Lie Fallow

I’m in my mid thirties. I barely have any wisdom to impart on myself. I honestly don’t have much to offer that is original material.  I absorb it like an amoeba just swallowing things as they are pelted at me through time and space.

But, I am a writer. So, I am good at panning for the nuggets of insight in a conversation, pocketing them, and bringing them back to my lab to melt them down into something gleaming and important. Someone else thought it up. I just made it shiny.


This is all a preamble to say that I was wallowing in the high tide of change and adjustment to our new life, the other day, to a good good friend of mine. As our children destroyed the patio of a local brewery. We ignored them, drank our beer, continued talking.

I relayed my fish-out-of-water feeling here. Like being a Donkey at a Horse party. Kind of blends in but… something isn’t right.

But my friend said, “Have you ever heard of the term ‘to lie fallow’? Its a farming term. It kind  of means, to hang out and just wait, just be ready for the next opportunity.” I absorbed this idea like a shock wave, she continued, “You can just simmer.” I chewed on this. I convinced my daughter to get down off the 6 foot chain link fence. I drank my beer.

There are actual brain scientists studying the effect of uncertainty and change on the human brain. To sum it up. Not great for cortisol levels. We have built a world that is too stressful for our evolved psychology. The amount of mental, and physical stimuli we are constantly assaulted with is just too much for our processors. Our brains hate change and uncertainty, it treats these things like a threat, akin to being chased by a predator.  This is the root of modern anxiety.  Humans, we are our own worst enemy.  We expect too much from our psychology.


It has occurred to me many times that in our culture, hyper-business is virtue, resting is considered lazy. In America, we “seize'”, “persist”, “pursue”, “hussle”, “gather”, “grind”… One of the reasons we ended up out here, was to peel away from the Grind. But I still have this “seizing” mind set. That if you are not actively pursuing an idea. If you aren’t constantly on the Grind, you are worthless. This is an idea I have struggled with as a primary parent. Choosing to forgo the Grind for story time at the library, mid morning stroller rides, breastfeeding and watching Netflix. I was suffocated by guilt for this decision. Watching my partner leave early every morning and take extra work that I knew he was too tired to take, framing decks in the pouring rain. It took years of deprogramming in therapy to feel like my choice to stay home with my kids wasn’t weak and selfish. That even though I wasn’t bringing in money, I was still contributing. And even now. After six years. I still fall back into this “grind” mindset. Treading water isn’t enough. I must also be knitting a hat and cooking dinner.


I am not alone. This is not just me. This is a cultural problem. The value of “household management” or “the mental load” (i.e. care of children, cooking, cleaning, pet care, doctors apts.) is not valued or lifted up here in western society. It is something that, if we can, we hire others to do for us. No matter what your work distribution is like in your house, these chores will largely fall on the female partner (in a heterosexual partnership). I’m not making this up, it’s like part of lots of studies and shit. For example, I order the toilet paper. No one else in my house knows where  it comes from or how, it just appears for them and never runs out. If I died suddenly, there would be a panic as Rob took down the last roll on the shelf in two weeks. But, then, 24 rolls would appear the next day, on the front porch, because I automatically subscribe to that shit! And I have perfectly timed it. No one would ever figure out my password to stop the toilet paper from coming. I’ve made sure of this.


Save your excitement. I don’t have any answers. I still feel the pressure to contribute, even though, I run this place with the efficiency of the Barry Goldwater campaign.  This is  strictly an observational regurgitation of other people’s wisdom. But I am going to take my friend’s advice, and lie fallow. Not worrying about the grind, about my place, about  contributing. I’m just going to soak in the enormous amount of upheaval our lives have been for the past six years. I’m going to process the nutrients, and let the flavors coagulate. Don’t rush it. Like a curry. Always better the next day.


In October, the sunsets are burning hot and short. We often get stuck behind tractors on our way to/from town. The dogs come in wet and smelly. We throw an extra log in the stove before bed. We are pulling the quarts of soup out of the freezer for dinner and drinking a lot of tea in the afternoons. The  one hundred year old floor groans under me in the morning.

