> jumping into life.


In the three days' cave, I invite the neighbors' cat in, feed him leftover chicken from my fingers. I continue drinking poetry; I keep a watchful eye on my self-destruction, and I don't drink anything else, not even the Everclear making promises from the cupboard. The zafu is rewarded for her patience.

Eventually the seeker returns from the forest. His voice is gentle, joyful.

The rock rolls back. It looks like we were only sleeping, after all. Lost at sea, after all. Hard to say for sure. Might be that we resprouted from the root. Hard to tell from here.

Still: I am suddenly really, really hungry.


Suddenly, I could not eat anything that I did not pull from the ground myself. Even that tasted like the rot it is. For three days I ate nothing.

For three days I ate nothing and I curled myself tight. I did not want to be seen. I wore long sleeves and kept my eyes down.

Suddenly, I was drinking poetry again, like it could save me.

For three days I held in my mind - carefully, like a bomb or a baby - the idea that this might not work, even if we try real hard. The idea that this might not work, even if I need it to. The idea that he might leave me.

For three days he walked in the woods and thought.

Seventeen months ago I broke his heart completely and without explanation. I have never - not for one minute - allowed myself to understand completely the pain I caused him. Have never sat with the entirety of what I is that I had done. It took me nine months to figure out why I had done it; for three days he has been walking in those same shadowed halls, with the very same steps. It is fear. It is fear of being made to be who we really are, the best of who we really are. The blooded truth is that we have no defenses against each other, that we are naked to each others' eyes. Always. Entirely.

I fought that hard as I could, seventeen months ago. I fought it with every ounce of my fearful soul. And I won.

And nine months later I bore myself screaming back into the world, stripped of skin and with my heart in my teeth. Nine months later I bore myself screaming to the doorstep of his very heart, and laid myself down. And he - luminous thing he is - he let me in. He let me back in.

But my skin grew again. I could not keep myself raw in this world, could hardly even bear to try. And his fears run generations deeper than mine.

For three days I held carefully in my mind the knowledge that it is possible that my weakness and my fear have destroyed this impossible beauty. It may be that he cannot disarm himself after my utter betrayal. It may be that I killed us, and truly. He might never trust me again, not really trust me.

Seventeen months ago he had opened his heart by force of will; he decided to shed the defenses built against a lifetime of abuse and betrayal and trust me. Thought he could trust me. I couldn't handle the responsibility, and proved him wrong.

There is no safety in this world.

He said, only the people you love can betray you.
That time I proved him right.
He said, someday we'll have a family, someday, someday we'll have a family.

Years ago he had marked a secret place, knew that whoever reached it with him he would marry. I am the only one.

Suddenly all food is poison.

Suddenly he is walking my long hallway and I am at the other end, stunned. Shattered. Suddenly I am the helpless one. For three days I was the helpless one. I could feel my soul growing sharper, leaner. Fought it. Fought the desire to leave him first, to strike out, to pluck the veins out of my skin.

For three days I walked his lonesome path as he walked mine. For three days I watched the idea of a life without him unfurl into a dead and endless future while madness licked the inside of my skull. For three days I did not eat. I slept with my teddy bear. I wished for ashes in my hair.

Years ago he marked a secret place, and we stood there together.
We stood there together.


If you haven't read Theriomorph's latest series of poems, do.


I was a widow without you, you know.

All those months.

Even though it was my fault.
Even though it was my choice.
Even though I dug the grave and wove the widow's weeds myself.

Even though I spoke of joy.

I was a widow without you.

Not crippled; not crushed. My soul still had a memory of when its one half was enough to feel whole. It hobbled along. It did not kill me.

I wished sometimes that we did have widow's weeds here now, that there was something I could do to mark myself bereaved, to mark myself broken. I wanted a black veil, ash in my hair.

What they don't tell you is Lazarus' second life: the stone rolled away, and he risen, the miracle done, that much is clear. They tell you not that when he walked the legs were wrong, always. How the smell of it never left him all the way. How the children gathered in a pack around him, but would not meet his eyes.

They don't tell you about his eyes.

What I need to know is this: did we die?

I was a widow, that much is clear. And now I am not. Now we share a home and a life and a future. But it limps.

