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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

stasis and movement in the summer of 2010

The following might be an odd pairing of topics. Welcome to my world. These days I am jolted between everyday stuff and tragic memories, between the joy of a five-year-old who just won't stop learning and the enveloping worry that tugs at me when I think he might not remember his grandmom. So let's just get started.

How do you define peace?

There are people in my life that think of peace as a state of stillness – not necessarily equilibrium, just mostly quiet. A place where no one is rocking the boat. I see peace differently, as something that must be worked toward, as something in motion and sometimes thorny. I see authenticity as essential to it, and I believe that when authenticity or fairness is violated, one must speak out, and, contrary to what some would believe, I never do this lightly.

Peace is not a static place. Peace is a collaboration, an exploration.

In March of 2003, when the world showed up to protest the imminent invasion of Iraq by the United States, Mike and I went to San Francisco to join in. We did not stand, flatly in one place, we walked, all of us, washing down the streets of the city.

Now, if what you are interested in is a static place, you are in luck, there is such a place. A place where nothing changes, ever. I'm talking, of course, about the boardwalk. Any boardwalk, take your pick, as long as it has funnel cake and men trying to swish a basketball through a hoop to win a giant stuffed smiling banana for some chick in short shorts and MC Hammer blaring from the speakers and people screaming as they dive however many stories in a rickety car down a track and people displaying tattoos on all kinds of body parts and skeeball, there must be skeeball.

And the truth is that I'd give a lot if more of life were like the boardwalk - unchangeable. Peace? Sure! Peace need only show up and it would take its place next to Love and Friendship and all the other immutables in line for the Tilt-a-Whirl. It's just that that kind of Peace sometimes makes you throw up.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

last note on poetry shows for a while

I've added an "Upcoming Events" piece to the sidebar over there, in lieu of the poetry website I haven't started finished putting together yet.

Here's what Isaac thinks about all this poetry fuss.

Taken after he crashed on one of the cafe sofas while we were trying to get the current show you saw in the entries below hung. Handy that we had his blankets with us - originally protecting the artwork in the car.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

poetry exhibit continued

Here is the audio link to the interview Rick Kleffel did with me about my poetry exhibit that aired July 18, 2010. It will soon show up on Rick's podcast site too and I can provide a more direct link.

Here's a little more lowdown on the show:

“Stumbling into Ourselves” is a dozen+ poems framed, printed on stretch canvas, coupled with photographs, or otherwise graphically displayed and hung for viewing. Two poems will be represented in three dimensions, while another will be accessible in audio as well as text. 

The connecting theme of the show is the idea of identity – creating or recreating it – and the transitions that get one there. The people living their lives in these poem stories are all at a moment of transition. Some have discovered that the people they thought they were they are no more. Some have found that they are being moved toward change, willingly or not. Some find humor and hope in their quests; others simply survive.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

poetry on the walls

I was just interviewed on KUSP radio 88.9 FM, Santa Cruz about my new visual poetry show that's up at a cafe in Monterey. What fun! Link to the audio coming soon. The show is called "Stumbling Into Ourselves." An article about it is currently at this link. And here is an idea of what things look like on the walls.

Two of my (orange-y) poems at the cafe entrance and "Abandoned Car," handmade paper over canvas with blockprints (so fun!) and under it, "Birthday Present" (poem under lid of box, detail below)

"The Slide," photo poster on canvas and "The Truth About Princesses" detail. Notice the pink duct tape.

"Lightning." Floating frame with velum paper bolt and cafe reflections.

One of three panels of "The Simplicity of Travel" that hangs from a "lamp post" Mike made for me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday

Never say never.

My mom, Bobbie, who always followed this meme, constantly told me I should do one of these, but I always just sent her pictures now and again to put up herself. Well, in her honor, here I am. My first Shadow Shot Sunday. Hosted by Tracy at Hey Harriet with Sunday a wee fluid as some of us are in different time zones/hemispheres. Check out all the new shadow shots there. Thanks, Tracy!

Over 4th of July weekend, my family and I escaped the insanity/inanity of fireworks and the like and went camping in Big Sur, California – about an hour south of where we live. It was super windy when we first arrived and so I was uncharacteristically in the tent before Mike got the tarp on. Planted as we were under two huge sycamores, this is what I saw:

that would be Mike in there in this third one

and hey!...
how'd he get in there??

The next shot is from the Headlands Trail at Andrew Molera State Park, a short and beautiful loop that overlooks the beach where the Big Sur River empties into the Pacific.
the imposing shadow of the cliff I was standing on
Shadows on the hills of the Ventana Wilderness – view from the campground, late afternoon.

