Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New what?

Kathy Mattea - Give Yourself to Love

Video from Sunsong 23.

At the end of 2009 I experienced a strong urging to be more intentional about, more committed to having a blog. In 2009 I posted 33 times. With this addition, I will have 135 posts for 2010, for which my goal was 10 postings a month. Consistency sometimes challenges me. To know this and to turn it into an asset is like teaching two squirming life-forms with nothing in common to waltz.

Half-way into 2010, an urging from the same source suggested seeking a wider list of blogging writers to read. Chance or fortune led me to a group from which I am learning about poetry. With their help, and the relentless encouragement of my brother, I find occasional poetic phrases to elevate my prose. To do more of that is my wish for 2011.

Writing is a river flowing alongside the town that is me. It is a constant, now more independent, maturing almost on its own, while I show up at my day job of trying to find peace and cajoling it into reliable attendance.

Some - perhaps all - of us are speckled with drawbacks, obvious as the age spots on some of our hands. What an assignment, befriending the shortcomings, spending enough time with them to identify their strengths. I am running a drop-in center for those labeled under-achievers. They are surly and reluctant, while wanting so much to find a place where someone can see past their thorns.

To know and embrace the true self, to do the dance of joy every day without that fatal whiff of disappointment turning the air toxic, I believe in this. It is love.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Something in the air

(Written in the morning, posted quite a bit later...)

Fifteen minutes ago I could have declared a monkey's wedding in Pasadena, for it was raining while the sun was out. I hope they started the festivities right away, for conditions changed again. My former husband, born in South Africa, introduced me to the expression "monkey's wedding" for that specific meteorological condition. I always wonder what they serve at the reception and marvel at guests who can show up on such short notice.

Though our storm is moving from west to east, lower clouds were being blown east to west, flying, really, vaporous and transient as breath on a mirror. We are not often treated to cloud formations which assume shapes and travel quickly. I connect those days with kites, since wind is usually a factor. Putting thoughts of damp, cold, stiff and crazy out of my mind, I savored how much I once enjoyed lying on the lawn as the mottled sky reeled, especially if I'd been twirling before I dropped. I knew twirling made the earth tilt.

Storms and positive/negative ions, the expansion/contraction of cold getting colder, have influence on my brain, the physiological one that is powered by chemicals too frequently out of true and by what blood and oxygen reach it. Rain once brought me calm, which may not be the way of it now. I will not allow today to be the determining example of whether or not that is still so. I wish deep peace was always within reach and that the mind part of my brain could be soothed and quieted with sweet mother words.

What has brought me closer to center in the past two days is laughing, the kind that probably makes the neighbors look at each other and shrug, the loud, explosive bark. The ability of humor, of rich silliness to surprise, is one of my treasures. There is no medication better than funny.

This afternoon it was MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000'S holiday offering, a dubbed Mexican exercise in the surreal called SANTA CLAUS. Last night it was my second viewing of THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX by Wes Anderson, a movie I love so much for everything about it from the way Mr. Fox eats his breakfast to his wild, Andersonesque plots of stealth and theft that I, as Pee-Wee Herman suggests, would happily marry it.

I say sincerely that I think I could become a better version of myself if I watched it every day, committing the dialogue to memory and honoring what feels like too much "different" within me with reverence, not rejection. It is joy undiluted, idea and execution, and I am left weak with gratitude that the gifts of Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson, among others, produced this furry love child.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

I had compiled a list of reasons for having the blues on December 23. For about 10 minutes they seemed to matter, then their smallness betrayed them.

Imperfection, disappointment, discomfort, uncertainty. Please. Is this the best you can do?

It is just another (what we like to call) Thursday on planet Earth, heading into the unknowability of tomorrow. That it is now less than two days until Christmas lets me try and give additional weight to mood shifts of unknown origin.

If possible, I will find a cure for my amnesia by morning. If I don't find one, I'll pretend I did. I am most unhappy when I forget all the things for which I am grateful, all the ways in which my life is abundant.

Growing older is a gift. Maturing past the point of Christmas magic is more than some are allotted. I am not confused. But I drift off course at times, take a wrong turn and find myself waiting behind the bedroom door with my baby sister, tying my bathrobe sash again and listening for the voice that says, "Okay, kids. Come on out." Merry Christmas Mike, Laurie, Barbara and Russ. I have no cause to be blue.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The price of procrastination

Contrary to my overly optimistic plan, putting on my Christmas hat has not added more hours to my days or more oomph to my hours. I am not even close to where I need to be for the deadlines that stir, like waking dragons, on the near horizon.

Waiting for the organic impulse to make cards, maybe a gift or two, rather than bullying my unwilling self into starting them sooner has resulted in (is anyone surprised?) last-minute anxiety. The very thing I worked so intently to avoid.

There is also a non-Christmas project due in another state by the 27th. I very much want to complete it, in the best fashion, and need to allow myself time to noodle.

All of which is to say that I have missed keeping up with my favorite bloggers, missed being able to give myself the option of commenting on their posts. It feels like an accidental exile, not a happy thing.

I miss checking in to see what you've shared and I will return in a more consistent way...soon. Meanwhile, I'm the one with the pencil or paintbrush, those vertical lines between my eyebrows deepening as I try to turn thought into matter.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Slow dancing

This has little to do with Christmas, except, perhaps that the wish centers of our brains or hearts are hyper-activated. Long-ago desires, met or unmet, take form, fit themselves around us. They move in close. In voices sweet or taunting, they remind us of all the ways in which we felt heard, acknowledged, even spoiled. Or they illuminate gaps in the continuum, whatever might have been the piece that pulled our metaphoric room together. Ever the daydream believer, I think there may be a yearning for which it is not too late. Even the possibility is enough to carry me along.

Since I cannot speak for others, I will say that, through my decades, I have displayed a remarkable capacity for getting it wrong. Misreading the signs, succumbing to brain chemistry that is not all it might be, discounting intuition, hastening forth on too little information, doubting that the good which seems too good to be true might, this once, be so. With grace and good fortune, we survive our mistakes. If we don't survive them intact, we still continue as altered, mutant versions of our once-selves.

There is a dance, one slow dance, that never happened. It is 40 years later, will be later still if it ever becomes real. That a brief and ferociously under-fed romance survives to flare occasionally through dreams and conversations, outlasting the Berlin Wall, marriages, reliable journalism, John Lennon and George Harrison, and youth, is, well, my definition of a miracle. An almost sure candidate for extinction, the resilient creature lives on. Who would not love a beast so stubborn.

Picked for the day we shared a bowl of lentil soup and it was playing in the car, what follows is my choice for the dream-sequence dance. It also has Santo and Johnny overtones that resonate for the teenaged part of my brain. Once I play it here, I can return to my normal life, surrender expectations and be happy that I gave a fantasy some air. It could be enough to keep it breathing on its own for another 25 years.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Henry finds a friend

Henry and his mom continue their visitations at Cedars/Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. The were invited to the hospital's recent Christmas party, which included a blessing of the animals. I imagine that all are blessed on a regular basis by those they encounter. Still, this was intentional and festive.

The new photo of Henry, above, gives a better indication of his regal size. He is a big boy. He is also not known to cozy up to unfamiliar dogs. The cats in his home life consider him one of them.

So it was with great pleasure and considerable surprise that his mom sent me photos and the announcement that Henry had found a friend at the party. His new pal is Toby, also a volunteer visitor and, clearly, about the size of Henry's head.

Picture this pair trotting into your room, feel mirth displace any worry you've been carrying. I haven't heard if they will making calls together but the simple thought of it has brightened my day.

What better than a new friend for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The season of cardboard

Christmas box rubber stamps from Rubbermoon (bottom of page you land on, then top of the next page.)

Cardboard houses, glittered or sprinkled with bumpy composition snow. Window spaces filled with amber-colored cellophane to simulate the light cast from Christmastime living rooms. These, I believe, are my icons, hold-overs from a 1950s childhood, a few of their swap-meet kin stepping in to replace the lost originals. They've held up surprisingly well. I do love cardboard.

The Christmas of my child heart always begins at the dime store, walking the aisles of creaking wooden floors, seeing myself small enough to call these paper neighborhoods home. In the way that snow globes beckon in others' Christmas reveries, one of these palm-sized, chimneyed cottages set on a branch, next to a bubble light, is a vignette that takes me home.

