Category: Breaststroke

Island of Madness

“A woman carries her inner life–lugs it around or holds it in like fumes that both poison and bless her–while nourishing another’s inner life, many others actually, while never revealing too much madness, or, possibly, never revealing where she stores it: her island of lost mind. Every woman has one. And every woman grins when the question is asked, “what three items would you bring to a desert island?” Because every woman’s been, by this time, half living there.” 

This passage is from a book called Too Much and Not the Mood, by Durga Chew-Bose. I read it first on a Chicago bus on my way to work when I worked at the marketing agency sewing canvas bags. This is from the first essay in the book, which is altogether captivating. This passage grabbed me enough to make me stop reading and pull out my phone right away on the bus to copy it down into my notes app, and then copy and paste and send it swiftly to Jessie, who responded with something like, “YES.”

The island of lost mind. I’ve taken recently to streamlining it to “island of madness,” which is the same but different. I must have misremembered the phrase at some point and let the misremembered version stick. Or I let the “never revealing too much madness” seep in. At any rate, I understood exactly what the author meant. You’ll find me there, on my island of lost mind, of madness, at least half the time. I’m there right now, hormonal me, giant full moon above and menstruating and not afraid to tell you that, here today, because why not since we are all here together talking about my secret island — not so secret anymore or probably ever. It’s always strange when, every four weeks, I have to write an essay on a Sunday night that is right in the midst of a huge hormonal upswing, something vastly out of my control, that is so arresting for my whole body as well as my mind and soul that it sends me packing, riding a dinghy out to the island, relieved once I’ve gotten there where it’s warm and I can stretch out for a bit in the quiet and not be asked any questions except for the ones that lap at the shore like waves without my being able to stop them. Every four weeks I spend my whole Sunday feeling like I have nothing to write about, because I don’t, and then I show up to write and I write something that feels to me like it is so deliciously mad that I have to just impulsively send it out into the ocean like a message in a bottle. I am so delighted in those moments to be so utterly alone on the island in myself. Delighted and bewildered — fully aware that the dinghy won’t come back to pick me up again until the captain brings it back. Good thing I brought snacks: corn flakes.

I think I probably reveal my madness — but I think it is true that I keep it in a remote part of me. The island. I send postcards, but I never invite anyone to join me there, not even Isaiah, though sometimes it seems like he swoops over in a low-flying plane, perhaps to investigate or maybe even to scoop me up. My inner life is mine. I own it. It is precious to me, warm heat at the center, sometimes heavy and sore. On my island, I curl up in my inner life, let it unfold around me. I slip my arms into it, a coat, and walk around. I dance, I twirl, I kick around the sand. I swim for hours, remembering. It beats quicker and harder than my heart. It’s a tremulous and terrible thing, often kept sort of locked up for safe keeping, kept at the center of the crystal castle where God is also, hard to get to, remote. Except when I’m on the island, which is remote too, so all is well. All of me, remote at once. Hard to get to. Far away. Apt to jump up and down or snap or shout or close my eyes and breathe deep.

Hello! Hello from my island! The weather is sometimes stormy and sometimes clear, and I am fine with either since I have fantastic shelters I have built, full of quilts, piles and piles of them, the ones I make in my mind.

How’s the weather where you are?

I’ve been sewing all day, nautical signal flags. I’m tired — exhausted — and I wish I had another whole weekend in which to sleep, mostly, and read and think and spend a while longer on my island. The dinghy is coming back for me, I know it. That’s what Mondays are all about, the long dinghy ride back to wherever. You don’t get to stay on your island when you have to do such pedestrian tasks as going to work or talking to people who expect you to act normal. Sometimes I manage to talk to people while I’m on my island, which I’m sure is stranger for them than for me. For me, it feels like playing telephone, the kind with a tin can pressed to my ear and someone far away on the other end, sort of fantastically garbled. For them, it must feel like talking to someone either very distracted or very boring. I am sure I am both when I am on my island of madness. It’s awkward when I’m on my island and also in public, but I try to handle it gracefully. I keep quiet and watchful, try not to make any waves like the ones I stand in. I make it work, I come back slow, summon the dinghy, sail home without a fuss. Or stubbornly dig my heels into the sand, tie myself to a tree. I can’t really plan ahead or expect what I will do, it all unfolds so smoothly, gut-forward, propelling the fan-boat through the everglades toward the island or back home again.

I can do what I have to do. I can set my inner life aside for a while — lug it around and hold it in, and goodness knows let it bless me. I can leave it on the island, safe, till I come back again, get lost in the jungle, talk on the telephone with my sister and try to tell her what I know, make something to eat, slip on my inner life, silk lining slipping across my skin. Pure silk, dyed with indigo and madder root, painted with root systems and petals.