What I need to know is, did your love die? Are we getting our feet under us, are we learning new territory, are we working through the hard, hard work - or did we die? I did not think we had, before. I thought the diagnosis had been wrong, that our love had gone into a coma, only, and miraculously rung its silver bell, awake. I thought our love had been lost at sea, and we had had its empty funeral and I had worn my mourning robes, but then it came back to us at last. Shipwrecked and weather-beaten, it had come back to us at last.

I was so grateful that I wept anew.
My soul fell so gladly back into step with you, my love, felt so fully its other half. We both know that's what it is, even though it is impossible. Only that which is impossible can be true.

Lazarus' sisters wept also with joy.
They do not tell you how they wept later.
They do not tell you the relief with which he sank into his second grave.

I had not smelled the smell of death on us before. Was I wrong?

That is what I need to know. Was I wrong?


I have not sought sangha here, though I know it to be vital to my soul. Without the clang of the communal bell, the rustle and yawn of a hundred other bodies making their dark way to the zendo, I do not go to the zendo. I wear my prayer beads on the wrong arm, and I do not use them.

But the zafu is a patient lover. She waits beside the shrine - Buddha perched on a manzanita leaf laid on a stone from Burro Creek, a candle in a dish of shells, the stick of incense whose smoke brings me to center as well as anything else and better than most.

I have not sought sangha here, though there is a center not ten miles away. I cannot bring myself to be ten miles away by six AM; you cannot attend their evening and weekend zazen without becoming a member, and membership is $50 a month. $50 a month to stare at their blank wall instead of my own. $50 a month for sangha.

But I do have my own blank wall, my own spiral of smoke. I'm going to try going to church again; they have a sitting group there, too.


Pressed black coffee tastes
like camping. Especially today,
in my quiet house
with the wind turning Autumn outside.

Soon there will be woodsmoke in the air.

While you are gone
I will drink from your mug,
leaving mine on the shelf.
I wear your slippers,
sleep on your pillow,
and take up the full bed.

I sleep diagonally, even,
eagle-armed and bowlegged:
there would not be room for so much
as a cat. While you are gone
I am eating mushrooms and
yogurt with no apologies.
I am leaving all
the dishes in the sink,
but one.

Today the morning glories stayed open
past noon. Today I put on socks:
the wind is blowing Autumn in,

soon there will be wooodsmoke
and the apples are gaining their blush.

Soon you will be home
to cup my hands in yours.


There are few things I love so much as a frittata. Easy as scrambled eggs and taking only a few minutes longer, a frittata can absorb whatever you've got in the fridge or garden that needs using: zucchini, of course, half and onion and half a leek, some funny-shaped carrots, a quarter of a red pepper and a purple one, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, an orphaned ear of corn. Cheddar and mozzarella, both. Maybe some chevre if you've got it. Or it's equally delicious with only potatoes and onions, or olives and tomatoes, or green beans and swiss.

The frittata's great benefit over its equally-adaptable cousin the omelet is that it keeps nicely. It's delicious hot, room-temp or chilled, and does service for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. With a few slices of garden tomatoes, a bit of good bread, and a nice white wine, it even makes a lovely summer dinner. Plus it is eminently healthy: veggies, eggs, just a touch of oil (or butter or bacon grease, depending). I refuse, by the way, to accept that eggs or oil (or butter or even bacon grease) are bad for me. Even in a moderation that tends towards indulgence.

So enamored am I, that I will share with you J's great frittata secret (and may he forgive me):
When you are first cooking the vegetables, especially the potatoes, douse them in a half-cup or so of broth, stock, or bullion, and let it cook off before you add the eggs. You will assure yourself of fully-cooked potatoes (or carrots, broccoli, etc) and they will be intensely delicious and moist. My only tip is to add the herbs (if fresh) just before the eggs, giving everything one last quick stir as you pour them in. Also to always add some last bit of cheese (if you've got cheese) on top just before setting it in the broiler (and also to always use the broiler to finish a frittata - it gives it such a nice crispy finish and there's no risk of getting it on the floor). My mother always laid a few slices of tomato around the top right towards the end as well, which is nice if you've got company. I always forget that part.

