I wanted to write something beautiful. And short. A poem about a hawk. Instead I made cupcakes from a mix, the funfetti kind. I am reading the words out loud as I type. Unbeknownst to me, Mani’s been in the same boat for the past hour or so; she clicked away from her own blank screen and has been watching The Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. Now my tongue is stained red with frosting from a plastic container. And we are both writing.
But in addition to not writing while the cupcakes were the oven, I got caught up in looking at images on Pinterest of potential tattoos. A hawk feather. The one I wanted to write about. Mucha’s “The Moon,” a painting I’ve loved and identified with for nearly three decades, since I was a girl-woman, smoking out my bedroom window and pining for true love, for a voice.
Tomorrow the girls come home to us after almost a week with their dad, Grandma, and friends in Vermont. Pearl just ran up a few minutes ago though, to grab her snow pants and boots for night sledding, breathlessly excited that it finally looks and feels like winter. I offered her a cupcake and she gave me a hug — pretty great exchange rate, as far as I’m concerned.
I’m wearing Mani’s boyfriend jeans and really don’t want to write a rambling blog post.
I could write about her skin against mine. My god, where I belong. And how the pain in my lower back that’s been tight like a metal band for months now is situated between the first and second chakra — my family of origin and the one of my making. Oh, the body knows. The body knows where the growth spurts are, where the breaks occurred, where the healing hasn’t yet happened all the way but wants and needs to.
Last night, she said I was her lioness. Sleek, gorgeous, fierce, hungry, protective. Our eyes so close, I could see all of the ocean and stars in hers. The hawk, soaring above us — a pair, in fact (they mate for life) who live in the trees behind our bedroom and circle high above the skylight at least once a day. We hear them hunting. They keep watch. “Hawk” is her Hebrew name, and her spirit’s, too. She watches. She soars. She sees.
The lioness is not my name, though for those moments, when she saw me and asked if I felt it, too, felt its power growing, I said yes.
I said yes. I was hers.
The lioness and the hawk. The moon and the silenced night beauty. The despair we all carry, I’m convinced, that comes with love. A mother on her knees, greeting her child, or mourning him. How can I write something beautiful?
So I made cupcakes. I folded laundry. I walked over to my parents house to say hello, because they are here, and I can. Because I have grown up and am not sixteen or twenty-three. Because it is enough, to trust my own experience and to be my own witness once again, without explanation and without danger.
As I walked home earlier, trudging carefully over the slushy sidewalk, I recited the beginnings of a letter to her, to that young woman. Oh, how she wanted a family like the one she’d known and grown up with. She wanted a husband and a house and babies. She didn’t know how to keep herself. For many years, I was devoted.
And then my abandoned self came ravaging out of the shadows, starving and ruthless and sorry-not-sorry.
She, me, I. I wanted to be taken care of. And now, wow. I have begun to see. To become someone I never imagined I would be, which is to say: The one I always wished would find me. I found myself.
Trite, but true.
Last night, I got a long massage. The massage therapist didn’t use any oils, in order to play it safe with regards to Mani’s potential for reacting to scents or ingredients. Instead, she worked only with her clean, bare, unlotioned hands. She began on my right foot and zeroed in on everything that’s been hurting for months. She asked about boundaries.
Today, as I recalled more about the massage, Mani asked me what scares me about having clearer boundaries. “Seeming cold,” I responded. “And things being harder.” She nodded, and then offered this: “I think things just get better and better as a result of boundaries.” My turn to nod.
Both feet on the ground, not one turned slightly outward as it has been for months — not so much a pull out the door as an unconscious expression of fear — fear of standing all the way inside of myself, my decisions and choices, my life as it is and is becoming.
I’m tired of being afraid. Afraid of seeming this or that way. Afraid of being scolded or reprimanded or cornered or challenged. Of elevating “nice” over honest. Of phantom dominance. As the year comes to a close, I will leave this fear behind me on the crumbling bridge. Set it down with a thank you and a kiss blown to vanishing. I’ll walk ahead, the fog is so thick I can no longer locate what I put down.
As Maz says in the new Star Wars: “The belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead.” Maybe that will be my next tattoo.
I am no longer willing to be afraid (yes, I feel her growing, sometimes hear her growling), or of the repercussions I invent out of an arrested imagination that sometimes needs reminders of safety. I may choose to hold my hand to my lips, ssshhhhhhh. But to choose silence is very different from the imposed variety, be it from within or from without.
I am so in love. With my wife. With my kids. I want symbols of them painted in permanent ink on my body — the hawk, the moon, the arrow. Where or whether I actually get these tattoos, who knows. But the impulse to wear my love is strong. To carry myself and my loves with me not only in my bones and blood but on my skin — arms, shoulders, torso, feet, hipbones, anchored — I am coming to life, my whole body announcing itself, the stories of our names like flickering films across our lives. A kind of revival.
I wanted to write something short and beautiful. A poem. Oh, how I longed to write a poem. Instead, I made cupcakes and looked at Pinterest. There is no way to convey the wildness and knowing that my heart sometimes knows. Sometimes, the translation is seamless, when the words channel themselves from some place I’ll never share a map to.
But other times, no. They’re quiet and shy as a waning moon, or careful like prey, unwilling to be hunted. Sometimes the words hide from the hawk and other times, the hawk hides from the lioness. And sometimes, the words are great talons or teeth, clutching or bearing down and staking claim to the kill.
Tonight, all of these circle each other. That’s the whole picture. That is the poem. And now, I am going to eat another cupcake. Or three.