Hello from my island of madness! This via airmail, carried to you by a bird with much plumage. I’ve done so many things here, thought so many thoughts that I may never tell you about, or maybe I will. I’m productive on my island, and I dream the sorts of dreams that take years to unfold, I worry the sorts of worries that have flaky layers like a croissant, I imagine what I would wear to x, y, z and then wear it a while on the island, feeling so very beautiful. I carry every sort of writing utensil and coloring marker in my bag while I tromp and dance, stopping to mark something down for later. I shout to and at Isaiah in his low-flying plane, shaking my fists and then doing funny dances, singing songs that he might like. I catapult up a piece of toast with jam for him to eat if he wants. He catches it in his fist out the window. I throw a fit, I weep a while, I take long showers where I stand perfectly still. I work, hard. I close my eyes. I smile.

Hello from my island of madness. Thank you for reading what I write. I write a lot on the island, it’s where I keep most of my thoughts, the real ones anyway. Hello. Hello. Do you see me waving my arms!? That tiny speck, it’s me! Hello! I’ll be back soon, don’t worry too much.

Here’s to all the half-crazy women. I know how to live on the island, and by now I have learned, too, how to come back.

{P.S. If you’d like to order a set of hand-made-by-me nautical signal flags like the ones so masterfully spoken of in this essay by Merrit Tierce, and like I wrote about before and have been talking about nonstop pretty much ever since, send me an email ASAP at to ensure pre-Christmas delivery. I’m making them as fast as I can because I want folks to be able to own them and use them and love them like I love them. Signal flags to say how it is from your island to someone else’s, two ships in the night. Trying to say what we mean with what little we have, some flags, our storm-tossed bodies, our hands. When you email me, I’ll send you back a long list of fantastic phrases like “All well,” or “I will carry a light,” or “Weather is good,” or “The whole body is affected,” and you can choose what phrase-set of flags you’d like to wave. Only $20-$30 per set. I’ll be making them after Christmas as well, so no hurry if you’d like some flags for yourself. No better way to communicate how it is on the island today, how far away it feels from everything else, how much you want to say with so few ways to say it. It’s all connected, ourselves and our strange journeys within our own selves and our strange journeys to and away from each other.  Email me and I’ll come back from my island and I can make you some flags and we can talk all about it. “I am dazzled by your searchlight!”}

Clothed with the Sun

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” (Rev 12:1)

This, from the most mystical book of the Bible. This, returning to my mind day after day after day. A woman clothed with the sun, a woman clothed with the sun, a woman clothed with the sun. 

Earlier this past week, as I was returning to Chicago en route to Thanksgiving in Indiana, Jessie and I together found ourselves at the mall. We were there to fulfill a necessary errand but also we really like the mall sometimes. By and by, we went to Madewell. Oh, our hearts! Oh, our tender hearts! The problem with Madewell, silly silly Madewell, is that it ignites all of the envy and discontent our small bodies can hold. The problem with Madewell is that we like almost everything we see there, and we cannot afford even, really, a pair of socks. We walked through the store fairly briefly, allowing ourselves to touch and consider only a few things, looking at each other with bewildered, crestfallen expressions, basically speechless, retreating before our hearts wept too openly. We left feeling way more off-kilter than when we walked in. Full of hope, perhaps? That’s too generous. The feeling was  much closer to dread. It’s a feeling I’ve felt before, many times, while shopping at shopping malls or window shopping online. That vague, deep, confusing blueness, that dread. Why is it so hard? We laugh off this kind of sadness, this kind of confusion, but it’s a serious thing, I think. What is that melancholy I feel at the mall? That true sorrow? Seeing so many truly beautiful things, clothes that would look good on my body, whole other lives I could live if only, if only. It’s light, yes, just shopping, no big deal. But it’s also heavy. I feel this light thing heavily. Heavy for so many of us. We are young and poor, and yet everything tries to tell us to strive for the life we could buy with more money. We all know that this is a problem. We all, all of us, have this problem. But it eats at our hearts a little bit. We participate in it without even trying to. We go to the mall, even so! 

