I have been floating for a few weeks now.  Hovering just above the ground, only inches, perhaps less, so little that nobody notices. In fact, when people look at me (which they do all the time these days) they observe, among other things, a pair of feet flattened and spread, legs slightly bowed and swollen, a tremendous weight around my middle appearing to hold me down, a back unnaturally arched, an appearance of heaviness that is, I think, a disguise for this sense of suspension that fills me now- suspension of time, suspension of rationality, suspension of anger and fear, and even anxiety, a suspension of the world around me that lets me float between two worlds of imagination. It feels almost as if I, too, am encased in an amniotic world that is much like hers, my body turned inside out, amniotic fluid in my eyes, my ears, my heart, between my fingers and arms waiting to hold her, an underwater sea full of magic where thoughts are uniformed by the world outside, untouched – a dolphin, a whale, a human child. She can dream, now, and open and close her eyes. She can hear voices, and form thoughts and feel emotions. And she is within me, still, only slowly planning to swim out. If I eat, she does, and if I breathe deeply, she receives that oxygen. If I turn on the light, she, too can sense a glow through my skin. She does not yet know gravity, and I, my mind and body still one with hers, have lost all sense of it in these past weeks, waiting, weighting, weightless, for her arrival.  I cannot escape the huge pressures on my body, from within and without, only the sense that this pressure lifts more than weighs.

And it is only this: this liminal space: a fog, a journey, a mist, a doorway, an ocean, a mountain, the curve of a tree, a cave, a bedroom, a bear, a carpet, a nightlight. A cup of tea, a spring snow, a summer storm, a sweater, a song, the wishes of a family, the smell of dog curls, the vibration of the voice of her father, the  shadows moving across the wall of her nursery, the blossoms that formed and fell from our tree, the leaves that replace them, the lull and hush of the fan, the sleep that is dreamless, the sleep of strange dreams – it is this liminal space that forms our intention. And this intention – it is hers and ours, it is what we form slowly, quietly, for her. Because this time, when we have expected her arrival at any moment, has been a space to create intention. It is the intention that is weightless, that glows, that fills our moments with something that is not time, that is not even thought, exactly, nor quite as ephemeral as a wish. It is the words we murmur, the space between the two of us (my mountain boy and myself, a belly, a space for her, as wonderful as any filled space in the world) the words and silences we exchange, the knowing that when we see something beautiful, our first thought is one thought: the thought of her, this world she will enter. We have finished her nursery, kept the house clean for her, made everything ready over and over and over again, and it is here that we pause, that we float, that we continue to meditate and sit quietly with and lift up our intention. Nothing about it even vaguely suggests dictation – part of our intention is that she be a free spirit, that she follow her own heart, and that it be a good heart.

We don’t have much more time for this – her imminent arrival, moment by moment, approaches the inevitable – I am finishing this post between contractions. And of course I am aware of the weight, the pain, anxiety, fear, frustration, gravity – but only peripherally, as if watching from, yes, a few inches above the earth. They are very real, the discomfort of a baby past due cannot simply be floated away from her mother, but there is still a kind of peace that infiltrates, that informs, that, yes, with intention, mindfulness, hope, can be a gift as well, a reminder that physicality is part of reality.

Soon,  I will re-enter my body, fully and solely, bring it back to the earth, grounded, solid, a place to comfort and shape, feed and hold hers, her independent, strong and lovely and separate body. We will have floating, drifting, liminal moments together again but they will be different, held together by hands instead of an umbilical cord, communicated through air instead of water, shared with her father and communicated with the joy of her own legs running through the forest, skiing down the mountain, the physical space within his arms when he reads to her at night and she falls asleep.  She is coming into a world so blessed by her family, so many family members that love her already, and it is a real world, a solid world, a grounded space below the mountain, between the arms of her family, within the space that we have all created. A physical space, a space of intention, a place for a child to drift and dream and grow.

