Good news, friends! If you want prints (or a mug, or a phone case, or a duvet cover etc) from one of my paintings, now you can get them! To see the galleries, search my entire name here: https://fineartamerica.com
Here is a poem from my second collection, Steam-Cleaning Love:
I know you are reading this poem
I said to Liz I want to understand the trees
I was speaking of eucalyptus in particular
When I met you I said Hello
You said Maybe it will sound ridiculous
but I pray for rain every day here
On the television I saw a woman
I watched her forearms
how she tried to hold herself together
by pressing her elbows on her knees
her face in her hands
Everything else was a still photograph
the still hush of smoke
You are reading this poem
You are rolling a cigarette, or Sharon is
putting flame against your lips
I meant to ask the names of what grows
I said The vegetation is so different
You said I love thunderstorms
Once I passed a burning house
I was safe but I was scared anyway
I didn’t understand
how loud, how hot, how big
Later a woman interviewed
standing in the rubble said
It’s like being dead then coming back
I’m scared now, I said
You are reading this poem in Berkeley
You said Is it raining?
You can order Steam-Cleaning Love through Brick Books here.
This short fiction Phosphorescence about love, pregnancy and beluga whales from Room Magazine’s Queer issue, now online.
Congrats to the poets on the longlist! I’m delighted to be included with so many talented writers.
Yonder at Autostraddle, where I’m a contributing writer, Casey answered the call. I’m totally smitten with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha’s work, no matter its genre, and I look forward to reading the others here (the antho QDA is already on board). Check out the list here.
South of what is Canada’s southern border, reactionary events are afloat that may, or may not, be brought back from their facist brink by the upcoming mid-term election. Numbers will make or break this day at the polls. There are more progressives than there are retrogressives.
The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. Dr Martin Luther King made this sentence famous and I have thought of it thousands of times in my life, wondering whether, in fact, he was right. Does it? Does it?
In the meantime, this has been a weak and quivering seven days. A domestic terrorist mailed pipe bombs to prominent Dem targets, while another DT shot up a synagogue in Pennsylvania. Two developmentally delayed brothers were killed, and a generous doctor who worked with the first AIDS patients.
I think often of the Holocaust. I was born only ten years afterwards, when people were still counting their losses. Never again, we said. Never again a Holocaust. Never again will we stand by and allow harm to come to Jews. (We did not talk about the slaughtered disabled. We never knew of the murdered LGBT community.) Never again a Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Never again an Internment.
This was my childhood, ducked under my school desk against the fear of nuclear bomb from Cuba: Never forget. These words were bellowed, sung, whispered. Friend to friend. Parent to child. Principal to assembly. Pastor to congregation. And we didn’t forget. We new children who hadn’t been there, we didn’t forget. Our homes were full of the old tendrils of war, the ways our grandparents and parents had been affected, and we didn’t forget.
People who don’t remember their history are doomed to repeat it, said George Santayana, a Spanish poet, and here we are, here we are, at the yawning cusp, at the mouth of the beast, at the bared yellow teeth.
What are we going to do? How are we going to respond? This beast hates us. He’s never met us, but he hates us on a theory.
Ours is a world yearning toward love, I swear it, I swear it. I watch it each day in the coo of the babies I see weekly. I see it when a hummingbird mother brings her two young to sit with her on my round feeder, teaching them about bird and human interaction. I see it when my parrot tucks himself on the side of my glasses and begins to preen and hum, happy in my warmth. I see it when people kneel down and render apologies. I hear it all the time, for my family, both its Caucasian members and its JC members, is a family engaged in social justice. I’m sorry, we say to each other when we’ve erred. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me? Our striving to do better for each other is utterly human. Human and beast, both, adult and child, both, we long for safety, for shelter, for food, for acceptance, for this restoring power of generosity, compassion, empathy, humility, respect and love.
Once, I stood under the railing in Tennessee where Martin Luther King Jr stood as a sniper shot him dead, and I wept. I touched the bed where he had slept, peered from the window to see the path of the assassin’s bullet, and I broke inside, over and over, as I had broken over and over moving through the rigours of the National Civil Rights Museum.