My clothes affect me deeply. Getting dressed is almost always fraught, almost always involves all of my feelings and senses. I am almost never satisfied with my closet, with what I own. I want my clothes to be as magnificent as my heart, I want my outward appearance to match my inward depths, I want to only be in the world in the fullness of myself. But we are so restricted by what we own, what is possible, what the day holds. I get so stuck in my days, so I get confused about what to wear. Because we talk about most everything, Jessie and I have talked about this before, finding common ground on two fronts: 1. That we almost always hate what we put on in the morning by the middle of the day, and 2. That we often find ourselves in seasons of wearing almost the exact same thing every day. Because nothing else will even remotely do. 

I’ve been having a hard time at my new job for a couple of reasons, and I think I’ve identified one of the biggest problems. I work in an active kitchen; I have to wear t-shirts every day. I get dressed in the morning and I have no space, really, to choose. I have to put on a clean t-shirt in some array of terrible bright cheap-cotton-knit colors and the same food-splattered jeans as the day before. I feel gross before I’ve even walked into work, a shadow of myself, someone else entirely. This wears on me. It shouldn’t affect me so deeply, probably, but it does.  I knew it would be a problem for my heart the minute my boss mentioned a loose dress code, the moment I realized that working in a kitchen restricted my clothing options. I knew it would be a problem, and it has been. 

It feels so silly that I’m troubled by the fact that I have to wear t-shirts to work. That I look at my closet full of clothes and still sigh with discontent. That I even walk into Madewell in the first place and look, outwardly, like I belong there. Such privilege! Such frivolity! I critique myself for my own feelings, I judge the things that catch my heart. I tell myself, “get over it!” But when the funk doesn’t pass, when the feeling comes every day, the shame I wear, for some reason, with the t-shirt, it becomes worth thinking about a little more deeply. This won’t go away, I guess. I have to wear clothes. This is something I have to reckon with and continue to reckon with day after day after day. 

This is something I want to pay attention to. 

Late in my college years, I almost completely stopped buying clothes from normal retail stores because it was too expensive and because I found that I liked thrift shopping much better – the challenge of it appealed to me. Since college, I have made “no new clothes” my standard, with just a few exceptions (#underwear), because shopping at thrift stores and making my own clothes is better for me in every way. Better for the earth, better for other humans, better for my heart, better for my creativity, better for my bank account. I’m proud of myself for keeping this up, and also astonished at how acutely weird I feel at places like Madewell. How deep the want is, how deep the roots of consumerism grow in me. How do I undo these things? How do I rewire my brain to be content with what I have, to wear things because they are beautiful and comfortable and hurt no one and nothing else? I work really hard at thrift shopping, keeping my high standards, searching the racks for natural fibers, paying close attention to fit and quality and wear, mending or altering what is torn or amiss. I am proud of the wardrobe I have created with almost entirely secondhand pieces, and yet. And yet. I still frown at my closet, I still want to change after half a day, I still yearn, I still feel microscopic in a room of beautiful new clothes. 

I don’t want to feel like that anymore. I refuse, or am beginning to refuse, that feeling I felt in Madewell. Extreme as it sounds, I think I need to make some decisions, even more strongly, more intentionally, about what I will and will not wear. If my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and I believe that it is, then my clothes should reflect that. My clothes should be clothes of joy, not clothes of confusion or sorrow. Clothes as vestments, as temple garments. Clothed with the sun. 

Keep reading…

Laps: November 15

7:30a – Wake, in current attempt to wake up at same time every day to combat continual lethargy.  Allow myself one snooze on timer before opening flurry of texts sent by my mother from previous evening.

7:39a – Hop out of bed.  Take my hair out from braid in light of bathroom mirror.  Marvel at cleanliness of own hair, marvel at how it falls just so when on so many days it doesn’t.  Toss it this way.  Toss it that.

7:44a – Make breakfast of sausage and eggs.  Realize sausage has gone bad and I failed to cook eggs fully, because all things are inherently imperfect and I am unable to contribute anything otherwise at times. Throw out rotten breakfast.  Make toast instead, which is what I wanted all along.

8:07a – Read today’s allotted Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner.  Kelly texts me moments after I finish with picture of same passage.  Feel warm knowing we are waking up and reading same thing, far away as we are from each other.

8:14a – Read section from one of five scenes that needs memorizing for Chekhov class.  Am pleasantly surprised that I know some of it.  Read it again.  Try to let it just be words and not all feelings that accompany it.  “Where is it? Where did it all go?”

8: 42a – Finish up writing Just the Facts. Am shocked that it’s second hour of day and have managed to not fall behind.  Enjoy watching Bruce Springsteen music video at 9am, and that it’s thing I get to do.

10a – Begin freelance publishing work.  Spend whole hour wishing I was packing up my car to head out on more exciting part of day. Remind self of bank account in order to rally.

