fiction

I’ve been thinking about writing fiction.  I love a good story.

But so far, it’s just not happening.

It could be because I’m busy right now.                                                                            (Busy isn’t really the right word, but it will have to do.)

It could be because my head is full of the talk of my children, the planning of the next meal, the next row to hoe, the next place to move the goats, and so on.goat

It could be because my bar is set really really high, like up there with JRR Tolkien and Terry Pratchett. So I don’t have time to create an entire language or cosmology at the moment.

And it could be that reality is just so hard to beat.

It’s hard to be more tragic or comic, more kind or brutal, more magical or intense, than the world we live in right now.

Last weekend, I had some blessed moments sitting in the shade with friends, listening to stories from a recent trip to the Hawaiian Islands. It brought back a fantastic memory, as large as life. Like this…mountains

I had been in Tibet, in the winter. It was grueling to be there, in the dusty cold high elevation, and the work we were there to do was even harder than the climate.

My heart was turned inside out. The reality of the Chinese takeover is evident in the health of the Tibetan people. Their hearts are broken, their country is broken, and their bodies follow suit. Some genocides don’t happen all at once. But their beautiful spirit still shines through.  They wrapped me in their love, and outside the cities I was fed by the indomitable vastness of the land.  We drove half way across the province, down roads that seemed to barely exist on the edge of sheer plummets to beautiful hard valley floors. Icy switch backs that culminated in mountain passes, covered in prayer flags, with nothing to see but snow covered mountains, without end, amen. Icy rivers of green water, churning around dramatically shaped stones a the foot of the mountain.  We set up medical clinics in the villages we visited, screening for tuberculosis and rickets.  People walked for miles to come fetch the paper packet of pain killers that we could offer them. They gathered at the windows of whatever building we set up in, watching quiet, curious, hopeful.  By the time I left I was full to the brim with beauty, tragedy, and sweetness, and at the same time crushed by the feeling of being in a heavily occupied territory, the sense of surveillance, everywhere. It is difficult to explain how tangible that feeling was and the effect it has day after day. There are so many things that I learned to not say. So many things I knew no one could ever ask out loud – especially in the presence of the men in long dark coats who sat in the corner of every restaurant, not eating, but definitely listening.valley view

When our work session ended, I went to Nepal, where my soul breathed a little easier in the air of religious freedom and philosophical curiosity.  But I was not ready to return to the mainland US, and I knew it. So I took a flight to the Hawaiian Islands. I worked at a beautiful ginger farm on Molokai for a bit, which was perfect. Molokai is pretty much like being in another country. There were more people with brown skin than with white, and I had grown very comfortable with being a minority. But being young and still more than a little restless, I moved on to visit a friend on Kauai, the Garden Isle.

At first I thought I had made a grievous error. The privileged white kids (myself included) shunning their roots, living on the beach, trying to buck “the system” – it drove me nuts. But not nearly as nuts as the wealthy people in the huge SUVs on the manicured golf courses overlooking the ocean. Food that didn’t fall from a tree cost more money than I imagined food could ever cost. I was deep in culture shock.

Fortunately, my friend had enough experience with the island to set me on my way up the Kalalau Trail. I took a day pack and stayed for a week.

The trail itself is nothing short of breathtaking. I hiked alone, letting my thoughts wind away over the ocean or into the forest until I didn’t really need to think any more. It was enough to breathe, and walk. The few other hikers I met seemed to be content in their solitude as well. I basked in the warm wet sunlit air, so different from the cold, dry air of the Himalayas.

I slept the first night out on a high overlook. I was tired from the hike and went to sleep easily. I dreamed of the Chinese military, bombing those beautiful blue green purple mountains, the dust falling into the villages and rivers, the people scattering and mourning. When I woke I could still hear the bombs – they were the waves crashing on the cliffs below the campsite. I was so grateful to wake and feast my eyes on the beautiful view of the vast Pacific ocean.   A whale, headed north into the deep blue, breached, one, twice, seven times, on its way out of sight. I packed up and started back down the trail.

Rainbows spilled down the mountains into the ocean. The landscape changed and changed again. The hills became dry and open and the trail gravelly and rough. I began to feel as though I was on another planet. I began to wonder if the valley at the end of this trail was as green as my friend had promised.

But just over another rise, there it was. It was more than green.  Layers of trees in a lush living jungle tumbling down from the steep heights – a waterfall in the distance. Breathtaking. And still a ways off.

The trail had helped clear my head and heart. I felt good and ready for whatever was to come from being in this place.

