toilets, metaphor and heartache

All the toilets in my house are clogged. I only have two, but saying ALL has more of an impact. I’ve unclogged them almost every day this week. It’s not the amount of toilet paper. It’s not the timing of our flushing. It’s the toilets. It’s my frustration. It’s metaphor.

It’s easy for me to let go. But everything keeps coming back, flooding my memory at irrational time and unexpected place. “I’m good now,” I say outloud. but I know I will always feel this way, which is to say, never just one thing. I love a good heartbreak. I thrive inside it’s limited presence. 

In the early 2000’s on our NYC fire escape, Jess Franco once told me how she loved boundaries. They gave her permission and safety, she would say. All these years I could never understand. Now I understand. Also, I miss her. I always miss her. 

It’s Sunday and I’m people watching like I’m on our fire escape. But I’m a decade and a half later, in my home, on Hawthorne. I am healed or forever broken. Heart broken. I think this is how it works. We never really move on and maybe we’re not supposed to. Culturally we view progress laterally. When in truth it’s more horizontal. But still that’s not it. It’s past, present and future on a merry-go -round. We aren’t supposed to know our right from left, up from down. Our feelings and memories coexist and stand up for themselves without warning. Without rhyme or reason. Or maybe it’s just me and mine. I’m okay with that. Trying to be anyway. 

I watch couples pass my window with love and ease. I wonder if they are faking. I have too many experiences lately that cause for alarm. That convince me they must be faking. There is so much he isn’t telling her. So much she holds back, for fear he’s not really listening anyway. In my case, he always told me everything and that was equally as difficult. “There is a balance," I text him on a Tuesday. “You know I prefer transparency, but who is that for? Your conscious or my permission?” 

On this people watching Sunday I receive a recording of a song he sang for me. At least I thought it was for me. He said it was for us. Maybe he’s just inclusive and I am presumptuous. This voice, his voice, it cracks me wide open. I choreograph my own pain around thirsty plants and pretty pumpkins, on a chair, from my sister. Everything good comes from my sister. I hold my face, let my left eye peek out my window. I still see fakers. I let my tears soothe and affirm me. I send him back streaming tears via an emoji. My god, what have we come to? I keep holding this tired, fragile face, leaking light and one eye, until he writes back…“Did you play it for the girls? I made it for them.” I stand the fuck up. This face is no longer tired. It’s laughing. Yes, of course. Of course it was for them. He tells me he played this song on the piano in concourse D on his lunch break. The song I heard years ago and day dreamed of someone singing that for me, for them. “People started giving me money,” he wrote. Of course they did, I think. Your voice is fucking magic and you are no longer desperate. I want to call Tim and Abby. I want to tell them that he was given dollars without having to ask for any dollars (a joke that they will only love and appreciate and hopefully remember). They were one of the only ones who really saw us as US. It would feel sentimental and sweet, but I’ve got too much sentiment these days, and bitter greens are what my body craves most. So I don’t text or call or do anything really. I just sit and smirk, and know that they can feel me. And they do. I exhale and I cry a little more. Until Octave yells “Maaammmmaaaa” from downstairs. The toilet is clogged again. Of course it is. I laugh and cry, I do both so damn well. I unclog a toilet for the twentieth time this week. Maybe it’s frustration, Maybe it’s metaphor. Maybe it’s these fucking toilets. 

Erin Nicole Chin up Cheney

I’ll never forget when one of my dance mentors Jason Parsons found me in Denver, Colorado at a dance convention, years after I left NYC.“Suck a bag of dicks,” he flamboyantly spews in my direction. I guess you would have to know him to know that it was the most endearing thing he could say. “You mean to tell me that your married name is DeLaney? Chaney,Delaney…I can’t…EVEN.” It made me laugh deeper and wider than anything imaginable, except he always said my first last name wrong. So the rhyming and coincidence only made sense to him. I couldn’t correct him. He was so smitten. It still bothers me, all these years later. Why didn’t I correct him? I think that maybe his reason and rhyme gave me hope that everything was just as it should be. Because even then I think a little part of my soul quarreled and questioned if everything was as it should be. It’s just that the first few times of anything don’t cause for much alarm. It’s years of inklings, affirmations and feelings of unease. 


