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Monday, May 03, 2010


For him, it was the onions. Death from pancreatic cancer was too much for his mind to grasp, and the onions were a more immediate scapegoat, an easier way to explain the pain, the nausea, the confusion. "No onions," he said when I made him dinner. "That's what started this all."

The treatment made him diabetic, and she seized upon the new menu like a game plan, these simple measures undertaken as a hail mary pass against cancer's imposing offense, barely a dent made as the disease continued unchecked. But it was the only defense they had, and so they memorized the menu and wielded that paltry shield as the cancer marched on.

You could have called it a David-versus-Goliath battle if there was ever a battle fought. Instead it was more of an inevitable submission, a surrender. There was no chance against the great disease and we - at least those of us of the internet age - knew it. They may not have understood the inevitability or may have found it easier not to understand; it made no difference which. They did not understand, not until the end.

Friday, July 13, 2007


I tend to panic when events fall beyond my control. The lesson of letting go is one my mother never taught me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


'Gypsy' always seemed the most romantic designation; a life wandering, a soul formed by light, by music, by adventure. I imagined myself one long before I had any choice in how my life would turn out.

Yet now, faced by years of evidence to the contrary, I am forced to admit that a wanderer's life was never what I craved. Small doses of spontaneity, sure, but always with the wind at my back and a pillow at the end of the day. Managed pilgrimages, with only the impression of chaos.

It turned out that I am a homebody. Far from the nomad I once imagined myself to be, my soul craves not the open world but a comfortable corner; I function best with a stable foundation. Limbo does not sit well with me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


He was once a big fish.

The pond was smaller then, true, but he paraded through it proudly. He marked his territory, he made a name for himself, he always spoke to be overheard. He out-alpha'ed every alpha male.

But the world changed without him noticing. The pond became a lake, became a sea, became an ocean, and one day his language was outdated, his knowledge old hat. His name became lore, part of history while he was still living. His time was over.

His world is so much smaller now, and the outside world so much more extreme. It frightens him. He makes small trips, tentative motions, trying to keep up with the tide. More and more, he sees on tv things he's never heard of, places he's never been. Mostly, he thinks about his pond.

Once, he was a big fish.

Friday, December 08, 2006


The things I want are often also the things I don't want, and this is both bewildering and overwhelming. The house in the suburbs, the lawn, the dogs, the nursery to be occupied by beloved round-faced cherubs who will consume my life and rob me of my sleep.

Deciding to move to a smaller town both consoles and disappoints me. It will be safer, it will be friendlier, it will provide my future children the innocence I was so lucky to have. But it also feels like an end to my wandering, an end to exploring, an end to growing in the way I've always grown. This new direction also marks the end of one long followed.

Planning for a life is both limiting and exhilarating. To know where I'm going makes me at once eager to get there, and numb at its inevitability. And the contradiction can be exhausting.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Feels like more than a place, more than a town, more than these walls. Is a person who knows me, who welcomes me, who makes things warm and whole and alive.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Today, for a moment, I felt honest fear.

The men were making loud conversation. They talked about the pitfalls of jail, about running from police, about a comrade who had dismembered a man in his bathtub. They were on their way to court. One man was emphatic and unhinged; he ranted over the others.

He was on the edge and I wondered for a moment if this was the moment he'd tip; hold up a crowded bus and injure indiscriminately. I was both afraid and embarrassed of my fear.

The boy next to me was snub-nosed and blond, from the neck up a farmer's son. His slight arms were covered with scars and tattoos. He tried to contribute to the conversation, eager to belong but largely ignored.

I was ashamed to find some reassurance in sitting next to him, a man of my own race.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Damp pigeon morning

In the park, one man sits alone on a rusty bench, crumbs in hand, rained on by both sky and fountain.

On the bus, one woman moves over for a new friend. Despite her hard face and all that I had assumed about her life, this hopeful, eager smile breaks my heart.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


The morning is oppressive, the kind of swampy heat that rolls past my window like melted cream.

Shirtless, hose in hand, he stands barefoot in the center of his lawn - a silvered suburban buddha watering his subjects into submission.

Monday, July 17, 2006


The boy was maybe thirteen, all knees and elbows and pale, upturned nose, and his older sister waited with him in the snaking security line.

She couldn't accompany him past the checkpoint, they told him. Only ticketed passengers allowed. His lip wobbled, though he tried to hide it, and he told her he loved her before she turned away.

Without warning, I found myself crushed by the force of centuries of maternal instinct. In that moment I would have gladly abandoned my flight, my plans, my career, to follow him and make sure he reached his destination safely.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


The boy puffed out his bare chest in the darkness. He played, shoeless, in the black puddles of the parking lot. There was no one watching over him.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


To her, life is an emergency. She is frantic, dramatic, last-minute. Every day is a crisis, every task of utmost priority. Nothing is planned, everything is scattered. The drama is exhausting and suffocating.

Every day, more and more, I brace myself for her arrival.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The man was crouched on the pavement, huge drops splattering relentlessly around him. He wrapped himself in cardboard.

We walked by him, safe under our mobile shelters, our heads bowed against the downpour. But a half block more and my feet stopped, my heart confused. I looked at my umbrella, the one I'd had since college, one spoke bent like a broken finger. My companion had his own, and sharing couldn't make us any wetter than the man on the sidewalk.

I bent down beside the trembling cardboard heap. "Hey... man?" I asked, tentatively. I held my umbrella out to him.

I expected to feel pride at my generosity, but it was mixed with shame. We still had shelter, a place to go, food to eat. And the umbrella I had given him, after all, had one broken spoke.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


They perch like birds. Light, delicate, heads cocked to one side as they strain to hear an increasingly silent world. They flit, they fuss, but things are becoming slower, simpler. And I wait longer, patiently, to catch a glimpse of the spark I remember.

Age is crushing in more ways than one.

Monday, June 12, 2006


The sodden green fields were a page of Camelot, and the clouds hung so low that she couldn't help springing up to grab a wispy handhold. She pulled herself up and lay on her back surrounded by moisture. It was like floating in a shifting ocean. She stared up at the sky and held her breath.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Today I would not be surprised by a procession of soggy animals, abandoning our town two-by-two.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I lost a very dear friend.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Long removed from school days, afternoons like this one still make me restless and sleepy, at once.

Some long-removed part of me wants to drive my parents' car, shifting on the blistering seats, to hot afternoons at the quarry. Sticky with sun and sugar, we would plunge feet first into the cool cloudy depths.