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Fault Lines

April 19, 2012

I reached up to the soap dispenser on my bathroom sink and pumped it. It was empty. Again. Well, empty still would be more accurate. It’s been empty for weeks and weeks and weeks. I’m not sure how many. I reached instead for the white, unscented Dove bar soap that I keep on my bathroom vanity for washing my face. It’ll work just as well on my hands as it does on my face, I thought.

I walked to my bedroom and checked on Hubby. Did he need anything? Percocet? Water? Ice packs? As we chatted, I straightened the medical papers and physical therapy orders and then gathered the empty seltzer cans and discarded newspapers. Made mental note to dust. I went into my temporary bedroom and made the guest bed, grabbing old magazines to add to my pile.

I then plodded down the hardwood stairs. My wool clogs thudded on each stair, creating a unique rhythm. When I reached the base of the stairs, my mud room greeted me with furniture piled on top of furniture. Rolled rugs and chairs comingled with assorted miscellaneous stuff. The kind of stuff that ends up in the junk door; my mom always called it Flotsam and Jetsam. Broken plastic toy parts, a spring from a dismantled pen, a folded Uno card. A school paper with holding no sentimental value yet, there it was, taunting me on the top of the shit pile. What is all this shit? Why do we have it? I want to get rid of it. I eked round the heaped stuff and threw the papers and cans into the recycling bins. I headed to the kitchen; our hardwood floors, recently refinished, shone and reflected the piles of moreshit on the counters. The things that usually live on the pantry floor now lived on my counters. I cannot wait to put everything back in its place.

Everything back in its place. And a place for everything. I adore gleaming counters and tidy spaces. Conversely, messy places, both mental and physical unravel me. When it’s messy, I’m twitching.

Life doesn’t necessarily check-in before it serves up more. No magic neat slots (complete with a laminated label) were appearing for my Life. Really, what would the label read for my current set of circumstances? Bronchitis. Pneumonia. Hardwood floors. Carpenter ants. Displaced furniture. Spring breaks. No writing. Sick kids. Hubby’s shoulder surgery (unable to use his right arm, in a sling, in bed).


I generally view my life through a lens of gratitude. I am grateful for the small, velvety fledgling green buds adorning a tree. I give thanks for my driveway covered in children’s chalk drawings. I appreciate the view from my dish-washing perch and the warmth of a sun-soaked andirondak chair. Yet the last weeks, as the days layered one upon another, my ability to give genuine thanks was muted. I kept doing it, though. I gave thanks for the hardwood floors and our ability to spruce them up, for the money to pay for the carpenter ant mitigation, for the success of Hubby’s surgery and for my ability and desire to care for him. Usually when I give thanks, I feel buoyant, carbonated bubbles of grateful recognition in my soul and belly. Lately, instead, I felt flat.


Often, when I’m driving, or walking, or washing dishes–doing anything, really, a word or phrase will turn over and over in my head. The last weeks, I’ve been mentally working the word Fault Lines. Specifically, I’ve been considering why exactly fault lines are called fault lines. There’s so much power (negative power in my opinion) locked up in the word fault. Can one really blame the earth for buckling and releasing pent-up pressure when pushed too far, beyond her limits?


One afternoon last week, I holed up in the library for about two hours to gather my thoughts and put some words to paper. I’d reached my fill of living and needed time and space for thought. I felt waves of raw emotion coursing just beneath the surface, my resolve and steady fortitude of the last weeks beginning to give. To crack. So I sat in my thoughts and emotions and pounded out each one onto my trusty lap top. When done, I walked outside thinking I was fairly sure that I’d never write another valuable word again. I paused and extended myself some kindness; any muscle will atrophy when left sedentary. (My writing muscles and my stomach muscles suddenly had a lot in common.) In my periphery, the sky caught my attention. I looked up:

Charcoals and fractures of blues and cracked, intricate clouds met my eyes. I felt the missed, yet familiar, low rolling purr of gratitude. Look, I thought, even the clouds have fault linesSee, they’re just like me. Cracked, imperfect, beautiful, faulted. Fault lines. Once again, I mentally turned the words over in my mind. Those faults? Maybe they’re merely openings, parting to let in the light. To let in the life. Every last bit of it.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2012 2:04 pm

    Fault lines. Yes, yes, yes. This is an image that I too turn over in my mind. Not just letting in the light, but also reforming the terrain in a fundamental way … xox

  2. April 19, 2012 3:45 pm

    Wow. I have never before thought about that expression “fault lines” and the weight of the word “fault.” I’m so grateful for your lyrical exploration of this idea, fascinated as I am by the power and multiple meanings of words and happy, as ever, to read your words. xo

  3. April 19, 2012 4:09 pm

    I am left wishing that I had such eloquent words so this comment won’t pale in comparison, but alas, I am left with nothing more than to tell you that this was beautiful. That I can relate in so many different ways. That I needed to read something like this today, if only to remind me that great writing can restore my faith in an online world filled with mobs of random words, all shouting to be heard. Great post.

  4. April 19, 2012 6:50 pm

    Sometimes we bend under the weight of so many “everyday” burdens – though we can put them in perspective and see that things could be so much worse. Surely, you’ve had your share to deal with. It’s exhausting.

    Fault lines? Yes, a lovely way to see ourselves, to see the imperfections and fragility in everything and everyone.

    I’m glad you gave yourself the kindness of a few hours to think and write. We are the recipients of your beautiful words, and take comfort in them with you.

  5. April 20, 2012 1:24 am

    Fault lines – I love your interpretation of it. I have to admit I never gave that much thought until now, and it reminds me of one of the lines from my all-time favorite song, “Let Go” by Frou Frou, where she sings, “…there’s beauty in the breakdown.”

    I also feel out of sorts when I don’t get to write, or if a thought or story is stuck in my brain, unable to be freed due to a lack of time, so I totally get what it’s like to finally have that time to yourself to explore your insides through writing. I’m also grateful that you did – reading your work is always a pleasure and an inspiration to my own.

  6. April 22, 2012 7:21 pm

    You DO always find a way to be grateful and for that I am grateful for your example. I just love this reminder that fault lines are necessary to let in the light. I too hate messy and I so needed this reminder. Thank you for living your life so mindfully and sharing in your wisdom. xoxo

  7. April 23, 2012 1:32 pm

    Denise, your interpretation of fault lines is powerful. I love the way you circle back to the word openings in your definition. I am so grateful that you found the time and energy to give this post to us. Thank you.

  8. April 28, 2012 11:48 pm

    Denise, I’m delighted to meet you (got here from your comment at Trust Tending)! I recognize so much kindredness in your reflections. Much love to you.

  9. May 4, 2012 9:59 am

    wow wow wow. this resonated so much for me. I needed it today and quite a bit the last few weeks. Always soothing to feel that my anger, lethargy, fear, inability to feel gratitude sometimes etc is not assigned to me alone and that this too shall pass.

Give me your grit.

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