Thursday, November 15, 2018

Puppy Love

Dreams, the kind that stay with me for the first few moments after I wake, are maps. They tell me where I am. They allow me to see myself in space and time, as the crow flies, in context of my surroundings. They lead me home. They show instead of tell me, “You are here. You are right here.”

In my early thirties, when my life was upended, when my marriage disintegrated, when I ventured into single parenting, when I moved out of my house and into my parent’s house, when I reentered the work force, when I felt like a newborn baby with a whole (second) life ahead of me, and when I hunted and pecked for answers to the big questions like, What does it all mean, I dreamt a lot. Sometimes a few times a week. I had vivid, cinematic, technicolor dreams, crackling with meaning that would reveal itself soon after I woke. I’d go right to the page and record what I remembered. Pen in hand, I’d draw the map, take a step back, and see where I was in it. It felt miraculous.

A few years later the dreams stopped. My life settled into a peaceful, predictable cadence. Single parenting became my new normal. I moved out of my parent’s house into a place of my own. I fell in love. I asked big questions a lot less. Is that why the dreaming stopped? Had I outgrown the need to know where I was? Was it a good sign? I didn’t know. But I kept saying to myself, “I am here. I am right here.”

Then at forty years old I started dreaming again.

First, I dreamt I got a puppy. I hardly know why or how or where, all I know is that in Scene One of the puppy dream I was standing in my kitchen and holding a puppy, a very tiny, milk chocolaty, startlingly quiet puppy. I remember letting it fall from my arms with the other things I’d carried into the house—purse and phone and shopping bags full of groceries—like it was just another thing I’d picked up while out erranding. I set it down as absentmindedly as I do my keys, which I often find in the oddest places later. After I’d let it loose, it’s not clear how much time passed (hours? days? weeks?), but eventually it hit me. I had a puppy! A puppy I hadn’t fed, watered, pet, played with, walked, nay, even seen since the moment I let it go! I had a puppy and I had no idea where it was. Oddly, I don’t recall looking for it. Somehow I just knew it was gone. I was horrified, disturbed.

How could I have just forgotten? How could I have so utterly neglected it? Where was it? Did it escape outside, through a door I’d inadvertently left open? Oh god, I hoped it had found a way to survive! But how had I never, not once, heard it bark or cry or yelp? Had it died? If so, then where was it and shouldn’t there be an awful smell? How had this happened? The most monstrous and abusive of people managed to keep their dogs alive. Even the cruel remember their puppies!

The same night I had a second dream. About another puppy. This was one was small, but twice as big as the first—forearm-sized, instead of fist-sized—and darker. Easier to see. Easier to not lose or neglect. First thing, I sat on the couch and held that darling puppy in my hands and lifted it up into the air and cooed at it as I would a baby. Once I set it out down, I said out loud, “I need a crate.” And then I found one and put the puppy inside it, in a place where I would see it all the time. This time I was going to pay attention. This puppy would stay front and center. This puppy wouldn’t escape or die from neglect.

I forgot about both dreams, both puppies, until the next night when I dreamt about a friend of mine—who is married to a man I have known since birth, a man who has the same name as the man I love—a mirror of me, you could say. In the dream, she had miscarriages. One after another. She kept losing precious ones too. Did I know she’d been trying to get pregnant? (In real life, she wasn’t.) Then, still dreaming, I remembered the first puppy. Why all this loss? What does it all mean?

When I woke the morning after the third dream, I took to the page to find out. I wrote out all that I remembered of all the dreams and asked more questions.

I lingered at the page awhile, put my pen down, and then the miraculous happened. I saw a map. I saw myself in space and time, as the crow flies, in context of my surroundings. I saw myself standing in the middle of a big empty field, surrounded by possibility, with a small crate at my feet. On the side of the crate, it said, “You are here. You are right here.” 

Hand to forehead slap, I got it. I’m the puppy. The one that disappeared and vanished. I let the first half of my life evaporate into thin air. I didn’t pay attention. I treated it as flippantly and passively as I did that first dreamt-of puppy. Flung it around like car keys I’d scramble to find later, frantic and harried. But, as in my dreams, there’s a second puppy. Still young and alive and licking my face. And I’m that puppy too.  

