About Me

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHello, dear reader. Thank you for either inadvertently washing up upon my blog and having enough curiosity to read the About Me page, or intentionally pinpointing me out within the vast oceanic internet. Regardless of how you got here, you’re in the right place and you’re welcome to stay.

This blog is a space to voice my musings, ruminations, and inquires in and around the theme of resiliency. I am a writer characterized by my millennial generation writing between the edges of fear and hope, two sides of the same coin flipping mid-air toward a future always unknown. Resiliency, then, is the notion that humans, animals, communities and entire ecosystems have an innate tendency to seek survival out of ruin, crisis and setbacks–to muster hope in the place of fear, or rather, to allow a bit of fearfulness to sit beside hope without judgement that fear exists.

I consider myself resilient. I also consider myself privileged. The storms I have weathered were countered with the warm compression of true human to human support. Likewise, I’ve witnessed acts of resiliency in many of the places I visit, the people I meet and the ideas I ponder: cities crafting climate change action plans, loved ones gracefully facing chronic pain, plants sprouting in unlikely highway interchanges. Many of the posts on this blog speak directly to this theme while others take a backroad sort of approach; though every post seeks to give credence to notions of sustainability in an increasingly exploitative world.

Spinning Spiderwebs is a nod to one of the most durable materials made from the natural world. Spider silk is a protein created inside spiders’ cells that some scientists have reported as being stronger than steel on a per weight basis. It’s strength, coupled with it’s elaborate structure and delicate nature, is a tangible, tender sort of resiliency that represents the essence of what I’m trying to accomplish through through my writing and this blog.

~Erica

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The other night I got on my knees to observe a line of ants walking across my kitchen floor. The tile was dirty, the carpet needed a good vacuum and the cats (both blind) could sense something was amiss. But despite my impulse to lunge for the Swifter I stayed with the ants and just watched for a good 10 minutes. There must have been hundreds of them, following a scent or perhaps escaping trouble. The thing about ants, I discovered, is that it’s hard to know if they are coming or going. I followed their little conga line to what I believed was their final destination–the dishwasher. Now, if I were an ant the dishwasher would be the last place I’d want to set up camp, like a jacuzzi gone impossibly wrong. But these ants had a plan, and I was in no position to upset this plan. Though, even as I was charged by my roommate (who had left town for a week) to handle this invasion I was having second thoughts about disrupting what clearly was a dance toward survival. Maybe it’s because I had just watched Planet Earth on Netflix or maybe it’s because the weather is warming and all the little birds and bees are starting to make themselves known to me, but I didn’t do anything. I still haven’t. And I probably won’t because there’s something magical about that line of ants marching themselves across my dirty kitchen floor. There’s something mysterious and life affirming in the way they instinctually know where to go and who to follow. Perhaps the ants don’t know what the end game is, the goal of the mission, or if God is real or not; but, they’re doing what they were born to do, present in the moment, living fully as an ant. I admire those little guys pushing through as a team, and I think the world is better off with ant lines than without.

Thank you Mary Oliver

This week someone in my life who I trust and value their wisdom gave
me a gift by reminding me of a poem by Mary Oliver. I had forgotten how certain poems can illuminate the rawness of life and empower healing in their simple phrases. I read this poem out loud and had the sense that Mary Oliver was talking directly to me. “The Journey” is a poem I will keep with me for a long time to come.

The Journey
By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Thunderstorm Woman

She’s a big horse woman,
dusty and sun-squinted tired.
Her bad frayed braid
hangs down her shoulder
reaching for her two big breasts.
She holds her shovel like
she holds the Earth,
a white knuckle grasp in the midday heat.
She has cracked heels
and dirt under her nails,
mud bruised jeans
and wide bull hips.
She digs her mud knees
into her green cabbage rows,
listening to the black
flap of crow’s wings.
She alone sows the land with
her back rounded to the sun,
the sound of harvest grunt
bellowing from her throat.
When she’s done watering
her squash and cucumbers with salt
from her forehead, she turns
her face to the sun,
hands on the curve of her spine.
Believes she’s a tree,
a root in the ground,
she drinks the rain that falls
from the storm clouds.
She wakes up at first dew
to feed chickens and cows
hums to herself when
she knows she’s alone.
She understands solitude
like she understands the sky,
both a space between
the Earth and something else.

Point of Reference  

dunes, lake michigan

These sand dunes have buried boys alive. My father once told me a|story about a boy who dug a tunnel here and when the wind picked up, and the sand started howling, he crawled in and disappeared into the Earth. His parents had walked ahead and when they came back to look for him, all they could find were sand whipped mounds covering the dunes.

