Monday, September 16, 2013

Reflections

   Besides my fascination with the texture and form of tree trunks and branches and gnarled pieces of driftwood and other complexities found in wood in general, I hold an equal curiosity about reflections.  I like how mirrors are often in unexpected places. Finding them always surprises me, though.  Usually I spot them around still water.  Sometimes a building itself becomes a mirror for another.  When I view the original and contained within is another, the original becomes more than it once was.  Its existence is embellished in a merging.   Beyond the natural world,  the mother as mirror to the baby is a necessity in attachment, there is a merging of the I/thou in the beauty of the relationship.  In nonverbal communication, even amongst strangers,  a smile often begets a smile, a yawn induces a yawn as people connect.  What about  the collective sigh or the outburst of a crowd at a sports event? Spontaneous connection.  So much unanticipated merging that makes me wonder, what is the meaning?  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ellen Show

On Monday my daughter and I attended a taping of the Ellen show.  I was hoping to see Diana Nyad and Simon Cowell who were to appear on Tuesday's show.  Ellen usually tapes a day ahead.  I also knew this was premier week and I was hoping Ellen would feel generous all week and shower her studio audience with gifts.  The last time we'd attended we received a cd of one guest, two dvd's of another guest, and hair and make up products of a third.  Neither the cd's nor dvd's have yet to be opened by me, but hoping for good karma, I did use the shampoo on the day of this new show.  The Ellen Show process is surgical.  We were guaranteed audience members so we checked in by 2:00, showed our drivers' licenses, received our black light invisible arm stamps, and sat down amongst the couple of hundred other members for the day whose chatting created a cacaphony of excitement underneath the solid walls of the parking structure.  We received numbers to enter the studio, then returned to the metal benches.  I chose to sit with my back to the wall, I didn't realize we were sitting under a speaker.  Thus began a pantomime routine with a worker.  She mouthing, "Can you hear anything?"  We shaking our heads.  She disappearing, returning, repeating.  We shaking our heads.  Until finally we heard some mumbling.  She returned, we put thumbs up, not knowing it was blaring out to the crowd, although, under the speaker we could not hear.  Standing back in line, entering, seated.  Rumors as to who the guest might be.  Bright lights, not so much awe, repeat attendance.  Then the warm up and the dancing and the announcement, "Celine Dion".  Not a big fan, but I am okay. Disappointed more that I'm not going to see Diana Nyad.  She's my hero, not Celine Dion.  The show begins, Ellen!  She's warm, sweet, funny.  I begin to wonder what my possibilities are for a gift.  Celine Dion tickets?  And then I learn Celine performs in Las Vegas.  A trip to Vegas and tickets?  It's premier week after all.  I scale back.  A cd?  While waiting to enter we chatted with a woman (well, she chatted at us) who said she'd taken a cd she received from the last show to Target to exchange it.  I would likely do that.  If we received tickets for the show, well, I 'd give them away or sell them.  Celine and Ellen talked, sitting at home on the sofa kind of talking.   Funny some places, interesting others, a little unsettling when Celine noted she met her husband when she was 12.  The picture showed a gangly adolescent standing next to an already balding and definitely gray-haired man.  She explained her feelings grew when she was a teenager.  A hush.  And then Ellen said Celine would be singing after the break.  After the break when we continued to dance and cheer and whoop and clap is when we would learn our gift.  Our special premier Ellen gift.  Just a few more minutes.  Celine sang.  We applauded, Ellen thanked Celine for coming.  The credits began to roll.  I turned to my daughter.  We shrugged our shoulders.  The show ended.  Ellen stood in front of the audience, sans camera.  This would be it, now we'd learn our special surprise, so special she didn't want to reveal it on camera.  "Thank you all for coming," she said.  And a few other things that I heard but did not listen to.  Then, from somewhere Portia stood next to Ellen, they linked hands and went through the curtains.  The announcer told us the show was over.  And I knew who to blame.  #32.  The chatty lady who told us tale after tale of how she never wins anything and that of course we weren't going to get anything today.  My daughter jokingly said, "why are we talking to you, then?" and I encouraged her that "today her luck would change".  It did not.  I don't really think #32 was the bad luck charm.  But I did not want to watch the rest of the week of Ellen to find out that ours was the only day when they didn't receive a gift.  Except the gift of reflection where I understand that I didn't go to get something, I went to spend time with my daughter and experience one of the best run tv shows in the business.  I'm looking forward to when I can go again.  Although I'll likely still be expecting Ellen to be generous. More than not, she is.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11

