Sunday, December 30, 2012

Can we really know?



Ten years ago, on a sunny February day, we took a walk on this beach right after we moved here, and were most surprised at how bright and sunny the day was, laughing out loud at stories of hurricane winds and biblical floods people had warned us about.

My jean jacket and pants are long gone. My body has changed too.(Happy to report that without really dieting, just cooking for my diabetic husband, we both managed to get our weight down to a reasonable size!)

This rock is no longer here. Through no desire of its own, during  last Thanksgiving Day's storm, this rock shattered and cracked and is now in smaller pieces. We lost a century tree in our yard also. It fell away from the house and the arbors, politely away from the driveway, over the street, to the opposite side of lake, taking down other trees and power lines. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, not even tiny critters who had the good sense to seek shelter before the storm.


We think we can manage to guide changes in our lives: make more money; upgrade a garden; lose weight; gain friends; clean debris; uproot weeds; repair the roof; establish new routines.
I found that changes come; they are all around, big and small. They will surprise us most of the time because we were too busy trying to manage the changes we thought we had to pay attention to.


We witness many things; but, changes that will actually impact us hit us when we least expect them.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

What survives the storms.



I used to like this patch of yard, rose arbor, benches, views. It fit me fine after all the stuff that kept dying from too much water, or too much wind,  or too many pests on this patch of dirt. One year was slugs; then moles; then, baby deer who managed to crawl under the fence and spend the night trapped inside with lots of tender shoots to keep them busy. I found them in the morning, two  tiny rabbit-like mouths, having eaten anything tender, their mother waiting for them outside the fence, watching them the whole time.

This area would be under water most winters, but the Cecil Brunner rose kept growing, and soon an arbor was purchased to contain its exuberance.

The rose was a cutting given to me by someone I barely met, a would-be gardener like m. She too had come to the sea to spend her last years, easily frustrated by the winds, the deer, the constant rain, the little sun, but still attempting to garden by the sea.

She didn't tell me that she was gravely ill. Nancy died the following spring, and this rose, growing beyond her pot, and her border, kept reminding me that life was incomprehensible in its cruelty, and most generous in its beauty.

 After every winter, roses were pruned and staked, dirt rototilled; new plants and amendments added. In the winter of 2011 the whole place was blown over, arbor destroyed, broken in many parts, bushes and trees uprooted, tender roots waterlogged.

As I write this post, my rose is dead. It did not survive the summer transplanting of 2012, when so many people moved, tilled, built.

It had survived so many storms, such intemperate events, and  had continued to bloom under so many difficult conditions. I'm hoping the cutting I took might survive this winter.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

For those whose pain has no name...

A word saved me last year, a phrase
with simple words,
"you're not alone"
from a brother I had not seen in years
his words
encircled my heart
and named my pain.

I felt he passed me
a fine embroidered
lacy hanky
smelling of a jacaranda afternoon
when I reluctantly put the little boy on the back of my
bike and rode off
to visit with my friends.

Then, like an old wound,
a blood red stain on a pretty crinoline
I remember how much he appreciated these little
rides I argued with Mother about.















Friday, December 21, 2012

One life...won't do...

My beautifully wise friend Maggie Tintut and I
at the family reunion, November 2012

Happy Holidays! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"You are not alone..."


(Brian's Memorial Garden, July 2011. Garden upgraded by his friends and colleagues.)

The elementary school shootings in Newtown brought it home to all of us.

Life is a journey with many shadowy curves. Not one of us can predict how it will go, which curve will be too sharp to navigate, which event will be too heavy to bear, where we will crash and burn, where we will tower with understanding and compassion.

This kind of tragedy is unbearable and unthinkable.

Yet, what happens after a tragedy can help you navigate the road to your destination; or, it can leave you shattered. When you have suffered so, the mind wants to process, cancel it, remove it, obliterate all signs. The mind and the will want what they can't have: cancel the event.

Accepting the event, absorbing its impact, means unbearable pain.

A circle of love and compassion needs to stay for as long as needed. Days, weeks, months, years. The victims need to know that they are not alone; that what they feel is real and needs to be uttered. Crying and talking, crying and talking will occur for days and weeks and months. Years later, a similar event experienced in a movie, a song, will bring back all the same feelings.

When I lost my son last year, it was this circle of friends, who called, visited, prepared the house, arranged things, build a memorial garden in my son's name, build a memory walk with loving messages, all these actions helped us feel not alone in our grief.

To the children of Newtown, to the families who are suffering a loss, know that you are not alone; that your grief is felt in our hearts; that the whole nation is in pain. May you find a candle of comfort in this knowledge.






Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing.



A few weeks ago I stopped writing my main and oldest blog, sixtyfivewhatnow. It no longer called me to the keyboard every morning before my first cup of coffee. It had a commitment that weighed me down.

Did I have a responsibility to continue?

Some readers had come and gone; some joined without ever leaving a message. Just a handful had been with me from the beginning. I will continue to follow their writings and discover with them what it means to be alive. (Some shared their voyage through the dark days to their death. The most beautiful writing I've ever known: Moanie, Tessa, Renee.Thank you. Your courage and grace and loving souls are gifts for eternity.)

I navigate this intricate world I inhabit, internally and externally by writing about it, by connecting as much as possible to my deepest core. I write to understand and to embrace this sublime act of living.
This is all we owe to ourselves, and to our readers.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Changing seasons.


A great notion enters through
a keyhole,
an insult
a praise
a slight
a fall
a crevice in the universe
or a desire to live.

No longer yesterday's self
I arrange my words
gestures
carefully
to appear the same to those paying attention
for those who need yesterday to remain in sight.

I have lost yesterdays,
with Mother's passing
loss of country
loss of faith.
I only had to don new apparel
drop the scarf
choose bright colors
the latest fashion
from the hottest shop
to announce my new self
to all who pay attention
to be accepted
into today's world.