A decade later I open my front door and find a package from my former father in law. Formally speaking. But I am ruled by feeling and he will always be like my father. Addressed to Erin Cheney, I gasp and gulp back tears that take me by surprise. His kindness. His respect. His duty. His attention to detail.It wrecks and warms me in irrational ways. He took heart to my late night text message. The one that exhausted the explanation of why I would no longer be sharing his name. The one that told him what an honor and joy it was to share his name. I don’t know why, but this message and this night hurt more than saying goodbye, or was it see you later, to my husband, who would soon no longer be. I know now that him and I were just in shock, not lacking emotion.

A few weeks later I pick up 2 tickets at will call. I am asked my name, and I hope that my first four letters will be enough, because it’s only then that I realize I don’t actually know my name. Formality and feeling are strangely lost on me. I pause. I stutter. I try. 

“Çheney,” I finally say, It’s only a little late, and I wonder if anyone notices. I say it with a rooted calmness I haven’t known in years, but everything feels foreign. I try to make up for my confusion. I see my father’s face, my sister pride, my aunts beautiful silver strands, my uncles wide grin, and now it is me who is proud of this name, I wonder why it never hit home all those years before, but now is now, and late is better than never. 

Erin Cheney. It’s my name. The one I was given. The one I let go of so easily to be made new. The one I cried over, when it was all over, wondering what made sense, what felt right. Giving up Delaney felt like erasing a decade that made me who I am today. It felt like betraying my children, discounting that we are and always will be a family. It’s only a name everyone tells me. But these things matter to me. Everything matters to me. It’s exhausting really. But Cheney was my name, along with my first breath and even when I took another, it was always both and, despite what any paper ever said, or ever will say. Cheney. Erin Nicole Chin-up Cheney. 

Honey

Honey. 

It’s the word I pull on a Tuesday morning in writing circle. It just so happens Tuesday is my favorite day, and honey, it’s always felt a little like time and love letting me down easy. I’m taken aback by the imagery that moves through my mind. Without any effort I see that gallon of gold Courtney brought me on a weary Wednesday in Wyoming, when I missed home, was hopeless and out of honey. I remember how it felt a little or a lot like love. So pure and translucent when touched and warmed, warm to the touch. So obstinate and unwavering when left to itself. Alone. Her gifted gallon still sticks and stirs inside me…

Octave’s first birthday cake, graham crackers, cookies, bread, butter, tea and snow stormy sore throats. This honey weaved through my days, my kitchen experiments, mishaps and regrets. A word is never just a word. It’s an entire universe billowing with context, detail and meaning. Honey, I look up from paper once more. I keep looking, to make sure it’s still there. That all this is real. I see the letters and how they flatter themselves upon humble, sticky paper. The irony is not lost on me, and suddenly I see Courtney’s laugh, see her bright smile, hear her Subaru pulling into my drive way on 7th street. That quaint blue house across from the cemetery and crack house. I suppose it wasn’t really a crack house, I just wasn’t accustomed  to God’s country, guns and creepy vans. I remember how we would peek through our shades at dusk, make up ridiculous stories of the neighbors we would never know and sadly never feel any remorse about not knowing. We did not belong, but with Courtney we did. And then I feel her open heart and see her adorable cheeky, always drooling babe, Truman sitting in my creaky kitchen across from Octave. The kitchen where I would define myself, become myself. That kitchen. That honey. I taste Spring. Spring in Wyoming. Honey, because a word is never just a word. And people, and tastes, they leave lasting impressions on our souls.

five

Your five year old face hold stories of the woman you will become. Time and place is strange like that. Rewind, unravel, seek and find you, fifty something years from now. You are five but you are fifteen, footloose and fancy free. You are fifty, fire and fun. You are five on a Friday. You are found inside beams of light traveling up up up and out, leaving for youth, coming back next century. 


bodies, a love story

my soul brews in preparation for something that could never be planned for. it stops to asks a million and one questions and just this once, it’s my mind who keeps it together. my mind who hushes the buzz sounding inside my body. who says, listen here dear, you’re feeling deep and wide, and melting intwone, but it’s no need for alarm. and then it’s these bones who say, listen here (hear) dear, i kept you walking all day, albeit slowly, and surely, and with a little something you’ve yet to understand. i’m the oldest, wisest and worn thing you could ever own. it’s time you let me lead.

