To Dhyan: Year 9

Dear Dhyan,

Well the first thing you’ll notice about this letter, in some future date when you read these, is that it comes well after your birthday. I don’t have a lot of good excuses. There was a lot of busyness and sickness around your birthday and it’s taken me awhile just to get my thoughts flowing again. So I apologize.

Also I did use a photo in the header that has you looked none to pleased to have your photo taken. I hope you will see it one day and regret your face that tells your mother. “Really, mommy. Another photo?”

IMG_20221118_190339For some reason I find myself feeling differently as I write this year’s letter. I know you are only 9 and just a child, there is something more grown up about you suddenly that I feel like I am writing a letter to a young adult as opposed to a kid. You’ve grown in height and maturity so much it seems that I guess I feel like I am already started to glimpse the man you will become. Of course, it could be just because I don’t feel like I can carry you anymore. But perhaps that’s just as much a function of me getting older as you!

IMG_20220616_073522Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising though. When I was 9 I went to India and I felt like that trip had a profound impact on me. I am not sure what my parents would say about how I changed, but I do feel like your trip to London this summer helped you grow up in a way that only travel can do. Of course, London isn’t some vastly different place, but nevertheless I think there is something about just seeing the different ways cultures can be, different ways cities can be built, different systems for getting around. All those things sometimes act like learning another language. They give us a different mental grammar. And you were so wonderful in London walking around and taking in the sights. Fearless on the tube, leading the way. I was so very proud of you. Traveling is something this family likes to do and I feel like you’ve gotten bitten by the travel bug a bit and will continue to enjoy traveling adventures and I find myself even more excited to take you places.

IMG_20220423_175043I also shouldn’t be surprised that you always impress me with your maturity. You have a cool confidence about you. And it shows that you have growing awareness of your own thoughts and feelings. You still have trouble expressing your feelings especially when you’re feeling bad about something. It almost makes me cry when I see how sensitive you are. But it is the source of your empathy and kindness, and it always makes me so proud when I see how understanding and kind you are. What I’m learning as a dad is that being vulnerable is a hard thing. I thought perhaps I could get you there faster because I am someone who is expressive and comfortable in my own skin, but I think that it’s a skill that just takes time. And in the end, you are just 9. You are already far ahead of where I was at the age. You are sensitive like me, and I know it can feel overwhelming at times. Expressing it does make a big difference, but I have every confidence that when you feel the need to take that next step really explore your feelings you will get there. Maybe I underestimate how long it takes to just observe our emotions before we really understand how to express them.

IMG_20220618_093638You also continue to impress me with your desire to read and learn. This, too, can really change a person. You are reading and several levels about your grade level and it also reminds me how much language transforms us. It seems your growth has really evolved as you’ve read more and more with more complex plots and vocabulary.

That being said, the one area that we need to get better at is being able to have serious talks with you. Up until now I think I’ve been just content to let you unfold without trying to guide you. You are at the age where you can pretty much look up anything you want on the internet and that makes things a bit scary. So we need to talk to you about the things you might find. And really this is the beginning of a real loss of innocence. We have to tell you that people might try to manipulate you. That people aren’t always kind. That you may find disturbing images. And it’s so hard to have a conversation with you about these things sometimes, because you tend to sort of shutdown. And I think that’s why it’s also been difficult to write this letter because I feel like I should be talking to you instead of about you. And I often don’t know how to talk to you, because IMG_20221103_172838I’m afraid of you shutting down. Sometimes I don’t even know if you’re listening. Maybe it’s because it’s hard for you to process these things because you’re so sensitive. Maybe also you feel like we are having these talks with you because we’re accusing you of doing something wrong. I think realizing some truths about the world will be hard for you initially, but I know you’ll be able to handle it. You just have a very big heart and it can be overwhelming sometimes, but you will be stronger after you wrestle with these things internally. But I just want you to know that I’m going to keep trying. And it’s not so much that I want to tell you things, but I also really just want to hear what you have to say. What you’re thinking. How you’re feeling.