The kids are still little enough to fit in my arms and carry up the stairs. My son still has this one little baby curl that hides under the hair on his temple. It is fine and soft. He doesn’t care if the kitchen table is a crime scene and we haven’t found a bookshelf for the living room yet. The day I am sitting next to him at the kitchen table and run my hands through his hair to find that his little baby curl is not there anymore,  I will  wait until he leaves for the day, then I will sob into my pillow and curse time that wretched thief.


What will happen if I just lie fallow, stay quiet, wait, and watch the year unfold? What if all thoughts of inadequacy just left and never came back? What if doing dishes, making lunches, chopping wood, and reading stories was just enough for now? What if I could  just be slow and soft. Watch how the light comes in and stay open.  I’m going to try this out. I’ll let you know how it goes.

First Dispatch from Bow Hill

My Aunt Sheila says it takes two weeks in your new house not to feel like you’re just on a  bad vacation. And she’s right.

I have moved a lot in my short life and I hate it so much that I wonder why I keep doing it. I am a person that loves to make is fluffy little nest to retreat to away from people and things. I am a person who is very good at doing nothing at all. I will make any excuse to “rest”, “recharge”, “take it easy”. In other generations that would have been called “lazy.” But I am lucky enough to live now in the era of “self-care, ” that most ego-centric of past times. I am a person who very unapologetically puts myself first. Always have been.

“No, I don’t want to.”

“No, don’t put capers on that.”

“Ugh, I hate this place, I’m leaving.”

“Yeah, that’s not going to work for me.”


“No, I brought my own wine.”

Are all things that you may have heard me say. Periodically, through out the day. Even to my kids! (GASP!) I am historically not great at transitions, although I seem to go through them, a lot, by choice (i.e. kids, marriage, moving constantly). But perhaps I keep returning to the things that cause me trauma because I am a sadist? Perhaps. Maybe I just love hard exhausting things because everyone else says “wow you must be so tired” and then I get to go rest a lot afterwards while being congratulated.  That sounds right.


I hear my husband say things like “I could never just hang out, I need a project, I like hard work.” I think he has a mental illness. I hate hard work, and I think people who like it are weird. If I could, I would just sit around all day drinking coffee and reading every single page in The New Yorker, which is easily, my favorite thing to do.


Yesterday and the day before we chipped up what felt like an entire forest of branches that had to come down of the surrounding trees. I got the worst blister of my life. Rob even took down two massive old dead Hemlocks with a chainsaw. Which was, the highlight of the day, because I got to watch someone else work super hard.  And watching a massive tree fall is nothing less, than thrilling. Especially, if you haven’t watched TV in a month.


There is an indescribable amount of hard work that this property and house require and I am so, not, prepared or looking forward to any of it. Also, it has occurred to me, that I am just about the least qualified person to buy and fix up a 100 year old farm house and try to build a working farm on it.

Rob is better suited to just about everything around here. It’s too bad, none of these weeds, dead trees, overgrown blackberries,  or rat-infested sheds, would respond to critical analysis, or a deeply cutting remark, in which case,  I would actually be useful as something other than a warm body, who makes sandwiches, and coffee, I DO make the best coffee of anyone in the family.


Rob absolutely excels at all things domestic. He is an amazing cook, carpenter, gardener, parent, wood chopper (the list could continue for three pages). I am excellent at things that are not useful in a survival situation, which, for us has always worked fantastic in an urban setting. But, here, it seems, my lack of domestic skill is exaggerated, in a way that feels unbalanced.

I analyze the weather.  I change diapers and do dishes. I assist in raking, weeding, and trimming. I mitigate toddler misbehavior. I demand apologies from children, and bribe or cajole them into eating, washing, and sleeping.



I spend about an hour every afternoon on my knees, in the front yard,  with my headphones in, listening to a podcast or an audio-book while I rip up decades of grass and weeds. Someone, more than 40 years ago, paved an intricate stone pathway connecting the side door to the original front door and covered porch.  It is well built, shaped nicely, adds stairs around the steeper parts of the yard. They must have spent weeks on it.

Judy, the previous owner has no more information for me. It was like that when I bought it. She says, with a shrug, and she walks back to her truck with an armful of mail.

But I make up stories about this person. With at least two truck beds of stones, piling, sorting through each one. Digging out the holes, trying out different ones, like a massive nonsensical puzzle. What a delightful project it must have been. They must have really been trying to avoid something way harder than that.

