Tag Archives: Writing in Quarantine

How To Shop For A Sextant Online During A Global Pandemic

Or… Shopping For My Spouse’s Birthday Gift

I shake my head and stare at the screen.

“I want to feel the brass and hold it. Feel the movement of each piece and know I’ll be able to calibrate it for him,” I whine to the cat. The autumn winds blowing down from Alaska drown out my words as they wind their way over the Rockies.

Staring at the pictures, I imagine the heavy brass of my family’s sextant balanced in my clumsy hands as my father lets me look at it. His calloused palms poised to catch the instrument should I falter.

“This one won’t do.” I toss it into the mental pile of surveying and mapping equipment I look at; never purchase.

Who can afford to spend over a thousand dollars on something like this over the internet? I mentally discard another with a fancier, more modern black finish.

I call my parents. “I want to buy Jacob a sextant for his birthday. What’s the story behind ours? Does Dad have any advice?”

Thousands of miles of static and telephone lines crackle. “The one your dad has was your great grandfather’s from the maritime academy. Why do you want one for Jacob?”

I pause and shrug into the phone. “To record our locations for dark sky photography. GPS can’t be trusted out here.” I grasp my forehead and castigate my own thoughts. But I’m the one that knows how to use one for surveying, navigation, and astronomy – that would be a terrible gift.

I stare out at the horizon hidden by mountains and try to find the ocean beneath the curvature of the earth. Jacob doesn’t care about the difference between a mile and a nautical mile. What does he care about?

I catch him and ask about his feelings around flying and clouds pass over the sun – visibility down to less than 5 miles and he gives me a look that says VFR ain’t going to fly. He never got a seaplane rating and this dream is about to try a water landing without pontoons. “I don’t know when the next time I’m going to fly is. Please don’t get me anything that could be related to flying.”

I decide against getting him a sextant and reminisce about when we spent hours talking about the intersection of history where airplanes and ships used the same navigation systems and why. I stare at the stormy sea of sky lapping against the mountain sides and remember our last aerial photography trip. I order his birthday cake and continue to brainstorm better gifts.

Montana now has the highest rate of transmission of any state. Distracted, I stare at the news and try to process how dangerous it is to step outside. This was all predictable based on the behavior patterns of 1918.

Birthdays have to remain special in the face of COVID, so I order wine and check our reservation for the weekend. I check that his favorite decaf pop and breakfast cereal are in the pantry. I try and decide what else we should do to make it a special day about him.

While most of the United States has been living with this since March, Jacob has been living with COVID since it first hit obscure global news last autumn and I brought it home by explaining how diseases follow human behavior patterns. In February I set up forecasting models and told him how to prepare before the preppers drained the stores of paper products, resulting in channeled anxiety and full isolation.

My incredible husband and love of my life sits with me in my mind while I wonder how to celebrate someone as amazing as him. I think of bonfires, quality time, adventures, and our daily lives. I think about these acts of preparation and foresight and how they are gifts and acts of love in themselves.

I buy Jacob 2 books and 2 glass vessels for his birthday following the theme: Scientific Magic. I write a blog post about not buying a sextant and realizing that was a dumb gift idea. I refuse to spoil the surprise while I continue further preparations and celebrate his existence everyday.


Happy Birthday to my amazing partner and best friend, Jacob. I have many best friends, but you are the one I married and the one I celebrate today. My forever partner in adventure 💕

A Draft Excerpt From “Little Earthquakes In The Sea”: Time For Goodbye

Content Warning: this piece discusses the death of a child and is based on a true story that took place almost a hundred years ago. For those wishing for a soundtrack while reading, I recommend this.


It rained that day in Bonaventure. The men in linen raincoats slicked with wet wax pried her blue and purple infant from her arms with kind eyes as they stood by the gravesite. He never cried. His eyes scrunched shut and mouth hung open to reveal white gums and a tiny receding purple tongue that never knew her breast. His little hands balled into stiff rigor mortis – the same little hands that once pressed through her skin to feel his parents’ palms. The wood and hammered metal wheelchair creaked beneath her in the gusting wisps of distant thunder carried on harried fat dollops of weather.

It was time to say goodbye.

Having never taken a breath of the sweet earthy air, she knew he only ever lived inside her. Her eyes hesitated on his blue lips. A different blue than the eyes she knew he must have beneath those unopened angelic lids. She imagined how if they had fluttered open she could have seen…

“Anna, it’s time to go.” The captain clasped a firm hand on her shoulder. “You have to say goodbye.” His body trembled, but his feet remained firm in the soggy ground.

