Thursday, December 23, 2010

the hummingbird that watches over our house

"I guess when we leave here he'll move on," Mike says matter-of-factly one day watching him perched in the tree outside our bedroom window.

"Why would he do that?" I ask.

"Well," he says turning, as if the answer were already obvious, "because he's our hummingbird."

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'd like to be a frog

It's almost Christmas. A holy season
some say. The evidence, I suppose,
is around us indeed: Gloved hands clasped
at the steering wheel, "Please, turn over."
The cat worshipping at the altar of the heater.

For my part, I am applying make-up - going for
the sun-kissed look, but an easy slip
ends me looking more bruised than anything,
a truer vision for sure.

Somewhere deep, deep in the muddy earth
there are frogs asleep, dreaming of sun,
creatures that have no use for Nutcracker
tickets, or a spot with a good view
of the lighted boat parade. They wait
for better times, do not, like the humans
tromping above over the slick skin of their heads
have to move through the cold to catch
a ray of hope on the other side.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

shadow shot - succulents

detail of a succulent wreath I've been tending since May as a Christmas present for a friend. interesting that the succulent with the most prominent piece of the shadow isn't itself visible in the picture.

Thank you to Tracy for hosting another Shadow Shot Sunday.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

house hunting

We spent a week at my in-laws' house hunting in nearby towns. It's a strange and curious base camp, my in-laws' house, where all the pens advertise prescription meds and my father-in-law's hearing aid whistles feedback, a fragile trapped bird.

At one point we are having lunch with our real estate agent, discussing how Mike grew up in the area, how his parents are watching Isaac at the moment, etc. etc., when suddenly he turns on me. "And do you have parents?" he blurts innocently.

For those first few moments I am balancing my thoughts on the question like the intricate rock piles I've found on occasion on the beach, then, a wave, and they topple, granite chunks falling unceremoniously with soft thuds to this side and that.

"They're both gone," I say after a long time, and at that a black space extends out in front of me though this otherwise innocuous man in a green wool hat, tunneling beyond the diner booth, beyond main street bustling along outside the window, to somewhere that belongs to me but that I cannot fathom, that I do not know all the corners of, like the basements I've spent the morning creeping down to, poking around in, a foundation of some mystery, a less than usable space, cold and musty. One can drop into this arena with little warning - it might be the door off the kitchen, or sometimes the front hall. Headroom can't be guaranteed, the steps down can give way at any time, the things stored there stuff you can't yet deal with.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

magical futures

Already out of place in the early morning of the parking lot blitz, I take in the population of grungy men climbing from the cabs of pick ups squeezed into spots marked "compact" and slamming their rusty doors one-handed while they sip steaming coffee and head for the entrance.

To his credit, the man in charge of Home Depot's plumbing department did not get on his radio and call security when I approached him and noted plainly, "I want to make a magic wand."

We look at each other for a while.

"Maybe PVC pipe?" I offer. "Thin? Doesn't have to be black, I can paint it. And those white rubber stoppers for the ends? Like on the legs of metal chairs? Or step stools? What are they called?"

Ah, but in the aisle of  pipe we discover the thinnest pipe is not thin enough. My box store shepherd has an lovely island accent (The Isle of Pipe?) and informs me, "All we 'ave is dis size 'nd oop." Though he's already gotten big time gold stars for not having me hauled away, for listening to my magical needs with more regard than most of my closest and dearest would ever dream of, he continues with serious intent: "Does de flexibilidee mattah?"

We look at hoses. Good potential, but I'd have to buy the whole coil. I consider my prospects, while my host takes a call from another customer - something about warranties, normal as all get out. I congratulate myself for adding spice to his day - the crazy lady whose son wants a magic wand for Christmas. When he ends his call, I thank him in that way that means he's off the hook. He looks relieved.

When I was in college studying languages madly, my career advisor washed her hands of me early on. "I'm sorry," she said, pushing my resume back across the desk at me. "I don't think we can help you." While others reveled in summer internships, I found out that the way I move in the world, doesn't always have a name or a space.

Lately, we have been house hunting. I walk into a 250-year-old colonial renovation project and hear it screaming to me about its future as a writers' guest house. I call the planning board and they "can't find anything in the zoning bylaws that matches" what I'm talking about. "I'm trying to grasp exactly what it is you are wanting to do, ma'am." Me too, sir. Me too.

So Home Depot is not my resource for magic. Somehow this doesn't surprise me in the least. Neither are planning officers stewards of dreams. So what. What I've learned in the time since Egyptian hieroglyphs excluded me from employment, is that just because those in charge can't define you, and even when you can't explain what precisely that vision looks like yourself, it doesn't mean you have to give up your dreams of magic.

Chaos Code Orange

Kitty: I can't find the glue.

Mike: Well, isn't it next to the blender?

Kitty: Whaddaya know, there it is. Thanks.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

shadow shot - dinosaurs

Waiting for the dinosaur phase to end is like waiting for the truck phase to end. In other words, waiting in vain. I don't mind so much though, I'm beginning to be able to tell my anchlyosauruses from my iguanodons quite well, thank you..

Pictured: Oviraptor and Isaac

Head over to Hey Harriet for all kinds of shadowy visions.