What does it all mean? It means I’m going to keep dreaming. I’m going to keep coming home. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Sometimes abundance appears before me - effortlessly - ripe on the vine, bursting with color and flavor, kissed by the sun, surrounded by fragrant blooms. Even before I pluck it and bring it to my lips I can taste its sweetness, feel its juice dripping down my chin.

Those moments pass too quickly.

In the between when the world goes from fertile to fallow, veiled in gray, I must, I must, taste the sweetness again. But how, when my eyelids are heavy, my energy stores empty? Like a desert wanderer, I squint and see - whether by imagination or inspiration or a heady mirage - the water and the juicy morsels. It is enough to get me up and at 'em, to light candles, to pour a drink, to mince, to chop, to stir, to cook up nourishment for the tired traveler.

Tonight there was pasta, simply prepared with garlic, nuts and herbs, adorned with a small pile of curly parmesan and a sprinkling of crushed peppers. It looked ordinary steaming in its bowl, but I swirled it around the spoon and took bite after bite. The oil pooled on my lips and as I slowly licked it away I tasted a different kind of abundance with its own brand of sweetness - the kind I can create.

Friday, June 5, 2015


I am the light touch
the well-timed smile
the glistening eye
the playful banter.
I am ease and enjoyment
a soft place to land.

I am the passionate embrace
the tear-stained cheeks
the deep conversation
the question with no answer.
I am struggle and surrender
an ocean of feeling.

I am two sides of a coin
flipped in the air
heads and tails
heads and tails
spinning in motion.
I am multi-dimensional.
I am not at odds; I am not even.

I am outstretched arms
open palms
beating heart.
I am present
Are you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


even the small poems mean something, they are
often whales in the bodies of tiny fish. 
-nayyirah waheed

The alarm sounded at nine on Thursday morning. It was just a drill.
All the same, the suits went marching down 23 flights of stairs.
Fearing an avalanche of shirts and ties if I slipped
I sang to myself, Step, Step, Step, keeping cadence with the rhythm of my feet.
I reached the bottom safely, muscles long asleep quivered awake.

Today another bell rang, but not the office safety kind. This was not a drill.
All the same, I went marching down 14 years of memories. Engrossed,
I forgot my fears of the avalanche. I slipped, stumbled, recovered my footing.
The familiar song Step, Step, Step chirped in the background.
Tired, but whole, I reached the bottom, muscles long asleep quivered awake. 

Monday, January 12, 2015


“all that was 
from me 
is still here.”
--Nayyirah Waheed, “root | immortal”

Please if you know someone grieving
Ask her
What does it feel like?
She might tell you

Please if you know someone grieving
Listen to the answer
Like a dark hole I’ve fallen into

Please if you know someone grieving
Let him cry
For as long as he needs
Tears are the tunnel to pass through

Please if you know someone grieving
Ask, Listen, Let
There is no greater gift
Nothing better you can do

“when I am lost
touch the back of my water
i will return.”
--Nayyirah Waheed, salt

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I Want You

I want you
not the way
young lovers want
all appetite and impulse
longing and angst

I want you
the way
waves want sand
to wash over
to rub against
then recede

I want you
not the way
a babe wants mother
needing nourishment
craving security

I want you
the way
sky wants clouds
seeking contrast
white and grey suspended
in soft blue

I want you
not the way
I used to want you
in raw desire
but in assured strength

I want you
the way
earth wants rain
enjoying tickle and splash
then letting
sun evaporate

I want you
not because I am
not complete
without you
half of a whole

I want you
because I don't
have to have you
because I can
still want you
and want me too

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stand Still

Swirling, foaming
singing, roaming
The waters stir
when moved upon

In constant motion
eyes wide-open
The hearts drinks in
the life that teems

     And then...

The movements cease
there is stand-still, peace
A space for rest
and silent exhale

Yet Soul resists
bucks up against
the quiet calm
Wades in, cautious

     And now....

Self must bow low
Accept ebb and flow
Trust time and change
Surrender to the lull

The impulse to test
pound fists to chest
eventually fades
     Souls settles, floats