Nothing stays the same in nature.







Thursday, November 29, 2012

LA=la land.

I lived in Los Angeles for almost fifty years, longer than anywhere else. Only a handful of places I like to return to:

1. In-N-Out Burger(best burger in town)_
2. Sagebrush Cantina in Calabas (site of most family celebrations)
3. Jerry's Famous Deli in Studio City (site of morning dates while children were little)
4. LACMA ( always a lot to see for one entrance fee)
5. Beaches (only place where you can leave everyone behind)

Forget Disneyland, Universal Studio, and big entertainment centers.

Los Angeles is just too big, too crowded, too expensive, and too rushed.

Even to walk the beaches you have to fight traffic to get close enough to park.
To eat, you have to add 10% to all your orders to cover taxes. (We have no sales taxes in Oregon)
To shop, you have to add hours to get to  and from your place in addition to parking fees and taxes.
A decent seat at the Pantages to see The Book of Mormon will cost you over $200; a one-day pass to Disneyland is $87, and a gallon of gas over $4.  Most parking will be at least $8 and most meals will run $25 and up per person.

When I first came to LA in 1959 life was also complicated and expensive. Only, there were no freeways, no malls, and going to the beaches was a favorite of teenagers. When I left LA in 2003, I knew that LA was not the place for seniors.

It still isn't.




Wednesday, November 28, 2012

That childhood place.

Some where in the middle
of the road
on the way to Grandmother's house
we lost
our way.
So far off
the chart
a compass wouldn't have helped
buried among
pieces and pieces of color-coded
luggage
containing
special toothpaste
and individual hair products
snacks and drinks guaranteed to
still our hunger and thirst for the duration of the trip
securely bundled in
bubble wrap
to prevent spills
and mishaps;
and though we were
distracted
derailed and
angry at each other for not keeping eyes on the road
and focus on the destination
we kept going
in the same direction.

At each place we stopped
we added our version of Grandma's place
comfy chairs one year
a porch
a garden
an imported claw-foot tub
after Beth went to college.

Grandma paid off her house before she retired.
We have just  re-mortgaged ours.




  

Monday, November 26, 2012

The comfort of the familiar.


No bed accepts your body like your bed.
The pillow you lie on bends just so
your ear can fit nicely in its concaveness, a
crevice forms when you will it
making you
forget
you were searching comfort
as you leave this earth.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Good design speaks volumes.

All schools should be brick
buildings with marble stairs. They
last forever; look good; their function
immediately understood.

All good husbands
carry  their wives' purchases;
their babies diaper bags;
phones, receivers;
items necessary for comfort and joy.
They look their part;
their function immediately understood.

All old people should be interviewed:
what mistakes you wish you hadn't made;
how did you select your mate;
did you get all you hoped in your life;
what would you do differently?




Thursday, November 22, 2012

What the cook thinks.

My first thought,
how did I volunteer to cook a Thanksgiving meal
in a strange kitchen?

The second thought, I am still standing
it can't be too bad;
I'll make a list
pick up a few things
after all, everyone likes turkey!

The third thought,
I don't have enough time!

The fourth thought,
Where is the salt?
Nobody told me we needed to purchase salt!
Is there a substitute for salt?



Notes to self:omit the gravy for Uncle Ken; add petite peas for Uncle Scott; cook the pasta extra soft for Auntie Gail; skip the turkey for Cousin Vegan.


The final thought: Thank God for conveniences around us; for the loving people who'll break bread today with us; for the attention someone lavished on our meal today; for the multitude of things we take for granted on a daily basis.
For the cook who volunteers to prepare a  meal in a strange kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving.




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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The mountain of living.

In the interplay of time
and space,
pleasures
and bruises
are exchanged
climbing
a steep mountain
in search of peace.

The view is visible
waves audible
boxed
tracking our
false steps
small victories
tokens
to mark our quest for peace.

In stone
we carve dates
not thoughts;
initials
not deeds;
miscues
for gestures of peace.

Our trekking, up and down the mountain of living, removes more life signs than it adds.





Saturday, November 17, 2012

Change for me, and I'll know then...

Remember how Sleeping Beauty
was awakened by True Love
a valiant prince
who battled monsters and witches
to be at her side?

And how did she know that he
was worthy of her undying affection
and commitment?
He offered her
a ring made of precious stones
recommended by the experts to
cost a year and a half of his wealth
and paid cash on delivery.

Since she had just met him, he had to do more than offer his hand, his wealth, his name.
He had to change the world for her.
Only then, he became the true prince she dreamed about.







Surfacing






I'm waiting to
surface
safe
and unafraid
a Lazarus arising
from a tomb
of self-negations.

Will daylight
shorten
the shadow
of self doubt
that announces me
before I'm present?

Will I look stronger in Spring
And bigger in Winter?
Can Summer hide my pallor?
Can Autumn satiate my hunger?

Is there a season when shadows disappear?




Thursday, November 8, 2012

This I know.


Everymomentuponmoment I listen
for my heart to skip a beat 
hurtlingdownthepathtowardtheend, 
breaking up, 
reaching its expiration date. 

One day, death will be called Elevation 
like a word created under water achieves a new meaning. 
Only 
death cannot be altered
by re-naming.

Though riches and knowledge keep changing, death stays the same.

What we eat, defecate, and consume-
our grandparents never knew as food-
is now reconditioned, labeled and shipped anywhere
where cheap is the new gold standard
and a brand is worth more than the content. 

A young worker in China packages goods
he can't afford to buy; travels days and days by train
without pay
to visit his dying father 
across
the biggest empire in the East
that shipped tea and spices, porcelain and silk garments to a world frozen in grime 
and ignorance,
so he can tell his father 
how he's
building
tomorrow's
Ipads and jet wings,
heart valves. pain killers and dog food,
better and bigger exports China has ever known.