Monday, November 29, 2010

more audio: When a Teacher Goes to Jail

Okay, so here's my first attempt at a produced piece using the Audacity editing program. My friend, writer and teacher Paul Karrer, had a story to tell and so we recorded it and I put it here. You might want to give it a listen. And, hey, times are such that you might was to "share it" around. (It is also on my sidebar under Cool Stuff/Me Stuff.) Thanks.

And if anyone is an expert on Audacity, for godssake write me and give me all your tips.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Danielle Evans - Book Review

Weary of waiting for my buddy to get this up on his podcast, so...Here's my book review of Danielle Evans' killer collection of short stories, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. I've also put the link on my sidebar under "What We're Reading." Anybody prefer the text over the audio? Can create a link upon request.

(Beware, adult language in some excerpts I read...Just in case you feel like blasting it in surround sound and prissy Aunt Felicity is visiting.)

shadow shot - PG Museum

These pictures were taken about a month ago, when the sun was favoring us a bit more than it is now. Isaac and a friend were searching for plastic glow-in-the-dark bugs hidden in the rocks at the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum - an activity connected to an exhibit on bioluminescence. The spinning sculpture watched over them as they studied the ground.

I often think that children should be considered bioluminescent, as clearly they make their own light.

Hey Harriet has all the shadows to beat. Check it out.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

These Days

Isaac: These days I've seen people with shopping carts. I mean, not at stores, just people have them, like they must have bought them. Have you seen that man that sits on the ground and he has like hundreds of blankets in a shopping cart?

Me: Yes. That man has those blankets because he doesn't have a home. He uses them when it's cold if he had to sleep outside. 

Doesn't have a home?

He's homeless. Some people choose that life, but other people are homeless because they are having a hard time. Maybe they don't have family to go to or the money to get somewhere to stay. 

He must have friends, though!

Let's hope so.

Because you don't need money to have friends!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. With much gratitude for all we have, for you and for my son whose wit, innocence, and intuitive intelligence knock me off my feet by the hour. And who has inspired from me so much writing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


let's just see how much longer the kid can enjoy treats such as this popsicle...

So far we have failed to convince Isaac to vigorously wiggle his two front teeth (both loose) so as to aid and abet the departure of the little bones from his gum line prior to a certain upcoming holiday, antagonism which we would follow by then inciting him to sing the song apropos of the event while dressed in some elf-like costume that will embarrass him heartily in only a few short years, completing our parenting manipulation duty by posting the performance on numerous social networking sites.

But it could be worse. I could make him watch this video. (if you make it to the end, watch for the green Christmas pig.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shadow Shot - Fuchsia

A simple shadow shot this weekend from my garden.

Check out all the camera creatives this week at the blog Hey Harriet


Friday, November 19, 2010

jeans circa 2010

It had been a VERY long time that I had been in a retail store looking for clothes. I buy a lot of my stuff second hand, and lately I don't buy very much stuff period. But after one more basic of my wardrobe was scarred with an irreversible flaw, I decided to take the plunge.

I can remember being in Hungary in the mid-nineties and thinking I needed to get home before this email “craze” got too out of hand. I didn't want to be too far behind in learning what was what. I was twenty-something with a lot more energy and no clue of just how fast technology was about to fly along the spectrum of new.

Apparently, technology wasn't the only thing to speed ahead. So, I let a bit too much time pass since I've pawed the racks. Now, there is a whole code to finding pants and I didn't get the decoder ring in my cornflakes. Jeans all have coordinates that refer to how long, how stretchy, and how fitted they are. Perhaps you are normal and know this already, but if you are a fashion outcast like me never fear – because it's all made simple by assigning each of these formulas a woman's name.

Let's just called them “Clarissa,” “Lexie,” and “Madeleine” - to protect the innocent. It's a little like being back in high school – and who wouldn't welcome something that fun! “Clarissa” is relaxed through the hips, boot cut. “Lexie” is slim in the waist and hips, fitted down the leg. (Bitch. We hate Lexie.) “Madeleine” sits just below the hips, regular cut.

But the award-winner was something called “the Boyfriend” - and I quote, “slouchy through the hips and waist, relaxed leg.”

One boyfriend to share around with all these women. Trouble.

So far I had survived mostly unscathed and under the radar with only a few “you doin' okays?” Next, I just had to battle the sales clerks at the registers. Mine was surprisingly tolerable, minus her distinctive overuse of the two-syllable descriptor “Sah-weeet!”

I hope I don't make a return trip any time soon, though I'm praying the information cache I've gathered won't devalue. I'm hoping this trip was education enough and that if I come back in another bazillion years it'll be kind of like a soap opera where nothing ever really changes except who's hanging next to the Boyfriend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

holiday greetings

 Every year since Isaac was born, Mike and I shun all those cool templates at Snapfish to make our own holiday cards. The wisdom of this tradition is under investigation and has some interesting predecessors – build your own wedding invitation anyone? Make it a size and shape that you are forced to also make your own envelopes? See bride and groom. See bride and groom fume. See bride leave in a huff. See groom finish envelopes alone. See this pattern repeat – For. The. Rest. Of. Their. Lives.

This year, I'm having more trouble than most working on the card. I had decided to do an original linoleum block print for the design after an old interest in the art form was recently rekindled for me. Months ago I snapped up some paper on clearance at the craft store. It was still spring and juices were flowing.