11a – Put on makeup to sounds of Leon Bridges.  Enjoy taking my time to do so.  Locate sample of Smashbox Primer that really is as miraculous as advertised.

11:33a – Pack up various outfits for film shoot per Annie’s instruction. Pack bag, pack up Annie’s stuff left at apartment from overnight stay, pick up check from Boss #3 from mailbox downstairs.  Walk 3 blocks to where car is parked because it’s what I have to do on Tuesday nights.

12:04p – Head to first Kohl’s.  Listen to Showstopper podcast, because it is my ideal job.  Enter Kohl’s for first shopping trip for Boss #1.  Uneventful, but notice how much fun I have doing this particular job, which is objectively absurd.

1:12p – Put in second Kohl’s address in Google Maps.  En route, am arrested by sounds of Dog Days Are Over playing from radio.  Am always struck afresh by jubilance of said song. “Happiness hit her like a bullet in the back.” Have known that feeling.  Is miraculous.

1:17p – Stop at gas station because it’s right there and, well, I need gas. Head inside to maybe grab bottle of water, but store portion is roughly 20 square feet and has no water bottles, only bottled Starbucks frappes.  Finish pumping.  Back en route.

1: 32p – Enter second Kohl’s.  As I search for cart, old man working at register calls across foyer to me, “Welcome back!”, even though I have never set foot in here before.  He is in middle of transaction with other customer, but follows up with, “You light up the whole room!” which is arresting both in loveliness and unexpectedness.  Simply smile back in wonder.

1:37p – Am accosted by two old women in toy section, who ask me what appropriate clothing size is for 3-year old male toddler.  They clearly are aware that I don’t work here as I have cart, but ask me with full confidence as if I know answer.  I don’t.

2:22p – After locating what I came for, get in line.  Am helped by woman named Raj, who insists my coupons aren’t real but scans them anyway.  Look at her nametag and see that she has been working here since 2006.  Ask her where good place nearby is to get cup of coffee.  She conspiratorially tells me Whole Foods is nearby.  Best news.  Coupon kerfuffle forgotten in wake of coffee camaraderie.

2:34p – Head to Whole Foods.  Hear Whatever You Like on radio.  Love radio version, because actual version makes me blush.  Am hopeful to be subject of hip hop song at some point in life.  Am doubtful.  Wonder how many songs are written from experience versus wished experience.

2:38p – Arrive at Whole Foods. Have exactly 20 minutes before needing to leave for call time on set.  Head in, in search of Nitrobrew.  Am stalled by Califia Farms stand with Peppermint Mocha cold brew, which I promptly decide to buy on way out (and subsequently marvel at complete lack of self control that always comes over me at Whole Foods).  Find coffee stand.  Am directed to refrigerator. Locate Nitrobrew.  Pretend to have debate with self over absurd cost of coffee (exacerbated by fact that favorite cup of coffee is found at Fresh Market for literally fifth of price) all while knowing I will of course buy it because I came here for it and I feel slightly glamorous at prospect of going to film set.  Stop by cookie table, which I also never let myself do.  Pick up mysterious cookie that looks beautiful.  Make purchases. Head to car.

Keep reading…

From the Notebook: Land Gap

[Amy in the passenger seat of a blue car, with Isaiah driving and three people from their HoneyRock Fellows cohort asleep in the back. The soundtrack from The Big Chill playing on a bluetooth speaker propped up against the dashboard, since the car is borrowed from camp and only has a cd player. Driving away from Wheaton, after a short weekend visit to officially learn more about Wheaton’s grad programs, and unofficially to visit all of the people and feel all of the feelings. Writing with a wobbly cursive in journal because computer is dead, trying, desperately, to figure out what to write about for the blog tonight, getting it all, everything from the weekend, out of head and onto page, realizing half-way through that maybe the writing was already happening. Rain on the dashboard, so cliche, so fitting. Husband beside, nothing necessarily right with the world – in between two places, really just nowhere. Life caught in a land gap, making a home there, making it beautiful, letting even the traveling feel a little like standing still.]


Is it possible to live in two places at once? Still so loved by people in Wheaton, but living, really, in Wisconsin. Where does that put me?