My trowel clinks and scrapes as I peel back the mat of grass and dirt. Bugs, bags of spider eggs, worms, beetles slugs dive and scuttle to avoid my advance. Like the Russian front. Being discouraged only by nature in her power to dwarf human ambition.


Humans have always harnessed death and decay to advance life. When something dies it adds richness, sticky nutrition. Serving a purpose. Death is not senseless in the garden. It makes way and nourishes the new. Time’s up spiders. We will be using this pathway anew.

Composting, for instance. Rob is in the middle stage of building a 3 bay composting system where we will  dump our cast offs from the kitchen and garden, and they will rot  and become something rich and fantastic. Again, Rob is so, so good at this.


In the evenings I nurse my wounds in warm water,  and pick dirt out of my nails. I slather all kinds of potions on my crackling skin. I make Rob dig out splinters while I whimper. My body stiffens and aches upon waking from the deadest sleep I’ve ever had.  One day we will look back on the first year in this house and feel a rewarding sense of accomplishment and then we can go take a well deserved nap.




…Just to pass the time away…

We pulled off the highway in the dark high dessert sometime close to 9pm into a dirt lot that has a stone edifice in the middle with a plaque on it. He still doesn’t tell me what we’re doing here. I figure he has to pee. Then he turns around and talks to the back seat:

” Hey kid, you wanna see some stars?”

“Yesstttthhh” with a deep nod. He has been awake for a while, “reading” books and eating snacks.

We must be miles and miles from any large city, because the night sky is doing that thing that makes it look like there might be more stars than emptiness. Mr. Eagle scout knows all the constellations of course, and the kid loves to point at things so it’s a great little time we are having – pointing up at the little pearly specs and naming them – telling him the old stories behind all the shapes. The warm wind blowing our voices away. How can it all be so fragile and so magnificent? How is this one blue and that one yellow? What is the damn meaning behind all this?

Nothing or everything. We are nothing or we are everything. We are either the center of the creators attention, we have paths, purpose, and a personal relationship with a great magnanimous and omnipotent being OR, OR, OR…. we are a product of happenstance. Here by the shear willpower of our ancestors to keep producing. Evolution shaved and wittled us down into these upright animals that will find any way to make our own existence more leisurely.  I am only here because my stout celtic ancestors were smarter, meaner, luckier and hornier than all the other families in the area.

A product of luck and carbon molecules.  I prefer this theory because it makes me feel more interesting and yet, more like nothing, so much less to worry about when you know that your life is really nothing at all. You aren’t “straying” or “obeying” or having to ask some one else for guidance. Because It doesn’t matter. We are smallest specs of nothingness gone in a blip. It’s just a ride. And so far, I really enjoy this little ride. If I need guidance I just ask myself. And myself is a great guide. I have a very sweet little ride right here with this Eagle scout and this baby monkey. I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s. The best we can work towards is feeling happy everyday in little ways, and everything I have is of my own making. Nothing is bequeathed me by the grace of someone else. Everything is either luck, choice or hard work. I like that but it’s surely not a philosophy for everyone, it’s just mine. I always get like this when I look at stars.

We are made up of the same dust that’s in that star and that cactus, and that stone, and that plaque that says something about these dudes that came out of the Mojave on horseback at this very spot. They spent a whole year traveling together, looking for that great golden California promise, and parted ways. That’s it. Just a couple of dudes, younger than me,  that said goodbye to each other right here after going on a trip together. Now there is a little river stone chimney here that smells like urine. What strange, strange creatures.

I can hear the power lines before I see them. Almost directly above us, buzzing. Carrying light back and forth across empty miles of nothingness and sage. Power – to have power, to need power – the human condition is –

“Hey, peanut or plain M&Ms…?”

“Um, shit…plain.”

We pile back in the car and sing “I’ve been working on the railroad” for the millionth time until the kid falls asleep. Then we can enjoy our M&Ms without sharing and listen to LotR on tape. I don’t need to say it, but I will, life is good.

Dog Thoughts.