Ever the polite grave diggers at Bonaventure – their patient spades waited for the captain’s call. To have her baby’s birth documented at all was a luxury. In the eyes of the state of Georgia and the city of Savannah, he never existed. At least Bonaventure gave her and her husband the dignity of recognizing the agony of her feverish labor after carrying her child for all those months; the right to mourn after knowing him all that time only to lose him before ever hearing his scream of life or giving him a name on paper.

In the distance, a bird flew into a patch of blue sky over the ocean on the blue-gold horizon beyond the mouth of the Wilmington River. Another drop of water hit her as she gazed over her child’s face once more. Her hand grazed the place on her stomach where she felt his final kick before the labor began – where she saw his little foot press through her skin. She let go – her tears hidden by the rain.

The men wrapped his little form in a thin damp cloth dusted with perfumed talc from a pouch on one of the digger’s belts. Smudging dirt on his forehead, the digger knelt and placed her unknown son as if asleep into the soft soil of the small pit. Beneath the morning clouds, the scene took on a light blue glowing hue. She closed her eyes and began to hum the lullaby she’d sung to him every night since she’d first felt his presence as the captain’s jerk of the chair indicated him turning away and processing along the ground. The exhaustion hit her again with a wave of nausea. Her baby boy gone forever as if he was never there at all.

In Bonaventure’s records they added:

1929 – Baby B— – Stillborn


If you want to read more, keep an eye out for future additional updates and excerpts from ‘Little Earthquakes In The Sea’. Liking, commenting, and sharing all helps me know which posts my readers prefer. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this today!

To: Route 17 – A Poem

I wish you could know him
He’s everything you wanted

He dances with no music
And laughs at my jokes

And I would bring him home
Beneath the big Live Oak

There’s something so sick
About how I finally fit in

How you think you won
How you saved me from sin

“That’s not how this works”
I wish I could scream

But that’s not Southern charm
That’s not peaches and cream

So instead I battle with myself to be pristine
Debating what it means to be seen

Is it possible the land of my birth could change?
Can I assume anything stayed the same?

Imagining sandbars shimmering; seagull echoes
Restless feet in water with curious skates nibbling toes

I hunger for home and slowly die of starvation
But the wound is deeper than my severe deprivation

Yet, how grateful I am to have chosen family
Voices of the Richmond vortex’s gravity

Perhaps one day I will return
With so many stories we have yet to learn

Short Story: The Trout Princess

This is actually the Salmon River in Idaho, but I like showing off the beautiful parts of the PNW

The young woman waded out into the icy snow melt of the Blackfoot River and prepared her cast. Just like a metronome. Just like her father showed her. The fly soared through the air and danced with the surface currents. A trout jumped, then snapped.

“Reel it in, Honey!” Her father hooted from the shore, with hands cupped over his mouth; a beer between his knees.

Her smile widened to mirror this prize trout as it drew closer in the water. “Toss me the net!”

Her father threw the net while leaning into the bag next to the cooler to grab their camera. “You know the rule! You need a picture with your first fish.”

The net snared the writhing tail as she unhooked the big trout, retrieving her fly. Her father beamed as she waded over to the shore, her thick rubber slickers folding against the water and her bending legs.

“Ready for some pictures?” Her father held up the camera. She grinned, forgetting what it meant to be a teenager caught having fun with your parents.

She picked the fish up, staring at its gills – drowning in the air; red on the inside. Just like her. She smirked. “How about I kiss it?”

“Your mother will love that! Go ahead!” Her father laughed and readied the camera. “Ready?”

She held the fish up and puckered her lips dramatically. “Set!” She attempted to shout through her shmooshed face.

“Go!” Her father returned and took the picture. But the picture her father reviewed was of his mortified daughter kissing a very naked young man with a bleeding cheek.

“What the hell?!” She screamed as the young man fell to the ground, coughing the remains of the Blackfoot River out.

“Get away from my daughter!” Her father shouted, but he didn’t need that instruction. Sooner than he’d said it, the young man was gone. Stepping over to his daughter, he clapped a hand on her shoulder. “Sorry about your fish.”

His daughter shrugged. “It’s okay, Dad. There’re a lot of fish in this creek.”


I hope you enjoyed this short silly story dedicated to my dad for father’s day and our many father-daughter fishing trips. This is the product of a writing group I recently joined and have found is improving my creativity and writing skills drastically. The prompt was: rewrite a fairy tale based where you currently live. I am so grateful for Leslie, Susana, Miguelina, Glorya, and Emmie (I am terrified that I spelled someone’s name wrong, so I may come back and correct name spellings if I did). Being surrounded by powerful women is bringing out the best in me.