August 18, 2014

Butterfly Garden at the Minnesota Zoo



I've spent a good amount of time pointing out and exclaiming over ants, worms, beetles, spiders, and other small insect creatures this summer, so forgive me if I sometimes get completely taken in by the grace of these airy dancers. My boy calls them simply "butter." And, yes. But also, can we just pause a moment and consider how incredible it is that anything at all can flap its bits of wings and fly?

July 30, 2014

The Sound of Water

Ten years ago I drove down Highway 43 at dusk, watching the sun melt into a haze of orange over Deep Lake, and with one particular song that seemed to evaporate into the heavy air on repeat, I pulled my car into his parent's driveway. He was home from California, and in that moment, shooting baskets with his brother and two friends under the garage light and an assemblage of summer-drunk bugs. He wore a yellow shirt, thin and wide on his shoulders. When his gaze met mine through the windshield glass--that smile, that shirt, that sun, those bugs, the rest of our lives: there they were.

What I remember of that summer was like that look: heady. Anyone who has not just walked toward love but fallen off the dock into the black midnight waters of it will know what I mean. You do not know you can talk that long, grin that big, stare that uninterruptedly, kiss that hard, laugh that loud, dream that vividly, hope that unapologetically until suddenly you are doing all of those things, until all of those things feel essential and easy. I was twenty-two, just out of college, boxes left unpacked and ready for an apartment in my first-job town an hour away: not on the prowl for midnight dives. But he took my hand. And dive we did. And since then that water has been always in our ears.

Today I am thinking about that, about the sound of water. Or about the sound water makes when it comes in contact with something else. The splat of rain against windows, or the ping against aluminum canoes. The whispering of streams and singing of rivers careening over rocks, the thunder of a waterfall. Water being poured into a glass. The drip of the faucet. The chugging of wash machines. The slice and whoosh of a duck or a paddle or a body splitting open the surface of a lake, diving down. And then how it rushes back, the water, always seeking out the state of balance.

This summer, he and I drive down freeways to get to work, the day starts at dawn with an alarm clock called Son, and we often play the same songs over and over because they are what our little boy loves, what he claps for, what he sways to, what he points at: "One more?" We have our own home. Two careers. Several bottles of bug spray. Our driveway of responsibilities is so much longer than it was ten years ago, that the thought of playing basketball under the swirl of dusk sounds like some movie we watched one humid June evening, back when we were very young.

Last weekend, though--young or old, tired or rested (what are these but words?)--we did walk to the lake. Not Deep Lake, as the dock on that plot of land has been sold. And we didn't dive in, as we had our phones and wallets in our pockets and our son's hands to hold. But we did step into that water up to our knees. We let our boy throw rocks and sand. We felt the undulations of other mid-lake rhythms sweep toward us and against our bodies in the forms of small waves that we heard break in soft swishes against the seaweed along the shore. There was no talk about that summer ten years ago, or any of the summers between now and then. From what I remember, we didn't talk in that moment much at all. And as much as I'm trying, I can't recall what shirt he wore. But I do know this: when his gaze held mine, hovering there above the surface of the lake, we were still hearing the same thing.



July 7, 2014

Looking Up


Instead of forests,
this summer we are Big Sky
and pointed fingers.


(And it feels fine.)

June 29, 2014

I Built My House Near Where Others Dwell


I built my house near where others dwell,
And yet there is no clamor of carriages and horses.
You ask of me "how can this be so?"
"When the heart is far the place of itself is distant."
I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
And gaze afar towards the southern mountains.
The mountain air is fine at evening of the day
And flying birds return together homewards.
Within these things there is a hint of Truth,
But when I start to tell it, I cannot find the words.


-- By T'ao Ch'ien,
translated by William Acker

June 12, 2014

Father's Day, and a Mud Puddle

I'm well aware that not everyone has the benefit of having an active father in their lives, so this weekend, I'm going to try extra hard to be grateful first for my son's papa, who wrestles with El on the ground in a way that's all testosterone and gleeful abandon, and second for my own dad, who taught me, among other things, about the joys of being out-of-doors. I have an essay about him up at Literary Mama, right in time for Father's Day. It starts like this:
You were never much of a hunter. Pheasants, yes. Squirrels and chipmunks, I suppose, when you were younger. But you never came home from a weekend away with a buck in the bed of your truck, because you never had much interest in deer season and you owned a sedan. I imagine some people from other places can hardly conceive of a Midwestern man without a shotgun over his mantle, a closet full of blaze-orange jackets, a copy of Field and Stream next to the john. And yet when I think of you, I do see an outdoorsman. I see you paying attention to landscapes, to the shapes of clouds. I see you teaching me to love the world.
You can read the rest here.

