Breathlessness and bubbles….

I remember learning to swim.
I was six, pushing past panic to blow bubbles
into the underside of a backyard pool’s jittery surface
as other kids like me
opened brave eyes to see the morning sunlight jiggle
the watery blue underneath.
We were underneath!
I thrilled to the sound and feel of bubbles
burbling toward the wiggly sky-colored ceiling above.
I’d willingly submerged myself
into breathlessness
and bubbles
and found myself braver
than I’d dreamed.
(others became the stronger and faster swimmers,
but I made the best bubbles:)
I remember this as April ended breathlessly,
my gimpy lungs broken down and hungry for air
with no way to feed them.
I felt stuck in that moment when a locomotive is inching down the track,
groaning for momentum.
I seemed to be sucking air through a thin straw
in peanut butter
while longing to breathe like geese bursting from the pond
into easy flight,
the wind cupping my face in it’s hands
and kissing away the doldrums.
Asthma and infection seemed to suck the air right out of the air
and pulled everydayness into slow motion

(don’t panic.  just. don’t. panic.)

These are the days of looooong hours

designing and digging,
planning and planting.
To conserve oxygen,
I began to hurry less,
flit and flurry less,
to speak less,
red-penning some thoughts “too wordy”
and then swallowing them unspoken,
I sat back on folded legs
and calmed myself by remembering
…I can still do bubbles.
Here in this tight heaviness
I began to look and listen
for the life inside the bubbles
…the hum of bees,
choirs of cicadas,
the reach and rush of wild daisies and buttercups
and all the other love songs
croaked and chirped,
brushed and buzzed,
rustled and riffed
down under.
And somehow
they became air enough.
Oh I am a big fan of oxygen
….breathing is my favorite!
But fear can’t bully me out of my sips of air
and cut away at my peace
when I let the bubbles rise
and believe
that somehow there will always be
of what
I need.
Do this,  my soul.


  1. Bren on May 3, 2011 at 1:30 am

    There's so much in life we can take for granted, like being able to breath, rich deep drafts of air. Such powerful word imagery here Jen with it's layers of meaning and all the things in life that can leave us weak and gasping…
    Love the images too 🙂

  2. rachel awes on May 3, 2011 at 9:48 am

    how i want to frame those resting cows & words
    "do this, my soul." it belongs in my psychology office & in my heart that hurries & frets!
    oh dear friend, your oxygen dialogue speaks deep to me. our now 12 yr. old sam has asthma & while MUCH BETTER now, i hold still a number of breath-gasping memories.. oh yes, how we need the pasture!
    sweet dear, i take a few breaths this very moment in your honor. i feel the air in & out & affirm there is enough for you. it is my prayer for you. with love always. xox

  3. Anonymous on May 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    The Lord is my Shepherd..I shall….not ….want….<3
    Psalm 23 (The Message)
    God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
    You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
    True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath {Gwen L.}
    and send me in the right direction.

  4. Mary on May 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Be still and know…

    fear robs us of too dang much…

    Jen, I am gonna keep a bottle of bubbles visible as a reminder…that little bottle will speak volumes to me when I see it.

    You are a treasure my friend!!

    Much love to you!

  5. Hindsfeet on May 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    oh my dear… every part of you speaks volumes -even in your not speaking- to every part of me…..always resonating, always a metaphor, always meaningful……

    will write something later tonight that I hope will be a breath for you…..

    ….my dear treasure of an unexpected friend.


  6. Corinna on May 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I have a friend that has struggled with asthma her entire life. It must be a frustrating childhood, not to run and play like the other kids. Thank you for sharing this. I love it.

  7. Julia on May 3, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Your post has reminded me of my young child, now a woman, gasping for air, each breath a hard labor with her chest slowly rising up and then gasping relentlessly, her little face and legs, red and itchy and the doctor was no help to either of us. I spent nights and days holding her in my arms so that her lungs wouldn't fill up and the countless time I had to cup my hands and tap on her back to dislodge the mucus that clogged her bronchioles and lungs. I had forgotten that until you reminded me. She breaths much better now.


  8. S. Etole on May 4, 2011 at 12:34 am

    every breath … a gift of life so often taken for granted

    "let everything that has breath praise the Lord"

  9. beth on May 4, 2011 at 1:46 am

    beautiful !!!
    your writing always gets my mind going in so many ways…..

  10. Erin Butson on May 4, 2011 at 3:43 am

    fear can't bully me out of my sips of air
    and cut away at my peace when I let the bubbles rise… lovely. It's a constant battle to not give in to fear. to let the bubbles rise. to let true love win. to believe. thank you for your sweet thoughts & encouragement my friend. xoxo e

  11. Eydie on May 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Oh Jennifer,

    Yes, there is alway enough of what you need … especially inside those beautiful light and airy bubbles.

    Breathe deeply and peacefully, my friend

  12. Jeanie on May 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    This is incredibly beautiful and the most poetic expression of something I live with every day — severe asthma and a lung condition called bronchiectasis. Every time I go to the garden, I find it harder to do what I want. So I can so empathize. These words: "Here in this tight heaviness I began to look and listen for the life inside the bubbles" — so eloquent and so true.

    Thank you for an inspiring poem — one I must print out and share with those who don't always understand.

  13. dulcy on May 4, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    You know…. fear really is a big bully, and I love that you brought that to my attention in this post. Let's not give it the power to take away our breath and strength. I have your little "Don't be afraid" card on my mantle, and what a lovely reminder of the beauty and calm that comes with focus and breath…… thanks for the wake up call!

  14. ELK on May 5, 2011 at 2:25 am

    don't panic .. everyday words that you have so blessed my day with .. deep breath to you my sweet friend in my thoughts as the breeze blows gently

  15. JBR on May 5, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I can always think about how God's creature the sparrow never worries about their next meal. Even the cows in that picture, they are content as well. Meanwhile, us human beings……well that is another story. We can worry about most anything. Great post dear one. Not to panic. I wish my mum would take note. Blessings to you.

  16. mary on May 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Your words and paintings and photos all go together so wonderfully!

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