He hopes his father dies content and doesn't see his frayed coat imported from Somali.











Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Do you know how much you count?

One pebble
around another pebble
overcome by pebbles
big and small, round and angular
mostly interchangeable.
Take one pebble away
and then another
and another
and soon
what
remains
is emptiness.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Still life.


Like a polaroid picture
one tiny
bloom 
of color
brings
adventure back in focus. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

And you paid what for that?

One of the two things that attracted me to our present location was an area fenced in and protected from deer and other wild things where I could garden to my heart's delight.  (!The other thing was the proximity to water!)


And this is the way we cultivated food; cauliflower  garlic, a puny squash plant all peeking through agricultural fabric that warmed up the soil, kept weeds at bay, and allowed only the selected plant to push through a hole and develop to full size. The investment in such a method was sizable:  fabric, amendments, drip system, and water.  (Yes, our municipal water system is antiquated and it is very expensive to deliver!)

We anticipated years of successful gardening.

And we did have many good years. All that preparation worked well for a long time.

But not everything lasts. And this method didn't last for a number of reasons:

1. Moles and slugs managed to destroy the tender shoots before we figured out what to do.
2. We never added enough amendments to keep the soil healthy and producing. Sandy soil like ours just didn't produce much. Our neighbors had brought in truckloads and amendments yearly to keep their soil going. We thought they were overdoing!
3. We began to have trouble bending, especially the tiresome work of weeding before planting, and throughout the growing season.
4. The fabric worked well the first couple of years; then, weeds popped up everywhere.
5.  Water costs became prohibitive. We had to invest in a pump and a sand-well water that broke after the first season. We are presently on our third pump!

If this were a commercial enterprise, we would have been bankrupt. We treated our expenses as a part-time hobby, and managed to keep our anticipations  reasonably moderate whenever we added up the expenses.

Some people here in the Northwest, with the ocean and so many rivers and streams do not hesitate spending forty thousand dollars and more for a recreational fishing boat. How could they possibly justify that cost when many times they spend days on the water without catching any fish?

I know . We make visceral choices, and they are just right for what ails us. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

For Millie: Put on a Happy Face, Dear!

300millionprescriptionsforprosacayearintheseUnitedStates.

300 million for all those sad people everywhere, even in the Disney-made 
happiest place on earth surrounded by 
angels, critters and many blooming possibilities.  
If you don't succeed, there is no one to blame.
 If you work hard enough, and
pray long enough, 
eat the right stuff, purchase the appropriate stuff
cultivate a can-do all attitude,
you can turn into a happy person 
and join all the other happy people on the merry-go-round of life.


If you can't  stand yourself, it's because you're concentrating on your suffering, not on your plan for redemption. 
You can't be seen in public this way. 
Helpless
 Angry
and 
Anxious
are not the right faces
for those who aim to go places.


And you know it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

It gets under your skin...

THIS IS OUR NATURAL STATE:

cold, scratched, swept away, tickled,caressed, 
slowed down, washed, removed,  
RENEWED
CLEANSED
REFRESHED
and loved by the universe.




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Better get ready for the next dance!

This place 
juts out
like a tallus 
 hills and forests scaling ocean stacks for miles
and hours. 
Here, sky and land perform wedding rituals
every year at this time
water stirred into frothy chasm
blurring all boundaries.

You can't see land from sky, ocean from shore, one becomes the other, over and around each other they'll blend into one wet dance, a bitter- slasher- monster- dance
that changes the world as you know it. 

 When it's over, and the sun shines again, you forget the sound and the fury, but for the note on the calendar:
Next year, 
Hawaii.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Beneath these Clouds




Today,
everything is
pregnant with possibilities,
rain and sun
and wind
and dust
can star in any part
of the garden drama.

Yesterday,
you complained
everything was too dry, and your
one inch zucchini were just
sticks drying on the vine.
Who could possibly eat such
bitter fruit?

A cloud heard your wish this morning
and drowned the vines
with sweet abandon.

Now, too big
for ordinary meals
and ordinary recipes,
your zucchini
sit unwanted
on the kitchen counter.

The possibilities are no longer
possible.
Too big for one meal,
too much
of a good thing even for your
neighbor
who politely begged for something
else delivered to her door.






Wednesday, October 3, 2012

As time goes by...


This is as close as we get to the sea these days.

All night long, we hear it roar and crash on rocky shores.
Its rhythm  lulls us to sleep every night, loud enough to hush all thoughts.

Its smell is the first thing I notice in the morning, before I make my strong dark brew, as I wash the french press and water my deck plants with the remains of the grounds. I used to sit out in the mornings when we first moved here, fascinated by all the drama out there, the rolling waves, the thundering surf.  I'd sit in my robe and a big blanket and sip my first cup of coffee still in the dark sometimes, sky above, streaks of light from the surf spraying over the rocks below.

This I can still do, for as long as I want, I declare each time I open the sliding door to let the cat out and throw away the old grounds from the urn.

Strength may be slow in returning, I say to my husband as he stops and sits out to recover after a few yards during our daily walks.

It will return, he says with confidence.

We practice our violin for fifteen-twenty minutes a day,(a violin/fiddle we began learning last winter, to get out of our heads, to begin living again!), between television shows, between Jeopardy and The Daily Show. We tune and adjust the instruments for five minutes, do scales for five, attempt a tune for ten. Even before the time is up, my fingers begin to ache, my shoulders too. I stop, go to the bathroom, check the time before declaring myself too tired to continue.

Look, this is a simple tune, he says, before I leave the room,  handing me a sheet of music- Mary Has a Little Lamb- all marked with numbers and letters. Ohhhh! I can do this!!!!

