these very same eyes change when looking inward. they are dark and puffy and real. i am not sunshine. i don’t need to be convinced of anything, i simply feel. and that is exactly as it should be. i dont’ need to hide, i find comfort in the light and the dark.

i am noticing that we are rattling the bars of our cage.

you are like me. your own fury, your own sound, your own voice sometimes scares you. we experience this push pull in life. this is us. these relationships that pull like taffy, stretched so thin that you just can’t believe there’s any more slack. then it folds upon itself and wraps itself around you with sticky arms of love.