Image, thanks to

Saturday, December 11, 2010


The third try is IT. Two draft posts (which must be deleted before something awful happens and they somehow appear), just brimming with angst, uncertainty, estrangement, the gloom of my inner Eeyore, doubt and what may be a bit of depression or may just be self-pity, on which I have been laboring for far too long, have not managed to express whatever THIS is and the writing was truly cringe-worthy.

Instead I will share my discovery of the week: it is not possible to hear the voice in my head when I'm singing. To call the voice an inner Eeyore disparages the grey donkey of whom A.A. Milne was clearly fond, for it is not merely glum with a tendency toward pessimism. It has come to spoil the party. I am getting way too old for this.

Wearing a crowd-counter on my waistband might help me keep track of how many times in a day I say, "I don't know." Or I could do those |||| marks with the diagonal that signifies five. In my (not yet operational) wee notebook. The only things that make sense are close-in and would be judged small by other yardsticks. I've decided the only one that matter is mine.

The time of year doesn't help. Since I don't know, it may be the problem. Almost nothing feels right. We have people who love us, and we love them back, people who help us out of tight spots and add sugar to the tea, who listen and speak favor over us and our creative output. We each have a substantial friend in the other and harmony in our small family. Life is good. What I don't understand is why my heart aches so.

If this is old, old business, come to call on its way out of my life, the timing is grotesque. It feels like an ancient sorrow, maybe some bizarre confluence of sorrowful events arriving en masse. We know from Dickens what hell Christmas can raise. Last night I dreamed of a high school reunion. One of the women I encountered had wanted to be an actress, but never reached that goal. I realized that I HAD gotten my wish, to be a writer, later an artist; the pond in which I've been splashing for 41 years has supported me, has given me more than I asked for. Amazingly, it continues to widen. Good thing. I displace more water than I used to.

My understanding of the process tells me that sometimes we are asked to be with sorrow, patiently, no fidgeting or eye-rolling, no clock-watching. We are asked to hear what it has to say, to feel what it has carried in its finely-woven basket, from which we would rather flee but know if we dodge it now, it will only return.

Three nights ago I was trying to dispose of a ill-intentioned life form, identifiable in the dream but not known on this side, at least not to me. It was very strong, mottled or marbled shades of red and cream, the diameter and depth of a stack of a couple dozen tortillas, roundish and thicker in the middle, then tapered around the edges. Its head and tail were indistinguishable, until the head muscled around and tried to bite me. I was set to flush it but was advised that it had to be cut in half, lengthwise, or it would clog the plumbing and show up again. It was fully engaged in whatever its task was, trying hard not to be caught, trying harder to bite - and poison - me and I was not going to let that happen.

If recent dreams were not so vivid and if I hadn't awakened with clear memory of them, I would not assume they brought messages. And what I interpret is, realizing the information is not new but seemed to bear repeating: (a) this is no cakewalk, (b) sad and bewildered are not permanent states, (c) trap nasty creatures under a sturdy bucket and ask questions later, (d) be fully who and how and where you are. It's the only way to get to whatever great thing is about to appear.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We are such stuff...

Some of us excel at abstract thought, formulating theories and insights, seeing connections. Others have an affinity for gathering and retaining information. Too few stand firmly in both fields, windbreaks against ignorance and misinformation. My brother is one of those.

He has borne the over-watering of my admiration with good humor. December 8 is his birthday, noted last year as well, and he appeared on August 20 as one of the smart men in the post ANYTHING-CAN-HAPPEN-THURSDAY.

2010 has not been an easy year for him. An anticipated sabbatical became the venue for battles unscheduled and further health challenges followed. Throughout, he allowed the experiences to be his guides, those teachers that appear when the student is ready, which is to say what we survive makes us either stronger or stranger.

His capacity for interpreting facts and locating their proper context leaves me wide-eyed and gaping, pondering the unpredictable routes down which our DNA leads us. Hidden in the immigrant roots of our family tree is at least one other mind as balanced and far-ranging. I don't think it was Uncle Grover.

What a soup we are, setting forth with the handful of coins tossed in our direction, Jacks in the Beanstalk looking to make our best bargain with what we've been given. We can only work with what is, the hope being that we squeeze every possible mile out of this one fill-up.

Happy Birthday, Mike. You continue to take the old Ford wagon onto byways we never imagined. I will not be surprised when your goggled self appears from the future to report you have mastered time and space.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

23 zeros and counting

The new profile picture is another rubber stamp design, this a child/not-child dressed as a star for the (as they now call them) holiday program.

The bringing and holding of light speaks to me, not only because we Northern Hemishpherians are moving swiftly toward the shortest day of the year. With light we find our way in the dark, actual, physical dark and that of a more mythic, metaphoric composition.

Illumination, by any of its definitions, involves giving life and light to that which it touches. Dispeller of shadows, revealer of what has been hidden from view, teller of secrets, unmasker, foe of ignorance, befriender of the lost. To be its bearer is to carry wisdom and healing and hope. To be its source is to be a star.

Within the past week, scientists announced that the number of identifiable stars in the known universe is much greater than previously thought. While the numbers are really guesses, it is estimated that there are nearly 100 sextillion stars, a one followed by 23 zeros. Makes a mere gazillion seem paltry.

By virtue of our designation as humans, we possess the extreme potential of being sources of light, not by the same, scientific definition as burning suns, but also not that different. We are often estranged from our own miraculous properties, in the dark, so to speak, about who we are, what we bring, how we are catalysts for change and enlightenment within ourselves and others. We of the Woodstock generation didn't have it wrong. We ARE stardust. It was maintaining that state over decades of spiritual and political candle-snuffers that proved difficult.

We navigate by the stars, their reliable, fixed positions in the heavens leading us home. Wearing your own star suit, holding still while your beams lend guidance, you may wish to send out a press release, updating the astronomers' statistics. Please change that number to 100 sextillion and one.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Sleep rolled in very late last night. Of course, I had to wait up. Thoughtless. We may need to have the talk with words like curfew and responsibility.

My good fortune was that I could go back to sleep after I took care of early morning tasks. I read somewhere yesterday, I think a catalog of self-improvement CDs, that one night of insufficient sleep is, pfft, nothing, really. They insisted the human body would somehow take up the slack, be focused, purposeful, energetic. To which I say, some other human body.

Several of my friends have experienced years of insomnia, one of the most debilitating states, and without the luxury of sleeping in to catch up. I feel marginally crazed if I am two hours short.

I am conscious, it may be Thanksgiving's influence, of taking very little for granted right now, watching when my mind seeks its little worry blanket with the picked-at binding and shocking holes where the wool has been fretted through.

What a wonder, night after night, that restorative draught and the dreams it guides us through. A gift of no slight proportion. Be welcome, know your value. Please call if circumstances delay you. I'll be working the crossword puzzle.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"We are no longer the moon..."

Mayumi Oda, "Bliss of Sea," image from

My first blog visit this morning was to Sherry O'Keefe where her quotes from William Kittredge shoved me forward.

This spring, as I followed threads to blogging writers whose work came to reignite my own writing dreams, I pulled many books from the shelves. With these volumes near, I could bind them around me if that was how their juice would leach through, I renewed friendships with sidelined voices.

One of these, still piled next to me, is GODDESSES by Mayumi Oda, in which she transforms the traditional masculine Buddhist Gods into their joyous female counterparts.

Oda tells of seeking liberation, of discovering Japanese women writers, including Raicho Hiratsuka, writing in 1911 for the introduction of a new feminist magazine called SEITO, which means Blue Stockings, from the English feminist movement:

In primeval times, women were one with
the sun and truth of all-being.
Now we are like pale-faced moons who
depend on others and reflect their light.
Women, please let your own sun, your
concentrated energy, your own submerged
authentic vital power shine out from you.
We are no longer the moon.
Today we are truly the sun.
We will build shining golden cathedrals
at the top of crystal mountains, East of
the Land of the Rising Sun.

Women, when you paint your own portrait,
do not forget to put the golden dome at
the top of your head.

With the Kittridge quote, "Stories are a thicket to catch the mind from falling," caroming around my head, GODDESSES was the title that stood out from the others stacked by the computer. As Oda guides us through her life, reveals the stages of her creative emergence, she makes clear the connections of family, tradition, spiritual practice, politics, self-discovery and making our dreams come true.

