There is a place I have not yet gone, the last home I moved from, a few miles from here, Utah homogenized and church silent, I lived there. The pictures from that time are of a growing baby, my baby, adored and life filling, in a small miners cottage on a road between two unloved places, who I was, and who I would become.

I have a stone, unplaced, waiting to honor that desperate spot I lived, in a mind addled by the arrival of the baby that almost was the death of the body that tried so hard to birth her. And now, in the birthing of this next new real self, I know what this last stage means.

I am familiar with the moments before blood leaves a body, seeping out faster than panicked raised voice staff know how to stem. I know the tide that pulls deliciously under, the green lean into rest and the quiet sacrifice of no more repenting. I know this place, and I know I need to return, my head dropped below my body to stop the release of life everyone around me so valiantly saved.

I was saved for this, for three more glorious turns of motherhood, for partnership that is solid and kind and so everlasting loyal. For family that jump me to my feet in the pure loving of them. For friendships that are tenuous ties to the core of loveliness in this world. For a job that has threatened to pull me under the mind tow oblivion of defeat but has brought me alongside love that is a woven basket of laughter soaked belonging.

Was it ever about wholeness or was it always about the whole of us? I could not find it because I was looking at me, and that wasn’t ever where it lived. It lived in the spaces where our hands touched, our laughter blended, our eyes held across tables and spanned miles of empty air. It was in those who stayed and those who left, the empty spaces of where they used to be the pages I could now write; the stanzas of separation, an unbroken love song, a song of goodbye, of thank you, of I understand.

Could it be these are the places I needed to live, and the people I needed to love and lose to see the self I was?

She was always there, abiding each move, each line of wondering what the next place would hold for her. She was afraid what she believed was true but did not know how to weld all the parts together to be good enough to inhabit the space she apologized for living in. She was small and she was quiet and she was unceasingly bound together by the hope that somewhere there was a mirror that reflected back to her who she was when all her staggered attempts hummed together in the song of her. And she hoped there was a book, not so empty anymore that she would continue to write. Each word a communion, a kneeling head bowed letter from who she had been in every home, to who she was becoming, and how her journey brought her back to what she had always been; whole.



I am beginning to understand the weight of wild things, why someone else’s all is never enough for the endings we seek. The end to our suffering, the end to believing we do not fill up the skin of our life in ways that make us stretch toward the beauty that lands on the swirled shell of our truest self. What we want is that someone else’s everything matches the need of our many one things. That someone else must forever be in their best self to somehow protect our worst.

I am beginning to tell myself it’s okay that it wasn’t enough for them and it’s okay that it was everything for me. My all was not their ending, my efforts didn’t reach the line of their expectations.

I wonder why it is so hard to believe that someone else’s best day does not fit in with our worst. That someone’s history of pain and panic does not align with the need to avoid ours. How is it that we put others on pedestals or in prisons designed for one and then think ourselves in circles about why they aren’t more like us? Why do they not do what we need them to do to make what we do feel better? In that gap there is either grace or a gawking disbelieving script of ‘can you believe it’? The endless circle of our own need for validation signed by the pen we placed in their distracted hand.

This did not seem fair and yet my world was filled with these solitary confinements in the city of my wanting and my indifference. My steps ahead chased my parts that lagged behind in the hope there was someone out there better than me who could smooth the pained edges that kept bumping into the worst of me. I was both the creator and crated, assigned to these solitary spaces I then made comfortable enough to stay.

The key to these small spaces was held in my clenched hand, and the way to open that hand was to first open the other one. To reach with that open hand beyond the bars of my own agreement and touch the steel of someone else’s and say yes, yes I understand in the waiting for someone to save us. That clattering release of the other handed key could open the doors for us both.

In order to do the next thing, you might just need to grieve the last thing. In order to grieve the last thing, it needs to belong to you.

It wasn’t what someone else failed to do for me that brought me here, it was what I failed to look toward, my book of bereft grievances held tightly in my one free hand, the one that could have connected, the one that stayed cold and even calculated in its grip.

When I moved north from those gold hued campus mountains, I knew when I first came out of the canyon to the valley farmlands that I would love this place I stayed for the next year or two. It was lush and kind in its long snowfalls and summer sounded late nights.

The next trip to my last selves ended here, at the higher end of the state. Green treed and cold high mountains guiding me back to where I lived for a time, where I started my next family, with the one who partners me still. Living in a lovely little townhouse filled with our newly knowing each other fighting that is so funny and foreign to us now.

When I returned the first word that I felt was family. This was where it began, the beginnings of my own small circle who I will end my days with, some of them waiting in the car as I walked by the place they collectively started. The word I took with me was the thing any of us need to continue to look toward the only one who can uncreate our prisons and pedestals, the one who needs a certain measure of it to begin and keep the relentless turning back toward the one who can save you.



On every flight, as the engines roar their assault on quiet skies, I lean my head back in the stick straight seat and let something go. I take my chance while I’m being moved, far faster than in my real-time days. This burst into thinner air feels easy to leave what weighs me behind on the tarmac, already forgetting the shade of flighted wings.

A few days ago I felt what was coming before I knew how to let it go. It caught me, held the gravity of what I knew I could not go back to, spun in the ending of it, wheels lifting before I could orient myself to the tears on my wind tired face.

I had come to the ending I had fought to delay, and I could feel the round shape of being misunderstood stretching behind me, clung to the earth, unbending and tight. I would remain unknown in so many ways, the place I held in the hierarchy of things a bent arm shield, cold and shining in my gathering aloneness. The work I was doing felt unsustainable, unrelenting and unforgiving.