I feel really caught between wanting you to be older and more sure, and preserving that child-like sweetness. And I feel, that in some way, this is where you are too. You also see yourself changing and wishing you could still be a child. Maybe that’s why you’ve been less patient with your little brother. Don’t get me wrong, you are still doing well, but I imagine it’s hard having to be the more mature one, while your little brother gets to be more of a kid. Little siblings come along and take that freedom away. And I think sometimes as a parent I too often am expecting more maturity than you are capable of. Well I think it’s always good to remind you to be good to your brother, I am sorry if sometimes I get mad when really you are just being an 8 year old.

IMG_20230122_130513Who am I this year? Well I guess we old people don’t change as much. I still feel like I’m still waiting for some important change, some test, some awakening. I don’t know. Maybe it’s that I still feel uneasy about the future. I know myself, but I don’t know what kind of world you will face. And even though your character matters most, I guess I can’t help but wish for a world where you can flourish. Maybe I just really need to work on making sure I stay in the moment. But overall I feel good and I’m excited to take you and Allie to Europe this summer. I want you to know more of the world and enjoy travel like I do. We have so many more places to go!

I am sorry this letter is so late. I’ll do better next year. I shall leave you with a poem, my growing up child. Happy Birthday!

when I see your face
my heart is a shield
a blanket

a cocoon

as if you could become
the man
you were meant to be
ensconced in my love

for why would I want
any harm
come to you

but harm happens
and you must learn
to stand

and I must bear
the heartbreak
of your falls

To Allie: Year 4

Dear Allie,

IMG_20220110_112221_2I have never been more unsure about what to say in a letter to one of you than I am about this one. Right now, I’m listening to you do a silly voice. You’re playing with your brother. And all I can think is just how lively you are. Not just rambunctious, though you are (however, I’ve met super rambunctious children, which was frightening), but just always talking. Loud. Rambling. Narrating everything. You even narrated your own running “I’m running!”. You are a force. I really don’t know how to describe you.

Our main form of interaction is either, you attacking me, you dragging me and calling me your pet, telling me I smell like “chicken tuney fish” or asking me if I like fish poop. Your brother has been a bit of a negative influence, but since he doesn’t abuse in quite so systematic a way, I have to think that you are already trying to challenge me in some competitive son-father way.

IMG_20211221_124913We still play games we’ve been playing since prior to your 3rd birthday. For instance, you still want your cookie and vitamins in the morning. Before it had to be a bowl, and now you’re more open to the plate option. But I still, as I’m serving it, or when you ask for it, make a claim that it’s “actually for me”. And you respond back playfully “It’s for me!!!”. But sometimes you get worried I will take it. I have never taken the cookie or vitamin in two years, and now I find it fascinating, as a science experiment, to see when you’ll glue it together that daddy is just kidding. And one day this ritual will end, and I will be pretty sad about it.

We also still play a game that quite frankly I thought you would have outgrown by now. I always used to say “Where’s Allie?” when I would fake not being able to find you. Sometimes I would look straight ahead and not look down when you were in front of me. Sometimes you were behind me and I would be facing away from you, looking in that direction. You’d giggle mercilessly. You still do, but now you’re hanging on to my pockets and so I shuffle around, and as I turn my body you turn with me while. My back pockets being looser and baggier is not good for holding on to my wallet, nor can it help the look of an ever-expanding butt. It is obvious in every way possible that you are behind me and yet sometimes I think you actually believe I don’t know where you are. I suppose there is just the possibility that you are very silly. And you are quite silly. I love it though. It makes me happy to hear you giggle.

I am so in love you, Allie. You are just a wonderful child, and so beautiful. Both you and your brother take my breath away when I see your faces. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still little and you definitely make some solid messes. Also, you will not sit down at the dinner table and eat your dinner at dinner time, but only in the 5 minutes before bedtime. In addition, currently, you are scared of flies. Summer is coming Allie, there will be a lot of flies. You just have to get used to flies. This could end up being a very longer, but we’ll get through it. But overall, I couldn’t be happier about who you are. You are an amazing little boy.