There is a nice large hill that comes up against my mom’s neighborhood. Its a California hill. So it looks like an old pile of dirt  that someone left there after digging out room for the swimming pool. The vegetation is low and sparse. We like to take the dogs up there off leash, let them trot along side us or just rummage around in the sage. The soil is a slippery pile of off-white angular limestone pieces with little orange stripes that you could snap with two fingers. It sounds like you’re trying to climb up a mountain of broken ceramic plates.

Our dog is a small mutt, slick with short brown and black hair and a curly tail. He loves to run fast. The other, my mom’s dog,  a medium sized blue-Merle Aussie with no tail so when he “wags” his rear-end wiggles so hard he looses the footing on his back legs.

They just sit next to each other silently staring out with a low warm wind shuffling the bunch grass.  One fluffy, one thin. The hill falling away below them to a tidy suburb. Only rarely broken up by large rectangular playing fields, pink stucco shopping malls, grey snaking highways. Earlier I found my son’s plush Tiger half buried in the empty planter in the side yard. Upon excavation I found what I believe to be a pork bone buried next to it. Is this a message in the only language available to a pug/terrier?  A comment on extinction? A threat? How did he know to bury the bones? They must know that we bury our dead.

Fresh Dungeeees.

Running down the driveway to the big house with a bottle of beer and a mason jar, through warm rain that steams up off the asphalt as soon as it hits. Purple flashes stain the groaning slate clouds, and I am hoping he isn’t still holding the hedger. Father and son have taken cover on the back porch beneath the modern greek stucco pillars. We stand looking out over the sound, gracing the seats of the ornate outdoor furniture with our torn shorts and grubby gloves. We sip the beer and watch the electric purple veins strike like long vengeful fingernails the wooded islands across the water.

He kisses my damp shoulder, calls me beautiful, and says thanks for the beer. We sit for a while until it clears, watching the ferry boats and cruise ships drift  by;  watching the water steam up off the warm grass and pavement; the sun slicing through again.

This weekend we are headed across the water to places with exotic, and mysterious names; distant watery towns tucked into trees, hanging above docks, curled in on the down of soft pastures. We take the car ferry from Seattle. The weather has cleared and the sun cooks Seattle’s sensitive belly. The locals are all but naked in anticipation of the summer weather. 80 degrees with only a 20 percent chance of rain, to me, it feels like October.  A wave of salt and cedar slough off the looming coasts of small and little-known islands, soaked in exhaust and algea. I try to tamp my excitement, he points to shadow-green strips of land with roofs and decks poking out and says “Indianola, Kingston, Suquamish, Manitou, Vashon, Bainbridge….”   I butcher the old and poetic names with niaeve humor.. “Succotash, Indiana, Manatee…” These are not the familiar Spanish arrangements of my upbringing, but an older and unnatural tounge. I can’t keep strait which are Islands, and which are peninsulas. I wonder about the cold-boned and broad faced people from here. The trickling families, who stays and who leaves, how they get old and petrified with salt and rain like boney logs on the rocky shore.

Once off the ferry and out of town the roads become thin strips of pavement between walls of endless trees. Everything is cut out of the forest with the smallest possible footprint; the trees loom, as if glowering over the gas stations, corner stores, two lane highways, and bright little farm houses tucked apologetically in damp meadows.

His grandparents live in a little wooden house, on a clear-cut patch of grass at the edge of a cliff. “That over there, is Miller Bay…” Grandpa says, ” There is Suquamish, these guys here are getting busted for crabbing without a license… look at them… yeah… busted.” He points down at a little yellowing boat, ensconced in buoys, being approached by a police boat with it’s sirens on. The red muddy tide curls along the shore.

“The crabbin’ been good this year,” He says, “I’m getting some salmon this week… ’bout fifty pounds… gonna smoke it.” This leads to a debate between merits of Sock-eye versus King Salmon (subcategories I only know from menus) settling on the merits of the King, it having more fat, therefore better for smoking. This is all sounding like a foreign language to me, a girl from a patterned stucco suburb of Los Angeles. We fished once a year, at a penny-sized man-made pond  called “Trout-Dale”. The thin dead trout would then live in our freezer in plastic bags until mom threw them out.

Grandpa is buying the salmon from someone “in the tribe“, who has the right to fish the coveted breed. The tribe is a presence around here, a frontage road running along side the highway, a sub culture. There is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ with a oval of impasse, relationships of convenience. They  mention “the Rez” in the same way that I would mention  “Van Nuys” or “Riverside.”

