then we fall.

This Fall. This year.

It does feel like falling. Or jumping. Or closing. Or opening.

This weekend, I went with Evan to our plot in the community garden—a last-ditch effort for half-assed farmers. We harvested. It was a mess. A muddy, sad, overgrown, viney mess… with much to harvest, but another much to grieve.

fall-4fall-1_smaller

As I plucked off tomatillo after tomatillo, I asked Evan…

– Oh, man… is this garden a metaphor for our life?

– You mean, a lot of work in at the beginning and then we let it all go to shit?

We chuckled, but winced at the fear of the truth.

He was the first sunflower. I was the second.

fall_2-12_smaller

– Wait. Is that what’s happening?

– Probably not.

No. It’s not. Right?

Fall is just the time of finding things falling down. There’s this garden that you’ve made and it has incredible yields, but you’ve neglected and forgotten and avoided some the gems for so long.

But we won’t let that sadness take away from the juiciness of the newness, the fruits ripe for the picking. Vegetation—life—falling away from us, to reveal the brightness. The change. The breath of cool air that wakes us up. The beauty in finishing. The completeness of picking. It’s beautiful.

fall-13

I—after months and months—finally finished this book this weekend. I wept. I curled up on the couch and ugly cried—unabashedly wiping my nose on my sweatshirt. Completing. Done. This story—start to finish—a life—start to finish—cover to cover—done. Beautiful.

It was more than an article. More than an Instagram post. More than a film. More than a short story. A behemoth of a book—perfect to completion.

Things are finishing. Falling. Perfectly and imperfectly.

To toast to this, a playlist. Not a song. Not one video. [though, if it were one, it would be this one over and over.]

then_we_fall_smaller_2

From beginning to end. Then fall to begin.

[fall to begin.]

my favorite laugh.

When Evan finished his first semester of—official—nursing school, I did a little celebratory dance for the occasion.

And—of course—I watched the video over and over, because I’m addicted to that laugh. The beginning of this journey feels like so. long. ago. Because it’s been a really long journey—this whole Evan-in-Nursing-School thing. He has worked nights at a local restaurant to make it all work financially. He has pulled multiple all-nighter to study, write, and make it all work academically. He has been there for me as a husband, friend, and teammate. I’m amazed and impressed. And SO PROUD.

So for the end of his LAST semester in nursing school, I had an idea. On a trip with Allison, I told her about my idea to lip-synch a mutually beloved Drake song for Evan. Her response: “Well, obviously, I should do the Nicki Minaj part.” [this—and many more reasons—is why I love her so.] So we proceeded to have a weekend in Jackson where I relived my best middle school sleepovers and recorded MANY music videos. [the best. the funniest.]

So we went for it. And then we thought, “Maybe this would be even MORE fun if we asked some of Evan’s friends to participate.”

Evan was officially done with classes on Thursday and we were both just so ecstatic. Ev had to work Friday night, so I set it all up. I wrote on our chalkboard, “YOU DID IT!” I left him a card…

omg_youre_done_2

…with a bottle of whisky. The card included the reference, “I want some whisky!” which was from the night Evan found out he was accepted to Montana State University’s accelerated nursing program. A bookend bottle of whisky. [note: that post ALSO includes a strong Drake reference.]

I tried to stay up and wait for Evan, surprise him with all this love and then surprise him with this video I had waiting.

But I fell asleep on the couch. And could not be awoken. It was a long day!

So the next morning, I was shakey and excited and nervous and just wanted to show Evan this video. This ah-mazing video that our friends made so incredible.

So we were drinking coffee and I said to Evan, “Ohhh noooo… shit! I just got some bad feedback on a video I’ve been working on for FIB.” [lies.] [also, FIB = First Interstate Bank… a regular client.]

He was bummed for me. [gotta love him.] I asked if he’d watch the video with me and tell me what he thought of it. He stopped working on bikes to gladly watch. I set up my computer to secretly record on the coffee table [black tape over the Photobooth light, brightness turned alllll the way down so the screen is black… you’re welcome].

Oh my goodness. That laugh. So much of that laugh. Worth all the late nights. All the hard weeks. All the shitty months. All the alone togetherness. All the tears. Worth it.

I love it. I love him. I love this laugh. I love this video. Don’t even try to make me stop watching it thousands of times over.

[and all I can say is…]

things that gave me life this week…

This episode of This American Life:

But—moreso—the in-credible photos of Ira Glass as a child magician

• The new Arcade Fire songs, but mostly this one…

Some of the lyrics are a little too real, but I’ll let it slide…

“God, make me famous… If you can’t, just make it painless.”

“It goes on and on, I don’t know what I want. On and on, I don’t know if I want it.”

The Standups on Netflix.

