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?