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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Unprepared

You catch me buried in a stack of receipts I've been meaning to scan and sort since this time last year, when, similarly, I looked up and realized that my tax appointment was just days away and I'd done nothing to prepare. Perhaps I'm prepared for everything except the passage of time, which surges around me as I sit still, when can sit still, placid in that hurricane's eye sort of way. I picture myself on a high rock in a rushing creek, the water moving so fast it spins into mist but doesn't yet reach me-until I look at a calendar, suddenly immersed. Soaked in panic.

I was born unprepared for time, with parents who switch night for day and have none of the genes for staking a grid of days/months/years in the slippery realm of mind, only a sense of now and now and now, then uh-oh, then panic. For all that, I'm a finisher, though there's no family precedent for that. I grew up in a house where a new bathtub sat for months in the living room, shiny in its wooden crate, packing spilling out. There was just enough oomph to get the thing home, and then, somehow it was just forgotten. We never put a lamp on it, and we didn't pull off the lid so we could lie in the tub and watch TV. We just forgot about installing it as we made a path around it.

Our back yard was another abandoned project, heaped with broken concrete from neighbors' driveways that were being replaced. My father's idea was that he'd turn them into "reverse flagstone," because we couldn't afford the fancy, beautiful rocks, but broken up concrete is free, and you can add red coloring to the cement when you piece the chunks together-the opposite of flagstone in so many ways. It's almost impossible to get the chunks level, when you finally decide to lay out the puzzle and mortar it all in place. We learned that much later, when the impetus to try returned. I'm not sure why we didn't just pour wet cement like other people did. Because it wasn't free, I guess. Free, it turns out, is often more expensive than you'd think, if you thought it through. If you were prepared. If you could just corral your mind for a minute.

There's less and less time for that, though. And if you don't hurl yourself into action, prepared or not, when will you ever have the baby or divorce the bad husband or write another word? If you live by the Girl Scout motto, how will you ever find out that at heart you are a one-of-a-kind, made-from-scraps, reverse-flagstone kind of girl?

Vows

Unprepared