Wild Geese

*This is absolutely not a wild goose, but rather a baby peacock, which image I saw on the interweb and was immediately smitten by… A thing of beauty is a joy forever, said Keats. Y’know what else is beautiful: FRIDAY, and I’m not even in the conventional workforce! That said, it’s been a long week, and the baby peacock in me says chill, and be fabulous, so I will, while quoting Mary Oliver. 

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” 
― Mary Oliver

The First Time: In the Crosshairs

I am one of those young women who, at the age of sixteen, began to feel that virginity was a burden that needed to be shed. I was tired of reading about sex in all those great paperbacks of the seventies while simultaneously diddling around with my boyfriend while he diddled with me. When were we going to DO IT? 

Honestly, I think I was pretty happy with all that deep kissing and sweet caressing. It did go on for hours, after all, and I never remember feeling all that deprived. But all that changed pretty quickly after my boyfriend left mid-winter to do a three-month service project, and I was left alone with that pulsing libido. 

But leave me he did, however well-intended we were on reuniting in the late spring, and meanwhile, a new fella slipped onstage. Literally. He was my co-star on the big stage of our high school musical, my Dolly Levi’s Horace Vandergelder. How terribly convenient. A real Broadway cliché. 

This guy knew I had a serious boyfriend of nearly two years, but he moved in anyway. And he was cool – ran with a group of seniors (I was a junior) that smoked a lot of pot and had deep philosophical discussions that I could barely grab onto. There was Andy and his girlfriend Shelly, and Leslie, who had the longest hair I’d ever seen and was the daughter of the assistant headmaster (this was a New Jersey private school, after all), and a handful of other hippie intellectuals, mostly males. They were definitely the freaks and not the geeks (which the school had plenty of). Lots of talk about the band “Little Feat” and weird movies that I’d never watched. And after a month plus of absence, my boyfriend still hadn’t written to me. At all. I was pissed and horny. So, when this guy started to pursue me in earnest, I figured, why not? And he was cute, with his long hair that was cut to his shoulders with precision. 

We’d lie on the couch making out, and I remember him whispering in my ear, “We really should sleep together.” His words didn’t so much excite me as challenge me: could I? Should I? Would I? And I knew what he meant by “sleep”! At least that didn’t confuse me. 

He let this question worm its way through my head for a few weeks, repeating it maybe twice. Meanwhile, the idea was forming. Why not? Why the heck not? (I was and still am a pretty good Presbyterian.)

So, I thought about it. For a little while, though not too long. The opportunity soon presented itself. My seducer actually lived within walking distance to the school, and this was long before things like security guards and other forces that keep students within the walls of school if they don’t want to be there, so all I had to do was skip (!) over to his house during my study hall. How long would it take, for real? It was time! I was done with this virginity thing! LET’S DO THIS!

So we did. He knew I was a virgin, and he used a condom. He wasn’t unkind, but it was mostly underwhelming, as I believe it is for a lot of young women basically brought up on the idea that sex was going to be the most sky-rocketing, mind-blowing, transformative thing you could do in this lifetime. Meh. Of course, it was my first time, so I imagined I had a lot of road ahead, and who knows what I might learn along the way, right? So, bottom line: did it, done, and moving on! I now had my teenage “lover” and I was interested in where all this might lead. More sex? Better sex? Maybe even, love??

This was not a boy who “gave love to get sex,” but I was probably a girl who believed I could give sex to get love.” It just didn’t actually work out like that. 

After that fateful afternoon, we carried on, only we didn’t have any more sex. I didn’t know why, and I was too awkward to know how to ask. What happened? We still hung out together, mostly with his friends, but sometimes just the two of us (I think?). Nothing had really changed, but something was off, something was different. Did I do something? Did he not like me anymore? Maybe my greatest fear: Was I that bad “a lay”??