At the end of the trail was the beginning of a more formalized campground. There was an unoccupied ranger’s hut and a helipad. There was another stunning beach and a small waterfall. There was a tree with a young man sitting underneath it. I knew where he was from. There was no mistake in my mind. I walked up to him, dusty and covered in sweat, fresh from the trail and fairly amazed at the sight of him. He looked up from his book, smiled, and extended his hand. He said, “Hello! My name is Ugyen Wangchuck, and I am from Bhutan.”people

It was as if the whole world just grabbed me in a hug. I had traveled out from the high mountains, a quarter of the way around the world to the blue ocean, to meet a citizen of the high mountains once again. It was as if the trail had been laid out before me and I had no idea I was following it. I couldn’t explain to Ugyen, but was so grateful to be his friend in what was surely just as strange and wonderful a place for him as it was for me.

If I was writing a piece of fiction about a young woman’s travels into the far-flung places in the world, could I have made that up?  Maybe. It’s a wonderful twist.  But I don’t know that I could have created the integrity of his innocence, his bright smile.  His gun-toting sponsor with the grand plan to bottle Bhutanese spring water and sell it to Americans?  Wow.  I don’t need to make it up, because it’s real.

I chatted with Ugyen and his friend under that tree for some leisurely moments before a kid in ragged cut offs ran by yelling something about rangers checking camping permits. My friend never told me anything about camping permits. I looked once more at the comfortable flat campsite by the beach, turned around, and headed for the woods.

I guess I’m still there.  Or here, rather, in these woods now, exploring this far-flung piece of our planet. When I can conceive a piece of fiction fine enough to make a parallel to this slice of reality, I’ll tell you all about it. kids

each life.

{I started writing this post a few months ago, just before finding out that I was pregnant. I feel like the process of putting this memory to words had a very healing affect on me. After putting this post on the back-burner for a time, I still feel compelled to share it even though the circumstances of my life have shifted. I am now nearly 22 weeks pregnant, and feel healthy and strong, and very thankful to have the chance to share this experience here)

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IMGP1280I’m not sure why I’m writing this post. I have a tendency towards light-hearted humor in this space. That is my tendency in life as well. The world is already full of enough weight, I hesitate to add to that weight unnecessarily. But I’ve had this nagging feeling… honestly, for a couple of years now. I just can’t shake the notion of the possibility that this story might be of help to someone out there. Of comfort, or understanding. Of alleviating loneliness or maybe isolation.

So, first, a disclaimer: If you are looking for a light read today, do not read further. Have a lovely day, but move on to something else. My thoughts do not coalesce into anything profound here. There is no neat and tidy ending to this story. It is simply an experience that I feel compelled to share; or maybe the experience is compelling me to share. I don’t know. If you choose to read on, understand that this experience still pains me deeply. My words may not always flow as easily as the tears that are already coursing down my cheeks.

Deep breath. Here goes.

I have had four miscarriages. One. Two. Three. Then four.

The first three occurred in my late twenties, during my first few years of marriage. I was coming off being a vegetarian, and am pretty sure that the soy in my diet was screwing with my hormones enough that my body just could not maintain a pregnancy. There just wasn’t balance. Somewhere along the way, I learned about the Weston Price foundation, and Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. Eric and I were in the beginnings of our homesteading efforts, and the progression of our diets would have eventually evolved into more of the picture this book painted, but reading the fine print really brought some important truths out of the shadows for me, and quickly. I honestly can not say whether or not the shift in my eating habits contributed or not, but I became pregnant with Ira. If you have been reading in this space for any length of time, you might know that Ira is now eleven. He did not miscarry. I sometimes wonder if his tenacity and stubbornness came to be because it took four tries before his spirit made its way into the realm of the living. Obviously, I can’t answer this, but I wonder just the same.IMGP1281

Then, Opal came to be. No problems whatsoever. Then Olivia. Again, no problems. Completely healthy pregnancies, wonderful homebirths, beautiful babies.

Then, just over three years ago my day began in the emergency room of our local hospital. I was nearly 12 weeks pregnant. I had been spot bleeding on and off for several days beforehand, but really had a hard time accepting the blaring fact that I might be miscarrying. Oddly enough, before I laid down to rest for the night, I asked Eric if he knew how to get to the hospital. Very randomly. I told him it might be a good idea to look the map up online. I also wondered what homeopathic remedy was appropriate for heavy bleeding. We looked that one up as well. It’s phosphorous, in case you are wondering. Something in my psyche compelled me to ask these questions, and I did not push the questions aside as paranoia. I guess it was instinct. Regardless, when I laid down with Olivia, to snuggle her little being into slumber, the cramping began. My heart sank. I knew immediately that was the beginning of the end.

