Thursday, September 12, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
a day seared in memory. snapshot images. waking up, regular snap on the tv. A tower. Smoke pluming. An airplane crashed into the World Trade Center. Talking heads. Terrible accident. How could that happen? I awake and focus, not wanting to get out of bed, staring incredulously at the talking heads. What were they saying? And then I see another plane. Trajectory, the same. I sit up. What is this? I push myself from bed, quickly dress, listening to the blah blah blah no news repeating what is obvious, providing no new information. I one foot two foot race race down the stairs and switch on the big screen tv as if the news will be bigger, more clear, more accurate. A knock on the door. My daughter's friend enters and wonders at me staring at the tv. "Some idiots," I said, "have flown planes into the World Trade Center." We both stare. Driving to school I listen to the radio where little information flows. Talking, talking. At school we are told to not say anything. We give no information, but we talk every period. Children, all of us, need to feel safe. By the evening we know. Like some electric conduit we feel drawn to the fire station a few blocks from our house. An impromptu march, a gathering. Along the way we follow a man with a huge American flag. We stand at the fire station, now a large group of fifty or so, singing patriotic songs. Talking, connecting, caring. We sing and talk for hours. Cars honk as they pass. More people come raising their voices. Candles burn out, flashlights dim, and we stand to honor those who had fallen, those who we felt we knew as patriots. A moment of silence connect us there and across America. We vow not to forget. We carry the memories of the day in snapshots of the mind and heart. We do not forget.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Monday, September 2, 2013
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Friday, August 30, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
My mind still spins with thoughts of people I met, what I want to do now, how I will put into practice my new and old and middle ideas. Integrate the past with the present to create my future. Do I go to the writing conference I had planned in September? Do I stay near home and take a day away and write? And my journal class, how will I market that? How can I help others? What about my writing? Do I continue onward with the new work or revise and resubmit the older work? Will I ever find that one other? I wonder about so many things. And in the wonder there is life. The sun sets every night, but the sun rises every morning. The sun rises every morning and the sun sets every night. What different ways to look at the world it seems. I prefer the former. I like the end to lead to a new beginning. A week ago I lived in a special place with special people who I wish to keep connected in my life. My time with them in that special place came to an end, but for me that ending created the start. My questions push me forward. The answers will come eventually, whether in the sunset or the sunrise.
Monday, August 19, 2013
I'm on the train, it's seven hours late, but I don't mind, it's process time. I've been away from my home for just a day more than a week and I have to look at a calendar to prove that. The neverland of my time was Ghost Ranch, where the clouds are three dimensional (and hanging in the sky is not a cliche), the sky is ocean clean deep blue, and the friendships created are more than circumstantial friends. We have shared this time, this space, and the hundred or so of us, have formed a bond in that, through mosquito bites and camp food and rustic sleeping arrangements and talking and listening and smiling and being. While personal, the experience is a collective energy that enhances and challenges each of us. We are writers, no matter of production, or resume, or degrees, or kinds, or speed, or place, or purpose. We have connected, we are connected. Hope is our focus. To carry this place, these people forward, longer than the mosquito bites itch, is my intent, for this is to my benefit, to our benefit. Our lives have touched, I am enriched. Our shadows are still there on the land, our ghosts, to add to the many who once having been there, leaving something, taking something. Connecting.
Friday, August 9, 2013
I remember when I was in Washington and was walking up a path into the woods by myself. I was taking pictures of light and shade and plants and trees and flowers and hoping to see a bee or two and try to capture that in a photograph. I started to walk straight up the hill and when I came to a path on the right I kept walking straight. I am a go-left person. Political? The right path didn’t appeal to me. I proceeded up the fairly steep hill. If I spoke like a mathematician or an engineer I'd offer a degree to the incline, but to me, steep. I knew because I felt the burn in my calves.
Dense stands of trees lined both sides of the path subduing the sunlight. I like sunlight. I saw no one and suddenly wondered if this was a safe path to take. I decided to go to the next curve of the path. In front of me lay another steeper incline, more trees, and another curve much further up the road. Feeling alone, frustrated, and now a bit unsafe, I turned back towards the other path. As I approached it from uphill, this path was now the right path, because it was on the left. I turned and followed the more gentle slope up and up. I paused taking pictures on the more sun-filled trail. I followed the path to the top, where I stood overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca, overlooking the lighthouse. I smiled, sunlight enveloping me, on the bluff.
My pondering often leads me up a steep hill where I pass by the right path, ignoring it because I don’t prefer the right path. If I’d just let the pondering go underground, away from conscious thought, if I’d just be patient and have faith, I might just get the feeling that I need to turn around and go back down the hill and take the path on the left. After all, it just may be the right path.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
We used to chant: “Monkey’s in the court, speak, monkey speak,” when I was with my friends. Every must get quiet and then finally one person would say something and no one could interrupt. Who were the original monkeys, I wonder.
