Longing-In Terms Of A Barometer

The trick with big concepts in your writing is that they lay flat on the page if you go at the them intellectually. But if you talk about them in terms of something specific like an object, the concept comes alive.

Here is my effort this week:

Longing-In terms of a barometer…

A Barometer

I still want it. I can see it on the wall by the front door. I should have taken it. I should have tucked it into my suitcase as I left the house for the last time. But, really, why take a barometer to Texas when it had lived its whole life at the beach? Would its delicate calibrations to the air pressure by the ocean cease to work in city with a only a river running through it?

Part of me wonders if the barometer ever really worked. I’d come downstair every morning for breakfast and tap tap tap the face of it. Most always the needle moved. Down meant a low pressure system, a storm was in the offing. Up meant clear weather. If it didn’t move much at all, that meant whatever weather we were having would continue. That was the extent of my weather forecasting ability. Really. You’d think the way I tap tap tapped that barometer I might have wanted to go to meterological school. After all, weather predicting was a favorite past time in my family. My father loved to comment about the wind shifts and colors of sunsets. My mother believed that everything was better on a bright sunny day. Why wouldn’t I want to go into the business of predicting my family’s humor and fate? I suppose I didn’t because knowledge kills the mystery and I love the mystery. I love the expectancy of wondering what’s going to happen. Not knowing. Being surprised. Rolling with it.

Why even tap that barometer then?

Probably for the same reason I look at the stupid weather apps: to get a leg up on surprise. Or to know and then let it go. It’s funny how I abhor the lengthy weather conversation—the precursor to connection or a prolonged avoidance tactic. Someone told me once that weather conversations like sports conversations help people relax their diaphragms. They are like good bits of foreplay and allow you to breathe and relax and arch into the meat of an issue. Perhaps. Mostly what I witnessed was long weather and sports convo mixed with bloody marys and vodka martinis and then a storm. A gully washer. Which may or may not have cleared the air but definitely left the ground slightly wrecked.

I can predict the weather pretty well now without the weather apps. I think it’s because the barometer was the beginning of my noticing. Yes, I picked up my father’s sense of wind shifts. But I can also storms coming in the change in water color. I can tell clearing clouds from fronts. And I love watching a storm blow in from across a desert or an ocean. Even if the rain never actually falls on me, it’s like watching a sunrise or a sunset: Certain and magical all on its own.

So why do I still want that barometer? Why do I still think about it? Why do I wish I could see it one more time?

So that I can hear the tap tap tap and remember rounding the corner of the beach house into the kitchen where my mother and father drank coffee and talked about the plans of the day.

So that I can feel the promise of a day at the beach or on my bike or something else.

So that I can touch that simple ritual and know that whatever happens something is marking the unseen pressures in the air.



The Knee Poem

My poem, The Knee Poem, was published and selected as Editor’s Choice for the Ocotillo Review! I had the pleasure of reading it at Malvern Books in Austin, TX this summer.

To see me read the poem, click this link to the video: The Knee Poem Reading


The Knee Poem

By Lindsey Lane

Skinned knees
Scabby knees
Fall out of a tree and pick yourself up knees

Tucked knees
Cannon ball tight knees
Make a splash knees

Knobby kneed
Knock kneed
Nylons bagging, trying to grow up too fast knees

These knees
These knees
These simply bending

Silky knees
Charleston knees
Playing peekaboo behind hands knees
Teasing like winking eyes under skirts knees

Ooo…the bee’s knees
Make me weak in the knees
Crawl across hot sand and broken glass a million miles to kiss those knees
Swooning, fall into your arms knees.

These knees
These knees
These simply bending

Scarred knees
Scrubbing floors knees
Twenty bucks-a-pop
Please don’t. I’ll never do it again knees.

Wounded knee
Boy, Get on your knees
Put your hands behind your back knees
Knee jerk, gun to the head knees

Fuck no
Take a knee
Bent down
Bent over
Bent up
Bent too long
Worn out
These knees can be replaced

Kneeling knees
Prayer knees
Feeling small at the alter of something big knees

Dig in the earth, dirt stained knees
Chubby baby wobbling into your lap
Begin again, crawling out of the muck

These knees
These knees
They simply bend.

Same But Different

The Writing Prompt is Same But Different. Set the timer for five minutes and write. It won’t be perfect but it might be sharp and clear. I like to use prompt to get out of the way of myself. The only thing I changed was the tense. During the prompt, I wrote it in past tense. It seems better in present tense.

She wants rice. That much I understand. I am going to cook it. She keeps grabbing the pot out of my hand. And the bag of rice. And stepping to the sink. Okay. Okay. She will make the rice. First pours the rice in the pot. Then she runs water into the pot and stirs the rice with hands, washing the little white nuggets. She drains the water. She repeats this process three times. All the while, she looks at me and smiles. Over and over, she says, “Same. Same. But different. Rice. Same. Same. But different.” Yes it is rice. The food she ate on the other side of the world but now she is in Boston making a different pot of rice. No family. No people she knows. No one. Just this blond American with her pot and her rice and the running water and a stove. An hour later. She scoops a heaping pile of rice into two bowls. It is mushier than what I would have made. I don’t know if this batch of rice is a good or similar to what she made in Saigon. All I know is it’s “Same. Same. But different.”

Why I Teach

Yup…I like teaching

Next week, Shelli Cornelison and I begin our fourth collaboration as teachers of our six-week short fiction workshop. Writers will share and revise as many stories as we can possibly read and critique during that time. Each time we teach, Shelli and I put a lot of effort into planning and promoting. Each time, I ask myself: Why do I teach?