Okay, mostly the Nate Bargatze one [would/will watch this episode a hundred times in a row].

Okay, also the Fortune Feimster’s episode [already watched it twice.]

Also recommended:

• Writing workshops with Thunderhead Collective.

Though you might end up crying on the floor… on purpose… and love it.

• A casual two and a half hour phone conversation with your best friend.

NBD.

[that’s all I got for this here blahg.]

findings.

There’s a lot of What am I doing here? happening lately in my life. I sit down at my desk at work each morning and it’s one of two types of What am I doing here?

It’s either the, Alright. What am I doing here? where I scramble to figure out how to juggle my workload efficiently and sometimes literally google how to do certain aspects of my job.

Or it’s the bi-monthly, What am I doing here? that is part of the constant existential crisis I have of wanting to be more and do more with my being.

Today, as I sat down next to the only other person in the office today and we both put on our headphones to indulge in our separate screen worlds, it was both kinds.

So I did what I do when I’m overwhelmed with first-world identity problems and I went for a walk to get a latte.

On the walk, I saw a young (age five or six) blonde girl sitting on a bench. Next to her—very closely—was a pretty rough-looking guy with tattoos up and down his arms. I almost didn’t give it a second thought until I heard him say…

– So where are your parents?

I stopped in my tracks and showed up to this scene.

The little girl wouldn’t say a word. And this man kept pushing. I figured out that he was truly trying to help, but he was being kinda scary. He would look to me every so often and say…

– I just found her walking down the sidewalk by herself!

With still no peep from her, I gradually got closer to the girl with each question. I saw a glimpse of trust in her eyes as she looked at me after a while and then I made the executive decision. I reached my hand out to her and said…

– Okay, c’mon. Let’s go to the coffee shop and find your parents together.

She edged up and almost took my hand before looking past me and darting off. She saw her brother down the sidewalk a bit and ran towards him. I then saw the two of them sprint to their parents—who were VERY far away, by the way.

The rough looking man and I kind of shook our heads and smiled to each other before parting.

Waiting for my latte, the little girl’s family came into the same coffee shop. She was a part of a gaggle of children—no wonder they lost one! I watched them trip over each other in line and navigate their worlds at different latitudes—the parents’ eyes on the chalkboard menu, the children’s wandering yet down. The little girl found me looking at her. Quickly embarrassed, she hid behind her father.

We almost had a grand adventure together. We almost had coffee together. We almost sat and solved mysteries together over hot chocolates and muffins. But instead we’re embarrassed of each other now. Almost strangers is always more uncomfortable than strangers.

———

This evening I procrastinated going to the garden until I was challenging daylight. I went out to a pretty muddy plot, since the sprinklers had already gone off. There were still a handful of tomato starts to plant and many weeds to be pulled. So I put in my headphones to listen to a podcast and took a few sips of wine out of my coffee cup and got to gardening.

About a half hour in, a man yells at me from the path. I take out an earbud and express that I didn’t hear him the first time.

– Have you seen a little girl??

– No. No, I don’t think so.

I study this man in these seconds. Oh my god, is this the same dad?? Did he loose her again??

– What does she look like?

His first descriptor knocked the wind out of me. The ones following did not help…

– She’s autistic. She’s probably in just a diaper and a t-shirt.

– No, I haven’t seen her. I’m sorry.

And with that, he sprinted off in his shorts and flip-flops.

Immediately, I regretted my answer that mimicked how you would answer the question, “Have you seen my sweater? I think I left it around here.”

Why didn’t I say, “Oh my god, do you want me to help you find her?”

As he took off, I threw my gloves down and pocketed my headphones all together and took off down a second path he left undiscovered. Running in my muddy sandals, I heard a child of some sort across the way and sprinted towards the sound only to find myself in a neighborhood with children abounding.

I walked along the stream praying I didn’t find her. Not like this. I wandered in circles. Looking. Scared. Confused. Looking. In tall grass. By the stream. Down roads. Down paths.

I didn’t find her. I don’t know if she was found. I went back to my garden and my podcast.

Finally, after a whirlwind search for a girl I’ve never seen, I went back to my garden and my podcast.

———

As I drove home from the garden, so close to dark, dusk holding on by spider web strings, this song came on the radio…

And like out of some indie film I want to make, I saw a neighbor girl run down the street barefoot in her navy pajamas. Her youthfully perfect blonde hair was flowing in the innocence of summer. She ran and looked at something before smiling and yelling back at her dad, back at their door. She turned on a dime and ran back to him, into his arms.

I parked the car and let the Lumineers finish as I cried a couple tears. So many little girls running, lost, found. I couldn’t help but wonder why they all intercepted with me today—found or not found. I couldn’t help but think of the niece who feels so lost from me. I couldn’t help but wonder if she’ll ever be found. I couldn’t help but wonder if I’ll ever find a little lost girl and help her find the world. If she’ll find me.