I interpreted the monkeys on a log, with their piercing red-rimmed eyes, as “Don’t look, don’t listen, don’t talk.” My learned home language was interpretive informational, and that was my interpretation of the monkeys on a log. Although it really didn’t make sense until one of my friends said, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Then the monkeys made sense. As did the understanding of why the chained together monkeys on a log were humorous to me. Even at that age I understood there was no way to avoid evil, whether seen, heard, or spoken.
When I was looking around for ‘stuff’ to add to my courtyard garden, I saw the trolls, remembered the monkeys and the saying, remembered how they’d made me smile and hoped they would add not only good luck but a bit of humor to my garden. They’re so kick back and chillin’. Not only their eyes but their faces are impish and holding back, not holding out. Not so scary-funny as the monkeys. Makes it difficult to believe that these trolls actually would ever be able to not do what they profess to do. The hear no evil troll probably listens to a lot of hot gossip. The see no evil troll spends his nights in the strip clubs, peeking through his fingers. The speak no evil troll lets his misspeaks dribble out of the side of his mouth so that his friends are constantly asking him what he said.Besides keeping the trolls hanging out above the pond for luck and humor, they’re there to remind me that even though evil exists, it can be met with impishness and a smile. I hear it, I see it, I speak it, I’m not perfect. I can put my hand over my ears and it becomes muffled and I have to strain to hear it. I can put my hand over my eyes and it becomes blurry within a smaller frame, but I can still see it. I can put my hands over my mouth, but the words come through my fingers. Sometimes words may be confusing. Sometimes they may appear meaningless. I hope they won’t be interpreted as evil. But sometimes they may be humorous. I want to see, hear and speak and then I want to write so that my audience can respond. In the response, comes the beginning of a dialog.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Friday, March 22, 2013
A mild summer here in sunny California had folded. Triple digit temperatures had visited for a week, reminding me of what I missed, or in the case of excessive heat, did not miss at all. My best friend and her son, my son and daughter and their girlfriend and boyfriend as well as my granddaughter and the girlfriend’s son had been planning for a week or so to head off to Disneyland. Then, my best friend had to cancel (along with her son) because she is having problems with her back, and while the percocet she is on may have made Disneyland an even happier place, her discomfort didn’t allow her to even experiment with that notion. And then, the heat surge and I finally admitted that I just could not, would not be able to trek around Disneyland in 100 degree, or even 97 degree weather. This California girl who loves the sun, is no longer able to soak it in like the high school years of cocoa butter and baby oil. But, I did not want to miss the opportunity of everyone together for a day, so we worked out to go to Ventura beach where it was thirty degrees cooler. We would go to have lunch. After some snipping and sniping by me not wanting to occupy a single car with 7 other people because I thought it was too crowded, I was told to get in, given the front captain’s chair, and we started to Ventura, tension taut in the packed car. But hours later, after a more than cordial lunch where we ordered the largest pizza any of us had ever seen and only could eat half; large enough to draw the attention of passers-by who gawked and pointed, we ambled along the pathway next to the harbor, the sea breeze enfolded us, and somehow cemented the boundaries of family. When I saw the smiling tugboat I knew we were in exactly the happiest place on earth right then. Disneyland would be there for another time. When we all got back into the car for the drive home, it seemed a lot less crowded.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Driving in my area the other day I noticed some new signs in a strip mall. “Art’s Liquor” was not new. “US Post Office” was not new. “Latino Insurance”, now that was new. Latino Insurance? I paused. I know, I know. The intent most likely is for people who are Latino to know there is a specific place where they will feel most welcome when purchasing insurance. But then, what if it isn’t? What if Latino Insurance is a special kind of insurance for bigots? From my ultraconservative friends I often hear about blocking borders and how “those people” need to find someplace else to call home. Not in the US of A. Maybe these are the people who would buy ‘Latino Insurance’? “Oh, no, I don’t want them living on my block and now they can’t because if they try, well, I’ll just cash in on my Latino Insurance.”
And if the prejudice against Hispanics can fall under an insurance blanket, what about “Black Insurance’ and “Asian Insurance”, or “Elder Insurance”, or “Homeless Insurance”, or “Gay Insurance”, or “Female Insurance”? No end to the types of insurance that would focus on NIMBY. Trying to keep a place secure against ‘them’, outsiders, ‘not us’. Insecure people looking for some security and projecting it on people who are identifiably different than themselves. Through the lens of prejudice, however, security is not to be found.
So, I’ll continue to think, to hope really, that the new sign names a specific audience to help, rather than the other alternative. That alternative is worrisome to me because it speaks of division rather than unity. The US of A is all about unity. It even says so in the title.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Between childhood and old age is a bridge. Beginning of the bridge, ending of the bridge. Many off ramps to the span, off ramps that take us along mountains to climb, valleys to descend, beaches to walk along. But always, we return to the bridge. For the beginning and the ending are invariably the same. The routes taken are the variables. Sometimes, I find myself sitting on the bridge, on the railing to the bridge, not contemplating shortening the bridge, but contemplating nonetheless. What off ramp do I take? Most recently as I sat there, on the fence, I contemplated the paths I’d taken, and wondered about the paths still to come. Like salt and pepper, cinnamon and cloves, vanilla bean and cocoa bean, my mind became seasoned.