And in other news, my son found a mud puddle this week. I had a moment of, Oh! White shirt! But then there he was, stomping, mud squishing into his shoes, filtering through his socks, covering his feet with wet flecks of earth, and I thought, Isn't this exactly what I hoped for? A dozen seconds later he wanted to be even closer, even more coated with rain and dirt and grit, so he sat, and we both laughed. It's going to be a messy, beautiful summer, friends. Here's to all the reasons for those piles of laundry. And Happy Father's Day!


May 23, 2014

What I've Been Into - Spring 2014

Hello everyone, hello!

Spring has finally and fully arrived in Minnesota, and we are all a bit crazy over it. Fling open those windows! Let it all grow! May everything just multiply. The grass is so green and so high lawn mowers break down from the abundance. I usually say autumn is my favorite time of year, but this season? This parentheses in my life when my little boy is experiencing THE WORLD up close for the first time? There is magic in the air, people, and living a wild and precious life seems quite possible. Hallelujah.

Although these past three months have been full of many things, both unsettling and celebratory, the biggest change has been my resignation from my current school district and my acceptance of a new teaching position in Minneapolis. I am thrilled about joining my new school, meeting a new set of smart and inspiring colleagues, and learning with a new crop of young ones, but it is a bittersweet move. I have been at my current school for the past decade; it was my first job right out of college, and therefore all of the major experiences that have happened in my adult life have occurred within or around or between the supportive arms of this place. I will miss my colleagues, and just this week--although I haven't been able to bring myself to officially announce my departure yet to my students--I had my first student who'd heard come in crying. She graduates this year, so it's not even that she bummed that I won't be her creative writing teacher next fall; it's that I won't be here. I feel a bit like I'm graduating right along with her, embarking on a thrilling, unknowable journey, hopeful that the steps I take lead me down the right roads.

That said, my summer reading pile is SO HIGH, you guys. It's not even a list. It's an actual stack, measured in feet. And though looking at its height and what it means about how claimed my time will be over the next school calendar kind of makes me want to throw up (you know what I'm talking about, first-year-teachers), it's mostly because I'm just. that. excited. Stomach-all-a-whirl-dizzy-dizzy-ohmygosh-whoatherecowboy excited. Lord, this one wild and precious life. Thank God for it.

Anyway, before this turns into even more of a diary entry (thanks, as always, for being with me here, folks!), below is my list of what I've been reading/viewing/discovering this past season. If we've crossed cultural paths, let me know in the comments! Be well, all!


Books:
  1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell--A sweet and sad and infinitely readable YA story about two misfits in love. 
  2. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough -- I read this as an educator, but it made me think repeatedly about my role as a parent. It's so important that we allow our children to fail sometimes. Adversity is what propels us beyond "successful" to "influential."
  3.  Divergent by Veronica Roth -- Okay. A little too much like The Hunger Games for me to buy in. Still it's fun to read what my students are into.
  4. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis -- A beautiful, insightful, and moving re-imagining of the Cupid and Psyche myth.
  5. Crawling Out the Window by Tom Hennen -- Local poet who I found via another blogger. Some great work. A lot about snow.
  6.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt -- The biggest book I've read in a while, and although I felt its length at points--ohmygoodness, I'm-not-even-half-way-Elliot-is-going-to-wake-up-from-his-nap-any-minute-and-there-is-no-dinner-started-crap-one-more-chapter!--for me, it lived up to its Pulitzer hype. Admittedly, any author who explores a mother-son relationship now has me in her grip. 