My experience is not so much about gender as an impediment to finding and sustaining a true voice. My greatest obstacle is me. I respond to the urging that we allow our own sun to burst forth, a light that is so easily blocked by mistaken notions of who we are, of what is possible, of fear.

A conversation yesterday revealed a friend's delight in the focus, passion and ability to retell stories in microscopic detail of an independent young man with life-long challenges of intellect and development. I was humbled by such determination, by clarity of purpose. We possess, I believe, all power to make of ourselves what we will. The colors and truths we contain have no limit. Yet within that I see a necessary balance, as though we are in a process of re-parenting ourselves, encouraging freedom and effort without expectations of where it will lead. I have seen the disappointment on too many faces in my life, I do not want to be one of them as I regard my work.

Rebecca Loudon reminded us to love our own art more. To me, that means embracing the fact that it may have its grandfather's nose and a sneeze so loud it can be heard down the block. To know when we have reached enough, erased enough, revised enough, stripped first AND second gear trying to be faster and better and nearly perfect, is a wisdom that grows slowly, like any meaningful practice. Aspire and accept, unlikely twins - they may have been separated at birth - but they seem to offer a way to do this work and live to tell about it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


An act of imagination is an act of self-acceptance.

Today's sketched-out posting was going to begin with my wondering why I stopped keeping a writing notebook and when that creative shoelaces-tied-together prank took place. It did happen, why and when are irrelevant. Since I may take whatever meaning I choose from Richard Hugo's statement, found in THE TRIGGERING TOWN,
my interpretation tells me that my fugue state has come to an end, I will resume keeping a notebook and I may reward my imagination-sustaining act with self acceptance.

By declining the chance to punish myself for being un-writerly, for making my job that much harder by not saving quotes or noting observations or ideas as they appear, I am not quite so stuck and may continue in the direction of my destiny. (Sidebar: the name under a tv interviewee this morning was "Monnreal," which my son first read as "monorail." He said, "That's a funny last name. Must be the heir to the monorail fortune." To which I responded, "Write that down. You have a story right there...heir to the monorail fortune...heh heh heh....")

Writers who blog, and who are serious and good, help me remember this is not hocus-pocus and luck. I can give myself real-world help by making notes, keeping track of what comes from dreams or overheard conversations or the mis-read names of missing hikers. As I read, I can keep track of writing that makes me aim higher. Before the world was espressso bars and laptops, I loved to write in my notebook wherever I was. Airplane, restaurant, hospital waiting room, riding in a car. I kept track of things I'd seen by writing them down, not trusting them to memory. And memory was better then.

I have a bad habit of making notes on the backs - or fronts - of envelopes, then shuffling them around depending on what they contain. This is not reliable for information retrieval. There is a notebook, and a pen that works, near each house phone, but it is not always what I reach for first. Tendencies to overcome.

The amount of research, memory, information and, as a friend said today, magic, that goes into writing a story is daunting, if you mistakenly thought it would be easy. I forget. Each week I do a certain amount of writing that comes from my head, maybe supported by checking a fact or two. I grow impatient with what feels like too much research; I want to get to work. But as with the red plaid pajamas, there are no shortcuts to doing it well. Unless one is blessed with total recall and encyclopedic knowledge, and I am not.

My second reading of THE TRIGGERING TOWN will begin my new notebook. I also have Post-Its and a pencil for marking passages. I dawdle along, believing that I take myself seriously, until I look at what the serious writers are doing that I am not. Whether it exemplifies a desirable work ethic or is one ingredient of the magic, I return to something I know to be useful. Finding the right notebook, the right pen, I call that fun.

While Hugo's book emphasizes poetry, it is directed to all writers. He said, "What a silly thing we do. We sweat through poem after poem to realize what dumb animals know by instince and reveal in their behavior: my life is all I've got. We are well off to know it ourselves, even if our method of learning it is painfully convoluted."

When you write you are momentarily telling the world and yourself that neither of you need any reason to be but the one you had all along.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


From earlier times, a balloon fish flies in the Macy's Parade. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who was that elephant I saw you with?

(Photo from

In a conversation with my son this morning, he wondered if children today are given the time, freedom, and encouragement to use their imaginations, to create something from nothing. The elephant toy, an earlier handcraft from the on-line shop of an artist I was unable to identify, symbolizes the personality which the hand can create from any material. Once the creature finds its child, the tales, the myths begin.

Stuffed animals of my acquaintance, from my growing up or my son's, had richer lives than anyone seen on the social pages, if such things still exist. They had backstories, relatives, businesses, musical abilities, idiosyncrasies, feuds, aversions, skills, aspirations and senses of humor. In a recent email thread among a women's art group, many told of designing their dream houses/apartments as girls, cutting pictures from magazines, building the roofless homes and making all the furniture from cardboard, keeping elaborate notes of JUST how it would all be.

I like a toy with a clouded past, one whose every thought has not been explored for me in animation. I like them to arrive as ciphers, of whom I can ask, "Who might you be?" A child knows who he is meeting; if that child part endures in us, we can still play. We can name things, find their hidden magic, fabricate and embellish, dream. A world built of imagination is not time ill spent. It is the realm of the visionary. Without those who can see beyond we would mope through our days devoid of flourish or zing.

The animated characters that inhabit the toy store aisles grew from a spark, a speck in someone's mind. I choose to believe that children will always be children, that imagination will always triumph. Weapons were not toys I wanted my son to play with but I knew I'd lost the battle when he bit his grilled cheese sandwich into the shape of a gun and started making "pow, pow" sounds.

In the past couple years, after drawing a line of rubber stamp creatures, I got to name them and give them histories. One I enlarged into a stuffed toy, a modern Marco Polo, as it turns out. His magazine debut added to his mystique with new travels, posing for a photographer, being among others of his kind. Maybe I need to add a new line to my no longer active resume: toy biographer. I could tell you stories.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Too much information...for me

Just when I had discovered the STATS category on my dashboard, I am unable to access it. When I started this blog I had no wish to know how many readers visited. Then I saw this feature had been added. It volunteered. I'm not even sure what it is telling me, and I certainly don't DO anything with the information, but now that the page will not, after repeated pleadings, reload, I miss it. It is probably just as well that it will no longer communicate. The counting of things goads me into obsessive behavior.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Everyday super

William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939. Photo from

X-ray vision.

Acknowledged super powers, bestowed upon heroes, raising them above the rest of us, simple mortals. In a posting of Nov. 15, Rachel referenced her super powers. Following are some of what I consider real-life super powers, one or more of which I may possess.

Writing poetry.
Creating music.
Making people laugh.
Making people cry, in a good way.
Building useful things - boats, houses, furniture, bridges.
Repairing cars.
Going to a nearly empty cupboard or refrigerator and putting together a pleasing dish or entire meal.
Tightrope walking.
Paying attention.
Inner peace.
A poker face.
Wilderness survival skills.
Excellent posture.
Being and staying in love.
Effortless order.
Bringing light to dark places.
Understanding quantum physics.
Being fluent in more than two languages.
Raising anything.
Accurately forecasting weather.

I know in five minutes or less I may think of a dozen others. They will keep. For all of you, and you know who you are, able to leap tall buildings and such, it may be time to design the costume and pick a name for your super hero self.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One among many

Photo thanks to, by Ted Jackson

If you have forgotten that we are all in this together, try spending time in the waiting room of a medical lab collection office.

Fridays and Mondays, the phlebotomist said, are their busiest days. When we arrived, all but one seat was taken. My hierarchy of mobility is thus: something to hold onto, use cane; flat and nothing to hold onto, walker; flat with distances to be covered, wheelchair. This is why my 75-year-plan includes suspending the laws of gravity - floating, drifting, sproinging, hovering, ahhhh. So my son and I each had a seat.

When I switched to the health care plan of which this lab is part, the parking lot of the block-sized office building was run like Mussolini's trains. Now it is willy-nilly - yes, free - but out of the hundreds of spaces, many "Reserved for Management," there are two designated disabled spots. Workers were cutting rolls of carpeting in the aisles. We didn't do badly, a spot with room to open the car doors. It was enough.