20210920_183438As far as who I am right now, at this point of my life, I can only say, I think I’ve been better. Life feels a lot like stress management. What can I do to stay sane? I’ve lost some fight during the pandemic. I think part of it is a lack of togetherness. It feels more alone and that there is a tide carrying us along and we are helpless to do anything about it. It feels very uncertain that the world will be moving in a better direction when you reach adulthood. I am grateful the pandemic came when you were this age, just because I knew it wasn’t going to interrupt your development as you would just be home with mommy and daddy more and just see it as more fun. And it has been. You are fun child. And in the end, I have a lot of love in my life, and have a lot to be grateful for. I am very grateful to you. For your light brown, golden tipped curls. For your laugh. For your smile. Your innocence rejuvenates me. You are kind and thoughtful. So gentle with the cats. You could be a little less vicious with your father though. Sometimes you could just run to me and hug me excitedly. We’ll work on it. Until then I will enjoy everything you do because your ridiculously cute whatever you’re doing.

IMG_20210519_074756_812I will live
for your moments
of pure and unadulterated joy
even as my hearing fades
like Beethoven
I shall hold the music in my mind
and know with precision
what happiness sounds like
& with my pen
I write

every moment
you are in my arms

every moment
you are in my arms

Happy birthday Allie. As much as I sometimes which I could preserve you in your perfection, I also can’t wait to see what more you have in store for me as you grow. I love you!

Love,
Daddy

To Dhyan: Year 8

Dear Dhyan,

Well another year has passed during a pandemic. But hopefully things are starting to return to normal. As a father you hope that your children don’t have to live under such restricted times, but really there is still much worse situations. You have handled it wonderfully though. Perhaps, in some ways it’s good that this happening now. Traveling will hopefully become easier in the next couple of years. There are so many places we want to take you, and I think being a little older will help you appreciate and remember it better.

As I write this letter you are playing with your brother. I have to say the sounds of you two playing are some of my favorite. Not only because it gives us parents a break, but because I know how much your brother is benefitting from playing with you. You are so patient and kind with him, even though I know he can be difficult sometimes. And funnily enough you are proving these very words as I type. It’s also wonderful the impact Allie has had on you. You always seemed to play without a lot of imagination, but this year is the year I’ve really seen your imagination take off, and I think this has a lot to do with the impact of your brother and his imagination. Perhaps you just needed another kid to feel like it was okay to pretend. Your mother and I can be pretty pragmatic, practical, and scientific. With us being older parents too, maybe we didn’t do a good job of fostering your imagination. But you and Allie play so beautifully together. You even finally started naming your stuffed animals this year. You always used to just call them just by the kinds of animal they were. It’s always okay to lose yourself in a pretend world for purposes of play. I am glad you are doing that more.

As always, I want to help you understand where I am in my life too. It’s been a challenging year for many reasons. My work still lies in some uncertainty for the next few years. I hope I will find a place. I’ll admit that I am pretty fortunate to have the job I have. Maybe it can’t last, but I am going to try. The main reason being is the extra time it allows me to spend with you and Allie. I know it’s a bit selfish, but really I wish more people were able to spend more time with their children as I can. I’ve never been a terribly ambitious person, and right now I feel even less so providing we can take care of you and your brother comfortably. I want this time of my life to be a celebration of raising my children. It is ultimately only for a short time, and I want to be around for it.

It’s hard watching you grow up sometimes. I can’t help thinking about the last time I carried you, or being able to swing you around. Each year there is a little less of you that needs me. But this year my mind has been thinking about needing to have talks with you. Talking to you about people touching you without your consent. Talking to you about violent or sexual content you might see on the internet. Making you more aware of the darker side of the world. Still seeing beauty in the world despite all the bad shit that happens in it, is often no easy task. I believe you will find a way, but the thought of you contemplating these things, imagining these things for the first time, for some reason makes me sad. In the end, if we are to improve the world for all people, we have to be aware of their suffering. It is not only inevitable for you to learn, it’s also important. Still, it’s like disturbing the perfect stillness of a glass lake surface. It’s no easy task. Here is a poem, I wrote about that feeling.

