Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Very Merry Sut Nam Holiday List

I'm writing this in the morning minutes when my babe snoozes lusciously on the bed upstairs, competing with the steamy humidifier for the loamiest exhale.  It's indicative of my world, and Kapha personality, that this post is coming less than a week before Christmas. 

Shopping, like a great many normal activities, rattles me.  There are so many options, not all of them great.  The not-greatness should make things easier, but instead I get confused and over-analyze what I've put in my cart or arms or basket, and suffer what I've come to think of as mini-identity crises in the tiled aisles of stores and malls across America. 

My favorite way to shop is in "wander" mode.  (Okay, this is my favorite way to do anything.)  It's how I've been approaching things lately anyway, sauntering through the mall with my child, wooing and/or frightening salespeople with her zeal for jewelry, letting her manhandle the cheap boxes of perfume perched inexplicably at her knees.  (If they wanted to keep them safe, wouldn't they put them out of a miniature schnauzer's reach?)

Last week, while in wander mode, I bought a Mormon Tabernacle Choir LP.  I bought it because it reminded me of evenings around the holidays when my dad flips back and forth between operatic concerts, football games, and/or CSI reruns on TV, and also because someone had stuffed another record into its cover, one with children's Bible stories on its face.  I was morbidly curious to know if audible Bible stories could be any good.  Not really, it turns out.  So far Samantha is unimpressed but Adam is beyond hot, so it's not a total loss.  Plus, he and Eve had the good sense to keep a lama around.  Good people.

Recently, while journaling - that thing I used to do which I've been trying to bring back, with some success as my daughter organizes my piles of previously cherished stationary and moves kitchen items to surprising locales - I recently wondered what holiday present could actually bring happiness

You and I both know Willie is worth more than 50 cents.  Goodwill does not, though.

was the first word that came to me.  A can of them sat before me on the dining room table.  A tub of them sat behind me on my daughter's little play table.  There were also doodles scratched along the journal open before me.  I did not want for crayons in my life, you know?  But little makes me happier than slashes of color on a white page, and creativity, I suppose, if you need a name for it, is one of the happiest things on earth for me.   

So here is my wish list, or gift list, as much as I can be trusted to have one.  Because, honestly, if someone gets up earlier than me and makes the coffee, and I happen to get a hot shower and wash my wet-kale crown of long-ass hair these days, and there's a quasi-walk in my future and I somehow eat three vegetables in the day, I can think of almost nothing better, nothing more I need.  Except of course the last thing that isn't actually a thing at all: the place inside I keep to myself, that cave made of bear fur and blackness and stars twinkling through the ceiling where I go and drift away and find myself.

2015 Sut Nam Bonsai Holiday Gift List

1. You will never regret listening to Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats in any way: on cd, vinyl, or in person, especially.  He's the real deal, and he wears a neckerchief like any good roots musician.  If a train conductor had a love child with Van Morrison and grew up on Sam Cook, he might name his band The Night Sweats. 

2. Samantha got embarrassingly obsessed with Josh Ritter's new album Sermon On the Rocks thanks to early streaming on Tim's phone every day, but I'm still obsessing over his divorce album The Beast In Its Tracks. It's the perfect mix of melancholy, bewilderment, self-expression, and sweetly-nursed bitterness.  In short, a memoir in audio form!

3. Yoga and meditation teacher Sara Avant Stover has written a new book about navigating the feminine path of awakening, which tends to be cyclical, psychological, and completely foreign to our culture of achievement.  The Book of SHE is an incredible resource for women asking big questions of their lives, and every man supporting an emerging power-house. 

4. My friend Corinne is teaching what sounds like an incredible class at Hugo House in Seattle about prize-winning stories: "Rather than seeking to imitate, we will use this as an exploration of our own tastes, and what we, as readers and writers, are being told is great writing."   If you live in the Seattle area, check it out.

