I call them my mountains because I was born in their shadow –
hiking in the Blue Ridge feels like going home.
To visit my mountains is to awaken the part of me
that will always belong to the rolling Appalachian foothills.
Give me a cup of coffee in a sleepy Virginia town,
the sound of running water mixed with wind high up in the trees,
and wildflowers dotting the landscape with yellow, purple and orange,
and I will remember the joy that comes from sun-dried sweat on a tan back,
slippery rocks and furry moss on bare feet,
and nothing to do but talk and sing with each other to pass the time.
I left home by following the mountains rise –
climbing in elevation through the Appalachians toward the sea.
To see me in the city is to realize the part of me
that will always long to do good.
But although I have found the beauty in this energetic cityscape,
among the many different sounds and sights and smells mixing into one,
I still sigh in relief when I can hear the cicadas through my window at night,
and miss the people I know are sitting on a porch swing under my mountains,
letting the steady rhythm give the night extra life,
as they are content to simply stare up at the stars instead of pass judgements.
I wonder now if it’s time again to uproot.
I got a taste for starting over on my first trip out West –
winding through the Rockies that were higher than I could have imagined.
To drive me through those mountain passes is to excite the part of me
that will always equate this terrain with home.
Give me a cold beer in the backseat of a car on a cloudless night,
the smell of a campfire leaving ashes on my face and in my hair,
and even a group of friendly strangers who I have only just met,
and I will feel the peace that comes from the crackle of burning twigs,
wet grass under a flanneled back,
and nothing to worry over because there is nothing but uncounted time.
I got a taste for moving forward on my journey to the Pacific –
flying over the mountains of Los Angeles County felt like finding home again.
To visit those ranges is to awaken the part of me
that will always mark comfort with valleys and hills.
Because although it is just another energetic cityscape,
with new but not unfamiliar sounds and sights and smells mixing into one,
I still sighed in relief when I spotted those giants in the distance,
and wondered at the people I could know sitting in the shadows of those mountains,
letting the natural backdrop give the city extra life,
and I want to know if I would be more content there if I chose a new home now.
on a sunny thursday morning, walking along the sandy bank of the river
i stopped to watch a small wasp, no larger than the dime in my pocket
dig a hole in the sand
grain by grain
and on a chilly tuesday evening, walking along the spine of the sangre de cristos at sunset
i stopped to watch the hundreds of thousands of bats, each as big as the palm of my hand
fly into the night
one by one
i feel tears sting my eyes and roll slowly down my cheekbones
gathering at my chin
there is no name for what i am feeling
but as if the sun and moon were rising all at once
i can hear each of my fragile perceptions
and i am in awe
not of beauty
not of the color or texture
or rushing river water or sunset
but of purpose
of witnessing the earth do
as it needs to
on a misty friday morning, laying in my sleeping bag in the dewy, grassy meadow
i hear an elk bugle in the distance
as if to greet the morning sun
here, or there
with eyes open, or closed,
i am awake
I can tell you what it means to be a woman today –
bell hooks taught me
the personal is political
maybe I rebel
by staying single
I cut my hair shorter
wear my glasses bigger
and I will get that tattoo
because they tell me not to
I met a man once
with a tattoo
read bell hooks
they tell me a crescent moon
would look trashy
like they actually know the things
that have shaped and changed me:
They started calling her Cocaine Girl.
Hot mess. So sad.
How were you ever friends with her?
How do I explain that she has saved me so many times?
Maybe they have never had to
Quietly admit that what he did was assault
And have “Cocaine Girl” be one of the
Only ones to believe them.
And then there’s my cousin
Who when driving sometimes
Considered crashing into the guardrail
So sincerely that it scared her
And she called me in a panic
Because she was sure it was the medicine
But she needed the medicine
To live with what he did.
Like Walt Whitman
I think I could turn and live with the animals
Because then maybe I would not have to
Be asked to justify
Why I wore a hat
Why I said no to the date
Why I chose that dress
Why I (we)
Women are constantly evolving!
(I used to wear flowery bandanas
Every day to class
Like a hippie would
And my best friend loved it
So I posted our photo
As a testament to female friendship
But then I was asked to justify
Why I was comfortable looking like a lesbian
As if that were a bad thing.)
I just think that
If they listened
They would see
There is more to life
Than relationships and sex,
Ask me about my
What book I am reading
It is like I am an
But I will continue being an
in my heart live ten thousand memories
and ten thousand more, unlived
i can feel them with the rough skin
of my fingertips
smell them in unwashed hair
or hear them on the street as i amble by
sometimes a premonition
often a flashback
i think that my heart’s landscape is green hills
filled with forest ferns and sycamore trees
drinking in the muddy river
there, i run freely
my pace changes
up and down the hills
around and through
i think your shoulder
is one of the hills
of my landscape
my weary mind’s resting place
if only for a moment
but i’ll beg for ten thousand more
i want to be part of
your heart’s landscape
Between my desire for adventure
and my fear of the unknown.
Between my desire to experience it all
and my fear of what I do not understand.
It is true that I have become bolder as I have aged,
but it is also true that I have become fonder of standing still.
Is it my destiny
To be always
Forty-nine names of forty-nine lives lost.
I am not courageous.
As we stand here burning candles in the dark
I know that courage is refusing to let fear overtake you.
I think that I am not courageous because
I am hyper aware that at any moment
in this little town between the mountains
we could be shot for celebrating love.
I am letting the fear consume me.
I wonder, could I ever have been courageous enough
to come out as my true self, had I been born
slightly further on the spectrum?
And what about now, after the massacre?
The safe spaces are gone
but my friends vow to reclaim them
and all I can do is cry for the loss
and weep in awe of their courage.
from where I sit
i can see the foothills
rising to rocky, snow-covered peaks
the hills, stretching in every direction,
are covered in
neat rows of houses, mansions
earth moved and
to house refrigerated air and
and clean windows
and if i close my eyes, i can imagine
or clothed in
pine forest and grass prairie
antelope and deer
turkey and mountain lion
at night, driving along the hills
a deer comes into view, grazing on the roadside
struck by the headlights, frozen
mentally, i capture this image
finding it so strange and meaningful
i recall the childhood game i played
“find what does not belong”
and i ask myself,
is it the deer that does not belong on the asphalt, under the streetlight, among the rows and rows of houses, unending?
is it me, in this car, riding along the carcass of the alpine meadow, among the skeletons of trees resurrected as towering houses
taking up space
taking away space
from where it belongs?
from where i sit
behind the glass window
on the second floor of a
house on top of a hill
overlooking the meadow rising to the
rocky, snow-covered peaks
i am struck
not by the beauty of the landscape
but by its scarring
and my own hands