Part of finding the way back, to the place we left that girl, is to remember. To see her, to recognize her in the listed doings of every exhausted day; and when you find her, to stop, wait and listen. There are tales to tell of when she lost the way to who she dreamed she would be, and visions forward to becoming her after all.

During the beginnings of the COVID-19 lockdown, my sister introduced me to an Instagram account I began to follow with her. A Canadian beauty, filming short videos of outfits, makeup and all around lovely living; it transfixed me, and it connected us, my sister and I. We shopped our closets and online, went when we were able to stores, outlets and malls and found remnants of the outfits we saw. We started to use her name as a verb; I’m going to ‘Liv Judd’ this.

I started to remember what it felt like to dress for fun, in what I loved, what felt the best, no matter where I lived or worked. When I was young enough to not critique, I used to love anything novel, quirky, strong. When I was a young fitness instructor, in the early 80’s, someone at the benign gym where I worked asked me what I would change about myself. ‘Nothing’ I replied, honestly not considering what I would shift in the gravity a handful of years of living had given me. ‘Not even your thighs?’ replied innocently enough. Where there was a no, was now a maybe, a wondering, a glimpse into the delusion of my accepted form. How insidiously this became a maybe so. There are many ways to change and hide and shrink away from what you loved when you were young enough to not be asked about your thighs.

Stopping at a small high mountain town a few years ago I held the door for a woman who must have been my age at the time, maybe a little younger. She wore weekend clothes and red lipstick and her natural beauty stunned me out of social shyness and as she passed into the store the words I sent, ‘you are so beautiful’, followed her in.

I went back to the car and waited in the passenger seat for the rest of my small tangled crew to return, she came out of the store, smiling widely, talking to her friend, jubilant. She caught my eye and held it, paused, and mouthed the words ‘thank-you’. She stays in my mind just that way, standing there, her hand over her heart, beautiful and happy and for a moment, we were both seen. I think of it sometimes, the shared connection of two women, who will never see each other again, who saw each other so clearly in that moment, beautiful.

Decorating myself again feels jubilant and true; a way back from the girl who learned to hide from perceptions, into a woman who stands in imperfections. And in this moment we are both seen. Both beautiful.


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.