Thursday, October 19, 2006

Family --

Life's solitude. It seems to be a theme. Or perhaps just a reality.

My mom is in Minnesota right now at her mother's so they can sort through the house together -- all of my grandmother's possessions, enacting a will as they go along. It feels premature, improper even to have to sort through one's own goods and leave them, but the downsizing is inevitable -- a move to a community where the apartments are small.

The difficulty certainly is in the work of it, the elbow grease and decisions, the packing and hefting and packaging of things. But it is also in the weighty implications, in what is said and confronted and all that is unsaid and avoided. They rub in words and in approaches, in years of patterned child-parent interactions that are swinging around as their roles change.

And it makes no difference if all of this is to be expected with your own mother if you wait long enough -- it is still flint against stone, singing sparks and a burst of flame.

My mother says it's the hardest thing she has ever done. Her mother says the same thing. And though she has buried a son and husband and watched another son ache into pieces, this is a different kind of loss and release -- there is finality, which must make her breath catch in her throat. What could that feel like?

And once again, the story boils down to the fact that we all have to go it alone -- no matter how loved and surrounded we are, how supported or cheered for, or seen.

You are the one who must put one foot in front of the other and walk yourself through the muck. You are the one who must move your mouth and have the conversations. You are the one who has to show up for your own mother. Or brother. Or face whatever dysfunction that lies in your skin. Even when you have kids who love you. Or a husband. Or a friend or dog or whomever. (and the fact is, they really all have their own scrabbly lives too, which is too bad) No one, no matter how empathetic, can get into your chest and feel the aches there that weigh you down and make you soggy. No one can know the way your muscles go taut in all that lifting.

Even in clouds of applause, we stand alone on our two feet.

(thank goodness for light, and wings, and winds of sun, and a quiet Spirit that settles us)

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I am in the treetop house -- wobble-glass windows of an old Victorian, a house that used to belong to the town dentist in 1863. He had the exterior painted black back then -- a bit foreboding. I wonder how many of his patients had come for gold.

This top floor of the house was the servants' quarters. I'm sure they knew -- quietly and with hope -- that they had the sweetest nook of the house: window-fulls of hills and the peak of Mt. Tam. I wonder whether the weather patterns of San Francisco were different back then -- the hills much more barren, stretches of raging wild fires. Perhaps they were up here because of a heat that no one else chose to bear. Curious too that in this home they were servants, and across the country there were still slaves.

Did the people here have views of such an issue or did distance breed a sense of irrelevance? I wonder what it is, in my 2006 home, that I am turning the same blind eye to. I'd like to know and face it full view.
Houses are a funny thing. They are a member of the family and then suddenly one day are not. They cease to contain all your living clutter and then fill with another's -- and yet, even so, the door jams remain the same, the height of the ceilings, the soft arches into the living room, the addition your parents put on the kitchen and the remodeled attic they designed in pencil at the dining room table. These continuing elements are what make houses haunting, eerie, are how they can make you ache in your chest.

When I was 16, we moved out of my childhood home. I slept on the 10x14 foot concrete front stoop with two girlfriends the night before strangers moved in. I knocked on the door and came back to visit the next year -- out striped valances were still in the sun room, our brick-orange tile on the kitchen floor.

Then yesterday, 13 years later, a childhood friend called to tell me her mother, a nursery school teacher, was invited to a 4 year old's birthday party. His address: 4400 Q St. So today she celebrated another child on my childhood patio and tried to peek in the windows. I wish I could have gone too, just to smell the shaggy pine that grew in a line up the backside of the house and to see fallen magnolia leaves resting on the stoop like yellow leather boats.

Monday, October 02, 2006

After Watching "A River Runs Through It"

I saw "A River Runs Through It" for the first time. What struck me most about the brothers' relationship was that it was not about details. They were not submerged in each others' inner worlds. They didn't ask a lot of questions or reveal each nitty gritty inch of self. (I am accustomed to wanting this kind of transparency).

