May 22nd: On his day in 334 BC, The Macedonian army of Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in the Battle of the Granicus.
On this day in 1843, the first wagon train with 700 – 1000 migrants, departed from Independence, Missouri for Oregon. On this day in 1939, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini signed the “Pact of Steel”. On this day in 2016, Charley and Claudia were married after only knowing each other for seven months. Everyone meets at the visitors center to drive into the park and watch cows under The Wedding Tree. Charley is drunk and needs visine and a pep talk from his brother. Claudia made a two-tier chocolate cake with flowers and berries. Her dress is white lace and her enormous flower bouquet covers a pregnant belly. Charley cries. The clouds lift over the Tetons. Everyone feels awkward but fresh. Everything feels oddly good. Charley and Claudia are peculiar specimens of humans who have found each other in the middle of this crowded and chaotic world. Charley and Claudia are in love.
While I poke my face red, I am stunned by the internet again. It totally throws me for a loop when Charley writes a message on my Facebook wall for our one year anniversary. Expecting nothing, as usual, and that he might even forget it, it takes me completely by surprise to read:
It means more to me than a honeymoon in Ireland, or a diamond ring (though I do hope he buys me a ring). It reminds me why I married him. They’re still just words. Sometimes I want to quit and run away to Paris. Of course I can’t afford to run away to Paris, Texas, much less France. Renewed hope- a dangerous drug?
May 23rd: my mom is 69 years old today. On this day in 1785, Benjamin Franklin announced his invention of bifocals. On this day in 1958, Mao Zedong starts the “Great leap forward” movement in China. On this day in 1948, Renee Charlene was born in Tennessee to Leon and Eunice Norris. She was the first of three children. She liked to climb mahogany shelves and break fine china plates.
I wake up on the 23rd feeling incredibly ambitious. It’s my mom’s birthday. Why not brainstorm the exact ways I will get her off my back and make life easier for both of us? For everyone?
I send in an application to a massage and healing arts program at UNM. I post services offered for tutoring and editing on Craigslist. I make homemade business cards. I make homemade oatmeal. My brain is turning on again to the possibilities of making money and being superwoman. This is on: me.
After a day at the DMV and on the phone with Santa Fe-based DMV employees asking for documents to prove I had an interlock device on my car five years ago for a DUI, I need a hike.
Charley, Dakota, three dogs and I hike into Taos canyon and then in the valley. We return and wander around in a daze. I have sage in my pockets, dirt on my ankles and mud in my toes. I take a bath for two hours. We admire Seth MacFarlane’s voice acting. We watch an episode of “Family Guy”. Then drift apart half asleep until 2 am.
“People are idiots.”
Then I’m brushing my teeth and he says, “Check this out. A 28-year-old teacher caught kissing his student… a fourth grader.”
“People are the worst.”
“Sickens me there are people like that in the world. Full of that much evil…”
“Yeah but you have done some things, you know, to me that take a lot of evil.”
“How can you even compare the two-”
“Sure they’re different but I’m just saying, you don’t choke your wife-”
“Why if I’m so horrible are you still with me-”
“Because that’s not you, that’s not how you normally are- I hope I never see that again.”
He is ashamed. I’m ashamed. History doesn’t just go away. The good and bad are all there. I’m mad for every woman who has had to think, “I never thought this would happen to me.” This isn’t a Facebook post.
Does your heart ever feel like it’s just going to burst with love? It counteracts the random bouts of anger. I’ll be sitting and my baby smiles and I want to explode with love and gratitude that she is mine. Maybe this is how people have heart attacks.
And when my favorite dog Freyja follows me everywhere and my heart warms and warms and almost melts down my body.
My favorite dog is my daughter. Or sister. My best friend. She’s named after Freyja the Norse goddess, and like Freyja the goddess, Freyja the dog has inspired various works of art, (such as my scribbles and countless Instagram posts).
Freyja the Norse goddess looks after half the after life-Folkvang- and rides a chariot pulled by two cats. She cries tears of red gold for her husband Odr. She is a goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Her name was replaced by the Virgin Mary as Christianity became popular. I know who the true goddess is, and it’s my dog.
Hemingway worshipped a posse of polydactyl cats. Dickens had his pet raven. I have Freyja, (incidentally, meaning “Lady”, my other female dog’s name).
She is my furry brown and white shadow. While I take a bath she warms my slippers. If I shift in the tub she’s up for an immediate migration to bed. We are inseparable. What will I do when she goes to Folkvang?
For me, having these animals and this family has been crucial to getting back to feeling like myself and feeling good about myself after having a baby. Even today a woman saw me carrying Dakota and asked when the next one was due. This has happened maybe ten times since I had Dakota and she’s seven and a half months old. My body didn’t change at all except my belly and it seems to have slowly been getting the memo that the baby’s out. I’m not sure it ever really got the memo. I eat well, I exercise, and yet it still is visible enough for people to not only assume but to be the idiots who just go right out and ask: Boy or girl? When? Already another?
WHY DO PEOPLE DO THAT?
I can’t imagine what I would do- as I essentially remain separated from society as much as possible- without this small, sometimes dysfunctional, always neurotic, yet loving family, just as I don’t know what I’d do without my writing, and the friends I’ve made through books: Dickens, Austen, Kesey, Murakami, Shteyngart, Dostoevsky, Hesse, Hemingway, Woolf. Dickens makes me to laugh at this rebellious body and these absurd caricatures. Austen reminds me to observe details and the quiet people. Murakami pushes me to explore the hidden dreams of my subconscious. Woolf urges me to remember what I forgot.
Woolf once said, “I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful.” This exactly what I love. Without my own space, my own small intimate world, there would be nothing to hold onto and cherish. This meaningless world would consume me and I would be lost. This is the world of tea and books and memories, made-up conversations, what ifs, whys and the stubborn pursuits of happiness.
May 25th: On this day in 1720, the ship “Le Grand St Antoine” reaches Marseille, bringing Europe’s last major plague outbreak, killing an estimated 100,000 people.
Charley’s going to spend the summer in Red River, 45 minutes away up a canyon road, halfway across the Enchanted Circle. He’ll be a Lift Operator. Probably have a male roommate from China. It’s not official yet but it’s probable.
I groaned and complained, but in the end, I think it’s a good idea. This year was good and bad. I loved and hated it. We loved each other and abused each other. He needs to grow up. I need to relax. He needs to face himself. We need to be alone for awhile. But he’s close and we still have love and Dakota.
I was deleting 6,000 pictures (“La La Land” theme song playing in the back of my head) from my phone. Some were from hiking in Moab. Some were of a bruised arm. Some of being extremely pregnant and sitting outside of St Marks Hospital surrounded by flowers. Some were of our new family, smiling. I really wouldn’t change a thing if it meant not being where I am today. People preach and judge and warn and cry. But everyone is living and creating and loving as much or little as they choose. This is how life works.
*featured photo is Hemingway with one of his cats