What are these seasonings in life? Those parts of me that color the me of today with the crayons of yesterday. I am awash in internal color. I am flooded with feelings. Mostly feelings I’d confined to the depths as a way to survive their terror in earlier parts of my life when I dare not feel them because in doing so I would understand hopelessness, I would not want to go on. Now, I feel their intensity. How could a child deal with feelings such as these? Bury them deeply with grief and hopelessness. And now, when they return, they return to tantalize me with thoughts that I am today, further along this bridge, as hopeless as that younger part of me who had no voice, no choice, no choice but to bury the feelings and to go on, to survive. I am in awe of that younger me who went on, who survived, who flourished with achievements, who made a way in the world by connecting to school, to baseball, to friends. Awesome.
I look behind me down the bridge and see this feeling me who did not deny life and the hope in life, but went forward as best she could, growing in strength, burying the feelings. I sit and pause and feel and understand. We are all those parts of us further back down the bridge, no matter what off ramps we have taken. The beginning of the bridge is anchored in bedrock. We cannot deny that child of ourself who has, to varying degrees, carried or buried our feelings for us for an entire lifetime waiting for us to connect so that we can be whole. Often not an easy task, but one necessary for self-acceptance.I still sit on the fence, because I am still pondering, still contemplating. I’m not ready yet to move along intentionally, but I will be moved along as the world moves me along and I will react and then sit back on my fence. I keep looking backward and waving, urging her to come along. You contain my feelings, I tell her, I need you with me. After all, the bridge, for me, has always been about words and as I look forward I see many paths to take. I may have the words, but you have the feelings and we are one. The Alpha and the Omega.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Friday, March 15, 2013
Lots goes on in a plant. Growth and withering. Flowers blossomed and flowers to bloom. A mirror of the human spirit, I think. Often the plant is filled with the detritus of times past. It hangs on to the plant but eventually time helped by wind and water and the inability to hang on any longer will drop the withered pieces to the earth where they’ll contribute to the richness of the soil. Surrounding this past, though, is the future, the bulbs not quite ready to burst into flowers. Standing stretching towards the sun in their finest greenery. An obelisk of potential and kinetic energy.
I read about the failure of a voluntary deportation program wherein undocumented aliens could turn themselves in and be deported. Free of charge, apparently. No one would take them into the desert and tell them to cross the river or climb back over the fence. No. These immigrants who had risked their lives to come to America and perhaps paid a large sum of money that they’d saved for years would be driven back over the border, or at least to the border, free to go back to whatever had driven them to leave their homeland in the first place. The article was lamenting the loss of the efficacy of the program. The article was serious in its tone. That it was a failure...Duh!
Seven or eight people had actually turned themselves in, a sad testament to a life lived in poverty in the United States. Life in the United States worse than life from wherever they'd come? Perhaps instead of returning to their land which held more promise, they were self-sacrificing decoys to prevent capture of other undocumented family members . Perhaps they were thrill seekers who want once again to test the system. Maybe they are those that understand that the cycle of immigration is like a plant. Or, perhaps they are planning to come back soon, bringing along some friends, now that the voluntary deportation program is over and they won’t have to face that decision again. My larger question is what bureaucrat is paid a government salary to think up these programs? Perhaps we need to ask that person to volunteer for voluntary deportation from that job. Geesh! Missing in the obelisk of potential and kinetic energy department to be sure.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
I take many pictures of sunsets and few of sunrises. Perhaps this is my unconscious way of learning to deal with endings. I don’t deal with them too well, but in photographing sunsets I learn to enjoy the beauty of endings. Otherwise, I don’t see much good in them. Beginnings, on the other hand, are times of possibilities. Yet I don’t photograph sunrises over and over again. Perhaps I don’t need to be reminded that beginnings are often beautiful. Or maybe it’s just because I usually don’t rise before dawn.I don’t suspect too many people deal with endings so well, even while realizing that the ending of something often gives room for the beginning of something else, something else which is another necessary part of growing and life and part of the journey. Maybe the best we can do is to recognize endings graciously, if not gratefully. I’m going to work on the gracious part, because I am way too far away from the grateful part. Until then, I’ll keep photographing sunsets to appreciate the beauty of endings. Sunsets far away. With plenty of shadows in between.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
In California we have this moisture that shows up from time to time and we call it rain. A mist, really. Sometimes a cloud burst. Mostly just spritzing here and there. I like the pouring down rain, but little of that arrives. Be thankful (comes the injunction) for any kind of rain that’ll help the drought or impending drought, or former drought. Water, in any form, is necessary for life.