Instead, they watched each other live. They laughed together with friends. They fished and stood side-by-side in a river. They were unmovingly loyal -- brothers. And they allowed each other to live his own life, to go his own way even when it was full of mistakes. They didn't try to save each other -- they knew that they couldn't.

Allowance. It's the way love really is, or is when we are brave. Even when we love someone, we can never *really* know another's depths. We are each solo and untouchable at the core, or at least mysterious, changing.

To allow the mystery. To let love settle on standing together in a river, on watching each other live.

Swimming Babies -- You Have Got to See This

Though I have got to wonder whether these babies are traumatized and why they are in an aquarium-like setting (??), there is something irresistible about this scene:


I used to love Cat Stevens becuase he taught me about night shadows and how bright the moon is.

Now I'm in love with a 6 month old becuase in the midst of colorful rattling toys, doorway bouncers and noisy exersaucers, he stops every muscle in his body and freezes to watch light and leaf-shadows play against the curtains and the walls. He is teaching me pause, reminding me about the simple.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Falling in

It is officially Fall -- somehow that first Fall day came and went without my notice. My sister has already gone apple picking and pumpkins are piled at the front doors of stores. Seattle's Best Coffee has pumpkin cake and sweet cinnamon lattes -- the telltale marks of season shift -- specialty drinks. Here the shifts tend to be commercial more than anything else.
A few deciduous trees grow behind my house and let me believe in seasons when I look only at their leaves. I miss the acheiness that Fall brings with it. The sense of anticipation and loss and reflection. The smell of earth, decaying leaves, metallic winter air that some days presses so hard it hurts.
Fall is a quiet time.
Visual change stuns. The world processes despite of us. And so beautifully.
This Fall, I am trying to figure out my life.
How to use this segmented time. What the purpose of a day is. How to feel purposeful and smart and alive in routine. In complete lack of routine. In the midst of exhaustion. How to have adventure/excitement/passion. How to keep a relationship vibrant. Whether keeping another alive and smiling is enough to make a day worthwhile. How to be generous -- I have so much.
I am moving through days one at a time. Trying to stay present, though life feels whirling by in a slur even when I plod through the hours. It's sometimes confusing and aimless -- and sometimes too delicious to stand.*
*from an email to MCM

Thursday, August 03, 2006


A relationship between two people-- a real gut loving, wanting, giving relationship -- pushes an individual into something different than individuality. It is not that you *lose* your SELF (well, some people do, but this is not healthy and not what I'm talking about). Instead, your self changes. Though you are YOU, and the more you ARE you, the better the love is, you have this other person whom you also love so much that it hurts in your chest sometimes. And what you love is giving to that person...

Today I wonder about the balance. Standing on yellowed grass, clean wind and sheet-blue sky, I face this love, hot air balloon-big and bright. I can't pick it up with both hands to give it, nor see the whole thing in a glance. It's hard to find myself in proportion. Hot air balloon love is sweet as can be because it lets you FLY. And some days like this, when the wind is sweet from grasses, all I want to do is be swept away.

But the distance is key too -- seeing sharp color against sky and hill and the backdrops of days.

The question of balance: your own needs and space and wants --and-- giving open handedly, letting go into the wind.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Things I'm Liking Today

1. Trader Joe's pistachio white choc chip cookies ---- yum

2. Genmai Cha (spelled Gemmai cha on the bag) from Japan

3. "shop girl" the movie

4. short jean skirts

5. short skirts in general (the best for the heat)

6. dark chocolate covered pretzels

7. new shoes

8. little floppy baby hands, the softest skin

Monday, July 31, 2006

Back Then and Now

Back then I could count to 100 and feel satisfied. Could spell Mississippi with all the Ss. Could cross the orange kitchen tile and cross the world.
Back then I learned to drive and crashed neatly 7 times -- something almost predictable to the destruction. Back then I bought shades made of reeds and a white paper lamp.
Back then my outline was scrambled and fuzzy and I rarely held together well.
Back them my car was green, my love yellow.
Back then I wore wool sweaters. My car door froze, the key broke off in the lock.