5. I freaking love color, tinkering compulsively about the house, and gold things.  My obsessions come together in Emily Henderson's work and she has a new book out that makes my palms itch.  (I don't have it, yet, but I might inject it into my veins when I do.)

I think that's it.  A very short list this year, because I'm not putting down all the things I really love to purchase in the world that mostly come from The Dollar Tree, things like colored tissue paper, animal stickers, and glue.  If someone wants to get me a real live pig or caribou and the farm they would live on, I'd love that.  I didn't put those expressly on the gift list, though, because I guess some people wouldn't actually be happy to get any of those things?     

Happy trolling the neighborhood, oohing and ahhing at the lights.  And if happy is a little far from reach this season, as someone recently put it, if you find yourself in velvet-black darkness, you may be closer to grace than you know.  It sometimes just takes an adjustment of expectations.  Trust me: I've been there more than a few times and I'm sure I will be there again, soon.  When I am squeamishly uncomfortable in my life, I try to remember what I wrote about in this post about being full of fear and unable to see progress but actually doing quite well.  

I guess that's my real wish this year: that I learn to honor the black bowl of night and keep staying up with the owls, getting comfortable there.

With a flame on every surface these days,
Sending big love,

Vail in the 80s meets the circus meets cowboy. 
OMG, yes, please! 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Last week, I started watching Milk for the second time, the Gus Van Sant-directed movie where Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, our country's first openly gay elected official.  My rapt viewing got interrupted by life but I finished watching it last night.  Today, I miss the camaraderie between people working for change, the sheer numbers of people packed into rooms, political mavericks inching the needle forward on civil rights, and James Franco's bewitching, perplexing, unabashed rotation of hairstyles.

In fact, I’m sort of unabashed in my fervor for Franco in this movie.  To be honest, the relationship between his character, Scott Smith, and Harvey, is a huge part of why Milk sticks in my mind whenever I watch it.  The wackado neckties four inches across at the knot and the manes of curls on everyone are also to blame.  And Josh Brolin who does a nice job as the jilted co-worker turned broken, vengeful man. 

Fun fact: I bought my copy of Milk for 25 cents at a library sale.  Even MORE fun fact: Tim and I got engaged after a library sale, after breakfast at a diner with friends.  Because of this, my engagement will possibly always be linked to bacon in my mind, and I guess I'm okay with that. 

On a related note (I hope) I also read Truth & Beauty for the second time last week, Ann Patchett's breathtaking memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, with whom she lived for a year during graduate school.  My mom gave me a copy when the book came out in 2004 and I loved it then, but holy cow did I really truly wrap myself in its story this time around.

I have so many thoughts about Truth & Beauty but don't want to write a term paper on my blog again so I'll just say it's a book about friendship and writing and becoming a writer and anxiety about writing and devotion to a craft and devotion to a friend and growing up in different ways that don't always match your friend's life.  I love love love it (did I mention how I feel about it?) and I'm sort of struck by my feelings for Ann Patchett in my ripe old thirties.  Elizabeth McCracken makes a few appearances in Truth & Beauty, a detail I missed the first time around because I hadn't yet discovered her writing.  

Ever since I learned they were friends, I always thought McCracken would be my greater love, but Patchett's wry, understated prose is starting to close the gap.  It doesn't seem possible.  I loved The Giant's House so much, McCracken's novel about a librarian who falls in love with a young giant, I used to unilaterally hand it out whenever I could.  That book sort of strikes the same moody, melancholy, dark, devoted chords that are working in Truth & Beauty, come to think of it. 

The other thing I have been thinking a lot about lately is Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast, Big Magic, which I avoided for a long time, because her voice in the first episode drove me crazy with its hushed, patronizing tones.  I tried to get over that and mostly, I did. 