- bodies, a love story


grandpa cheney

Spring 2019

Watching him take his last breaths did something to my soul. I didn’t feel like I thought I would. They didn’t cry like I thought they would. Instead they asked things like, “are we going to burry him or keep him right here?” “Do you think he will come back as a monkey or a dog?”

We laugh nervously at how comfortable they are with something we are not. Nothing lasts forever and this is the most beautifully tragic truth.

I feel a unique pressure to tell him and ask him things I never did before. I knew this was coming. I don’t have regrets, I just wonder why I waited. I’m more curious than anything. I don't even know what I would say or ask, it just feels unfinished and final, two things that scare me. And I don't want to be scared of anything.

I rub his feet, kiss his head, and thank him for the gift of life, for his love of music and dance passed through our blood, and his humble commitment to the underdog. Maybe he will come back as a dog.

Day before the decade

“Did you know that I can juggle?”  I ask him. “Uhhh, no, I didn’t know that.” “Well, I can,” I say “and I’m actually pretty good at it.” “I guess you never showed me that part of you he says with a contagious smirk. We laugh and it feels good to fall back into familiar rhythms, if only for a moment. 

We drive away together, the four of us, from our favorite pizza spot, and I remember that it’s the day before our decade began and ended. There is a peace inside my bones, and most noticeably, not an ounce of resentment.  I can’t help but wonder if it’s the fact that now he knows I can juggle, that there are worlds inside of me that he doesn’t know, and probably never will. Or if it’s just time, doing what it’s supposed to. Probably time. But maybe both. 

Powell Butte, Oregon

Visiting my Aunt Lisa in central oregon were highlights in my childhood. I loved how wild it was, how free I felt. I came alive riding her four wheeler into wide open spaces, listening to country music and trying on a completely different lifestyle. My life in the suburbs was a good one, but it never felt real enough, and in these visits I would breathe in the air extra deep and try to savor something that was often missing back at home.

I also just felt so good being around my Aunt Lisa. I have a deep respect and admiration for her and how she’s chosen to live. The person that she is. There is a grounded-ness in her that I long for and crave, and being around her gives me a little bit of this, or at the very least, inspires it. One of my favorite parts about going to visit her was seeing my mom in this setting. I loved how they would bicker about the most trivial things and then laugh so hard they cried or peed or snorted or resorted to absolute silence, because something somebody said was just that clever, and just that funny. I like watching them together. Complete opposites, but sisters with shared childhood that I will never know and understand.

The best part about all these feelings and memories I have for her and with her, is that now my own daughters do too. And I can see it in the way their bodies moves and faces express themselves, they feel good out here too. They adore their Aunt Lisa the same way I do! Her sugar cookies, lasagna, and homemade ice cream will be pillars in their childhood too. They will remember riding four wheelers, feeding horses, eating too many sugar cookies, playing skip bo (and never winning if their nana is there). They will remember the incredible view of the mountains from their porch, watching Princess Bride, sleeping in their RV and a handful of things that I’m not even aware of but will hopefully get to hear all about one day as they unravel their childhood.

One of my favorite things about being a mother is creating a childhood that I always dreamed of. Taking what I loved about my own, changing what didn’t resonate and paying attention to these incredible souls that chose me to raise them, and listening to what they need to thrive, wrapping it magic and documenting it, like I’m a fly on the wall, or right there next to them. I don’t know how it will feel for them years from now. But the most beautiful thing about my photographs is that it will forever be an invitation into my eyes, what I saw and felt watching them experience this great big world. Just like I did, but so very different, and so incredibly good.


patience

his plea for patience was the slow death of me.

dying patiently 

i was

patiently dying

i was 

trusting his words

waiting for fruit 

but when i dug my weary hands in our aging soil

i found not one single seed,

seedless soil.

i cultivated the water in our drought 

it came from a visceral reserve

a gritty depth i found on a friday

i started with an abundance 

because somehow  

i knew i would need it.

i was a ferocious finder

a faithful forager

until patience could hardly look me in the eye

“there is a difference,”

she would whisper,

“and this is not about your diligence or duty,

you have learned all i have to teach…

gather your own soil

plant your own seeds

harvest your own fruit

you’ve been patiently waiting

for this,

this is what your patience was for. “


tuesday...

you are always altering with time. 

and so it is with me, 

too.

but there isn’t room for 

two.

not in this way, 

not in this time. 

you are always altering with time, 

before I can keep up, 

before I can sense and feel and know 

who you are. 