Friday, July 16, 2010

texting makes the world go round

Mike and I are happily behind when it comes to the new all-the-rage gadgets. We do not own a TV, much less an ipod or an iphone. The phones we do have are lame models with limited plans. The fact that Mike's can take pictures is purely accidental. Mine is so basic I'm lucky it has keys. With no cover there is always a danger something will ring up by accident. Just the other day I heard a little voice I thought I recognized coming from my purse. “Hello? Hello?” I dug around for the phone to discover that it had called my friend Angela all on its own. Apparently when it crank calls, it starts with the beginning of the alphabet.

“I've been thinking about you,” she says when I get on the line. “What do you need right now?” This is a far cry from most of what I hear – questions into my well-being that are really about the speaker, prying questions I don't want to answer, or promises to “be there for me any time” -- right after they get back from some extended vacation. It is from a woman versed in crisis herself. Late this spring, Angela's house burned down. With her dog in it. It's been a hell of a year for both of us.

Anyway, Mike and I just don't use our phones that much or for very much. So when Mike's phone rings two and three times in a night, we know something is up. Usually it's Lakota man. Mike started getting the texts from the Lakota medicine man from L.A. a few months ago. A wrong number he kindly wrote back to and informed of same. But Lakota man has yet to figure out the details of the similarity in the numbers and the messages keep coming. Mike ends up with all kinds of interesting information.

We saw awesome UFO @ drum practice Fri. We were practicing Yuwipi songs and saw these 2 amazing see-thru silent UFOs. Nice!

Mike writes back and tells him, he's got the wrong person again.

Youch! LOL! I apologize.

But a couple days later he gets another.

Come to this peyote ceremony with me tonight.

Mike writes back: I'd like to, but you've dialed the wrong # again.

And gets: Maybe it's no mistake. LOL. Call me and let's see if it's fate. Maybe Creator is trying to tell us something.

I hear Creator has the new iphone 4.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

on waiting and camping

My mother waited for me. She waited while I wrapped up loose ends of a poetry show, rode an early morning shuttle, a plane. She waited through a storm delay, another plane, a rental car. She waited in the hospital bed she never wanted to die in, so I could say hello, then goodbye. Some afternoons hold too much.

In my hello I showed pictures, and poems, told her everything I could think to tell her, told it quickly, words falling over each other in a cresting wave, while she calmly took from my hands what I offered, nodded. We are always those children. Eager. Hungry. Caught in what love is and was and is supposed to be.

The boy is packing up to trek to the beach with his dad where they'll have to cross the river at high tide. It is not all that unusual. The mother left behind. Even before this mother lost her mother, even before this uneven grieving, there was the need, time to read, space to write. The boy is used to it and so his routine is not so upturned. Yet he clings just a touch more now. Each time she believes him gone, begins on a new paragraph, he bounds back through the vinyl flap. He is all a flutter, has pirate stories to tell, plans to fend off the squirrels; he has last kisses, special rocks to show, cloud shapes she must come out and see, one more game of pretend, questions about tree roots. She takes from him what is offered, nods. She reassures him that she will be along soon. And he makes her promise to wait for him when she gets there before crossing the river to the other side.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

saving him from himself

We interrupt this grieving process to bring you our regularly scheduled program, already in progress. A geek and a poet sit at home gearing up to finally enjoy a quiet hour or two together, their son asleep, no obligations pressing.

Mike: (excitedly) “I think I'm going to be immortalized on Route 1! The Google Maps car passed me.”

Kitty: (displaying limited interest) “Really?”

Mike: “Yeah, I'm almost sure my car got in one of the shots.” (reaches for the laptop)

Kitty: “I am not sitting here while you search for a little blue Honda on Google Earth.” (makes to get up)

Mike: (shutting lap top) “Right. Thanks.”

Kitty: “Any time.”

(I'm a dork when it comes to embedding. So strip credits = Thank you, Scott Adams.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

newspaper article about my mom

The Press of Atlantic City did a little piece on my mom. Kind of cool. Not everyone gets a column about them to add to their legacy! I am grateful for this little surprise gift.

I talked to the reporter for at least half an hour, which newspaper - I'm all too familiar with this medium - converted to a sentence. But that's okay. That's why I have this space.

I bet she'd be completely shocked that someone wrote about her. Life is full of surprises, mom, even when it's over.

real estate agent: the (ig)noble vocation

“You must be electric right now,” a friend said to me, “So open.” He was referring to my ability to sense signs from the Universe in the shadow of my mother's passing. I had been telling him about some of the things that went on for me in the days right after. More on that in a later post... For now, suffice it to say, I believe strongly that we all need to move more by instinct. Sometimes, literally – move.