And I try.
And it does sound like the original tune.
How did you know  what numbers and letters go where?
Ah, I read the notations and I wrote them down with numbers for you.
I wish I could read music, I say.
You will...







Thursday, September 27, 2012

What are you doing the rest of your life?


A year?
A decade?
A few decades?
A newly transplanted plant enjoys the new soil- 
its roots go deeper and deeper
every time it's transplanted, every time it's traumatized by a change in the weather. 
Every time. 
Or,it shrivels up and dies.
It's the order of things. 
Live fully or die.

You can get up and make yourself a quick meal right now, thanks to your ancestors who invented the refrigerator, a way to shelter you from storms, and a way to grow food right outside that shelter so you'd never go hungry. (And innumerable variations on storing, transporting, modifying food sources and food consumption.)
You have had millions of others think ahead for your comfort and joy today.
Are you thinking ahead for those others who'll come after you, for their comfort and joy?


What are you doing today?


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Home.

My book club is discussing Marilynne Robinson's Home. We, the eight of us, seven women and an occasional man take turns choosing a book and hosting the discussions, followed by snacks/food that relate to the book's themes, locale.

This is not an easy book to read. One of our members excused herself.
I had a tough time making it through a chapter without sobbing inconsolably.
Most of us already have exchanged quick reviews, phrases like "This book talks about my family!"; or, "This is the heaviest thing I read this year!"

I've chosen this book. And I'm hosting the discussion at my house, in the sun room, with a view of the new garden spaces. The pear tree will attract many to go down to the orchard and pick a bucket or two. Peas and beans and broccoli and cucumbers and zucchini and fava and lettuces and even strawberries will be picked clean by this afternoon. I wanted all this to happen at this time, a sort of emotional landmark for me, and for everyone to know that I survived this year and things are growing and producing, that tough things happen to all of us, (including to the characters in the book), and that we go on, and plant gardens, and cook, and visit with each other.

I'm preparing chicken and dumplings, hoping my dumplings turn out better than the dumplings cooked by the protagonist. For dessert, apple pie and pear cake, both from fruit in my orchard, mimicking how the protagonist constructed her pies.

We'll talk for a couple of hours; we'll choose the next book; we'll exchange tid-bits about the goings on in each others' lives. For a couple of hours my home will house a community of like-spirits, all sharing words written by a stranger, about strangers, from a time and a place most of us might find similar to our childhood, and for those hours we will piece together what it is to feel at home, for the protagonists, and for ourselves.

Home is an important book; it will engage you deeply.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Starting in the middle.

Oh, to know the center
the middle 
of things
an intimate knowledge of beginnings
without the fear of that other way-far-off-stage
waiting for
a piece of mail
a check
a visit from a loved one.

Beginnings
are unfilled pods
unripe fruit
a hint of a true self.

Only endings offer completeness.

Oh, how much more useful
it might be to know
the ending
that molting
being
we fear to become.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An elusive wish.

We stood in line
to be selected for the play
five- year- old, confident, eager
knowing all the lines
by heart.

We need a blonde ingenue, the director stated
to parents and children waiting to be called up on stage,
a sweet, innocent, most beautiful and fair
ingenue whom everyone will love
and admire.
If you are blonde, come up front.

We looked around, and all of us with dark
hair and dark complexions
marched out without an audition.

I'm o.k, I said,
squeezing Mother's hand.

And for the next forty years, I kept looking for
that magic product that would help me look like that
blonde ingenue, that sweet, innocent, most beautiful
and fair.

Wanting to be  chosen stays with you forever.









Monday, September 10, 2012

Last wishes.


Old driftwood, biding its time
till next resurrection
a staircase for an old maid
a puppet for a child.

It's posed for an intervention
nourished daily with each lapping wave
each trembling quake
hoping a wayward tide
would dislodge it from this cemetery.

Hope rarely moves a mountain.
Only the destructive force of a hurricane
or an earthquake insures mountains
and driftwood get their last wishes.








Thursday, September 6, 2012

Some people do it better.

Here I am eating mussels in wine broth at Redfish Restaurant in Port Orford, a dish I would normally prepare and eat at home.

I have prepared many steamed mussels and clams dishes, Our Christmas Vigil meal always included a chioppino or steamed clams. How is it then that I gladly leave the comforts of home, and come here to enjoy a simple meal like this?

Simple.

I do not know great suppliers, fishermen or distributors of seafood products who'd drop everything and bring me what I need, when I need it, as often as I need it. A restaurant has those connections, or better have them. A restaurant scouts up and down the food chain for just that ability to get a good product to prepare on their premises. If they can't get it, they don't serve it!

I would have to get a seafood harvesting license, don my waterproof boots, identify areas in my vicinity where mussels are safe to harvest, and spend a cold morning by rocky shores trying to pull and cut enough mussels to feed me. The license is the only easy step in this transaction.

I notice that Redfish has special salt flakes on its unsalted butter! What are those red flakes, I ask.  They inform me I'm tasting Hawaiian salt. What a delightful change on the palate, for sure, I admit. Now that's better than any butter I ever tasted. Oh, it is ordinary until the flakes are added.

So, I try to improve my cooking skills by searching and acquiring great products as the professionals have done, and accept that they will do a better job providing me with memorable meals when I'm not able to do so. Yes, some people can do things better than I can. And they are worth every penny they charge. Plus tips!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Literature on the streets.







Tiles on the street at the bus stop in front of the Ferry Building, San Francisco.
How wonderful is that?

Monday, August 27, 2012

I knew not to build on sand.


What was I supposed to be
supposed to do
to
transform
the world for you?

Miracles I thought
were pots full of hope.
So, with every meal I cooked
every plant I nurtured
every line I wrote
every book I read,
new tomorrows were evolving
around us
bright packages
at the back door
fair bargains
for my naive prayers.

I had no business
expecting more,
illiterate as I
was
in the ways of miracles.