“The arc of the moral universe,” said King, “is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Is it bending toward justice? It is, when transgender rights are protected in Canada. It isn’t, when transgender rights are threatened in the US. It is when the abled world works to fix accessibility issues for the disabled; it isn’t when US police drag protesting disability warriors out of their wheelchairs to arrest them. It is when we host annual Missing and Murdered Women’s Days; it isn’t when again and again white men go free after murdering BIPOC. It is when we get the right to same-sex marriage; it isn’t when homophobia moves underground like a hot spring, and bubbles up to burn us.
The opposition to social justice is fierce now. The blowback isn’t coming. It’s here.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.” – Elie Wiesel
We must interfere.
It was a new thing in TV news in the 60s that we could watch assassinations almost live, so I watched the replay of President Kennedy dying over and over on our scratchy black and white console, and a few years later, I watched Dr King crumple.
All my life, and fiercely for the last 40 years, I’ve fought for social justice through a stretchy and gorgeous feminism. My feminism was never a solid block, but a curious, questing, alive thing. My feminism was always encompassing, and it stretches to encompass even now our foibles, our mistakes, our minor offenses, our sloganeering and academic thought. It fights against violence against womxn and children; it fights racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism. No one can be left out of our fight toward love.
In my justice, no one will be left at the bottom of the stairs looking up.
It’s great to get thoughtful and lengthy reviews of one’s work. Thanks to Casey!
“There’s a lot to revel in in Weekend, just purely from a representation angle. When was the last time you read a queer novel about people in middle age, let alone a novel that has extended sex scenes featuring queer people in their 40s and 50s? Older queers getting it on feels revolutionary in and of itself, but Hamilton also features a character who is disabled and black (Ajax has a heart condition and grew up in the Bahamas), a trans masculine character who uses they pronouns (Logan), a masculine-presenting polyamorous character who uses she pronouns (Elliot), and a kinky couple (Logan and Ajax). None of this feels forced or for the sake of diversity itself, but simply a portrayal of some real people with various intersecting identities.
“As you’re probably guessing, this is a highly character and relationship driven novel. You know at the beginning that shit of many kinds is going to hit the fan for both couples. Hamilton takes you there slowly while letting you get to know all the characters, their dynamics, and histories. The only other work I can think of that has so much authentic dyke processing in it is Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For. Logan, Ajax, Joe, and Elliot talk about their gender and sexual identities (I found Ajax’s ruminations about her lesbian identity in the face of Logan’s in-flux gender identity particularly fascinating), sex, feelings, their exes, illness, and relationship practicalities.” -Casey, the Canadian lesbrarian
Here is the rest of her review:
from Bitch Skateboards; graphic portrays the word “bitch” above an illustration of a man shooting a woman
Thank you to Robin Sokoloff for writing the most kick-ass piece of writing I’ve read in the last two years since the election, and UBCA.
Open Letter For People Looking For Open Letters
I sat down at a sidewalk cafe today, popped open this laptop – ready to send some words to anyone who’s looking for perspective and support out there.
And just like clockwork, when I try to go anywhere or do anything as a woman by myself, I am interrupted.
I am just sitting here, trying to write you these words. I’m typing away. A shadow blocks out the sun above me. Someone is looming above. This is not the first time in a lifetime of men shaped looms.
“Excuse me miss. Hey miss.”
I keep typing.
“Yo ma. Ma… yo I’m trying to talk to you lady.”
I breathe. I keep doing what I’m doing.
“Yo BITCH! What the fuck! You must be some kind a bitch right? Sitting there.”
I remain unmoved.
“BITCH I’M TALKING TO YOU!”
He puts his phone on my table.
I see it. I see where this is going. I see it all.
I do the mental math.
I close my laptop. I set it aside.
I flip the table, forcing him to tumble back surprised.
I stand up.
I pause again.
I lock eyes with him.
I look at him and let him see how bored I am. I look at him like he’s an ant. I look at him like he’s obviously no match and he must have been tripping.