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

Writing On

Procrastination is my biggest problem when it comes to writing.  I was much better before the internet came along, but  now there always seems to be another challenge in a game, or someone's interesting blog, or FB post, or a news event to follow and read and use as a procrastinatory tool.  (Surprised my word processor allowed that....procrastinatory is a word?  Might be my new favorite...).  So I'll blame Al Gore for my lack of writing.  I used to try to convince myself that I am always in the process of writing because I am, after all, a writer.  If I was not in the action, I was in the thinking, creating, holding of my characters, and other even unnamed unconscious efforts that led to my actually putting words to the page.  I rarely have problems putting the words to the page.  It's just getting to the page that is the challenge.  I rely a lot on that unconscious river that feeds my Jungian self when I write.  I often feel like I am along for the ride consciously.  It's fascinating to me.  I trust.  I guess perhaps that comes with age.  So, I write and do some more and then it comes time to putting my writing out there, and this too is an area in which I lack forward movement.  Days like today give me many excuses to put it on hold.  Today I wrangled with formatting and thought I was making considerable headway.  And then Word froze and reluctantly I had to tell it to force quit when I really wanted to gently save and close the several documents open on my desktop.  Especially after three hours.  In my frustration with Word and with the heat and with the family stuff that was permeating the air, I decided this is enough.  I did not decide it is a sign that I must not persevere.  Just a nudge to put off a bit today.  And so I took out the picture of the Write On mug my daughter so thoughtfully crafted for me last Christmas and asked myself, what will I write on about today.  And here it is.  Not too deep, but then I didn't want to put the hip boots on today anyway.  Tomorrow I might just head back to the formatting so I can get that book out there.  Or maybe I'll work on revision of another book.  Or perhaps I'll work on my new book.  So many options.  But now, I'll have a word with Mr. Gore.  I'll check out his internet to test if it is, in fact, a path to avoidance.  I am a writer.  No matter what I choose to do at the moment, I'm either writing or prewriting.  That's my thought and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Whoo Whoo Scale

Clouds, fascinate me.  I ponder their shapes.  Kind of like when I see a license plate that is obviously personalized but sometimes carries an esoteric message.  Those I ponder as well.  License plates, ascribe an intentional message.  Whether I actually ever figure them out, or whether I gasp when I do (the most memorable so far, sleeping censor, was PHUQUAWL, a California plate on a convertible),  I know there was an intention to the arrangement of the letters.  Clouds, on the other hand, are interpretive, not intentional. At least arguably. And I will argue that at least this one time , mired in critical thoughts that tend to arise from time to time, when I looked up and saw the configuration of clouds suspended between the two rows of townhomes, I thought the arrangement was intentional.  The clouds were smiling.  A winky smile that poked fun at my inner critic who had no justification for challenging me that day, nor most days, really.   Now these were California clouds which, in the echelon of clouds, are far below those lenticular clouds that hug the mountains, or the suspended 3-D clouds in the cerulean blue skies of New Mexico, so these clouds were a bit more than to the left of center.  The whoo whoo of clouds.  Yet on that day those clouds felt intentional, personal even.  Paying attention, whether to the letters of a personalized license plate, or to clouds, or stars, or birds, or cars, or people is being present.  Being present tunes us to the world and can only help us, whether through conscious intention, interpretation, or somewhere along the whoo whoo scale---that place that lies in the confluence of the conscious and unconscious.  This is where creativity and craft collide. Writers need to be present to the whoo whoo scale.  Just because we can't understand something, doesn't negate its reality.  Whoo Whoo!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