I remember his bedroom was in the basement, and one day about a month or so after my “deflowering,” I was down there looking around. I was alone for the moment, and I don’t remember where he was, but I had a moment when I looked over at this large wall calendar he had hung on the back of his door. I noticed he had made some notes on the calendar, some markers of specific dates, so I thought to check out the date we had “done it.” And there it was! Marked on his calendar with my initials. Ah, how sweet! And next to my initials was a symbol: it was a small circle with a perfect X/Y axis through the middle. Basically, the same thing you see when you look through a scope to set aim on your target. A crosshair. Well, I had a pretty good idea what THAT meant, didn’t I? 

Then I zoomed out of that particular date and swept my eyes over the days, weeks, and months both before and after that occasion. And I saw that symbol again, only this time there were different initials. I knew pretty quickly who they stood for: it was Shelly, and it was Leslie. And it was more than once, way more than once, for both of them. 

But wait a minute! Shelly had a boyfriend! Andrew! And Leslie was just a friend, not his girlfriend! What the fuck (now I’m getting upset) is going on? Did I really need it spelled out to me? Shelly was actually a friend of mine by now, or so I thought. So I called her (not him, of course) and asked if we could meet so we could talk. 

To her credit, she didn’t even try to lie. Yes, they were sleeping together. It was just for fun, it didn’t mean anything, and Andrew didn’t know or care, I can’t remember which. And Leslie was just a “free spirit” and they did it when they were bored. It was all very “The Group” or “Peyton Place” – all very enlightened and free and no hang-ups, ya know? No baggage, no expectations, just plain old fun between the sheets. I didn’t need to be upset about it, after all. 

But of course I was. I was devastated. But not just because he had been sleeping with other girls. The part that hurt me the most was that he’d slept with them multiple times, but only done it with me that one time. I took this as an obvious indicator of my bed-worthiness. Clearly, I was subpar, not only not as cool as the other cool girls, but also – clearly – not as sexy. It was a rejection that cut deep. 

It took me a while to finally confront him with what I knew. He wasn’t very apologetic. It was one of those “I’m sorry you are upset” kind of things. Like “it’s no big deal.” But I couldn’t get over it. What was I supposed to think? And what about the crosshairs? But we stopped seeing each other, pretty much by mutual agreement, I guess. 

Later that summer, we actually went on a school trip together, something we’d planned earlier in the spring, but by the time the trip actually happened, he wasn’t speaking to me anymore. In fact, he avoided me completely the entire time. It was the most miserable two weeks in Europe you could imagine. I remember I just ate bags of candy and stared out the window of the tour bus, wondering what in the world it all meant. I’m still not sure I know. 

But I think about those crosshairs. Maybe it was just a mark, not really significant beyond its use as a code for intercourse, but still – I did feel like I had been a target. That he had decided to bed me, and even though I thought I made that decision free and clear, did I really? And how did this experience inform me of what sex meant, or intimacy, or – even – love? Or was I just an idiot? 

I’m still trying to figure it all out.



Bookmobiles. Ever use one? I did, as a child, living on a farm 8 miles outside town and 12 miles from the nearest library, in the tiny hamlet of Arkville. Oh how I loved the scent of the thing, the sounds, the sight of other readers often lined up outside and on the retractible steps, parked on the edge of the firehall lot, filled with my favorite things: books. Heaven. I always came down those steps with my arms chock full, a pile of novels – no limits on check outs! – to devour over the next three weeks or a month (not sure how often it visited us, but I think it was monthly), a bounty that was pure wealth to me, absolute riches.


Long and narrow, I had no idea that, fast forward a few decades, I would myself be a librarian, but doesn’t it make sense? Book nerds all, although I also encountered some of the most controlling women ever, like ever And, some of the most intelligent, humorous, generous, and kind women I’d ever met. There were even a few library dudes. A very few, one of whom became a woman during my tenure as a librarian in rural upstate New York, a decade plus ago. Beth. Very sweet lady and very good at her job, which was assisting rural libraries into and safely through the late 20th into the 21st century of technology.