The episode featuring Rayya Elias was one of my favorites.  (Episode #8, The Pure Pleasure of Making Stuff.  You can find the whole series here.)  Of course I listened to it three weeks ago so now I all I have to offer you, basically, is: it was a good one!  Honestly, I find myself a little annoyed by Gilbert lately, and I find that pretty interesting.  Is it fame backlash?  Sexism on my part?  Am I annoyed by a woman who won't stop talking or am I just annoyed by this voice that's getting a lot of airtime and ready for more variety?  (Probably a mix.)  Anyway, I've found some of her tips (can't say that word without thinking of this) useful and nurturing, too.

Choreographer, dancer, and manic artist extraordinaire Twyla Tharp was on the radio recently.  Tim called and told me to turn it on, and I did so with a warm, sudsy, yellow-gloved hand. I'm proud of this fact because there are fewer ways I'd rather listen to public radio than while doing chores around the house with sun streaming through the windows.  At the close of the interview, when Scott Simon tells Twyla Tharp that she is fascinating to listen to, she says, "No.  You know what?  I just work.  And I’ve worked a long time.  And I like work.  That’s what I do.”

My husband believes in the idea that work is dignity, a concept I have warmed to very slowly in my life.  Amelia wrote about this on our blog and I'm returning to it now because that’s exactly what Twyla Tharp is talking about, at least in my interpretation.  Work has been Tharp's devotional practice, a way to listen to her life and collaborate with her genius.  I used to relate to this idea but my definition of work keeps changing.  If my muse is a team of horses straining at the reins, she is now constrained by the abacus of child-time, sliding ahead – and back – in quick flashes that are not at all what her ego wants to embrace.

When I surrender into what the moment needs, often along the lines of making a ruddy peanut butter sandwich when I’d rather be baking elaborate, perfect cookies, the room I’m in takes on illumination.  The LPs my daughter insists on dancing to bounce a little more richly through the floorboards.  Even the mailman becomes a friend (true story) and I start to breathe again.

It’s not easy, though.  I’m used to having time for my fantasy projects. We just returned from a road-trip to North Carolina and there are dishes on my desk because we had work done on the kitchen in our absence.  I just found a piece of bacon in my jacket pocket from our trip to Madison, WI, in October.  Life is a little scrambled right now, very full, very bewildering. 

I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t have it all figured out.  As much as I don’t like it, what if that’s this year’s teaching, after all?



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Mothering

For you loyal readers of Sut Nam Bonsai (thank you!), my love of The Sun magazine has never been a secret.  I've been subscribing to it one way or another since I graduated from college, a span of years that grows in mysterious, rich curls like a cloud of underwater algae. 

Because I am generally in the know, re: Sun activities, when the associate publisher of the magazine, Krista Bremer, published her memoir in 2014, titled My Accidental Jihad, about her passionate relationship with an Islamic Libyan, I was sure I would read it immediately.  According to the back of the book, jihad in Islam means "an individual's striving for spiritual and intellectual growth." Yes please!  I don't know what happened: a pregnancy?  The loss of a furry friend?  A fit of common recalcitrance while trolling the links of Amazon?  I'm not sure.  For whatever reason, I've just completed it now. 

Friends, it is beautiful.  I probably cried about thirty times reading it, hot, stinging tears that pierced my eyeballs without falling, the kind of sensation that, writing or reading, signals that someone is hot on the trail: of truth, of poignancy, of beauty.  I devoured this story about an unlikely partnership and unlikelier marriage that produced two kids and sustains two very different people.  I remember some promotional item for the book highlighting the fact that all marriages are a collision of cultures.  For Bremer, a native of California, and her husband, a Libyan man who fled his country to escape Gaddafi's regime, the culture collision is inescapable.  Bremer writes about it with such honesty, such dignity, such respect for her husband quite a bit older than she is, who at times makes her jaw drop in shock and embarrassment and love, I want to bathe in her prose for years to come and study how it achieves its effects.  

I'm going to quote a passage because it echoes feelings I had when I became engaged and suddenly desired to be part of a larger tradition than one I created for myself.  I write about the sacred in the common all the time, it seems, but one thing I love about so-called basic events such as marriage or having children is how profoundly healing they have been for me.