Oddly, my plan for a block print Christmas card was one of the few things I got to tell my mother the last morning before she died. I didn't tell her how beautiful she was or how I wished we'd stayed longer in April after our flight to Ireland was canceled. I didn't tell her about the miscarriage. But, as she lay bloated and laboring to breathe in a hospital bed in cardio-ICU: “Hey, mom, we're gonna do block prints for our Christmas cards!”

It was June. Did I think that might be the one thing to keep her hanging on? Maybe elect for surgery or heavy duty cardio meds so she could be around to get some winter wonderland scene in the mail pressed onto sale paper?

At the time, I think she nodded. With that, her job was done. Child number four had arrived at her bedside while she was still breathing. She'd beckoned the nurse, calling her into the room by name to show her the 11x14 print I'd brought of Isaac grinning out from a tangle of tree branches and subtitled “I love you, Grandmom! Feel Better!” What else was there to do?

I was starting to get the idea that our usual personalized greeting could become something of a tinder box this year when I tried to come up with a tag line...

“Hope maybe your mom is still alive this holiday season.”
“This year sucked, the new year should be better because at least my mom can't die again.”
“Wishing you joy – somebody might as well have it since it appears unavailable to me.”
“Keep family close this holiday season, unless of course your mom is dead, then, it'd be a little weird.”

I keep hearing from people how my mom “would have loved...(Fill in the Blank).” There's a block print in it for you if you can come up with a card slogan that she would have loved.

Monday, November 15, 2010

for the love of produce

“It's beautiful!” exclaims my son. “Look at it!”

He is referring to a carrot.

I am speechless. Overcome with joy and pride. It's worked. All that time other children spent at the park, or soccer practice, my boy was in training at the farmer's markets.

My work is done here. Thank you. Good night. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

shadow shot - Seattle

This past September our family found itself in Seattle because of a conference Mike was attending. The first two shots below are me over a plaque in the sidewalk at the famous Pike's Peak Market and then the detail of that plaque.

Later in the visit we met up with friends that live there and Isaac got to reunite with his buddies - their 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. Wandering around with the kids on a rainy afternoon, we found ourselves at a (mostly) abandoned skate park where the kids had a blast racing around and sliding down the slanted sides.

For all kinds of shadows check out host Tracy's Shadow Shot Sunday at Hey Harriet.

Monday, November 08, 2010

having kids is a series of ups and downs

The End of the Dinosaurs: a Shakespearean-like Tragedy, by Isaac
(Scene: Earth. Post-apocalyptic asteroid hit)
(Cast of Characters: Dinosaurs; Baby Frog)

And then, all the ones with wings started picking up the smaller, defenseless dinosaurs and taking them to safety!

Wow! That's so nice!.

But the dust was too thick (Cough! Cough!). They were choking. Then, another rock the size of (drops voice to a dramatic whisper) the whole entire Universe falls (raises voice to top volume again) CRASHING FROM THE SKY!!! KA-GUSH- BA-FOOOM!!

That sounds bad, dude.

But there was one baby dinosaur... (attempts to cram small dino into a plastic egg, but seeing it doesn't fit abandons it for a stretchy frog)...No, no! A baby FROG is left.

A baby left! Yay!

And the ash is everywhere! And the asteroid sucked away all the gravity and turned it into lava, and, and...


The baby frog hatches in the air.

Go baby frog! Way to survive!

But then, when it leaves the egg it lands right on top of the volcano and it burns up!

I think our days have evolved from Christopher Robin and Pooh to Calvin and Hobbes.

I don't know what you're talking about, Mommy, but get out of the way – the volcano is still erupting!!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Shadow Shot - Emandal

I've been hoarding my shadow shots and have a back log. This week's goes back to September when we visited the fabulous Emandal: A Farm on a River in Mendicino County, California. The marigolds and zinnias. The children traipsing back from a harvest. The funky shadow of a little friend's tail. The bowed trees along the trail.

A beautiful diversity of shadows can be found at Tracy's blog Hey Harriet.

Friday, November 05, 2010

school search, part VII: our children as our best attributes

“Are you on any waiting lists?” my friend asks me when the topic of Isaac's school choices comes up.

“What waiting lists should I be on?”

“I don't know. It just seems like when people discuss schools, they're on waiting lists.”

This is how we talk about education these days.

Mike recently posted his class picture from kindergarten on Facebook to much acclaim. Mike is not one of these people who has a million Facebook friends, or, for that matter, who spends much time on Facebook. At all. So when 20 extensive comments showed up following that shot of a bunch of five- and six-year-olds in dorky plaids and collars to their elbows, it spoke of something significant.

People's comments read like a theater usher's directions: “Third from the left, bottom row, next to the pillar– is that Dawn Shields???!!”

There was discussion about the spellings of names, about the parents of the little fashionistas and which of them may or may not have served as den mothers and scout leaders. There was an ongoing volley about one of the classmates and her battle with cancer. The excitement in the banter (cancer aside) was palpable. There was a liberal use of punctuation – ellipses, dashes and question marks, perhaps followed by an entire row of exclamation points. In other words, it was a scene, man.

