Writing the Distance: Laura Ojeda Melchor

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today, Laura Ojeda Melchor shares a letter to her son.

A Letter to My Forest Boy

You were supposed to be in school this morning and every other weekday morning of




Instead you’re here with me. The last time you saw another child was March 12 at the trampoline park, the very last day before the virus twisted our sense of normal into something unrecognizable.

I cried for the gains you’d lose. The hard-won social skills and friends in your beautiful special education classroom.

But then the snow started to melt and you dragged your green bicycle out of the barn and had me get mine out too. You began to take me on rides under gray and sunny skies alike. We spent hours throwing pebbles onto ice that became water that became mud.

On one ride you led me into the forest, the single lot on our street that hasn’t been decimated yet, and we watched chickadees flit through dead spruce trees and living birch trees.

We found a mossy birch bent in the shape of a chair. You examined moose poop of every size, lichen and moss in every shade of green. We studied tree caves, those cozy nests under gnarled roots where animals make their homes.

Like the Mary Oliver poem I read you when we shared my body, “The Summer Day,” you are teaching me “how to pay attention, / how to fall down into the grass, / how to kneel down in the grass, / how to be idle and blessed.”

I won’t pretend this spring isn’t an ache pitching and heaving in my soul. I won’t force away the doubts and fears I have about the future.

But I will pay attention with you. I will sit in the damp forest, kneel next to a tree cave, smell the wet leaves and the spider webs. And the cool clean air and your chattering voice will be a blessing to my bones.


Laura Ojeda Melchor holds a MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives and writes in Wasilla, where she spends increasing amounts of time outdoors with her three-year-old son, Abel Forest.

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