desk nest shelf

mental health and other creative projects

Book 1, January: “Braiding Sweetgrass”

“A bay is a noun only if water is dead. When bay is a noun, it is defined by humans, trapped between its shores and contained by the word. But the verb wiikwegamaa—to be a bay—releases the water from bondage and lets it live. ‘To be a bay’ holds the wonder that, for this moment, the living water has decided to shelter itself between these shores, conversing with cedar roots and a flock of baby mergansers. Because it could do otherwise—become a stream or an ocean or a waterfall, and there are verbs for that, too. To be a hill, to be a sandy beach, to be a Saturday, all are possible verbs in a world where everything is alive. Water, land, and even a day, the language a mirror for seeing the animacy of the world, the life that pulses through all things, through pines and nuthatches and mushrooms. This is the language I hear in the woods; this is the language that lets us speak of what wells up all around us.[…] This is the grammar of animacy.”

“What if you were a teacher but had no voice to speak your knowledge? What if you had no language at all and yet there was something you needed to say? Wouldn’t you dance it? Wouldn’t you act it out? Wouldn’t your every movement tell the story? In time you would be so eloquent that just to gaze upon you would reveal it all. And so it is with these silent green lives.”

“Joanna Macy writes that until we can grieve for our planet we cannot love it — grieving is a sign of spiritual health. But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair.”

― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

In college I got up at 4:30 am to stand in a cold spring marsh, listening for the sounds of migrating birds before breakfast in the dinning hall. I spent hours in a lab combing through the regurgitated pellets of cormorants, looking for the tiny white specks that were the inner ear bones of fish. I clambered over desert rocks with Cambrian fossils in my hands. I peered into petri dishes of plankton towed from the edges of ponds and over the side of a ship. I learned how to do 100-counts and use a transect, read a graph and write a paper. I kind of learned statistics, and I definitely learned what it feels like when a cold November river floods your waders up to your waist. What I didn’t learn in my scientist’s training was what to do with the despair.

Continue reading “Book 1, January: “Braiding Sweetgrass””

on missing school

cn: mention of disordered eating

I work part-time, with the option of doing quite a bit of my work remotely. So when I woke up this morning feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and nauseous, I had the option of sending my supervisor an email to let him know that I’d be in tomorrow, but that I needed to work from home today.

It turned out to be a good decision– I was just one straw away from an emotional explosion, and of course that straw dropped just minutes after I sent that email.

I will get to my work this afternoon, but this morning, clearly, another kind of work needed to happen.

My feeling upon waking up this morning brought me back to grade school. I haven’t been there in a while, and it was a scary moment.

Every morning for most of middle school and high school, I felt physically sick. Getting out the door was a huge struggle. By mid high-school, I could barely get two bites of toast in me. These days I cannot function without breakfast, it is basically my favorite thing in the world, and when I can, I eat it twice (I’m a hobbit / I’m hypoglycemic / I love breakfast). But I could hardly eat then because of my anxiety and disordered eating related to self-esteem.

I missed a lot of school. I was known for it. My teachers and classmates commented, a lot. They would shame me for it outright, or with attempted subtlety.

“How are you feeling today? You get sick a lot.”

“I wish my parents would let me stay home as much as yours do.”

“You know, you’re doing so well in my class, but that doesn’t mean you can miss school whenever you feel like it. That won’t work in the real world.” (Ie: “Tough it up, clinically depressed child. You’ll have to do this for the rest of your life, and my class is definitely more important than your mental health.”)

So, why did my parents let me miss so much school? As far as they were concerned, I could miss as much school as I wanted so long as I kept up my grades. I missed on average probably about a day every two weeks, sometimes more, but I graduated in the top 5% of my (very competitive) class.

This was probably better for my mental health than forcing me to always go to school, but it wasn’t good either. I was very depressed, and my parents failed to take any actions towards my wellbeing. I’m not really here to rail against my parents for failing me to give me a safe and supportive childhood and adolescence, although they did, and I am still dealing with the results of that.

What I’m wondering today is, why did my teachers approach me the way they did?