In many ways, mothers are anonymous in our culture.  Even though I'm a mom myself, when I see a stroller on the streets, I'm just as guilty of glazing over the whole scene, seeing nothing but a boring, fussy stroller and not the dynamic human being who is pushing it.  I don't see a woman or a man.  I don't even see a baby.  I just see generic clothing, skin color and the presence of faces.  Unless I catch myself glazing, being an ignoramus, unless I look into those faces with deliberate, open greeting, the magic and stories inside those people escape me.  

Parenthood, and motherhood in particular, is just not that sexy to Americans, probably because it requires qualities we don't yet esteem: tenderness, patience, yielding, and oceans of loving, nourishing sacrifice.  It requires submission to many things larger than yourself, a concept that has no vocabulary in our national discourse.  To succeed as a parent (listen to me!  first-time mother to someone under two.  forgive my hubris, and here I go anyway) religious training is sometimes more helpful than anything the larger culture might offer, religion with its teachings of acceptance, prayer, and the fruits of asking questions and staying vulnerable. 

Not-knowing is not sexy to us yet, and that's okay (I think??).  What I like about becoming a mother is how underground my life is now.  I am deep in the weeds, slithering daily through work the fruits of which are not yet apparent, sometimes even to me.  It's humbling.  It's rigorous.  It's fun and sexy in ways, too, ways that belong to no one but me.  They are invisible to most eyes, therefore pleasures all mine.  I love that. 

Anyway, here's that passage.  Bremer finds herself pregnant by accident and though she is married to her husband, Ismail, they never got a ring.  When her doctor tells her it's a matter of hours until her baby is born, she and Ismail dash to the mall for diapers and other essentials they haven't gotten around to buying yet: 

"At the mall, we made a beeline toward the drugstore, where we knew we'd find the essentials we needed.  As we passed a jewelry shop, Ismail tugged me spontaneously toward the door.  'You need a ring to wear into the delivery room,' he announced, squeezing my hand.

Throughout my pregnancy I had insisted I didn't care about a ring, but when he pulled me toward the glass countertop and I looked down at row after row of glittering diamonds resting on blue velvet, I knew I had lied to both of us."

That's a tiny excerpt, I know, but if I allow myself to quote more of the book I'm going to want to paste its whole body here. 

We've been busy over here.  October is one of the most beautiful, gratifying months of the year, in my opinion.  My inner bear feels the chill gathering in the ground, and, full of hope, layers my psychic cave with blankets and books, giddy with anticipation for the deep rest ahead.  Cinnamon is called for in every recipe and, in our case, relatives break down the doors with their bounty.  My mom is coming (The Queen Mother is coming!) and we've been jamming lake trips and art parties and small food outings into the weeks whenever we can. 

Also, Samantha is walking now, a skill she's been practicing since July.  On the day of the lunar eclipse, she finally decided to unveil her abilities in perfect, assertive glory.  She is such a magical combination of things: cautious and determined, athletic and communicative.  It doesn't surprise me at all that she waited and waited to let go of our hands and then, when she did, scaled the whole staircase in one go on the same day she finally walked.  It's how I operate, too: steady, steady, underground study and then, just at the right time, when I'm sure no one is looking, I pop into new forms.    

To your cozy, nurturing days, and all the work that happens out of the limelight, in the woods, steady and secret and essential,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Getting Lost

The Waterfall

for May Swenson

For all they said,
  I could not see the waterfall
    until I came and saw the water falling,
      its lace legs and its womanly arms sheeting down,

while something howled like thunder,
  over the rocks,
    all day and all night -

like ribbons made of snow,
  or god's white hair.
    At any distance
      it fell without a break or seam, and slowly, a simple

preponderance -

  a fall of flowers - and truly it seemed
    surprised by the unexpected kindness of the air and
      light-hearted to be

flying at last.
  Gravity is a fact everybody
    knows about.
      It is always underfoot,

like a summons,
  gravel-backed and mossy,
    in every beetled basin -
      and imagination -

that striver,
  that third eye -
    can do a lot but
      hardly everything. The white, scrolled

wings of the tumbling water
  I never could have
    imagined. And maybe there will be,
      after all,

some slack and perfectly balanced
  blind and rough peace, finally,
    in the deep and green and utterly motionless pools after all that

-Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems Volume One, Beacon Press © 1992

We went away for a week and when we returned, a book of Mary Oliver poems tumbled into my hands, reminding me what I always need reminding of: to slow down and take no small part of my day for granted.  

