A Birthday

Something continues and I don’t know what to call it
though the language is full of suggestions
in the way of language
but they are all anonymous
and it’s almost your birthday music next to my bones

these nights we hear the horses running in the rain
it stops and the moon comes out and we are still here
the leaks in the roof go on dripping after the rain has passed
smell of ginger flowers slips through the dark house
down near the sea the slow heart of the beacon flashes

the long way to you is still tied to me but it brought me to you
I keep wanting to give you what is already yours
it is the morning of the mornings together
breath of summer oh my found one
the sleep in the same current and each waking to you

when I open my eyes you are what I wanted to see.

—W. S. Merwin

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Weekly Roundup

On Saturday morning, I woke up with pains in my stomach. Before I knew them to be appendicitis, though, I drove with my husband to our local Ring’s End showroom. We walked inside and were greeted by the manager, who turned to Malcolm and asked, “What are you buying her?”

We were pressed for time, and I felt like shit. Malcolm answered, “A deck,” and I smiled.

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When I was in the seventh grade, I was harassed every day for a period of months by a couple of boys in my class. They made weird, lewd comments; passed me weird, lewd notes; pushed their bodies against mine on the bus and pulled up my skirt. I was a new girl in a school I otherwise loved, and I kept quiet—thought: okay, this is how things are here. It took another student, a younger boy, speaking up to a teacher for anything to happen.* And then, of course, began the usual burden-of-proof process—finding the words to convey why I hadn’t spoken up for myself, and sooner; to describe every humiliating interaction. A child, pleading this awful, awkward case before male administrators four times my age.

This isn’t something that’s haunted me, exactly; or that I’ve even thought about, in a long time. But it has stayed with me after seventeen years, and has been on my mind this week.

It was my first—though certainly not last—experience with sexual harassment, and it was an experience from which, at twelve years old, I developed a changed conception of myself. Thought differently about my body; became less confident in my expression, more demure. The tragically common “extroverted girls, introverted women” tack.

Today, I can’t think of a woman I know who hasn’t been harassed in her life—many, in ways so much worse than I. And while I’m glad for the narrative shift that this Harvey Weinstein scandal has spurred, it’s shameful and heartbreaking that the narrative requires such seismic shifting.

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And so there is harassment, and rape, but there are all the “lesser” violations, too. The ones that feel so small and unworthy of acknowledgement, but that are insidious and pervasive and lay the groundwork for everything else. The guy who drapes his arm across your seatback at the dinner party; the salesman who looks only at your husband and asks what he is buying for you. The myriad ways in which a woman become an object in a sentence or a circumstance, and the nothingness that’s rendered in response—so that the boy who’s there at the party or the store with his parents imbues the exchange and believes that that’s the world.

I hope that things will change. I hope the Harvey Weinsteins and the Roger Aileses and the Donald Trumps will become fewer and farther between; that their actions will become so unequivocally condemnable and are condemned—and so become less possible. But I don’t think they will, until change happens on these smaller stages first.

I’m sorry I didn’t say something last weekend. I wish I had, and I hope that next time—because of course there will be one—that I do.

(*You’ll never see this, I’m sure, but thanks. I remember you, and I think you’re great.)

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Below are a few links from my week—to stories that made me take a breath and nod, yes; and to places I admire, led by and fighting for women and girls.

Dear men.

The conversation we should be having.

The story writes itself.

He harassed. Later, I responded.

Lupita Nyong’o, speaking out.

Believe women.

“Our sons can still learn to carry their own weight. Our daughter can learn to not carry others’.”

Circle of Women.

The Center for Family Justice.

Amazing Grace

Back in college, I took a class on positive psychology.

It was a real course, with real lectures and readings, but assignments tended toward things like “journaling”—and organic chemistry it was not. (Favorite exercise: a sensory meditation on a lima bean, rolled against my ear.)

There are whole academic departments devoted to the field—whole rooms of publishing houses, too. And without meaning to discount them all, and the very smart people with which they are filled, it was an otherwise intense sophomore spring, and I wasn’t entirely in this for the scholarship. But: Mallomar rigor and occasional eye-roll aside, there *were* things learned and, I think, of value.

One of the first assignments I remember, is keeping a journal of gratitude. Twice a week, recording the things for which I was lately and especially thankful. There’ve been articles aplenty on the benefits reaped from the practice; and while they may not all pass muster under peer review, I really like how one psychologist describes it here—as “the habit of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events.” Marty Seligman, by way of Mary Oliver.

It’s a habit I abandoned just as soon as the semester ended; but after a weekend spent unexpectedly in surgery, and with Thanksgiving season creeping closer, it’s one to which I’d like to return.

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And so, here’s a very first entry. Thankfulness kindling, from recent days:

This book. (And the book buddy who lent it.)

These slippers. (Cool temps; cozy toes.)

This scented candle. (Christmas in October.)

Pickleball. (That it is a real thing, and that I had a real conversation about it.)

These get-well sprigs. (And the fella who brought them home.)

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Of course, all the matter that really matters: the family and friends and happiness and (mostly) health, that have graced my life this week.

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Finishing Up

I wonder if I know enough to know what it’s really like
to have been here: have I seen sights enough to give
seeing over: the clouds, I’ve waited with white
October clouds like these this afternoon often before and

taken them in, but white clouds shade other white
ones gray, had I noticed that: and though I’ve
followed the leaves of many falls, have I spent time with
the wire vines left when frost’s red dyes strip the leaves

away: is more missing than was never enough: I’m sure
many of love’s kinds absolve and heal, but were they passing
rapids or welling stirs: I suppose I haven’t done and seen
enough yet to go, and, anyway, it may be way on on the way

before one picks up the track of the sufficient, the
world-round reach, spirit deep, easing and all, not just mind
answering itself but mind and things apprehended at once
as one, all giving all way, not a scrap of question holding back.

—A. R. Ammons

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