Lately I’ve felt like my life mirrors a drought. Torrential rain has fallen early and with lasting consequence. A cloud burst here and there renews the pattern. Of late, no cloud bursts, no torrential rains, but plenty of mist. Fog really. No clear sunrises, no opaque sunsets. Sameness of a spritz of mist and relentless fog. Adrift.
Adrift is unsettling. Fog is unsettling. Drought is unsettling. In the combination of the three, deep change is welling. I feel it, but I don’t yet know it. My mouth is dry, I do not utter a word. My mind in twisted, random thoughts force writing. Writing is hope for clarity. Writing is faith in the future. Writing is a ship cutting through the fog of the endless waveless sea, bringing me closer to sunrises and sunsets. I wonder. I think. I ponder. Writing, in any form is necessary for my life.After the rain, after the mist, after the torrential downpour, after the drought, the water drops cling to the leaves. The sepal opens, the bud revealed, with water droplets clinging. Water, in any form, is necessary for life.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Have you ever had a day that felt in slow motion? A day when your body and mind seem steps apart? A day where even birdsong doesn’t seem beautiful? No real problems, but then again, no real solutions? Just a hum drum oh what shall I do and what about the future day. Eyes feel like they have little tiny barbells on them. Blink. S l o w l y. Aware of breathing in, breathing out. S l o w l y.
On days such as this I feel older than my years. And yet actually I'm feeling quite young, a time when feeling overrode command of language. At such times I feel too young to be in touch with what is good about life now, what my life is like now, a life that includes writing and photography and family and friends. So young that I only feel. I feel like the granite of Half Dome on a grey cloudy day.
Feelings that come forward from the past flood my present life and skew my thoughts about the possibilities of today, about my life of today. On days like this I not only feel old, but poor. Upon present day reflection I realize it is not about my bank account but about a poorness in spirit, about a time when I did feel impoverished, unwanted, unloved, unappreciated. This part is an important part of who I am today. To be in touch with the feelings is an honor, for to touch my past and bring it to the present is to learn more about where I’ve been and where I am. Who I am. But, like the Midwest floods, when the feelings come and grey up my day, I need for the water to recede a bit before I can reflect on the possibilities from now. With this method, two contiguous grey days are rare.Quickly the sky turns blue, the clouds become puffy white. Half Dome stands in its granite splendor, beloved and a beacon of hope and sentinel of dreams. Without the Shadow in the grey days, would the blue sky days be so beautiful? Without the feelings, life would be dull.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Just almost within reach the silvery lengths of mylar confetti, exploding from unseen canons above me, connected the top and lower section of the stadium in a shiny metallic waterfall. Almost within reach, and yet not. But still, the inclination to reach, to try, to attempt to become part of the chain. Back side of the waterfall, looking out. Looking through. Protected between the top and the bottom. Like the filling, the best part of the cake. Later in the game, the Angel girls,with hand-held canons, shot shrink wrapped t-shirts from the floor of the stadium to the top row of seats. Zipping by me. Out of reach, but still I reached and watched closely to the trajectory of the projectiles and sighed, defeated as they zoomed past. These seats for the All Star game were great seats for viewing, but not for catching confetti or t-shirts. Yet I tried.Often I am near the action, but not quite in the action, though I try, I try. I’m an observer. Always, since then, always until now. Attendant at an event, yet not quite fully joining in, holding back to protect myself from disappointment. Only after the action, when I’m withdrawn into my reflective space do I allow myself to feel the excitement that was. I look for a remedy. In millimeter steps I inch towards it. As I reached for the silvery lengths of mylar confetti, I felt hope. Did I finally graduate to participant/observer? Inch by inch...
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
I take pictures of what interests me. I have no great technique other than to try to capture in the lens what I’m seeing with my eyes. I point, I adjust a bit, I click. Taking pictures from a moving train is especially iffy. And yet I do. Point, click. This time I took a picture of a bridge. I have no specific memory of capturing this picture. Other than I was taking pictures as the train traveled through Elkhorn Slough. I wasn’t after any particular image, just whatever spoke to me in some way. I take the images and file them away. When I don’t really know what to write about I look at an image and start to write. I don’t often know where I’m going, but I start and somewhere along the line, after some rambling, I finish. The writing is somewhat like the picture taking. It interests me. I have no great technique other than I try to capture on paper what I’m thinking. Sometimes I filter. Sometimes the words flow unchecked. When that happens I sometimes use my own version of verbal photoshop to edit. I never use actual photoshop on my photographs, it is what was captured.
I’ve crossed many bridges in my lifetime. Some I had to construct on my own, many were the only path across the stormy sea. I feel recently that I’ve been walking across another bridge. I’m further along than not and yet I still cannot see what is on the other side, nor do I know why I am on the bridge. Below is an abyss and I can hear churning water. I don’t think it’s a washing machine, although perhaps it is. When I look back, it’s too far to see clearly but I can think and think. I know what is there. The past. The earthquakes of my life. The peaks and valleys and triumphs and successes. Joy, sadness, hope. All of that and more. The known, the coming to know. When I look ahead I see a speck of light. I don’t know what is there. Unknown. I wonder. What will be?
