Tuesday, February 5, 2019

life in leaves

when my brother died, his house smelled of cigarettes, old beer and his particular body odor--which always struck me as containing hints of mustard and bologna.  his was a really sad ending.  tragic, even, if tragedy is defined by the main character's downfall caused by his own attempt at virtue.  but that's a story for another day.  today, i want to talk about the one plant he had living with him in his house.  i can't remember why i took it, but it was still in its container from the nursery when he died.  an indoor plant with deep green, fan-like leaves that could look prehistoric in the right setting.  however little my brother cared for himself or for others, he remembered to water this plant.  he kept it alive.  and i wanted to keep it alive, too.

it moved to our house, but stayed in its nursery container for probably a year, simultaneously ignored and pitied.  then, on a whim, i decided to give it a proper pot.  i transplanted it, touching its roots carefully, wondering what this living creature knew of life.

and then we went on, as did it.  growing, dying, living.  it became a part of the background.  a quiet observer.  now it's moved with us.  survived the brutal elimination process that other items have not.  why?  it feels necessary.  it feels like a continuation.  its organic memory might have memory and it might not.  but my brother breathed oxygen created by this plant.  likewise, his waste material--every heavy sigh, drunken snore, angry exhale--was pulled in by this plant and cherished, turned into something lovely.

Monday, January 21, 2019


to take the unusual sighting of an owl on an evening walk as confirmation that you should change your life seems like a stretch, maybe.  but if you'd seen that owl!  the way his head spun to look right at us, his enormous wingspan dwarfing the stop sign he'd landed upon.  the feathers made a sound as he adjusted them that was akin to dragging heavy coats across an empty floor.  as i looked into his eyes, the energy there reminded me of every person and creature i've loved and lost.  could it be that he was visiting from across time and space?  i guess it doesn't really matter.  i've never been much of a science fiction buff, but on the exact day that we decided to take a leap of faith into a far simpler life by buying an ugly little house, less than half the size of our current one and making a grand downsize in stuff and a big upsize in peace is the one and only day i've seen an owl in the wild.  as a bit of history:  my grandfather gave to my mother a golden owl brooch on the day she married my father.  he said it was to represent what a wise choice she'd made.  when told that story as a child, fingering the heavy gold of the bird, i wholeheartedly believed in symbols.  i believed in talismans.  and i definitely believed in the wisdom of owls.  not so much has changed.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

tyranny of the quantifiable

are there things you cannot convey with words or even actions?  do you worry that words are never adequate?  that you've never actually expressed yourself with any bit of accuracy?
the tyranny of the quantifiable is partly the failure of language and discourse to describe more complex, subtle, and fluid phenomena, as well as the failure of those who shape opinions and make decisions to understand and value these slipperier things.  it is difficult, sometimes even impossible, to value what cannot be named or described...*
what are you striving to convey?  will language always fail to describe the truly valuable things and, then, it seems, leave us in peril? if we don't describe it, it won't be saved.  money, profits, square footage, gallons--these things are safe in their easily quantifiable jargon.  but, please, tell me where you can buy a ledger to keep track of the tenderness of your daughter's hand in her waning days at home as the sun sets one more glorious time?  and the electricity in your body when you imagine either one of you not existing anymore?  what about the giddiness of playing kickball in the open space when the sprinklers come on without warning?  or the way a drum beat reverberates somewhere deep within your body and makes you want to dance?  there is not a box to check to apply for more of any of that.  more to the point, protecting the beauty of the natural world, and its citizens' ability to dream and think and love without threat will never show up in tidy columns.  so forge on, endeavor to articulate the things that are most important and most difficult to describe.

also, read *rebecca solnit, who does all of that and more.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

living through

sometimes the slivers of joy
the little bits you try to collect
just don't feel big enough

sometimes the weight
of disappointment
and displacement
make it difficult to hold
those little slivers

here's what i say:
keep chasing those slivers.
keep working at finding them.
the dark will always be there;
it does not need to be chased.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Blue skies and clear thoughts.  Or is it blue thoughts and clear skies?  Clear, blue thought skies?  You see the struggles?  But when there's calm, when your back is flat on a sun-warmed piece of cement and your children are speaking to each other in their own, youthful language, you feel deeply connected and relaxed.  The trees are beginning to green, the scent of lilacs are everywhere and it does seem possible that although nature does it much better than we do, there may, in fact, be some fresh start.  Make goals, imagine the fruition of those goals.  Words are just small pieces of yourself that you give to the page.    

Friday, February 24, 2017

A whole new world

incognito:  as hazel woods
there's too much catching up to do here, my strange friends.  
what has happened to our world?  what has happened to us?  
in addition to resisting and protesting, my advice is to go deep.  
radical transparence is not just something we should want 
from our government.  
ask it of yourself.  
i will go first:  i sold out.  i published a book i was proud of
under a pseudonym.  why?  long answer forthcoming.  
short answer:  fear.  money.  inertia.
no surprise:  it didn't go so well.  poor hazel woods' p&l
numbers are as disappointing as as meg mullins'.
guess what?  i finally don't give a fuck.
but, i did take an entire year off from writing.
and i did something on my bucket list.
i started a handmade napkin biz.
i loved it.  the napkins are dreamy. (please, don't order any)
turns out, i'm almost as terrible selling napkins
as i am selling books.
so, now what?
i've circled the wagons around 
the boring, predictable, sensitive part
of myself who thinks about success
as some kind of balmy, palm-treed place one reaches
instead of a daily pursuit of kindness and creativity and utility 
and i'm writing.

and i'm trying to laugh at djt.  because i'm guessing
that's what he hates the most.  being taken seriously
is part of the con.  his policies and atrocities are serious and
must be opposed.  but the man?  what a joke.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

be soft. do not let the world make you hard. do not let pain make you hate. 
do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. 
take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, 
you still believe 
it to be a beautiful place.

-kurt vonnegut