Stop

this poem wants to say
enough is enough
but it doesn’t
know the language
it only knows wind
and the dust it carries
that settles everywhere
and is there
in the morning

it wants to say
no more
but it can only
shuffle leaves and
throw little sticks to the ground

this poem takes a breath
turns around and
doesn’t say anything

What the Tree Trunk Said

Part 1

I don’t know what kind of tree it was or where it came from. Clearly, Hurricane Nate brought it.  Maybe the hurricane took it down and threw it into the sea. Maybe it was a fall from some other time that dislodged from its resting place in the current of so much water and launched downstream. If I were to guess, I’d say it probably floated to us from the south because hurricane winds seem to me to blow from the southwest. Although, I don’t know. This hurricane was like no other, and I wasn’t here. It was early October 2017, and I was in Milan in the middle of my own hurricane.

I came home to Tamarindo, a stunned widow, in November after five months that lasted five years. The sky in Tamarindo had cleared by then, the electricity was restored, fallen limbs were cleared away, and it looked almost like nothing had happened. I might have looked that way too, at first glance.

I went to the beach to gather my thoughts a little, and when I saw it, I froze and sucked in my breath. In the middle of the beach on the rock reef that juts out into the water, where tidepools form at low tide and fishermen toss their lines, was the dead body of an unimaginably enormous tree. The force of water needed to throw this giant up out of the sea onto the rocks is inconceivable. And yet there it was.

And there it stayed.

I thought surely the next 10 foot tide would move it, but no. Or maybe the next tropical storm system. But no. All of us picked our way across the sharp lava rocks sooner or later to have a look at this marvel. Tourists took their picture beside it. Novios carved their names or initials into it. It became part of our landscape, part of our story.

From the first moment I saw it, I felt a strange affinity for that tree trunk. I think it’s weird that at essentially the moment Pio died, a hurricane unleashed on Tamarindo. I’m not trying to connect the two in any direct metaphysical way—I promise I’m not. But in my mind, the two things are absolutely connected. Nobody who lives in this town will forget that hurricane. And neither will I.

I stared at the trunk of that dead tree on my beach walks. I felt sympathy for it–both of us, hurricane victims. Both of us washed up here in Tamarindo, waiting to see what happens next. Both of us getting pared down by sun, wind, rain. Both of us in the middle of the water, sand, and sky. I felt like if I could get a good photo of it, it would be my self-portrait. What is left of a giant thing after it is destroyed.

I’ve lived at the beach long enough to know that tree trunks, no matter how big they are or where they wash up, don’t stay there forever. Eventually another hurricane comes, or a big swell or a hard rain, and they move. Sand shifts, and they sink and are buried, only to reappear another year after we’ve forgotten where they are. I hoped I didn’t meet up with this giant in the surf the day it dislodged, that it wouldn’t harm any of the boats anchored nearby, depending on which direction it took when it rolled free.

Part 2

In September 2019 I went back to Italy. I already told you about that pilgrimage disguised as a vacation, so I won’t make you read it all again. It was an important trip and marks a turning point of some kind that I have not yet identified. I came back in the beginning of October, lighter in more places than just my wallet.

I went to the beach to gather my thoughts a little, and when I saw it, I froze and sucked in my breath. Impossible: my tree was gone. A September storm must have dislodged it while I was gone and took it away. I knew that eventually it would move, but I thought it was still to big and too heavy.  I thought I would watch it go.  But it both came and went during my two important trips to Italy.

While I was trying to fit that into my surprised mind, I saw something else that stopped me again, and right there under the mid-morning sun in front of God and everybody, I burst into tears.  Up ahead of me, the giant tree trunk was laying on the sand.

Out of the ocean, from its place half-in half-out of the water, onto the dry land.  I knew immediately and without a doubt that there is a message for me in this. And I knew exactly what it is:

If two years is long enough to move a fallen giant like me, it’s long enough to move you.

 

That’s what the tree trunk said.

Sometimes I agree, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I feel like no amount of time is long enough. But I always beg for clear messages and one thing is for sure: that was a really big tree.


Together

Echo / Eco

this poem
opens its mouth
to ask for something it wants but
then there are no words

the hole in its heart
is perhaps too deep to fill
too strange
a cave with too many chambers

it’s a poem that has learned
to adapt to anything
it can become a cricket
or a whale
it can vanish completely

but when asked what it wants
it only echos

* * * * *

questa poesia
apre la bocca
per chiedere quello che vuole, ma
non le vengono parole

il buco nel suo cuore
è forse troppo profondo per riempire
troppo strano
una grotta con troppe camere

è una poesia che ha imparato
adattarsi a qualsiasi cosa
può diventare un grillo
o una balena
può svanire completamente

ma quando gli viene chiesto cosa vuole
fa solo eco

Poems About Waiting

poems about waiting
hover in the corner
by the ceiling
like angels

they don’t mind because
same as angels
waiting is
what they do

they can wait forever
or until tomorrow
they can wait
for anything
or nothing at all
and they won’t wish
you would hurry or
turn on the tv

while you sleep
they are waiting
outside the mosquito net
nearby
with the cats

poems about waiting
might not have words
because speaking
is not what they do

their language is
made up of comas
and spaces

 

How to Be Okay When You’re Not

I thought you might like a suggestion about how to be okay when you’re not. Because it happens to all of us and it’s good to have a plan.