We wrap up our visit with cups of tea and sugar-free cookies. More driving through trees, across bridges, through towns, more naming of  beaches – thin and pebbly. The town of Indianola is absurdly charming. There is a stop sign, and a little red building called the Country Mart. Out front – like he was painted in by Norman Rockwell – a little toe-head boy shares an ice-cream cone with a curly-haired dog. We pick up a 12 pack of Rainer (that’s Washington-Speak for Pabst-Blue-Ribbon) and walk down to the dock, where teenage girls lean against the wooden railings talking to thin boys with fishing rods.

We are picked up by a shirt-less crew of Rob’s good friends, in a little speed boat and I work quickly to impress them with my wit, trying hard not to seem too “Californian.” I  hide my squeamishness when they pull up glittering cages of brown spidery Dungeness Crabs, clinging in panic, snapping their prehistoric claws with indignant rage. They seem so benign in the big glass aquariums at Pavillions, I can’t fathom how we are going to eat these things, they look like dinosaurs. We zip around to a few different buoys drinking beer, pulling up baskets of angry crabs.  The sun lighting us up, burning up the corners of our eyes, and drying yesterday’s storm.

In the  grassy yard of a little house, just up the road from the dock, we set up the BBQ and the crabs are boiled on the grass in an old beer keg with the top cut off, the screaming yellow foam brings a few curious neighbors, who ask about “our pull.” They eye me warily, they ask me where I’m from, and with proud grins, inform me with sweeping arms, that I am lucky to be here. I agree as I slice vegetables on a picnic table, help a little girl spell everyone’s name with a crayon, and take shots of  whiskey. I watch and learn how to crack crab on a pile of newspapers.  Finally the sun sets around 9:30, the fire-pit is lit, and we drunkenly eat crab salad and grilled vegetables. Someone turns on “The Talking Heads” which spawns a sing-a-long. The kids fall asleep in the master bedroom, and I am the only one with a sweater on, as it has fallen below 70 degrees now. The air, the still and shore-clean air holds the sweatness of the grass, and the fresh crab, and the crackling fire-pit. I want to bottle this smell and keep it on a shelf, and whenever I am feeling lonely or sad, I could just open the little bottle and sniff the cap, go back in time to an unfamiliar homeyness I felt, right then.

Rob’s Crab Ceviche/ Salad:


15 Fresh Dungeness Crab boiled in an old beer keg

1 head of crunchy purple lettuce

1 head of Garlic

1 jalapeno

1 thai pepper

1 purple onion

2-3 heads of fresh uncooked corn

1 can black beans

limes, lemons, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and hot-sauce to taste

Directions: Crack crab on sheets of Newspaper; chop all vegetables; put everything in the same bowl. Enjoy with beer, and friends, on tortilla chips or with a fork. 

I know there are hot dogs in heaven.

I am ten years old, visiting grandma and grandpa for the first time on my own. I take the train to Sacremento, they great me at the station standing side by side. Grandpa Owen with his hat and cane. Grandma Maura with her tent-like lavender blouse. I ride in the back seat of his big blue cadillac, sinking into the velveteen apolstry. The air thin and hot. Always too hot. He drives as if the thing is made of glass, not detroit steel. He sings to me in his thick brogue, In Dublin’s fair city…where the girls are so pretty… I first set me eyes on sweet Molly Malone… he smiles at me through the mile-wide rearview and tells me he’s going to ship me to Ireland to be Rose of Tralee. I think he tells all the grand daughters that, but it feels like he is telling just me.

The house is like a balm. I can almost see through the slats of the tall wood fence. We fumble with the latch on the dutch-door. The side yard is shaded by a two-story maple, the interlocking bricks have the tiniest hint of moss. The ash-tray on the patio table is half filled, and the ceramic garden goose in a light blue bonnet, sunk deep in the muddy planter,  gazes across the wild lawn at the junipers, where the leprechauns live. Grandpa brought them over from Ireland in a trunk, But they don’t like it here, grandma says, it’s too hot, they’d rather live by the sea. She uncrosses her legs, looking at me through her lashes she flashes a wink, so quick, you’d think you imagined it.

