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Coincidence? I think not.

Since my daughter was born in early July, I’ve finished 5 vampire books. I read them exclusively while nursing her.

If I were on Twitter I would follow up this statement with #noteethyet #suckingthelifeoutofme.

Red carpets and old friends

I was nursing my daughter around midnight when I remembered to respond to a text I’d gotten earlier in the week from my dear friend Elizabeth. She lives in LA, three time zones to the west, so I didn’t have to worry about waking her up … and sure enough, she wrote back right away.

We live such different lives these days, it’s hard for us to stay in touch sometimes. She works long hours in Hollywood, and by the time she gets in her car to head home, I’m already asleep. When we do connect, our conversations are dropped somewhere in the mountains as she drives out of cell phone range, or they are interrupted by my impatient toddler, or the necessities of dinner and bedtime stories.

But at one time in our lives, as college roommates, we spent most of every day together. Eating in the dining hall, walking to parties in the snow, sitting next to each other in poetry class. Her whistling and singing, which she did almost constantly, became the soundtrack of my daily life (and a pleasant one at that). Later, as seniors living off campus, we threw wine and cheese parties every week in our apartment, disguising its shabbiness with excessive candlelight and moody electronic music.

Just a few days before we moved out at the end of senior year, I watched her flutter around the apartment as she arranged flowers in various jars. The reality of our impending separation sank in my heart like a stone. Then I wrote a bad poem about it. Ah, youth.

Serendipitously, Elizabeth called me just hours after Sally was born to see how I was doing, unaware of the event that had just transpired. “I had a baby! This morning!” I answered. Somehow I wasn’t surprised that she had called. Like there is still a current of connectivity running between us, no matter how thin we stretch it.

We hadn’t spoken much since then, until our late night texting. I asked when the Emmy’s are happening, because you see, she’s nominated for one. (They are tonight.) She sent photos of four gowns and I helped her decide which to wear. By then Sally had fallen asleep next to me on the bed, and I was debating on whether I should move her … Elizabeth wisely recommended I leave her there.

The next morning I laughed into my coffee when I scanned my phone, reviewing our conversation. We had both offered each other advice, albeit for very different decisions. Our lives, it seemed, couldn’t be farther apart. I told myself this was funny, but when I recounted it to my husband, tears pooled in my eyes.

And why? Because I miss her? Because I wish it were me on the red carpet? Because I want her to meet my daughter? Because I’m mourning those late nights in our apartment, after everyone had gone, when we listened to Aphex Twin and the only thing we had to worry about was the hangover we’d have for our 9 AM class?

Yes. All of these things. All of the feelings, as the kids say these days. The irony and the nostalgia and the jealousy and the frank fondness for my own, simple life … it all hit me at once in a beautiful mess of emotion (and probably some mommy hormones). And that’s so much of what life is these days.

Shhhh … I’m actually cherishing every moment

I get it now. And I should probably apologize.

You see, my son was a colicky baby. Meaning, he cried all the time for the first 4 months of his life. Like, ALL THE TIME. And then maybe 75 percent of the time for the four months after that.

I’ve written and talked about this a lot, so I won’t go into detail — but both my husband and I were traumatized by our son’s first year on this earth. I am not exaggerating when I say those were my darkest days.

Amidst the trauma, again and again, well-meaning people would listen to my struggles and then respond with, “I know it’s hard, but try to cherish this time. It goes so quickly and you’ll miss these early moments.”

Which made me simultaneously want to dissolve into a teary pool of guilt and punch them in the face.

But you see, now I get it. I know where they were coming from.

Because right now I’ve got a sweet baby girl tucked into my arm. She’s nursing and dozing, and when she wakes up she might fuss a bit, but then I’ll burp her and sing a little song and she’ll open her eyes and gurgle and coo and smile a huge gummy grin with deep dimples on both cheeks.

babymoon

And if I need to go to the bathroom, I can just lay her down on the floor where she can see the window, or I can put her in a bouncy seat with her favorite rattle that sounds like wind chimes. She might stay happy for long enough for me to put dinner in the oven. If she fusses, sometimes just the sound of my voice will soothe her.

Every day, usually several times a day, I hold her head against my cheek, rub her back, and breathe in her baby smell. I think of how precious this time is.

But folks, she is a different species from her brother. Her brother, who was a force powerful enough to knock me into depression for nearly a year. (Incidentally, he remains such a powerful force that I found myself crying just days before his sister was born, wondering how I could ever possibly love another child as fiercely as I love him. Spoiler alert: it all worked out.)

So just a reminder: take new parents at their word. Try not to compare them to yourself or other new parents who took it all in stride. The struggle is real, y’all.

But I’m sorry about wanting to punch you in the face. I get it now, and I promise … I’m cherishing every moment.

What I said upon serving Chipotle leftovers

Lunch … it’s what’s for dinner!

My husband thought it was funny.

Winging it

I’m pecking out this blog post with one finger on my right hand, balancing my newborn daughter in the crook of my left arm. She’s dozing, but fitfully.

I’m here to make a declaration of sorts. I’m going to show up here. Pathetically, for a while. One-handed. Exhausted. And probably focused on my tiny world that is life with young children.

Much of what I say will get cut off abruptly. I’m going to say it anyway.

How I feel about June

More Than Enough

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense

the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never

again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.

 
by Marge Piercy

A special day

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Today is my mom’s birthday. I failed to send her anything, even though she faithfully, to this day, sends me a birthday gift each year. I am 33 years old, and so grateful.

This year, in about two months, I’ll turn 34: the age my mom was when she gave birth to me, her youngest. And then a month or so after that, I’ll have a baby girl. My second child and, most likely, my last.

All of this has me thinking of her, wondering what she was like at my age … how she felt about being a wife, a mother of three, an artist, a young woman. Sometimes, I think we have this notion that our parents are complete or unchanging; that they became themselves long ago, before we knew them. But now, especially as a mother, I see how I’m constantly becoming myself. That it never stops.

Deep thoughts for a gloomy Friday afternoon.

All I know for sure is that I’m thankful for my mama. And if you ever see anything beautiful in my home — a turquoise plate with a bird’s nest etched into its center; a scarf in ocher, scarlet, and deep blue; a locket necklace in the shape of a perfect, golden, long-eared sow — chances are it came from her. She has excellent taste — I’m pretty sure she’s been that way forever.

Truth.

Nothing

can replace
poetry
in my life
and one day
surely
it will

–Ken Mikolowski

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Wilder by the minute

Hello! It’s me, Elise.

After a long hiatus, I’m re-launching my blog, Half Wild, with a new look. And hopefully some new things to say, and a few pretty pictures.

About six years ago, my husband and I left Washington, DC, and returned to Indiana, where we had met and gone to college. Together with my husband and some friends, I started farming on a small scale while keeping my day job as a writer for nonprofit organizations.

Sometime later, I came across a book of poems called Half Wild by Mary O’Reilley. The name clung to my brain. The life I lead often seems to operate in dichotomies, but regardless of what I’m doing, wildness finds its way to me.

Now, with a two-year-old and another baby on the way, my life feels more than just half wild some days. This is a space for wildness and order to come together, however they may.

Here’s a poem from┬áMary O’Reilley’s book (which I highly recommend).

The Gods Keep Descending

Just carrying in the groceries
you can lose everything.

Late October:
reeling
unreeling
intentional beat,
instinctive surrender–
the geese fly over.

“To be caught up like that!”
you allow–
stunned homesick
between the porch
and the car.

Your skin puckers, thins,
breaks into feathers

and easy as that we go,
belong to ourselves no longer
but to calling
and cliffs
of snow.

–Mary O’Reilley

 

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