Would it be easier then to answer to all the What am I doing here?s

[who knows.]

FOUR.

[I started this blahg post four days ago. I truly thought I would start and finish it four days ago, but here we are. this first part was written four days ago. then—now—we are four days, four years later.]

What a day.

Today, is the four year anniversary of my tragic ski accident. It feels like it was a lot less time ago. And in that vein, it feels as though I’ve talked about this accident a lot. I talk about it “a lot” because it changed me… a lot. It defined so much within me and made me declare, “I want to be here.

It also made me start defining my years. The year of my accident was a bad year. A year of just surviving. Then there was the year of thriving. Then the year of change.

And now we’re here. I take January 21st and celebrate the birth of a new year, because it is when this huge, heavy calendar within me flips all at once—it’s heavy momentum hanging in my chest for a half second, before dropping all together.

This year has—frustratingly—been a year of stagnation. Stagnation might not be the exact right word. Spinning wheels and getting nowhere is the feeling of this past year. Evan has been in nursing school and it has been so. hard. Near the beginning of 2016, half of my company was laid off. It was horrible. I said goodbye to working with many of my friends this year. And while I worked 50-hour work weeks, I still feared for my own job for most of the year. Evan and I did so much moving, spinning—so much work—but felt like we were getting slowly pushed back or pushed down by some force of frustration.

This year of frustration and moving backwards has also been prominently obvious in our nation’s politics. It feels like huge steps backwards. Huge steps backwards for so many things I care about—women’s rights. environmental causes. funding for the arts. health care. racial equality. immigration empathy.

Today is a big day. I am sitting with Evan in a coffee shop in Helena, Montana—our capital city. We are getting ready to march with thousands of other Montanans who are fired up and upset about our newly elected president.

In a couple hours, we march.

[end of four days ago writing.]

We marched.

We marched, we teared up, we held hands, we yelled, we smiled, we laughed, we banded together, we felt empowered, we knew this was the beginning.

We marched.

Then we drove to Jackson. I drove while Evan studied for an exam. We drove to Jackson and went to watch Ira Glass speak about creativity and perseverance.

We drank too much whiskey and wine with friends and finding time before midnight, I raised a glass and said…

– I just want to make a toast… because it’s my FOURTH anniversary from my accident. And I’m just so happy to be alive.

I was. I am. The stagnation doesn’t change that and never will. Friends all agreed that they couldn’t believe it had already been four years. Me neither. Or can I? It’s back and forth so much that I end up in the same spot.

Over Christmas, Evan and I took a trip to Seattle. We stayed in our friend Dale‘s apartment. We were there to recap the year, celebrate art and togetherness, and plan the next year. It was hard—harder than expected. This year has just been an exhausting journey to seemingly nowhere, so we wanted to rest. We rested in each other. We did things around Seattle that gave our souls rest.

One day we had a tour of KEXP. I listen to KEXP every morning—have for ten years, because my friend Anna insisted we must when I started working at Alpinist magazine… when I moved to Jackson, Wyoming ten years ago… and didn’t know a soul in that very cold town.

The tour was exciting, empowering, inspiring, and joy-filled. We met a friend on the tour and her daughter. We ended up hanging out afterwards and talking for and hour. About life, bikes, music, children, nursing, living, loving, coffee, and all that lives on the stage of life and in the wings.

It wasn’t moving forward, but it was dancing in the now.

I figured out that this last year wasn’t moving, but it was dancing, crying, grieving, staring, meditating, reading, yelling, loving in the now. And that’s worth something.

kexp_time

this found photo in KEXP’s performance space captures the wanting and excitement.

There has been much nowness—and I need to appreciate that. This last year—I want to call it stagnant—but I think it demands to be something more along the lines of “introspective.”

This next year—this next year, though!—will be more movement, more outro-spection.

I will submit essays like a motherfucker until I’m published.

I will protest and write and call and yell until my colleagues think I’m crazy and my representatives know I’m not going anywhere.

I will run until my lungs are joyously impressed.

I will create like it’s urgent.

I will love like it’s necessary.

I will dance like it’s obviously welcome.

I will create. I will aim high. I will be loud. I will be persistently going forward.

I will not be still. I will be moving.

This next year.

[four.]

 

i need an answer.

Things have been hard. Other things, yes, but the election and days following have been very hard. A few days after the news, I received a group email from a strong, fired-up woman of a friend. It was addressed to several other strong, fired-up women. The email was titled “What the fuck?”

It was asking how we’re all doing and what we’re all doing. Replying to it was more therapeutic than I thought it would be. The woman who replied before me included that she was 2/3rds into a bottle of wine.