On the Mesa

    After several days being more social than I had been in several weeks before (writing, after all, is solitary mostly), I decided I needed to step back and take time for exploration.  My younger self would have hiked to Chimney Rock, even in the close to 90 degree heat, but this older, wiser self, realized a solitary climb, especially in the heat, especially at the elevation, would have done nothing to enhance my physical nature and may, in fact, have been detrimental.  Still, I wanted an adventure.   I decided to explore the mesa outside my door.  The view of the Pedernal in the distance, hugged by puffy clouds in the Dodger blue sky, begged a photo.  I grabbed my long and short lens from the room and snapped a few images.  I walked to the edge of the mesa and focused on Kitchen Rock.  Long lens, short lens.  The Agape Center, click.  The alfalfa fields, rainbirds sputtering, snap.  Tumbleweed housing, cottonwood trees, the switchback trail, both down and up, the Arts Center, the Labyrinth.  Long lens, short lens, snap and click.  The sun warmed my head, heated my hair, I'd forgotten my hat.  Just a few more pictures, I'd taken so many before.  A red tailed hawk keened, crows cawed, the horses snorted and the sounds drew me back to the details.  The wind kissed the sides of my face, lapping the moisture.  I stopped and gazed at the ground in front of me.  Round pellets.  Rabbit droppings?  Too large.  A deer? Why hadn't I see her pass or heard her in the night as I sat under the frosting of stars in the licorice sky? Not three feet away other deposits in nature's outhouse, these looking like a horse had passed, but a not so large horse.  How did I miss a horse prance along the mesa? Maybe his passing had come in those days of being social, or in the days before when I was not yet part of the landscape. I examined the texture of the ground, the sandy scrunchy pieces of not quite dirt that blended with the red puffs of powder.  I saw the cactus, circular branches of protruding needles, laying on the ground as if the heat had made it tired.  I saw the cactus, thin straight prickled rigid branches standing in bunches with siblings, all at attention.  I walked towards the other end of the bluff, past the pink corrugated building with "Telescope" on the side.  The gnarled tree with the multicolored rust and yellow moss covered rock drew me towards itself.  Gnarled wood a particular photographic favorite of mine. So complex, not simple lines, but bound with a story.  In front of the short tree a cairn had been created.  Small with four stacked rocks.  Plenty of room to grow.  I spoke to the tree, a soliloquy of praise for its beauty, richness, tenacity, its holding of stories and of wisdom.  I pushed positive energy in its direction and felt its return on the embrace of the wind, the keening of the hawk.  Not wanting to leave this place without a change, (reciprocity, I thought), I scoured the ground for the precise rock to add to the cairn.  The shadows of the tree directed me.  I placed my offering atop the others, leaving it solidly balanced, allowing for additions, hoping that in the proximate future I might return.  From the landscape at large, to the particulars of the place, the camera fixed the memories, my mind continues to blend them and mix them and sift them into what as yet has not been fully revealed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Never Ever Give Up

   I watched a video of long distance swimmer Diana Nyad emerge onto the beach at Key West, Florida after swimming 110 miles from Cuba.  110 miles!  If I jumped into a pool and glided underwater for half the length, I am pretty sure I can swim to the end.  I'm thinking of a regular backyard swimming pool, nothing public nor Olympian in length.  I cannot fathom (appropriate here) a 110 yard swim, much less 110 miles.  I am a fan.  That Diana Nyad is 64 years old and has been following her dream for 35 years is wondersome.  I am in awe.  As I focused on her haulting determined trudge onto land to complete her feat, I pondered how tired she must be, how foreign for her leg muscles to be working in a different way than they had for the past 48 hours, how miraculous that they could, that she could continue her dogged determination to reach her goal.  She embodied heroic.  And then, through swollen and parched lips, she spoke, slurring her words, but determined to deliver what she said were 3 messages.  She pointed her index finger to the sky.  "One, never ever give up."  The crowd applauded. "The second is, you are never too old to chase your dreams." Attention replaced scattered applause.  "And, this seems like a solitary sport, but it's a team."  She was scooped up in a hug by one of her friends to punctuate the lessons.  I pondered these three messages and I knew the veracity of her words for everyone.  Motivating.  But no more than to those of us who are writers.  The first two messages are clear, the third is a reminder.  Even though our work seems solitary, is, in fact, most often so as we sit in our offices, or niches, or spaces, or wherever and type or write our words that flow into stories and poems and essays and such, even then, we are part of a team.  Connected through the stream of words that flows across the waters, around the world, that travels through space and time from us to you to you.  This is how we chase our dreams and we never ever give up.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Opposites