We sort of have a real estate agent working for us. I say sort of because we are trying to buy a house, sometimes, when we have enough time and energy to think about it, from across the country.

We have lived in our current rental house for almost three and a half years now. That's a pretty darn long time considering our record the couple years preceding that. The horror stories were many and gruesome. At the last house, the landlady sold it out from under us nine months in. A lawyer who'd until then kept her claws hidden under soft, white gloves, she did a Jekyll/Hyde transformation on us once there was big money at stake. It sucked and I chronicled a bit of it in this blog (like here and here and here and here).

But the worst part of the whole thing was the real estate agent. No matter how much I begged the Universe to send a rogue crocodile or two her way, inevitably she'd arrive unannounced for another illegal showing, pulling up in her canary yellow Porsche.

After the sale was looking solid, the buyers' real estate agent gave me an ivy plant for a gift. How sweet. An invasive plant just for me? You shouldn't have. Really.

It was the first thing to sell at the garage sale.

I tried once to create a visualization in which I towered over the whole situation looking at all the players in miniature. I reached down and picked up the Porsche lady by the scruff of her be-otchy little neck and dropped her unceremoniously into the ocean. She got out though, and came back all dripping wet still just as evil. I think her little rat dog bit my ankle.

The first time we looked at houses for our big proposed cross-country move, we met two agents. The first showed us a crumbling mess of a house filled with leaky pipes and lots of sarongs for curtains. “Ever seen the movie 'The Money Pit'?” he asked us as we huddled hunchbacked in the damp basement. Then he laughed - a dorky guffaw that went on too long.

The next agent showed us a crazy sprawling house with amazing potential and an interesting history. (Mike is still in love with this house.) But the house had nothing to do with why ultimately we'd accept this man into our passive employ after receiving his out of date CV. The first time we met him he arrived in an old Buick with a rusty roof. He got out, a stout fellow in a knit hat. I know in my heart I hired him because of that Buick. This one was a keeper.

On a return trip to the area, I spoke to a neighbor at one of the houses we were investigating. We spoke about the neighborhood, the area in general, and about renting and buying. Without knowing who we were associated with, she volunteered about the man who is our agent: “He has a reputation for getting things done.” I'm not even sure I really believed it, but it only made me like him more.

He sends me emails in which he always inquires about my “fine family.” He's stuck with us though we can't be the most lucrative prospect around, partly because normally we aren't around. We're three time zones away. Unless of course we're there, for a rare in person exploration, standing in the doorway of another place mouthing “You've got to be kidding!” to each other, while our real estate agent nervously calls our son away from the curb.

Instincts. Maybe it's just a power thing that the relationship feels right. I've never been on the buying end before. But maybe we've reeled in a good one. I'd like to believe my instincts on this are good ones.

PS - Happy birthday wishes today to my sister, Rita.

Monday, July 12, 2010

words and pictures

I can remember a day when Isaac was about three. He was leaning over the back of the love seat in the garage (uninsulated family room anyone?). I asked him what was back there. “Oh, random items,” my toddler replied.

His articulation lags somewhat, e.g., he still announces things like, “A-tend it's 'nowing, and we're may-ting 'now angels...,” but his communication skills have been well advanced from day one.

He was still a tiny thing once when we were at my mom's and he was amusing her by arranging cereal into an empty egg carton. The next day he wanted to eat that kind of cereal and when I brought him the wrong kind, he ran for the egg carton, pointed, then pointed to his mouth. I got it.

We taught him basic sign language early on that he picked up instantly. Sometimes it was even hard knowing what my baby was thinking. Like when a nasty diaper rash came up and at each changing he'd press together the tips of his index fingers – the sign for “pain.”

When he began to speak, he was aware of the gap between how words were meant to sound and how they came out of his mouth: “This stick a trane, mama! Not train choo-choo, trane like has arm and picks things up.”

As he grows, it's his vocabulary and command of the language that blows me away. It does a writer-mama's heart good. “Let's consider our options,” Isaac might say to me. Or, “Wow, mommy the hood of the car is glistening in the sun! Isn't it stunning?” While I might not choose to describe a car as “stunning,” my five-year-old clearly would, and damn if anything out of my mouth ever “glistened” until I was maybe a decade beyond him.

Books, of course, are held in high esteem in our house, the default source from which I imagine him gleaning in depth knowledge and words. However, in my current state of insanity and sadness, I have relied more heavily than ever on videos. We have no TV and there was a day when the only thing Isaac knew of video was learning sign language through it. My son, the one who I used to try to make sit in front of the hotel TV until I got out of the shower but would cover his ears and run away in anticipation of the oncoming conflict in the Clifford episode, now runs to my laptop after school yelling, “PBS kids dot org! PBS kids dot org!” I can't say I don't feel kind of guilty about this.