Exposure. To leave a person or thing unprotected. In other words, submitting oneself to the elements, bareness in open space, telling your story to listeners. I have climbed these dunes three times in my life before today, but never alone with my mom and never past the first hill. Today we are exposed— to the sky, to the dunes, to the wind and sand, to the lake ahead and to each other. These dunes are haunting and they will pull you under; they will offer you shelter in their grandeur then toss you to the lake below. Walking here is an act of humility; we are as small as a grain of sand and our footsteps will be gone by the time we turn around. Continue reading “Point of Reference  “

On Writing

Writing is a muscle that swells and contracts depending on the time of day. I’ve felt the need to write in moments of jazz, moments that take the shape of explosive devices and moments of solitary depression.

Writing is nothing if it is not honest. If writing does not pinch or punch, tear a muscle or leave a bruise then I say forget it.

Writing is damn sexy. Lyrical and vivid, full of nightmares and subconscious memories. It’s my memoir dammnit and I’ll remember what I want to. It’s playful and sometimes even publishable. It’s internal, revealing, isolating and bloated.

Writing brought us closer together. These are the things I never knew you felt.

Writing is subconscious. It’s that dream I had about my grandmother who moaned until the morphine hit, then died in silence.  Only  her skin remained a translucence mother of pearl; her fingernails a fresh coat of hot pink. In the dream, she called me on the telephone and asked how I was doing. Her voice, clear as the freezing of water. She was a writer too.

Writing is investigative. Exposing truth and beauty in a broken world. Ask me what is the point of writing? What is the damn point? Terry Tempest Williams says: Writing is bearing witness. Writing on genocide, hurricanes, prairie dogs and cancer. It will never be enough, but what else do we writers do?

Writing is fucking hard. Sometimes I have no patience for it. Like an old friend I know I must keep, but don’t really want to ever talk to. Yeah, writing is sorta like that. It’s finding the willpower to continue when it stares at you hard in the face pointing out every zit, every wrinkle, every shadow under your eye. It’s there when you clean the bathroom sink in the middle of the day, waiting for you to return.

Writing is stubborn. To keep going to get over the past. I’ve written because I didn’t understand something until I wrote it down.  Got ink to paper until the scribble felt real. I wrote about old friends, lovers, electronic equipment. Anything to move forward. Pull it out of me then wash it away.

When I write I am more alive, and observant of so much more. I see my life, and my surroundings as stories, lessons. Images become sharper, somehow more colorful. The world I know is utterly more painful and beautiful at once. And I am in it. I become more than a shapeless wanderer, but a member who has a story.

Writing forces me to remember things that otherwise would go unnoticed. Like today, how the moon was full and small so high above a grey building. And how the clouds formed a shelf in the sky, moving forward or away, I didn’t know, but that it could have been a mountain. I could have lived in the mountains. And both those things—the moon and the cloud mountains would go un-remembered if I had not written them down.

It’s as if we writers lead double lives. The living, conscious moment, and then the making sense of it. The act of courage to re-live even the most guttural, clawed out experiences so that we connect with the dead or the part of ourselves that needs to be amputated.

Writing is an act of carving out this chaos. Hallowing out the bone and muscle of a moment so that we can see the moment clearer, just the blood flow of it—the heartbeat of it. The softness and ripening of a moment or a story becoming full only as we stumble through the writing of it.

Today I practiced yoga in the heat of a brick colored room. The instructor said: allow your body to contract, to release, to expand. And isn’t that what writing is— a continual contraction, release and expansion. Moments that make up a life, sliced into the way our bodies bend and twist.

And I write toward darkness; an unearthing and tearing down my fears that only my writing life knows how.

The Departure

He sunk his wooden oar into Cavanaugh Lake
and said the air smelled like muddied November leaves
and something burnt. Beyond our rowboat
the glass-eyed moon made silent our departure,
so I cupped my beer bottle between mitted hands
and listened to someone’s whistle from shore.

That night I lay awake with a look to the sky
and traced a moving satellite with my finger
listening for the sea, or rather,
the wind of a not too distant Great Lake,
living now a glacial ancestry. Remembering
the dunes and the rise and fall
of my own young lungs climbing the first big hill.

In the rowboat, we muscle through the black water;
mud creatures and pale faced. Our dark-eyed circles
deepening. A steady pace toward the
browning of our lives, away from the safety
of the shore, and only the glass-eyed moon
to guide our departure.

Rise from the Ashes

Last night I dreamt of fire. Green flames licking blown out windows; curling wood planks falling from abandoned houses. Detroit was burning.

My dreams are real. Speramus Meliora Resurget Cinerbus. We Hope For BetterThings; It Shall Rise From the Ashes.

