The Tending



The Tending


He paused at the bending


like the sea 


when it draws down the sky

and fills 

its hazy palm


with waves, blurred 

by winter’s tracks 

in tide and frazil ice


rough-edged, but 


like coyote


and also

like you

trotting not far behind



a clear view

between ice shards.


Be still

at the turning

and send your gaze higher


filling your eyes 

with an unbroken sky. 

Let the sea 


take care 

of itself.



This poem is a reminder to myself,  a sticky note for days like the one when the coyotes trotted past and startled me out of a thicket. Not one of trees, but a dense wood in my own mind. I have an eleven-year old daughter, and being the parent of a tween feels at times like winding my way through an alder patch: not impossible, but tricky, and with very little idea of what lies ahead. 

My thought forest vanished when I saw the coyotes — three of them, their thick coats vivid in the afternoon sunshine. They picked their way in turn through the snowy hillside with grace. Then each one paused briefly to gaze over their shoulder at the ocean’s horizon before disappearing into the woods. 

Something about that choreographed backward glance at the hazy sea-sky line tugged at me. The image of curve and pause kept interrupting my thoughts, returning again and again. It took some time — and writing — to sort out why.

I grew up on the shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. I loved exploring the dense mixed woods, comfortable with the claustrophobic hillsides and bog-pocked thickets. But when I felt overwhelmed, I sought out the big lake. Something about that unbroken northern horizon calmed me. It served as a reference, a reset point when life felt overcrowded. 

Maybe that was why each coyote’s stop to gaze out over the ocean felt so significant. There I was, surrounding myself with uncertainty’s thick branches, catching my sleeves on each twiggy attempt to be the prepared parent. I had forgotten that even a silent crowd can be overwhelming as we each work at growing up — in whatever phase we find ourselves. 

I feel grateful to be reminded that I can still find my horizon when I need it. I will endeavor to trust that my daughter will find hers, too. She is, like each of us, both her own sea and sky.

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