I used to love this about you, 

until I didn’t. 

until your shape shifting left me shapeless. 

you are always altering with time,

a beautiful gift, just not mine.

I like my time stamped and sealed, 

preserved, and remembered in its entirety. 

I do not alter with time. 


Sisterhood Reunion 2019

Our sisterhood reunion this year was on vashon island. (thank you jazzy!) i miss them so deeply my bones hurt and .chosen sisterhood, it is the greatest gift on this good green earth.

Travel Slow & Pay Attention

If and when you say you are bored it feels like I’ve won mother of the year. Raising you in a generation that needs to be entertained and occupied at every cost, in a world that stops for nothing, your words could not be more beautiful or valuable. At first they make me angry, “bored?” How could you be bored? Look at this beautiful green earth right outside your window, the rain and how it falls, the questions you could ask. I am here and available, ask my love, just ask.

There is a lot that can make me feel inadequate these days, but this is not one of them. I want to raise you to be comfortable with days without plans, and train rides without technology. To teach you how there is more art in the doing of nothing than your beautiful hands could ever paint, or minds could ever create. I don’t believe in boredom, for me it doesn’t exist. But if you must say and feel such a thing, then know that it is the catalyst for innovation, creativity and inspiration. Boredom is the space that makes us uncomfortable, maybe because it’s the direct route back to ourselves. To the potential that might feel scary to unlock so we just keep buzzing and filling our schedules with the things we need to do, so that one day, we can rest, reach our potential, live out our dreams. But the things we want already exist in this space between. In transition. In this so called boredom. It doesn’t make any sense, but I’m leanring that good things don’t have to. Boredom is like a space holder for serenditiptous encounters, and life giving connections. It’s the quickest way to magic, you just have to move slowly.

Modern life keeps getting faster and faster. It hardly feels like life at all. Travel slowly dear ones, and pay attention. Always pay close attention. Get comfortable with feeling bored and travel by train often. Both will forever be good for your soul.

xo,

mama

152 bedtimes

there were good poems brewing but then i lost lost my patience. creativity wanted an outlet but i was in the daily grind of solo parenting. 152 bedtimes alone. more honestly, 5 years. alone. at bedtime, and breakfast, and all the in between. a tired and true story, but officially 152 bedtimes.

it would make any woman unravel but especially me because i’ve done it without realizing the gravity until now. chronically tired but granted a second wind. but it feels useless because I’m angry. and full of good poems but instead there is just this…

152 bedtimes alone, more like 5 years, and now i’m just sad, and tired (still) but mostly angry.  “i’m trying really hard to be a good mom,” i  say. “you already are,” octave tells me. they don’t understand but they know, and lately they see me, and it brings me to my knees. it makes evertyhing okay. just to be seen. there is a grit in me that only they see, and only in this tired moment does it feel like a gift. for them. the three of us will all have our own memories and we will retell or make up our own stories and experiences but it will be something shared 152something no one can give or take away from us. 

and now i see that it’s always really been this way. the three of us. 152 bedtimes alone, but more like 5 years, all in preparation for what my father has always said is “the best that has yet to come.”


(us)

no. one. will understand. 

(us )working through lifetimes 

now i know why 

no. one. understood (us)

it was not for them. 

we wanted the world, 

it was not 

(for us)

we always need parenthasis

or was it another barrier (?)

internal. visceral. we had lifetimes to conquer inside our walls. 

which is maybe why we moved, 

inside so many fucking walls, 

when it was not ever what we wanted.

we never wanted walls. a traditional home. 

or car, 

or all those things that keep a person caged.

we are shapeless creatures, needing and wanting nothing more than our wildest daydreams. our children will know this (about us) deeply 

we are circles, my love, and we always will be. 

but together

but we got squares and 

walls. 

we got 

not what we wanted, but

just what we needed. 

and our hearts were thankful (enough)

but,

they longed for more.

it wasn’t about us, here and now,

it was liftetimes ago,

unraveling. 

we were just quiet and patient enough to listen.

the last 9 years.

to do the work, right here and now. 

because that is who we are. 

there was always something special about us, 

i just had no idea it would be our unraveling. 