My personal favorite is “Sid the Science Kid.” Though Isaac's been OD-ing on “Dinosaur Train.” I am ashamed to admit that there have been a couple afternoons recently when I simply loaded up the cartoons, left him on the couch and crawled into bed. The one consolation is that I realize he is learning things from these shows. Including vocabulary. Hears it once and he owns it.

After one day of too much screen, I turned it off and convinced him to come outside - likely more for my sake than his - and we were in the garden when I pointed out a large spider walking up his shirt. “That's okay,” my son said lightly brushing it off, “it's prolly not venomous.”

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Honest to god, I was not looking for a fight.

Details. It's all in the DETAILS.

Some EIGHT days ago, I called the funeral home about getting my mom's obituary in. The person we'd worked with wasn't in, but they gave me the email address and assured me he'd get it. I emailed it, along with a question or two. I heard nothing back. Today, I call the funeral home again and get their answering service. Mr Director is out to lunch. She assures me a call back. I then find out from my very helpfully communicative brother that it ran already. Friday. Oh. Okay. Was anyone going to let me knooooowwww? And what about those questions I had?

So I go online to find it. I find it. I think, SHIT, I forgot to include a picture. Had asshole funeral guy ever actually spoken to me, I might have figured out that I had left out this piece. HE DOES THIS ALL THE TIME. Could he not know that perhaps someone who has just experienced the death of someone close to them night need some more assistance? Since it's his, uh, JOB. The kind of assistance he swore to offering while we stood in front of him and signed the estimated bill?? Or possibly, I dunno, a response saying he bloody GOT the stupid email???? Okay. No picture.

Then I read the copy. THE BASTARD CHANGED TWO OF MY SENTENCES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One of them, so that it reads as if Mike and I have the same last name, which – I fucking hate to break it to you again, America, WE DON'T.

There are battles to pick from, and let me tell you, a long time ago I picked this one. MY NAME. My name is my name is my name. Learn to spell it. Learn to say it. Learn to love it. I am kind of invested in it. I have reasons, very personal, important ones for caring about my name. My first name is Kathryn. That's K-A-T-H-R-Y-N. Not a C or an E to be found. REALLY. Not even if you want one there. And my last name is NOT my husband's last name. I could give a RAT'S ASS how you feel about that. If there's something that would imply caring LESS than a RAT'S ASS, then, THAT is what I want to say here. It is for me to choose and everyone else to RESPECT..

Dear Mr. Funeral Director:

I am 1) a grieving family member and 2) a writer. Therefore, it would be in your best interest NOT TO FUCK WITH MY WRITING.

What kind of ballsy bastard just takes it on himself to randomly edit someone else's obituary ??????

So when you finally do send a message back to me instead of extending me the professional courtesy of calling, and include (ironically) the proof of the obituary from the newspaper as an attachment, why not misspell my mother's name on the attachment, too? Just for good measure.

I can remember approaching my grandparents' grave for the first time with a healthy dose of trepidation. I was afraid their name would be spelled wrong on the gravestone. Experience is a strong teacher. Luckily, that one was correct.

In my family, I get the angry label. I'm the angry one. So now I get to play into their expectations once again. Whatever I do will fulfill them. Fine. Then for the sake of not rocking the boat any fucking more, I'd love to play the part. They can think what they want to and bite me. Something tells me if I wasn't their sister, and one of their friends was pissed as hell about someone fucking up their mother's obituary, they'd be sympathetic, empathetic even. Tell me just this: What do I do with this feeling? Where do I put this?

Monday, July 05, 2010

camping and speculating on communication with the dead

What if talking to the other side is like this?

At Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur, California there are 24 campsites that sit in a field on the ocean side of Highway 1. Quarter mile hike in, no reservations, first-come, first-served. On a busy holiday weekend, you and your husband are there texting back and forth – he racing around the field, vying with others doing the same, asking people if they are leaving to determine which site you can grab, you poised in the parking lot at the ranger station waiting to fill in the site number on the registration card. Cell service is unreliable, messages sometimes lost or inexplicably delayed. So four days after you arrive, stove, tent, camping chairs spread about site 15, your phone rings. “They took 17,” it says unhelpfully.

There is a boy of about ten running toward the climbing trees – two sprawling sycamores. His mother calls out to him from across the field: “Braaaaad- leyyyyy!” The boy hears her, pauses for the briefest moment, and runs further on, until he is completely out of her view before replying, “Yeah??”