I want to share my reply to this email chain, this time, all of it:

“I’ll cheers to that… mostly the 2/3rds of a bottle of wine, you’re a glass ahead of me.

with all of this, I’ve got nothing. I feel empty and suffocated at the same time. I immediately felt oppressed as a woman. I keep saying over and over, “I don’t know.” or, “I’m just sad.” or, “I’m just tired.” but mostly, “I don’t know.” and then sometimes, “not great.”

Evan is in the poorest part of Montana right now—on an Indian Reservation six hours away. he’s there for a nursing school rotation, giving general care. he’s sleeping in teepees and going to sweat lodges and connecting with tribe members. I’m so jealous. it feels like that’s where all of America should be right now.

Saturday, after I finally got myself out of the house, I walked downtown and the sky was beautiful and the light was perfect and I kept repeating, “there is light. there is light.” on that same trip, I saw a man holding a sign that said, “LOVE EACH OTHER.” and then I saw two drunk frat guys approach him and accuse him of being someone “who voted for Hilary, huh?” then they “had words” for him, trying to start a fight. and I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t tell them to stop. I didn’t call the cops. I didn’t ask if that guy needed help. and I couldn’t figure out if there is light.

I feel a bit dead behind the eyes right now. hoping to not feel that way soon, but not really doing much to not feel that way. yesterday, I went as a mentor-esque figure to this event on campus. I wore a blazer and felt a million years old. two young women were talking to me about how it’s Ladies’ Night (some shopping discount thing downtown) and then there’s a Broad Comedy (all female comedy troupe) show this weekend.

Young Woman: It’s gonna be an awesome feminist weekend!

Me: Yeah, get it while you can.

they looked at me as confused optimists do and then I mumbled something about the election and then that Debbie Downer womp womp sound played and I excused myself to eat all the cheese they had on hand.

I am psyched to be on this chain, though. this conversation feels good. refreshing. needed. thank you for including me.

I am dead to mansplaining as well. “You know how money works, right?” was an actual question I’ve been asked in a client meeting. because of you and your re-upped efforts, I’ll make more of an effort myself. damn you and your inspiring words.

what I’m doing:

• listening to this on repeat: 

• crying a lot.

• writing a lot for this writing class I’m taking. writing about mammograms! and contraception! and addiction! and having a vagina! take that, Montana!

• drinking wine.

• doing a lot of Tarot card readings for myself. looking deeply at myself and deeply at the world around me.

• putting this shirt on my christmas list.

there’s a whole other—less self-involved—list of things I think/know I should be doing. but I don’t feel there yet. I am tired. I am sad. I don’t know. not great.

love y’all to the moon.

xxo,
ray.”

There have been other light times. There has been light.

Watching—with some kick-ass ladies—an all-women comedy troupe slay it on Friday.

Hearing my 16-year-old neighbor learning to play Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the piano. Hearing her fumble through the keys to find the right ones and then move on. Beautiful.

Being a part of a rally in Bozeman. Hearing our police chief say that the police are not apart from our community, they are a part of our community. It was powerful and wonderful.

And I really wish I hadn’t sold my Hamilton tickets.

So that’s where I am.

[be with the one that you love.]

checking the mailbox // a story + playlist.

Tonight, I had my first writing class of a series. We did some free writing. Get a prompt. Write for five minutes. Share.

The third prompt was “I remember…”

For unclear reasons lately, I’ve been thinking about mailboxes. What they mean for homes. What they mean for love. What they mean for communication. And in the instant the of the prompt, I remembered a mailbox. Here’s what I wrote…

I remember the mailbox. The mailbox so empty, every time. My heart so broken. Every time. I had no way of knowing it could feel this bad. I was 17. I was in love. And after two years together, he went off to spend a summer as a camp counselor. I was so sad… but we wrote each other all the time. I had to get my wisdom teeth out that summer. The feeling wasn’t pain. The feeling was life underwater. Slower because of the drugs. My head was light, but my mouth was heavy, full of gauze. He just so happened to be visiting home the day after my procedure. He looked at me. Me with my chipmunk cheeks. And he told me we were over. “Whaaad?” I asked, muffled and swollen and crumbling into the pain now. I don’t remember much after that. I just remember the weeks to come. Checking the mailbox every day. Feeling inside the empty tin. So hot. So empty. I wondered if I could climb in, shut the door, and be in that darkness instead.

I assured my classmates that I am happily married now.

Checking the mailbox. It means something different to me now—thank god. It means something, though. I’ve put together some of the songs—old and new—then and now—full and empty—in a playlist for sharing. I hope you enjoy the tunes.

checking_the_mailbox[click me.]

[hoping the hot tin burns.]