Dear Shift Ache Seed (letter 27 from Dear Person)

by austin beaton

I want to write you a letter. Enter 3 words & your email on the home page and I will.

Dear Shift Ache Seed,

5 years ago we hiked a muddy loop through the forest of Hendricks Park and you said “it must be exhausting to be you.” I was 20. You, 19.

It was the day after I got drunk at a party, cried, had a panic attack I didn’t know was a panic attack.

We’d be walking and I’d be talking and then I’d feel that you weren’t there—you’d be 30 feet behind, crouched, examining a mushroom or fern.

Where do you live now? Can you hike there? What kind of plants have you brought home and kept?

You were one of the first people to acknowledge that how I was choosing to live was painful.

I certainly didn’t see, myself, that I needed to shift.

I lived another year without feeling until I drunkenly threw my iPhone against the brick wall of a library. Hard as I could.

Then the first man to save my life recommended I seek counseling. And that counselor was one of the first women to save my life. She gave me glasses to see the ache from years before inside me.

Do you still write poems? When was the last time you played music?

You were the first Idahoan I met and knew well. I’d never been. I haven’t seen you in 3 years—during that time I’ve visited Boise, twice.

My poet speech pathologist cousin picked up his life in Portland and moved there with his family, instead. They love it. The hills and folk music, the Boise Fry Company’s 6 types of potatoes and their neighbors’ whimsical aversion to California.

My little cousins, Cora and Porter, play until a dusk light that lasts till 10pm that we never knew in Oregon.

Would you ever live there, again?

I thought of you often when I visited, stopping to examine the seeds of the person that I eventually met.

Be well,


Austin Beaton is the founder of Dear Person, a letter writing campaign to connect in a time of passive technological isolation. He’s the editor of Hindsight’s 20/Something, a forthcoming collection of essays for purchase in Fall 2018. His first book of poems, small town outside of, will be published in November.