Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Ellery Akers is a California artist and naturalist. She wrote her latest book of poems while sitting in a camp chair on a hiking trail.
We don’t take each other for granted, because we know we’re old. Sometimes when we’re bird-watching — field guides, binoculars — happy to be looking at egrets or green-winged teal, I think, One of us is going to die first.
He sits on the mattress on the floor and unties his sneakers carefully. He spreads his laces to the sides of his shoes, as if they deserved respect.
I’d broken up with my boyfriend, and my sister had broken up with hers and sprained her ankle. She was furious and weeping and mad at herself for weeping, because her mascara was running. She sat in front of her mirror and stroked on fresh mascara, picked up her false eyelashes and stuck them on as if she hated them, slapped her cheeks with her powder puff so hard that powder floated around her in the air.
By the time I left college and became a naturalist, I knew that change was slow and difficult. At thirty I felt stuck, as if my life had stiffened around me, and for some reason, perhaps unconscious at the time, I began to get interested in insect metamorphosis.