Now I am in flip flops and call 80 degrees hot.
Now I have a small boy and a recent man, a cat shaved like a lion.
Now I try to hold fears in my mouth like objects and speak their names. Now I sit with an iced mocha and a brown paper-covered table.
Now I wait for something to clear -- for the sun to soften or clouds to settle or something like song to call me. Now I understand hardly anything after today.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Yesterday morning thunder rumbled in the muggy morning sky. But it didn't rain. And rather than the clouds cooling, the day became stickier. This morning the clouds cleared early and the heat settled in.

This is the reason I am sitting on the floor of my living room right now: My cat had a vet appointment this morning. I could not carry a baby and a cat in a box to the car at the same time, so I went in shifts. First I took the baby down to the garage, buckled him in, turned on the car light, gave him toys and locked the car. Then I climbed the stairs to find the cat. She was no where. I whistled, called, hunted. Nothing. Walked back to the garage. The baby was playing in the car. Relocked him in and searched for the cat again. Nothing. Back to the garage. Getting fussy. Gave more toys. Back to the cat. Whistle, call, shake the bag of food. Nothing. Back to the garage. Getting fussier. New toys. Locked the car. Called for the cat. Scoured the house. Nothing. Back down. Baby having a breakdown. Checked time. Late for the vet. Nap overdue. Took out the baby. Climbed back upstairs. Whistled for the damn cat. Nothing. Put the baby to bed. Cancelled the vet.

Still no cat. A happy sleeping baby. No rain but the sound of sprinklers.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A few finds...

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Here are a few things of my recent discoveries:

1. Snapple nectarine white tea

2. J.LOHR pasos robles merlot

3. Mason Jennings

good things...


Living in France, I learned that many cheeses taste better at room temperature – the flavor unlocked. Never again have I eaten refrigerated brie. Ah, liberation!

Today, however, in Southern California with only a neighborhood grocery store (the ghetto store) in walking distance, with a fidgety 4 month old squirming on the floor who should be napping, there will be no jaunting to the French market for cheese. Piling a fat, heavy baby in the car one more time and piling him out at the grocery store, shopping, and repiling and unloading is all too much to ask for cheese.

Instead, I have settled for packaged, pre-sliced, lowfat Swiss, sandwiched between pieces of ham (because I also have no bread). While preparing my less-than-gourmet lunch, I discover that it only takes 5 seconds in the microwave to soften a thick slice of Swiss cheese just enough to bring out the flavor and take off the refrigerated edge. 5 seconds and hard, cold cheese is transformed. Why, I asked myself, can I not soften up so quickly?

I am notorious for taking a small thought 0 to 60 in 2 seconds – suddenly my husband, 15 minutes late, is in a fatal car accident on the highway; my best friend, delayed in returning my call, has discovered me and cut me from her life; a creak in the hall and a mass murderer has crept into the second floor of the house ETC. It is exhausting, really.

Today it is my mother. We are damaged and distanced and not talking. (Not talking for us, I should add, is counted in hours or days, not years). Today our lack of connection -- for that is the problem, many words and little depth – weighs heavily, and I am sure there are deep seated mother-to-child patterns that I will inevitably duplicate with my own children and that the best solution is to excommunicate myself from her.

When I run this by Todd, my teacher friend, he tells me our biggest job in life is “to do the thing” – whatever that thing may be. That doing is where there is Spirit in our lives. That doing equals living. And I know that especially when you live as I do, always on the brink of some violent end or mass abandonment, he is right – there are only two choices: fear and embrace -- and embracing is doing the thing.

So here in the corner of my living room, baby on the floor, tea with lemon at hand, a pounding headache and far too little sleep, I decide I will “do,” and take my heart out of the refrigerator. Putting it in the microwave seems a bit rash, violent even,, so the counter will have to do. And then I will wait. Sometimes this is all we can do – take the first small step and watch the cold edge soften and hope the flavor will rise.