If You Awake After I've Gone
I cleaned the glass to the woodstove
with wet newspaper. I didn't mean to
use the comics or the front page,
but you didn't miss much—
Summary: The world’s problems
are still the same and Sally hit Linus
in the head with her lunchbox
because he threw away her valentine.
A salmon laid her eggs this morning.
She turned sideways and glistened
silver. If the big white rock was Nevada,
she was Seattle. Yesterday, she was Oregon.
I am still searching for my book about moths.
If you find it, mail it to me. I’m pressing
clovers beneath the front cover.
On the table is a hat I found. Yours?
There are deer tracks by the edge
of the river where the elk bones rest.
Visit them before the rain erases the red soil.
I have shut the gate, but did not lock it.
My daughter was thirteen months when the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred. As a new mother and in charge of this new life, I believed hazards were everywhere. My imagination was already set to "worst case scenario," but seeing the planes hit the towers was something I had never even considered--how could I plan or be ready for something like that?
Little by little, I became more involved with being a mother--an anxious mother--and I found myself losing the writer side of myself. I was becoming more and more fearful of life and that something disastrous would happen to my family. My life was passing, my daughter was growing, and I was becoming afraid to leave the house without her. I knew there was a problem.
Laying in bed one night tired of being fearful, I asked myself, What would be the scariest thing I could do that would be good for me? My answer? Spend a week in the middle of a forest away from my family writing. The next morning I applied to the Soapstone Writing Residency (and the fearful part of me that knew I'd be accepted.)
And I was. Several months later, I packed a small suitcase and drove to the Oregon rainforest by myself one Sunday in February when my daughter was 2 1/2. I was sure something terrible would happen to her or to me, but apparently, I had enough faith that this was my overactive imagination to keep driving and arrive at the residency. My new writing studio was in the middle of nowhere, which I would share with another woman writer for one week.
For the first two days, I cried and called home on the landline. I went for walks and avoided writing. On Wednesday, I awoke to find a kingfisher on a branch outside my loft bedroom window. I knew my time was half over and I needed to write.
For the next four days I wrote poem after poem inspired by rainforest, the moss, the clovers. I kept my room warm with a woodstove and made meals only for myself. I read Given Sugar, Given Salt by Jane Hirshfield while sitting on the futon in front of the fire eating oatmeal. I forgot all the terrible things in the world as I was completely cut off from the internet and a cellphone.
On the last day, I went for one last walk and came back and wrote this poem. While much of it is true and about what I saw on my last day at Soapstone, for me, the last line for me was both the most poignant and metaphoric. I knew I was leaving this space and time for writing back to return back to my life as a mom, but the gate was open and unlocked for me to return anytime.
Illustrations by; Jackie O'Brien. "I always start a challenge with a pencil and a piece of paper. Mapping out a thought or process and seeing what's about to be created. Let me create for you!" Available for freelance design and illustration endeavors.