There is a documentary, that I didn’t watch, but claims to essentially support the idea that the person someone is at 7 is how they are going to be as an adult. I am not sure I completely buy it, but when I look at you, I certainly hope that’s true. So I thought in this letter, I would describe the kind of man you will be based on who you were this year. First and foremost you are going to be kind. You don’t want to hurt others, you are so thoughtful, sweet, and loving. You are independent and responsible. You have a high emotional intelligence and a high general intelligence. You are also hard on yourself. You can feel a lot of anxiety when you make mistakes. You shy away from hard conversations and don’t like criticism. We have much in common. You don’t like a lot of the hard work it takes to become good at something. None us our perfect. I am still trying to get better at these things, and so we will continue to grow together. I know you will bring a lot of light to others as you do for your family. The most important thing to me, is your kindness, and that you clearly want to become a better person. And so I have no worries about the man you will become, I just hope it doesn’t happen too soon.

I have to say my favorite memory from this year was from our trip to the beach when your mother hid a “treasure box” and made you believe she found a map in the bottle. You seemed to be a little doubtful at the reality of the whole thing, but we seemed to convince you and you were so excited at finding real pirate treasure. I loved following you around and watching you as searched for it. I hope you don’t read this letter too soon, because I want you to still believe it was real for a while longer. In general you are quite observant so I am surprised we were able to pull it off. I love watching you get really into something. I know someday you are going to find your passion and you are going to be brilliant at it.

Ghost In The Machine by Swarn Gill

MasticadoresUsa // Editor: Barbara Leonhard

image: Josh Marshall/ Unsplash

Ghost in The Machine
by Swarn Gill
[author’s site]

cold titanium, metallic touch,
protect from feeling far too much
your crutch

awaken darling, feel this flesh
my hand conforms to yours
our eyes connect by unseen tether
love dances across the medium

laser looks in calculated gaze
information fills emotionless days
safety pays

I have joys to show you, give you
that surge you feel is chemical
the heart throbs, blood pulses
cellular exchange renews you

corrupted memory banks are sealed
places your Designer never healed
must shield

put your faith in something greater
an idea to bring peace of mind
I might have an idea…or two
my lips can help you think of something new

thoughts in circuits gridded tightly
produce their bedtime logic nightly
so unsightly

pick wildflowers in the green fields
and let them adorn your silken strands
there’s a place…

View original post 267 more words

It’s Not Obvious

it’s not obvious
that the stars aren’t revolving around me
it’s not obvious that I’m the one
who’s actually moving
even when I’m sitting here
there is no disproving.
and you’re moving too

it’s not obvious
that I’m not static
as life evolves around me
that time’s dissolving into me
that I too am just another object
subject to vast forces
shaping me at some point
in a universal scaffold.
that is shaping itself

it’s not obvious
that my life isn’t planned
that it isn’t canned
how is it not a map
when there is seemingly no event
in my life that didn’t depend
on an amazing number of
low probability occurrences
subject to the subtlest
of disturbances
making each moment a miracle
in a myriad of possible timelines

I want things to be clearer
maybe hold things nearer
I’m happy and willing
to be the first one
to try and really look at themselves
in the mirror

why is it when one person has a bad day
he’s able to tuck it away
another wants to do good to compensate
and yet another spits bile
and hate
is it all just too late?
or did we never really stand a chance?

because it should be all a
little easier to follow
but there are sharp turns
and hard truths to swallow
with little time to wallow
so if I say
that I want to sit here
and pretend that the stars are going by
and that the moon is smiling
beaming
radiating not reflecting
and that
I like it that way
because it makes beautiful poetry

then
let me

because it’s not obvious to me
that that’s a bad idea

Mother Did You Know

*I dedicate this poem to women in general, but also to my mom, who is an amazing woman and still inspires me to be more to this day.

mother did you know
it’s all your fault
you caused the fall
of man
but them’s the breaks
when you talk to snakes

mother did you know
you’re not quite human
humans should be a male
all those lady parts
aren’t on the chart

mother did you know
that your emotions
make you weak
and at 40 you’re
past your peak
your wisdom
your courage
cause so much fear
that instead of
being vulnerable
they sneer
and jeer

mother did you know
you’re a body – that’s it
one that must submit
and if a man bruises it
beats it broken
it means you really
shouldn’t have spoken

mother did you know
you’re not supposed to enjoy sex
but ironically you always want it
even if you don’t flaunt it
somehow you’re always asking
what you wear is just masking
and if you decide to show it
boy then, they really know it
you don’t even need to give consent
men know what you meant
he would have been such a gent
if you weren’t giving off a scent