I believe this lab serves a number of Medicare providers as well as other PPO-type plans, so there has always been a diverse population visiting there. This was true yesterday. A young man, in his 20s, had paper work spread across the floor near the entrance. A sturdy, perhaps 18-month-old future athlete was kicking a soccer ball, then dunking it in the receptionist's wastebasket. There was collective, yet still, restlessness, for it was obvious the wait would be measured in hours, or halves of hours.

The previous night, we had watched the re-make of CLASH OF THE TITANS, my son wanting to compare it to the original with Ray Harryhausen's classic special effects. Then, of course, there was the trailer with Liam Neeson bellowing, "Release the kraken!" All in all, the gods were unhappy. I whispered to my son that perhaps Perseus could come and liberate us from this Underworld, but not before having my blood drawn. It was a gloomy chamber, likely because we shared, on some level, unvoiced concern about the outcome of our tests. Mine was a routine check to determine that nothing essential had gone south in the previous months and my anxiety level was, oh, miracle, too low to register. I have no idea what any of the others were facing.

The staff, one receptionist and two phlebotomists, were efficient, patient, helpful and kind. It was not one of those "distract you from your monkey mind" offices with a television showing endless loops of things that we needed to watch out for. It definitely was not at all like the Social Security-approved bus station of a medical center where my son needed to be seen, in a storage closet, as part of his lengthy approval process for benefits. There they were showing Maury or some paternity-based, chair-throwing excuse for entertainment that made me long for chloroform. People who had come here together spoke in low tones, except for soccer boy and his mom who had to chase him around the room. Another mom had her hands full with a daughter of enviable curly red hair, age around five, for whom the vibe became intolerable - it has taken me years to learn not to whimper when I empathize too accutely in a crowded room - and who had to be comforted in the hall.

There we were, strangers on the bus, getting by, getting through. Since I imagine most of us had been fasting, and by now it was past 11, one of the strangers had brought a container of Ensure, and mentioned to the woman at the front desk that he was starving. My son and I were dreaming of our drive-through coffees, assuming we were done in time. It is an independent stand that closes at noon, the only drive-through coffee vendor in the greater Pasadena area. And you call yourselves civilized.

We did not really make eye contact with each other, not easy if you didn't bring a book or did not choose to immerse yourself in a two-year-old "Entertainment Weekly" laden with the germs of those two years. Occasionally it was possible to exchange a smile or a few words about how it shouldn't be much longer. I would like to know what sort of pre-employment tests they administer to find staff so centered, so unruffled, so able to bring their best game to this crowded island which no one visits by choice.

Driving through, Pasadena has a pungent air of prosperity, though the Maserati dealership did close. But in the waiting room, we of the budget health plans were not the people I pictured behind the elderly oaks in architect-designed stucco and redwood. They may have been, though my sense was we shared more than just the need to have our blood give up its secrets. We did not seem like a group which has all the answers for tomorrow's questions; since I knew I still had to get back up the stairs once we got home, I didn't even have answers for today's questions.

In spite of that, there we were, assuming, as I have written of lately, the good outcome. They talk in 12-step programs of "suiting up and showing up" and we did, patients and workers. There is comfort in company, in crowded waiting rooms, in mutual uncertainty, in just taking the next indicated step. Fingers crossed, I hope we all receive the news we want.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wake me when it's not stupid anymore

It is time to go to sleep. I've run out of places to file stupid and brutal. As I wait to see the weather, I have to mute graphic descriptions of trial testimony, then the information finds me anyway. Today it feels as though the savages are winning, that ignorance in all its mutations will be king. From the blog writers I follow I know that pockets of imagination, insight and compassion exist. Will that be enough? I trust in the good outcome. But there are days when my heart aches in spite of my best intentions. I guess I was overdue.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

No matter what you do, it will get here

There was the election, there was - more - record heat, there was the return of our purloined hour and now there are clouds and watery icons on the weather forecast.

Flexibility is a virtue I work/desire to attain. Spontaneity is a skill I covet. The switchback, serpentine aspects of our day-to-day leave me off balance. Off-balance can lead to wooziness which is like death to clear thinking. I dislike being confused.

I am not prepared for Thanksgiving to be so near. And we all know that about 15 minutes after the leftovers have all been eaten, Christmas arrives. In January the months ahead seem so rich with possibility, with time, with even the likelihood that I can start - and finish - projects. I swear time is not a reliable commodity, it is not what it advertises itself to be. There are laws against packaging which misleads the consumer, yet time is wrapped up in magnifying cellophane, giving us to think that we are getting much more of it than we do. By the time we have the paper torn off, what looked like a cloud of cotton candy is down to the size of a Chiclet.

If procrastination were a virtue, let us leave it at that, accent on IF. It is not a virtue, it is a dominant factor in my life but, back to the Chiclet, I swear I had more time. Once again, it is too late to be early. It is almost too late to be anything but late. Handmade is how we do things around here and handmade takes planning and more hours than I expect. When I reached that bend (you know the one I mean) in the river, my ability to estimate how long a task would take diminished by about 300%. That would be the number, would it not, for things now taking three times longer than they ought to.

Adding to the evaporative nature of days/hours/weeks is a tendency to stare out the window when befuddled. I watch the sky, either the sunlight on the palm fronds or the clouds gathering, then moving on. If I could find a way to wrap up my musings, they could be sent in lieu of cards or gifts. Market value: unknown. Sentimental value: about the same. So I dream and dawdle serious chunks of what time remains; I already sent out one birthday IOU this week. In my defense, I think it is a step up from my grandparents sending anything, absolutely anything they encountered, attaching a note that always read, "Hope this fits, can't remember sizes."

Perhaps they couldn't remember sizes but what I think really happened was they couldn't remember that time is a slippery character. Likely they, as I, thought it reliable, steadfast and put too much trust in its being there, they way it seemed to promise. Make no mistake, it is the roommate that borrows your prettiest dress for a trip and you never see either of them again. Then you are left, in exchange, with the rust-colored, none-too-clean skirt and a sinking feeling, grateful that you wore different size shoes.

I should probably start printing IOUs.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I want to grow up to be "Chandleresque"

RAYMOND CHANDLER and friend, thanks to

There was no readily available photo of Mr. Chandler at a typewriter. I can't remember if he only wrote in longhand. At any rate, he is the star I'd pick for a poster on my wall, the subject of swoons and fantasies. His works, that his. Surely there is something to be said about being an icon.

Think of (your name here) being used as is his, "Chandleresque." It is unambiguous. You know at once it alludes to powerfully visual descriptions and clipped, smartass (or, not to be incongruous, wiseacre), hard-boiled dialogue from his world-weary, occasionally duped (but not for long) detective, Philip Marlowe.

Who would you wish to be...not having to take on their baggage but only their unique talent and output? I know he began his writing career at what they refer to as "later in life," thought not quite so excessively "later" as mine. Reality is not a condition of this reverie. I would be Chandler.

Say his name and words like pulps and noir are immediately linked. He is quoted for phrases such as, "the tomcat smell of eucalyptus," which, especially after a rain or a hefty mist, describes precisely the scent of Southern California air. It is the fragrance of hilly side roads on which his protagonist awaited blackmailers.

My current writing intentions have him hovering like a pipe-smoking guardian angel or hard-drinking, disembodied muse. Aspirations move and motivate us. Think of giving the world titles and characters which will not be forgotten, which are shorthand for the complex world he opened to us in mid-1930s America.

Not that the noir genre is ever far from my mind, but today it has moved back to the front of the line, following a Netflix choice for Saturday night. I will write about it tomorrow or the next day.

I really am interested in hearing which writer you would be and why. To keep the length of this post manageable and to ward off readers yawning, I have given only the most basic, possibly superficial reasons why Chandler is my choice. Give me a break, I already wrote my 2,000 plus NaNoWriMo words and still have a commercial assignment to finish in the next hour. And it is not yet 10 a.m. I am not smug but neither am I discontent. It is November 1 and it is a good day.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Journal page in progress, M.Kelly.

Regarding yesterday's post, I am giving myself slightly less strict guidelines - the one non-negotiable is writing every day - as I was already trying to figure out how I could sleep less (also non-negotiable), keep in better touch with the blog writers whom I enjoy reading, continue my blogging commitment and find time for art which holds possibilities of its own.