The  noon- sun beams just-so through the paint-by-number glass decoration, suctioned to a small square pane of the side door. The carpet, long and green gets between my toes, and hides chocolate crumbs. Its worn flat and bald where everyone shuffles in, dumping their purses and back packs on the flowered couch. It’s quiet without my thirteen cousins and 8 or so Aunts and Uncles, except for the steady clock,  but the air buzzes like after a shout.

I stay in “the mices” room (the nickname for my mom and my aunt Sheila, always rolling around in a trouble-some pair). Always choosing the bed by the window. My mom’s old bed. She slept here when she was my age. The closet is full of sweaters in all colors and sizes, toys that fall apart, it smells like old things. The hall closet is the most interesting, full of thin creamy linens, and pinging china. I know the priest is coming for dinner because the good plates are out and the whiskey.  The kitchen is hot with steam from the potatoes. She is making turnips for me, my favorite, after reading a book about a girl named Molly who had a Victory garden and  hated turnips. I had to ask my mom what turnips were, I don’t think she knew much more than I did about them. But grandma knew all about victory gardens, and turnips. It turns out, I liked turnips: boiled, salted, and mashed with parsnips, onions and carrots.

All the pictures on the walls and on the shelves are peeling away, or wrinkling. The people’s faces are just a collection of black and white specks. Thats Aunt Nan, and Pat, there is your mother and your Aunt sheila. Thats Aunt Deb at her wedding, thats my brother Billy, he died in the war, thats me on the Queen Elizabeth…thats a boat, we called it the QE2, a very fancy boat.

 I like the way she takes a breath in when she says “yes” while she is remembering something…Yes…(breath-in) yes, yes. Her eyes will flick around  and she will nod and lick her lips, thats when I met your grandpa. I went to Ireland, and met him at confession, now THERE’S a place to meet a nice boy. She points at me with her wooden spoon, hot water and potato bits flinging onto the gold-flecked linoleum. It bubbles in places, making nice long creaks when your trying to get to the candy cabinet. If we all lined up, all the cousins and held out our hands and closed our eyes and said “please” she would go down the line and pour from a 1 pound bag of M&Ms into our outstretched hands. It was like getting communion but better,  and you had to cup your hands real tight so they would slip through your fingers. By the time you were done, you had sweaty multi-colored palms, your mouth raw with sugary milk chocolate.

She showed me how to knead the dough for the irish soda bread, her fingers, pale and already warping under the knotted pressure of arthritis. Push it back with the heal of your palms, then fold it over, getting flour in all the air pockets. then you make a cross on each loaf, father, son, and the holy ghost. We’d eat the dough off our fingers, salty and sweet.

In the morning I would climb into her bed after grandpa went for his walk, with our books and tea and toast, dipping the corner of the toast triangle in the molten belly of the egg: sitting up-right and decapitated in one of her many egg-cups. In the afternoons we would hang up her “un mentionables” on the clothes line, large flesh-colored silks that I could use as a hammock if I dared. I would poke around in the yard, sticking my face unside the large  hollow globes of hydrangea. They came out different colors every season. Sometimes punches of blue and lavender, sometimes pale pink and red. If it was a good season, yellow and white daffodils would spring up from bulbs, the fairies plant them and use them for tea-cups, she told me, and she would find me hiding in the spidery caves of the junipers, waiting for fairies with a handful of daffodils. They won’t come out when you’re here sweetie, lets go get a treat and let them have tea. We would go out to the market and stop at the bakery for an eclair or a raspberry swirl, watching the wild chickens strut around old town. They belong to everybody and nobody, they are wild chickens, they tried to kick them out, but they didn’t want to leave… no we can’t eat them. Then we would wrap the roast in twine and watch Murder She Wrote  while it cooked. Angela Landsbury was her hero, I think.

In much later years, we would break her out the back door of the nursing home on Foothill  at and 35th  at dinner time (3 pm) in a wheel chair with her big sunglasses on to go get a handmade pork tamale at the taco-truck across the street. Braving the deadliest  cross walk in the world, for what is sure to be the fluffiest tamale north of Lompoc. She loved the melon agua fresca.