mother did you know
you can’t want a career
you have a role
so just put aside your goals
but if you insist on having it all
you’ll have to do it all
I know it’s not fair
it seems insane
but that’s what you get
for not staying in your lane

mother did you know
no other group has survived
so long an oppression
they legislate your bodies
out of your possession
voice suppression
you’ve had witch trials
laws permitting rape
violent threats
should you try to escape
men mutilate you
murder you
send you to slaughter
men say “I love you mom”
then violate somebody else’s daughter

and mother did you know
that every single day
I stand in awe
at how you all persevere
and still manage to
hold your boys near

mother did you know
it’s okay you didn’t tell
me these things
you just loved with
unerring equality
and kindness
patience and
color blindness
taught me spirituality
can break us free
from our prison
and that we can always
do better
if we learn to listen

and mother did you know
as a man I’ve had to
unlearn many things
at times
admitting a hard truth
stings
but then there’s you
whose womb
you made room in
because of you
I know
what it means
to be human

If you’d like to hear me read this poem, click here.

*header image is Claire De Lune” by Audrey Kawasaki

The Necessary Delusion

a bird may soar
to 30,000 feet
but eventually
must stop to eat

this freedom we chase
is only found in delusion
imagine until you sleep
there is no other conclusion

free is a bungee jump
fleeting as you fall
until the cord reminds
you’re tethered to the wall

we are all bound
equally by physical laws
and time has no mercy
on our physical flaws

we are all bound
to consider adjacent souls
each swish of our tail
affects the shoal

maybe being free
is a life without selfishness
growing your compassion
alleviating helplessness

is it possible to find freedom
living within boundaries?
can life break the moulds
forged in nature’s foundries?

maybe we can
for a time
and find
a new kind of rhyme

the burdens
we face
so real
we scrape for escape
from this oppression we feel
and so maybe freedom
is just striking a deal

because surely if we
don’t feel free
for a few moments
and lave in the stream
of a dream
while our spirit foments
life will be drudgery
with nothing but suffering
freedom is our interface
from a reality we’re buffering

and maybe without
this ability
to self-deceive
we would never know
what we could ever achieve

To Allie: Year 3

Dear Allie,

I remember feeling similarly after the completion of your brother’s 2nd year. So stark are the changes from the beginning to the end of this year it’s hard to know where to begin. So let me start by saying that you are just a force. You have an infectious laugh, you talk non-stop and you narrate everything that’s happening. You are so, so, so, silly. You sing songs, sometimes in silly voices. I love your silly voices. You have a terrific imagination and invent scenarios when you play with your toys. I think you’ve even helped unlock your older brother’s imagination more. You know how to make jokes already and do so frequently. Have I mentioned how silly you are? You are also a much more willful boy than your brother. Challenging authority, contrarian, sometimes naughty for the hell of it. A little bit conniving. You are rambunctious and like to charge at your father to give him head butts. Your height is rather unfortunate right now, and there is much guarding of sensitive areas as you run with reckless abandon! I love it all. It’s amazing how with your last child, it becomes all too clear that these beautiful moments are so temporary.

The way I see myself in you
And even the way
I sometimes don’t

I’d like to believe
that I was like you
when I was your age

Can you teach me that giggle?
Would you tell me how
to make that silly voice?
Will you show me how
to run headlong into things
laughing all the way
hair bobbing up and down

I hope
I was like you
I hope all children
get to laugh like that
and help us adults grow

into you

Your personality is shining through more and more each day. I am sure it’s too early to know exactly the kind of person you are, this warm and gregarious person is blossoming and it’s just so wonderful to see.

The coolest thing about you, which is maybe unfair since you only started doing it a few weeks ago (and in general makes these letters very biased to what I can actually remember over the course of the year) is the way you have started commenting on the facial expressions and body language of characters in storybooks. It’s so cool that you are interpreting expressions and even though you aren’t really listening to the story so you get the intent of the facial expression wrong sometimes, I always understand your thought process and I love that this is what you are paying attention to.

