Oct 29, 2018


After writing to Holly, and feeling my own sick, puzzled spirit turning, crumpling the covers of my hiding … I went to bed last night to read. In Refuge, Terry Tempest’s family is preparing for her mother’s death. The lake is over the bird refuge, and Christmas has just past. 

“We each spoke of our love for Mother, and she gently said, ‘I am sorry I cannot be with your feelings. It is different for me.’ She did not elaborate”

I quickly folded the upper corner, then read the words over until I was deeply sure of their phrasing. Then I closed my eyes and rested the book on my chest. 

I am sorry I cannot be with your feelings. It is different for me. I am sorry I cannot be with your feelings. It is different for me. I am sorry I cannot be with your feelings. It is different for me. 

Reading to Clara with Zelda by my side, squirming for scratches. In My New Blanket, a refugee girl is viscerally shocked by the foreignness of her new world. She says that the cold waterfall of strange sounds makes her feel like she is not herself. 

Which is a way to name the murk of what I feel within: a rearranging, an awkward formality, a steady state of threat. 

I long for my outside clothes. To be dirty. 

And yet, I do not long for other things I knew I had to step away from: the reply-all emails about ginger cookies for the kindergarten classroom; the meaningless naming of yoga classes; the laundry cycle. 

I grieved the books that I stacked by the door to return: 60 books or so that represent just the very most recent turning of the wheel – wonderful worlds brought home, discovered, tested, integrated, released or cherished … It doesn’t make sense, to do a bad job of something that used to integrate so fluidly into my weeks and days. And yet, as Clara and Z and I read … I grieve. Not for the concept, but for the experience. Their limbic systems ringing with the same tone as mine; our minds working on the same story, each in her own layer. Our ears open to the same sounds … together. 

I question: do other people want this version of togetherness, that I love? Is this what Natasha means about my expectations staying the same regardless of the environment? That I still want this, or seem to ask for it – when it is not possible. When it is not appropriate. 

This is part of what I was writing to Holly: no one is with me there, so I am constantly reminded to be with myself. A boundary I might never have noticed in my old work, where people are working and willing to be with. But. The height of a good yoga class, or afternoon in Nature with the kids, or marching chat with a friend, or meditation, or a good book, or even the grind of trying to make these fleshy feelings find their place on the page – is FLOW. Growth toward being in the correspondence between intention and communication, awareness and action. 

No one waiting for it to be over. 

Renee says now is a time to open the doors to the little room where I have planned my future, and air out the dusty assumptions that I learned to breathe when I was small. Imagine the world from here – from where you are now and what you know – what your children know – about what is possible. That means imagine from the center of a growing city. And I am resisting that with every breath. 

Where else could I be more radical? Why must everything get thrown to the wind at once? I still feel that resistant, resilient duality. And yet even as I try to name it, I undercut my thoughts. Privilege is blind by its nature. Is it true that I only perceive my choices?

I ask myself to be brave, and am ashamed by the idea of not being brave enough. Of course these go hand in hand.


Published by Devon Riley

lately: youth work, parenting, sorcery, books, walks in the woods

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