all her empire’s falling down

Originally posted on Southern Exposure: Going to the Chapel (Hill):


Autumn here is strange, and about as unseasonable as my grief. The urge to wrap myself in wool is strong. As is the urge for hot broth and baking pans and roasted roots. The weather simply won’t cooperate. It’s warm.

Not accustomed to the thirty-degree temperature differential, dawn to dusk, I bundled up last week, thinking: Now. Here. This. But I was nearly laughed back north to New York City (here, you call the place by its full name) as my boss informed my coworker, “This child is not ready for the south.” And there I was, stifling in my layers as the day veered tropical.

Yesterday was Sunday, chill and grey and damp; today we’re back to warm again. The trees are thinning, very slowly. Green leaves turn to yellow one by one, and linger before falling. They are not prepared for hibernation. Meanwhile, I’ve gone prematurely numb.

Evenings in…

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turn and face the strange

Originally posted on Southern Exposure: Going to the Chapel (Hill):

It doesn’t actually get any better. But you get used to bearing it.

Most days, you won’t believe she’s dead.

A birthday comes and goes and though you celebrate, it passes with a sinking feeling: maybe you forgot to tell the guest of honor where to meet for dinner. Maybe she was waylaid at the airport. Or your card was late and she is seething somewhere. Or the flowers arrived wilted. You are an awful daughter.

You’ll bump your head—on hatchbacks, pots and pans, or doors—and that will be the thing that roots you to your earth of pain. Not daily life. Perhaps the Buddhists have it. This is all illusion: work and play and clothes and cars and bills and gasoline. Not illusion: goose eggs, death, and withheld tears.

What’s real is what you can’t accept. Despite the fact that her things are now interspersed with your things. Her nightie is folded in…

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the best medicine for grief

Originally posted on Southern Exposure: Going to the Chapel (Hill):


Is a hundred-and-one-pound rescue dog: half Mastiff, half Shepherd, and no small amount of wooly mammoth.

Here I am in this new tiny house, with this new massive dog, getting up at dawn to write before I drive my mother’s bucket of a car to my new job, where I sit tethered to a desk from 9 to 5. This new world is strange and pretty, with wild packs of thug mosquitoes, mutant spiders, heat—heat that in heft and force could blind a man and fell him—and every kind of tree: scrubby, piney, stately, savage, towering, or choked by vines. These things require adjustment. But there are also bounties here, pleasures to which the soul adapts quite easily. The quiet. The watercolor cotton sky. The jackpot rattle of the cicadas. Sweet corn and farm-warmed peaches. The unsullied scent of rain.

I want to call my mother and tell her she was right. But, awfully, in this singular…

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and so it goes

Originally posted on Southern Exposure: Going to the Chapel (Hill):

Mum's stone, new home

Of all the things that I expected to be difficult (moving here), losing my mother was never even in the realm of my most terrible imagination. But it has become the only thing. Now there are vampires sucking at my words and rendering them bloodless. Suddenly. Tragically. Impossibly. I need every adverb in the book. I need to bend the language until it howls, then breaks. Or else I will resort to saying all the dumb things that now feel like the only things to say. It really does feel like a hole in your heart.

But then it isn’t real. There are arrangements to be made, and boxes to be packed. Loaded. Unloaded. Unpacked. And little moments managing to be beautiful in spite of this. Little jokes she might have made. Her memory, the act of her on a planet which is now unreal and immeasurable—both too big and too…

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Independence Day

Originally posted on Southern Exposure: Going to the Chapel (Hill):

empire state, fourth of july

9 pm July 4th, 2014 found me on the couch (in front of yet another episode of Call the Midwife), in sweatpants (or summer equivalent), with mac n’ cheese and one of those single-woman half bottles of Cavit pinot grigio.  I was not ashamed. Just home from schlepping syrupy mojitos to FIFA fans for nine hours straight, I decided not to go to Brooklyn, where friends were gathering to watch the fireworks; not to put on patriotic eyeshadow (even if I owned such frippery, which I do not); not to go anywhere at all. Instead I opened up the balcony and, once the crackleboom of the Macy’s display got going, watched with passive admiration at its reflection in the windows of a nearby building. It wasn’t lonely and it wasn’t lame. By the time I’d made myself (and polished off) a hot fudge sundae (and the modest glug of wine), I experienced my one brief…

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what my boyfriend has to say about Woody Allen


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{ trigger warning }

Men have been abusing women in one way or another for most of human history. Fortunately things are improving, but they are a long way from being ideal. This should be a source of embarrassment and motivation to all sensible men. In turn this should motivate us to be more careful and sensitive when putative cases come to light. Most of us liked Woody Allen, and his films. The world would be worse in a small way if the allegations are correct. We don’t know whether or not they are. But we do know lots of things. We know that we should be careful and sensitive when dealing with issues like this. We know that our liking his films or his screen personality provide us with no evidence one way or another about these allegations. We know that it is almost impossible to imagine forcing our own child to invent allegations like this, to put our own child through the invasive examinations, the awful psychological trauma. We know that, unfortunately, men have been abusing women, old and young, for many years, and continue to do so, and that they have done so in a culture in which they were the dominant subgroup, and have traditionally not suffered the appropriate consequences. But we also know that the way we react to allegations like this says more about our culture than whether they are true. If we react with sensitivity and concern, this will not only make things a little less bad for the would-be victim, but also for the many other victims who have suffered in the past. For what its worth, I think the main thing we should be talking about these days is what we can do to protect women, young and old, and to support them when this protection fails. Fuck Woody Allen; he’s not important.