Salt and Pepper.  Black and White.   Left and right. Light and Shadow. And and And.  Either salt or pepper.  Either black or white.  Either left or right.  Either light or shadow.  Either and or.  Neither salt, nor pepper.  Neither black, nor white.  Neither left, nor right.  Neither light nor shadow.  Neither and nor.    With the same 8 concepts (in four pairs of two)  comes a fractious change in meaning with addition of conjunctions.  Inclusion, exclusion, choice, rejection, all framed with conjunctions.  Yet sometimes even the idea of inclusion (as in the case of and) can be divisive.  Black and white for example.  The and posits a coming together but not seen as the case when racism is involved.  In politics left and right are ends of a political spectrum with particular characteristics ascribed to each.  I want to live in a land of AND that is inclusive.  Okay to keep the choices, the inclusions and exclusions, they are more clearly what they are.  But when and is the conjunction, can't we all agree to give equal weight to each side?  We are a country of equals and we are a country of equality. That is the American spirit.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Climbing a Mountain

Every day (I like to think of this as true and some weeks it is, but often it's most days), I take a walk that includes a trail through a park that weaves from below to over a hundred foot gain to above in less than five minutes.  I call this my mountain.  Some days I breeze along, noting the burly barks on the pine trees that break the solid line of the newly installed redwood fence.  I smell imagined campfires instead of the sweet pine needle scent on the breeze and imagine myself in Yosemite Valley in the summer.  I pad along switch back to switch back climbing effortlessly, breathing in the day.  If I pass a fellow traveler, I say "good morning", hoping for an acknowledgement in return.  Most times people are friendly on this mountain.  When I reach the top I balance across three beams set up as part of the par course on the mountain.  I ignore the other stations.  Public displays of attempted sit ups, chin ups, push ups, and any other kind of ups besides walking up, are in the past for me.  After a time on the beams and a brief walk around the children's playground at the top of the park, I turn to head down.  I walk along the redwood fence with no pines, and look out over the stunning display of housing tracts, mountains, and freeways below.  I see an airplane on its approach to Burbank Airport, slowly descending, its distinctive coloring informing me that the skies are friendly. I briefly consider the occupants of the plane and wish them a silent good morning.  And now time to descend the mountain.  Back across the beams, down the path.  Good mornings again, unless our paths have crossed before and the greeting already given, then we nod and smile, old friends.  Some days when I breeze along the mountain is welcoming and friendly.  Most days are those some days.  But a few days I plod.  My feet feeling connected to the ground by invisible blocks of granite that I pull along with each step.  I am on the sand dunes carrying a backpack filled with cannonballs.  My back feels numb, but my mind is still nimble.  I wonder if I will ever get to the top.  I give myself permission to shorten my walk today.  There will be tomorrow.  My good mornings are solid but a question lurks at the end.  I remind myself of the small wisdoms I've offered other struggling travelers, especially, I just put my head down and go for it.  And as I do, even though on those days I feel my heart asking, why are you pushing, I find myself next to the balance beams.  With permission to fail, I have given myself time to succeed.  I often think of my writing as a mountain.  Some days I breeze along.  Some days I plod giving myself permission to not go as far, to turn back, to pause.  I wonder, what kind of day will this day of my writer's life be.  I do know the skies will be friendly.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Whether in the Sunset or the Sunrise

         Home and settled once again, in some ways.  I've restocked the nutritious food (Trader Joe's), the junk food (Target) and the bulk food (Costco).  I've vacuumed the house and washed and dried the clothes (that await repopulation to my closet, 2 out of 3 not so bad).  I've cleaned out the pond and refilled it.  I'm awaiting the cool of the evening to enjoy sitting in my courtyard again, the heat wave coupled with humidity not inviting me to do so quite yet.  I've been to the library and checked out a book to end run paying $30.00.  Reminded me of my childhood when, not being able to afford books, I borrowed them and brought them home, balancing wobbly stacks with my left hand while steering my bike with my right.  Now, I can afford them, but not the space they take up in my house.  I have enough books.  At least that's what I tell myself now.  I have reacquainted myself with many routines, including hanging out with my dog, or does she hang out with me?  We mostly stay in the same room, near one another, connected in that way.  She sleeps, a dream away from popping awake when I move from one place to another.  I attempted to resume my walking routine the other day but the mosquito bites, which are settling nicely, protested when rubbed against my shoe, so I decided to give them the week off.  Mondays are good start days. I'll try again on Monday.
         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