New dansko clog mary janes, thrifted across from apartments I used to live in but don’t anymore?
The rain?
How joyful it is to get to see children grow?
Measure for Measure?
Women and weakness?
Women and weakness in Shakespeare, specifically?
Land gaps? Land Gap Junction? Prof. Samuelson and everything she did for me without even meaning to at all?
All the things Jessie and I talked about in the Jewel Osco parking lot under the moon on Thursday night–things I can’t even remember now?
Walking down Michigan Avenue, feeling the most like a city girl I’ve ever felt?
That perfect cappuccino?
The Rainbow Connection?
Mechtild of Magdeburg?
Lincoln Park?
The land?
An ode to Blackberry Market?!
An ode to Trader Joes?!
How handsome Isaiah looks in his new thrifted red sweatshirt?
“In the middle”?
“Despite my best efforts”?
Female saints – the way they speak / write?
“May what I do flow from me like a river” – that Rilke poem?
How it feels to know how to navigate in a place, though you don’t live there anymore?
The Joan Didion documentary I watched on Netflix?
That tug in my gut I felt when we drove past my old office building?
How The Big Chill has probably the best movie soundtrack ever?
Land gaps – a lot like driving between places and being no where.
Where do we bend?
Seeing people who love me and still feeling loved by them even though I don’t live near?
Competent traveler / helpless traveler?
How my sister and I are so the same and so different?
Vivian Maier’s photographs?
How nice it feels to sit in the passenger seat with Isaiah driving?
How nice it feels to be with people who can take my incoherent answer to the question, “how are you?” and know exactly what I mean amidst my rambling?
Mark’s November marble?
Workout – standing in the window?
The tree, gone?
How much I like knitting?
How very many quilt ideas I have?
Chef’s Table: France?
Watching snatches of The Sound of Music with five-year-old Charlotte, watching her dance like I used to dance in front of the television?
That perfect ochre suit Julie Andrews wears in the film when she and the captain return from their honeymoon?
The confusion I feel about whether I really want to live in Wheaton or if I really don’t or how it doesn’t matter at all right now because I live in Wisconsin and will for a while, probably?
How much I hate “probably”?
How much Charlotte loves “probably”?
How I just dang miss Chicago, like I knew I would?
How we almost slid into a ditch on our way out of Three Lakes Thursday morning?
About angels? Annunciations? Advent?
How I want to try screen printing?
What I want for Christmas?
How much I LOVE Christmas?
Wisdom, feminine / Proverbs 8?
How I inexplicably also miss New York?
How I think I’m going to re-attempt a Tartine sourdough starter, ASAP?
A gift guide? Too silly?
About Mary?
How inter-generational relationships are actually possible?
How sometimes things really are special? How things don’t actually end?
How I’m glad we didn’t go near our old apartment this time?
Jesus, in the present?
How I’m so bad at being in the present?
Something about divine appointments?
Sitting with Jessie in Mark’s office? The rocking chairs?
How I REALLY need to make more clothes for myself but I just don’t have time?
Should I run a church some day?
It’s the greatest story ever told?!
How annoying it is that my phone is ALWAYS out of storage because I take so many pictures?
How I feel like I’m floating in time, moving quickly, never really on the ground?


Write about all of it, forever, right now.

Laps: October 16, Move-in-Day Edition

4:07a – Wake on Margaret’s floor, third time this morning.  Sleeping bag has twisted and turned accordingly with me.  Hear restaurateurs  below still bellowing inarticulably about someone having left cell phone.  Must be important cell phone.  See Emma is awake too, on couch.  Twist and turn in sleeping bag.  Unzip.  Zip.

6:20a – Wake for real.  Scurry to collectively reassemble Margaret’s apartment as she prepares to leave to mold young minds of northwestern Chicago suburbs.  Stuff sleeping bag imperfectly into bag from whence it came.  Shuffle out, one, two, three.  Cold morning air, coloring sunrise I rarely am awake early enough to see.

6:46a – En route to new apartment, hopeful that electricity has been turned on therein re: sleeping on Margaret’s floor.  Call mother via bluetooth.  Ask her to pray with me, after some incoherent sleep-sad babble.  She tells me to take three deep breaths – why do I always forget?  Reminds me of inherent adventure in all unexpected things.  Prays.  Tells me we’ll talk later.

7: 01a – Park outside apartment.  Approach stranger on street to make sense of unclear parking restrictions posted on sign above my car.  At first she is cautious, then extremely helpful.  Assures me I will be fine to park there for next two hours.  Enter apartment with Emma; electricity is in fact still not on.  She must depart to nanny; I set my alarm for 8:45 and nap until I can call landlady and must move car.

9:00a – Call landlady re: electricity.  This is our first time speaking on phone, or at all.  Tells me she is in ComEd lobby, championing our cause.  Assures me she will keep me posted and figure it out.

