birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Of the Essence

Essential is of the essence, of the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something. I have yearned toward essentials, toward the capsule wardrobe, the most required things. Jeans and white t-shirts and my Converse All Stars. Underwear and sox.

Oh, the checkered history of underwear . . . the pushing away of anything that suggested aspiration to femininity or sexual allure. That resistance replaced by the purchase of the occasional flirtatious piece when I could first afford an essential beyond basic. Flirtation replaced with commitment, commitment to poring over the Victoria’s Secret catalog in search of the perfect blend of comfort and suggestion, suggestion of submission and of offering up of hot blooded self. I traded in that hyper-sexual self for something more basic, for the bikini string underwear that might hint at what I once was but sat easily underneath my jeans and my knee length black wool skirt, my, you know, essentials.

At root my love of sox has remained the same and my essential cotton wool rag sox are always at hand in my dresser, well, at foot, and they last for decades until I confront the irrefutable holes that have worn through the heels and surrender this part of my essence. I’ve longed for the room of my own furnished with nothing but the essentials. A simple bed, meant only for one, with plain white sheets and a single comforter. A table where I can sit and take tea, then push aside the cup to take up my writing, because that is absolutely essential. The room would be furnished with my words.

When I pack, I ponder the essentials. Which of the endless pairs of boots that fill my closet are indispensable, which of them are necessary to cover the ground of foreign cities, to take me into markets and up to view points out into the wide world? And what else is it essential to carry with me? A book, always, since I learned in elementary school that you should never be without a book, and I’ve never been without once since I learned to read, although sometimes it’s a print volume that I’ve tucked into my bag and sometimes it’s the rough beast of my hoped-for novel slouching toward whatever city is next, in hopes of finally being born.

A pen is essential, although I leave them strewn like breadcrumbs wherever I go, and my favorites, the one’s I would send away for, sometimes as far as Japan, because their perfect ink flow promised the pages would be filled with beauty, those pens, they inevitably burst somewhere on descent, and I’d unpack my fit-under-the-seat-in front-of-me bag in vexation, dealing with the spill and splash of all that creative promise that never made it to the page. These are the things that are always with me. Yes, the underwear, the sox, the book, the pen, something as prosaic as the toothbrush. My son. I’ve told him, since he was in the womb, he is always with me. In my heart and in my spirit. I am, essentially, his mother. My hope is that I will always be part of his essence. Let me grab my pen and write that hope into my book. Right after I brush my teeth.


Gotta Do What You Gotta Do

Miles to Go Before I Sleep