I say, “Say it again. No please, tell me again what a bitch I am. Let everyone here know just what a bitch I am so they can hear it and understand you fully that I’m a bitch. What else you got? Just ‘Bitch’? That’s it? What was next? Please oh please, don’t leave me hanging, I’ve been waiting all day for you to interrupt my meal and piss all over me so you can get what YOU need today. Oh hey! Maybe if you say ‘bitch’ some more, maybe just maybe, the people sitting all around me, – no, shrinking all around me while pretending this isn’t happening – maybe one of these nice people will get up and come to my aid or something. I dunno? Sounds crazy right? Why don’t you just call me crazy bitch too, for thinking someone here might care more about a woman’s safety right now than their own pasta.”
No one moves. Still. All of them. Of course. Same as it ever was.
He darts for his phone at my feet.
I push him back. My two hands. On his shoulders. I push him back like we are at the line of scrimmage. That’s what that’s called, right? Football is weird. But now I’m a football player.
He tumbles back again. This has clearly never happened to him before.
He tries again for the phone.
I step on it. Not enough to hurt it, of course. Just lightly enough to say, “Nah, that’s my phone now.”
I cock my head, motioning him up the block; or else.
I calmly and quietly pack up my things. I swing my bag over my shoulder. Same as it ever was. I mean, no one at this restaurant seems mildly concerned about my condition, so why should I be.
The waiter shuffles just inside my periphery, to dip his toe in: “Ma’am, your sangria?” – looking to me to make this nice.
“Ma’am, ummm…. are you okay?” Says the patron next to me, suddenly leaping into action now that the action is clearly over.
“Who me? Yes, I AM okay, thanks to your help! Wow, you really took action there, huh? I hope you’re all happy with your choices here today. I hope you’re all knocking back that beer extra hard murmuring ‘oh gee, this Kavanaugh thing… isn’t there anything we can do?!?’ Newsflash my friends, you just missed your chance. You just didn’t ‘do’ anything. So I thank you all.”
I wink at them.
I eye my harasser shuffling along one block up, turning the corner.
That’s right, I follow him.
I follow him for a bit.
I follow my harasser some more.
I see him realize I am following him.
I follow him past all the other women who he would’ve tried this on, but is now too busy trying to get away from me.
I watch him awkwardly strategize for many blocks. Change tactics, and wonder who he can ask for help. But he won’t, cause he’s a man. So…
I follow him through 6 Lanes of Canal Street/ Holland Tunnel traffic in both directions.
I keep coming, kinda like it’s Terminator III.
He ducks into a Dunkin’ Donuts, and hides like a child under the window counter.
I stop right outside the store, stand just over him, and stare.
I wonder, how odd, to hide beyond a window, like I can’t see him. Ha!
I stare at him some more.
I stare at him some more.
I stare at him till he stops panicking long enough to realize there’s no way out until I give it him.
I breathe some more.
I light my cigarette.
I take a puff.
I take another.
I shake my head and laugh.
I walk on.
I release him.
I release him.
– – – – – – – –
If you came here looking for hope, I’m not sure I have it. No, I definitely don’t have it. All I have is my survivor’s strength to share, and my continued commitment to transparency where you are all concerned.
I don’t want to give you hope. I want you to wake the fuck up.
I’m telling every single one of you who have been too blah blah blah to believe me, support me, or fight with me – The age of your ignorance needs to end today.
The age where you birth your daughters into a system of violence, and quietly escape to the suburbs as though that will keep them safe, but it will only really stifle their screams just enough so that you can sleep through their torture – The age of your indifference ends today.
The age where you birth your sons into a system that rapes and pillages the generation after you, just as you have, and you find yourself defending a monster because you see a little Kavanaugh in your precious boy king – The age of your convenience ends today.
I do blame you. I do. I’ve been out ringing all the alarms. I’ve been out here weeding out all the weeds, and holding the line so it can inch no further. I’ve been out here defending myself, and defending you too.