About bridges I’ve learned this: until I cross over them, I don’t know if I’ve constructed my own, or I’ve passed over a stormy sea. For this reason alone, and many more which I cannot yet name, I am reluctant to stand in the middle and wait. I’ll push on.About photography and writing I’ve learned this: until I’ve taken the picture, until I’ve written the piece, I don’t know much about what I’ve done, until I’m finished. And then I celebrate the connection with the conscious and unconscious mind with a grateful alleluia. I learn to trust what I don’t know and value what I do.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
I've had to make difficult decision regarding animal friends I have had. Some I regret when I think about feelings of missing. All were necessary at the time. And the time of the decision would not have changed the decision, but in hindsight sometimes I forget that. Today I miss most particularly my cat Sage and my dog Bella, both of whom are no longer with me but still occupy a special place in my heart. Below is a piece I wrote about Bella in particular.
She came to me in the rain, the pouring rain, driven down from Berkeley, California by a former City Councilman who was looking for the right home for his beloved dog. He lived on a boat and the dog could not be kept on the boat any longer according to the rules of his marina. He owned her for year or so, after having adopted her from her previous owner who had died. When Bella arrived in the actual pouring rain, during the time of the metaphorical pouring rain in the months after my husband died, she was lead to my door, scratched on it with her paw and walked inside like she was home. Satisfied, the former council member thanked us, and got in his car to drive back to Berkeley. He loved this dog that much to drive over 700 miles to find her a good home. I soon learned how much I also would do for this dog.
He said she was housebroken, and she was not, we soon learned, but he also said she was a good dog, and good dog she was. Smart, too. An escape artist as well. At 65 pounds, not a small dog, she not only tried to dig under, but climb over ordinary barriers in the backyard. I placed bricks around the perimeter she she couldn’t tunnel under, and plywood around the tree, so she couldn’t climb in and jump over the fence. It took a while to figure out that escape route for me, I didn’t know dogs climbed trees. Although, I also acquired a cat that plays fetch, so my understanding of the animal world is imprecise at best.
Bella loved tennis balls which she buried like bones and dug up to chew until they were pulverized. She didn’t know fetch, only run and get the ball and guard it until she had time to bury it after I lost interest in seeing if she would give it to me. She talked to me with a howl when she was frustrated that I wasn’t paying attention. A gentle dog, she was fiercely protective of me until she knew I was okay with the person. A hunter in many ways, she caught several possums, rats, birds, and lizards.
The first time Bella caught a possum she delivered it to the back door in the middle of the night and stood barking. I awoke and climbed out of bed to see what she was barking at. As soon as I stepped outside, she picked the possum up, took it a few feet away, dropped it, and started barking at it. This is when I understood what “playing possum” meant. The possum would not move, Bella would not stop barking and trying to protect me from it. I learned, over the years, that when Bella caught a possum it was a two person operation to extract it from her. One person distracting Bella with a treat and the other person scooping the possum in a shovel and removing it from the area.
Bella was the queen of what became a menagerie, added bit by bit and introduced ever so gently, opening up Bella’s big heart even more. Bella got along well with other dogs outside of the house, but what would happen when a new dog came into her domain? About a year after we rescued Bella, who was then about four, we decided to add a puppy for Bella to play with, we hoped. Sadie, a purebred Golden Retriever pup, who we brought home when she was about four months old, still in downy fur, was the antithesis of the chill Bella. Sadie barked if there is a gopher three blocks down. When Bella barks, something is amiss. Sadie is wired. She runs, she jumps, she hops, she almost skips. Bella moves at the speed that is necessary, taking it all in. At their first meeting, Sadie ran under the table and when Bella headed for her, I had thoughts of possums. I picked Sadie up and introduced her nose to nose. The introduction was built up over days and after time, Bella became a ‘new’ dog. She and Sadie played and romped.
When, about a year later, we added two kittens, the introductions took longer, on both parts. But now they are animal friends, sisters all. With Bella as the grand old dame.
About a month ago, Bella developed an ear infection. Antibiotics and prednisone cleared that up. Then, a couple of weeks after, she contracted some sort of skin infection which left her smelling rank. When I trimmed off her fur to get to the source, I found a growth. A very large growth, just under her tail. When I took Bella to the vet this time I mentioned the growth. He said once the infection cleared up he wanted to remove the growth. He said she actually had two of them. He said they were melanomas. He said if they were in her mouth, he would be discussing euthanasia, but he said she could have some time still. I asked about how much it would be and the receptionist said $200 or $300. A lot, but for another year or two with Bella. Not a lot.