At night, an animal skitters around outside the tent. Sometimes its form pushes against the nylon wall. You never see exactly what it is, and in the morning you aren't sure if you dreamed it.

After the third day without a mirror, you catch sight of a distorted reflection in the sunglasses of the guy at site 9 who lends you his can opener. You're startled by this image, like you don't remember it quite that way; it's unfamiliar, foreign, fleeting.

After all the fires are out and the beer is warm, people finally crawl into their tents and the quiet you'd hoped for arrives, though it takes a good while for you to relax into it because, conditioned as you are to a world of traffic and car alarms, you at first mistake the sound of the ocean waves for the white noise of the highway.

Your son explodes before you with excitement, his filthy fingers at his gums, the gap his first missing tooth has left glowing like the empty socket it is above his bottom lip. “I think my big tooth is coming in! I think I feel something!!” You look and look and can see no evidence of anything there, though you want to and he wants you to, so you lie and agree that, yes, you see it, you can see something.

Your husband feels a lump in his shoe and when he shakes out his hiking boot a live beetle emerges and walks away across the thick glaze of dirt. You see more of this kind of beetle over the course of your stay – shiny and large, their six sturdy legs steering them through tall grass, brown leaves, your tent. You don't know what their purpose might be in the grander scheme of things, but you are pretty sure they have one. You are unnerved by their confidence. You think about your college professor, the one who taught you about ancient Egypt - the stories of long-dead kings and queens popping to life in your mind as he spoke, as real as a daytime talk show but with more drama. You think about how the Egyptians revered the scarab beetle believing it capable of regeneration all by itself, how they carved it into amulets, wore it around their royal necks, laid it against the hearts of their dead, this unlikely messenger of the immortal.

Friday, July 02, 2010

poems for my mom

I'm posting two poems I wrote several years ago. Neither award-winning, but my personal homages, I guess. The first is something that came out of me asking my mom what she wanted for Mother's Day. Her response was “Write me a poem.” Not a simple task.

The second was another attempt a year or so later. Marigolds are always something I've associated with her. I knew that in Mexico they are connected to the Day of the Dead, so I poked around and found some interesting information about them and their symbolism in various cultures here.

It was the first poem, though, that she framed and kept on her bedroom wall. The Budapest reference was our own – she came to visit me there when I worked in Hungary for a year.

How to Write a Poem for Your Mother

First, create many unsuccessful drafts,
follow ideas into oblivion,
metaphors into cliché hums and mumbles.
Next, check your email.
Read your new messages, but don't answer any.
Sing rainy day songs she taught you.
Wish in passing that you could whistle.
Wonder if it's her fault you can't.
Plant marigold seeds in the rain like she would.
Bring the open seed packet close to your face and sniff.
Know it smells like her.
Open and close your journal several times.
Write the date on a page, then, decide to change pens.
Look at a calendar to find out exactly when Mother's Day is this year.
Re-read all the starts to poems you've begun for her in the past –
they talk about fireflies and butterflies, Tagore and Milne.
Find potential in wings and words and light and flight.
Decide having potential is like being told you are "nice."
Convince yourself you're washed up as a poet.
Spend time wallowing in this thought.
Pull the covers over your head and sleep.
Dream you are with her, walking arm in arm
through beautiful, grey Budapest.


for my mom

I trail her
stepping high
through dewy grass,
the bulbs surprising us
here and there
with their plump greenness
from under piles
of last season's leaves.
The pyracantha looks like it'll
do well this year, she says,
moving through her universe,
red berry clusters
in her mind's eye.

Along the walkway, the azaleas
accost us in reds and pinks
and then, like an apology, white.
She names everything we pass,
a casual inventory, a prayer
of things to come.
I take the syllables in
through my pores:
hydrangea, lilac, columbine,

At this last we pause.
Among the first orange blooms
a few dry heads already bow to her
in fervent homage.

Pinching them from their stems,
she scatters the seeds
like chicken feed,
pushes her subjects into the dirt
with the toe of her sneaker -

a haphazard optimism
in the propensity of life –
that it will sprout again

The scattering continues,
tiny quills dipped in black ink
spin to the ground
like soft propellers,
crowding each other into the dirt,
all clamoring to serve her best.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Woo-hoo! One down, 19 to go! Boy is very excited. Hear that whirring? Wings, baby, headed for the pillow.

In an unorthodox turn of events, Iz would like to KEEP his teeth. Not sure what his plan is, but the tooth fairy has been notified. She's agreed to still bring him quarters.

So what, if anything, does this mean for the saber tooth tiger costume this Halloween?

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