Swamp Babies

I have grown strong, limbs long and tangly, fluent in two places. I speak the stones of New England, shelves of mica along the granite. I speak the aquifers of Florida. Sand and stony loam.

I remember golden sand, thick, rough, clumpy. I remember the cry of gulls and salty stab of brine. There were lobster at the docks. There were clam shells on the beach. I remember sands as fine as powder, white like sugar, and plastic tape tied off like flags on stakes, orange pennants fluttering the wind, and the signs explain all: sea turtle nests, May-October. I remember the smell of salt and swamp, decay and sea, and the tangle of mangrove roots. I’d twine my long limbs around them.

I remember dry air, bloody noses in winter. I remember thick air, a breathable syrup solution containing dragonflies, butterflies, moths. Cicadas in both places, I remember their whine.

New England has grown strange in the intervening years, but I remember the plants, the curls of wild onion in the spring– I can eat that. Florida has grown familiar, known plants I’d not seen before, the blackberries in the backwoods at the height of April. I can eat those, too.

Canoeing up the Myakka, a lazy river, tannin brown? I am a swamp baby now, fluent in two places, belonging to none.


I discovered a secret today, a nasty little secret. There is a reason why people don’t like to clean. It’s not because it’s hard work. It’s not because we’re lazy. It’s because no matter how far up along the road to neatness one goes, the mountain, the pinnacle is always so far off in the distance. There is no scaling it.

Today, pipes were brazed. Today, front garden beds were stripped of sod. Today, cupboards were cleaned out, sponged off, and treated for moths. Right up until 9pm, starting from 10 in the morning. And this was still not enough time with four people–four!– to do everything… aquariums and water beds still call out to be filled. Tiled living rooms beg for mopping. More garden beds wail, wanting weeding. Shelves must still be put up. Piles of stuff need to find homes. And then the vacuuming. And then the painting. And then the toilet replacement.

No, it will never end. Problem stacks upon problem, and there is no beating it back once the cascade has begun. There is a point of no return on housework. Exhaustion topples those who venture toward that lonely mountain of cleanliness, and despair claims the rest. Tomorrow? I’ll be doing laundry.

An Altar Made of Bone

Two years had passed and there He was, still as massive as a bull elephant. Triceratops. A proper name. His old bones unshaken, I was small before Him again, overwhelmed. A brief flash in the annals of the universe, He was older than I could imagine (I am a universe to the microbes of my skin, older than time itself).

It is strange to me how every time I stand before Him I am fixed in place, a microbe myself before his ancient form. It is strange to me that the tremors never cease, that there is no lessening of the force of His presence– repetition makes things familiar, yes? Should I be a jaded brat before his ossified mass? No. Some things are too sacred.

A whole earth to my microbes, I dared a photograph. Is there blasphemy in a faith taken on instinct? But holy, holy are impermanent things. The digital is ephemeral; I will delete it when I am home, erasing my footprints as I walk forward.

I heard a calling, His bones to mine: “Be open. Stay open.”

Tears would have pushed me under, but my love touched me on my shoulder, an electric jolt into another universe. Is there blasphemy in the temple of the moment, before the river of time? The instant was undone.

“Be open. Stay open.” The echoes are a wave.

Flying North

I like to travel by air. So long as I can see out the window, I am unafraid. So long as I can see that we are hurtling through a cloud, that we are thousands of feet above wilderness, that the lights of a city string out below us like the spider veins of my legs, I am alright. It is an act of meditation to stare out the lozenge-shaped window and watch the sun bronze the clouds in setting, to watch the diffusion of blue moonlight cast its glow out to the horizon– a horizon farther away than any other I’ve seen. The Rockies can’t grant a horizon like that.

I feel small sitting there in coach, inhaling with my eye the dance of lightning from a far-off storm. I feel small and assured that I am small, safe in the knowledge that the world will end and the sun will go out, and that there is a chance that I could die before I reach my destination. But these have never really been worries of mine. Certainties like these– they give my world a kind of solidity. I am small and assured that I am small. Nothing rests on me but the weight of the forces of the universe, the lives of millions of microbes and the heart of one love waiting for me on the other side of an airport terminal.