May 10th- the day before my birthday. It was pouring rain. I felt like I was in Oregon again, attending college, except instead of driving aimlessly to avoid lectures on film I was driving aimlessly to pretend I was in Oregon again.
Charley dropped off a resume at a fancy hotel restaurant. I dropped off a resume at a local bookstore. Then we ended up at the end of a dirt road called Morada Lane, with a sign: “Mabel Dodge Luhan House Inn, Conference Room, Something Something”.
Here was a third-story solarium, a yoga/meditation center, a creek, city of bird houses, carved pillars, decorative wood ladders reaching up to the clouds, and kiva fireplaces.
Georgia O’Keeffe stayed here. So did Martha Graham, D.H. Lawrence, (who bought Mabel’s ranch in the ’20s with his first manuscript of Sons and Lovers), and Ansel Adams, (my alma mater’s photography department cofounder). Dennis Hopper lived here from 1971 to 1975 and called it The Mud Palace.
It is the type of place that beckons you to sit by the creek, open a book, and spend the entire time the book is open on your lap, watching the birds fly around their Birdopolis of wooden shacks on stilts.
May 11th is my birthday. May 11th is the 131st day of the year excluding leap year. On this day in 1960, the first contraceptive pill was made available. On this day in 1858, Minnesota became the 32nd U.S. state. On this day when I was six, I met Jane Goodall in Fort Worth. On this day when I was seven, I jumped on the bed for joy that I was finally an adult and fell off. On this day when I was 13, my dad embarrassed me at track practice with vegan cake and apple juice. On this day when I was 21, I waited for my “boyfriend” who didn’t believe in “labels”, to come to my surprise birthday party, but he never showed. On this day when I was 25, I went to Jeju Island, South Korea’s honeymoon island, for a week holiday with myself. On my birthday, 2017, I’m going to a lavender farm to immerse myself into a purple haze.
My mother-in-law stopped by with Charley’s posh, wealthy godmother from England. They cooed over crying Dakota: Dakota “the daddy’s girl” and Dakota “just wants her daddy”. Please stop. I picked her up and balanced her on my right hip eating sweet peas with a little green spoon. This is my daughter and I watch over her all the time so shut up ladies.
Two friends messaged concern after the last violent episode with Charley. I don’t think they should worry so much but I wish they were near because more than anything I need a support network here and all I have is the small group that look after Charley’s wellbeing, (“Is Charley working?”, “Did he go to his AA meeting?”, “Blessings to Charley”) and I feel isolated again. I believe it’s the curse of the wife of an alcoholic to be left on the curb to deal with the repercussions of this relationship while the alcoholic is given the central spotlight of nurturing support.
I want to leave this strange town and disappear into Birdopolis. It reminded me ofBirdhouse City- a birdwatching area in Prince Edward, Ontario, where over 100 reproductions of historic buildings serve as birdhouses for the local birdpolitans.
At Mabel’s house, the city of birds is facing back to the inn like the DMZ, as if to stand alert against any mischief from the lunatic southwestern hippie people across the muddy yard.
At 3:15am I’m taking a bubble bath. Charley’s been watching shows then disappearing into the other room for the night which is probably for the best. I feel isolated again but the bath and my dog Freyja following my every move, licking the bubbles of my legs helps. I was born at 3:25 am on an Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. It was the night before a new moon. I was short and fat. I didn’t cry.
Of course I don’t remember any of it, as Dakota won’t remember being pulled out of my opened stomach to Jimi Hendrix and bright lights. But it’s somewhere in her bones, this memory of being born, and the days after where I fought with Charley, and we drove to the historic spots of New Mexico, and listened to the birds and rain.
I scribbled notes so I could write to you, my reader. Why do I do this? “You document everything”, Charley says, exasperated.
“Writing nonfiction is not about telling your story,” essayist Ashley C. Ford said. “It’s about telling interesting and worthy stories about the human condition using examples from your life.”
And he’s still perturbed I talked so bluntly and transparently without his knowledge the whole time I was in the hospital and then had the nerve to publish it.
“There are few heroes and even fewer villains in real life,” Ford said. “If you’re going to write about your human experience, write the truth. It’s worth it to write what’s real.”
What’s real is often not what I want it to be, when I read David Sedaris and try to make jokes out of shitty situations, and fall flat and delete and try again with a few serious experiences that make some people reach out and ask, “Do you need help?” And yet others insist “I was asking for it”.
It’s 4:30 and everyone- from the white kitty to Dakota- is fast asleep. The air purifier is purring, the clock is ticking, Dakota is breathing miniature baby snores in and out. I feel peaceful without reservation for the first in weeks. I’m 34 and I’m about to make it my day and my support network of dogs and a baby will be there, and maybe my husband will give me some peculiar comedy to record.