TV & Movies:
  1. Mad Men, Season 6 -- Eh. Getting tired of Don's remoteness. The masks we all wear, even from ourselves, yes, but... eh.  At least there was that amazing scene of Ken Cosgrove tap-dancing.
  2. Game of Thrones, Season 4 --Everything is, as they say, gratuitous in this show, but it turns out that's the perfect remedy for a stressful day. Sometimes it's okay to just be entertained.
  3. Short Term 12 -- Beautiful and heavy and hopeful. We cried.

Articles & Posts:
  1. "Which Poet Are You?" by Nick Courage. A fun quiz that's worth a few minutes of your day. I got Neruda, of course. 
  2. "The Overprotected Kid" by Hanna Rosin -- Just this afternoon at work I watched a sixteen year old walk through the parking lot toward his car among his friends, and I thought, "My God!" How am I ever going to let Elliot do that?" (i.e. be out out of the sight of a certifiedresponsibletrustworthycaretaker, let alone operate a moving vehicle.) And yet I do want him to go explore the woods, and forget about me for a while. May I find the grace to find the balance.
  3. "You Are Not As Busy As You Say You Are," by Hanna Rosin. YES! This rings so true.
  4. "The danger of a single story," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This TED Talk has been around since 2009, but especially with all the heartbreaking #bringbackourgirls attention coming out of Nigeria this season, this video deserves another watch.
  5. "The Mother As She Writes," by Andrea Lani. An excellent critical essay (with many references to other books/stories/writers) about writing and motherhood and all the ways these two experiences can intersect.
  6. "Unprepared," by Rob Lowe. Honestly, I have zero interest in Rob Lowe. I can't think of a single thing he's been in that I remember. But this essay about sending his oldest son off to college made me think, again, about Elliot, and how damn much I love him.

    Finds & Arrow Signs:
    1. Historia -- Some fine music, written and recorded by my main squeeze, GB, and friends.
    2. Adobe Voice for the iPad --Great new app for making Explainer Videos.
    3. Literary Mama, Split Rock Review, Midway Journal -- After a first-year-mama dry spell (that's what I'm calling it anyway; let's face it, all my energies rightly went directly to El his first year on earth), I have a story and two essays coming out this summer in some great publications. I'll try to link to them more specifically when they show their public faces.
    4. KAXE The Beat -- Hear me read "I Knew," a love poem, on the radio here.
    5. Tangerine and Carrot popsicles (YUM!)
    6. Bird watching (done ever so much more vocally with a toddler)  :)

    May 2, 2014

    July Stars

    The baby is sleeping. Ahh--you see what I did there? That little untruth? Because he is not a baby, Miss Emily B. Remember all the ways that he is now a boy:

    Pointed finger, wearer of shoes, hall-runner, door-slammer, hahahahahahaha laugher, tantrum-thrower, always-hungry-carrot-monster, the "balls," the "birds," the "dars" (cars), the on-the-lips-kisses, the too-long hair, the long and lingering and serious gazes, the mischief-twinkling-father's-son stares, the charging-full-speed-into-mama's-arms-and-tipping-us-both-over-from-the-force kind of hugs, the lengthening of  legs, the sculpting of shoulders.

    Which is to say, time is passing. All week here it has rained and rained, sheets of it so thick that puddles widened into ponds that ducks sat in, soaking. We watched it. Heard it against the windows at night. Heard thunder, too. Felt the winter recede with the rest of the snow into the rivers, which are now over the banks, gobbling up mud and old branches, moving the earth.

    Tonight, I kissed my boy sweet dreams, hugged him fiercely in a way that's been new, now he's sturdier, and felt all these clangs in my chest as I did so. Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight, goodnight, the world, your neck, goodnight. And when I set him down, he turned on his stomach and sighed, like the blessed.

    And though I've so rarely had the time or energy to write these past (almost) fifteen months, I closed his door to pink and orange light pouring through the northwest windows, and I will tell you that something in this last month has changed for me. Time is passing. Spring is coming. My child is growing. And I am quietly but suddenly quite sure that I am coming back to myself. That there is enough of me to go out to the world and to my family and still come back to myself.

    Earlier this evening I was looking out at the grove, the trees still humble shades of brown and gray, and, "Oh!" I said out loud. Because though I've been watching for it for weeks now, waiting for it just as I have since I was too young to know why even grown women would do such things, I didn't see it there right away. It snuck up on me--the promise, the arrival of life returning--the bright green buds shooting out of one small tree, like July stars.