If Mike's little FB experience is any indication, who you hang with around the art table, the first bunch of people you wrestle with for your turn at the water fountain, create a lasting impression. No one talked about math lessons or reading circles. They talked about who they were in relation to each other. The social ins and outs. The personal hurts and triumphs.

We search for the right “academic” environment to set down our little people. We rank schools based on test scores. I suppose because it's measurable and this other stuff is messy. When did we decide we don't have the time for messy? Who's getting in the sandbox with me?

Look. We are fucked up as a people. But it wasn't always so. We used to be them – the kids – innocent, joyful. We have the power to help them. Furthermore, there is potential for them to help us.

A scruffy-faced man in slouchy, dirty jeans and a ballcap that reads “Go to the Edge” walks into the sports center pool area. He looks tired. Truth be told, he looks even a bit frightening. Except that he is flanked by two little girls, each grasping one of his rough hairy paws. They are probably around three and six. They are golden-haired with purple butterfly clips in their curls. Both wear pink bathing suits, the younger one's complete with tutu bouncing about on her tiny hips. He grins down at them and they bound away for the water. As context, these little girls change everything about the scene. They presumably share the genes of this hulking scrap heap of a man, or more to the point, he shares theirs. Somewhere inside him there is something this delicate. Something precious. There is a pink tutu. I just know it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

school search - part VI

There is a hair cutting school in my neighborhood where you can get walk-in five-dollar cuts. It's a good deal, if students with scissors don't make you too nervous and if you have some extra time (cuz these cats are trying to get it right...). I took Isaac there to get the hair off his ears and out of his eyes.

While waiting in the reception area, the young man who would be our hair dresser for the day approached and introduced himself. Before he could lead us to the hair chair, however, a woman stopped him to ask for his urgent help. The dryer her mother was sitting under was too hot and was beginning to scorch her scalp. The man turned down the heat dial and confirmed with the customer that the new temperature was good for her. Before leaving them, he addressed the daughter. “If it heats up too much again, just turn this dial to a lower number,” he said, pointing out the huge white markings on the chair's controls affixed in plain sight. “Oh,” replied the woman, as if this were new and strange technology she wouldn't dare have thought to tamper with. “Okay.”

Now, nothin for nothin people, and with all due respect for the 10 months these hair folks spend studying how to give perms and fool your friends with extensions, did that woman seriously not think it was within her own power to turn down the heat? Did she never investigate? Did the mother never consider removing her head from the assaulting burn? Are we so helpless as a species? Such obedient sheep to follow along until we are in physical danger or worse? Such rule followers as to be completely out of touch with our own instincts?

I have two major concerns about public schools and they have nothing to do with academics. The first is demonstrated above. We think that “discipline” issues are bad in schools, but consider this blog to weigh in on the problem of obedience, the lost art of free thinking.

So, Isaac gets his booster seat and settles in for an hour-long cut. (Don't try this at home folks!) The poor thing was having to pull out every little bit of hard-earned Montessori concentration to sit there in the chair. I wasn't any less fidgety since I was pretty certain I was going to die of bad pop music while there and kept swiveling this way and that hoping to find the radio switch to smash.

Of course, we did have plenty of time for conversation, the young man and I at least, since Isaac was refusing to speak. During that time I made sure to point out to my son his hair dresser's Barbie pink fingernails.

Isaac has been very influenced by a couple friends, who don't even live in the area anymore, but whose rigid ideas of gender they managed to pass on quite successfully on some level to my son.

(“I'm not going to have an earring when I grow up. I'm going to be a real boy!” he once said to me. Images of Pinocchio in a sterling earcuff float through my mind. WTF??)

I learned that hair dresser guy, had a Halloween party for his birthday every year, since it fell at the end of October and that this year he was going to be a pirate. I also learned that he was graduating next month. And finally, I learned that he was born and raised in Salinas, which caused me to have to stop myself from grabbing his arm, the one with the black rubber bracelet that said “Vanity,” and blurting out, “Oh my god! That must have been terrible for you!” Salinas, California, known as it is for its associations with Steinbeck, big agriculture, and gang violence, isn't quite as note-worthy in its general ideas of tolerance.

Which brings me to problem number two in the public schools: a lack of emphasis on compassionate social interaction and integration.

I mean, let's face it people. We are at war. What do we have to teach our kids about empathy or cooperation? Gee, can't imagine why bullying is a problem...

I'm planning on going as my worst nightmare for Halloween this year: a soccer mom. “Are you gonna scream a lot?” my friend asked me, “Because you need to scream a lot.” (Capri Sun, anyone? Pictures to follow.) While I went searching for a blonde bob wig in the drug store the other day to round out my costume, my gentle, loving son battled an invisible victim with a bloody plastic hatchet, behavior I find all the more disturbing since the kid's only ever watched a few hours of television in his life and most of that consisted of Dinosaur Train and the Olympics. You might find it odd that I connect fumbling foreign policies, youth sports teams, dumby weaponry and the absence of kindness, and if so, then, I still have more convincing to do. Later. Just how I like to think about where to send Isaac to school next year. Later.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

pomegranates as religion

I knew it would be the perfect time. Late October. I hadn't been to the market in a few weeks – well, not to THE market, the one that has my favoritest farmer with my favoritest fruits. Tuesdays are market day (THE market day), and Tuesdays have been a challenge lately with our current family schedule. It takes more time and effort to get to downtown Monterey than I am able to sustain some weeks. The neighborhood where I live isn't so down with the organic produce, though you can run into any number of steeples within a stone's throw of my house. (If you are craning your neck skyward toward those steeples too long though, you better beware of the ragged chainlink waiting to snatch at your legs, such is the beauty of my 'hood.) Four years ago I moved to a neighborhood where it was all about a healthy soul. Too bad I'm more interested in cultivating a healthy body and somehow cling to the notion of aesthetics as integral to my happiness. But enough about fenced in evangelists.