I’d like to hide behind this quote for days, for weeks, for as long as it takes for social media to stop talking about Woody Allen. I’d like to let it speak for me.

The fact is that I can’t. The fact is I’m the one whose anger has been bloating up our studio apartment with its fat red force. And no matter how eloquently he comes to the defense of women, I feel a squiggling sense of shame for all the links and likes and other people’s words that I’ve been quietly adding to the Internet this week.

The particulars don’t matter. There are plenty of articles out there fact-checking each other ad nauseum. It’s not about he’s guilty, she’s telling the truth. It’s not a matter of I don’t like his movies, nor should you. I have no authority in either matter. But what has me wailing at the ceiling is how much instant hatred there was out there once this woman told her story to the readership of the New York Times.

One thing the “we’ll never know what happened” camp has right is that there’s not a lot of evidence—on either side—and it’s not our job to adjudicate. I’m not looking for a manhunt. But don’t we have it in us to acknowledge that just because we like a man or that man’s art doesn’t mean all those who cry against him must be liars, or manipulators, or, my favorite: “women scorned?”

There are predators out there, and so few of them are caught. When it comes to children (and here we’re talking about a seven-year-old child, not an adult woman; this isn’t just another post about rape culture and victim-shaming), they are smart enough not to be caught. Without going into motives, or the ethics of consent, I’ll just say that there are ways to discredit children. Easy ways, like: Choose your moment. Use your fingers or your mouth—not an object or a penis that might bruise them—and be gentle; this will leave no evidence. Tell yourself you’ve taken pleasure for yourself and done no lasting harm. Then tell the child that what’s just happened wasn’t wrong, that they are special. And, if that fails, instruct them not to tell. “This is our little secret.” “No one else would understand.” This is where abusers do the real damage. Because children know enough to feel shame, to feel in their guts that what’s just happened wasn’t right.

The point is, Woody Allen doesn’t matter. But a case like this, out in the open, with every intellectual who ever saw an art-house screening of Manhattan or Annie Hall at attention? That’s an opportunity to take a good long look at what it says about our culture that we’d rather defame the victim than consider an uncomfortable truth, be that about a total stranger or a famous man.

As a child who’s been through something like this—and the daughter of a mother who has too—I can only say: it would be the sickest kind of woman who would put a child through this scrutiny, let alone subject her to the speculum, just because she’s “pissed at her ex-husband.” Who knows, maybe Mia Farrow did. But ask yourselves, what do you really think of women?

I can’t say with any certainty that Dylan Farrow told the truth. You can’t say she didn’t.

Truth is, it doesn’t really matter if he touched her in an attic or he never touched her anywhere. Woody Allen made her feel like he could or would or wanted to. And that is not a way a father ought to make a seven-year-old girl feel.

Glasgow, winter, four p.m.


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It’s not yet four p.m. and not quite dark. That’s how I know our time is almost up.

We’ve been here a month, which includes the day they called the darkest of the year. December 21st: six hours, fifty-eight minutes, and forty-one seconds in the sun.

We’re into seven-hour days now, as winter begins to wane and the low ceiling above Glasgow lightens. Every year I get a little sad to see the days get gradually longer; soon the lamps will be of lesser use, and the sun’s fluorescence will be turned up to full blast. This year, doubly so. This year, I’ve watched whole days disappear in gloaming. Sunrises at 8:45 a.m., sunsets at 3:45 p.m. Pitch black by half-past four. And I will miss it.

Today, the twilight has a whitish glare to it. That’s how I know it isn’t proper twilight yet. Night is still an hour off. It’s still light enough to see the rain (and there is almost always rain).

In addition to these holidays with B. and his family (basking in the warmth of meats and meals and mince pies, pints and pints of Guinness, plus a bottle or two of Islay whisky and the wondrous fact of people who all genuinely like each other—even at the stressful times of year), I will remember one morning most clearly. A day that, even with the blinds and curtains opened wide, never quite became a day. There was just a deep, wet greyness.

I imagine if I lived here all year round I might feel flattened by this season of black and quiet gloom. Instead I’m rapt and warmed by it. As if, somehow, I might be hidden from the world back home by five time zones and this omnipresent dusk.

The world back home means forty hours a week spent in a chiropractic office, whose windows open only to an airshaft. But I’m going back a little warmer, with the knowledge that darkness isn’t always heavier than day.


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