I was the type of mother
who knew not which  roads
to travel
which story to weave
which mine to invest in
what silver spoons were or weren't
or what they would be used for.

I walked on sandy shores every day
looking to reach solid ground
so your first steps would be stable
your voice clearer
your talent
planted on fertile ground.

Who would have predicted
the seismic change
of fortune
that turned solid ground
to slippery sands in seconds.

I knew not to build on sand.
I didn't know not to build with miracles.







Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Follow your heart...the universe knows."

Found poem on a red cup, in the Starbucks section
of Barnes and Noble,
in Eugene, Oregon. United States. North America.
The i in the word universe dotted with a star!



The world belongs to dreamers,
and marketers
and schemers
and those who position stores within stores
and painters
by numbers
and arrows
blurring lines along the way
moving you around and through a place
so you don't miss anything you might ever want
and didn't know that before you dropped in.

We've become a nation of
peddlers
tapping into others' dreams
for the moment it takes to
unload the truck of cheap imports.

Only,
your heart knows why you buy into this dream
why you buy into any dream
not your own.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The small things.

This is the door to my cottage in a small sea town in the Northwest of the United States.  To reach the door, you have to go over a bridge of sorts, as the house sits above street level. At night, the bridge is lighted from below! A grand entry for a modest cottage. Off this bridge, before you reach the street, you travel on pea gravel, watching your steps lest you'd step on deer poop.

Deer roam freely, and often stop by this camellia bush and chew up the lower branches.

This picture was taken a while back, around Halloween. The pumpkins didn't invite people up to the house; the footbridge did, and does, every single day. And this cranberry door.
Just a few years ago I wouldn't have picked this color for my front door. I wanted doors that didn't call attention; doors that remained closed to the world; doors that didn't invite people to circle around the neighborhood and case this joint.

There is a certain attitude about living in rural areas. Doors remain unlocked. Everyone has pets. Everyone's pet is known to everyone else.  We identify our houses by our doors, or some unusual tree that would cause a stranger to focus on as he wanders down the street.

Even though my front garden and driveway have been upgraded, this bridge and this door-now-more-than-ever-stand out from the street. When someone asks me where I live, I mention the cranberry door and the foot bridge.

Well, I can also mention the arbors across the front door!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The very sound of you.

So that you know: It took me years to find the right name for You.
You are bound to 
the bone
the marrow
the sinews
of every
thing I have named
to stand out in this soup
called universe
a chain  of
incidents
parts
movements
and objects
visible and invisible
loved
or feared
or wished for
marking
all the
connections
I  made so far.

I gave you a name I loved to hear out loud.
We were all named for the same reason.













Thursday, August 9, 2012

When night comes...



When night comes on padded paws
settling in my curves, against my aching hips
purring
a familiar tune,
I surrender.

No use fighting the day's screeches
habitual gnats of discontent
that stick around all night
waiting for that glass of water that is never offered.

I'm
spent to the bone
I declare to no one in particular; I'm  just gonna put my head down
close my eyes
and remember what eyes and toes and fingers feel like.
Parts numbed by day's labor, great and small,
demand full attention.

Before night is over, it puts all parts back in the same whole.





Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I know why we left.


A lion surprised us one night
and wildly and madly we rushed after it
thrashing sons and cousins
fathers and uncles
men and women
of all sizes
eager to keep the ultimate prize for ourselves.

After the kill,
our hunger satiated,
we told the story
of that thrashing and maiming
through the dark night
the glory
the power
the heroic acts.

Nobody ever noticed how
the innocent killed on the way were never mentioned in our story.

Nobody carried their bodies back; gave them a proper burial;
praised their lives, their ultimate sacrifice.

When someone asked about the missing, we promptly dishonored all who died:
found faults in their steps
blamed them for their fall
reminded everyone how hunger for power kills those who think they can kill a lion.

Only the brave can have such dreams.

Foolish are those who live with illusions of grandeur.
They deserve what they get, we said, with conviction.

If we felt any shame, we drowned it with libations.
If anybody complained, they too became the power-hungry and the fools.











Saturday, August 4, 2012

Per me si va...

You need passwords and case -sensitive- random letters -numbers?
I thought high-school lockers were hard to crack!
Are our secrets so important?

Is this our new hell?





Thursday, August 2, 2012

Trading times.


On sad days, I trade sun for rain
to hide tears etching my face.
On hungry ones, bread for paper.
Music for dollars on busy days
And a steady husband over a quick lover any time.

On stormy nights when  houses turn into boats
I trade warm hugs for anything else I own.
On laundry days, the odd socks.
On fishing days, the tangled lines.

Trading is how time moves between days.
Except when it is all spent.





Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We do have these gifts.

A storm -cleared Pacific Ocean by Garrison Lake.


It was on this day
our prayers filled the void,
our heads bowed low
worshiping the light
in the void.

And here too we experienced
the loss,
paradise floating off the horizon
before our eyes
could adjust to the dark.

Life is cruel, you shouted.

I had no answer for you, then.
Or now.

I only know that at sunset, we'll marvel once again.
And we'll suffer another loss, once again.








Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What I don't carry fills the rest of my bag...

I pack lightly these days:
underwear
comfortable shoes
a raincoat.

If I need something badly I can purchase it anywhere.
Someone is bound to have all the things we ever want or need
or inventing something we
don't know yet we want.

The rest: 
sad thoughts
un-packable regrets
wordless thanks 
gift-less objects 
each scent
each sight
a tiny molecule in the trunk of loss that follows me everywhere.









Friday, July 20, 2012

Attention Surplus Syndrome

Thirteen and still not kissed.
Bumps, distractions, irritations
Middle of the day in middle school. 


She buys an ice-cream cone, knowing He'll see and stop and talk on the way back to class. For a good twenty minutes, she watches the basketball game He's playing, knowing He'll want a lick or two, and then...  


