I moved out west, driven by tailwinds and trailing lists of who I could become there. I went back to my birth certificate name, wore my dad’s suit coat as a jacket and scheduled all my classes for later in the day so I could stay up at night, dark windowed wondering with eyes dried by the high air. The altitude left me breathless, winded by autumn walks on campus and preserved by layers of clothes and silences.

I was homesick and foreign, speaking a language I was born to but didn’t understand. I backed into rooms, stayed on the edges of word soaked halls, and each night crept my way into the dark walled shared space of strangers.

What I knew was this; I was good at being a Mormon, the rules and expectations came easily to me in my caged and fisted fear. I learned swiftly, rivers of history blending me into a family of pioneers I earned my place in. I became fluent in humility, shame and coercion. I knew when to weep, when to be stoic, and when to weave the leg trapped language of salvation. I spent my days repenting and my nights remembering.

I went back to Idaho to visit that campus with my best friend from Canada, someone I would not have met if it hadn’t been for the young, frantic love for her brother. We went to sleep in the same bed the first night I slept over when we were both 16, and woke best friends; there we have stayed under the shared blanket of fierce first love.

We drove to the campus that had grown corpulent, the newest colony busily strident and sure. The apartment I lived in looked the same, the mountains in the background dusted with late snow holding in this valley of hopeful learning. We stood together and talked about who we were then, what we dreamed of when we arced here in planes fueled by a fervent need to build our next new life.

The second half of that year I found where the fun in me had been hiding and I began to speak it into existence. And that word, speak, trailed in the car with us as we drove towards a shared cocktail at a nearby bar, the line between then and now lit up with a freedom so vibrant we cried with laughter.



The day I left the farm, my things packed in my sisters borrowed car, there was no one to wave to. I had a small studio apartment, rented when the time came for me to move, the only uncoupled one in a family that had recentered. It was fall, the violent colors of aging leaves waving me goodbye.

My place was on the second floor of an old century home, one that would have had so much wealth and influence back when it was pretty and unseparated. I lived in the back, up in the trees, behind everything that had already passed.

I spent my nights there looking out the big window into those trees and the sky above them. Watching the leaves fall, the ice come, and the soft thaw of new growing things.

That year is a dream to me, the glow of the town lighting up the storm heavy skies, the soggy walks back from the store, grey clouded canopies over solitary boot prints. The oven left open for heat as blanket fashioned doors kept in warmth.

I loved it there.

I was alone, but not lonely, the starkness of the surroundings honest and real. I turned at night, weaving myself into knitted filaments of the softest armor. I listened to rain on the tin eaves, taped music, and soulful grieving birds as the cold coming through the windows landed light on my feet.

My life was slow, surreal and so very mine.

When I went back that day in the spring of my almost 50th year, I stood on the sidewalk, and could see in my own eye every plane of that space, and smiled at the memory of bare branches and small solitary days. This was the beginning of the girl who looked forward. Who saw a small road that very well might be for her, who picked up the phone and heard her friend talk of plans to move out west, to a school owned by the Mormon church she had just joined in her desperation to find the belonging still fleeting and unknown. Did she want to go? This was the beginning of the girl who said yes.

It took strength to leave that year, to go to a new country, climate and altitude. It took strength to explain why I needed to go when I didn’t yet understand. And that day in May, returning back to the small quiet lab of green choices, I found the word strength in the sun warmed pavement, and I left.



The farm.

We still call it that, the group of us, huddled under the warmth of what we believed it to be. What we knew it to be. It was quiet, green and rested, part of it a century old, the other part built close to it’s wise bones, newer, but integral.

We would have driven up its lane way for the first time, maple danced sun and poison ivy I would later use to mark myself home from school. We would have seen its white sides and black shutters and walked through the front door; did we know then what it would mean? How dropping our shoes and coats and shoulders would be the sensation I would chase for the rest of my littered life?

I grew there wild, tamed by my own rhythms, led home by lamps on the porch and cats balanced slack on wooden fences. I was lonely, vigilant, and worried, all the while filled with the prose of sky scarred sunsets and frog singing grass. I lived true, alone, silent.

That house held my most goodbyes, the sounds of car doors, gravel and descending engines, the choking wordless days of one less person after another not living there.

I went alone when I returned. I didn’t drive all the way up to the door, secluded as it is, there was no passing by. It was enough to stop at the end of the lane, get out of the car and wish myself small for one more moment, eyes closed against the ache of it.

