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.