And for the life of me, I keep scratching my head knowing you all have children and grandchildren of your own by now and I don’t know what the fuck you are going to do. What you think they are going to do. They are not safe from this. No, not from this – The age where you can hide this from them is over. Heck, the age where you can hide them FROM this is over.
As many of you know, I run Town Stages. That means lots of people in and out, day in and day out. Lot’s of conversations amongst friends, and even more conversations amongst strangers.
If I had a nickel for every seemly nice guy who’s tried to mack on me this week by saying, “So… this Kavanaugh thing, huh?”
And I just stare back. I figure it’s their turn to make this nice.
And they go, “Well, I mean… do you think there is any… absolutely any chance that he didn’t do it? Like what if….. I mean, there’s very little evidence and I was wondering like what if… ”
And I stop him there. I try to help him out. I try to take his side.
“Bro – Humor me. Imagine you were overcome by a bunch of piss drunk men, half suffocated, and brought to the point of ‘about to be raped’, if not actually raped in this manner as so very many women are. Think about it for a sec. Would you tell anyone? How would the people around you act if you said you had been raped? Would your family believe you? Would your job believe you? Would the WHOLE WORLD believe you? Are you prepared to be the laughing stock of every where you go for the rest of your life just to stop one man from having a job? Tell me – Is there a world in which YOU would make this up knowing it would pretty much end your life as you currently know it? And if you actually worked up the courage to tell your story, what would you do if some guy like you, no, millions of guys like you were standing here going ARE YOU SURE???”
He says, “oh…. I …shit. Yeah…. But wait, were the guys that raped me gay or straight.”
I stare back. I blink once, very slowly.
He knows he’s an idiot. He admits he’s an idiot. He just needed a sec.
“Well the thing is, women don’t get a sec when they are being sexually assaulted.”
He stands there quietly.
I stand there quietly.
He tries to change topics, says “Hey… Nice place. You work here?”
“I built it.”
He looks at me.
He looks down.
“Yeah. You weren’t expecting that either, were you….”
He stands there quietly.
And maybe he was thinking, what a bitch.
But what if he was thinking: Holy shit. I’ve gotta get my shit together.
And that’s all I want, men. Get your shit together.
I suppose my open letter for people who like open letters in dark times even though it’s always been a dark time for the people who actually build America, is this: You just pissed off one of the fiercest bitches to ever walk this earth and you still haven’t thought this though. Be afraid. Be very afraid. You left me and my friends with nothing to lose when you had everything to lose. Bad plan. Very bad.
Imagine my good luck to appear in the Bad Behaviour series at Autrostraddle, and in Canada’s oldest feminist journal, Room, in their queer issue, all in one month, alongside the grooviest writers (people I’ve admired far and near for years), and, might I add, the most amazing visual artist, Ness Lee. (Their cover is above.) The former magazine is online, and the latter is available at your favorite independent bookstore or from Room, link below.
And a link to my short story, ‘Phosphorescence,’ in Room.
Here are just a few of the 2018 Notable Essays from Best American Essays, with mine stuck on the end, by people I know. It’s an honour to be listed with them; these essayists are skilled and talented. Have a look at Best American Notable lists … you’ll be in good hands if you seek out any of the work. It’s a trustworthy source of recommended literature.
The Grammar of Untold Stories, Lois Ruskai Melina, Colorado Review
(…), Lia Woodall, Literal Latte
How Deep is Your Love? Alison Kinney, Lapham’s Quarterly
Beyond the Primordial Ooze, Dinty Moore, Issues in Science and Technology
Mates, Kelly Sundberg, Gulf Coast
Swan, Late, Irina Dumitrescu | Longreads
The Human Cost of the Ghost Economy, Melissa Chadburn, Longreads
Things I Never Told Her, Marion Ryan, Granta
Finding El Saez, Alia Voltz, Travel Stories
Rain Like Cotton, Jennifer Kabot, Bomb Magazine
Manifestus, Kerry Neville, Juxtaprose
A Life Story, Ashley P Taylor, Entropy
What We Aren’t, Or the Ongoing Divide, Jennifer N Baker, Kweli Journal
Skinning the Rabbit, Jane Eaton Hamilton, The Sun
I’m thrilled to say that one of my personal essays, “Skinning the Rabbit,” which appeared in The Sun, is a notable in Best American Essays 2018 ed Hilton Als. To see the included essays, and the notables, go to “look inside” here: Best American Essays
This is my third time appearing as a notable in a Best American collection, and second time for an essay.