It is all a process of adjustment and adaptation. Nothing spoils the fun faster than impossible rules, unreachable goals. I want to write my unnamed, unspooling exploration of topics to be revealed later. It needs to be a task that adds to my life in ways that will involve challenge without breaking my spirit in the first 10 minutes. Rules and I, not happy bedfellows. I know that yet I forget as I dream myself neck-deep in creative bliss. This is what I know today.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pencils sharpened?

Eric, on his blog, mentioned that November is National Novel Writing Month. He talks about what it is, what it may be, what it is not.

A day after reading Eric's article, I spoke with a friend who is enrolled in a university writing workshop. They are following the NaNoWriMo plan, with the distinction that they will not do anything but move forward with what they write during the 30 days. They will not go back to read, to edit, to rewrite, even to backspace. I wonder if any of them will be working on typewriters.

The past week has been one of expansion for me, expansion covering such a diversity of forms...a widening heart, a deeper knowing, reclaimed memories and a context to hold them, the dawning of unexplored notions. On Tuesday and Wednesday I became aware of this writing project, offered vigorous encouragement for my friend's participation and saw no way in which I might be connected to this undertaking.

I fell asleep Thursday night, only to waken at around 4 a.m., the usual jumble of pranksters having tied my mental shoelaces together. One moment was ordinary, pre-dawn confusion and in the next, I thought that I COULD show up every day to write...something...and accumulate, I hope, 50,000 words in 30 days. Through the conversation with my friend I understood that this was, if we intended it to be, about getting those words onto paper. They wouldn't be forgotten, they might be worth saving, they could multiply and become more.

The wise voice of illumination reminded me that I didn't need anything beyond a first word, a place to start. I may run in five different directions during the month, I may run in a dozen. It may not be a novel, it may be short stories, it may be a load of bollocks. It doesn't matter. It seems to be the next step and taking each next step has not led me astray.

As recently as three days ago, I was positive that my writing future would never involve a single, book-length story. Now I can't say that. What I can still say is that I don't know, but I have been caught by an unexpected momentum, an enthusiasm even. I am willing to invest time in possibility. I am curious to see who or what emerges. Writing for a month without having to spell-check, fact-verify or make sense...what luxury, what decadence. I didn't know moving forward could look like this.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, John Cleese, and others

Cleese image thanks to

The day a first child, any child, only child, is born remains a day of increase, of expansion and joy. Today is my son's birthday, a date he shares with, among others, Monty Python's John Cleese and, as he is called, Wales' greatest poet, Dylan Thomas.

Today I celebrate his humor, a sharp skill at mimicry, a mostly philosophical nature that helps carry us both through trying times. I celebrate his resilience, his capacity for appreciating the good that comes his way. He seems to lack any malice or the harboring of resentment, and is his parents' child in that he would probably rather be reading or seeing a movie than anything, except maybe having court-side seats for the Lakers.

Without him I would be less than I am in every sense. I wish him peace of mind, vibrant health, abundance in all he desires and the continuing determination to see his creative dreams come true. We chose his name for we knew he would bring light. May it keep growing brighter.

NOTE: I see that many visitors come to this post, possibly because of Google. May I direct you to my main address to view newer posts. And if you care to leave a comment, so much the better. Thank you for visiting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

They warned me about short cuts

There are right ways and wrong ways, there is thoroughness, good and decent behavior and then there is the seductive short cut.

When the keeper of seasons decided that fall could come to Los Angeles I remembered some red plaid flannel pajamas, unopened since purchase last winter. I have been doing laundry on my own practically since wringer washing machines; I certainly helped my grandmother with hers. I get it about washing clothes.

Now it is not such an easy task. The flight-and-a-half of stairs to our laundry room is tricky on a good day, impossible in the rain. I didn't think it through. People who do things right - and even people who don't, generally - know you wash new clothes before you wear them. I quote

There are two good reasons to wash new clothes before you wear them. One is to wash out extra dye that can be transferred to your skin or other garments.

Risk-taker that I am, I unwrapped the pajamas, put on the warm top and went to bed. The next morning I was sunburn red. The rules will not be flouted. I present myself as the cautionary tale and out myself as a person of dubious character. In my defense, I have to say I didn't think fabric ran like that anymore. There you have it, I didn't think. As in cinema noir, it is the forgotten detail that undoes the whole caper.

I am less fond of red plaid than I was a few days ago.


A note unrelated to my questionable habits:

Claire Beynon, New Zealand writer, artist and frequent commenter here, thought readers, especially those who took part in the comment discussion a few posts back, might find this of interest. Thank you, Claire. Click the link to her blog to learn about her recent exhibit, Waters I Have Known.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lost and Found, part 2

Lost and found, as they closed in on me last night, announced they are a team; they are one hand giving, the other taking away. But what is found may be the unwelcome surprise, while what is lost may be the blessing.

As suspiciously new age or cosmic babble as this may seem, these are times of adult growth spurts. Old and unfinished business keeps floating to the surface, as though the chains holding it to the blocks of cement, long ago consigned to deep water, had rusted through. The reason for its pivotal appearance is not to torment, or not for long, but to inform and move along. And so it is with whatever was hissing "lost and found, lost and found" while I tried to bring other topics to life.

As the pesky duo visited in the early hours, it became clear that this is not the place for listing them. For one thing, there are far too many - and they have too much in common. Boring and repetitious, they would have readers clicking away as fast as their fingers would carry them.

This is another exercise in...does it even have a name? Processing sounds so...process oriented, so medicinal, so like something for which there is a manual and one just one way of doing it. I think old business finds places to lodge in our bodies. It tosses us hints of its presence with the odd twinge, a chronic, lumpy ache, disquiet of the organs and systems, a fierce and jabbing pain. Assuming everything is energy, I suspect it wants to be dislodged in exact proportion to how much we want it gone.

Losses and finds, it turns out, are about ways in which I hold myself responsible for them, the grievous ones. They are visiting en masse to persuade my heart to soften, my blaming to fade. They tell me there is no suspect to identify and, if there were, it would not be me. I rassle (see an earlier post) with this but I don't disbelieve.

Those aren't skeletons in the closet, they are ghosts, the ones we use to frighten, to torment ourselves. To speak of the fantods is not an indication of pending collapse. There may be a note of lament in pondering states of unease or unavailable answers. Discomfort lessens, answers seep through. Are we willing to see each other through (not process) evolution, holding our breath as each new wave rises? Are we willing to trust that as mad as it all appears, it is actually in some version of order?

If we don't mention that parts that we are convinced signal unraveling, we have created no opening act for the restoration that follows. Our out-loud narration of each transformative moment may cause those around us to give up...not this which they are entitled. Pretend you are watching time-lapse photography, play your i-pod, look only at every third posting here.

I used to write personal memoir, childhood moments, not lies, just not a thorough account of what was happening in the present. Gradually, my focus changed. It became more immediate, things as they happen in real time. We, IT, can only be called works in progress. Since it hasn't thrown me yet, I believe there's a chance.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lost and Found

In thinking of this as a post theme, I am aware of becoming mired in the lost aspects, allowing the past to pull me away from the intention to leave old business where it is.

At the same time, there may be losses that need to be considered, deconstructed or acknowledged for what illumination they might lend to today.

I will look at these sentences as preamble, less than an outline, more than a fleeting notion. The balance and opposition of the two extremes feel timely, they call to me but I know they are intolerant of superficial coverage.

At first I thought all finds would be seen as blessings, all losses the opposite. As I poked them around more - curious and possibly organic fragments found in the sand and stirred with a pointy stick - I couldn't swear that would be true. Entirely self-generated, the assignment now seems less clear and far less comfortable than when the words arrived.

This is the conductor, announcing what may be our next stop, unless I can cobble together some other less weighty material to tide me over while Lost and Found takes form. As always, your thoughts are welcome, either before or after the list comes to life. What I know is, this doesn't feel very jolly at the moment. What was I thinking?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

75-YEAR PLAN - Notes, Re: Careers

Included in the BOTTLE ROCKET DVD is a facsimile booklet of Dignan's (Owen Wilson's character) 75-year plan. The Wes Anderson-directed, Wilson and Anderson-scripted movie is part of the absurdist catalog from Anderson, Owen and Luke Wilson.

Some of Dignan's thoughts: through a constant Regimen of Activities We begin to Learn a Craft. (capitalizaton, etc., as it appears in the notebook)

It pretty much boils down to, for the initial five years, somehow getting together a team for heists, amassing some cash base, learning their target craft from professionals and making a name for themselves. (Didn't they see BONNIE AND CLYDE?)