This miscarriage turned out to be very different than the other three that I had experienced. This time around, I hemorrhaged as my body tried to pass the placenta that was blocking my cervix. It seems slightly twisted that I was nearly killed by my body’s best efforts to cleanse itself. And quite frankly, I didn’t understand that this was happening. Each of my other miscarriages had resolved themselves with no intervention, so I guess I expected the same thing. When the bleeding just wouldn’t subside, and my extremities were starting to feel numb, we (finally) called the midwife. She very emphatically instructed Eric to get me to the hospital immediately. So off we went, headed to the hospital at 80 mph on the winding country roads in the wee hours of the morning. This a way I hope to never, ever have my day begin again.IMGP1282Healing from this trauma was just awful. Not only was I emotionally wrecked, but I was physically shocked as well. I am a very physical person, and when I could barely walk a few steps across the floor without feeling like I would pass out… I was down in a way I had never been before. This was by far the worst I had ever felt in all of my life. The emotional healing was extremely difficult, too. Miscarriage is often one of those quiet burdens a woman carries around in her heart. It can be very isolating. Mourning a miscarriage is hard for any outsider to fully understand. The woman may not appear any different before and after the loss. There may not have been any physical “proof” that a baby ever even existed. But damn it, it is a huge loss. If you have suffered a miscarriage, you know precisely what I’m talking about. It’s the loss of a life. And each life is so precious, even if it ends having barely begun.

I will spare you all of the nitty gritty details of my healing process. I will spare you the episodes of severe anxiety and panic. The anger and fear. The sadness. It was all there, trust me, but enough said.

A few weeks after this miscarriage, when my midwife stopped by to check on my healing, she very calmly said “Don’t let this be your last memory.” Meaning, if we really wanted another child, don’t be afraid to try again. I’m pretty sure I mumbled something along the lines of I don’t think I will ever be able to try again. No way. Not ever.

Life is full of surprises, though… IMGP1283

Now, I’m almost twenty-two weeks pregnant. I can hardly wrap my head around it. The joy and the fear are all tangled up together. The first trimester of this pregnancy was incredibly intense for me. I had a few short spells of spot-bleeding that left me feeling very, very anxious. For my mental health, Eric and I concluded that we should proceed with our lives as best we could and that I would simply take care of myself. Regardless of the outcome. Keep moving, keep breathing deeply, and keep some Rescue Remedy close at hand. We opted not to tell anyone about the pregnancy until I was safely through the first trimester. Anytime I had to leave the farm, which I made sure was pretty seldom, I wore a puffy down vest to conceal my swelling… to avoid the questions and my own insecurities. I guess we all have to learn to ride the waves of our own lives, don’t we? Each in our own way. Well, I’m riding this wave now. I’m in the middle of it… Is it intense? Yes. Is it beautiful? Yes. Will I survive? I surely do hope so. IMGP1284

hands on. little knits.

I have not been an avid knitter while being pregnant. I didn’t really get obsessed with knitting until Livi was a baby (nearly six years ago now. eeegads!). I remember when the obsession set in, though, how strongly it took hold. As a busy mama of three little ones, I had to figure out ways to make my new craft a tangible thing while still tending to the needs of my littles. So I would sometimes knit while we went on walks. I would knit while Livi was in her swing, in between pushes. I would most definitely knit on car trips (not while I was the one behind the wheel, of course). I was obsessed then, but I think I love knitting even more now. I have learned how to fix errors much better, so I don’t fret nearly as much as I did when I was just learning. And now, I get to indulge in the delight of knitting as an expectant mother. What fun!

So despite this being a wild and crazy time of year to do much else than tend the gardens, I just can’t help myself. I have to knit little garments for this baby that is growing in my belly. I’m pretty sure that this will be my last child, and I know that a pregnant woman needs to take a rest now and again (especially a pregnant woman in her forties), so hand over my knitting, please, I’ve got some work to do.

IMGP1505This sweater is the toddler t-shirt vest (http://samlamb.blogspot.com/2010/07/toddler-t-shirt-vest.html) which is super cute but will probably be a bit too big for the newborn stage.IMGP1507And this diaper cover is the Vanilla soaker by Kelly Brooker (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/vanilla-3). Her pattern is very versatile, accommodating several yarn weights and with instructions for a whole bunch of sizes. I will be making many more of these, hopefully.IMGP1508One of the most beautiful things about knitting for a baby is just how little yarn you need to complete a project… perfect for cleaning out the yarn stash! And the projects are so little and fast! Which is a good thing, cause this pregnancy is flying by so “little and fast” suit my needs just right.