Today when I went to pick her up from surgery the Vet was more concerned. It was not good news, he said. The prognosis was hopefully two to four years unless the cancer had spread to other organs. I left the vet in tears. I love this dog. I do not want to lose this dog right now. I have lost many people that I have loved and yet I have never lost a dog that I have loved. Not loved as much as this dog. She has such heart. As she’s laying recovering from her surgery, I walk into the room. Her tail wags. Her tail always wags when she sees me looking at her. She is the dog that loves me without question. It’s not about the treats I give her or that I feed her or that I pet her. She is always focused on me. She is what people mean when they say a dog is a companion. With Bella I feel safe and protected. She came into my life at a time when I needed safety and protection. And now, I will protect her during the last time of her life, no matter how long, no matter the cost. She came to me in the rain and brought sunshine into my life, I love this dog. I love my Bella.
And I still do, even though she no longer lives with me and the menagerie which now consists only of Sadie. The cats needed to be rehomed, and Bella, my beloved Bella, with heart until the end, lived two more years before it was a difficult but right and kind gesture to offer her peace. One other day, I will also write about that decision that ended her pain but wracked my soul. I miss her.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Two years ago I visited my cousin in Michigan and on one of our treks, we drove down country roads in Amish Country in Shipshewana, Indiana, passing farmers who created straight and curvy plots for Spring planting while standing on the back of plows driven by teams of two matched draft horses, more hands high than I could count. They reminded me of firemen in times past who stood on running boards gripping the back of speeding firetrucks. Another bygone time.
Clothing flapped and fluttered on drying lines under the bright blue sky. Houses dotted the land untethered to power poles, their window shades raised high to attract the light. Single black horses, lathered with sweat, seemingly unfettered from the carriages behind them whisked bearded and unbearded men, bonneted women, and many children to their destinations. Men and women on bicycles lumbered up hills in the crisp air. All transportation devoid of motorized convenience.
And then, as we descended a hill just over the rise, I squinted to see how the woman in the black dress made her way up the hill. Walking? Bicycle? When she came more clearly into view, I was incredulous. I chuckled. More than any compromise of old world and new, this stood out to me, a brave woman who found a creative way to stand for her beliefs and her place in the world. Roller blades. She pumped up the hill, arms swinging in a free spirited motion that connected what was to what is.
Ah, life. Ah, connection. Ah, woman. I hear you roar. You have taken what is and demonstrated possibilites. You have hallowed the ground blending the spirit and the letter of the law of your land. In it you have become civilly disobedient. You go girl. Skate on. Lesson learned on a country road.
And this year, no wonder, I have planned to include a visit to my cousin within my visit to the Midwest. What new understandings will await me on Amish Country roads?
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Shades of the 1950’s I thought when I walked into the bathroom at the L.A. County Arboretum. I could imagine women sitting on the metal stools brushing their stylized hair then taking out ozone depleting tin bottles of hairspray and spraying with abandon, mist falling in tiny sticky globulettes. To complete the touch up, golden tubes of lipstick, opened to unveil shades of red, (not pink nor orange nor white, those were in later times), were twisted to full height and applied sensuously to pursed lips that always kissed tissue or toilet paper to blot and hold the color. The changing table was a nod to later times, beyond the 1950’s, into the 2000’s, when benches and chairs would no longer do for changing baby’s bottom. Before the changing table, the mist of hairspray would have been mixed with the haze of cigarette smoke.
Standing in the bathroom imagining the scene, I felt deprived. Glamorous times when bathrooms were more than places of necessity. But how glamorous are metal stools, cool to the seat, whether on summer or winter day? Elegance attempted though. This had been a classy place.
Even though I’m a native Californian and the Arboretum has been in existence since I was in single digits age wise, I’d never been there before my visit last month with a good friend of mine, a friend from my childhood. We choose a very hot day to wander the grounds, and we did not spend too much time wandering. We vowed to go back.
Before I went to the Arboretum, I’d been thinking about deprivation, in a kind of what we once had sense, not in the we never had it sense. Deprivation in the never had it sense would be another entry, another time, much heavier and would entail thinking about justice and fairness and equity, issues which sit on my sleeve and weigh my shoulders down, but which I don’t want to tackle today. Today the deprivation comes from the sense of what we had and now do not. So many things, so many places, so many notions and ideas. Not nostalgia, deprivation.