At age 65, what would my 75-year plan look like?

Following his outline, I, too, would like to meet people from foreign countries and develop outside interests, including travel, art and science. It would be wise to establish good will within the community (The Robin Hood Principle.) Oh, yes. And go legit.

I am charmed by a character, fictional, in this case, with such optimism, such trust in his wits to take him where he wants to go, such as the beach, town, ranch and lake houses. I could be content with the beach and town options.

What could it hurt, having a plan that extends to 2085? Since I don't know what will happen tomorrow, it is just as easy to guess or imagine a time much nearer the end of this century. Some of my intentions would include:

-Anti-gravity devices, kiss arthritis goodbye.

-A manifesting mind, let me simply think incantations over my checkbook.

-Connections in high places so my loved ones and I will always have access to the best medical care in the cosmos, as well as asking favors on behalf of others.

-Sleep learning, become a specialist instead of a generalist. My thoughts on subjects related to my specialty will be in demand, captivating audiences, all via computer (or whatever comes next) from the (a) beach or (b) town house.

-Glitch-free teleportation. I am already too cranky for airports but I don't want parts of me going to Australia while other parts stay home.

-Reliable tutors. Sleep learning probably won't answer everything.

-An ease of benevolence, the ability to assist using all possible resources and the option of doing so anonymously.

-Greater inner peace, in which the previous items would certainly assist.

-Political influence. You think we're liberal NOW?

-Clean houses and exquisite meals, achieved through the newest technology.

-Remaining legit.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Well, THAT happened.

Today's headline is a quote from the David Mamet film, State and Main. It is truly a line for all seasons, it fits all sizes, all occasions.

Much as I indulge myself in thoughts of the impossible, even I acknowledge that when a thing has happened, it cannot un-happen.

Surrendering to life as the ultimate big shot who makes the rules is a process. You're not the boss of me. Oh, but I am.

THAT gives us two choices: remain caught by the wrongness, the unfairness, the awfulness, the horror, the grief, the guilt and shame, rage and resentment, like banana slices in a Jello mold or give it to the past. If option two was the easy, natural choice, history and all fiction would tell very different stories.

In thinking about this essay, I drew up a sketchy, mental list of incidents where the less savory option one was my pick. As a theory, I've understood letting go for a few decades. As a practice, it is much newer business. It is the result of the desire, the intention, to become more conscious, more compassionate. It comes from the wish to lead a life less fraught.

Too much stress, a response over which I have some measure of control, produces too much cortisol which goes on to interfere with and upend healthy physiological activity when it hangs around too long. Every issue, or crumbs of issues, that we continue to push around on our plates overloads us with stuff that will stop our engines.

Every time I thought about an event or outcome that should have gone differently, I embezzled a bit of vitality, perhaps longevity, from myself, by raising my blood pressure, messing with my blood sugar, creating inflammation and undermining my immune system. Even doing a little research while writing makes me queasy and, oh ho, stressed by thinking about how long I've resisted letting the bad stuff roll off my back.

I know I've written about all this before in various forms and I know I'm not done. It is the heart of my struggle. Awareness helps the process. Reminders can be beneficial, like Jake Gittes' being told, "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown," by one of his old pals from the LAPD. If you're not ready to let the injustices go, reminders probably don't change things.

To find and maintain a mostly peaceful response where peace is not the norm can cut us away from the herd. But then I've never been one to run with the pack. Solitary is not unknown terrain.

In the simplest language I can find, I want to stop poisoning myself. We are cautioned of - and frequently alarmed by - threats from outside. We are in danger at least as great, I believe, from how we react to the world, to the models we are shown...endlessly.

THAT is going to keep happening. I choose to think we are capable of finding a different way to view all the THATs which have lined up, awaiting their spotlight moments.

They are the grifters who linger along our daily paths, not panhandlers or the truly needy, but slick types whose patter makes them semi-believable. Say no and keep walking, walk faster - exercise is good - don't make eye contact, don't get sucked discord, debate, blame, outrage. Remain calm (Keep Calm and Carry On!) and if action is required, take it from a still and centered place. Robert Towne's dialogue had it right, too. On a metaphoric level, it's all Chinatown. Forget it. It happened. Let it go.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You may say I'm a dreamer

The song I wanted, Judy Henske singing High Flying Bird, is not available on You Tube. The Monkees and John Stewart's Daydream Believer, was the "B" side playing in my mind. At least they mention a bird. And refer to believing in unlikely or impossible things. Well, too many impossible things have happened in my life for me to go along with the charade.

I hold the Puritan ethic wholly responsible (that and whatever brought it into being) for trying like hell to suck all the magic and lovely mystery out of the world. If I am a daydream believer, I cause no harm to anyone other than myself, should I be wrong. But so far (please trust me on this any doubting friends) there is too much empirical evidence to the contrary. How can there not be room for the unexplained or the unexpected when so much of our world is made of empty spaces, when nothing is really solid in the sense man once believed?

To remain open is not to count on, to expect magical answers but it leaves options for all that science has yet to discover, yet to prove. Science took us to the moon and it rescued the Chilean miners. I think it is just getting warmed up.

This CAN'T be right

There are now three drafts waiting in my blog listing. Oh, help me not have this be the fourth.

Existential, um, uncertainty has dropped by. I don't welcome any univited visitors. Imagine how I feel about this.

There you are, head under the shower, and you realize you've just asked yourself if your life counts for anything. Rather than having become an expert at anything, you are a generalist and they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In retrospect, all you can see, through tears and pelting water, are bad choices. Yet instead of the sense of defeat which comes from depression, someone is saying things like, "Oh yeah?" I don't want to jinx this, but it may be that angst is becoming more bark than bite. How sweet would that be?

This is not a state which normally causes mobilization, but I feel more like James Cagney than Poor Pitiful Pearl. I'd happily shove a grapefruit in the face of whoever wants to stand around wringing their hands when there is no actual external cause for gloom. I can manufacture doubt and then leave it in my own, clean this up.

I can't bear the thought of another unposted draft. I won't pretend that this represents a complete thought. We have the capacity to be our own greatest champions and the bullies who torment us. In this vast epic we play every part. If we feel some version of crazy - no wonder. We aren't. A part of us is unwilling to say out loud that the pieces don't match, the rules are contrary and inconsistent and pretty much nothing makes sense. And a cheerful voice, not too far away, is saying, "Yes. Now you understand."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The last dog-and-pony show

Poster - thanks to

The NBC comedy 30 ROCK is a favorite here; it makes me happy because I think Tina Fey gets away with murder, mocking the network and its parent conglomerate. Her humor is absurd, out-of-bounds, lets the air out of everyone's balloon. In this week's episode, a new form of trial by ordeal was required of applicants for page positions. This involved singing, dancing if one so chose and, in general, whipping up a frenzied, desperate one-man version of a dog-and-pony show.

I have exhausted my capacity for tap dancing.

In every literal and figurative sense, it is no longer possible to put on a good front, sell anybody anything, please anyone for whom nothing is good enough, reinvent the wheel, pretend I don't care when I do, show up when I am depleted or try and read your mind.

There comes a time when all that remains is what you see is what you get. There will be no performance today. How can one quantify the essential good that has been lost on attempted perfection, even attempted adequacy, while the true self wrapped herself in a dusty cardigan, locked her arms around her knees and wedged herself in next to the stove. It is a shadowy spot, no one would look there for a shiny object.

While this information came to me somewhat later in life, that does not mean it is a product of age, or not only of age. It is the result of awakening to the fact that, regardless of testimony and evidence to the contrary, it is possible to be enough by simply being.

Being is not a passive state, it is not lumpen or sniveling or apathetic. Being is the birthplace of who we really are, it bears the hallmarks of humility and awareness. In being there is no self-promotional quacking but there is clarity about what we do well. Being is a sort of promised land where there is no longer anything to prove. It is the retreat from which we send out our genuine expressions of self without judging the forms they assume. From a state of being we are able to allow. We unfold and emerge, as surprised as any when we see who appears.

What I know is that, for me, chasing money produces no reward, lifelong habits of an undesirable nature seem to take another lifetime to change, I wish I had let intuition guide me all those years I mistrusted it, someone is going to be disappointed and either will or will not get over it, too many broken promises will result in your being downgraded to acquaintance status and all the items I had to shove aside in the back seat of the boat-sized red convertible from last night's dream mean something.

