Tucked In

He is tucked into her, the baby–almost two now and on the cusp of boyhood.  She contemplates the time they have spent together in near disbelief as she rocks him gently back and forth, her belly rising and falling in tempo with the rising and falling of his chest.  His tiny toes twitch in fits and starts as he gives himself over to drowsiness.  His arms flail.  He bats her chin and collar bone with the back of his hand.  She calls awareness to her own body, to what she is holding there, to her arms like two-by-fours, her sinewy aching neck, her belly pulling her diaphragm tight to her ribs.  She accepts all of it, invites in the heaviness of the drift to nowhere, the forgiveness of a day’s work. She offers reprieve to everything that belongs to her except for the small hardening of her left thigh where she flexes and releases in rhythm like a pendulum, forward and back, forward and back. In one final effort of consciousness, the baby pulls his love-worn blanket over his eyes, his body falling limp with hers.  She leans her head back to doze, jaw dropping as slobber pools behind her lower lip.

She is tucked into her mother now at three years old, calm as a sleeping baby but with eyes wide open.  Her mother’s breath rises and falls in heavy turns, head tilted backward, jaw drooping, the rough texture of her aging skin brought into relief as streaks of light pour through the crack in the curtains.  She can’t curb her desire to touch the face she knows so well by sight.  She refrains for what feels like eternity, staring, studying, until unable to restrain herself any longer, she places the tips of her small fingers gently where her mother’s cheek collapses into a dimple, takes in the comfort of its powdery softness.  She would run her fingers over every contour of that face, but her arm tires and lurches to her side, causing her mother to startle to wakefulness.  The girl pulls herself in tighter, taking in the scent of Tide on oxford cloth as she is scooped down to the floor.  “I fell asleep,” her mother sweetly observes as she glides toward the kitchen to start dinner.

Drool runs down her chin. She is a mother now, waking to find her baby sleeping, his toddler limbs dangling from the edges of the pillow on her lap.  His eyelashes are gold-tinged, his cheeks pink from heat.  She marvels at the impossibility of him, the impossibility of any whole complicated organism with beliefs and desires looking up at her, looking up to her, breathing life.  She allows herself to feel a pang of animal loss.  It reminds her to stay present, to relish the moment.  He is here now, and she is here now.  She can only hope he will one day reflect on the cradle of her heartbeat and know her love as she knows the love of her own mother.  She reflects on her own thoughts.  They strike her as misdirected, the focus on his future somehow wrong.  She looks down at her belly still rounded from pregnancy and places a hand there.  So much will happen, all in a string of moments like this, and there is nothing to do but breathe through it all.  She stands and lowers him into his crib, runs her fingers over his plump cheek.  His head jolts reflexively, as if a fly had landed there.  She glides to the kitchen, places the kettle on the burner, and wraps her hands around a cold empty teacup, waiting for his cries to signal it’s time for cheese toast.

Musings from the Couch

The gas fireplace kicks on.  I lose my train of thought for a moment as I give in to the simple decadent pleasure of its radiant heat.  I’m here on this weathered but still solid couch, legs stretched out and butt aching from too many hours of sitting still.  My inner scholar voice has spent the day droning on about something that might matter to some person I imagine could at some time sit in front of a gas fireplace like this one and think about the thoughts I am thinking.  But I know I would be happier and care more hunkered down on a hunk of granite warmed by the sun doing nothing of the writing kind.  My mind drifts to a certain granite outcropping overlooking miles of ponderosa and grand fir, rolling farmland and deep canyons housing rivers named Potlatch and Clearwater.  It drifts there in the white space between hard won sentences.  I’m alone in this not so granitic vision, but the grandiosity of the world keeps me from feeling lonely.  Who am I?  I’m a nontraditional woman writing a philosophy thesis.

I’m writing a philosophy thesis while my seven and a half month old baby boy sleeps upstairs.  We live in a small house in a small town a few miles from a small mountain ridge made of granite, the ridge that is home to the perch I just visited.  The town here 2500 feet below is charming, nothing too garish, the people in it no-nonsense, kind, open to conversation.  My neighbor Jane comes to mind.  We shared a few moments at the cafe yesterday flipping through a library book on “castles of the world,” baby breath rising and falling against my chest.  Meandering topics shifted our gaze to the women’s art strewn along the walls, each piece dedicated to the artist’s favorite artist of the woman kind.  The one an homage to Deborah Butterfield was taken down, Jane tells me, but it was good.  I make a mental note to look her up.  Butterfield.  Deborah.  She makes horses from driftwood.  Beautiful.  All from found pieces.  And then she casts them in bronze.  Fragile found pieces of dead matter rearranged to look like forms of life and then cast in cold metal that could weather another ice age.  The permanency of it is comforting.  Sort of.  Like this time in my life when all the drifting that got me to yesterday’s cafe, to this granite outcropping, to this basement in front of this gas fireplace on this weathered but still solid couch, ephemeral as wood, is realized in one solid mammal’s breath.  A son.  Teeth emerging, his waking voice finding a dance with his tongue, his postnatal heartbeat still my own.  Jane and Me/Baby look forward to next time as we say goodbye a block from the cafe.  Three steps later I realize I forgot to ask how her chemo was going.  I don’t turn around.

I am lucky.  I repeat it as if in gratitude I will be insured against evil.  Tomorrow I will join this couch again to thoughts abstract and real and maybe, if I’m lucky again, find the time to wander freely with Jane on a rock before a castle with a bronze horse and lay down thanks for Virginia Woolf.  And for the other sex to which I have found one case of unfettered love.