This is mine:

I go to the beach.  Of course.  Because I can.  But you don’t need a beach to do this.  I sit in the sand and curl up into a little ball, like a seated fetal position. That’s the position I take when I’m really bad. When I’m kind of okay, I might sit cross legged. If I’m good, just feel like I need a huddle with all of my selves, I might sort of lie back on my elbows. It doesn’t matter.

I reach my finger out and trace a circle around me–all the way around–in the sand. It could be a big circle or a little circle—it doesn’t matter. The less okay I am, the smaller I make the circle, like a tighter hug.

I don’t know where I got this from, but it’s been with me for a long time, and I am pretty sure I didn’t make it up. If I did, it’s one of those things that can’t I be the first one to have invented.

This is how to be okay whether or not you are.

The important thing is to close the circle. You may not believe this until you try it, but you can feel the circle close. Something happens. I swear. No, I am not insane. Try it. If you can’t get to the beach, sit on your living room floor and draw an invisible circle. Sit in the driveway and draw a circle with chalk. You’ll see what I mean.

I tell myself that everything that is me is inside the circle. Definitions are important when you’re not okay. Basic definitions. Inside the circle: Diana. Outside the circle: not-Diana. Having something you can be completely sure of is a fabulous place to start when you’re not really okay. And it rocks when you are.

I tell myself that inside the circle, everything is alright. There is enough air. The sand is holding me up. Nothing hurts. My heart is beating just the way it’s supposed to. My lungs are doing a great job of breathing. Everything essential is just fine. I tell myself everything I absolutely need is inside the circle with me. Intestines, for example.

And everything/everybody that is not-me must stay out while the circle is closed. When I’m especially not-okay, I write things in the sand outside the circle. The first letters of names, usually. People, living or not, who, no matter how much I love them, are not me. Only I am allowed inside the circle. I have to be in here alone to be okay, and you have to stay out. Sometimes I review a list of things and people who are not me, mentally telling them they have to stay out right now, setting them on the other side of the line.

It becomes easier and easier to breathe.

I explain to myself that inside the circle, everything is alright. Nothing is missing. Here are my two hands, each with 10 fingers. I have plenty of teeth and enough hair. My legs take me everywhere I need to go. If I am hungry, it is by choice.  Outside the circle, everything can be as wrong as it is, but inside the circle, everything is accounted for, working, in place. It is the only spot in the universe where everything is alright.

I just sit there. Sometimes I close my eyes. Sometimes, if I’m not having a good day, I might cry a little. I don’t usually, but it’s not impossible. So if you walk by on the beach and happen to see me, don’t worry. It’s just salt water. And don’t talk to me. I can’t talk when I’m in the circle. I mean, I don’t want to. That’s not generally a problem either because I think there’s something about the circle that makes you invisible to most people. I’m not kidding. You’ll see what I mean when you try it.

Then when I feel a little better–or the tide is coming in, or my back starts to hurt, or the mosquitoes are biting me, or I can tell I’ve had enough sun, or I’m thinking about how my cats are hungry—I reach out with my hands and open the circle. I make a door in it.

And the rest of the world comes rushing in. But it’s alright. Because on some very basic level, I have remembered that I am still here and there are at least some ways in which I am okay. And that, as I said, is a fabulous place to start.

Try it. It works.

The Devil, A Hermit, and a Guy Hanging Upside Down

What do you say when your friend offers you a Tarot card reading to start the new year? Um, you say, “Yes.” You get on your bike and ride over to her house and willingly accept a vodka soda first because you don’t know what’s coming. If you grow up Mennonite like some of us (ha ha) you know nothing about Tarot cards except that they are definitely Satanic. I giggle as I write this because the idea of the devil residing in a deck of cards is, well, funny. Right? If only it were that easy. Sigh. Anyway.

I expected the reading to be interesting, but I have to say it was FAR MORE interesting than I imagined.  I’m open to input from all sources, so why not a deck of cards to suggest ways in which I might think outside of my box?

We shuffled up the cards, and I pulled 3. These were intended to represent the Past, the Present and the Future. And my friend said you’re supposed to pose a question. I don’t really have any specific questions in my life right now, just vague ones like, “Which end is up?” and “Am I doing this right?” But you apparently aren’t allowed to be vague, you have to be specific—so I made something up about focusing my energy. Which is still vague. And I feel the cards I drew held a mirror up to me in a way that is IMMENSELY COMFORTING.

