Thursday, June 30, 2016

Carnival Evening

Carnival Evening, 2016

May 22, 2016

I let it go. For a moment I just sat there, my feet warm in thick socks as the wind roared outside, and examined all of the details of my new book—the silver National Book Award Finalist seal on the front cover and the detail of the Henry Rousseau painting it was stamped over, the small square photograph of the poet's face on the back of the book, lower left, and the bookmark the person at the shop had tucked inside.

Then I heard the wind again, it had gotten louder, and I put the book down. It was strange, I thought, the way books sidle up beside weather. Or is it the other way around? I'm usually aware of the weather when I'm reading a book, aware in a way I am not while watching a movie or researching a topic on the internet.

Soon there was only the ticking of the clock and the settling sounds of the cottage. The thing I had let go attempted its return.

The wind growled and saved me. I picked up Pastan.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Frickin' Good

 Path to the Beach, 2016

There's a lot going on in this world, much of it negative. 2016 is far from a lull in life-changing events, and it is difficult not to consider all of the larger implications of these events.

From a more local perspective, I'm reading Joan Didion's book, Where I Was From, and she's tracing California's history. The tracing is absolutely interesting, but not at all uplifting, and has me thinking about this state's future.

And then there is day-to-day life. Just the regular stuff. The sun rising. Drinking coffee. Laundry. Trying to incorporate learning about an armed robbery in my neighborhood, the neighborhood I thought was safe, and walking down the street more cautiously. Remembering to buy dental floss. Thinking about what we will eat for dinner. The sun setting.

Of course, there is also the filler, silly sort of stuff. It's life too.

Robert, a barista in my local cafe, asks me, How's it going?
I reply, Good.
He somehow hears, Frickin' good.
So he looks at me inquisitively, What did you say?  
I said good.

To make a long story short, he laughs and tells me he was a little shocked because he thought I'd said, frickin' good, and it was so out of character. I smile and my cheeks start feeling hot, and probably taking on a pinkish glow, as they do when I'm embarrassed. He tells me I'm usually...then he motions downward with a flat right hand. I assume this means low-key.

How do you know something really fabulous didn't just happen to me?
He smiles, True.

I sit down with my coffee and think, Do I want to be the type of person who says frickin' good? Would that person live more lightly in this chaotic world? Would she have more fun? Is frickin' good a part of me that's hibernating? I think it might be. It clearly came out more often when I was drinking, but I don't want to sink back into that hole.

I'll just let it be. This part of me will climb up and out when it is ready, or it won't. I can wait. I think I can wait.

I might as well return to Didion's California. And I do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On Not Gardening

 Rhubarb, 2016

This is what our garden looked like the day we said goodbye. We’ve given up gardening, at least for now. There were a variety of reasons we chose this option.

One of those reasons was the incessant watering required to grow vegetables (we aren’t really the ornamental garden type) during drought months (roughly half of each year), and the rate in which the freshly dampened soil returns to dusty dry dirt. It’s downright depressing and seeing it happen in this up-close-and-personal way leaves one wondering if California should truly be the produce paradise that it is.

Gardening started to feel unnatural, which of course it is, in the true sense of the word, unlike nature. But there was the promise of fresh rhubarb tempting us, so we carried on, for a while.

There were also the logistics of getting to the garden, toting garden clothes, tools, gloves, and shoes, and then getting back home. This was not a backyard project.

Protecting the plants from critters such as skunks, raccoons, rodents, and a variety of birds was another challenge. We used bird netting, but then began to worry about the possibility of birds getting caught and injured, or worse. What were our other options? Building something more stable? Would we need tools? Lumber? Did we really want to tame nature? We were having doubts.

Lastly, there were community garden politics and community garden gossip. To avoid joining in, I’ll say no more.

I am well aware that these are issues only a very lucky person can complain about. We waited 8 years before getting this garden plot. It seems we should be happily dealing with all of the above, but instead we channeled Bartleby, so off the plot goes to the next in line. I hope the new gardeners use the plot as long as they find doing so enjoyable, and then pass it on to the next people who want to give it a go.

The truth is that I don’t really miss gardening. There, I’ve said it. Call me fickle. I understand. It just might be true. For now, I prefer admiring the not-so-natural-yet-beautiful elements others in my neighborhood have chosen to tame, eating farmers market fruits and vegetables, and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to explore Mother Nature’s more wild side.

Farewell, dear rhubarb. I wish you well.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


Posy, 2016 

I was waking up differently than I had just a month or two earlier. It was easier. I started to think some miraculous transformation had taken place in me, then I realized there was simply more daylight earlier in the morning, so I sighed, felt foolish, and moved on.

I went downstairs, washed a few dishes, and made a few notes on this and that. I did these things while listening to Counting Crows. I began to wonder if they named their band after the behavior of one of their members. Was Duritz a crow counter? I hadn’t thought about the origin of their name before that day, never noticed a bird in their band name. Yet I’d listened to them for years. 

Some things just get passed by, not purposefully ignored, but still overlooked. It’s not like I don’t ponder a variety of unimportant matters on a regular basis. I don’t know why some things stick in the mind for further exploration and others don’t. 

Was I paying attention to these crows because I was on vacation and spending much of my time outside with insects and skunks and foxes and birds? Maybe.

Anyway, I found myself particularly tuned in to the song Hanginaround, and listening to the part about long days with nothing to do, and I thought back to telling my dad, "There’s nothing to do here!" This is a thought that no longer occurs to me. The last time I whined such a thing I was probably in my early teens. It must be a mindset that recedes with age.

My 13-year-old self would have filled her long nothing-to-do days diligently rewinding songs such as Hanginaround on her cassette tape over and over again until she heard each word, writing them all down, and memorizing them so she could sing along with the tape in front of her friends, appearing as though it all came to her naturally, as if those words had never been rewound, written down, or memorized. Yes, it is true.

If I find I have a stretch of time with nothing to do now, I don’t mind. I don’t blame Dad. I no longer write down the words to songs, but I do still think about them, and band names, and birds.

Origin of band name (I had to look it up…)