lemon meringue pie

tarte aux fruits

Though I sometimes call myself Violette the Bearess, “she” is, in fact, the same person as “I” am, just slightly more adventurous and adroit than the quiet self behind her. (You see, I started the sentence saying “I call myself” rather than “I call her.”) I am not, in fact, a bearess but a young lady who might pretend to be a bear sometimes, and I can assure you that pretending is not the same thing as actually believing oneself to be a bear, no matter how vivid one’s imagination may be, no matter how deep into the forest I may wander. Though I was born gemini (and on the cusp to further complicate matters) and may, sometimes blame a phantom twin for my transgressions and fickleness, those are are metaphors rather than physical renderings. (Even if I do look over my shoulder sometimes – I wasn’t nicknamed “Angel-Dickens” for nothin’!) I may not have had the most steadfast of careers, though however many hats I have haberdashed, this head (hairless though it was at first) is the same that pushed itself through my mother’s womb (and what a topsy-turvy that journey was), and these arms, these legs are the same that pushed and kicked and patted and parted her body. And this belly is the same I always had.

a smidgeon (scale)

Except it isn’t. I have two hearts, but I am not The Doctor (nor a Time Lord, alas). I have two stomachs, but I am not half-bovine (though I certainly feel that way at times). I have four arms, and four legs but am not an octopus, nor a horse nor a bear. But if you were to tell me that there was an octopus or a bear or a horse inside of me, I would believe you because she, “she” that the world insists on calling “baby,” swims fluidly and ponderously, then rides a circus bicycle in circles around my belly, then gallops with extravagant flexing of flank and foreleg . I am myself, living inside of this body, with a new small tenant: ferocious, floating, fragile, fierce and fiercely loved (and imagined!). She has a personality completely independent of mine. She will have (indeed, has – however tiny!)  different eyes, hair, differently shaped elbows and toes, a heart that beats quicker than mine. She will adore different animals and trees, different books, different horizons, but many of the same people though in her own, independent way.

a macaron

Already she will turn over or push up again her father’s hand on my belly (if I can call it mine) or when he talks to her. From the way she moves (“kicking” really can’t be the proper term – she somersaults, she swims, she does yoga, then patters upside down on my belly button) I can almost imagine her playing peek-a-boo, or, in other moments, studiously re-arranging my organs like books in a library for a more comfortable spot to languish (though she never languishes for long).

fleur de sel

One thing I cannot, however, imagine is her as a kumquat. Or an ear of corn. Or a cabbage. (Really? a cabbage?) When I first found out that there was a baby inside of me, I learned that she was, at the time (no longer!) the size of a poppy seed. Happy happy imagination: amazing! And then she was a pea. And then an almond, then a peach, etc. and it just seemed all wrong. When I went from having a navel orange one week to an avocado the next I was befuddled and bemused. Aren’t navel oranges bigger than avocados? (I eat both nearly every day!) And why fruits? Why not furry animals, or birds (a chickadee, a sparrow, an oriole)? Or why not something that (I can’t help it!) is going into the building of this child? like… pastries?

a cupcake

( I do crave oranges (is it the “navel”?) – oh but clementines, too! and Cara Cara oranges and satsumas and, Oh, California, I miss you!) but the orange was only one week’s worth of size! She is NOT a cabbage! No way no how will I allow my little girl to be a cabbage.)  So I decided to make a chart of my own that I could, well, relate to a little bit better. What happened, in fact, was that I related to the chart so well that I found myself crossing the street to our lovely french bakery for, um, reference materials… And it is a little bit silly, and a little bit whimsical and not very scientific, but this is what I came up with.

The First Twenty Weeks

The First Twenty Weeks

The Second Twenty Weeks

The Second Twenty Weeks

Now I can be a mama bear and a petit four, or an angel food cake and a mama haberdasher, or a tiny little circus bear and a proper circus tent (at least, thats how I feel!) Either way, this is a double life I will gladly lead until she decides to become her own, independent little person who can choose her own cakes and breads and she can show us who, exactly, she will be.

angel food cake

a petit fours

drawing the costume

First, I thought I would sketch my costume on paper.