A very tall girl in red gym shorts, she used to play basketball, before she thought of licking this cone slowly, letting sugar puddles form on her closed fist and drip down her long torso wetting her gym shirt. She saw this in a t.v. show and took notes, when she still took good notes. 


The lunch- end- stampede scatters the crowd, and she loses sight of Him. 


She rushes to the bathroom to wash up and text him,and now she's late for class and sure to gain detention after school. 

She has to find another way.











Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hungry.

How could this be,  
this dreaming about food all the time?
I could make lemonade,
or the
icy thing on top of the other icy thing,
tart, refreshing
orchard mellow on the tongue,
something to quell my thirst,
or dull my hunger.

But I don't.

I leaf through the
many cookbooks I  don't use to cook with;
and like shoes I never wear
and lipsticks colors I can't match,
those foods remain dreams I could have
and life-choices I could make
in my twenty four hungry hours.

.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Worded.




A soothing sight
without a nod to the fallen leaves
or the splintered wings
after the last storm.

This sunset promises
tomorrow's lines of hope
in long strokes of yellow and red and maroon
without a word of regret for last night. 


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Searching for the whole package.

Ever on the road
an eye on the past
an ear to the future
a melody  stuck in the teeth
after that happy meal on the Pearblossom Highway 
one desert giving way to another
with valleys in between
Antelope, Moreno, Simi 
looking for Pacific winds
and promises of rain
America stretching in the rear-view mirror
getting tired and fatter by the miles.

We must have thought those drive-ins around the corner
the one with cute girls on rollerskates
delivering American food by the quarter pound
at our windows,
an all-American meal with fries and a coke
and a milk-shake for the road ahead,
we must have thought the future had arrived,
with that meal, those girls, and straight teeth smiles everywhere.







Home is just above the ridge line
you told your children
squeezed in the back seats, fumbling with their 
promised happiness toys from the last food stop.

Truth was nowhere in sight, you kept discovering, decade after decade, in the mist
of forgetfulness and desire for a change
truth was never a known fact like cooking for five remained
after the five were no longer around
and then the two of you
kept bringing home Oreos and chocolate chips. 
You hid the cookies by placing them on the top shelf
ignoring the fact that you were the only one who couldn't reach the top shelf.

Houses got bigger when you no longer needed them so big.
And quiet.


Your idea of a perfect house
where no one would
forget to call home when they were late
with children's drawings on the refrigerator and a calendar with dental appointments
and times for cupcakes to be delivered to school,
must have been a story you read in a fiction book.







Counting up the rings of life.


When you die
they'll talk about you as though you were a tree
a solid mass
forever growing and dying
and shedding
and blooming
with tomorrows.

They'll say you didn't look old 
missing
signs that were there all along
collar chokes
tempests of famine and drought
etched in your DNA
visible only when cut down.

They'll remember the time you showed them how to plug that contraption that gave them trouble, how you rent a truck and moved them across town, how you fixed them BBQ when they were hungry, how they took themselves in and out of your backdoor when they needed shelter. You remained as young as they were, forever school mates looking for the next adventure.

All our hopeful acts are etched in our growing wood
and these they will count up when you go.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thinking, dried up, mixed, jarred and served with everything.




We all collect stuff, a pot here, a scarf there. The object appears and becomes part of our decor. Mostly, we collect what is right at hand, including stuff we ingest, or stuff that becomes part of our thinking.

These herbs, marjoram, thyme, mint, parsley,  happen to grow well here, and are perennial for the most part. I gathered a bunch a few weeks ago, dried them by hanging them upside down over my kitchen counter, and then, crumbled and stuffed them in an empty jar.

I will use this mixture to season everything when fresh herbs are not available.
This is my lazy method of adding spice and flavor to my meals.
Last year, I had lavender, oregano, dill, and sage growing in abundance.

This is mostly how we come to decide what to think about things, in our daily lives. As a matter of fact, the science suggests that we decide impulsively, and then come up with a rationale to justify our decisions.

We gather what's available around us; people, books, magazines, television, music, movies, neighbors and friends from childhood, and all these ideas percolate and mix with other ideas, getting sorted out based on our daily needs and experiences.

When we are thirty or so, we hear ourselves say the same stuff our grandparents said to our mothers. We tend to vote like them, and like them, we watch the same television shows, go out to eat at the same types of establishments, and so, after a while, all these habits and thoughts become part of what we have become. We have become liberal or conservative, religious or not, for this or that cause, mainly based on what thoughts were shared around us as we grew up.

Now, that sounds grim and depressing. We want to be in charge of our own thinking, right?
Think of how much time and energy  you invest in researching goods and services before you decide to purchase or hire people. Do you go out of your way to gather opinions that are not like yours?

And that's the rub!

We use what we know and have already, like the mix of herbs I have.
We trust our instincts, right or wrong.
We are more impulsive than we admit.


Ugh! I guess we have to trust someone else to do the research and give us the results.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Tenth Birthday, Newkie!

Newkie was Brian's birthday present for his 22nd birthday, ten years ago last April.  Her name refers to Newcastle Beer's rich caramel color. (Thanks, Catalina, for these details.)

She follows me around as a dog would, waking me in the morning by jumping on the bed and remaining there until I move and stretch and greet the day by scratching her under the chin. Then, both of us up barely at dawn's early light, we walk to the bathroom, where she waits patiently before scurrying over and waiting for her cat dish to be freshened, and her litter box attended to.

As I fix breakfast,  she sits patiently by the door until I'm ready to return to bed with my tray.  She sits patiently through my first cup of coffee, and then, as I get up for a refill, she stands and whines by the sliding door. She scurries out, unless it rains, at which time she sits by the open door and is contented to watch the world at a distance.