I know it is not the responsibility of high-school teachers to parent their students. But I was so, so clearly not okay– and I had so many teachers who pulled me aside to chastise me, instead of asking me if they could help. They commented on the paradox– the high-achieving student with so many absences– and then threatened to lower my grades if I continued to miss school. They were all willing to overlook me, for my grades. I didn’t asked for help because I had been trained not to. So, somehow, I got through it.

I remember a teacher telling me that “playing hooky wouldn’t fly in college”, as well as if it had happened yesterday. Even missing school, I was just spending the day at home doing my work, reading my lessons, getting it all done faster so I could read or make art. But I felt so deeply ashamed the next day that the anxiety of facing everyone just made it worse.

Guess what happened in college? I think I only missed a few days of classes, in all four years, when I was contagiously ill and physically unable to show up. Huh.

This morning after sending that email, I expected to feel that shame again. I actually started to, for a minute- and then I crushed it dead.

My supervisor legitimately doesn’t mind. And I’ll get the work done. I’m a very good employee — check my references–and I’m not a bad person. Today I’m taking the time I need to productively take care of my things, because I’m a person.

“That won’t work in the real world.”

Is that so.

on blogging hard things

I’ve thinking a lot recently about what it means to “own your story”, and what that looks like for me.

I’ve done some of that here, and nothing bad has come of it. But still I sometimes have concerns about what can happen when you share personal stories on the internet.

Even though I’m anonymous here, I made a decision a while ago to share some blog posts on my personal FaceBook page. So hypothetically, anyone who had access to those can come read my blog whenever. (Though I expect most people only do that when I specifically share a post on FaceBook. And I don’t always share them there for exactly that reason. You can go digging around if you want, but I’m not going to throw it in your face.)

I’d like to say that this isn’t a big deal for me, but sometimes I do wonder whether I’d make that decision today. I do think it holds me back sometimes.

What do I worry about? I guess these kinds of things: Continue reading “on blogging hard things”

spring thoughts

It’s spring here. I spend mornings listening to robins and rain. The season has this rumbling, resonant feeling, like I’m a pebble spinning around in a enormous stone bowl. It always feels like the entire world is about to change, not just the temperature and the plants but the whole structure of my life, my beliefs and my body and my breakfast. I associate it strongly with school graduations. A feeling of being very present and grounded as I spill over the edge. I can’t do it justice. Continue reading “spring thoughts”

physical memories

cn: ‘Trauma’ is mentioned but nothing explicit described. I don’t think this post should be triggering for anyone. This is about my experience of having chronic pain related to stress.

I started physical therapy today.

Here’s what we’re doing, from my PT’s perspective: exercises to strengthen my some muscles so that the painful, over-used muscles can stop doing all the work. And, mobilization to release tension in certain areas that are taking on too much strain.

All that is definitely true and important, and I don’t have any in-depth knowledge of physiology.

But what I have come to understand is that, if I go into this with the right attitude, I will be working to reverse some deeply significant conditioning that has kept me trapped in the pain cycle. Continue reading “physical memories”

pain in the neck

“Wild Geese” by 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 your 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.

I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks that left no energy for blogging. I still don’t really have the energy but I’m going to try anyway. And I’m going to try not to overthink it. Continue reading “pain in the neck”

spring body hair rant

With spring in the air, body hair is on my mind. Continue reading “spring body hair rant”

body/health ecology

I wrote a post a few days ago saying that I feel sometimes like I’m not getting anywhere, in terms of my physical and mental health.

But progress is happening… slowly.

There’s a concept in ecology that we call the shifting baseline syndrome, which was coined by a scientist named Pauly who was writing about monitoring fisheries. It essentially boils down to this: ecosystems can change substantially but gradually. Each generation has a new picture of what the world looks like–a new ‘normal’. We don’t necessarily know how to judge the health of an ecosystem because we don’t really know what it looked like in the past. We need to step back, research the past, and compare different snapshots of what that ecosystem looked like, to really know what’s going on.


Continue reading “body/health ecology”


I hope you will excuse a cliché metaphor. I really hate them, but I find myself using them a lot lately. Bear with me, I guess. Continue reading “hills”

Blog at

Up ↑