Funny. I wouldn’t have said I went there looking for comfort, per say. That’s not generally the way I roll. But I rode home later practically crying with relief. Here’s what I drew:

THE PAST

I flipped over the first card that represents the past and there was the fucking Devil. Sorry about the f word.

I gasped. I mean, the last thing you want to do on your very first Tarot reading as a recovering Mennonite is come face to face with the Devil. It scared the crap out of me. And then I almost burst into tears of joy because HE IS IN THE PAST. You and me, you Beast From Hell, are done with each other. Bye.

The more you know of my story, the more levels of meaning the Devil in the Past will have for you. And, no, I don’t believe I have dealt with the literal Devil in the past. I mean that I have been through many difficult scenarios, most of them in one way or another chosen by me. And of course Cancer is an obvious devil who has very recently caused the complete destruction of the life I had. So yes, a diabolical amount of pain and difficulty are DEFINITELY in the past for me. And what a relief to have this comforting pat on the back from a stupid deck of cards saying, “That’s all done, honey. It’s all over. It isn’t now and it isn’t later. It’s done.”

THE PRESENT

This one was so obvious it made me laugh. I flipped over the middle card and found The Hermit. Ha ha. There’s not even much to say about that. And the Tarot deck only has one devil and he’s in the past so what the heck? Everything else is cream, baby. That’s an amusingly accurate picture of what followed The Devil. A whole year that I spent being a hermit.

I am trying to move out of the hermit mode little by little and I think I’m doing a good job. The Hermit card is said to represent a period of withdraw and reflection, which I think all of you have witnessed me doing.  Right again.

So now I’ve got one card left and it’s the one I’m nervous about. Only mildly nervous because the Devil is in the Past, but being as the Hermit in the Present is SO ACCURATE, I can’t help but be worried about what the Future card is going to be. Because if it’s as right-on as the Past and the Present, then…well, that’s a little scary.  What if I don’t like it?

I flipped it over.

THE FUTURE

Staring back at me was The Hanged Man. I was stunned, confused and dismayed–in that order. The picture on the card and the name of it don’t really match. The name on the card sounds like a death sentence, but the guy on the card isn’t dead. He isn’t even hanging by his neck. He’s hanging by his foot with a very peaceful Mona Lisa type of look on his face. He doesn’t actually appear to be in any type of distress at all. In fact, the more I stared at him, the more it seemed like he was hanging upside down because he wanted to. Just chilling in an upside-down tree pose. And he has a halo on his head.

I stopped being upset and became fascinated. I spent most of my childhood hanging upside down from a broomstick trapeze that my dad finally made for me in in a tree in the front yard after I inflicted on him unbearable amounts of pestering. When I outgrew that, I spent an inexplicable amount of time doing handstands against the kitchen door—just chilling upside down. My parents were perplexed. My sisters were annoyed. I just liked it. I’ve always liked upside down.  No idea why.

So what does The Hanged Man mean? My friend and I had to look him up because he’s a little obscure.  We found this description:

In this card, it depicts a man who is suspended upside-down, and he is hanging by his foot from the living world tree. This tree is rooted deep down in the underworld, and it is known to support the heavens. It is believed that the hanging man is actually positioned there by his own free will. We believe this because of the serene expression which is on his face. His right foot is bound to the branches, but his left foot remains perfectly free. His wearing of red pants are a representation of the physical body and human’s passion, while the blue that he wears in his shirt are representative of calm emotions, a color combination that is commonly seen in saints. His intellect is symbolized by the yellow color of his shoes, hair and halo.

Which, supposedly, means:

The hanged man understands that his position is a sacrifice that he needed to make in order to progress forward – whether as repentance for past wrongdoings, or a calculated step backward to recalculate his path onward. This time he spends here will not be wasted, he does this as part of his progression forward. His upside down state can also symbolize the feeling of those that walk a spiritual path, for they see the world differently.

This is a card which is mainly designated towards waiting and suspension. This suggests that this might be the thing that you need to do in order to achieve success or to wait for the proper opportunity. Keep in mind that taking action is not always the best solution and in certain cases refraining from doing so might bring you just as much, if not more benefits.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS TO ME

I told you it was interesting.

What I got from all of it is pretty much a huge pat on the back from the Universe, and a, “Don’t you worry your little head about it.”

The dark days are in the Past.
The Present is quiet.
I’m not supposed to know, now, what’s going to happen later and there is nothing I need to do to bring it about.  So I should just hang upside down and chill.  Be where I am.

I love it. I can do that. I would have been ok with a bright, joyful and glorious future instead of hanging upside down by the foot, but hey. I can hang. Whatever is coming will eventually get here. And if this is what’s coming, it’s good enough for me.  As long as the Devil is in the Past, I can hang right here for the next 50 years or until enlightenment arrives or until somebody cuts me down.  Whichever comes first.