For a variety of reasons, none of them that great, I found myself last Friday back on the road. This time I was headed south, towards my mom and grandparents, to spend some time with my grandpa. I had Dexter and Cedar with me, lounging in the backseat, and when we left Portland it was moody and overcast. I felt jumpy and restless on the drive down, anxious with unknowns. But then I got to Medford, and I saw my family. Sam was there before she headed to Wyoming, Rachelle was coming the next day. My mom and grandma met us at my grandparents' house, a place of calm and quiet, and when I saw them I felt reassured. Everything would be alright, and even if it wasn't, we'd still have each other. 

I kept feeling that way through the rest of the weekend, even though there were parts of it that were really hard. It's just that I felt buoyed up, kept and comforted, by the strength of the people around me and the places we were in. There is so much to be said for drawing courage from the plants and animals around us. I had my dog, we were sleeping in the cabin at the lake, we were with each other. 

I told Sam the other day that I'm trying to write an essay about the words "sistered" and "brothered", verbs of a noun. It's from a Joe Wilkins poem I heard him read recently that I love, called "My Son Asks for the Story about When We Were Birds". He writes: 

"When we were birds,
we veered & wheeled, we flapped & looped—

it’s true, we flew. When we were birds, we dined on tiny silver fish
& the watery hearts
of flowers. When we were birds,

we sistered the dragonfly, brothered the night-wise bat,"

Sistered the dragonfly, brothered the night-wise bat. Have you ever heard such a beautiful line? Have you ever thought of such a beautiful idea? Everyone should go by his poetry, because it is truly wonderful. But the idea of sistering something has been stuck in my head, because it's describing something I never had words for before. Everyone says you can mother someone, but that's the only verb we have for family. We don't father each other, sister each other. But that's what it was this past weekend. I was sistered, thoroughly. It's a feeling of solidarity, almost, the feeling for family, for how they take care of you just by standing up next to you, by saying I'm here too. I'm living this too, with you. 

I'm not done with the essay yet, and I might never be. But it's something I scratching at, slowly, because I want to get it just right. Do you want to know something else? I started this wanting only to talk to my family, but I think there's something else to say too. It's about poetry, and how important and powerful I think it is. There are some things that can only be said through the form, some things that can only be understood in poetry. I hand-lettered a poem this past weekend for my grandma--I left it hanging on the fridge as a surprise. It's by Mary Oliver, and it's called "At the Lake." I'm in a poetry time, right now, and I want to leave you with this piece by Mary: 

A fish leaps
like a black pin --
then -- when the starlight
strikes its side --
  

like a silver pin.
In an instant
the fish's spine
alters the fierce line of rising
  

and it curls a little --
the head, like scalloped tin,
plunges back,
and it's gone.

This is, I think,
what holiness is:
the natural world,
where every moment is full

of the passion to keep moving.
Inside every mind
there's a hermit's cave
full of light,

full of snow,
full of concentration.
I've knelt there,
and so have you,

hanging on
to what you love,
to what is lovely.
The lake's

shining sheets
don't make a ripple now,
and the stars
are going off to their blue sleep,

but the words are in place --
and the fish leaps, and leaps again
from the black plush of the poem,
that breathless space.