When we returned from vacation, I felt off schedule, full of glorious calories and habits and pleasures, but anxious that in all my goofing off I had lost some essential rhythm to my writing.  By the end of a week away, I had adjusted to the idea that sometimes chaos follows a family with a young child no matter where they go.  Just because there were other adults around didn't mean I could slip away from my daughter any more than I might leave her in a room by herself at home. 

Once I hit that plane of acceptance, I felt ready for wherever the days might lead.  Incidentally, they led to duck-feeding, tons of walks, parks with swings and playgrounds and sandboxes, and short, delicious mornings with a Nell Freudenberger novel.  While the pace never really slackened, it came eventually to remind me of the grace a character finds during a flood in Louise Erdrich's stunning novel, The Last Report On the Miracles At Little No Horse, in which a woman is swept away in a tumble of mud and churning tree limbs, and spit out down river to make her life anew.  

After a week back home I feel finally (finally!) grounded again.  I can locate my mind and hear its deeper currents.  To me, this is everything.  It's why I need the outdoors so much.  I don't have to scale mountains or backpack through pristine valleys to get a hit of nature's giant tuning fork.  Sometimes a piqued chipmunk squeaking from my front stoop is enough for me to pull my head from whatever crazy thoughts it's cycling through and root my soul to the earth again.

My desk is in the dining room, and has been for some time now.  For the most part, I'm okay with this.  Whereas Virginia Woolf grew up in a Victorian household that prized needlework as the pinnacle of a woman's creative work, when I have a room of my own, I sometimes get lonesome.  I prefer to spread out and inconvenience the house I'm living in.  Like a dog, I pull out all my toys, impressing no one but myself, and forget about everything only to discover it an hour later when I walk into a room and see the mess - or the beauty - I have made. 

But but but.  Sometimes when I think about what really makes me happy, very little compares to getting lost in a task.  I can sort of write anywhere - at my desk, in a car, in a coffee shop, in a bed, but sometimes I dream about having my own spot to truly make a mess with my art supplies, like the studio space in Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, where a pot of coffee is always on and it's a little dingy and there are trays of papers and boxes of rubber stamps and I can just be grimy and concentrated and left alone in my cave of wonders. 

This isn't what my desk in the dining room looks like, if you can believe it.  I have a big, polite IKEA desk that drives Tim a little crazy because while we are not fancy people it's probably one of the cheapest things we own.  It has a big surface area, though, and that is the point.  Samantha has discovered its charms lately, too; she loves to climb up to standing in front of it and shake it like the dickens.  Shake-a shake-a shake, like an alligator rattling its prey, she tries to bring down the house with that thing, banging it against the dining room wall. 

I am secretly delighted that Tim is vexed by my piece of crap desk.  It's also not going anywhere anytime soon because I am still mastering the art of eating vegetables and I am not adding desk shopping to my list of things to do this fall. 

I did buy a gallon of beige-y paint for the dining room and am committed to hanging the lovely chandelier we bought when we moved in, which we left sitting in the basement for a year like jerks.  Because I get sad when I see online pictures of rooms lovingly remade by joe schmoes who don't have a design team to make things pop in their photos, I am not going to do the whole before and after thing.  I am not a design pro.  I am a woman who collects feathers.  Just know that I've got a buzz saw cranking over here - or wish I had a studio that housed one, and maybe a jump suit to wear, too - and I'm intent on making a few updates because updates make me happy and I've finally discovered that I can change a room instead of moving to a different state every time I need a little flair in my life.  Progress, people! 