Reading was and is my refuge. I can still remember where and even how I was sitting on the couch, legs curled up beneath me, near a west facing window to catch the winter light, as I finished Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre. Mind officially blown, heart pounding. I had no idea books could do that, for although I had loved the Little House books, and related to the characters, this was on a whole other scale of emotion, connection, and internal combustion as not just my heart and mind were in tumult, my skin was on fire, my senses heightened – boom! Jane Eyre. What a different, fascinating, complex story, dark, mystical, scary, romantic but gasp aloud shocking (I was eleven, y’all), foreign and familiar – his wife is in the attic, and mad as a hatter? OMMMMMMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.

These photos are courtesy of the Library of Congress, and I thank them for the reminder, not that I’d forgotten, exactly. In the age long before the internet and even cable TV, which didn’t make it to the farm until after I graduated high school (we only got one channel, CBS, during my kid-hood and even then it was a tad slanted toward an older audience), books and more books by authors like Mary Stewart, Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Judith Rossner, John Fowles, William Styron, Richard Adams, Irving Stone, Leon Uris, Helen MacInnes, Daphne DuMaurier and more were my entertainment, my sustenance, my escape, my joy.

All libraries feel like home to me, but the history of books on wheels being taken throughout the U.S., including in horse and buggy, along with the charm and character inherent to the bookmobile is undeniable.

The First Time: Bloody Sex

The First Time: Bloody Sex

*Here is the 2nd submission out of the universe I have contacted regarding this on-going project of ‘The First Time”. I invite any woman reading this, or the original post The First Time, to participate in the project, initiated toward a female centered sexual conversation and narrative about ‘the first time’ we – women and girls – had sex, because if I read or watch one more adolescent male story of cherry popping, I might start screaming, or – fall asleep, I’ve seen and read so many. BO-RING!!!

From A., mid-30s

He was sweet.

His room was warm, I was ready. At least I thought I was ready but I’m sure that I was propelled by the desire to graduate to some variation of adulthood by way of “losing it”. I wanted to be able to relate to everyone else and their talking about sex, I wanted to be desired, to be worthy, to fit in, to be relevant.

I didn’t make a sound.

I buried my face under the pillow in my pain and I pretended that it wasn’t so bad through the curtain of the pillow. He carried on as I bled and I don’t think that either of us said a thing for however long it lasted.

I bled so much I am sure this boy had to run his blankets out to the trash cans before his mother caught a whiff of it. I wonder to this day if he saved his high school money to buy a new duvet or if he had to make a grandiose excuse, maybe no one asked. I thought that maybe I had had bad timing and I just got my first period the same day as giving up my virginity and the keys to the younger realms. It was a lot. A cherry stream of blood amounting to the size of a small dead animal, into a tin can or a dumpster, and excommunicated from a memory.

After the act was over I remember feeling like I needed to go home and lock myself in my room. I had him drop me off at the top of the driveway and I ran upstairs, darting off my mother. I felt like everyone could read it and smell it on me, that if they saw me they would know that I was different now. I couldn’t let anyone see me, they would know and shame me. I didn’t want to talk about it after all. All that blood, sexual behavior, pleasure or pain. Hush, hush.

Despite the young lad’s tenderness it was rather traumatic and it took me almost a year to recover and try “it” again. I couldn’t bare to look at him anymore and I certainly didn’t want to touch him, so I broke up with him after a few silent weeks. He didn’t really do anything wrong but I was traumatized.

Blood didn’t come again during that time of keeping my legs closed, and so I started to take birth control to help induce my cycles. I felt that I had only earned this rite to womanhood with the power of the drug, but whatever, I could relate to my peers and was ready to be having “regular intercourse”. At the time I was sixteen and ready to grow up. I have always been an animal after all despite our society’s discomfort around the topic. I wanted to know what all this sex stuff was about for real if I was to be accused of being “a slut” after all.

I was eager to know, to experience, to check the box, to accomplish, to “feel good” so I started being sexual again but I still didn’t actually enjoy it. I don’t think it was really until my mid twenties that I started to understand how to enjoy sex. Partially because I was giving away my own power so therefore was attracting poor power-dynamics. Choosing the kinds of guys who would strangle me at parties while we made out, or all kinds of disgraceful things. Maybe because I was too easy, too ready and available, or because I had a bullseye on my vishuda, whatever it was was wafting from me and helping to create some pretty raunchy experiences.