One of the last things she ever asked me for was a hot dog. I’m not hungry but I could always go for a hot dog.  It’s such a simple American thing. A tube of beef parts (if you’re lucky) wrapped in a white flour bun, doused in relish, mustard and ketchup. But for her it symbolized an elementary part of life, living in the burroughs of New York City, nestled in between jews, italians, and puerto ricans, the lowest common denominator is a hot-dog.

I wish I could have gotten her a good old-fashioned dog. I hope that when I’m taking my last breaths at a catholic nursing home that someone I love will bring me a “mission dog”. Something so foundational to my young-adult personality. An item that that you can only get between the hours of 11pm and 4am roughly between 16th street and Ceasar Chavez, the smell of grilling meat and onions will guide you to a small man, next to a rolling grill, wrapping bacon around a meat tube, grilling onions and jalepenos, You wan onions? Si. Peppers? Si. You wan mustard? Si. Ketchup? Si. Mayo? No, no mayo pro favor,  I have a thing with mayonnaise. .. and he shrugs, hands me the foil wrapped savior, and asks for 4 dollars.

How well can you know a person? I know her, my grandmother, like I know the sea-glass bottles she kept on the kitchen window sill, and the soft way she smelled, and the way her breath would whistle through her teeth, or how she would slap your leg if you told her something biting and funny. I told her once that she was like a compfy couch, a compliment not appreciated by any woman, and for good reason. It was possibly my first metaphor, misguided and naive. What I was trying to say was that you could curl up in her and feel safe, steady. But how well do I know her sadness and her anger? How well do I know what she thought about her life, the choices she made, mistakes, guilt, loss. She looked up at me, on my last day with her, shortly before her hot-dog craving, It was never all that great, she said. This is something you never want to hear from an old person. We want to know that it’s great to get old, to live a long life with intermittent pain and joy. We want to know even on our heaviest days, thats it’s worth it.  All I could offer her was some juice and a scone. Even if it wasn’t ever all that great for her, it was great for us, maybe she just couldn’t see it and it still is great for us, and it will always be great. Dancing an amateur version of the irish jig after we’ve all had seconds on dessert, irish coffees, and gone through the 7th bottle of wine, and the last slice of yorkshire pudding (which is neither a pudding, nor from Yorkshire), laughing like idiots… thats great. It’s moments like that, making it all worth it, getting us out of bed in the morning. We wouldn’t have any of it, if it wasn’t for her, picking up a cute guy after confession one sodden afternoon in Tralee, Ireland.

Because Freedom is a breakfast food.

Freedom is the first thing you eat everyday. A big hot heaping spoonful that will stick to your ribs. It is an unbalanced breakfast with the scales tipped in your favor. You can say whatever you want (except for “bomb” on an airplane. “I’m sorry sir I was just trying to warm my toes with my Bic because you insist on keeping the cabin at 35 degrees!”) You can own a gun (s), you can own property ($), you can get into all kinds of debt, you can get paid to not have a job, you can read a book for free; that’s freedom, and you eat it like cereal everyday.

Go to the library with a sense of ceremony, dropping off your used items and inquiring about the book you wanted that had gone missing some weeks earlier (gasp!). Get excited when they bring it out of the back like a new baby. Yes, this makes you an absolutely shameless nerd. Comment on the rarity of this short story collection and see the wide bemused eyes of the part-time worker as she nods and points to the check out line. You love libraries, you especially love this one because of his breath-taking art-deco entrance, it’s perturbed staff, and it’s location; It backs up to the entrance of Prospect Park with a fountain, and a French-Libertine inspired arch in the intersection out front. It really does make your errand seem heavy with purpose.

There is nothing more American than going to the library. The well-read socialist inspired FDR, began the Public Library program as a way to cure lack-luster and inconsistent educations in America ” We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” You know, he had that sort of ability to bust out insanely intelligent sing-song gems to live by. Now, Libraries are some of the last standing relics of an America that could have been. A far-reaching government enforcing the education and imaginations of its citizens, forever employing old maids, and instilling in the collective memory that smell of thin well-worn carpet, human skin, and old paper.