Ghost Ranch


     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

The Path

   I’ve been pondering a bit more than usual lately  and avoiding pondering a bit by trying to catch up on some television programs I’ve recorded.  But I know, underneath the trying to avoid it, the pondering continues.  I know because here and there and from time to time a thoughtburst occurs that usually begins a puzzling inner dialogue that leads to more questions than it does answers and I am in touch with anxiety.  The dominant pondering lately is connected to questions of where I want to devote my energies.  This is very familiar. It’s all about the path taken and not taken.
     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

The Garden Trolls

          When I was a kid a friend of mine had three little plastic monkeys that sat together on a plastic log, knees bent to their chests, long arms over eyes or ears or mouth. Their wide white rimmed with red eyes gave me the impression that they were really trying to hold something in---something that they wanted out, not something they prevented from penetrating them. The monkeys made me laugh, and I didn't know why.
          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

We Never Used the F Word

     I am 65.  At sixteen I wrote my first book.  It was 30,000 words and was entitled Balboa is Full of Beginners.   I still have the book typed on what is now yellowing paper (although then pristine white)  on the orange-cased Smith Corona typewriter that my sister had handed down after she'd finished nursing school and got married.  I've reread it recently and it is in a wonderful authentic teenage voice connecting what I wished my sixteenth summer could have been and my angst at how it was not so.  The characters are fairly fleshed out and the plot is surprisingly developed.  I wonder how I can weave it into a new book with the characters now facing medicare.  After that book there were three others written in my 20's, and then a gap of book writing, but writing that explored (poetry, and essays), and suited a particular purpose (school writing, dissertation writing).  But always, writing.  Then came the memoir in my 50's and 60's, and a fiction book about a baseball player in my 60's, and a current historical novel in progress.  And from 16 to 65 my writing (except for one short story) has been unpublished, sitting in drawers, occupying hard drive space.  As private to the world at large as my journals.  To be a writer, I somehow thought, meant being on a best seller list or at least available at Amazon.  I could not reach my lofty goals.  An MFA later, writing conferences later, a women's retreat at Ghost Ranch later, and a lot of thinking and reflecting and journaling and revising, and somehow it all is beginning to come together.  I write therefore I am a writer.  And, it's about time that I open the vaults and put it out there. I am ready.  I am still looking for an agent and wondering how I will get my books, particularly the one above that, I think, can help others who have lost a parent when they were children, available in print.  But I have found a way, imperfect though it may be, to validate myself as a writer.  Although it's a bit of a challenge to do, (formatting is a bitch and requires tons of patience) e publishing offers me possibilities.  Get rich possibilities?  No.  But possibilities that nurture me, the creative me.  The me who cannot help but tell the stories in writing, the stories that need time to evolve into a story.  I often say when I try to speak a story that I am a much better writer.  Likely has something to do with some issue from my childhood, akin to me not thinking I can sing at all.  I sing.  I do it best in my car or house when I'm alone.  I won't be singing in public anytime soon, but my writing is now public.  I am still savoring how it makes me feel when I see my name on the book jacket. For now googling the title and seeing it in the world is enough for me to understand---  I wrote that, world.  I am a writer.  Amen.



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

Latino Insurance

  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

Bridge from Then to Now

       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

Rainbow Writer

   Two years ago I lived on Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, soaking in the creative and peaceful energy that abounds.  I came for a semi-annual writers retreat sponsored by A Room of Her Own Foundation, AROHO.  I walked to my own pace, moved to my own rhythm, broke from what I must and should do, and for seven days I lived, as much as possible, the life of an artist, a writer.  I learned that writing is not only producing words on a page.  Writing is allowing my mind to be free to think, to let the unconscious bubble through to consciousness, without the filter of the day to day rhythm imposed on me in suburbia.  I talked with women who wrote poetry and novels and essays and memoir and creative non-fiction and short stories and chapbooks and published books and unpublished books.  I listened as well to their words, to what was under their words, to what surrounded their words. To what encapsulated us all, containing us together, enriching us.  And on the wind, in the sky, in the earth I saw evidence of connection.  Unspoken often, at other times understood as serendipitous. We spoke of our connections. And in the speaking,   I received a room of my own, a room within my soul that is engraved, writer.  In the summer of 2013 I am excited to return to polish up that engraving.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Voluntary Deportation Program