Being can leave us breathless, but not in the same way as flat-out, desperate tap dancing...that is just out of breath. We have the opportunity to become our own source of wonder, while enjoying the role of startled onlooker. We are the microcosm, we are the mythic Lost Cities of Gold, we contain the still moment at the heart of the cosmos, we are the impossible. And if we so choose, we can keep wearing the dusty cardigan. It is familiar and wears like a benediction.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Valentine out-of-season

Vintage Valentine, with thanks to

When I began writing a blog it was with an unformed notion that it might lead to something resembling income-producing work. I have always leaned toward fantasy.

As I made a commitment to post a minimum of ten times a month, the purpose was to take my writing more seriously, to give it greater attention.

The morning I woke up with the urging to expand my blog reading, find more writers, I followed the guidance, moving from link to link, and discovering in the process what a rich, honest, inspiring, generous and kind population exists in this relatively new world.

What you write has made me more brave. How you write has made me look deeper for what poetic language I may contain. The comments you contribute assure me that we do connect with each other in these spaces; they remind me of a phrase my father used, about keeping in touch, with his instruction to "leave a note under the rock."

In the past few weeks I seem to have fewer hours in each day, perhaps a bit less energy in those hours, and have missed visiting your sites with sufficient attention to read thoroughly and comment, as I choose to do, from my heart. I have not gone away and I will be back. How much your thoughts mean, both in your posts and comments upon mine, is nearly beyond measure. I love that you are there, opening yourselves to all wayfarers who may stumble past. I love that I have become one of them. I feel my spirit grow in direct proportion to my contact with all you share.

I know now why I do this, why I was nudged in this unlikely direction. Accept, please, my Valentine, symbol of appreciation and love. You are magnificent.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ask again tomorrow

Reading for Banned Books Week began with procrastination and diverted attention. It was yesterday when I started my first re-reading of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The year in which I read McMurphy's story is a date I no longer remember, unlike 1066 which our 10th grade history teacher told us was the most significant date of all we would learn from him. Whenever the Battle of Hastings is the answer on Jeopardy!, I'm your girl.

The date has slipped into the undulating present/past where my life is warehoused, and the time of reading is of no consequence. The movie was released in 1975. With my then-husband and four friends in our $250, 1963 Cadillac sedan deville, perfect in every respect unless you count things like gaskets and moving engine parts, we rolled from Oxnard to Westwood where the first-run features were shown. I digress.

My discomfort started with the first page. True, when we know how a story ends we are able to read the signs differently. I think, though, it was more Kesey's ability to show us the life-filled expanse that is McMurphy which set up the creeping dread, the foreshadowing of dubious battle between a system which we understand from the very start and the embodiment of all I believe spirit to be.

The unease, I realized, was also caused by my having, 20 years ago, been told that depression was part of why I wasn't recovering from pneumonia as I should, why chronic fatigue had joined the team, and that action was required. Roughly 12 years ago, it had to be admitted - the depression was life-long, it had always been there. If one had been dipped in a vat of indigo 65 years ago, left to cure but eventually scrubbed and soaked every day so the tint seemed to fade until it might be thought a trick of the light, that is where my depression resides. It is treated, it has diminished, I have risen, its stain lingers.

Too much identification, too much terror, reading of the day room population, the Acutes and the Chronics, the treatments gone wrong or considered successes. I don't know if I am willing to read the book again, to feel and know and fear the places that grace kept me out of.

That any of us do more than spend our days walking in circles seems miraculous. We are, over any span of time, in equal measure thinner than a moth's wings and undefeatable as a fire hydrant. One day we need, or at least long for, shelter behind an arm wielding a broadsword, then moments later become willing to fight, with words of tongue and pen, city hall, the Social Security administration or any part of the machine that gives us the stink eye. We are fragile and bold, sagging and strong, confused and determined. I'd love to see sportscasters diagram the plays from one day of ordinary human existence.

Things which once seemed certain to us have become, oh understatement, less so. Yet despair is not an option which holds the chance of a good outcome. I begin my days with the intention of optimism, I can only discuss politics for ever-shorter intervals and avoid most of the news, seeking weather forecasts - discouraging in their own right last week - then skating away.

The membrane is too vulnerable, it tears with so little force. My heart - the literal and the metaphor - carries scars as do yours. I'm not sure it could withstand McMurphy's journey without paying too high a price, even knowing what I know about the Chief. I feel like a fair-weather friend and want to apologize for not being there to see him through. Tomorrow the balance may seem less precarious. Tomorrow there may be fierce tears and kicking ass. Tomorrow my courage may make me invincible, but that's tomorrow, not today.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Oh, Henry

At last, here is a portion of Henry, the hospital dog.

I hope that his magnificence comes through - or that your facile imaginations will assist you in knowing what a fine fellow he is.

With his mom, they make hospital rounds, assigned, as I understand, to a particular unit on each of their visit days. What they do is stop and connect with as many people as they can, not only the patients. They listen to people as they wait to be seen and, likely, admitted. They sit with families of patients in surgery. Henry also poses for photos with doctors and staff, for many of whom his loving presence may be the brightest moment in their work day; hospitals are not always sources of good news. They meet patients in the halls as they exercise and, at least once, have met a patient again upon his discharge, a man who spoke emphatically about his earlier encounter and how he would never forget it. To all these moments of happenstance, Henry brings his gift of mystical empathy and his trick, the extending for a shake of one paw, then the other. Repeat as needed.

Henry was rescued from what his mom calls "benign neglect," not outright abuse but a chain of events that wore him out, wearied his spirit, yet somehow did not diminish his ability to give from a reservoir that had become periously low. He is part of a lively, fanciful home where his unknown backstory becomes more elaborate and textured with each telling.

I will guess that it might be likely your local hospital has an animal visitation program. It would be worth a call to find out. If you are the parent of a zen-calm, people-loving pet - and inclined to enjoy the company of people who may have something to get off their chests - the two, or more, of you could become bringers of restoration. We can never have too many of those.

Monday, September 27, 2010

There must be some kind of way out of here

(2:30 p.m. PDT update: Los Angeles breaks all-time high temperature record at 113. Since records have been kept, there has never been a hotter day in L.A. And you thought I was imagining it.)

Here we are, Angelinos and more distant correspondents, stewing, toasting under a sun that seems to have moved closer.

Questions arise: are we in the crucible of transformation? Is weather that turns us witless meant to cleanse the mind like the refreshing sorbet I'd rather have?

On the heels of equinox and the full moon of whatever description you care to use (Pointy Stick Moon, Body Dysmorphia Moon, Moon of Vanished Motivation, Weasels Ripped My Flesh Moon, Couldn't You Just SCREAM Moon and Moon of Who Ate All the Leftover Pasta), anyone entirely comfortable in their skin and head should be lighting candles and offering platters of expensive, out-of-season fruit to gods known and unknown.

What sort of ill-signposted path does it take for one to become lost so easily? I will blame it on the heat - triple-digit temperatures are up to mischief, check your numerology...or just step outside. All I know is that the way ahead seemed open, free of treacherous debris and now, I feel as though I tripped the secret panel in the old library and have been spun into a state of WTF?

If this evaporates (likely for most substances, given the lack of humidity) when the heat wanes, I will have identified the source. But if, when the air cools, I am still here in the cobwebby backside of shelves filled with annotated works, a chamber dim and soundproof, and if Abbot and Costello or a Nancy Drew nemesis are sitting in my favorite chair, please send someone with finely developed investigative skills to let me out. Send a team, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law would do nicely. They may even leave their shirts on.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Sept. 25 through Oct. 3 is Banned Books Week. Don't ever relax. The thought police are relentless. I say, let's make trouble by reading or rereading as many as we can, carrying copies with us in public and talking about their content where we think it will provoke unease.

Background on the observance and The List may be found here. I have not read every one of the top 100, and then there is the need to read again what has been, in great part, forgotten.

With some of the offending titles I developed a more personal relationship. I was in junior high when I read many of them - some of them, even younger, for the list includes Charlotte's Web and Winnie-the-Pooh. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, turned me away from family staples, the bologna (or baloney) sandwich and the hot dog for several years. After On the Road and, in honesty, ever since, part of me remains a closet beatnik.