In this kind of deprivation, what was gives way to what is now. It is the gap between the was and the now that the feeling of deprivation fills. For example, I am no longer young (whew, thankfully), but neither am I old (well, to some, but not in reality). To shake off young or even middle age requires me to move into or towards old. And here I sit. I’ve been here for some time in my adult life but only now am connected to this feeling of deprivation. I once could run around the bases after hitting a well pitched ball. I once had long auburn brown hair. I once had young children, adolescent children, young adult children. I once taught school. I once was married. No longer. I feel deprived. I feel like the metal stools waiting for the return of the glamorous 50’s, lined up in a row before the mirror occupied now only by schoolchildren who realize they can sit and stare in the mirror rather than stand and stare in the mirror.My feeling of deprivation doesn’t define me. Instead it serves to remind me of a fulfilling past. A past that has grounded my future into which I will age with wisdom, hopefully, so that I can continue to see the use of this type of feeling of deprivation as a filler and connector, and then write about the injustice in the world when deprivation does not lead to hope. In that sense of being deprived, what was, is. But it need not be. That is my hope.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Most of us live our lives as though we know what is going to happen in the next minute or the next hour or the next day. We plan. Sometimes we plot. Always we seek certainty and control. The feeling of uncertainty is unbalancing and few desire unbalance in life. What about thrill seekers? We all are thrill seekers in some way. Some are a bit on the edge and crash through life focusing on challenging life to its limits. But still, this is a kind of search for certainty. To choose to face an element of danger and feel an adreneline rush is to find the certainty that there will be an adreneline rush, a kind of antidote against feelings of uncertainty. Who wants to ponder that life is uncertain? Too frightening. So we plan and sometimes plot and often plod along.
I’ve been thinking about uncertainty a lot recently. A heavy conversation in my head about the limits of control. I want to be okay with uncertainty in not such a dreadful way. I want to return to my understanding of uncertainty as the conduit for possibilities. I’ve had that intuition before and I’ve been dissecting uncertainty for a while from the feeling of dread. This has given me firmer grounding. Yes, life is uncertain. Yes, shit happens. But, the feeling of uncertainty connects me to life and to all others living. There is nothing ominous about connection to life and connection to others. Instead, there is hope. Each of us on a similar journey. A hopeful journey. A journey filled with possibilities in uncertainty. Possibilities of success and failure. Possibilities of joy and sadness. Possibilities of future understanding. Probabilities of attempts at control. Certainty of the uncertain. Before each of us is a door and then endless doors of possibility. The adventure of life, the adventures in life continue. Relax. Take a deep breath. Open the door.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Some need a sip of chicken soup
to soothe a troubled soul.
Slurping but a thimbleful
connects parts to the whole.
Others find a spoonful
satisfies the inner need
So pursing lips,
they procede with latent speed.
Many need a bowl or cup,
Especially from time to time
To satiate that emptiness
their rhythm from their rhyme.
And some, a clear minority?
An extra needy group,
should fill a swimming pool
unless you don't want to ; )
Thursday, January 31, 2013
But we all have our different breakdown boxes because we all, at one time or another, no matter our age or status or education or background or region or sex or ethnicity or any of the labels that separate us, come together in person-ness, because we all eventually have some sort of ritual of breakdown. When the blip comes, we instinctively reach for something or someone who can balance our beam, who can teeter our totter, who can homeo our stasis. Off kilter and off balance is the land we often inhabit before growth. Sometimes it’s a scary land and to contain it we need a box. A breakdown box. A container that holds us as we slowly climb out and make our way back to blossom, to be the opening flower, face to the smiling sun, the comforting moon.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Friday I took a drive with my daughter to Santa Barbara to visit my son, her brother. She had to be home early in the evening because friends were visiting. He assured us he wouldn’t be able to spend too much time because he was working on his music. We all knew it would be an up and back trip. A bit over three hours in the car for a three hour visit.
Driving up in the bright sunshine of the January day, talking about not much and everything, we arrived on the coast to see the ocean flat, like a lake. The Channel Islands were visible in the distance, not as vague shapes, but as clearly defined peaks and valleys, separated across the waveless sea. My focus on them, I didn’t notice the oil rigs that dotted the channel between the coast and the islands.
We decided to spend the first part of the visit eating at a Japanese restaurant. We talked about nothing and everything. Next stop was the Goleta beach where we walked onto the very long pier to its end. I snapped pictures of the seaweed in the water, the gulls along the pier, the river entering the ocean, a flock of pelicans, and my son and daughter delightfully hugging, posing for a picture at the end of the pier. On the way back I snapped pictures of the shore, a shipwreck in the distance. I looked down on the wooden planks of the pier and noticed the knothole. I bent to take a picture through the hole, then noticed the eye shape. Even on macro the camera would not click. I was too close. I called my 6 foot plus son to come and take the picture. I told him he was further away and I wanted the picture. I love to find human presence in unexpected places. I especially like to find it in wood. He took three pictures.
As we walked away I wondered about creative license. Who held it? I found the shot, he pulled the shutter. I decided I’d give us both credit. After all, my original intent was to take it minus shadow.
As I look at the eye, I don’t now see it as human. I think the skin around it distracts me. An elephant perhaps? I do know the knothole reminds me of something living. Something alive. Like the day.
We left the pier and went to the Monarch Butterfly preserve. The butterflies mesmerized us as we sat on the logs and looked up in the glen. I could have sat for hours. But, she had to get back for her friends, and he had to get back to his music. Reluctantly, each of us left, commenting about the connection to the experience. A quick trip to his music space, a quick meeting and hug with my daughter-in-law, then back to the freeway and to home.