On a related note, 
WeWork, a company that rents creative coworking space around the world, inspired this post.
  I am somewhat obsessed with solitude but after having a child, the idea of renting space outside my dining room is pretty enticing.  On days I need an extra boost of focus, I zoom up the street to my favorite coffee shop.  Some days, though, I can't face the rows of tables or anymore time sitting down.  If I can't have a mechanic's garage converted into an art studio, I would kill for a cloistered spot outside my home.  Wherever I go, there must be crayons and music.  Must!  Chipmunks and a yoga mat are great, too.

Speaking of music, did you see who has a new album coming out?  Look at all that gold!!  Yes, please.  As already mentioned, I'll take the jumpsuit, too.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sleep, Baby, Sleep

When Samantha was very little and fit in a pouch on my hip like a bulky newspaper, I was on leave from work and spent mornings in a rocking chair on our glorious porch.  I don't know what I did for the rest of the day.  Tried to pee?  Ate whatever I could get my hands on while calories ran through me straight to the mouth of my nursing baby?  Somehow, when Tim arrived home at the end of each day, I was often exhausted and still wearing clothes I had woken up in that morning.

One afternoon, while rain poured outside and a breeze pushed through the window screens, I read a giant book of collected New Yorker stories on the bed while nursing the babe.  I know this is sacrilege, a case of rejecting someone who would never in a million years ask me out, but something about the magazine sort of fatigues me.  Its font and cloudy cover illustrations rarely do it for me, but motherhood has turned me into a paper-shredding insect, starting with that anthology. 

Something about the intensity of my daughter's demands or maybe just the loosening of my mental clock (I don't have to be at a desk at a certain time every day) has made me hungry for narrative and desperate for a good story.   Being around a child all day has the ability to scramble my brain in really frustrating ways, but books have a way of setting it all straight again.  

I feel the same way about sleep.  There were times in early motherhood - and I still experience them - where the only way out of my knot of emotions, the only way to escape the burn of my aching body, the only way to really let my mind go, was to just go to bed. 

In our house, the Never Go to Bed Angry adage doesn't hold.  Ever since becoming a mom, I go to bed angry, tired, hungry, and sometimes all those things.  Morning with her birds of benevolence arrive soon, having swept the rooms of my mind with their powerful, all-encompassing wings.

We co-sleep with Samantha.  I know this is an edgy and controversial thing to do for some people, a beloved activity for others, and it works really well for us.  It also means our bedroom sort of resembles a giant crib.  No toys, no clutter lying in wait of a curious, procrastinating, eager-to-stay-awake child.  This sort of simplicity suits me.  I'm a Feng Shui nut and have been keeping my bedrooms spare since I graduated college and suddenly had to account for my life in terrifying ways: You mean no one else is going to the dishes if I leave them in the sink for days?  Order and simplicity became a balm for me.  When so much else was uncontrollable in my life - hello, career starts and stops - it seemed like making the bed first thing in the morning was a prayer and a gift to myself all at once.

Not long ago, I found myself dressing our bed all in white.  I had just given myself and Samantha a bath and the fan whirred as we laid down for a nap.  Resting there with wet hair, listening to the birds outside, feeling the fan's breeze on my legs, I knew I had achieved something.  I had draped us in a sea of white and was drifting in an Anthropologie-like dream. 

You know how in Just Kids, Patti Smith's beautiful memoir, she and Robert Mapplethorpe live in the Chelsea Hotel for awhile?  Well, I want to do that, but I want to live in a standard no-name hotel with a soft headboard and pictures of pigeons on the wall.  It will be just me and my books, with a coffee pot on the desk and sunlight coming through the window, bouncing around the white sheets. 