People sometimes forget that books (and now DVDs) are free. Nowadays libraries are associated with homeless people bathing and people sleeping on warm greasy desks. America has forgotten all about the greatness of the public library. But not you, the library is to you, what the Star Trek Enterprise is to… other types of nerds. Its your mothership; your horizon line. As long as Public Libraries exist, America has not failed itself.

You are exceptionally cheery as you step out of the revolving door with a fresh read under your arm and an iced-coffee in the other. In your over-sized purse is a gently wrapped peanut butter sandwich tucked next to a tangerine. The sun is high and hot and a wide bay of grass lays ahead. Just watch out for sports equipment, airborne, or otherwise.

Right up there with Libraries is Public Parks. There is nothing more American than libraries, AND Public Parks. It is free to read books and sit in a lovely groomed park. Sometimes, people forget that.

The thing about parks here in this region (you consider yourself a park and library connoisseur), is that they are all so well-groomed, like paintings from Victorian Paris. Everything is lit with old-fashioned lamps, walkways are meticulous, people actually stay off the grass. The trees look like pleasant cartoon trees, no crippled oaks; or Dr. Suess junipers. No rolling fog on the horizon, no drum circles. Golden gate is a wide spewing mysterious place with its own species of coyote. Prospect and Central park are ruled by polite pathways and plump little squirrels. It looks like a park from a Disney movie. Wooded glens, colorful birds, picnic tables.

One thing that is consistent across all parks in the country : strollers. America has fancy stroller fever. Passing by you on every side are gangs of lulu-lemon wearing moms pushing these robot-pod and Cadillac looking vehicles. Whatever happened to the little aluminum and nylon death-traps of your youth? You know the ones that would launch you into on-coming traffic if the little plastic wheel hit a pebble. Remember 20 years ago, When all a mom needed was four or five aluminum poles, a stretched out nylon floral sling and some hooked handles to drape her over-sized purse on. It was like a toy camping tent. These strollers went for 5 to 10 dollars at Kmart, and your garage was littered with the carcases of many that had been run over or run down, or lost a wheel, or got peed/puked on. They were as disposable as plastic grocery bags (RIP) but now those are taboo too.

There are entire stores dedicated to fancy strollers, There is a parking place in your building for strollers, not bikes. You have counted 2 McClarren’s and one “Stroke” which is a scary Matrix pod looking thing that is able to adjust the height and facing direction of baby. All standard issue strollers are now equiped with 8 zillion pockets, a GPS, Air conditioning, easy folding technique (remember dad trying to get the old stroller in the back of the Mazada? Comedy), Sirius radio, moon roof, and cappuccino machine. The deluxe ones come with their own mexican diaper changing service that folds up into the trunk ( J.Lo’s favorite! Legality not guaranteed)! Whatever happened to getting your little foot caught between the asphalt and the plastic foot rest? Your toes would be bloody and scrapped for the rest of the day, you learned your lesson, Don’t drag your feet! That’s the kind of stuff that builds character. It makes you wonder what these little precious cargos will be like. You wont have to wonder for long, they will be baby sitting your kids in like 15-20 years.

Your point is that American people forget sometimes that no matter where we are, there is a library, and a public park. We like to get caught up in the bells and whistles of things, the politics, the ipads. We forget that kids don’t care what the stroller looks like, because they will end up puking or peeing on it anyway. Remember when your toosh would drag on the ground because you were too big or the stroller was too old? Whenever your mom put something in the “storage sling” she would accidentally kick your back? That was the good stuff, who would want to miss out on that with their high-tech all-weather four-wheel drive?

When everything else is dark and confusing, the world seems to shoot off into all these mysterious tunnels. You revert to your center. The Brady Bunch goes to Sears, Nancy Sinatra goes Downtown, Men go to the YMCA, Yuppies go to the farmer’s markets, and you go to the library. There is not a question in the whole world that cannot be answered at the library. It is a place of magical definitions, of answers. You have tried meditation, you have tried yoga but new-fangled ideas seem to lose you mostly (FDR would equally be confused by “new fangledness”). The library, however, followed by a long sun-burn in the park with a homemade sandwich, is the only cure for a troubled mind. You feel centered, recharged, itchy.

For the rest of the day you will discover small bugs and blades of grass in/around your clothes and hair. Your skin remembers sun and on cue turns a nice card-board color, as dependable as libraries, are the changes in season on your skin.