9:06a – Back in car.  Having not obtained Oak Park parking pass yet, must fill hour before 10a before another spot becomes parkable, due to strange “no parking between 8-10am” restriction that populates streets surrounding my apartment.  Head to gas station 3 minutes away; obtain gas, water bottles, all within 4 minutes.  Yelp nearby cafes, that I might fill my belly with oats and coffee.  Head to said cafe.  Waitress asks for my order; am indecisive about oatmeal, even though it’s what I came for.  She is perplexed by perplexing would-be-oatmeal-patron in front of her.  We figure it out.  She brings me oatmeal and coffee while I think of all strange time pockets such as this one, in-between hours we must fill while we wait for parking spots and electricity.

9:56a – Depart for apartment.  Arrive.  Momentarily consider getting back in bed.  Do so briefly, only to pop back up and begin walking through apartment to pray over it.  Begin crying, obviously.  Continue emotional praying for approximately 10 minutes.  Think of centuries of emotional prayers God has been on receiving end of.  Bless these walls, please.  Bless this decision.  Bless him.  Bless her.  Bless me anyway.

10:22a – Receive call from co-landlady, detailing required information for setting up ComEd account.  This is our first time speaking on phone, or at all.  Upon hearing my questions, tells me they are good ones, tells me she is a mother and wants to help me.  Am assured required information for setting up Nicor account is forthcoming.

10:37a – Call ComEd.  Set up account.  Am assured electricity will be up and running no later than end of next business day.

11:03a – Receive second call from co-landlady, featuring required information for setting up Nicor account.

11:12a – Call Nicor.  Set up account.  Am assured gas is up and running immediately.

12:24p – Call Mom again, in which we have mutual epiphanies and I go on one of my long rants that insists everything is about everything.  Cry again.  Remind self it is okay when there are days where you have already cried three times by twelve o clock, that tears are often weather simply passing through.  “No feeling is final.” Mother responds to said rant with interjections of knowledge and peace, as mothers are wont to do.  Lets me say all things I want to say before doing so.  Depart feeling understood, always singular gift.

“Fear not,” said he, for mighty dread / had seized their troubled minds / “glad tidings of great joy I bring / to you and all mankind”

Keep reading…

Haikus from the Road, Pt. II


It’s only fun to

sing in front of people you

don’t think are assholes


Los Angeles

“I want to live here”

on repeat, a reminder

of my million lives


Salinas / John Steinbeck

It was just his house

when he lived here; no strangers

taking self portraits


On Seeing Michael from The Princess Diaries in Person

He’s shorter than I

thought; no matter. One degree

closer to Nic Cage.

Keep reading…

Laps, September 10

Wake at 6, press snooze till 6:30. Isaiah still asleep beside me. Crawl out of bed and into leggings, fleece, green socks, and wool scarf.

Grab yoga mat and step outside, 40 degrees. See a deer in the grass in front of the chapel, and two more thirty more feet away. Lock eyes with the deer and keep walking, hoping that she won’t run away. She starts a little, but doesn’t flee. She keeps grazing, I keep walking. Symbiosis.

Camp is quiet. I walk on meandering gravel to the sailing dock instead of the more large and obvious swimming dock, hoping for morning privacy. I arrive and unroll my mat. Not a soul in sight.

All quiet except water lapping on the pontoon boat lift beside the dock, a metal/water sound. I face south, toward the swimming dock, Does Acres, Three Lakes, Chicago, Texas, Antarctica, other southern things.

I have terrible period cramps, so I don’t move much. I sit cross-legged on the yoga mat. My mind is mostly empty. I breathe. I feel cold. I recite Psalm 23 in my head a few times in a row. I resolve to memorize more psalms. I stretch out my legs and bend a bit. Moving my body feels bad today, so I mostly don’t move. I mostly look at the horizon and breathe and think without thinking.

I walk back home by the lagoon, taking probably the most mud-prone route possible. I step carefully and remove my shoes before coming inside.

Yoga mat, sailing dock, six am.

Isaiah wakes slowly. I open the blinds. I put on George Winston’s Autumn, as I have every morning this week. I try to figure out which clothes feel suitable for a camp church service I’ll be singing for later. I choose a nice white linen blouse and black jeans, throwing a navy sweater on top at the last minute since it hasn’t warmed up yet outside.

Keep reading…

Haikus from the Road


To be honest, it

was three days ago, so I

remember nothing

Grand Canyon

On LeBron James’ court,

the Grand Canyon is merely

the world’s biggest hoop



Las Vegas, i

The same rules apply

to black jack, love, family –

the house always wins.

4 Nosebleeds, 3 Days

These aren’t my sheets – how

do I tell Airbnb

the air’s just too dry?