But since I have a family and no real reason to spend my days hiding from them in a hotel room (drat!), I might just keep dressing my bed in whites, posting little pots of jade around the room, dreaming of a dreamy home, and letting the box fan reign supreme for one more month.  When Patti Smith's next book comes out, I might stay up too late reading it, tucked into bed with a headlamp on my noggin, my family breathing like a pile of dogs next to me, my heart sailing away on the pages of a book.

In other news, I wrote an article about how to handle being shamed for your parenting choices without losing your cool for this local magazine.  And this delightful conversation between Brad Listi and Lorin Stein, the editor of The Paris Review, is worth a listen, most notably when Stein says we have now monetized distraction with our smart phones and iPads.  I listened to it before the whole New York Times Amazon expose, and now I have to believe Lorin Stein would approve of a distraction-less bedroom, too.     

Here's hoping your head is full of helpful stories these days! 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Terry Tempest Williams and the Mysteries of Voice

Last night, I listened to Brad Listi interview Terry Tempest Williams on the podcast Other People.  I've never read any Terry Tempest Williams, probably because Tim accidentally, preemptively ruined her for me when we were living in Arizona and he was reading Refuge, which he kept calling Refuse. 

Welcome to our shameless and irreverent household!

I think Williams' lack of a sense of humor was the problem for Tim, and I can definitely see how that would be a problem.  Her physical voice in my headphones last night stunned me with its gentleness.  I found it reminiscent of a woman I knew in Colorado who gardened for a living.  I really loved the interview with Williams, and hope to remedy this gaping hole in my naturalist education by reading her soon. 

For now, I want to tell you what she said about the idea of "voice" in writing.  Her latest book, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice, resulted from something that happened when her mother died, which is that she left Williams all her journals but when Williams opened them, each one was blank. 

This shocked and perplexed Williams.  She grew up Mormon and according to her, women are the record keepers in her community.  Were the blank journals an act of defiance by her mother?  Perhaps more importantly, was her mom just messing with her? 

As someone who grew up in the strict patriarchy of Mormon faith, Williams tried to write a book about voice.  Instead, she says, she might have written a book about silence.  In this Rumpus interview between Williams and Roxane Gay, she says:

"You ask how I create a space for a woman of faith to be heard. I think it could be argued that I am not heard, in the broadest sense. That is not my concern. My concern, a question really, is, do I have the courage to speak?"    

What a question!

In her interview with Listi, Williams said something along the lines of, "Who benefits when I stay silent?" This is also a wonderful question. 

Who benefits when we don't say what we need to say? 

My hair is sopping wet and I need to deal with other parts of life, i.e. the gutter people, and voicemails, and the fact that I can't seem to ever eat enough to settle my bones lately.  The final thing I want to say is that Williams believes all voices arise out of silence.  Does she differentiate between the silence of a repressed life and the silence of the shifting, breathing earth?  I think she does.  In my life, I do. 

This summer has been a tidal wave of chores and attentions. I usually love the opportunity to improve my physical surroundings and connect with other people, but lately I resist too much activity.  I feel worn down by nagging little items, worn out by the wheels of my mind.  Part of me longs for the quiet of winter, but when it arrives and the windows close and the light goes grey, will I miss the chatter of cardinals out my window when I wake?  I don't know.  What I do know: I need big swaths of quiet in order to thrive, to hear the words I need to hear, to repair, to breathe. 

When I heard Williams say what she said about voice arising from silence, I felt an immediate recognition.  Most of my anxieties in life come from the fear that I will run out of time, that I won't sit down in my chair enough to say what I need to say.  But the truth is, I have to roam a lot, and go quiet a lot, before I have anything worthwhile to say.  Trusting that this stillness and silence is actually a fount of energy and activity is the challenge for me.  Writing is its own practice of slowing down for me, too, so it gets confusing: when to work, and when to just listen.  I don't have it all figured out, obviously, but I wanted to say hi and tell you I'm thinking about what I'd like to tell you, and about a woman with a beautiful voice, a woman asking a lot of questions. 


Throwback to younger, hotter days!  And I do mean temperature.