Thanks to my editor at The Sun, Andrew Snee, and to the team there. Congrats to everyone on the notable list, and of course to the authors of the included essays!
image: Lambda Literary
Being a non-binary author, I wanted to make a list of other Canadian/Turtle Island non-binary authors to help you celebrate their work, but I realized I don’t always know who in my writing community identifies as non-binary, particularly as identities shift. So instead, I considered authors I know who’ve written about FTM transitioning/not transitioning (as in my novel Weekend, where a character uses they/them/their pronouns but hasn’t completed their psychological shifting). I also thought about ways other than gender that people transition. Here are a few of our many brilliant Canadian queer authors you’ll love to explore. All but one of these people have more than one title, so if you dive into their work, you’ll be able to read back into their older books with an eye to their authorial evolvement–how did they transit from early to mid-career to (in some cases) older writers, and what changes in society did their work note or represent over those years?
This is not an exhaustive list. Today I wanted to bring a spotlight to a few whose personhood and writing have been important to me as I tried to find my bumble-footed way through life:
Ali Blythe: Blythe is the author of Twoism, the edgy poetry collection that set minds and hearts afire. Of Twoism, Read his new book, Hymnswitch, of which Goose Lane pubs says: “…in Hymnswitch, Blythe takes up the themes of identity and the body once again, this time casting an eye backwards and forwards, visiting places of recovery and wrestling with the transition into one’s own skin. Readers will find themselves holding their breath at the risk and beauty and difficulty of the balance Blythe strikes in the midst of ineffable complexity.”
Lydia Kwa: Lydia Kwa is the Singaporean-born author of fiction and poetry I’ve enjoyed all my writing life, including Sinuous, Linguistic Tantrums, Pulse, The Walking Boy, This Place Called Absence, and The Colour of Heroines. The transitions Kwa writes about are often complicated and psychological, and not necessarily about gender.
Of Oracle Bone, Larissa Lai says: “A beautiful and moving dream of old Chang’an, deliciously and fully conceived. Lydia Kwa’s Oracle Bone is at once a fantasy and a memory, recalling the fertile meeting of Daoism and Buddhism in old China with subtle yet potent implications for our present relations with the Earth and everything that lives upon it. This reader finds particular delight in the ways Kwa has breathed life into a fox spirit, a Daoist nun, a corrupt yet compelling empress, and an orphan girl who wants to avenge the unjust killing of her parents. Wide-awake to Chinese imperial history, traditional storytelling, kung-fu movies, and TCM, this novel is a must-read from a brilliant contemporary novelist.” ―Larissa Lai, author of When Fox is a Thousand and Salt Fish Girl
Betsy Warland: Betsy Warland is the author of a dozen cross-genre books, including Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas, Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing, Only This Blue: A Long Poem with Essay, Bloodroot: Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss, What Holds Us Here, Two Women in a Birth, The Bat Had Blue Eyes, Proper Deafinitions: Collected Theorograms, Double Negative, serpent (w)rite: (a reader’s gloss), open is broken, and A Gathering Instinct. Betsy has always been at the forefront of interrogating identity.
“Vibrant and pulsating with life, Oscar of Between, like Warland’s other works, demonstrates Warland’s multiple engagements with crucial—and contemporary—literary, political, and aesthetic questions.” –Jule R Enzer, writing for Lambda Literary Review
Alec Butler: Alec Butler is another of Turtle Island’s longtime authors. Two-spirited, he is a Métis of Mi’kmaq heritage and also writes plays and films. His books are Radical Perversions: Two Dyke Plays and the extraordinary, must-read Rough Paradise.