Father Gabriel Richard, a Frenchman who settled in early Detroit, first said these Latin words after a fire on June 11, 1805 nearly destroyed the entire city. With no fire department existing at the time, citizens formed lines between the Detroit river and the burning buildings in order to pass buckets of water from hand to hand. Despite their best efforts, the fire leveled most of the city to the ground. Almost 100 years later those Latin words became sealed on the city flag with an image of two women, one weeping over the destruction of the fallen city, the other gesturing toward the new city that will rise in it’s ashes.

Fire: The rapid oxidation of a material in exothermic chemical process of combustion releasing heat, light and energy. Fire is alive. A breathing, convulsing element. In it’s purest form a dance between light and shadows; a movement toward destruction and rebirth at once.

As one of the first grassroots organizing movements in the city, the 1805 fire proved that a resiliency–a certain fix it ourselves attitude– existed in the minds and hearts of those Detroiters that formed the fire line that June day. We shall rise from the ashes, they thought, hand over hand, sweaty from the Michigan humidity, their faces ablaze with hope and fear of what would become of their dear city.

**
Last night I dreamt of fire. Smoke inhaled into my lungs, each one expanding, a hot air balloon with every breath. Smoke singeing the roots of my hair. Fire sweeps through Detroit Homes the headlines read.

The Detroit Fire Department puts out an enormous amount of fires a day all across the city. Over 95% of the structural fires are due to arson, many of them in vacant houses. People start these fires for lots of reasons: amusement, insurance fraud, or even ridding a neighborhood of unwanted vacant homes. The city burns, and the people respond. 

As a child of the 90’s, growing up in suburban Detroit, I knew what Devil’s Night meant, everyone did. The term fueled many fears that the city was evil–hot, and that those of us who lived on the periphery of these flames should stay out. The 1980’s and 90’s saw the peak of Devils Night, where every year on October 30th-the night before Halloween- arsonists would set fire to hundreds of homes across the city.

This past October, less than a month ago, the fire department recorded 97 fires on what is now called Angel’s Night. Every year, Detroiters patrol their neighborhoods calling in any attempts of suspected arson on the night before Halloween. That’s the fourth year in a row fires were below 100. A far cry from the over 800 fires the city saw in 1984. We shall rise from the ashes, they thought as they patrolled the city streets. We hope for better things.

Last night I dreamt of fire. Piles of ashes and soot, clouds hanging low over roofs; a grey film over the cityscape. In the fog, a flash, the white heat sparked, and in the distance shadows of people combing through the rubble, organizing for a new energy in the rising morning light.   

Speak Montana

Erica Bloom_Clark Fork River
Clark Fork River during the Spring thaw

There are stories a mountain casts
and valleys that language seeks to name.

This twist of river, swollen from the thaw,
curves itself against rock and sand,

sculpting letters in the shoreline and stories onto stone.

I learned to speak Montana the way I learned to jump
feet first into the Blackfoot off the stone cliff

with the boy from Libby
who pointed to the cross on the rock,

where a man who had refused to jump
climbed down instead and slipped to his death.

Here, somewhere between dusk and dark,
night’s last hand throws out a blush

of summer orange, bending this Montana sky
into a language spoken by men

who drink to ghosts and rivers and myth,
and all the things that make me cling to

this stone-edged wall, too afraid to jump.

Because this is the land of worn away ice,
that writes caution and temptation into its own
jagged silhouette.

And on this fading night, where stories flow
like our warm whisky poured onto sand,

I learn to speak Montana the way I learn
to release my grip

from the cool edged rock
into the river’s tongue unknown.

Some thoughts about the Midwest, a.k.a why I think about leaving but am probably here to stay

It’s night in rural Michigan and the red light indicating a train is approaching blinks incessantly. Beyond my car corn fields carpet this stretch of land. An abandoned barn house peeling white paint, a  rusting carburetor on its lawn.  Not far a dog shakes a chain link fence and lets out a rough bark while a plastic Sprite bottle lazily rolls toward a sewer. To the south, Toledo. To the East, Detroit. Between that the blinking red light in Milan, Michigan. Cities themselves rusting from the inside out, though I’d always fought back against anyone who claimed to know that for a fact. Sitting in my car, I daze into the eye of the red light, an oppressively comfortable moment. Lonesome and flat, hearty and wholesome at once. The sound of blackbirds cawing and earthworms burrowing in the cool September evening.  Somewhere close folks glow blue from their T.V. screens. The smell of garbage bags freshly tossed to the curb sweetly rotting somewhere in the distance.  The train barrels by, a blur of graffiti going somewhere new.  How familiar a moment,  how restless my foot on the brake.