Isaac was starting his second month of swimming lessons. He's a confident swimmer for whom being submerged in chlorine is a dream come true. I can remember us taking him to the pool long enough ago that many weeks he'd conk out for a nap before we could get him in the car. Long enough ago that we've added “swim diapers” to our family's personal responsibility for landfill waste. Now, excited to be learning strokes and dives, he's a better swimmer than I will ever hope to be. In fact, he's a polar bear.

Living in Monterey and its environs means that swimming levels are not called things like 1, 2, 3, or 4. Oh no. We'll save that kind of ho-hum for the landlocked, the impoverished souls that don't have a National Marine Sanctuary off their shores. In Monterey, the swim levels are called things like “Dolphin” and “Starfish” and “Sea Turtle” and it's up to the parents to buy into this clever but bizarre culture of the appropriate sea life corresponding to your child's ability to do the breast stroke.

I recently had a conversation with the aquatic director in which the terms “Seahorse,” “Penguin,” and “Polar Bear” were tossed around to such a degree it was impossible to follow what the hell he was talking about, though he acted as if rational adults speak this way every day. It was a bit like inserting the Jabberwocky into casual conversation. “He's very good with the vorpal sword. I really think he'll be ready for the Bandersnatch next time. The jaws that bite and the claws that catch shouldn't bother him a bit. Now, if he's worried about the Jubjub bird, then I'd say he might want to stay away from the slithy toves, but otherwise, O frabjous day! Callooh Callay!”

The point here is not supposed to be how magnificent my son is in water, nor how oddly labeled his skills might be. The point here is that the sports center is a mere two blocks from the market. Doubtful I was supposed to leave the premises, I abandoned Isaac with his new instructor, his fellow Polar Bears, gave up my spot on that horrid metal bleacher filled with a crowd of parents leaning toward the poolside to see how little Xavier the Guppie was doing and dashed out and down the street toward my one true love: Pomegranates!

When I arrived, the pomegranates were even better than I'd even hoped for.(O frabjous day!...) They were monstrous, engorged beauties their crowns glistening in the sun. A day of rain over the weekend had split them and their juicy rubies showed through the cracks. (I'm pretty serious about my fruit.) Dale, my buddy, the farmer himself, was not there on this day and one of the other farm workers who doesn't know me was minding the stall. As I started to pile the poms bigger than softballs into a bag, he grew concerned. “Lady,” he said to me. “They're three dollars a pound!”

Some women shop for clothes. I spend all my money at the farmer's markets.

Mommy! Mommy! Why is it so cold in the house?”

Put on a sweater and eat your pomegranates, Isaac.”

But Mommy! Why can't I go to swimming lessons anymore?”

Wouldn't you rather float on a bed of pomegranate seeds, honey? Now pass the bowl.”

In my defense, pomegranates are high in vitamin C and potassium. The little immune boosters contain yummy antioxidants. If these pomegranates could swim, baby, they'd be Orcas. Amen.

Pomegranate Season Again

and here I am with pen
in hand. Each year I try:
tiny baubles I call them,
rubies, gems, clusters
of cranberry eggs sparkling
like Christmas – all of the metaphors
lacking or taken, though I go on
spilling blood
on my kitchen counter -
a California slasher movie

starring Persephone.
And once she comes into it,
well, it's all over, isn't it?
A girl in the dark, a mother
pacing above, her grief enough
to keep the blossoming world
at bay. Is any fruit worth this --
family fissures, death, and blood-letting?
Even Neruda with his Odes -
the tomatoes, to the onion,
didn't have to contend with the maiden
cum queen, the hungry earth
wrenching open in a muddy maw.

One must grow into one's majesty
the immature among us
fastened to the branch
by the crowns
of our heads.
To know so young one is royal,
to spoil such sweetness.

Now on my counter they lie
huge and heavy, weighted down
by their own juices,
oversized doorknobs locked
against innocence and painted
for all the world to see
like the lips of a geisha.

I take the knife to them. The berry bodies
explode with a spray of red-black droplets,
not unlike the octopus before surrender,
a final message as the end approaches --
secrets never told,
blotchy reminders of a simpler love.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

found out

Iz: Do we have any cardboard? I want to make a sign.

Me: What kind of sign?

Iz: One that says, "Please Don't Park In the Driveway" so Daddy won't drive on the beautiful chalk mural I'm going to draw.

(After obtaining cardboard and pen, we sit on the front step...)

Me: (writing) "P-L-E-A-S-E... Dddd-Oooo-Nnnn-Tttt...  Hmm. "Park." How do you think I'd spell "Park?"

Iz: Pppp P!

Me: Okay. And Aaarrr...Aaarrr...

Iz: ??

Me: A-R...

Iz: A-R!

Me: What would "Park" end with?

