Valerie and I are planning to move to London, to be close to her family and to start a new chapter in our life together. My application for a settlement visa is at the British Consulate. After it arrives I will find a job. If you know of any dynamic, world-bettering companies that need a Chief Technology Officer with a mind for scalable web architecture and the soul of a poet, please let me know.
Although the timeline is not yet clear for our move, we decided that it was important to reach out now to our community of friends for support. Also, this gives us the opportunity to start to say “goodbye” to so many wonderful people on this continent.
We are especially fond of Ojai, the small town in California we have called home for the past several years. The word “ojai” means “nest” in the language of the Chumash Indians who first inhabited this area. Indeed, it has been a nest for us in which to be nurtured and grow strong. Now we fledge.
My grandmother’s glass cabin, perched high in the Sandia Mountain Range of New Mexico, is a place I would visit each summer of my childhood without fail. This is my first time back since I left home for college, and with it, left childhood. Everything seems, although familiar, smaller as well — the drive up the mountain shorter, the cabin diminished, the ponds shallower and grasses shorter even than they were in my late adolescence.
New Mexico represents a spiritual home to me much more than the barren Sonoran desert where I spent the remaining eleven months of each formative year. As such, I wanted to bring my wife here more than anywhere. And I brought my adult self, too, as a bemused observer, along with a paperback copy of Christian Wiman’s collection of essays entitled Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.
This place is dense with evocative glimpses of earlier selves. I have been rifling through internal snapshots like an old-time flip book, hoping the rapid succession of annual impressions might create a trajectory of motion that I could identify as “my development.”
Photo: Per H. Olsen
When I created the “Fatherhood” category on my website nearly five years ago, I knew that becoming a dad marked a rite of passage. It never occurred to me that our son James might only live three days, or how having and losing him in such short succession would change me. No man accurately anticipates the full impact of fatherhood. And as much as I knew the birth of our son would better me, I never expected that by his departure I would also gain in courage, compassion, and strength. Truly, it is a remarkable being, who both by his coming and going can have touched my life so profoundly.
I crossed both the equator and the International Date Line this week to meet another remarkable being — my new nephew. He is my wife’s sister’s child, and, like James, he seems to have inherited his lip line from that side of the family. But unlike our James, his eyes are open, and everything about him is inquisitive and alive. It feels both precious and surprisingly natural to spend time with him — hoisting him up to get a better look at the tropical fish at the aquarium, feeding him spoonfuls of mush, and pushing him through the rainy streets in his waterproof pram in search of great fish and chips.
And so, I embrace a new rite of passage, into unclehood. Continue reading…
Val and I leave tonight for Sydney, Australia to visit her sister, sister’s husband, and our new baby nephew. As a friend and fellow bereaved father pointed out, there is more to this adventure than just a holiday down under. Though I have held one very special little girl since the passing of our son, meeting James’s male cousin, who shares some of his genetics, does seem like another milestone in my journey from grief to hope.
I disciplined myself to take just one book of poems from the shelves that line the walls of our small cottage. I am taking Marvin Bell’s Nightworks. His strong voice and piquant musings are a comfort to me on long trips. If there were something like a break room for great philosophers, where they could congregate, sip coffee, and chat, Bell’s poems capture bits of what we might overhear. This book seemed like the perfect companion with which to cross the dark Pacific.
Between friends, family, and marsupials, I don’t know how much I will be blogging in the next two weeks. But watch out for photos on Flickr, and I’ll be back in the Northern Hemisphere again soon.
“…how amiable the gorgeous advantage of the newly born.”
-Marvin Bell, “The Book of the Dead Man (#42)”
I am somewhere over the Midwest as I type this, returning to the West Coast from a weekend in Boston. Val and I made the trip to attend a very special wedding. Seeing two dear friends — both kind, courageous men — exchange vows with each other, and blessings with all in attendance, renewed my understanding of what marriage is all about.
We stayed in the Omni Parker House Hotel, home to Emerson and Longfellow’s Saturday Club, and spent what little time we had on this trip getting acquainted with American history up close. We visited beautiful old churches, and made the trip up to Harvard — a school founded by Puritans to unite scholarship with spiritual pursuit. Continue reading…
On Thursday, I will leave for the fifth and final residency of the Pacific University Master of Fine Arts in Writing program. A new twist this time: my lovely wife will be joining me. On balance, with the omission of workshops and the addition of a graduate reading and thesis review committee session, it looks like this special final residency schedule will be slightly less intense than the previous four. So, I asked Val to come along to watch the graduate readings, hang out with the amazing writers I have befriended in the last two years at mealtimes, and soak up the outstanding faculty readings each evening. I look forward to introducing her to the Pacific Northwest, and the remarkable faculty, staff, and students in this community. We’re mulling over the packing list now. This is going to be fun!