Keep reading…


I am sitting in the morning in my new tiny one-room apartment. Isaiah is still sleeping, and I am stealing WIFI from the library across the way at the summer camp where we now live. Out the window, all I see are trees, and, just barely, the lake. Long Lake, to be exact, where loons call and disappear.

The corner of the room I sit in is just barely starting to come together. Isaiah and I tried various configurations for my sewing corner, maneuvering my desk and a set of shelves that came with the apartment this way and that until we settled on a sort of “L” shape with a floor lamp at the hinge, the top of the shelf bare for either ironing or rotary cutting or stealing wifi because this little corner is basically the outer limit of how far it extends. I just tested its strength by attempting to download a podcast on my phone. Oh, sweet victory.

(I’m a little ashamed of how high a priority wifi is for me in life, but these are the times in which we live!)

One side of my still-present wisdom teeth is swollen, bottom right, some pink puff around the impacted tooth, reminding me that I still have to figure out how to get them out ASAP, reminding me that this is the last thing in the world I want to do right now. On my computer, all the other tabs are for new cell-phone plans, because apparently since we got to the woods we’ve been “roaming” (no kidding!), plus a tab for the new sewing machine I intend to buy once the dust of my life settles. If the dust of my life settles.

Isaiah and I are both exhausted, and I am and have been in a state of yearning, yearning, for a normal day, whatever that is. All of these days have been so un-normal, so I feel un-normal too, like I can’t feel confident that I’ll act in the ways I would hope I that I’d act in any given situation. We’ve already been locked out of our apartment, leaving Isaiah to climb up to the balcony Rapunzel-style right as one of our new cohorts walked up to meet us for the first time. We also had what felt like the world’s smallest U-Haul, which, even when packed to the brims, wouldn’t fit all of our things. Alas, two trips. Chicago to Wisconsin to Chicago to Wisconsin again, with a little bit of fun Chicago food thrown in the mix to make it all feel just a smidge more worth it. Us and our covered wagon flipping between the big woods and the prairie, everything we own carried on our backs practically. I’ve thown away more in the past week than I have in the past two years. I’ve made 1,000 choices. I’m sitting in a one-room treehouse apartment with a sleeping husband and stolen wifi with all the rest of my dearest friends quite far away indeed, and the change feels acute.

I’m amazed by what we’ve fit in this apartment, a studio where a quarter of the meager square-footage is stolen by a very spacially-unaware bathroom. It’s tiny. In a sort of unprecedented way, I think, for the culture of the camp here, we brought all of our own things and furniture with us in the move, forgoing the convenient “furnished” apartment that is the norm. I intend to live here, really live, and to do that I felt that I needed my things. Is that crazy? Two years of marriage plus a wedding registry have made Isaiah and I the owners of quite a bit of stuff, really lovely stuff that feels intrinsically important. Like our life together has been a giant hope chest and I can’t bear to let any of it slip away. This desk, that chair, our marriage bed, the table we bought on Craigslist. I couldn’t leave them behind. So they came with us. We took two trips. We filled the covered wagon and then we filled it again, and then we filled our tiny apartment with our life, past and ongoing. I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, but it’s what we did. I’m letting myself remember that things matter, physical objects, that comfort and joy are real. I’m also letting myself remember the folks whose precious life-objects are floating in Houston or left behind in Syria. I’m remembering that too, and I’m even more thankful for this treehouse filled with love.

The woods are deep and thick, flanking both sides of the road for the last two hours of our journey, unrelentingly. These are the big woods, the same ones the Ingalls’ lived in throughout Little House in the Big Woods. I, as a lifelong lover of Laura Ingalls Wilder, am thrilled by this fact and the way it makes me feel connected to years and years of America in a way that other places don’t. I am romantically pulled to the homesteaders, to the loggers, to the folks who built small wood cabins somewhere in the woods, making their way among the bears and the deer and the rabbits. These woods are now mine too, a thing I’ve never been able to claim before as a child of the suburbs and an adult of the city. It’s a thing I’ve been longing for for a long time, perhaps forever. Some trees, some wild places, a small home in the midst of it, places to walk and be very alone, thick beauty and quiet. We will see if the living of it is as nice as the imagining of it. We will see what it really feels like to walk in woods that sort of almost belong to you or no one.