This year, I thought I might make my own costume.  I decided to make an oven, because I have been very particular about my food selections lately, and my oven, you see, is quite particular, too.  I feel a certain affinity for my oven, because it, like me at the moment, will reject any food it doesn’t care for. Sometimes it will burn it, sometimes it will mush it, and sometimes it will simply refuse to cook it in the center.  We try to find foods that the oven likes, according to her whims.  So, I think, like me, she is fickle, and so I decided to be her this year. 

Cutting out my costume.

Then I would cut it out.

Right now my handsome husband is half-costumed: he is wearing his apron and his green shoes and making risotto while I am busy being the choosy oven. But it isn’t exactly a costume for him because he wears this same ensemble quite often. (He is a genius in the kitchen.)

oven costume

Our costumes.

So, have you caught on yet? I’m not actually making an oven costume. Because, like my husband I am already in costume. Guess what is inside of me this Halloween?

bun in the oven

Bun in the oven!

This recipe will take six more months.

Imaginary Lives

They are already living their lives.

They are already living their lives.

As a child, I never had an imaginary friend. I longed for one, was envious of the leagues, and mysteries into which I was not an initiate. I did not have that someone to encourage shenanigans, and in turn, to blame mistakes, missteps, and misguidance upon. There were times I might have liked an ally, someone invested only in me, as their creator, protector, inspiration, confidante and of course, as my scapegoat. I tried to conjure one, but I think intention is sort of counter-productive to the process – the more I tried to create her in my mind, the further away she’d slip. Maybe it was because I had so many books to read – I found friends between the pages, worlds to fall into, societies to which I most certainly belonged.

elk sketch

The elk belongs to autumn.

Or maybe it was because I had my stuffed animals. It is not unusual, I should think, to believe fully in our stuffed animals’ world as children. Anthropomorphized, each of them had a personality: Phoebe, Jenny, Puppy, Unicorn, Tiger. I absolutely believed they breathed, spoke, dreamed and interacted with each other, though rarely did they deign to include me. They had parties on my bed at night, went into the kitchen for snacks when nobody was looking, played in the backyard, argued, fell in love, fought, frolicked and bantered. I was witness to – and sometimes a part of – a world that was huge and wonderful and private and very secret – a world that was only theirs and mine, did not belong even to a book.

wolf and bear sketch

I don’t know when exactly this started, but I do know when it ended. I may have been a bit old to believe in such things, but there was nothing to dictate the ebb and flow of endings until we moved – I was twelve and suddenly in a new place across the country. Though their stuffed bodies moved with me, their world had vanished, and they lay limp in my arms. I suddenly had no friends, real or otherwise, within a thousand mile radius. Those cypress trees, those alligators, those huge herons with wings dripping with Spanish moss terrified me. The frenzied afternoon thunderstorms that hissed while drying were unfamiliar – a good thunderstorm should unfold itself and leave the air just a little bit cooler than when it began, a hush in its wake. 

Rabbit Sketch

We moved again, to the other side of the country where I made some of the best friends I have in this world. And of course, I always had my sister, mother, father, a dog and my dear, sweet old cat, and more dogs to come. I didn’t have to conjure worlds or animals or friends, but it seems I couldn’t stop.

Wolf Sketch

The wolf belongs to winter.

Even now, when I look at toy animals I think, “would you like to come home with me? would you like to meet your new friends?” and “who are you? what are you really like?” 


rabbit and chipmunk sketch

There are some people that can write and draw simply by remembering observations they have made and combining them with imagination. On an entirely blank page, with only a pen or a keyboard, they create a universe, visual or literary.  I’m not that talented. I like to have something to work from – I’ll listen to Bob Dylan before I sit down to write, or I’ll leaf through “Invisible Cities,” by Italo Calvino. When I draw, I pull up images on the internet (“chipmunk,” “chipmunk running” “chipmunk hiding.”) Yet I have seen hundreds of chipmunks in my life. If I were to go to the window of the cabin (or look under the couch? see here…) I could probably see five in one glance. I ought to know how to draw one… but looking at a still picture is helpful. I can always change him into the chipmunk that I want to draw.