From The Archive

From The Archive

*Hard to believe this journal of my father’s last months on earth was written over 10 years ago. This is the beginning. Thanks for reading, and if you want to pay tribute to a very good man, have a margarita! I turned him onto them in his last years on the brown and blue orb, and he really loved ’em.

Jan 30th, 2010

My father is sick and in the hospital with pneumonia and as a result I could not sleep last night. He will be eighty-two this July; I love him very much and last night this daddy’s girl got herself crying so hard over his eventual and natural demise I could not rest, relax and let go. Ridiculous and real, natural and foolish as I need to get my sleep so I can better support him; yet this is reality and while I feel sure we are many years from that hard and sad event, my imagination (blessing and curse) made me go there.

We had dinner this week; he was unnaturally exhausted but the evening before was his bowling night. He said he had stayed up until 1a.m. which is five hours past his usual bedtime. After bowling he goes out to the local pub with his best male friend, the one of few remaining close friends of his who is still alive, and they have a beer or two and a cigarette or two (I know, I know, I wish he wouldn’t but he is eighty and at this stage of his life…) but although he got home at 11:30p.m., he could not get to sleep. I now wonder if it was the illness already making itself known.

Last night he was immediately blossoming under the ministrations of several nurses who, as is right and natural, were instantly enslaved by his charm. My dad’s sense of humor is wonderful; he is also as smart as a whip. I have to get going if I want to fit in a visit with him before work and make sure his dog is okay. I hired a walker who will also be feeding my dad’s favorite female…Zelda Lou Miller, 7 years old with a delightful under bite and great gobs of long hair. Daddy, I love you. Do this for me, would you: get well soon.

February 2, 2010 — Another Letter to my Dad I will NOT sent. Probably.

Dear Dad –

You are not well but you will live, I gather, even if your life will be somewhat limited by your now 24/7 need to be hooked into an oxygen tank. This is very hard for me to see – you, less able, more infirm, unable to breathe without visible effort on your own – but I am pretty sure you will make the adjustment well (as will I, I hope) to this change. You have spoken, and spoken much too soon, about giving up bowling. I may have to drag your sorry ass there as to give up one of your great pleasures, and the social contact, the joy therein, would be a grave mistake, and it is early yet – maybe bowling will be possible and still fun for you. Wait and see; try it. I know it will not comfort you to hear that your sister-in-law, the bossy one who has lived in a retirement community since she was 49 years old, says that down there “people go everywhere and do everything with their oxygen tanks!” but I will tell you anyway. I know you don’t want people to see you with your tank, especially the women you especially like.

Last week I asked you about your dreams, if you dreamed, and you said you had been, lately. What about, daddy dear? My father is in them. Oh? And what was my esteemed grandfather doing in these dreams? Being a father, you said. I know you loved and respected him, and that you feared him, but I was very struck by those words, deeply. I now want you to know how like a father, and a great one, you have always been in my reality, in my life as well as in the lives of your three other children and your nine grandchildren. You do have a gruff exterior, you do like to grouse, to bitch and moan, yet you are a total softie within. You are smart, funny, and you will do anything for a laugh. You worked hard, so hard, in order that we all could have whatever lives we wanted, no college debt, and access to the best life had (has) to offer. The best life had to offer us was you: rolling us up and out of a giant towel back onto our bed as kids, telling us jokes or stories about life on the farm when you were young, playing gin rummy or spoons and puffing on your (goddammit) ubiquitous pipe, all while listening to us argue or tell stories of our own, and – loving our mom.

One of the best things you ever did for us was not take us personally. We were and are, as are your grandchildren, our own creations – not extensions of your ego. Though I have often sensed you were bemused by us (and always, always amused), I never felt our choices, our successes or failures – our lives – were taken in any way as a reflection of your accomplishments (although you could take much more credit than you do) and that has been very liberating, a real gift. You delight in our successes, you are proud of us, I know that, and you feel our failures when we fail, but you never, ever have made any of these events, circumstances, choices, good or bad, about you.