    Sweet dreams, friends.

    April 22, 2014

    April 16, 2014

    Ways to Say Spring


    in French: printemps 
    in Albanian: pranvera
    in Romanian: primăvară 
    in Catalan: primavera 
    in Latin: ver
    in Icelandic: vor
    in Norweigan: vår
    in Danish: forår
    in German: frühling
    in Estonian: kevad
    in Finnish: kevät
    in Persian: بهار
    in Arabic: ربيع
    in Basque: udaberri
    in Zulu: intwasahhlobo
    in Czech: jaro
    in Lakota: wétu
    in Japanese: 春 


    Or, in Me:
    pretty treetops
    vines
    birds suddenly everywhere
    promises
    open streams
    rushing rivers
    muddy banks
    rutted roads
    sounds of footsteps and chirping and growth
    petals
    evening light
    morning fog
    sudden cotton clouds
    green berries
    children in trees
     rain
    wet faces
    gratitude 

    March 27, 2014

    "A child said, What is the grass?"


    A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
    How could I answer the child? . . . I do not know what it is any more than he.

    I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

    Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
    A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
    Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

    Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . . the produced babe of the vegetation.

    Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
    And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
    Growing among black folks as among whites,
    Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

    And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

    -- Walt Whitman
    lines 90-101
    from Leaves of Grass

    March 3, 2014

    What I've Been Into - Winter 2014

    Hi everybody,


    Hope this finds you some place warm, although that's unlikely, as so much of the U.S. has been plunged these last months deepdeep into unending Polar Vorti (plural for vortex?). So cold! So much snow! I haven't seen drifts like this since I was a young girl passing through the prairie town of Marshall, Minnesota, staring out the car window open-mouthed at snow blown as high as rooftops. We have been making lots of soup and drinking lots of tea, and I have given up on professional shoes and wear boots to work. This chill, though, does have its benefits, namely its insistence that one curl up under covers once the baby toddler has gone to sleep and read ones way through stacks of books. This is my story season. The outside world may be a white canvas, but the color these pages take me to. In this time of my life of no to Costa Rican road trips, words can be wheels and wings, both. 


    Books:
    1. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez --A perfect pairing with this season. Two things: I am in awe of Lopez's brain and I am in awe of Eskimos.
    2. On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz -- Particular and quirky and truly eye-opening. This wasn't a page-turner for me, but it wasn't written to be. Instead it's a meditation, and especially lovely to open up if you want to be reminded of all the things we miss when we're too busy to slow down.
    3. The Iliad by Homer -- Andromache saying goodbye (forever) to Hector while holding their baby boy? Quite the emotional read for me this time through...
    4. When We Were On Fire by Addie Ziermann -- Ziermann is a local author and blogger, so I enjoyed reading about the transformation of both her faith and herself, specifically since it's steeped in a 90's culture I can easily recall.
    5. Everything Matters! by Ron Currie -- Didn't finish this one. I was interested in and respected what Currie was trying to do, but I'm just not quite at a point in my life where I want to think about a little boy who thinks too much  about the ultimate destruction of the world.
    6.  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer -- Although I still found myself a little annoyed by yet another story line that takes place along the hallowed avenues of NYC (another reason why I need to write a book!), I was intrigued by Wolitzer's characters, and definitely appreciated the way they noticed things ("straw noise!").
    7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- I always love what Adichie writes, and this story in particular pulled me in. She's writing about race, and the immigrant experience, but she's also writing about what it means to be young and forging ones way through early adult life. Mostly about race, though. And she poses important points for reflection and discussion.

    TV and Movies:
    1. Game of Thrones, Season 3 -- First of all, Dire Wolves actually existed, and second of all, The Red Wedding?!?!?!?!
    2. Downton Abbey, Season 3 --  :(
    3. House of Cards -- We are Netflix people. And love Kevin Spacey.
    4. Dexter, The Final Season -- Nothing can quite match Breaking Bad for me.

