~summer shorts~ a list of emptied spaces

One – sea urchin grottos

There is a cavity left behind when a sea urchin dies, and sometimes other things come in to attempt to fill it. They don’t fill the spaces in the same way; maybe they glue themselves to the ceiling of the empty grotto and extend fleshy tentacles when the tide is in; maybe they snail along the walls grazing any newly settled algae; but they aren’t the purple spiky echinoderm that is made to fill such a hole.

Two – cardboard box boats

I’m not sure what got Quinn thinking of Baby Kitty one night, but he was sad he couldn’t remember her very much, only where we buried her. I offered to send him some photos, and he liked that idea. The following night we talked about how kitty was in the background of so many photos of him, like one where he is in the foreground inside a box boat. I remembered him taking A Lot of Otters into his box boats with him to read. The child in the book is also in a box boat.

I pulled A Lot of Otters off the bookshelf and read it to him over our video call. The basic plot premise is that Mother Moon and her child become separated, her tears fall into the ocean and become stars, the otters play with the stars and draw her attention to the child by concentrating their light, and she and the child are reunited.

“Mother moon was looking for her child…”

Three – my arms

That night I had a dream about hugging Quinn again, finally, when this is all over, and when I hugged him in the dream he was so much bigger than me.

Four – mothers’ hearts

A local mother delivered her baby still born. I imagine a fresh space prepared for this babe, like an empty sea urchin grotto painted pink, and now a closed door tries to hold back the tidal wave of love reserved for this little one it cannot be showered upon. Suspended in an impossible position, this mother whose face I know, this friend of friends, carrying this staggering weight of this love she cannot bestow, carrying breasts heavy with milk with whom she can nurture no one. Full where she should be empty, empty where she should be full. If my grief cries tears into the ocean to turn into stars to light my way to reunite with my child, her grief must be the kind that fills the ocean basin from bottom to top.

Five – guinea pig kennels

Quinn’s talk of pet grief seems prophetic and he is now missing one of his beloved guinea pigs. Ms. B and Squeaky came to him when he was seven. I couldn’t sit with him through the night as he held Ms. B in his lap and worried, or hold him the next day after she passed away. On our video call that night I read him a long meditation I had written in which a guinea pig stood on a bridge crossing over a stream, not knowing how else to bring him comfort from far away and defaulting to using my words as usual.

“You cannot see what is on the other side of the stream, you can only see that this side is very lush and beautiful, surrounded by forest, but a thick fog hides the opposite bank from your view. You can see little rainbows appear here and there as the sunbeams sneak through the trees and touch the fog. It’s a beautiful mystery on that other side.”

He turned off his web cam while he listened to the visualization of Ms B crossing the bridge to the other side.

Six – forests and homes

Oregon is on fire. The winds on Monday night took out trees and power lines and brought fire and smoke and landslides to even our coastal community where we can no longer take our position beside the sea in a rain forest for granted. Breathing carcinogenic air for days intersects with the health concerns we already face and I find that this situation is helping neither my breath holding tendencies nor my anxiety. I checked the folder with the important documents, though I will probably continue pacing my house, looking out at the orange sky, looking at items and wondering which ones I would grab if we were to be evacuated, too.

I know people who had to grab their house cats in the middle of the night and get out with their lives. There are so many more who I do not know. I try not to feel sorry for myself that my overnight backpacking plans with Quinn have been postponed.

Hundreds of geese huddled along the edge of the bay as we drove through foggy smoke after picking up pizza for date night at home. Robins had sat in the grass all day looking stunned. So much dryness. So much stillness after such a turbulent wind. The lawn crunched under my feet as I pick pears up off the ground, embarrassed by the plenty falling into my hands while others are losing everything, or still waiting to hear the outcomes of their everything.

The next morning I couldn’t take the pacing anymore and flipped a hundred pancakes for evacuees sheltering in a church.

Seven – farmer’s markets

Even when farmer’s markets have been canceled in the past, my farm would still show up, in full marine foul weather gear, and sell tomatoes and cauliflower and bundles of fresh parsley out of the truck as cold rain fell in sheets and we sipped hot drinks from thermoses. This week, we did not sell any tomatoes, the markets and even the harvest were paused while we all held our breath and prayed for that manner of rain to fall.

Eight – aquarium exhibits

Max lived thirty years – a long sea lion life – but it still makes me cry that he is dead now, too. My toddler would point him out to tourists back when we had an annual membership to the aquarium and went there regularly, and they’d remark on my son’s lengthy attention span and articulate commentary about Max’s activities during the daily feeding routine. Other children would peel off after thirty seconds and Quinn would stay, narrate, re-enact, commune with Max, beyond even the attention span of the adults. I wonder if Max is finally allowed to be released back into the sea, but I have doubts.

I can’t bring myself to tell Quinn about this fresh heartbreak.

Nine – my arms

I still wouldn’t get to hug him.

Ten – enough

I think I’ll leave this one empty.

4 comments to ~summer shorts~ a list of emptied spaces

  • mamaC

    Oh, mb! Such a list. The losses feel so heavy, and the emptiness of the longing and missing of ongoing separation must be immense. Relying on being able to be together with loved ones is such a big part of navigating loss and sorrow. Empty arms makes a hard time that much harder.

    I felt worried and uncertain yesterday when I saw the “smolder” rainbow post with the orange sky, thinking about if you were actually out of harm’s way there, and I also wondered about that pancake photo. You addressed both my questions in this post. Oof. I’m glad Quinn feels your caring and presence on your video calls together, and after losing Ms. B I’m sure he appreciated the comfort of your familiar thoughtfulness and concern. Thinking of that boy and of Squeaky, too. I am so sorry about your backpacking plans having to be postponed.

  • lau

    10 is for everything

    Your words, as usual, are magic.
    Even when they are heavy and leave a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
    Grateful for your words and sharing. Virtual hugs to you and Q

  • Oh my gosh, yes, ten IS for everything! Thank you both for knowing.

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