Iz: K!

Me: Oh, right - K. Oh, and Isaac, wait til you see -- "Drive" has one of those silent E's!

Iz: Hey! Are you trying to learn me to read??

Me: Wouldn't think of it, kid.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

musical leanings

Is it my fault that Isaac is in love with the "Rent" Soundtrack? The boy has taste. Is it any worse than him running around the house singing "Ay ay ay, put your hands up high, 'cause you never know how long you're gonna live 'til you die" from Spearhead? Like I said, taste.

"The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." 
- from "La Vie Boheme" (Jonathan Larson)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Going back to clean out the house – the return trip

I was in Midway airport. Why do I constantly seem to be in Midway airport?

“Shiiiiine-'em-up! Shiiiiiiiiiine-'em-up!” says the man. He calls out again through the din of summer travelers, apparently undeterred that most all of them traipsing by are in flip flops and tennis shoes. “Shiiiine-'em-up!” He is sitting under as sign that reads “Shoe Hospital.”

Before I left I retrieved a piece of mail from my mom's box – a reminder asking her to please complete the survey they'd sent already from the first hospital she went to about her feelings on the care she received there. Mama said there'd be days like this. What she said was, “Life goes on.” Nothing if not original, my mother. Life in the form of surveys. Life in the form of computers generating junk mail. Perhaps there is Yelp on the other side and mom can critique the stupid hospital. Not sure what she'd say exactly, because the only contact I had in that place myself was parading through its halls with my sisters to try to retrieve my mother's clothes that no one there had bothered to send along with her or back to us: a pair of jeans and a tee shirt that read “Lima Bean Lovers Live Longer.”

The facts are so dumbly ironic, there is no commentary to highlight them, really.

At least in this direction no one tried to get me to read a copy of the eulogy they had with them for the funeral they were going to. No one shared with me with stories of their breast cancer, while I wept, unacknowledged, trapped in my seat by another delay and a jam packed terminal gate.

Back in Philly, they told me there was an earlier connection into San Jose I might make, but when I got here I saw that that flight was actually to San Diego. A difference of 460 miles. If it were only so easy – just exchange one saint for another. Swap out your requests. San Rafael, patron saint of health. San Francisco, watching over the animals. What's the difference, really? Just merge them all in an imaginary sacred overpass between the 5 and the 101. Crazy, west coast weirdos are we. The east coasters lost in our concrete maze of prayers.

August is over. It's a full month. The anniversary of when I met my husband comes in the month of August. The anniversary of when we arrived in Monterey 13 years ago. The anniversary of the first earthquake we experienced after arriving in Monterey. Our wedding anniversary and my birthday both come in August.

I have had zero time to type up or think out the oodles of journal pages and even more thoughts and dreams that never made it that far. I'm about to go off the grid, so to speak, for a few days, for a much-needed, long-ago-planned long weekend with the fam at a farm where I can sit by the river or under the apple trees and stir only at the dinner bell. So my lack of posting will continue for a few more days, but afterwards, I hope to be back more regularly.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

whales and such (Yoo Hooo! Monterey Bay Aquar-i-um...)

 Isaac this past July on a whale watching trip in the Monterey Bay

My friend Kate (geez, I have the coolest friends) has an article in the new Monterey County Weekly about whale watching in our bay this summer, which has been fantastically stellar (modify superlatives? why yes, I think I will, thank you.).

In one paragraph, Kate states, "Connecting with nature is the best way to inspire children to grow up committed to conservation, according to educator David Sobel, author of Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. It’s crucial to give children a chance to build a lasting, nourishing love of the wild before they are burdened with worries about overwhelming environmental problems. Observing nature can also help lengthen attention spans and combat digital addiction." (emphasis mine)

Back in April of this year I wrote a couple pieces about my feelings on the new exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and how I thought they missed the mark for kids, making much the same point Kate does. Jenny Sayre Ramberg of the Aquarium picked up the blog piece right away, and we proceeded to have an interesting discussion within the comments. I also wrote a follow-up blog on the subject. That is as far as I got at the time. Until now.

Besides Kate's article which gave me renewed interest and vigor in the subject, I am rather concerned about what might be happening as the MBA takes down the beloved Outer Bay tank for the next 10 months to revamp it into the "Open Sea" exhibit coming in July 2011. First, let me say that the Outer Bay is/was a classic. In place since 1996, it is an enormous wall of glass where you can watch from ground level or sit upstairs in the dark and take in hammerheads, tuna, rays, and an amazing array of amazing creatures go on by. The balcony seats are the best in the house, in my opinion. I've been taking Isaac there since he was 3 months old. The beauty is unmatched, but more, the serenity is untouchable.

With the new and "improved" exhibit, they promise to address climate change and plastics pollution, as "as always" point to positive solutions. So my question again is HOW will that happen? In what FORM and in what ORDER at EYE LEVEL will these things come at us? I am also not comforted by the dangling carrot of more "multi-media experiences." Again, in my past discussion of this topic, I stated that I thought the screens were being a little too heavily relied on and upstaging the animals themselves. I don't want to play a game about a sea turtle, I want to watch one swim by. I don't want to be sucked in (and have my child sucked in) to a video of the sunfish, when -- if the tourists would quick flashing their bloody cameras for a second -- one might swim by in the flesh.