    Articles/Posts:
    1. "The Act of Writing: Speak and Bear Witness" by Erik Reece -- A fascinating and heartbreaking piece about mountaintop removal in Kentucky. I don't know him, but I like Erik Reece. I've read several of his essays now that resonate with me.
    2. "The Inner Landscape of Beauty," Krista Tippett interviews John O'Donohue -- Yes, please. 
    3. "Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke: Mapping How Americans Talk" -- This reminded me of my essay from a few years ago.
    4. "Into The Woods" by Emily Bazelon -- Forest kindergarten? Sign Elliot up!

      Finds:
      1. Roads and Kingdoms -- "Journalism and travel, together at last."
      2. Brain Pickings -- a fabulous collection of eclectic trivia, literary connections and insights, and general cheer.
      3. Writing Minnesota -- Great project that brings together some fine Minnesota writer-minds.
      4. "The Wolves and the Ravens" by local band Rogue Valley -- beautiful, beautiful song.
      5. Mika Estaa and Saunas are Hot -- One of my dear college friends is on a Fulbright in Finland; the first blog is hers, the second is her husbands (which includes amusing videos of the both of them jumping into Finnish lakes in January in giant red wetsuits).
      6. Toblerone -- As in, I find it in my desk at work, pop a triangle in my mouth, and the stress...just...melts...
      7. SmartWool -- Seriously, somebody from this company send me a set of your socks, and I will write a moving, ardent essay about how much I love them. LOVE THEM! 
      So that's where my mind has been. You? What have you been reading, friends? What content online deserves some serious perusing? And any writers/readers/teachers with Twitter feed recommendations? I'm slowly s l o w l y s  l   o  w   l  y  figuring out  how that strange and sometimes sweet place works. A shout-out to Carly Gelsinger for welcoming me there with such kindness.

      Happy MARCH, everyone. May it be full of bright buds and birdsong. (Yeah, right.)

      :)

      February 13, 2014

      A Letter to My Pre-Mama Self, One Year In

      Emily,

      First of all, yes: that is still your name. In the past twelve months you have become mama and mother and mum, comfortable and soft and sing-songy and milk and bread. These are complex, intricate, beautiful things. They fit around your body like a winter blanket. But you are also still Em, still girl, still woman and partner and writer and dreamer and wanderer and springbud and bonfire and hawk. Sometimes it will surprise you, this speaking of your name, this connection to the you that was you before you became Mom. You will feel awe: that that you and this you can coexist. You will ask, How? Twelve months in, I will tell you: it doesn't matter. You can figure that out later, if you still want to. Think instead of the Why. Think instead of how wide and deep and expansive you are.

      Second, it will be okay: all of it. You will be scared of so many things. The labor and delivery, the tending of this helpless human being, the moment when the food prepared by family and friends runs out and you will have to leave your son, your tiny son, for the longest forty minutes of your life in order to buy bread and milk and a few minutes of alone time. You will feel helpless, in those first 3:00 a.m. mornings, when you have been pacing the floor, rocking, shushing, and still he cries. You will feel helpless when the thrill of his first steps wears off enough for you to sense the insinuation: that this is how it starts, the walking away. There will be weight charts and pureed yams and a fever and a rash and a fall and a bruise and all those many many hours you are gone from him, working. You will doubt yourself. Everyone doubts themselves. You will read message boards and consult books and ask colleagues and finally buy the thing that is meant to fix the other thing, and then two days before it arrives, whatever was troubling you (and him?) corrects itself, heals, disappears as if it had never existed in the first place. Twelve months in, you will have a slightly bruised child who cannot move his feet fast enough to enter your embrace. It's okay, you'll tell him. You will spontaneously craft a lullaby that hinges on those two words. And you will sing it over and over, a mantra, a truth.

      Third, ignore the machine. And by machine, I do not mean the swing or the bouncer or the mobile, although in a way I guess I do. Ignore the societal impulses behind them. Ignore the articles and blogs and experts and any kind of other that makes you feel less. As a new caretaker, you will be susceptible to the message that if you don't buy or supply the right kind of that thing, you are doing it wrong. Don't believe this. But when you do (because you will), try to be gentle with yourself. Remember that women birthed babies in caves, carried them on their backs wrapped in animal skins, fed them meat that had been too long in the sun. And still these children grew, and became strong people, your ancestors. Let the Expectations of Motherhood slip from your forehead into the dust of our repeating history. Then walk forward, your small boy nestled in your arms. Twelve months in, you will know that this is all he really needs.

