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FISSURE: A Life Between Cultures


There is no enough to gratitude, and it does not in the least seem an ill-conceived exercise, devotion, project, life, to do nothing other than … catalog said gratitudes, perhaps starting with the interior of what, before your devotional, your practice, you considered your body…
~ Ross Gay, Inciting Joy


I say my nostrils, two different shapes they have, and baby Edith has the same, some gene from me, perhaps.
These nostrils sniff when garbage and drainer need to be emptied or food is suspect.
They smell the roses, cliché for sure, except the scent always makes me think of Grandma Van Zwol, who maybe gave me these nostrils to begin with.
They smell the damp, dark soil here in Iowa and take me off to Sweden, the countryside around Håå.
They smell the wetted, dry red earth, and I am at home again in desert paradise.
Coffee brewing, and I am utterly grateful I can still smell, if not drink it. The same of onions frying.
And a poopy nappy because it means baby's tubes are all working as meant. Thank you.
For this old body that still heals its cuts and is quick to respond to a beneficent change.
Limbs that move and hold me mostly upright. Thank you.
The times when one small, otherwise insignificant act makes me intensely love my life––like tossing my favorite old, patched night hat onto the comforter cover with its pandas and bamboo leaves.
There is no enough to gratitude. 


Tell me

One thing

Or more

You are grateful for today.


Our practice.

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One of my friends is an immigrant. He doesn't always get the English quite right, just as I don't always get Danish quite right. Or maybe my friend was speaking into his phone, and it was the technology that didn't get it quite right. It happens all the time. My friend wrote, on the event of my becoming a biological grandmother this week, "You must be fulfilling euphoria." In fact, maybe he said it exactly right: maybe we can fulfill a feeling––an idea I like. Or maybe it was poetic license.
Although it wasn't exactly right in this case. Everyone told me before it happened how wonderful it is to be a grandparent. The best job in the world. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I was excited, but not over the moon, as people thought I would be. However, to my surprise the expected baby made me want to stay in Iowa, and that's huge, which you would know, if you know me. One friend called the forthcoming baby my "anchor baby." And she may well be.
I've often said, and I've probably said it here on the blog, joy is not the same as happiness. By comparison, happiness is something light—like an on-the-float balloon. In fact, joy is not euphoria, either. Joy has contrasting or complementary colors––there is the brilliant gold, which might be euphoria, and there is ochre, which is a darker shade. There is rose, and there is umber––the bright and the dark.
First, before I go to the ochre, let me tell you the gold. I have my first biological grandchild––Edith Ina Nordquist, born at 9:45 pm on May 16, 2023, weighing 8 pounds and 6 ounces, measuring 19 inches long and having the most perfect little pink beans of toes, a nose with nostrils of two different shapes that happen to be just like mine, and with a set of powerful lungs. In other words, she is gorgeous and a great communicator. Holding her close in to me is like nothing else, not even like holding her mother, when she was hours old.
The ochre. The birth did not go as we had hoped. After 13 hours, labor had stopped progressing, and a C-section was advised. A little backstory––I had a homebirth, so my bias leans to as natural as possible. I also put myself through school as an operating room technician, and I knew from all the indications that this was the right decision. But this hospital allows only one family member in the OR, and it needed to be David. This is a small rural hospital, so when Cheyenne was taken down to the OR, I was the only person left on the OB floor.
I was scared. It was the first time I couldn't be there for my baby when she was going through something huge, as I had been when she broke her arm, had a toenail removed, her wisdom teeth out. It was excruciating. And I was alone. Alone is an aspect of the human condition. Yes, we are all connected, and yet we are, in some way, also alone; or at least circumstances conspire to cause us to feel we are. I also know I have a tendency to feel things intensely, to be immersed in whatever it is I'm feeling, so please don't judge me for not just overcoming these things and not fulfilling euphoria. And please don't think I thought it was all about me, but the me part is the story I'm telling right now. So bear with me. Please.
I am thrilled to have this little human being in my life. I am thrilled I get to be whatever it will mean to be her grandmother. Who wants to be called Nana, by the way. But joy is not one-dimensional. It encompasses all the feels. Ross Gay, in Inciting Joy calls it "grave joy." He writes about us falling into each other when we are falling apart, and this is grave joy. He names grief as one of the incitements of joy. There was grief that I could not be part of that moment that Cheyenne wanted me to be part of, that I wanted so much to be part of. There was fear of the danger, and there was letting go of control, and there was existential aloneness, and there was anger that it could only be one person, which seemed so arbitrary. And there is love. And there is joy. And gratitude to everyone involved––the surgeon, the anesthetist, the nurses, David, Cheyenne, baby Edith, my friend Janet who listened to me sob from 1,000 miles away, and Kate, the nurse who listened to me when she came back upstairs to let me know it was all okay and what had caused the impossibility of a normal birth.
Gratitude, joy, and moments of, yes, euphoria.

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