If you wanted a recipe, it might go like this:


Chop your veggies (mine were a zucchini, two carrots, half a leek, and one monster potato). Smaller pieces mean faster cooking - I like mine in thin slices more than chopped. Heat a deep cast-iron skillet with lipid of your choice, then add potatoes. Let them cook a bit, then add the onions. Let them cook a bit. Douse them with some broth and throw on the rest of the veggies and mix it all up.

Chop the herbs, but hold on to them for a minute. If you've just remembered you had some corn in the frige, get that out real quick. It didn't want to cook very long anyway.
Beat the eggs (I had seven), and hold on to them, too. If you've got cheese, mix some in now. If you have milk, you can beat some of that in, too, especially if you're short on eggs.

Taste a potato. If it's delicious, and most of the broth is gone, you're ready to move on.

Throw on the herbs and the corn, and stir it all up. Grind some salt and pepper into the eggs, and pour them on. Squash down the veggies with the back of your spatula so they're all under the egg.

Let it cook until the edges get cooked-looking and you can easily get to some cooked part in the middle. If you only just remembered you had cheese, throw it on now.

When the top is just beginning to look dry (or melty, depending), throw it in the broiler, and broil until there's a nice crispy top. But don't go check your email, because nice and crispy turns to totally burned really quickly.

If you let it cool a minute, it'll hold together better. If you don't, it'll be delicious anyway.

Really, really delicious.

(And, for those who care: 100% local! Potatoes and herbs from my garden, as well as the side of tomatoes. Local bread and J's homebrew. Yum.)

[Updated to add: When did this become a food blog?!]


The weather has turned just cool enough to allow baking and canning in relative comfort; it is the last week for blueberries and peaches, and the end of the tomatoes and sweetcorn can't be far behind.

It turns out that it takes a lot of tomatoes to make any appreciable amount of canned tomatoes, nevermind tomato paste. The economics of the family farm are becoming clearer, and next year we're going to plant a lot more tomatoes. And bigger ones: nobody wants to spend an extra hour peeling a hundred cherry tomatoes to make one measly quart of sauce. Gimme six big beefsteaks and be done with it.

It takes also a lot of peaches to make jam, and peaches ain't cheap up here. When we get land, we're putting in a peach tree. That list, of course, is always growing: asparagus is ever at the top, apples, blueberries to the horizon, grapes. This year we forgot garlic, chard, leeks, sweet peppers, and melons.

There are some tomatoes, some salsa, and some blueberry jam on shelves in the basement. A new crock of sauerkraut and one of pickles on the counter. There are two pounds of blueberries in the fridge and three pounds of peaches in the fruit basket, waiting to become blueberry-oregano (J's idea, and apparently a new one) and (the much more common) ginger-peach jam. Our garden isn't making enough tomatoes at once to can them, and they're a bit pricey at the market. I'm considering calling some farms and inquiring about buying a bushel.

Next year might also be the year for a pressure-canner.


What magic is there in storytelling but this? The heart creaks open on its secret hinge, peeking round the second-floor banister to listen. Faces rise out of the ether, grow motivations and limbs, and we imbue them with our own souls. We animate them with our own souls; Frodo and Harry are nothing if they are not also me. This is the magic of storytelling: for six and a half hours last week I was Harry; I was Hermione, I was Voldemort, I was dead and rejoined the world. This is no new revelation. This is old magic. I think it might be the oldest drug: six and a half hours of self-medication, of oblivion, of remove from war and hunger and unpaid bills. My grandmother watches four hours of soap operas every day, four hours of self-medication, four hours in which she is young and daring and romantic and not old or alone.

This is the oldest magic. Outgrow stories and you outgrow your own soul, you trap it in the tiny limited sphere of your own psyche. Stories animate us in turn, they draw the boundaries of the world and its rules, and they point the way off the edge of the earth (second star to the right and straight on 'till morning). It is stories that weave the fabric of self and society, whether we mean them to or no. If we are not creating stories on purpose, we get stuck in the stories of the subconscious, the stories of the ego. Better to call the wolf a wolf, and wear our fear like a scarlet cape; to call the wolf Mother and suckle; to call the wolf home to the hearth where he will turn three times before settling down to sleep.