      Fourth, you will need to learn to ask for--and receive--help, especially from other mothers. Especially from your own mother, who you'll understand and appreciate more than you ever have.You will say Thank You over and over. You will say, I get it now. Twelve months in, these women will feel like a sturdy net around you, and when you think of them, the long rope of their linking arms, you will feel held up.

      Fifth (perhaps it is inevitable, what with you holding your baby, kissing your baby, tickling your baby, rocking your baby, bouncing your baby), your relationships with others--especially those who are not mothers--will shift, and sometimes suffer. For the first time in your life, you will struggle to return emails. Texts will be forgotten within moments of your reading them. You will remember Thank You cards, but birthdays will pass without you even picking up the phone. On an eagerly anticipated ladies-night-out, you will sit with your dearest friends, childless, and wonder at yourself, your inability to focus, your inability to express, their inability to see. You will tell them about your son's first laugh, about him finding his feet, and they will smile and sigh and say something kind, which always used to be enough, but isn't any longer, and you won't be sure why. You will want to talk about it with your husband, but by the time you arrive home, both he and the baby are sleeping, and in the dark and milky fog of morning, you will lack the energy to pick up the pinpoints of yesterday's thoughts. So another conversation floats off unhad. Another morning passes where your husband--before he leaves to work in a world that feels a millions miles from yours--only knows that you are tired. Another day fills up with baby and baby and baby, darling baby, and you tell this wee one all your secrets, wanting desperately to be known. Twelve months in, though you will be getting better with birthdays, this is still what you'll want.

      Sixth, your once wide world will focus itself, sharply. Every novel that features a mother and son will be read differently, as if it were about you and yours. You will see photos of boys, grown up young men, and you'll be startled by sudden tears. You will make dinner, make space in the living room, make plans or not make plans on the weekends, based on your child. Everything you write will somehow tie back to him. You will try not to do this, sometimes. You will worry over all your other aspirations. But twelve months in? Sister, give in. His gaze will not stay focused on you much longer.

      Seventh, despite knowing number six, you will dream for two straight days about a National Geographic Fellowship. You will come across it on a Friday, after a week mashed between student essays, the frenetic end of your husband's semester, and your son taking twenty-one steps at daycare, and you will think this is the answer to everything. Yes, your brain will say, and you are off, researching water. Yes, your body will say, and you feel the future, the Philippines, your love and little boy, strolling barefoot along the sandy shores of Palawan. And your spirit, too, will say yes: yes to a year of writing, of reflective adventure, of us. The first night, you will hardly sleep for the vividness, the life, you have already created in your mind. The next day you are imagining a perfection that is--you'll see it later--a little over the top, a little straight crazy. Like perfect always is. But then, that night, something will happen, someone will say something, your baby will whisper a combination of round vowels that you'll interpret as the word roots. And something else about restlessness. And you will look at him, this bringer of old wisdom, and you will feel all that hot and frantic do! do! air that has been building up inside you release. You will pull him in to your chest, kiss his stomach, smile at your husband, and just breathe. Yes, twelve months in, it will surprise you--how short and how long life will seem simultaneously. How the present is the full and fluid dream.

      Eighth, despite the postponed adventures, despite the expectations, despite the strained relationships and tired eyes and implausibility of ever mastering something you so desperately want to get right, it will be joy. Not all of it. Not every moment. But the moments that count. Those will all be joy. Joy when he first discovers wind. Joy when he first tastes orange. Joy when he bangs on the piano, giggling. Joy when he brings you another book, curious. Joy when he presses his forehead against yours, Mama. Joy when, at two months, you kiss his face repeatedly, and he smiles and coos and smiles, until you realize he has fallen asleep beneath you, just like that, covered with the comfort of your tenderness. You have known Big Love with your husband. You are a romantic, so this is not surprising; in fact, it is something you expected, something you were ready for even while it was new and undefined. But Mother Love. It is your chest squeezing. It is your bones breaking under the weight. It is a realignment of language, where this means that, and wait means yes, and always doesn't have a meaning because it has no opposite. Twelve months in. Twelve months in. Look at him, there, tearing another leaf off the philodendron, leaving sticky finger prints on the patio door. Listen to me: here, joy is capital-lettered. And it means hold on.