The restaurant, the beach, the pier, the preserve, the day. Memorable. Connecting. Freeing. Floating. Like the monarchs on their yearly path. Like the watchful eye. Waiting for discovery. Patient. Peaceful.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Serendipitious. Wondrous. Glad I had time to get the camera-ous. Parked on a side rail waiting for a freight. Some rule of the rails that freights have the right of way to passenger trains, which are apparently not carrying precious enough cargo. When you ride the train you are on rail time which is a very different time than real time. Rail time means delays. Rail time means you musn’t be in a hurry. Rail time means taking time to look out the window as much as possible, especially when the train is stopped.
At this most wonderful place to take a side rail, I met two circumstantial friends from more than halfway around the world. Circumstantial friends is a concept I’ve coined to define those people who enter your lives when you don’t expect them to, affect you in some way with a deeper connection you can’t fathom, then, just as quickly as they’ve entered and shared, they’re gone. You can meet these people anywhere, from a quick meeting in line at a store or in a doctor’s office where you share some kind of meaningful talk, not banter, not chatter, but talk that is real communication, to shared places on vacations, or conventions even. Airplanes, trains, ships are common places to meet circumstantial friends as well. You may even exchange phone numbers or addresses or e-mails, but most likely no one will use them to maintain contact. Somehow you know that the friendship you share in that moment is precious and specific to that moment. A circumstantial kind of thing. It comes along when you both need it and then it is gone, except for the smiles of reminiscences when the meetings come to mind.
My circumstantial friends were from South Africa and I first encountered them at the window in the lobby of the train when it had stopped on the siding. I was standing there enjoying the happy coincidence of stopping at this beautiful spot, and he (these people often don’t have names) came out of his room. I mentioned that this was not such a bad place to stop. He looked out the window and uttered a sigh. He called for his wife who made her way to the small platform in front of the window. Feeling like I’d soaked up the scene I moved back and motioned for her to stand next to her husband. At this point we exchanged some banter about the incredible scene, I took some pictures, I enjoined them in the very American way to have a nice day. As I walked up the stairs to my room I wondered what part of Britain they were from and if they were here on vacation or if they’d immigrated here. I found out when another chance occurrence cemented our circumstantial friendship.
Reservations are necessary to eat on the train. I chose one o’clock for lunch. As a single I was guaranteed to meet new people at the four-seat table. I was placed at a table with Jerry, a real estate appraiser from California who sat opposite me and spoke so loudly I thought he was deaf or hard of hearing. As we were chattering, well, as Jerry was shouting at me, the silver haired couple that I’d shared the beautiful reflection scene with were seated at our table. After some changing around in chairs owing to his actual deafness and the fact that he wanted his hearing ear to be towards the center of the table, he asked Jerry his name. He said their names, but for some reason I don’t remember them. What I do remember is what a wonderful and intelligent conversation ensued at that table over lunch. We stayed seated for over an hour after we’d finished, avoiding the glares of the waiters and steward who for some reason would not chance asking us to leave. We talked about the economy, and about the state of education in the United States and apartheid in South Africa which, I now knew, was where my friends were from. He had just retired as a Professor of Education. She was a former teacher. They had just come from visiting their daughter and grandchild in Australia and were now on their way to visit another daughter and another grandchild in Seattle. They decided to take the train from San Francisco. Their daughter had paid their way. As I was learning this, Jerry kept shouting and attempting to monopolize the conversation. Jerry was very opinionated. Something about Jerry did not cement him for me as a circumstantial friend.
He, the professor, casually asked me how much it would be to take the train. He quickly followed with the fact that his daughter had paid their way and he wanted to reimburse her. I told him I wouldn’t tell him. I told him to accept the generosity of his daughter. Sometimes, I said, our children want to do things for us to thank us and just don’t know how to do so. Let her do this, I told him. But I also assured him it was not too much. Reluctantly, our conversation ended when we reached Eugene, Oregon. I wanted to go and get some fresh air and to avoid waving to the prisoners. We said goodbye and godspeed.
I never saw Jerry again but I saw the professor and his wife when I got off the train in Portland. I am known by my children and by friends who pick me up or take me to train stations, as not being one to pack lightly. And, I did not this time either. I had four bags. But, I had a system. Two suitcases rolled with four wheels and I could put the to smaller duffel bags on top of them. I was proud of my system. I got all the bags off the train and there stood the professor and his wife. He offered, no, insisted, that he would help me with my bags. His wife concurred. I followed him, she followed me, into the station. I went to thank him and he kissed and hugged me. I turned to her and we also kissed and hugged. We wished each other a good trip. As I rolled my luggage to find a cab, I thought about my friends. I’d wished I’d exchanged e-mails, addresses, something to maintain the false promise that we’d get in touch again. But, we wouldn’t. My friends from around the globe definitely belong to my circle of circumstantial friends. They will always be alive in my stories. I have the picture to prove it.