Entering Shadowland

pokahoesunset16-04Cancer does this: Shake you out of the status quo and drop you into a different realm, one where your everyday priorities are rearranged and suddenly small talk, the cleanliness of the house, even your job ambitions seem ridiculous. Instead you give yourself over to what really matters: Being present to one another. Doing everything possible to tend to health and well-being. Emily and I call this place of intensity Cancerland. Life-threatening illness does a marvelous job of helping you reprioritize.

But so do other things, like the death of a loved one or losing a home or experiencing trauma. The last time our country did a collective gasp and had to reprioritize was 9/11. The recent election shocked some of us into a new way of seeing the world. Our national shadows—the parts of us that fear the Other, that wants to eradicate whatever seems to threaten our wellbeing—are now out in the open. They’ve been there all along, as people of color and immigrants and trans folks have been trying to tell us. But now we’re all plunged into a new reality: Shadowland, a country where democratic processes are scorned and fear has taken the reigns. (more…)

Corrective Lenses

IMG_0320Recently I plunged into Minneapolis Park & Rec’s latest phenomenon and started swimming across Lake Nokomis. The lifeguards tow enormous orange buoys out for the course, then hover alongside in their kayaks. The first time I was ecstatic—such freedom! such a great workout!—except that, without my glasses, I couldn’t see the buoys and kept veering off course.

So I bought prescription goggles.

Now you have to understand that I’ve been both terrifically near-sighted and an avid swimmer since I was nine. When I got my first pair of glasses, I was amazed that trees actually had leaves. (more…)

Containing Land & Spirit

Retaining WallPhew! Emily and I have just completed a major landscaping project, building a retaining wall along the south and east sides of our property, putting in two rain gardens, leveling the soil where our old garage stood, and planting grass seed. After an entire year of chaos, the garden finally feels settled. The work that remains (stone paths, trellises, more planting) is ornamental.

When I look at all this change through practical lenses, most of it seems unnecessary. Our yard was fine beforehand. (more…)

Rampant Generosity

FullSizeRender-1In a few weeks a team of landscapers will tear through our yard to grade the soil and build retaining walls and rain gardens. In anticipation we’re tearing out fences, moving bushes, hauling rocks, and creating general muddy chaos. Plants everywhere need to move. So I took advantage of that community-building tool of modern technology—the neighborhood list-serve—and posted our excess: picket fencing, hostas galore, lilies of the valley, and those native plants that think they own the place, all for the taking.

Which is why all week a series of gardeners from the neighborhood have shown up with buckets. (more…)

Imprinting Fall

small_5236103680As I write, my computer screen reflects the view out the window behind me: a maple tree, yellow, glowing from within, against a brilliant blue sky. Here in Minnesota we’re experiencing one of the longest and most spectacular autumns I can remember. When I’m outdoors raking the sidewalk under this tree or biking Gwyn to school down a street lined with exuberance, I do what every sane Minnesotan does. I memorize it. I store away all that color and warmth the same way we can the fat red heirloom tomatoes from the garden and preserve our abundance of raspberries. We need to be imprinted by a day like this to make it through the winter. We need to saturate our minds with golds and reds and clear blue; we need to soak our skin with the sun’s heat; we need to store up the free feeling of walking without a heavy coat. (more…)