As a junior in high school I was on the newspaper staff. I was asked if I'd like to write a book review column, a first for the paper. It was by far my best assignment, I took it seriously (as a 16-year-old can) and one of the books I wrote about was The Catcher in the Rye. I remember encouraging comments from friends, one was a senior who'd been in the commercial art class I dropped to move to journalism and I took his approval very much to heart. I wondered, though, why he seemed to feel that the column was, in some way, an act of bravery. Soon I learned that by discussing Salinger's book, my expulsion - not suspension - was being considered, the paper's advisor was chastised and the book column, out there where actual, impressionable students could read it, was cancelled.

The Grapes of Wrath gave me a truer picture of history in the San Joaquin Valley, where my father grew up. He could point to sites of Hoovervilles where Dust Bowl families such as the Joads had landed as their options ran out. California was far from the only state where such transient communities grew.

Whatever we once read from this collection of literature deemed unacceptable, we were affected by it, possibly shifted to a depth that lingers still. We were informed, awakened and altered. A mind opened to lives and worlds wider than our front door is still a subversive agent. The revolution continues, choose your side.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Posting preamble. There is not time right now to complete the post I started two days ago. It will be perfect for Friday or Saturday.

Yesterday, forgive me if all this seems like old news, was the full moon and the autumnal equinox. My mother, whose birthday was September 23, used to claim the equinox as her own...what's a day between friends?

And on the day of the full moon and the autumnal equinox, I had a visit from Henry, the hospital dog...Henry and his mom have been trained to do visitation at Cedars/Sinai. I will write more of the visit, with photo of himself, very soon.

Henry is, as his mom describes him, a Buddha. He is an empath; when one is speaking of sad or difficult things, he sighs and rests his chin on the ground. He is fellow of size - 145 pounds - of gentleness and healing in a red fur coat. He and his mom are my blessing, my glorious deliverance as we launch ourselves, full of hope and harvest thoughts, into fall. May the new season open doors to the rooms your heart longs to visit, perhaps rooms in which you will take up residence. The world, as we call it, grows wider every day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Being in-between

Rachel wondered if there was a name for the in-between of seasons. In reading her words, I wondered if we might want names for other in-betweens. I thought of time being a form of alchemy, a process by which this becomes that.

We - and circumstances - can be in transition, which conjures stock shots of locomotives or stoking the engines of fabled steamships. Transition speaks of going. The in-betweens I picture stay in place while they become.

Indian summer describes a brief warming before fall settles in for the duration. Caterpillars come with stages of evolution clearly identified. Humans have the predictable range from infant to old.

But within ages we may move from clueless, sleepy, stuck, wandering or adrift to aware, energized, enlightened, purposeful and vibrant. We may come to our senses, see with new eyes, have our world turned upside down or, suddenly, get it.

We may shed our lethargy for focus, our blocked creativity for words that pour out faster than we can write them. There must be a stage, no matter how brief, before we leave one to enter the other. Canals have locks that raise or lower ships in increments when a waterway goes from one altitude to another. I can see us morphing as we let the water lift or lower us, lock by lock, to the level we seek, then sailing forth, easy and smooth, on the next leg of the voyage already under way.

Standing in line is an in-between. So is being pregnant, though it is a named condition. When we wait for an answer, either one that comes externally or a wise, quiet internal voice that urges us along, we are in-between. Jobs, marriages, homes, vehicles, projects, reading - all are opportunities to be somewhere that is neither here nor there.

Anticipating, hoping, dreading, ignoring, we are held in a place that is just before whatever is next; we have mentally and emotionally left what was before.

I seem to have answered my own question, found something to call that spot that is not this and not that. From now on, I declare myself to be in a fluctuating state of being in-between, for it will always apply to something. I may be found here until further notice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


There is grace in adapting.
Adjusting ourselves to what is, prying our fingers from their death grip on life as we think it should be, we learn to bend.

Flexible is not one of the words on lists of classic virtues, yet would any of those serve us better?

It doesn't unfold the way we imagined when we wrote our scripts in the air or in our minds. Parts of it don't unfold at all, they are tin foil balls where the edge is lost in mishmash. Nothing flat and untorn will ever again be made of this.

For all that seems without answer, more remains that can be understood but using a different template. We give wheels to what is unable to move on its own.

There is strength in releasing fixed notions. We fall back and reconnoiter. Plan A becomes Plan B, and so on. We keep moving forward.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Warning: Political opinion

Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

William Blake: On Another's Sorrow, from Songs of Innocence, 1789
(from Tom Clark, Beyond the Pale)

Once the 9/11 observances were over, media types and political spokespeople stepped up and began sticking forks in the economy. My belief is that way more people are no longer even part of the economy than anyone will acknowledge. We have been here before.

On his blog, Tom Clark has been sharing researched and collected photos commissioned by the Farm Security Administration when last America was in (let's call it by its name) a Depression. His postings go back several months (certainly back to July 27, the topics are listed along side the posts) and illuminate, sometimes with photos alone, sometimes with accompanying text, who and where we have been. As the child of parents who grew up during the Great Depression - what would they call this one? - and a reader of Steinbeck and others who took up the cause of the afflicted, I saw in the photos the stories we are not meant to forget.

There may be nothing that makes me angrier than being mistaken for a fool. I know our government lies to us, I'd hate to see just how much dirt they've tried to sweep under the rug and I have no idea who will ever be able to clean it up.

The photos tell a far more compelling story of lessons unlearned than I can. We may not have answers, Congress may block President Obama's every attempt at repair, but we can still know how deeply too many of our countrymen have been wounded by a government that implied it cared for them and would see them through hard times.

One thing we can do is recognize how far from our national purpose we've drifted and at least share our hearts with those whose only constant is jeopardy. We may have no answers but we can, we must, care that such is the case.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A theory

My relationship with time is a one-sided affair. It has no awareness of me and I think about it constantly. Perhaps time infatuation is an identified disorder. It is really a matter of where we look for meaning. I find meaning in time.

Last Sunday's Los Angeles Times Book Review section offered, on the same page, an interview with historian Sean Wilentz on his new book, Bob Dylan in America, and a review of The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, here.

The page featured a quote from Wilentz about Dylan, "He had this sensibility that the past wasn't the past, that the past was the present." He further said of Dylan's early days in New York, "He was living in this world where Edgar Allan Poe was living around the corner...a phantasmagoria of American history." Times reporter Charles Taylor referred to Dylan's CD of holiday music, Christmas in the Heart, as Dylan's love letter to the holiday music that was part of the American popular music he grew up hearing.
A time slip.
When Dylan returned to the Newport Folk Festival in 2002, where his electric debut elicited boos and jeers in 1965, Wilentz said, "There were ghosts all over the place. You could feel them." Wilentz told how he sensed the ghosts take form, many of the pivotal musicians from the American tradition, "...they were all kind of assuming shape again."

My interpretation of this information is that others, including a respected historian who teaches at Princeton, find that the past lives in and through us. We bring it forth in our thoughts, in works we create. It is not a dead thing, immobile in some unreachable long-ago, but alive, its influences at work on us through memories, either individually or collectively.

In his review, Michael Moorcock said that the Hawking-Mlodinow book suggests that physics and metaphysics are growing closer. Robert Oppenheimer is said to have proposed that physics and poetry were indistinguishable.

Moorcock described, "In an environment that includes black holes, super black holes, dark matter, dark energy, string theory, M-theory, alternate pasts and alternate futures, we can no longer assume there is one universe or even a set of universes with a single group of natural laws applicable to everything from the domain of atoms to that of astronomy.

"Models of the universe are changing radically. We now live in a world in which many physicists have come to believe there are not merely three dimensions (plus time) but 10 or possibly 11.

"Even laws we have taken for granted, like those relating to the speed of light, might be at odds in different realms of a near-infinite set of universes."

Those review excerpts and the remainder of the article suggest to me that anything is possible.

What I believe is that, if we pay attention and look inward frequently, we learn to identify our truths. They don't need educated, scientific validation to be true for us, but it does take some of the lunatic self-labeling away to have credible sources appear to think along similar lines. What I feel, what I experience, is the fluid quality of time (yes, I HAVE mentioned this before) but also the real yet intangible way that what has gone before is not gone.