It’s been a few short months since the half-wild years ended. For two years Annie, Niamh, our dog Gunnar and I lived in the Scappoose/St. Helens area, a rural cluster of towns an hour’s drive out of Portland. We moved there to live on land; we moved there to raise a daughter away from the stress and grime and danger of the city; we moved there to raise animals and grow food; we moved there to know deep peace and let our souls drink deep of the song of stars and trees and hawks and dragonflies.
And after two years at two farms, we’re back in the city, having traded a field for a yard, a wild space for a domesticated grid. We didn’t make this decision lightly, and we made it for positive, proactive reasons: to finish school, both of us, and to partner with relatives in caring for Niamh. This is a step forward, not a retreat. But we did leave the wild place, which upon our departure Annie named the Big Green. It wasn’t that wild, honestly. We were just off the highway, and the second farm was bounded by a row of housing developments. But it was wild enough, wild enough to be alive, to speak to us, to breathe its breath through us, to make us feel that we were living on planet earth and sharing that life with other furred, feathered and leafy neighbors.
Continue reading The Chickens and the Half-wild Heart
I’m sitting in my farmhouse home in Warren, Oregon, and watching live feed of the Occupy Wall Street protesters facing off against police on the Brooklyn Bridge. They’re crammed onto the bridge shoulder to shoulder, calling out slogans and standing peacefully, and the police are arresting them…one by one. One by one they’re cuffing the protesters and walking them over to a paddy wagon. Someone is filming all this from above, and I can see it all clearly. There’s no struggle, just an endless parade of quiet, unresisting arrests, while the crowd chants “Let us move!” and “We’re fighting for your pensions!”
The citizen media crew call out to each detainee, Hey you, guy being arrested, what’s your name?” Some respond, some don’t, some can be heard clearly, some can’t. A man named Michael Burton takes his arrest calmly, his eyes seeming to meet mine as the camera zooms in, radiating quiet determination and strength. A young woman wearing an Invader Zim “GIR” hat, just a teenager by the look of her, is arrested, and someone shouts “How old is she, officer?” and “Oh, sure, arrest a child; see how THAT goes!”
Continue reading Solidarity on the Brooklyn Bridge
My daughter Niamh is 2 1/2 years old. Her life, I admit with some embarrassment and resignation, is inundated with mass-marketed media: Disney movies, children’s TV shows, picture books, and so on—to say nothing of the books, comics, movies and TV that Mom and Dad read and watch. From the very first my mind has been pondering and anticipating all the wealth of beloved stories I’ll be able to share with her as she grows up. Some I’m waiting until she’s older and can appreciate them better, and some I’ve started already: The Iron Giant. The Hobbit. The Muppets. Star Wars. Winnie-the-Pooh. Whatever she seems ready for, whatever she responds to, and whatever I watch for my own enjoyment that she just happens to be around for.
It was the latter case when Niamh became obsessed with Mega Man. I have a passing fondness for the old video game series, and stumbled on the 1995 cartoon adaption while poking around Youtube. Niamh, playing on the floor at my feet, perked up and said “wanna watch!” So I plopped her on my lap and we watched the episode together.
Continue reading Just a Girl Robot: Adventures in Fatherhood and Feminism
This week I’ve got something very raw and vulnerable to talk about.
Someone close to me—I’m not going to say who—said something to my two-year-old daughter Niamh that shocked me. My wife Annie was napping and the three of us were alone together and feeding Niamh lunch. I gave her a cup of juice cut with 80% water, and this other person looked Niamh in the eye and said “You’d better drink water instead of juice, or you’ll become a fatty!”
I was stunned for a moment—did those words come from the lips of someone who loves me and my daughter? “Fatty”? FATTY?! My daughter is only two years old and already people close to her are tossing that vile word at her as a weapon of shame? Does a toddler need to bear a burden of anxiety over the shape of her body? Does anybody?
The word was spoken by someone with whom I often experience sharp values dissonance, despite our closeness. Ordinarily I would bite my tongue and remain silent in the face of such a remark, to keep the peace between us. But this was different—this was an attack on my daughter, on her very identity. So I looked this person in the eye, and I said:
“Please don’t ever use that word in front of my daughter.”
Continue reading Fiercely Guarding