As to who I am right now, the truth is, I just feel like I’m in a holding pattern. Will I still be a meteorology professor next year? Am I on the brink of some great enlightenment, or is this just all there is? Are things going to get worse? I feel like life is on pause somehow. That I’m waiting for something and I don’t know what it is. There’s a tension in the air. Trump is no longer president. It’s something, but still so much uncertainty lies ahead. It crippled me in January and for the first time in a long time, I felt empty of strength and it scared me. My love for you, your brother and your mother is the surety in my life and I am grateful for it every day.

It’s been a long year since your last birthday. It’s been approximately a year since the Coronavirus pandemic hit. When I think about how different this past year was supposed to be, the one bright point is that I have gotten to spend a lot more time with you than I probably would have, if life was ‘normal’. If there is any good to come out of this pandemic it’s to redefine normal. And while I haven’t gotten to take you to as many places as your brother when he was your age, I know, that for you, just being able to spend more time with your family has been a blessing. With your brother being at home a lot more I have also seen your bond with him grow immensely, and it’s so beautiful to see. Dhyan waited a long time for you both to sleep in the same room together, and now you sleep with each other and it’s so adorable. So while you may not have gotten the variety of life experiences, you have experienced no shortage of love.

That being said, I do long to take you places and see your face light up with excitement. While we slowly unroll from the pandemic, I know those days lie ahead and that the pandemic won’t even be a memory for you. There is so much I want you to see. There are snowcapped mountains, there are restless salty waves, there are places far far away to fly to. So much more awaits us.

I love you my Allie. Happy Birthday!

My Eternity

energy and chaos churning
I blink, what is my quantum state?
no form for eyes discerning
I can do nothing but wait for weight

with muons and gluons burning
no demon full of hellish fury
or soul worth grievous spurning
knows the heat that starts my journey

in fractured temporal storming
fragile existence expanding
my protons and electrons forming
the universe is grandstanding

opposites attract, particles conforming
to find orbits in that quantum foam
the first of all elements is swarming
looking for my nebular home

thick and thin gasses, uneven masses
gravity sorts out the cloud’s confusion
swept and swirled in stellar morasses
the pressure builds in cores of fusion

my life is nuclear, neutrons are made
I’m turned into carbon at six and six
a supernova ensues as energy fades
I explode into the hydrogen mix

and on and on, star to dust to star
until finally shaped in molten sphere
cooling crystals of quartz and feldspar
this is my planet I’m finally here

hard rock lies still while water flows
molecules of simple protein grow fatter
bathed in the warmth of geothermal glow
base pairs twist to form that helical ladder

then in each successive replication
a fight to survive the natural selection
copies borne with random mutations
fear to be subjects of nature’s rejection

smell, sight and sound – sharpening senses
growing complexity – evolutionary connection
avoiding predation – gaining defenses
the building of immunity to combat infection

here I stand, human, against all odds
limping to the present, eyes with dried tears
the winner of the day, no need of gods
my prize a lucky seventy or eighty years

when it’s time, Death’s touch does freeze
atop flaming pyre my body resides
my ashes blow away with the breeze
some parts of me become lithified
my carbon is breathed in by the trees
a deer eats grass, that has me inside
I glide through time with magnificent ease
I always have lived, and never have died

Nature Private Eye: The Tarp Mulligan Chronicles, Episode 4

I never should have got mixed up in the case. But when the mother came in, smelling of the gin you buy when you don’t want to look cheap but still tastes terrible, I knew she wasn’t gonna leave my office until I said yes, so I decided to save myself the waterworks. She said her son was a trucker running fruit legally from Mexico but suddenly disappeared. She says she knows something’s wrong because normally her sends a snapchat every night.

So I did some digging and got myself down to Mexico. Came across a grove of mango trees. They tell me they’ve been losing their fruit before it’s ready to fall off the tree. Picking them from their parent, hard and green, then the babies get sent up north. Sometimes even into Canada. You always hope you don’t run into child trafficking as a detective, but it looked like I was knee-deep in it now.

Sick operations like this make me want to lay waste to any bastard involved I could find. But I’m too old and I’m quite addicted to narrating my life, so I left my gun in its holster.

I was still no closer to finding that kid. I decided to hedge my bet on a border guard I knew. He was good at gathering rumors and owed me a favor ever since I helped him with a rattlesnake that was trying to ask his ankle to tango. They danced, but I got down there, sucked the poison out, and fast. That’s something you don’t forget.