For the collaboration…I love the collective reading of a work and the shared exploration of what works, what’s confusing and what blows our minds.

For the community…Sharing something we’ve written is a vulnerable move and one I don’t take lightly because, at the end of the six weeks, if we’ve treated each other with respect and kindness and rigor, we have formed a community and community is something that humans create which makes the world a better place.

For the articulation…When I teach I have to be able to articulate what’s working (or not) in a story and that articulation makes me a better writer when I come to the blank page.

For the knowledge…Every writer and their story teaches me something about myself, about writing, about story.

For the generosity of spirit…Let’s face it, sitting in a room, creating story can be pretty selfish and self-serving. Teaching kicks me out of that room and that’s a good thing.

For the money…We don’t get rich as teachers but every little bit helps. Every. Little. Bit.

For the joy… Is there a better feeling when someone nails a story and it is accepted for publication? Possibly. But I love the small celebrations of a perfect sentence, a beautiful scene, an indelible story.

If you would like to join us, the class begins on April 11 and runs for six consecutive Wednesdays, 7-10pm at Austin Creative Alliance, 81 San Marcos St. $285.

For more information: Click Here.

If you would like to attend, please send an email to heartofshortfiction@gmail.com


When Is The Right Time?

Sombra’s Last Day-March 2, 2018

I kept waiting for the event.
Heart failure.
Back legs giving out completely.
But the event didn’t come. Sombra our 15-year-old Labrador/Whippet mix was not going to have an event. He was going to stay. That was his job. To stay with us.

I didn’t know what to do. Help him leave? Wait until his body stopped? I asked my friend Sandra if she thought Sombra was enjoying life. At that moment, we were standing in the yard watching Sombra squat and pee and then stand there, motionless. For a dog who would take off running after squirrels, deer and any nearby body of water, he didn’t wander much anymore. I suspected it was because he was mostly blind and deaf and had the good sense to wait for me to be near him with a leash. But I also felt like the edge of him was disappearing. Each day, the definition of him in space and time was blurring. Instead of being the dog who could run after those things that needed chasing, he was becoming those things.

I’d seen these blurred edges before. When my daughter was born, she had no sense of the edge of herself. She was me. For many months. Her cries were as much about needing to be held as they were about sustenance. It was as if the edge of me and my love for her defined her, kept her from floating away, allowed her to thrive and land in her own body.

With Sombra, I was watching the process in reverse.

Sandra said, “I don’t know if he is enjoying life but he will be here with you as long as you need him.”
“You mean he’s waiting for me to be ready to let go?”
“I don’t think he’ll leave unless you’re ready.”

We helped Sombra stumble walk inside. As we sat down to dinner, he waited nearby to lick my empty plate. I thought about his little expectancies during a day: Breakfast and dinner; standing at the door with me about to go outside; the dinner plate. His world was diminished. Do I wait until they are all gone?

I didn’t know. When is the right time to help someone leave their body? Strangely, this question is similar to the one couples ask themselves about parenthood: When is the right time to have a child? The answer to both questions is: there is no right time. You do it and you make room and it is always a blessing.

And so I was ready.

I called my daughter and we figured out a time when she could be with me virtually. She was there at Sombra’s beginning when some boys on bikes, hanging on to a black dog with a collar, came up to our car and asked, “Is this your dog?” My daughter, seven years old, said yes, with all the conviction in the world. We brought him home and her dad named him Sombra because he was as black as a shadow and stayed nearby as shadows do. Now we were going to help him slip into the shadows.

As the day approached, I kept wondering if I should be doing anything special. You know, taking him out to do his favorite things. The only one thing I could think of was taking him to the creek for a little farewell because he loved swimming so much. I found a place where he could walk in gradually. A few months before I’d taken him to a deep swimming hole and he sank because his back legs didn’t work well enough to swim. As we edged our way slowly to the water, he tripped over rocks and tree roots until finally his paws were in the water. And there he stood. Frozen. And looking slightly miserable. “Like what the heck am I doing here? I can’t swim.”

So we went home and I served him a yummy dinner of grain free kibble, goat milk and pumpkin. I sat next to him while he immersed himself in his meal. These small pleasures: a good meal, a clump of grass with intoxicating smells; a prodigious pee. Who am I to remind him of his lost pleasures? He is this pleasure now. May I be so wise when I am near death.

The next day, a few friends gathered.

As was their habit, Diane took him on a last little stroll in which he peed and pooped and then had a biscuit and a drink of water. Sombra lied down on his favorite white rug, which used to be in my daughter’s room but he coveted it so much that she finally gave it to him. Eight humans circled him. Fifteen candles (his estimated age) circled us.

Michael gave Sombra a shot to relax. I sat next him, stroking him as he sank more heavily and deeply into his white cloud rug. Finally, Michael shaved a little spot on his leg and injected him with a pink liquid. Sometime between the first press and the empty vial, his heart stopped.

After everyone left, I called my daughter. She was still crying.
“Did we do the right thing, Mom?”

Could we have waited one more day, one more week, one more month? Could we have waited until he had no more little events during the day, which made him happy and expectant? Could we have waited until misery eclipsed everything?

I suppose yes we could have.

But here’s what I know. Sombra was loved from moment he leapt into our car until his heart stopped on the white cloud rug. Is there anything better than that?

Sombra Joins His New Family


In May, my daughter and I will return Sombra’s ashes to the creek for one final swim.