“He was a nominee for the Governor General’s Award for English drama in 1990 for his play Black Friday. He has also worked on artistic projects with The 519 Church St. Community Centre as their first artist-in-residence. He was named one of Toronto’s Vital People by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2006.
Alex Leslie: Alex Leslie is the author of 3 titles. Their second collection of short fiction after the extraordinary People Who Disappear is We All Need to Eat, about to drop from Book*hug. Leslie also authored the poetry collection The things I heard about you.
“Many of Leslie’s stories centre on gay relationships and often focus on the difficulty of being “out” in a small community. The narrator of “The Coast Is a Road” accompanies her journalist lover as she “roams the coast like an indigenous seabird” in search of stories. The journalist’s purposeful wanderlust is set in contrast to the narrator’s dependent lassitude. The story is the most lyrical of the bunch, awash in lovely descriptions like, “Whale backs sink dark ink into polished water” or, “The snowy road balanced against the side of the dark mountain, the ultrasound image of a bone inside an arm.” -Quill and Quire on People Who Disappear
Ivan Coyote: The popular performer/author Ivan Coyote, too, has a number of books across genres and has edited anthologies: Tomboy Survival Guide, Gender Failure, One in Every Crowd, Missed Her, The Slow Fix, Bow Grip: A Novel, Loose End, One Man’s Trash: Stories, Close to Spider Man, Boys Like Her: Transfictions, and Goodbye Gender.
Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust of Canada Prize for Nonfiction; Longlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction; Stonewall Book Award Honor Book winner; Longlisted for Canada Reads
“Ivan Coyote is a celebrated storyteller and the author of ten previous books, including Gender Failure (with Rae Spoon) and One in Every Crowd, a collection for LGBT youth. Tomboy Survival Guide is a funny and moving memoir told in stories, about how they learned to embrace their tomboy past while carving out a space for those of us who don’t fit neatly into boxes or identities or labels.
Ivan writes about their years as a young butch, dealing with new infatuations and old baggage, and life as a gender-box-defying adult, in which they offer advice to young people while seeking guidance from others. (And for tomboys in training, there are even directions on building your very own unicorn trap.)
Tomboy Survival Guide warmly recounts Ivan’s past as a diffident yet free-spirited tomboy, and maps their journey through treacherous gender landscapes and a maze of labels that don’t quite stick, to a place of self-acceptance and an authentic and personal strength.” –Arsenal Pulp Press
Tom Cho: Tom Cho is a recent transplant from Australia I hope Canada is lucky enough to keep.
“First published to acclaim in Australia, Look Who’s Morphing by Asian-Australian writer Tom Cho is a funny, fantastical, often outlandish collection of stories firmly grounded in pop culture. The book’s central character undergoes a series of startling transformations, shape-shifting through figures drawn from film, television, music, books, porn flicks, and comics. Often accompanied by family members, this narrator becomes Godzilla, Suzi Quatro, Whitney Houston’s bodyguard, a Muppet, a gay leatherman, a nun who becomes a governess to the von Trapp children, and, in the book’s lavish climax, a 100-foot-tall guitar-wielding rock star performing for an adoring troupe of fans in Tokyo.
Throughout these stories, there is a pervasive questioning of the nature of identity―cultural, racial, sexual, gender, and what lies beyond. Look Who’s Morphing is a stylish, highly entertaining literary debut in which nothing, including one’s self, can be taken for granted.” –Arsenal Pulp Press
“Cho’s deliciously astute observations regarding the mutability of identity make for the perfect juicy center in the box of candy-colored bonbons that is Look Who’s Morphing.” —Lambda Literary
Tonight, my visiting daughter pulls me from my recliner to go explore bio-luminescence. At the first beach, there are some sparkles in the water, but a lot of ambient light too, so we decide to go north. At our second beach we need to use a flashlight to creep down over roots and rocks. We can’t see phosphorescence from shore, but the view is stunning: calm water, humpbacks of rocks, a wild-star sky.
Slowly, we wade out.