     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

Sunsets

        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

Writing, the Water of Life

   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

AutoVettor Error

I've spent the past two weeks formatting my book Base Ball: Coming to the Show for ebook publication through Smashwords.  Attention to detail is the keyword to format a book.  I followed the Style Guide to a 't', I thought.  I hired a professional cover designer on fiverr.com.  Great deal.  Anticipating, with format complete and cover, beautiful cover, all ready, I uploaded.  I was 123rd in the queue.  The page refreshed.  I stared on it.  Reminded me of the spinning wheel of the early computer connections, or the test pattern of the even earlier television connection, that was also so fascinating and alluring.  Gave some understanding to me of why so many of us sit transfixed while watching a car chase on tv, when the newscasters have nothing left to say and produce monologs of mirthful ridiculousness.  We stare.  I stared at the screen as it refreshed and randomly exhibited lower and lower numbers until the boxes with the various downloadable forms turned color with spinning circular pattern to green.  From box to box this pattern repeated.   Complete.  Complete.  Complete.  Seven different conversions.  I was complete.  Until "AutoVettor Error".  Mr. Vettor-Error told me that my cover was too small and that I had mixed paragraph formats.  I could not have, he scolded, block paragraphs and indented paragraphs mixed.  I wrote an email to my cover designer and asked for more pixels.  I went through all the paragraphs in the book and removed the spaces before the first line of the next paragraph.  I uploaded again.  AutoVettor Error.  Over two days I looked for those damn dots in front of a word that signaled the paragraph was not block, I uploaded again.  I could not escape the man.  My new cover came back, still beautiful, with the required number of pixels.  Yesterday I went back to the Style Guide and  followed the Nuclear Method exactly and uploaded.  Damn!  I stared at the TextEdit document looking for a sign.  Click!  No indents, but my format code for paragraph was there.  I highlighted the document and hit "apply".  Indented paragraphs appeared.  I smiled.  How could I have missed this? Was this it?  I uploaded the new cover, the new document.  "Congratulations" was on the screen that had previously been shaded in red and now was shaded in green.  I did it!  I have published my first ebook.  Take that Mr. AutoVettor Error! The next time I'll know what to do from the start.  It's really not so difficult, just tedious, just learning to follow every direction and wait for the aha!  This is the beginning of my learning curve.  Now to the marketing, to the finding of an agent.  I will learn to follow every direction and wait for the aha!  But for now, I'll just take a breather.  After all, it's baseball season, and that is important in and of itself.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Still Reaching

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

Bridges

        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

Bella and Bella Redux


    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.

June, 2010
      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

Amish Country Roads

       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

Deprivation


     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

Certainty

   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

chicken soup

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,
inhaling slowly,
they procede with latent speed.
Many need a bowl or cup,
Especially from time to time
To satiate that emptiness
that disconnects
their rhythm from their rhyme.
And some, a clear minority?
An extra needy group,
should fill a swimming pool
to be
enveloped
in
chicken soup.

unless you don't want to ; )

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Breakdown Boxes

 I had been photographing blue sky and water and a bee that had landed on a flower and driftwood on the beach.  I was walking back to my place along the houses on Officer’s Row at Fort Worden in Port Townsend,  when I noticed the trash cans of various kinds, labeled for glass and plastic and non-recyclables.  My eye was drawn to what I took to be a misuse of a direction to break down the boxes and put them in this place.  I chuckled at the bending of the English language when two words become uncomfortable as one, snapped a photograph, and felt smug in catching an unintended joke.  When I noticed the boxes that had been stuffed into that container, I understood  differently.  Yes, in fact, some people do use beer as a breakdown box.  Some people use drugs,  Some people use escape and  addiction, we’ll just put it at that.
     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

Pier Eye

      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

Circumstantial Friends

      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.