Closer to Knowing

“It’s brilliant”, my brain smiles.    This always happens when I’m nursing Lyric to sleep.  Which means that half the time, I fall asleep with him.  And my great ideas get lost in my slumber.

No bother, though.  It’s not like anyone except me is missing them.

They belong to the cosmos anyways;  to our collective mind.   Your thought bumps into mine, two waves meeting in the velvet night or the mundane of the high afternoon heat.

I tell myself, I’ll write them down.  I tap them out letter by letter on the little screen of my iphone.     The problem is I am never thorough enough;  my notes turn out cryptic a few days later and I struggle to piece together what my tired mind originally meant.

So, I go back to reveling in the warm spot Lyric leaves on the bed when he rolls over, sleep-drunk from milk direct from the tap.    Tonight, as I cradled him in bed asleep, the heaviness and weight of his chest upon mine felt comforting.  Like home.   And I repeated to myself  “This.  This.  This.”

Our breath rose and fell together like the gentle rocking of the sea.  His head smelled of my armpits and that was okay.  Because I knew it meant he’d been curled to my body, as closely as possible;  my legs drawn up around his so that our bodies formed a semi-yin/yang symbol.


Breastfeeding.   Parenting.   Co-sleeping.  Attending births.  Making soup.  Touching the desert.   Tasting sea salt chocolate.  Channeling anger.  Staring into the eyes of friends.  Sweeping crumbs from the table with a wet rag.  Stirring a salve.  Whispering to the full moon.  Saying to hell with the mess.   Shaking the comfrey herb oil infusion every day.

Watching her skip out of school to greet me.

Seeing her push him in the swing.   Hearing his babble in the morning.

Tracing the lines of the walls that he designed and had built.   Lighting the candle for the mama in labor, the baby who never took a breath, the birthday honoree, the mama who is dying, the daughter who is grieving.

All of these bring me one step closer to knowing.   Thank you, U2, as always.

I’m hanging out to dry
With my old clothes
Finger still red with the prick of an old rose
Well the heart that hurts
Is a heart that beats – from One Step Closer to Knowing

And then I stop in the middle of shucking corn by the sink and, realizing we already Know,  I gasp again:  “This. This. This.” 

Alternately, there is the zen-like state of “not knowing” which can also be quite freeing.   I never can decide which side of the zen-fence I want to be on.   They are both some shade of green.  Perhaps it just depends on if I’m looking at it in the sunlight or moonlight…


I almost smack myself occasionally because I really do sometimes feel like I’m getting…old.  The smacking is to wake myself up.  I am 34, for crying out loud.

But see,  being a mother does something to you.   Mortality no longer wears a cloak.   She is a knife, unsheathed and sharp as the feeling in your chest the first time you realize she’s there.  Hovering.   Noticing.  Tapping your shoulder.

And suddenly math rules and calculations shift.   Now, you think in terms of your own mother or father, or in decades.  No longer in days.

Here is what I call Mother Mortality Math sounds like:

Yes, I am only 34.  But in double that time, I’ll be older than my parents are now.   

34.   In about 10 more years my life will be half over.  (Notice I’m giving myself the benefit of longevity)

Mother Mortality math takes your current state of mind or concern and multiplies  it. Then, it starts doing some kind of Family Geometry.  Like this:

My kids will probably only know their grandparents for another 20 years. (Again, longevity benefit thrown in for good measure)

Which means one day I won’t just be able to just pick up the phone and call my folks.

Oh my god, what does it feel like to be the parent to know you will have to leave your children and your grandchildren in a few decades?

And then you have to stop what you are doing and repeat “This.  This.  This.”


But the This is what brought me here in the first place.

The shucking of corn, which reminds me of my Father’s sumptuous summer garden.   Smack in the middle of peeling back the husks, I begin to silently weep.   I miss my home.  I remember the summers;  I ache for the childhood that bestowed upon me magic.  I want to hold my brand new nephew and talk to my mom as she stirs the dumplings and smell the laundry from the line and nap near the breeze of the open window.