This is powerful magic: deny it at your peril. Write your Hero's Quest or it will write you. The human animal needs heroes as surely as it needs rain; seek them in stories or you will press whomever is at hand to the job, and most will fail. There are dragons in the mountains; there are dragons in the waters; there is no need to slay them, only to give them their due. If they aren't reigning in the wilds, they will surface elsewhere. Personally, I'd rather climb astride and feel the wind on my face and the shifting scales beneath. Personally, I'd rather sneak into the lair and steal the gold myself. Personally, I wish Harry Potter'd had more dragons.


We had dinner last night with some new friends who have an old farmhouse that is everything I think an old farmhouse should be: with a big dog, who barked at us as we drove up, but who was completely won over by a good ear-scratching; peeling paint on the outside; a big front porch overlooking the garden; a big living room covered with paintings done by friends, photos of kids and favorite places, odds and ends of projects half-finished, flowers, special rocks, driftwood, and dog hair; a kitchen full of jars of flour and beans, baskets of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a big stove; everywhere a feeling of being lived in and loved. We had gazpacho and pizza and ice cream with blueberries and talked about gardening and education and sledding.

Other signs that the universe isn't malign after all, even though all my sauerkraut went bad:
•Karl Rove is stepping down.
NOFA offered me a job! It won't pay for a hill of beans, but it's a job! And NOFA is great. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to take it, which is silly but true.
•Ripe tomatoes! Out of our garden! I thought the day would never come.
•I have a writing group, and a good one this time. (Hi guys!) (The last writing group I went to here was extremely unfun and totally creepy and annoying and I didn't go back. This time everyone is geeky and fun I'm going to go back. I'm even working on a creative non-fiction piece that is really nearly almost fiction and I never write fiction.)
•I think it's going to rain.


On our evening walk some nights ago we passed a small body on the side of the path. Couldn't tell what it was; it looked flattened, though far too far from a road to be roadkill. Scruff and skull, some bones, and matted fur.

I bent close to see. He stepped back in disgust when I reached out my hand to touch it, to pull the bloodthick pelt aside and look at the skull close-up. Not rodent, the teeth all wrong for that. Not one of the beavers we watch sometimes at dusk, wondering where their kits go, or went, since theirs is the only beaver dam in Burlington. A fox? Raccoon? If so, of this year's litter, the crumpled mass too small for an adult. No other bones to guide me, nothing I could recognize, nothing I would know to see. I set the skull back into its nest of fur, itself no help - in twilight all animals are grey - and I stood up. The sun behind the distant hills had turned the clouds to pink and red: of course. How could the sky be anything but bloodied when there is death such as this in the world?


Notes on an afternoon:

1. A 30-mile bike ride is much, much longer than a 10-mile bike ride.
2. It takes much, much longer to walk five miles than it does to bike it.
3. I should invest in a tire-patch kit.

4. Leftover lasagna is the best thing in the world.


I have apparently lost my baker's touch.

In Arizona, I was baking two loaves of bread a week, every week. Fantastic bread. Incredible bread. Big loaves, little loaves, English muffins, bagels. Beautiful, delicious bread.

In Vermont, I've made bread four times. Saggy, sticky, ugly bricks of bread. Ugly oatmeal bread, ugly millet bread, ugly plain-old-whole-wheat bread, and today: ugly leftover-grain bread.

I even tried not using a recipe, relying on my experience with dozens of loaves of beautiful, delicious bread to guide me. The yeast bubbled, the gluten stretched, the dough was supple and smooth as a baby's ass. I was pleased with myself and my non-recipe-following bravery. After all, I've been making cheese! And pickles! And pie, for goodness' sake. Plain old bread couldn't be so hard - I just had to be brave!

It rose once, rather more than doubling, and big chunks stuck to my hands when I punched it down. Undaunted, I reshaped it into a ball, let it rise again. Big chunks. Put it into pans, put them in the oven, where they sit now, not rising. Not rising at all.

Also: still no job, the cucumbers all turned yellow before they turned into cucumbers, and the last batch of sauerkraut smells funny.


Pie number three: blueberry-peach, and with maple syrup in the crust, all local except the cornstarch. A lattice top and homemade ice cream on the side: hard to beat.

We hiked Mount Mansfield yesterday, a five-mile round-trip hike with an elevation gain of about 2,500 feet. That'd be 2,500 feet in 2.5 miles. That'd be real steep.

Today I am content to eat my pie in my jammies and enjoy the rain.


Too hot.