bear sketch

I was thinking about this, and about the wooden hand model I have, and the little wooden jointed person that can become whoever I want when I draw, and so got online to find some animal models. (Some things are easier to draw than others. I spend hours looking at my dog. Petting him. Feeling how his bones work together, the little ligaments and tendons and muscles, how his expressions change with such small movements. I can draw him – looking at him or not looking at him. I know a little bit more about drawing other animals because of him.) I chose some very inexpensive animals online – they arrived and were so static, unfeeling, cold – so plastic – but when I look at them more closely to draw them, they seem to change, have personalities, things they want me to pull out of them, put onto the page. I begin to imagine their lives. I begin to think of their personalities. What their life was like when they all lived together in a tiny box, and what must have transpired there. And then I am eight years old again bearing witness to a world in which I am a part, in which I am more than just just an observer, a place that manifests with intentions rather than slips away.  

fox sketch

bright and shiny

A lovely, stately creature.

When I first moved to Ohio I took no furniture. I was living in an old Queen Anne home, a beautiful victorian sweetly restored and maintained and furnished: a pretty white iron bed, a vanity with a mirror in the bedroom, wall paper in the bathroom, an old dining room table, an ancient roll-top desk.  There was even a butler’s pantry between the living room and the dining room, all wood and glass cabinets with some scrolled filigree bordering the top: a magical little place where I am certain the characters in the old fairy tales I housed in those cabinets came to life at night and dueled with icicles outside and trekked the snowy garden in winter,  shook the lilac trees on spring mornings before the sun rose. 

A butler's pantry is a small alcove between a kitchen and a dining room through which food, cooked in the kitchen, could pass through a butler and onto the table. Also: a place for magical things.

A butler’s pantry is a small alcove between a kitchen and a dining room through which food, cooked in the kitchen, could pass through a butler (and where all of the silverware and china would be close at hand) and then conveyed to the table. Also: a place for magical things.

Space I had, but there were a few small things I still needed : a bedside lamp, a stool to reach the high kitchen cabinets and to water the geraniums over the high leaded windows.  My mother was there to help settle me in and came back with the prettiest lamp one ever did see: cream colored porcelain, fleur-de-lis, a bit of gold tracery and a brass stand: delicate and a bit stately, elegant and oddly baroque, a mix between the bedroom of a young French princess and the parlour of an aging spinster. The hours we spent together! Reading books, reading manuscripts, reading books that would-be, have been and will-be published! Reading the magical tales of my classmates through long winter nights with the fields of corn, soybean and wheat flowing east, west, south beyond the ancient trees of the old town in the old doll-house of a mansion, a huge haunted lake to the north, and beyond that, another country. Tightly bundled beneath my flowered white duvet in my white iron bed I read and wrote and drew by the light of my pretty old lamp.

Bedtime Reading

She’s awake, reading…

Then I moved to the mountains. I took this lamp with me: I could never leave her behind. A few days after this move, I met my mountain boy. I found myself living among bears in an oddly furnished cabin-in-the-woods. I had an animal skin lampshade over an old black iron lamp there and so sent my old beauty home with him: a brand new loft in an century-old brick building with tall tall windows and hardwood floors – a much more fitting place for her than a log cabin with saltillo tiles and hand-loomed southwest rugs. She was not used to roughing it, did not particularly like mice scampering across her delicate feet. A place where electricity could be assured should please her, I thought.

