Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I grew up the only girl in the family, in the middle, in the same position as my daughter Pia, above with her little brother Brian. Eight years between my eldest brother and me, and twelve between my youngest and me.  Naturally, I looked up to my eldest brother Toni'.

Though he left us to search his fortune at the young age of sixteen, he returned often, at holidays, during the coldest months of the year when work was scarce, and during summer vacations when everything in the city shut down. I looked forward to each return, always rewarded with small gifts and regaled with stories of the world beyond my reach. He and I never had an argument, never spoke an ugly word toward the other.

With my youngest brother, Luigi, I assumed the role of an extra Mom. as my mother fell ill right after he was born, and I was yanked out of school to help around the house. I remember resenting him for making mom ill; but, I also resented him for taking my place as the baby of the house.  I knew resentment and jealousy were sins, and having such feelings would send me surely to hell, so I worked really hard to compensate, made him my responsibility all the time, spoiled him whenever I could.  Even after I left home and moved to America, I made sure to send him gifts and remembrances, constantly reassuring him that there were strong ties between us.

Decades later, I still feel ashamed of my pre-adolescent selfishness, but I'm happy that he grew up to be a very happy man, full of joy, the same zest for life that my father had. Luigi looks exactly as my father did, the same green eyes, the same reddish hair, the same friendly ways around everyone.

When my two brothers (who still live in Italy) received news of the death of my son, (it took me months to put a note in the mail to each of them) each did what each had done throughout their lives.  My eldest brother wrote me a very long letter, scholarly and humanistic,  pragmatic and fatalistic. He reminded me of what a strong woman I have been all my life.

Luigi, instead, called, and his first words were, "You are not alone!", the most serious words I ever heard from him. He reminded me that I still have family; that family is there whether you see them or not; that family will last beyond words; beyond deeds; beyond today.

You carry them all in your heart for eternity.

My two brothers: always a presence in my life. Even though we don't see, nor write to each other often, our ties are as strong as they were when we all gathered at the family table. When one needs the other, we know just what it is we must do.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Like flight and music.

I look for you everywhere,
around the house
around the lake
on craggy shores.

In the  swoosh of a wing
through the ripples of water
and the mournful sounds
of a violin.

You're in the beatings of my heart.

( Diane Cassel, our fiddle teacher, playing  Ashkan Farewell.)
(Happy 32nd birthday, Brian.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Eager for sunny days.

It has been raining and storming for days and days since January. The prospect of six months of indoor life was not what this cat knew in her old days in California.

We are all stuck in the house, waiting for small breaks when we can run out and explore. Here, we are down the path to the boat house, Newkie sniffing around at the tool shed. A minute ago she was whining from the deck, uncomfortable about coming down, begging me to return to her.

She scampers off to this wood pile, and loses herself in the hunt.

She doesn't care for wet surfaces, avoids any creek bed on purpose, jumping over them if they have just been rained on. She has yet to discover slugs and fish and frogs and...

In a month or so, when the rainy season slows down to a trickle and then leaves us for six months, the arbors will rise in my front yard, a new creek bed will join the pond by the front yard,  and Newkie will have a north facing playground to climb on, jump in,  sniff around.
Perhaps, she'll dip her paw in some wet stuff and begin to enjoy the watery world she lives in.
She wants to go out first thing in the morning, eager for me to get out of bed and open the door for her. She stands there and sniffs the rain for a while, then returns to her warm bed by the heater.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Leaving breadcrumbs on the path.

Did you stay on the path you started on?
Did you know the way?
Did you follow someone's map?

Right at the edge of this picture is Cape Blanco, the westernmost point in the contiguous United States. Standing here you realize that  the entire Western World  is behind you!
The entire North America continent!

Someone had to step out into the wild and explore this part of the world.Someone had to set sail and chart new territories. Someone had to draft maps, identify any new fruit, new tubers, new berries, new fowl. Lewis and Clark  explorations of the territories west of the Mississippi were difficult on many levels.

(The town of Port Orford is the oldest town-site on this coast, founded in 1859.)

Every time we step out of our comfort zone, every time we are surprised by life's twists, we are doing what humans have done for millions of years, blazing new trails and adapting. With each mile into a new territory we have expanded our ability to thrive in adversities.

Each generation adds bits of new trails for all of us to follow comfortably.
We just have to remember to write down all the steps, all the turns, all the highlights, so future populations can follow.

This describes physical territories.

How do we chart emotional ones?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A father, a son, a game that binds them.

A baseball field-brownish and clumpy-awaiting the action of youth, and the dream of their parents. Someone will bring out the tiller, the rake, the shovel. Someone will fill that hole, pile that mount, line draw all the bases before baseball season starts.
This is what parents do.
You can do this, kid, a father will tell his son , the kid's glove bigger than his two hands combined. All it takes is practice and focus.
Famous last words~undulating salve to all hurts. Practice and you'll be perfect, a champ even, just remember what I taught you. Just practice and stay focused.

I knew nothing of baseball when my baby joined that first team, the uniform a bit too big, the cap even bigger. His father came out of his dark laboratories and became the coach, in a bright park on a hot afternoon. Ah, I thought, this looks like fun. On that first day,  I worried about my husband getting sunburned, forgetting to drink enough water, forgetting to pace himself, too unaccustomed to the outdoors at his age.  I didn't worry about the kid. He was outdoorsy, full of energy, bruising for a challenge in each sport he took up.

At the end of that  practice, and after each practice and  game after that, all muddy and sweaty and exhausted, the extra equipment safely stashed in the back seat until the next time, we drove to McDonald's for burgers and fries. The American memory came wrapped up this way on these afternoons.

My husband no longer coaches baseball. Yet, every spring, he still drives or walks to the field, and talks to parents and coaches and kids. He and his son played ball together; and that, he will remember every single spring.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On the ledge.

Newkie on the ledge.
(she has never fallen off this ledge, a mere forty feet above a precipice)

She is
smaller than my smallest pillow
and can become as tiny as a tennis ball inside a shoe when she doesn't want to be found.
But against a setting sun
she offers her best volume
fierce and ready
for the interloper.

I can't help wonder
how each of us
challenges the other
to become bigger
or smaller.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Hubby and I in France, 2008

Should you ever wonder how and when I write, these are my inspirations:

1. When I find a picture like this.
2. When my new cat jumps on my lap.
3. Watching the ocean.
4. Weeding in the garden.
5. Realizing what a privilege it is to be alive.

Happy Easter, everyone.