We begin to laugh like kids because every step stirs up sparkles. Underwater fireworks, or the fairy dust that falls from Tinkerbell’s wand. It really does look like stars. Unable to stop giggling, we stir, we splash, we kick. “I have superpowers!” Meghann says and tosses phosphorescence in an arc of blue.
“We’ve got to go get your sister and the kids,” I say. It’s way after bedtime in their house, but a holiday weekend—no work tomorrow. I call, Sarah wakes the 2 and 3-year-olds and we pick our way with them half asleep back to the beach, and hold them tight. They can’t figure out what’s going on. They’ve never even seen stars before, and now we want them to dunk their sandals. They’re very impressed, though, with the lighthouse in the distance. Naiya spies a falling star. “With no tail!” The dog swims through the bio luminescence, and it looks like she’s swimming in the Milky Way. “She looks magic,” I say. Sarah says, “She’s always been magic; you can just see how it sparkles tonight.”
Naiya says, “How did the stars fall into the water, Mom?”
How did the stars fall into the water? Do blue butterflies eat parts of the sky?
Finally the kids, chilled and sleepy, think it’s time to go back to bed. They don’t realize that there isn’t year-round phosphorescence.
I hear loud breathing sounds as we negotiate for a minute more. Huffs. Not very far from us at all, and close—perhaps 30 feet out?–I realize I’ve been hearing it a while, and I wonder if it’s a sea lion coming in to heave herself atop the rocks.
Sarah says, “Whales.”
“Shh, shh,” we all say, and even the chatterboxes quieten. The baby is nervous and cuddles her mom close.
We talk about Tahlequah, J35, the orca mom who that night still carries her dead baby on her snout, and wonder if the close whale or whales breathing at the surface might be Tahlequah and her close family, lagging behind, resting their bellies on the rocks a few minutes.
As we listen, at least two of us hope the whales don’t mistake us for seals, but even so we’re reluctant to get out of the magic water connecting us to the whales in the bio-chain of life. I’ve never been in the water with whales before. I think about how many orcas are in the resident population: 75. I think about how many people are in the world who aren’t hearing whales tonight: I wish there were a way to whisper this beauty into every person’s ear. I wish people could wake up restored, a little braver for the tasks at hand, as I will.
As we muddle to leave, off in the distance, in between where we stand and the nearby island, we hear slapping sounds.
“Tail slaps!” I cry.
They’re loud—surely they could be heard on land by the people who live here on the edge of land and water–and Sarah explains to the children that the whales can’t play during the day with all the boats around, but they can at night under the moon. Maybe the orcas are hunting, but whatever they’re doing lasts a long time, and is noisy, and I like imagining they are playing, making a fine night racket, breaching, slapping for joy, loving the perfection of the bay and the beautiful clear sky. Who knows, maybe they’re enjoying stirring up bio-luminescence. Maybe they’re playing just to ignite it, so they can swim in sparkling orca soup. Meantime, the pod, or members of a pod, who are closer to us swim off and return, rising and diving–and breathing.
We stand until the whales, both groups, dive, before making our charmed and stunned ways back up to the car. The experience beats in a chamber of our hearts devoted only to magic.
#orcas # whales #Tahlequah #eatonhamilton #bioluminescence #phosphorescence
 How Does Life Live, Kelly O’Brien, NY Times
Karrie Higgins’ remarkable “Skeleton Key.”
CW: abuse, CSA
My father is dying.
Every week, a new emergency: a stroke, pneumonia, sepsis, C. Diff. His lungs, filled with fluid, crackle through the stethoscope bell. His muscles are wasting. He falls a lot, shreds his skin clean down to bone. When my mother escapes the apartment to run errands, he speed-dials my sister, sometimes crying, sometimes ranting about our half-brother Scott, accusing him of getting a little too close to our mom.
My sister forwards me voicemails. We are building a case for Power of Attorney.
“Scott blew it, as far as I’m concerned,” Dad says in one, his speech slurred like all the times he drunk-dialed me after I went no contact in the mid 90s.
“He can go to…
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