And now we are reunited, living in the city with the tall windows all lit up with the colors of candles, in a bedroom with a huge wooden bed, piles of books and mounds of pillows. But something has happened to her: she remembers her old homes, the beautiful houses and bedrooms she has lived in before. When she remembers, she dreams, and when she dreams, she blinks and drifts and sighs.  A sleepy lamp, she will flutter on and off and on and off and sometimes, she simply falls asleep while I am reading, mid sentence, or mid footfall to the bed, mid dressing, mid brushing, mid pillow adjusting or mid sigh as I give up trying to rouse the sleeping beauty. She does not like to be awoken and will only flutter on for a few moments before resuming her repose. I cannot bear the thought of replacing her though she haunts us, waking and sleeping with flickers and shadows and dramatic darkness.

Blinking Off

She’s dreaming. I’m awake. She falls asleep so unpredictably.

What does a lamp dream of? Does she share my dreams, of bears and rivers and foxes? Does she dream of mansions and grandmothers and knitting, of French princesses with pink shoes waking in the night and turning her on for a midnight tryst? Does she dream of oil and wicks? Does she dream of the magical stories she has read over my shoulder before blinking, blinking, blinking off and illuminating those dreamed worlds instead? And she does sometime wake with a start, flooding the room with her amber musk of dreamed worlds… 

A haunting that time-travels and space-traverses liminality, she is the place between waking and sleeping. 

We have the world’s best dog. (If you have a dog, you probably make the same claim. And I am sure you are right. As long as we can both be correct in making our respective and absolutely truthful declarations! “Best” really shouldn’t be a term used to create an exclusion anyway, if you think about it – it kind of defeats the spirit of its predecessor (in this context), “good”… So excuse the lazy phrasing and understand that I do not say “best” as in others can’t be best, too. We can all have the best dogs, right?)

Two of the Best Dogs Ever

Two of the Best Dogs Ever

But back to the best dog at hand. He is a gentleman. He is often referred to as “The Professor.”  And “Zen Master” and “Rinpoche,” (“Rin-Pocheeee!”) and “The Little Prince.” He has a distinguished goatee and a pensive, curious quality to his expression, and the way he cocks his head and wags his tail. He seems interested in you, what you are saying (and eating), what you are feeling, what you are happy about, or sad about, or why in the world you might be jumping all over the house singing “O Frabjous Day! Callooh Callay!”. If you ask if he wants to go for a  —  he will finish your sentence for you by leaping up (as far as his little legs will allow) and shaking his whole body once, goatee to tail, and then prancing across the floor to where he sits to have his leash clipped on, lifting up that goatee to the sky with a smile.

On said —-‘s (I can’t say the word because he gets so hopeful-  his dejection is so dispiriting) he is very polite in sniffing other dogs’ bums and very good at nuzzling his ears into the outstretched hands of strangers, and he never barks (with one exception: skateboards, at which he flings his entire body and voice at the offender (never getting very close) but that is understandable – they do not behave like humans or dogs: no eye contact, extremely loud clattering, and zooming by without even pausing, rudely ignoring the social code of presenting one’s backside for sniffs.)  He is even discreet about where he chooses to pee (well, at least when the fire-hydrants aren’t the first thing he sees – his poesy has fallen victim to that one, blatant cliche.)



After dinner he sleeps: on his bed, on the hardwood floor, on the carpet, on my lap, on the mountain boy’s lap, on the kitchen mat.  And at night, he sleeps at the foot of the bed and doesn’t move until I am ready to get up – often nine or ten hours later. I’ll get up and shower and he will quietly move to the warm spot on the pillow and curl up again for another half hour.

He is ponderous. Pensive. Thoughtful. He plods onward carefully. Contemplates the grass for extended periods. Quiet. Peaceful. He will pad around the house with just the slightest waddle to his patient paw-falls. I could easily imagine him with a top-hat and cane, flaneurial, or perhaps a sweater vest and spectacles, some leather patches on his corduroy jacket’s elbows, a gentleman-farmer-professor.  His recent carpet excavations would qualify him to be an excellent archaeologist, carefully exhuming fossils and ancient specks of alimentation – and he would look quite smart in an Indiana Jones hat and some exploratory boots.  But sometimes, and this is the most common position for him, I will catch him gazing ahead – watching a cricket, a spider, a speck of floating dust, or absolutely nothing at all – his eyes little blissful slits – sitting on his haunches zazen. The Zen Master. Rinpoche. The Professor. Deep in meditation.