Thank you. Except for the fact that I am so angry with you right now for smoking all these years, I need you to know how much I love you, how much I respect you and always have, and that you are an amazing man. I also want you to know that I can live with your anger because, regardless of the fact that you told me I wasn’t to do so, I am throwing out your god-damned Parliaments before you get home from the hospital!

Toward a New Religion

Toward a New Religion

*or better yet, none at all.

The New Ten Commandments – 2023 Version (because we fucking need new, updated commandments, brother fuckers)

1. Everything begins and ends with the Self. No outside force or person is above you, or below you; you contain the universe in each and every cell in your own body. And, you are governed by your thoughts. Control your thoughts, control your life. Remembering that ‘Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind’. – Ralph Waldo Emerson or, to put it more succinctly, per Rene Descartes: Cogito ergo sum, which in French is ‘Je pense, donc je suis.’ In English, ‘I think therefore I am.’ You do not need anyone to do your thinking for you. Read, FFS, get off the internet, and stop giving away your power to priests, ministers, pastors, rabbis, and a shit ton of other false money hungry dick-wad so-called prophets. Take all leaders, all persons in positions of authority, with a healthy grain of salt. Trust, yet verify. That’s Ronald Reagan, and I can’t believe I just quoted that old fuck.

2. Honor yourself, and then, and only then, honor your neighbor as if she were yourself. In simpler terms, be kind, forgiving, tolerant, and compassionate with yourself, and with all other beings, but especially yourself, and then, if you can do that, extend yourself to your neighbors. How can we have peace on earth if we cannot first get along with ourselves, and then, get along with our neighbors? We can’t. So be nice already, brother fuckers.

3. Don’t kill other people, and don’t kill animals or bugs or whatever else living that’s around you either, and if you must eat meat, try to minimize your consumption, because meat production is one major item on ‘the killing our planet’ list. And try to stop being such pigs. JHFC. Americans are fat. I include myself in that, so don’t get all self-righteous on my cottage cheese ass.

4. Do not – hear me now – do not perpetuate or in any way use violence in the home, or outside it. This includes keeping your fucking hands off your children, your husbands and wives and girlfriends or boyfriends, your parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, and FFS keep your fucking hands off of other people’s children. This prohibition includes all forms of domestic violence, including emotional and psychological violence.

5. Stop participating in, supporting, or in any way committing state sanctioned violence, a.k.a. war. War is evil, and unnecessary. Here’s an idea: let’s turn arms manufactories into toy and playground equipment manufacturers, into medical equipment manufacturers, into construction parts manufacturers. 70% of the weapons used in Mexico are sold, trafficked, stolen, traded, or otherwise procured in the U.S. Arms sales are a multi-billion-dollar business, and the five largest arms manufacturers are in the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia, and people all over the world, but particularly in the so-called 3rd world, are dying because other, incredibly sucky people in the so-called developed world, are greedy and don’t give a flying fuck about anything except profit.

6. Do not fuck, molest, or in any other way mess with other people’s children, or your own, and that includes teenagers and those in their 20s who are not yet fully emotionally or psychologically grown. Stop abusing and taking advantage of youth, ignorance, and opportunity. Treat all children to the age of 25 like goddamned babies, because – in effect – that’s what they are.

7. Don’t steal shit, especially from children and the elderly.

8. If you must fuck around (and you know you will, or that you really, really, want to), at least be honest about it.

9. Don’t be an asshole to those who are not like you. This is an extension of being kind to your neighbors. Not everyone sees the world as you do, or has the same experiences. Don’t be a dick to those who are different, and that includes people who don’t look like, live like, or fuck like you. Respect other people, even those whose beliefs and actions make you want to puke in your shoes. I’m looking at you, Evangelical Christians, so think about it, and I’ll think about how your crazy-ass beliefs make me want to puke in my shoes.

10. Do not make, create, or in any way propagate laws, policies, blogs, articles, or ANY form of written or spoken words that seek to minimize the bodily autonomy of women and girls. Just don’t.

Moj has spoken. Now go, and be nice, brother fuckers.