our beginning of the end. 

the end of the beginning. 

everything now makes sense, 

in the most senseless way. 

i love you. 

i always will. 

no one will understand. 

they were never meant to. 

it’s not okay. 

but one day it will 

be.


stories of us

september. 2018

you are playing music. and i am writing. i write this as if it’s something, because it is. it feels like all the things we were before, and the people we wanted to become, together, are finally unraveling, but only now, once we’ve decided to release each other. 

ryan adams plays. you fiddle and play, pitter patter, whatever, with your guitar. you flow in and out of our favorite songs. your voice pierces places i have forgotten about. now i remember. it resonates deep into my bones. it hurts so good that i don’t know what i would rather have. this with nostalgic pain, or before, with none of this. 

beginning of the end

the pictures fell off my wall one by one. it started in the summer heart, the height of my flurry. i spent a majority of the summer wondering why i didn’t do a thing about it. why i just let them fall. in some mellow dramatic way it felt right. i was looking for answers and signs from anyone or anything. my picture wall was the first eager volunteer, a willing taker. so i let it speak. i let it have its way. 

my mother asked me why i wouldn’t use something with more structure. something more sturdy to keep those moments in tact. but  it was all that i had. like the last 8 years. using what i had. but nothing else would do. it was this sticky, tacky, good for nothing in summer heat, puddy, 

or nothing. 

“it’s so easy, just pick them up as they fall. you are making more work for yourself, “she would say. but it was never easy. and she could never understand. maybe because i couldn’t either. so i let them fall until there was nothing left. it was time 

to rebuild. 


the pursuit of transparency (again) or where i began.

i struggle with being vulnerable and transparent, which is to be completely myself, and the pressure i put on myself to be “professional.” the blog i started here, seven years ago, was my outlet. my art, in the beginning and thick of motherhood. my once slow food blog, and sweet stories of my simple little life morphed into a journal of sorts and then a platform for my photography, and now a photography business. now there is this pressure to be professional, whatever that means, and for some reason that feels like guarding my heart. which is probably why i’ve never considered myself professional (i’m not suggesting they are or should be one in the same) but going down this road feels cold and dishonest. my photographs are soulless unless i share the inner workings of my heart. they are one in the same and can’t be plucked out or separated from each other. and so now this blog, connected to my livelihood must hold the weight and the joy of my experiences or there is no livelihood at all. i say all this to share and acknowledge that yes, this is website, my business, but it is is also my heart and i want to share without abandon, without the fear of coming across too one way or another, for fear of turning off potential clients or the like, because in all honesty, we probably wouldn’t be a great fit, if you aren’t drawn the heart cry behind the lens. 2019 is getting back to my roots, to myself, to the reason i do anything at all. here is to poetry and photography and daily pursuit of seeing the magic in the everyday and the freedom and permission to share it again.

Plumper Pumpkin Patch

Mama in the good light

This family holds the sweetest place in my heart. Our kids met the first day of Kindergarten last year. Abby found me on the playground a few days later and introduced herself as Sylas’s mom, curious if Octave has mentioned her son at all. Little did she know that I already knew so much about their family in just those short few days. Turns out that in Kindergarten you don’t actually eat lunch, you just share intimate and seemingly random details about your life to your new friends. Thankfully Octave likes to share every last detail about who, what, when, where and why when she is at school, so by day three I had learned about their sick and dying cat, that his dad is an artist who draws an elaborate lunch story (EVERYDAY) on a piece of foil, and he loves legos, the color pink, AND “easts nutritious veggies just like I do!” Sylas and Octave became quick friends and lucky for me (us) his parents have got to be some of the best humans you could ever come across. Seriously! Also they will feed you an almost completely grown in their garden, heart warming, taste bud bursting, euphoric meal when you come over for dinner, or lunch or breakfast, or whenever. They are a really special couple who clearly love each other endlessly, and have got to be some of the best parents I know. Their son is kind, and witty and the kind of person you dream your child will be friends with forever. They are the real deal these three, almost FOUR! The other night I snapped a few photographs of them before dinner. Abby could not be more stunning. Wow. I really can’t wait to meet this magical little human that is completing there family. I am so grateful that our kids connected and brought us together, and now it is no surprise to me that their souls connected on day one and that we were all supposed to be in each other lives.