He really did find this.

He really did find this.

In fact, he well may have achieved enlightenment. He is so peaceful that sometimes I take the sense of calm and quiet and bliss for granted. And then. And then. And then. He shows his other side. He is, after all, the keeper of the gates and absolutely MUST let me know when someone is at the door. That is all well and good, except when he has been sitting zazen for two hours and suddenly leaps across the room with a tremendously loud announcement, and my pen, which has been so meticulously controlled, is suddenly jerked in a dark, irreparable zig zag leap across a tiny drawing as I startle. And when he gets going – once he has put himself on guard – anything – any little sound outside the window or outside the door – any footstep or sneeze or raindrop or bee buzzing – he is absolutely determined to announce, amplify, warn me of, protect me from, and scare off with a ferociously loud bark. And then bark. And then bark-bark-bark-hoooooooowwwwlllll! He hears everything in these moments, and every thing he hears, from a baby’s laugh across the street to a handshake on the corner to Phil Collins on a car’s radio becomes a threat, which he dutifully – enthusiastically – announces. And though he is petite, his bark is not.

In comes the bark collar.  Before you declare me cruel (that can come later in the post) his bark collar is not the mean kind.  When he barks, the vibration triggers a brief spray of citronella – no shocks, no vibrations, no beeps – just a spray to distract him from barking.  He doesn’t like the spray in his face, I can’t imagine anyone would, but it doesn’t hurt him. I even say “bark-collar” and he runs right over, gets lots of praise and I snap it on and he wags his tail and nuzzles my hand and then waddles off again to sit zazen for a while longer without a peep. He never tries to paw it off, I think he and I both forget it is on.

Which is exactly what happened several nights ago.  We decided to take him with us up to the roof to watch the fireworks – surely he would be happier sitting between us as the fire flew and the booms banged and the zooms zanged outside.  Not to mention that we were both a little unsettled from a very recent boom to the back of our (now defunct) car – I have been a bit jumpy ever since and my zen dog does a lot to calm my nerves.

Sitting Zazen

So we marveled at how well “he” handled the fireworks, chin up, curious but not too frightened, making sure he had one paw on each of our laps as he kept watch. As I pet him, I realized his bark collar was still on from earlier in the day (lots of people were out and about, and he wanted to tell me the life stories of each in novella-barks)- but it wasn’t going off so I thought it wasn’t a problem. Until the moment the fireworks, already fervent, picked up, grew more enthusiastic, feverish, and started their climax and the boom-boom-boom-boom grew so loud all at once and in such quick succession (our own bodies vibrating throughout – imagine his!) that it set off his bark collar not once, twice, or three times but at least twenty before I could get it off, frantic, watching the spray reflecting the fireworks and the professor flinging his head side to side trying to escape the assault and figure out what he was doing so wrong. Citronella all over him and the mountain boy and myself and me in tears (yes, please do judge – I am a terrible dog-mamma and deserve to be reprimanded. deserved the face full of citronella – and worse.) I got it off as the five second finale faded into illuminated smoke and then darkness drifting across the city. I apologized over and over and over to the professor and he, enlightened and kind and generous as he is, just gave me a big buddha smile and a nuzzle, licked my face and finally just dropped his always sweet and blissful head onto my lap where we sat together for a long, long time.

The Professor is always kind and deep in thought.

The Professor is always kind and deep in thought.

Chronological Sequence: Northern Hemisphere.

May 9

friday. seventy-nine degrees fahrenheit.

May 10

saturday. fifty-eight degrees fahrenheit.

May 11 no. 1

sunday. forty-five degrees fahrenheit.

May 11

sunday. thirty-two degrees fahrenheit.

May 11 no. 3

sunday. thirty degrees fahrenheit.

May 12

monday. twenty-five degrees fahrenheit.