I laid the stone in my hand behind an old maple tree, the first one I reached, remembering the last time I saw my dad, reminiscing about a very young me, packing a small suitcase and running away from home. I walked to the end of the lane way, waiting until someone would miss me, somehow understanding, alone by the road, it was up to me to make my way back.

My dad, leaning sweetly into the end of his life, said how I looked so forlorn at the end of the lane with that suitcase, packed with what I remembered to be stuffed animals.

‘How did you know what I looked like?’ I asked him.

‘Because I followed you and hid behind every tree.’

So I hid that stone behind one of those trees, and picked up the word that was waiting for me, all those years later.



Sometimes I think about the stone I put by the tree in the yard of the first house I remember. I think about it sheltered under bare branches now, winter coming, snow not yet covering the gray rock sneaked there that sun spring day. Does it sit the way I left it, or has the unknown strains of the universe tipped it on its side, covered it with dirt or otherwise shifted its nest?

That house plays games in my mind, bigger than it is in person, brighter too. The memories are kaleidoscopes, turning into snaps of sound, the crying in my own ears. The understanding of my place in the way of things. I was 2 when we moved there, 5 when we left, and 52 when I walked away. It holds the first memories of being unliked, unfitted, and undone.

We drove there, my sisters and I, they waited in the car as I walked past the address nonchalantly, my eyes averting to another place up the street, those coordinates of shame mapped who I became that kindergarten year.

I was a fighter until then, a cryer, a temper tantrumed, stand by the wall demander. That year I lost my voice in the drifted need to hide behind the door that wasn’t going to open for me.

When it was time to move from that place, both when I was 5, and walking back to my sister’s car, I held on, and looked back. The specter of the girl I might have been waved once and sat back down. It would be a few more years before I could go back and let her know what belonging was. To explain the word I took with me as we drove away.


letting go.

I wondered what did it mean to let go. I have saved endless quotes about releasing, leaving alone, detaching and letting go of everything that weighs us. But still, I didn’t know how. The things I sought, the tense ache of togetherness and the shrugging shoulder of independence fought a cloudy war that had no truce.

To let go meant to do what, to let go of what? The hope of the battle being won, that the bait worked, the trophy displayed for my eyes only, eyes that kept looking away to the next thing to fight?

To let go of the end of the suffering string I had to wind my way back to the place I was holding it. And that wasn’t the same thing at all. Where I held it and where I saw it were so different, that’s why I couldn’t solve the riddle of how to let go of one end of it, the other end held shadowy taut in my small sticky hand.

We drove to the next house I lived, my mother, my siblings and I, just across town. Another place I was too young to remember, this time a bigger yard, a clean street, a moving up so evident and tidy.

I was born the last of the pack, the fifth child to parents that wanted four, the last evidence of unplanned things. Once I was there I was loved.

Love. The word I took with me when I left the place I was born led to releasing the dark end of the string of being unwanted.

Letting go, I learned, was going back to the first story I heard, to let go of the version of the people I kept there, puppet like and swaying in the strain of their sameness.

Letting go was going back to see they weren’t there anymore, and to see proof that the ghosts of them haunted me with my agreement and my attention.

Letting go meant to drive away without them, leaving the stone of who I was now, to replace the stone of who I used to be, when I believed a story so old the ash of it scattered in the wake of the car we drove away in, laughing.


How snow muffles the sounds a regular woods make, that is what I wanted, always. I sought solace as I leaned towards 50 by talking, words bouncing in between hard and soft spots in me, in those around me. I thought the answer was the volume; higher, lower, more bass, more treble, more balance.

Turns out it was the volume, just not the measure of sound, more the measure of amount. The number of words, explanations, the questions turning into answers, the negotiating was drowning in its volume.

The plane ride home for my first visit to the places that lived me. The vast empty spaces of sky and land, as I hurtled toward where I was born, the home I was brought to. The beginning of the noises that led me here.

I would take this first trip with the mother who brought me home that very first day. She showed me a picture I had never seen of us looking at each other; she is smiling and I look concerned, intent.

And from that the beginning hush of finding my own wooded snow, the silence of so this is where it began. The space between words filling up with drifts of rest, understanding.

I walked closer, as close as I dared, to take a stone from my pocket, from my home now, so many miles from the origin of me, and I traded it for one by a lone tree in the yard. Getting back in the car my sister said ‘I saw what you did, what was that?’, and I told her how I brought stones to leave behind, and how I picked up something to bring back, connecting the two, scattering my now into my then.

When I drove from that first home, the new stone light in my pocket, my mother and siblings in the car as the road made the small home smaller, the word that came with me was love.