With the stolen wifi, I’m listening to George Winston’s Autumn, which I used to dance to as a child in my living room in Pennsylvania, making up entire story-ballets as I went. A child left alone in the woods, my mother’s empty brass candleholder as my only prop, looking for a home. Waking up, wandering, travelling, dancing. I didn’t remember that this was the story I repeated over and over until I started typing it just now, memory fueled by the memory of the candleholder. Heavy, brass, with a little loop for a finger to slip through. I consider myself an unreliable narrator with a terrible memory. Most of my childhood sits under a heavy fog that only parts intermittently. But this, I am sure of, the forest ballets. Here I am again, twenty-four, repeating the ballets of my childhood. Here I am again, brass candlestick in hand, listening to George Winson and wandering the woods, looking for home. Everything is connected, our lives making so many switchbacks, crossing where we least expect them to.

I’m so sentimental! Probably because of the big move, the exhaustion, the packing and unpacking of a 5×8′ U-Haul TWICE, the picking where everything should go, the tiny-ness of the space. Just barely starting to breathe, just barely starting to believe in normal again, just barely starting to feel everything and consider it up against everything else. So surreal when life really changes, when you change what state you live in, literally and figuratively, when the people you saw every day or every week will now be the people you see, blessedly, sometimes. Three months from now, I’ll be so entrenched in this place, in normal days. Right now, I’m marking the change. I’m letting myself feel it when I do. I’m looking at my plants on a new windowsill, my husband in the same bed on a new carpet, my feet on new land. I intend to dance in these woods.



Laps: August 30

8a – Wake.  Hear alarm going off from phone hidden in sock drawer (to keep electromagnetic waves at bay). Set alarm last night with intention of waddling down to pool to swim laps.  Listen closely.  Hear no one else’s alarms going off in house.  Take it as sign to forego athleticism and instead pull laptop up from floor to begin writing before inevitable madness of wakefulness ensues.

8:27a – Hear knock on front door followed by several dings of doorbell.  Who could it be? Hear voice of mother’s best friend Jenni (mother of my best friend Sav) announcing herself.  Quickly inform her no one besides me and stepfather are awake.  Decide to go jump on mother’s bed to change that.

8:47a – All thoughts of pool are abandoned in lieu of going out to breakfast.  Stepfather leaves to go play hockey, in his grumpy way, clearly crestfallen to not be eating meal with 4 loud women.

9:12a – Arrive at Wild Eggs.  Read menu; why bother? Only ever get same thing here.  Waitress named Angela, making me think of all those songs guy in Lumineers writes.  Everyone drinks cups and cups of coffee, but clearly all 4 of us will be tired all day due to limited amounts of sleep and too many things to do.  Laugh anyway.  Revel in general perfection of bread.

10:26a – Arrive at hockey rink to watch Tom play.  Bek keeps saying guy in grey jersey is making eyes at me which is silly but still nice of her to say.  Shiver intermittently.  Wonder if I will ever be able to remain upright on skates.  Notice there is only one woman playing in rec league.  You go, girl.

11:34a – Facetime Sav; wish she was here.

11:42a – Jenni drops us off at home where we all play cards as stale air of sadness re: imminent departure settles slightly.  Sav reveals she will drive requisite 2.5 hours south to see us because even strongest people succumb to FOMO.  Songs of jubilee commence.

1:07p – Bek absconds to her room after Jenni leaves; I throw in laundry so I can say I’ve started packing though I know it won’t happen til tomorrow morning.  Mom pitters around in basement.  Sav calls to say she’s on her way; asks if perhaps my sister doesn’t want her last night at home to just be with family.  Tell her it’s probably fine, and both agree she can just read book if otherwise.  Hang up phone.  20 seconds later, she calls back.  Bek has texted her in interim, saying she does just want to be with family.  Wander downstairs.  Mom hollers at me to join her in her gift-wrapping room in furthest corner of house.  Tells me confidentially she too would prefer just family.  Wander upstairs.  Bek tells me she texted Sav again and told her to turn around.  Neglect to tell either Mom or Bek what other has said.  Throw on skirt to go to grocery store, having been elected to pick up rolls for dinner and drop off bag of Mom’s things at Goodwill.  Mom comes upstairs; confusion ensues.  Bek starts crying when Mom asks why nobody told her change in plans, and cries more because she hates crying in front of other people.  We are different in this way.  Remember how risky it always is to be needy in front of someone else, even if said person is one you have know your whole life.  Both Mom and Bek still find time amidst crying to tell me my outfit is dowdy and I look like an old lady.  Look in mirror confirms they are in fact correct.  Mom tells Bek to take nap and she stops crying after hugging it out as we solve Great Communication Crisis of 2017.  Attempt to leave house 3 times; am stopped by own forgetfulness and mother’s requests.

Keep reading…