I would not miss this, being alone, but I would miss them.

If I stayed I could avoid the mirrored knowing of fallen things. If I stayed I could keep trying, not giving in to all those who agreed in my leaving, their vindication an echo of all the small weary ways I let them down.

If I left I could do again what I have done before, start the clock over, try a different padded jacket to protect from the cold of someone else’s brief shouldered goodbye.

If I left I would miss out on the kind hand held sisterhood in that restaurant served so well by a waitress I’ll never meet again, who called out my childhood name behind me, three times, to her friend working beside her. An odd name my parents called just me. The uniqueness of it turning my head and dissolving the last of the barricade holding the woolen melancholy of these years.

I moved to a new town all those years ago to continue school in the rose gold evening mountains of Utah. It turns out I didn’t leave the last place~ I arrived at the new one. And what I found there was what I found at that table last night. I didn’t know when I brought that word with me how it would continue to chase me until I finally accepted it from the heart of others by telling the truth from mine. That in the very connection I would feel the grace of it, as we sat around that table, the ghost of the goodbyes we have grieved knitting us together.



The next year I began to live again. There was a girl, blond and fast and funny, and the day she mentioned she needed a roommate, I spoke up, and then went in the back of the restaurant where we worked together and cried. The rest of that year I laughed, we laughed, at everything absurd and mundane and unfair.

We waitressed long shifts, me in the very early morning and her later in the day. We left our exhausted shoes steaming outside the front door and brought them in before dawn, our feet thawing them into the next shift.

I healed most days and hid some others. Those mornings in the fog before the sun was up and the restaurant door unlocked were some of my saddest gathered days.

There is a certain solemn pause of grief when you first wake up into another day of your unraveled life. A sharp awareness of it happening still. And yet, each morning you wake to it again, there emerges a small bone sung chorus that begins to hum you back to life.

When I returned to that apartment building, the stone from my now home waiting to be planted to honor that grey hearted year, it felt different, misremembered.

I walked through the courtyard, young children playing, the sun warm and solid, and found myself at our stairs. How many times that door opened and I walked through the trusted tones of other peoples shared sleep, how many slow eyed regrets I held in my hands that also tied my apron and made coffee I never drank?

How did I never know until that day the tenacity that girl had to keep going, disarmed by the ending she never wrote for herself. When I placed that stone under the flowering shrub by the stairs that led the way out of that year, I went and sat back down in my car with the word that held on all the way there.



I moved in next with the person who did not love me, who promised to forever, the tiny space not big enough to escape the strain of my continued presence. I spent days at the large storied library downwind of this despairing house; walking home in the dark, unaware, unconcerned and inconsistently fearless for my safety.

There was not a place to feel the bleakness of the salt streeted skid this life had become, so at night, when his breathing matched my footsteps, I made my way into the next room, putting headphones on, the music scoring the soundless wailing into the dark that had stopped hearing me. Then, sated and head down, I could slink back and sleep away the rest of those soulfully slow nights.

That winter I did not live, I subsisted. I felt the thawing creep of him leaving before he spoke the words out loud, and as suddenly as it began, it was over.

It was blessedly over. The shift from stuck to skimming happened in one sentence on a Sunday night, the most glorious sacrament of our undoing.

Even in that lightening of feet, I sat freed from waiting and then asking my waiting self, why? I cast him in the role as decider because I waited, and waiters don’t choose. My inability to say no at the beginning led to my inability to go at the end. He carried that story for years, on his unknown absent back.

The move to the next was fast, clean and free of the emotion that kept us trying. In the letter to him in that small gray burnable notebook were these words; ‘I didn’t want to be there anymore than you wanted me there; you changed your mind—it took me that to realize I could make up mine. We were both lost and I thought less of you because it was easier than seeing what we had in common. I offer forgiveness to us both.’

When I went back it was summer, that old paint tired house had been lovingly restored, flowers and riotous trees tossing a wave hello. It was suddenly clear and light and I waved back to the girl in the window who didn’t live there anymore.

The grit it took to sand those old walls is what it took for me to listen and leave, and it was the word I took with me as I drove my car away in the silver mountain sun.



After one year of the school run by the religion I relentlessly followed, I spent the summer on red blasted eastern cliffs, a place of stunning earth and sky meeting on a sanded horizon; the blue heron murderously still in the glass lined bay, held fast by the hunt for the next distracted fish.

I was conflicted, half there and mostly gone, the momentum of new decisions pacing me between two worlds.

That summer I pitched too far forward to find my feet in narrow waters, so focused on the next thing that I flailed in the face of the beautiful thing. I had grown past the whimsy of what I wished for and settled with the thing most offered. It was conditional, flighty, and so far away; the compulsion to win was far enough grown that I could not rest. It doesn’t matter much what it was, or who it was, but the price I paid was high, swift and chaotic.

I wanted so much to belong with another, I could not explain it and spent years defending it, and I do not regret it.

I stayed on that windy cawing bluff for 3 months then, and for a few days when I went back, to leave the stone of what I forgot, and pick up the stone of what I argued to remember. This long fight was between the part of me that sought silent lovely things, and the part of me who believed I no longer deserved it, that my winning of one thing bankrupt me from the grace of every other thing.

On the evening of my October visit, as I was turning 50, I turned the corner of the last lit tide and saw that blue heron, different and yet the same, hunting for what belonged to him, and I gathered what was mine, the word in my open ears as clear as it was when I lived it.