In the evening, she sits by the bedroom door and waits for me to get to bed. She then climbs next to me, and waits until I fall asleep before taking her place on her own platform.

She comes when I call her, most of the time. Otherwise, she's always looking for a new place to hide! Yes, her biggest game indoors is to find a new hiding place. She loves to be chased and to disappear for a while.

She ignores human food unless it is fish.

She notices if anyone approaches the driveway, and scurries off to hide, especially if the intruder comes with a noisy machine. Otherwise, she spends many hours on the deck or around the yard. A few times she has followed me down to the lake, or out on the street.

Whenever she sees another cat around, she moves back in the house. She doesn't seem to need the companionship of other felines.

I notice how much she eats; how much she defecates; how much time she spends sleeping or crouched at the window sill. As I notice her, she notices me, aware of my presence or absence. Whenever we arrive home after an absence of an hour or a day, she greets us at the door
I brush her fur, and she extends herself on all sides, luxuriating in the experience. Sometimes she wakes suddenly and stands in front of the basket where I keep the brush, stretching herself in anticipation. One single meow, and  we know what comes next. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Publishing.

Nobody can do the work of birthing for you. The labor is painful and necessary, scary and exhausting. But, it has to be done. Your first one will take forever and cause you to wander how was it that you didn't die. The second, and third, easier.

By the fourth, you are an expert. You  tell people, it's a piece of cake.

You see people with few skills do it with ease, and you wonder what is about the task that frightens you so.  How difficult could it be?

A neighbor of mine has published four books already. And he did it with a few dollars, and a good friend who arranged the hand-printing and hand binding for him.
Another has collected editors and illustrators on her own, and managed to get the books on e-book and on Amazon.

I chose blogging. No up-front fees or monthly expenses. I could try out my stories, and get feedback. For me, publishing/sharing this way is a no-brainer. It feels natural, sympathetic. I can do it without leaving the comforts of home. With no hurry. My readers, however, do not offer much criticism. They act like visitors at a museum. They nod; they praise; they congratulate. I am encouraged; but it could all be false praise, the way we encourage children's work and put it up on the refrigerator.  If teachers and critics didn't ask for changes and elaborations, our work would be very much like the early drawings our mothers put up on the refrigerator.

In real publishing-unlike the self-publishing, there are many steps, many critical eyes that will read your work before any work is performed to put it in the hands of readers.  These critical eyes will scour every aspect of the work, from the arc of the story, to the market value after it is out there.  Editors who might be assigned to help you get the work even more polished than it is already, are highly trained and will only take up work that fits their aesthetic judgement, and has potential to make the company some good money.  They will reject Ernest Hemingway as well as you if they do not see real dollar signs at the end of the preparation work they all do.

Now, I'm not ready for real publishing. I'm not ready for self/publishing. I'm taking baby steps, knowing they are beginning steps. I'm not in a hurry. Working here, at this keyboard, every day, in the early hours when only my cat is awake, and a few birds keep her occupied, I hear sounds from deep inside, gurgles of long-forgotten hurts and joys. My soul wants to meditate on these sounds right now.  

We all have to nurture our souls. Some of us paint; some create music; some read the work of others. We try to find that voice that is deep within each of  us,  the stuff that keeps us wondering, dreaming, engaged. Detached and quiet, we let truths surface and visit now and then. We hope and long to understand, to see the arc of our lives and the colors of our dreams.

On days like today, I wonder how we created all the concepts that have become our truths: love, honor, duty, obligations, god, heaven, hell, paradise, country, liberty, family, motherhood, fatherhood, ecology...








Thursday, June 14, 2012

Praying to Bob Cohen

I met Bob the first day I attended the Bandon Writers' meeting at the Unity Church. I almost didn't go, a church was the last place I wanted to go to share my writing. The room was small, cozy, well lit from many windows. Some people even pulled the shades because the light was too bright for them.

Bob, and John, and another John, and Bill and Mary and Anne, and...Names blurred those first weeks. What didn't blur were the stories each told. I began to look forward to the stories.

Bob read his poems in a soft voice. Funny, I thought, he looks like he'd have a big voice.  His  poem on that first day, was about a kid in a playground, throwing sand at another kid and then running away in a hurry. In this poem, he revealed the need to get back at a bully, to attack him and make him pay for the acts he had committed. (That's what I remember about that poem.)

I was beginning to share some memoir pieces at that time. First person narratives. While everyone was concentrating on "fixing" my syntax here and there, Bob told me that I didn't have to fix anything if what I wanted to capture was the very essence of my soul. "That's who you are now, as you retell your story, and your reader will feel and know you intimately if you use the language you normally use."

On days when I need to get something out on paper, I think of Bob Cohen, now dead and gone. I think of how he would start to capture that feeling, that scene, and I accept who I am, the limitations of my skills, the ordinary topics I concentrate on.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Edging.

(in the photo: Brian in 2008 in Port Orford)

We see so little
of the universe as we hold tightly to the
tail ends of our balloons 
fighting the winds
that spin us around and around
and drop us in the same place.

At the creek's end
I sliced through the topography, I asked you what was the matter that morning.
You told me your hair was.

We just notice what we are interested in, I said.
This bothers me more than it should, you said.
And the talk stalled
as we walked back home silently.
You looked disappointed.
I thought I did that to you with the genes I bestowed
without the additional comfort and joy
and ribbons
that come with life-long presents.
If I said anything, you didn't catch it.
If you said anything, I lost it.








Sunday, June 3, 2012

Graduating words.


Dear graduate,

in a few hours,
you'll step lively from childhood  
and all familiar stomping grounds,
leaving our expectations casually in the old backpack
and you will declare yourself grown-up
with a final toss of the cap to the wind.

You've grown 
with a mountain of do's and don'ts
a river of this and that
handed down from mother to daughter
father to son
generation after generation
protecting names and fortunes
so you could get to this moment with ease.

