You Say You Love the World, So Love the World

Letters #156

You miss everyone. Even the people you read about today
you didn’t know, their faces on the brain as if on paper.

You sit on the balcony,
which is really a fire escape, but you call it
the balcony to make it sound better.
You wear the slip your grandmother gave you

fifteen years ago, the weather is nice, California nice.

You sing a little, call your family, you think, things aren’t so bad.

You say you love the world, so love the world.

Maybe you don’t even say it for yourself,
Maybe you move your mouth like everyone
moves their mouth. Maybe your mouth is the same
mouth as everyone’s, all trying to say the same thing.

-Ada Limon | The Same Thing (from Sharks in the Rivers)

The body that finds me nearly a year and a half into this pandemic isn’t the one I had before. Since this all started, I’ve stopped breastfeeding and had to rediscover what my post-childbirth-post-postpartum-post-breastfeeding-post-30 body needs for itself, in the middle of a time when few of the things I need for myself are readily available. Some of the changes would have happened between 32 and 34 no matter what, probably, but others may not have. The slash of white at my temples is new; the shape of my belly and my arms. This body carries age, and time, and loss, and fear, and grief. So much has changed in the past 18 months, and so little, and I’ve struggled a lot to keep up. Whole months disappear without me even really realizing they’ve happened; I’ve forgotten birthdays and important anniversaries, which is unusual for me. My mind often feels full to the brim of nothing, somehow, while the more important stuff seems to leak away.

I have this memory of myself at about five years old, sitting in church with my grandmother, curled into the pew with a coloring book and tic-tacs, gently stroking the soft skin on the back of her arm. It felt like magic, like a place that could hold me and not give way. Later, I would learn that, like most women of her generation (and many other generations), my grandmother spent most of her life in a battle against her body. The memory of finding comfort in her softness is marred by knowing it made her self-conscious, that it likely sent her into a period of worry about those arms, that the comfort I found there wasn’t what stuck in her mind but the shape of her skin. I am trying to hold that memory for R, knowing that the things that I’m struggling to integrate into my 34-year life are more or less her whole experience of the world. The version of me she knows and loves and trusts is this one, whether or not it’s the one I best recognize for myself. With the understanding that we’re unlikely to see a version of the world much like we knew before, I’m trying hard to find things to love here.

We’ve been taking more walks lately, R and I. On my birthday, we were briefly followed by a coyote down the street that runs along the hydro corridor and ravine, an experience tempered only in the aftermath when it was clear the coyote wanted absolutely nothing to do with us and was just trying to cross from one patch of urban wilderness to another. Like us, it has made its home here, and is doing the best it can. And it’s almost certainly eating the rats, which is how I’d like to see the rats handled anyway. I have often found peace in the woods and rivers, but it’s me taken a while to really appreciate the porousness of the urban-wild divide. I’ve long been an advocate of celebrating rather than exterminating urban wildlife (I am on the record as a lover of pigeons), but after the encounter, I checked out a few books on urban ecology and have been digging in wholeheartedly. I may turn the patch of scrubby weeds in front of our house into a tracking box. And with no end to my own city life on the horizon, and an increasing need for different perspectives on how people and the environment interact with one another, there’s a very good chance that urban wildlife is the direction I’ll be taking this newsletter, at least for the next little while. I’m hoping to explore not just the physical space around me, but also some of the ideas about human-wildlife cohabitation, housing density, landscape management, and other topics that arise alongside the simpler question of “who lives here?”, all in the same kind of poetry + thoughts format I’ve used for years. I truly hope you’ll stick with me as I’m learning this new thing.

We say we love the world, so we’re going to find new ways to love it.