And as I wash the strands of silk from the cob, my hands remind me of the vision of Jason’s grandma, slowly sending soap suds around a plate as she hand-washed it just months before entering a nursing home.

My weeping shifts to her, aware of her rapidly approaching mortality.    Closing my eyes, I see her slumped over in her wheelchair as we open christmas presents around her.    I imagine her brain begging her mouth to move, to form words, to talk.   But instead, allows her eyelids to get heavy and sleeps some more.

Which reminds me of my own grandmother and the process of witnessing her die;  of seeing my mother watch her own mother leave and return to the Source.

And then, I recall staring at a photo of my grandparents, probably in their mid-20’s.   I am frozen as the thought crosses my mind “They were younger than me in that photo and now they have been GONE for over ten years.   HOW is that possible?”

All of these thoughts occur even after the one in which I’m slicing through one of my Dad’s garden tomatoes.   He sent it in the car with Jason’s Dad as he stopped along his journey to come to see us.  Tomatoes that 36 hours prior had been in the Midwest, in the hands of my Father, from the ground in which he tilled and sowed barefoot.   Tomatoes which now formed the pasta sauce I am feeding to my Father-in-Law and his wife.


A few nights later,  I ask Jason if he’d received any updates from my dad’s fancy satellite locator device.   En route via his own small airplane to the canyons of Utah, my Dad had been periodically sending status updates on his location to Jason’s email.

“Oh, yeah, he’s been sending them to me but I just haven’t checked them.  I was so busy today”. 

suddenly, I am somewhat frantic.  “Please, check it. I want to know he made it.”

My Dad is an excellent pilot and his plane – a rugged plane built to take off and land quickly and easily in the bush – is sturdy.    But the thoughts come thundering back and the tears well.

“What will it be like when he’s gone and I hear a plane in the sky.  And I know…that it can’t be him?”

Jason checks and the message – though a programmed one – is comforting.    But it too brings tears and pangs of Knowing.

I’m safe at my location.  Wish you were here.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    ~I am an orphan, so I can tell you that not being able to pick up the phone and talk to either of my parents is very difficult. Harder still is raising my kids and not being able to apologize to my mother for all the lack of understanding of how hard it was to raise a family.

    ~I actually just asked Alan yesterday which one of us he thinks will die first. He asked me who I wanted to die first. Neither one of us answered the other’s question.

  2. You’re just the loveliest. Thinking, thinking, thinking…. xo

  3. mb says:

    Your dad is sexy, rugged, cigar, plane. i can see his spark that met with the Source of All and put it spinning into the Innerverse of your mama….i can see how you become You.

    I can see your booty even though your hand is on it.

    I can see your life beyond this one, mere mortal but i disagree….mortal and beyond body without a doubt. there is no light switch turning off with you….it only goes on brighter and brighter until it illuminates all.

    our words are never are own to keep. the ones that escape feed someone, somewhere. i often see my thought in others words and my words in other’s poetry. acknowledgement is for the old paradigm, we are of the New.

    i miss you and your brightness so much, your easy and your love and your cookies. i’m looking into flights today for a Oct. visit. okay?


  4. Kelly says:

    I follow many blogs- mostly food blogs- but of all the blogs I follow, yours feeds me the most. thank you for being truly and wholly you- what a gift you are to the world. many blessings wished and winging your way.

  5. leighsteele says:

    thank you, all, for your kind love-thoughts. it always stuns me how ones own simple words can move others. but then again, i am daily moved by the musings of the world. many of you included.
    love and more of it. always.

  6. These thoughts have been heavy in my mind lately too. In December I will enter my fifth decade on this earth. Really? How can that be?! As a recently single woman whose best (physical) years are behind her, but who believes her best (emotional, mental, spiritual, heart) years are ahead of her … I dunno. There is a lot of food for thought there. I am also watching those I love age and fall into illness and infirm, and I feel that knife in my chest too. But I remember that I have been here before, will be here again, that this lifetime is a passing thing, unfolding exactly as it is meant to be. Sometimes it’s hard to be human and divine at the same time.

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