My aquarium renewal notice just arrived in the mail...I'm no Julie Packard when it comes to my ability to financially support this resource, but still. I need to know how my money will be spent.

Jenny, I think I will have to belatedly take up your offer to give you a ring at the aquarium. Hope to talk to you soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Save the Words!

You must go to the coolest site I have seen in a long time.

I am the proud new mama to the word "starrify." "I hereby promise to use this word in conversation and correspondence as frequently as possible, to the very best of my ability."

For the sake of our youth, the future leaders of our planet, you must make it a habit to gravitate toward any education professionals willing to use their little gold stickers to starrify rather than reward. (consider it an entry under "school search part 5.")

With many thanks to my pal Eve for this one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

going back to clean out the house, part 2

I stop at the bank to give my brother one less thing to do. “I need to leave some information about my mother's estate...” I tell the woman. “And when I say 'estate,'” I mumble to myself minutes later as I head back out the door, “I mean the 650 square-foot rental full of dust and expired toothpaste coupons.”

Most of the sorting, of course, is paper. The things I found in my mother's house. I really can't decide what is more precious:

The envelope addressed to the White House, stamped and ready for battle, or maybe the DVD titled “Life or Debt: Simple Steps for a Lifetime of Financial Freedom”...still unopened.

The business card of a “Middle Eastern dance artist,” or mom's current membership card to the NAACP.

Mom's passport, renewed and up-to-date, without a single stamp in it other than the invisible seal of optimism, or –and this could be the topper— the lyrics to “Born to be Wild” handwritten on looseleaf.

Magazines about living with Diabetes, wrist braces, neck braces, canes, walkers, prosthetic breasts, I toss each in turn into the donation pile, with the same mantra: “Well, mom, you don't need these, or these, or these. You're free now.” It should make me feel better, but it doesn't.

The phone rings and I see from the caller ID it's the consolidation company that paid out on her bills. They aren't collectors, no harm in talking to them, and so, I do. When I inform the woman that my mother is unfortunately deceased, she stops short and sounds genuinely sorry. I leave her with my brother's phone number. When we're ready to hang up, she expresses her sympathy once again, but then just can't help herself, “Have a great day!” she effuses.

I find an old Polaroid of mom from some Halloween past, dressed as a devil and hamming it up for the camera. I tape it at eye level to the door jam so devil-mom can watch over us as we sort through her books. In my delirium, I find this somehow hilarious, though my siblings don't get the joke. “What is that? Why is that there?” one or the other of my sisters keeps asking. “Is that Rita?” Better it were a photo of her with the same impish grin holding a whiskey sour instead of a pitch fork and toasting us while we sweat in the hell of her tiny house, the ceiling fans all dangerous blades, the monopoly game up for grabs.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

going back to clean out the house

Mike and Isaac drive me downtown to pick up the shuttle. And, as my ride departs, it first takes me through the same territory I just traveled to get to my starting point. I see this somehow as significant. But I am weary of metaphor, worn out by searching for signs within signs, really just glad at the moment not to be listening to anyone's cell phone conversation.

Here we are. Flying to get to the people we love and left. Or to where they used to be. The man across the aisle gets on his phone and my reprieve is broken. “Ron's plane is delayed,” he says into his cell. “I'm on my way. I'm on the bus.” And then, “How'd the night go?” I sense something right away. He continues: “How's the breathing? (pause) Vitals?” Ridiculous and apropo. Really, can't we just take a break from signs and synchronicity for a while? What to make of it all?

Here we all are, at the final moments, at the big transitions, relying on the same technology and futuristic inventions that allowed us to get this far apart to begin with to rush us back to see the people it separated us from. It either makes perfect sense or none at all.

Take a look at Sharon Old's poem called “The Race.”

In Marina, a girl gets one the shuttle – 20? 22? Her mother is there seeing her off, three big curls of hair just out of their forms sit on her head for bangs. Her daughter wears a pink baseball hat. She climbs aboard the bus and takes the free front seat, greeting her seatmate in the quick, jovial way of her age – heavy with optimism and expectation, vulnerable, not yet touched by too much grief. The girl promptly buckles her seatbelt and turns her head to catch the gaze of the mother, who is staring back. The two keep eye contact with each other for 30 seconds or more while I watch. Finally, a tiny, audible gasp trains my eyes away from the mom and back to the girl. She wipes her eyes and straightens her pink cap. She is late to take in the reality of the leaving, and I envy her. For my part, I have been long awash in tears.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

crazy stuff at the library

I have just arrived at my library – or, one of them in the general vicinity of my residence – to new hours posted on the door. More hours they are closed. And I groan and slump and continue through the automatic door. Where will the crazy people go, I wonder? And believe me when I tell you I count myself among them.

As I type this there is a homeless man, one I see often in the area, at the table to my left cutting up periodicals and what appears, at least, to be book covers. One would think this might be a problem at the library, but the reference desk guy just came over and hauled off the 20-year-old with the laptop next to him instead. It sounded serious. Porno printouts? Too many downloads of American Idol finals ripping through the system? Makes one wonder. In the process, Homeless Man called a loud, boisterous greeting to Reference Guy and Reference Guy answered him politely and solemnly.