Your father and I are sending you out 
with a prayer:

that you continue to grow
responsible and hard-working
faithful,honest
and temperate.

You know a few things, most of which will not help you during stormy nights because you never have been alone before to fight fear and loneliness, even disappointment, a simple thing, like when friends forget to pick you up.  You had never doubted the loyalty of friends before. Now, all of you away from home, you will anticipate eating what and when you want; going to bed past bedtime, and having freedoms you never had at home.

We're proud of you!
We're behind you
onehundredpercent.


All this translates into three words: Don't F- Up!
(Guess what? You are bound to F-UP! sometimes. Know that humans do it without trying.)
But try to open that expectation backpack at least once a week. There, you will be reminded of what you should become, if you choose to become.
In all honesty? Don't waste your time and your family's fortune if you are going to F-Up. Just say so and save everyone future grief.

After all, this is your life. And now, you're fully in charge.

(You do know that we are all rooting for you, and watching out for you!)

Congratulations!


Love you always,
Mom and Dad
and siblings
and Grandpa and Grandma
and Auntie Anne
and Uncle Bill
and Cousins Jim and Joe,
and all our neighbors for whom you babysat and housesat, and delivered papers to.



(Don't forget to call us often. Even if it is for money needs.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

A personal perspective.

These lavender wands are only five-seven inches tall, but in front of a fallen bench they appear bigger, more important. The rose branch? Smaller. I know these truths but I let the picture stand.
I smile at the disjointed lies formed in this frame.

A curator would call this "An assertion of strength by the weakest of elements".

A visual artist would re-position one or two elements to balance, to focus, to create a mood.
Words miss creating a meaning too.

The truth? I crouched to take the picture, and the focus changed. What did I want to capture? Not the rose branch, not the lavender pods, but the broken arbor bench after a storm.




Thursday, May 17, 2012

The power of art to reach the heart.

I heard the phrase on the radio, in a song. "I hope you know", the refrain went, and my heart skipped a beat.  Tears followed, and lips trembled. I hope you know how much you were loved, I murmured to myself, speaking to my dead son.

What we don't say can cover volumes. We are filled with joy and sorrow and doubt and anxiety in a single moment, and what comes out of our mouths is barely representative of our status. I could use a cappuccino right now, I say out loud, meaning I'm thirsty for comfort, for a moment to re-assess, a moment to wipe the face, blow the nose, let the cat out and wander off in the woods. I want to shout out to the Universe, I hope you know too!

We  guess people's frame of mind when we see them, when we read their notes,  missives, jokes, comments on Facebook. How we shout constantly, yet no one ever hears the real us. We are glimmers of life in a desert, tiny signals, easily missed .

I envy the writers, the painters, the singers, the artists who are not afraid to lay their hearts out in small doses. They too are sending signals hoping we learn their truths: one brush stroke at a time, one note at a time, one phrase at a time.




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Framed.

 A cage- fence- intrusion- inclusion-obstruction
passive,protective,distracting.
In or Out?
Free or Kept?
Marked or Not?
A tiny hole
in a vast universe.
All I wanted was a way for my Passionata to frame a lovely vista
Now, my cat thinks of it as her jungle gym.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

His and hers.


ON our trip to San Francisco a week ago we explored the neighborhood around Fisherman Warf, right out of our hotel.
Top photo: Hubby watching boats, people...
Bottom photo: woman( my stand-in), watching the sea. Imagine that woman would have been me if I were not taking the photos.)

We are two coins, two goals, both needing what the other has. Each nourished by what the other craves:

He's enchanted by stores: Buys art, gadgets, machines.
I detect manipulation in stores, and walk in with a list, looking for my necessities.
He has machines and tools he will never use.
I stock up on consumables.

I sit in silence after all the activity of the day, contemplating.
He starts conversations with anyone, for hours, for no reason.
He moves without a destination, without a jacket, without a snack, anticipating new corners.
I need a reason to move, pack extra layers and nuts and fruit, armed with a map.
He's nurtured with all things that  radiate human accomplishment.
I'm nurtured with  things that are simply there, in the wind, in the forest.
He'll eat at a new restaurant, savoring a new menu in advance.
I prefer old haunts, reliable places where the food is predictable.

Our children? They have inherited both sets of traits!






Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Once she skipped.



Someone showed her drawings found in her mother's house.

Always a house
and a chimney
and a big tree on the west side
a tall one, in full bloom
with an expansive orchard on the south side
fruiting in season
grass lounging in green
birds flipping shadows in the breeze.
A little girl skipping out the front door,
coloring the sidewalk with her shadow
pigtails and  skirts
billowing in tune with her singing.

She skipped, Skip to My Lou! She lived a fairy tale life after all.




Friday, May 4, 2012

Living under water.





Blood hides 
among parts
behind parts
threatening to
 spill out 
at any moment
from encountering a tiny
 rose thorn.

A small trickle of the Colorado
gouged  mountains
and etched new planes.

The universe floats on the waters we spill.

Good intentions.


Should I tell you?
Please do!
You won't be shocked? Cause, it's hard to tell if you are really here.
What? Wait, I'm ...
O.K. Some other time when you have time, and I have time...
Quick, tell me now.
Are you sure?
Sorry, I'm o...f....f....f.

Heck, read my blog if you want to know!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Poetry of Loss, #3



I have officially stopped traveling to Wishland  
with its ribbonned packages 
and smells of favorite fluff
like anise biscotti
and steamy coffee mugs, and creamy concoctions
created for my pleasure. 


I now wake with a hunger that has no name
for that rare occurrence
when the earth tilts on its axis
and the firmament goes back
 to the day its orbit
smiled on us.

Perhaps a snow day would suffice.  





*snow is a rare occurrence on these shores