October 23

Her window slides down, and she smiles. It’s the kind of thing that could have sent me flying into a different cage, but I say, “I thought you were going to offer me candy.” She laughs, and I am certain; she has passed out many shiny, wrapped drops of sugar this way. Carnival lights appear at the end of the road. I avoid the detour and move forward, pushing bittersweet emotion to full blown melancholia as her teeth shine, and lights become colored lines; I have my chocolate, and disappear.10329228_10202156629111753_8732506278322525589_n

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That Space web-2

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No Space for Healing

“April, are you home? Can you come over? I need a friend.”

I kicked up dust over the earth berm surrounding the house. The door opened and there were tears and it wasn’t clear until I stepped out onto the deck overlooking the forest – exactly what had happened.

“They’re all gone.” And it took me to hear it because even with it missing in my eyes I didn’t know.

“All of them.” And it took me to say it out loud to feel it.

At first, there was nothing but space inside of me and space out there, but then the space filled with red hot anger, hotter than the fire that started this mess.

We took a walk down to the forest. I put the camera between me and it. It doesn’t feel as personal through the lens, even when a neighbor appears in the frame, crying – covering her face with her hands.

There are at least a hundred trees ripped from the ground, lopped off at the bases, turned upside down – roots and earth exposed.  The smell of fresh, wet soil transports me back to every flood that has happened over the past four years. The swath of downed trees is wide like the blanket of mud that buried what we loved, feet deep in sediment not so long ago.

Everyone returns to the house. I stay behind and follow the trees with my camera – birds flying into 100 year old Ponderosas lying on their sides. And then I retreat inside as well.

Hours have passed and I’ve returned home alone. I swear I could crush my own skull with my hands – palms resting on my cheeks now everything sort of deflating. Seems like I’ve been shaking over something for days and now again, there’s nothing I can do.

I can’t point a camera at me and be my own witness; I can’t get far enough away from me through the lens.


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Grocery List

Pasta sauce
Tortilla chips, completely smashed
30lb bag of cat food into the snow
Good thing I forgot the eggs.

It takes only a few minutes once I’m still, kneeling, cleaning the cat box; I have to do something at the moment to appear “natural” when it becomes obvious just what I have done.

I hold my breath and feel like the child who just spilled the milk in the small space prior to anyone noticing –  the small space in time where people move in slow motion and there’s still a chance for escape.

Evidence of the act lies in the yard, and the door opens; my actions have been discovered. It is then after the big reveal that it is time to clean up the stage and make my apologies.

And so in silence, side by side we begin to put things back together. The now wet bag of cat food, cardboard on the food boxes falling apart. I imagine finding canned goods on the grass after the snow melts.

It’s not an extraordinary day. It’s familiar. It’s full of questions and apologies. There’s another mess to be straightened, but everything gets put away, and it is then that I can be still. Warmth has been restored to all of the orphaned objects once discarded as I wrap my arms around me and pull myself from the snow.

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Blue Side Up

blue side­­I put my blanket into the washer yesterday morning, transferring it into the dryer later and out and back onto the bed by 9p. I grabbed two corners and spread it evenly under the pillows.

I looked at the holes in it and tried to determine which were natural wear and which had been the result of living with a rat. The cats took care of the rat and eventually I carried my blanket on to my next place of sleeping.

Each night I pull the blanket over me. Whether I fall asleep feeling content or crying, counting sheep or counting the nights since I’ve slept, it’s the same blanket.

It was a used blanket seven years ago when I arrived home with a box of photographs and poetry, and a bag of clothes but no place to sleep. A friend found a mattress by the side of the road.  She helped me drag it home and she gave me the blanket.

I spent many of my first nights with it crying myself to sleep.  Most of my first couple of years with the blanket would be difficult. It is normal to retreat to one’s bed when life becomes overwhelming. The blanket has become familiar with how overwhelmed by life I can be.

Its red and blue sides don’t match my sheets. I sleep with the red side down afraid that I will subconsciously be affected by allowing the color red to be displayed as I sleep.  I imagine it glowing in the darkness, agitating me, angering me, creating a sleep disturbance. I try to visualize the blanket as entirely blue.

I’ve begun to worry about it now that I’m feeling better each day, each year we spend together. I begin to worry I may decide it’s time for a change, for a new blanket, a grown- up blanket.  I may decide I want to forget about the rat or coming home on the Greyhound bus with a broken heart.

The time is much later than I’d like it to be now and I’m not sure sleep will come easy tonight. It is cold enough that I will need to pull the blanket over my head to stay warm and I’m certainly not feeling at ease over the day’s events.

Someday I may want to forget about tonight, about today, about the last two months. Someday I might want to forget about the origins of the blanket entirely but tonight it waits for me blue side up.

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No place but now

Rebecca and I headed up the mountain last August,  just after I had lost a close friend and spent the day in the sun. The burned trees offer no shade but we did enjoy the rain on the hike back, at one point picnicking under the Dragon’s Back in the middle of a sun shower, the rain dazzling like falling flecks of gold.

Since the fire, I am most drawn to the east side of the mountain, the side that faces my home. At first, I went to document the damage, now I go to look for signs of life. In 2012 there was a lot of life and it translated into less destruction down below when the sky clouded up. I didn’t spend the summer fighting water and it became the most successful year for me as a photographer, not because I took a lot of successful photographs but because I developed a relationship with my camera, with my art and with myself.

Chasing the storm and the next photograph was all I wanted to do last summer and so that’s what I did. I sat alone watching the radar. I sat alone watching the clouds roll in. I loved every moment alone even the lonely ones. I loved those the most.

I don’t ever stop thinking about rain, even when it’s snowing. It’s the place I go whenever I need a place to go. I stare at the clouds building on the horizon. I imagine the way it builds, how it can take an entire day of sitting in the grass, alone.

It is the one place I know where there is nothing wrong. There are no problems  anywhere else that need to be worried about because there is no plan to come back and it isn’t until it feels just right, that I will come home.

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I went looking for Charisma today. He was near where I had last seen him when I stumbled upon his bones last summer. An animal had dragged him 20 feet from the tree where he used to live. I dragged him back. He smiled. I took a picture. Charisma hopes I will have a show so he can be a star. Of course that’s been my plan all along.

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