Homeless Man is a familiar face around here, we exchange greetings frequently, and sometimes change or apples, plus starved as we are for community, between him and the two former Brooklynites who've just reunited like loud, long-lost lovers to my right, talking about the days when baseball was “a gentleman's sport,” I'm feeling pretty much cozy in a “gang's-all-here” kind of way. It's like when you see a woman on the shuttle bus to the airport who also shows up in front of you at security. If you weren't fast buds by then, then when she sits down in the same gate area as you, you are considering inviting her to your family reunion. We are a social set. Like it or not.

It is really disconcerting – that tearing sound – Homeless Man again. Though he doesn't bother me nearly as much as he could. The last time I was in the library there was a woman crying hysterically while she perused the shelves, alternately reciting the rosary and commenting on magazine covers. It went something like,”Boo-hoo-hoo. Snort!! Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is...Oh, look! Oprah and Ellen!...with thee-hee-hee-hee...SOB!” The time before that, it was the sleeping man next to me awakened by his drunk friend to much commotion; and we can't forget the man in the Russian accent pacing on the grass just outside the window when I tried to escape to a private corner, shrieking tirades and curses into a cell phone that would have given Mel Gibson a run for his money. The Russians have whole dictionaries of vulgarities, though he was choosing to use ours.

Libraries are tricky places. Not as innocent as they seem. I've written about them before this way.
I need to confess that I have also been the crazy person in the library. In our last family visit with my mom in April of this year, we set her up with Skype. She had been suspicious of the service from the start, although ultimately we managed two very successful video calls before she passed.

I had been taken back by how much I had felt like I'd “visited” afterward, as opposed to calls or emails, which admittedly, I hadn't kept up nearly well enough. I had been looking forward to establishing the Skype dates as a regular thing, but we'd only be granted the two.

So I was in the library one day, working on an audio piece I have yet to finish, when a Skype call came in from my mom. I hit answer and tried to keep my voice low. “I can't hear you!” my mother kept shouting from my computer screen. I scooped up my things hurriedly and headed for the door.

“I'm in the library, ma.”


“The library!” I shuffle quickly past the homework helpers, a crowd at the online catalogue, cord dangling, bag and limbs akimbo.

“I still can't hear you, dear.”

“That's because I'm trying to be quiet. I'm at the LIBRARY!”

“WHAT?” says the little lady in my arms again, as I zoom by the check out counter, finally the foyer, and out onto the front steps.


“Oh,” she says, finally satisfied and wholly unconcerned. “That's nice.”

I attempt to hold a relatively normal and brief conversation with my mom while on the library steps, sun shining onto screen, battery dwindling, public passing by, as she regales me with the details on the height of her cosmos, the fate of her day lilies. At last, I ask her to please call me on Skype only when we've arranged it beforehand or when she knows I'm at home.

“Call YOU? I didn't call you,” she tells me.

“Of course you did.”

“No, I didn't.”

“Well, I didn't call YOU.”

“You didn't?”


She insisted that Skype did it on its own. Can I count a third Skype call, then? Another connection before she left? Can I count us among the crazy people?

Monday, August 16, 2010

War, Letters, Love

Pictured: Heath Proskin, Bill Minor, Richard Mayer.
Photo Credit: David Hall., Monterey Herald.

There is a project I've been a part of for a while called "Love Letters of Lynchburg" that is truly unique and interesting on many levels. Yesterday, we did a performance - a CD release party - that was a reading of love letters between two people from during the Civil War, backed by a live trio on an original score. All of it orchestrated by the charming and extraordinary Bill Minor, who happens to be distantly related to the two wartime lovers. Here is a link to an article about the performance that gives a little more background. I'm tempted just to copy and paste the article, since I'm not sure how long the link will be good for, but anyhoo...

It was one of those times when you realize late on the significance of what you're doing. Bill asked me to read the letters of Susan Leigh Blackford, essentially to be Susan, and I wouldn't think of saying no to Bill. Along the journey, I learned how fascinating she was, the time was, the relationship she had was, and yesterday, how much our merry little band could touch people with the story. As one person noted in thanking us, the exchange was plain and simple an anti-war statement, nevermind from a war none of us can remember or even imagine.

I want to refer back to two poems, of mine and of Ruth Fainlight - from which mine takes its architecture - that I posted on this blog two years ago. Fainlight's poem in fact speaks specifically of wartime letters again.

How much do you use pen and paper anymore? Do you? What can it change to see personal communication become electronic? What does each do to shape the time we're in? How do we participate in that shaping?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another Shadow Shot Sunday

Another Shadow Shot Sunday? Hmm. I'm not much for routine, but here I seem to be again. Two for two so far.

Recently, a group of grad school friends were in Monterey for a 10-year mini-reunion. I played tourist in my own town for the first time in a long time. We went whale watching one day and on the way to the dock, got to hang out around one of the smelliest animals on the planet: the sea lions. I'm a sucker, though, and individually, from a distance, they are pretty sweet. This one seemed to be gazing into his reflection, uh, shadow.

Behold the stinky sea lion:

And then we saw a bit of this:
I missed the shot of the giant mouths open and pink dining on krill and other gourmet humpback snacks.

After a crazy, packed weekend, we all felt a bit like this:

Enjoy more international Shadow Shots at host Tracy's site Hey Harriet.

Share Related Posts with Thumbnails