Sunday, September 25, 2016

I'm Always a Reader First

Ideal Reading Conditions, 2016

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Have you read it?

I read the entire book in less than a day. It's described as a story about a mother and daughter, but it's really about so much more. It's about a woman's soul, which comes through in her story telling.

I photographed the title page in dappled front yard light, which seemed to match Lucy Barton's story telling perfectly. I recall all of these things as if Lucy Barton actually told this story, as if it is not a work of fiction written by Elizabeth Strout. Why? Because it is how I feel. I don't really want to believe otherwise.

Part of me can't help but wonder how Elizabeth Strout did it. Did she know someone like Lucy Barton? Did this Lucy Barton friend share her story with Elizabeth Strout, and did Elizabeth Strout then write the story down in a way that would get it published? Did Elizabeth Strout fabricate the entire story? Maybe Elizabeth Strout is Lucy Barton in more ways than she is not.

As a writer I am curious about the writer's inspiration. As a reader I am not, I do not care. It is Lucy Barton's story, I need not know more.

I'm always a reader first, while reading. I do not think this is the case for all writers. Some writers read through writer's eyes, and I think this is a shame. I'm tempted to go so far as to call this a misuse of reading material, and if not a misuse, then definitely a missing out on the intended use of the material that, if the writing is good, would certainly be far more gratifyingly read as a reader.

Read My Name Is Lucy Barton as a reader, no matter who you are. You have every right to disagree with me, but if you do, keep it to yourself.

Cheers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sebald Sentences

Transportation, 2016

W. G. Sebald is one of my favorite authors. I might have mentioned this before. I'm currently reading Vertigo for the first time. As always, reading just a page or two of Sebald's writing transports me into a trancelike state, sometimes all it takes is a sentence or two. I folded the top left corner of page 84 earlier this morning so I could return to it and share the sentences below with you.

"After barely an hour of breezy travel, with the windows open upon the radiant landscape, the Porta Nuova came into view and as I beheld the city lying in the semicircle of the distant mountains, I found myself incapable of alighting. Strangely transfixed, I remained seated, and when the train had left Verona and the guard came down the corridor once more I asked him for a supplementary ticket to Desenzano, where I knew that on Sunday the 21st of September, 1913, Dr K., filled with the singular happiness of knowing that no one suspected where he was at that moment, but otherwise profoundly disconsolate, had lain alone in the grass on the lakeside and gazed out at the waves in the reeds."
 
Sebald died young, at 57 years old, only 11 years after this book was published. His books have been described as difficult to characterize, and I wholeheartedly agree. What I think I respond to most in his work is the way it both carries me to faraway places and reminds me to be present and live fully. A thoroughly satisfying, albeit slightly disorienting, combination.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Sofa Would Probably Be Reincarnated

Indigo, 2016

We've needed to replace our sofa for quite some time now, but have put it off. Our comfortable sofa, loaded with memories, is sadly waiting on the sidewalk in front of our apartment for the Bulky Item Recycling pickup I scheduled. Our new sofa arrives tomorrow. It's a beautiful indigo and I don't even care.

I bought the sad sidewalk sofa when I lived on my own in Chicago. I didn't have any furniture at all, so I didn't waste much time making a decision. I needed a place to sit. So I simply walked into the showroom, and without much thought selected a model and fabric, and that was that. No perusing Pinterest or Apartment Therapy or design blogs of any sort, because they didn't exist back then, and if there was anything of the sort it wouldn't have mattered because I didn't know about it.

My new sofa was delivered to my empty apartment, not long after my visit to the showroom. It was gorgeous and new and I loved it. I hadn't even met my husband yet. A few other gentleman might have sat on the sofa before I met him, but we won't get into that.

When I moved into my first apartment in San Francisco, which ended up being our (my husband when he was my boyfriend and me) first apartment in San Francisco, the sofa moved with me. The apartment was supposed to be my apartment, but the rental market was brutal and someone saw a window to worm his way into my life. I didn't argue.

Then the sofa moved with us to our second SF apartment, where we got married, on the roof deck, with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. A very special day.

And it moved with us again, to the tiny apartment we moved into so I could afford to go to graduate school. We're still here! I know it seems crazy, but maybe it isn't. We like it here, usually. Another story for another day.

Then the sofa rode with us in a U-Haul truck and lived with us in Point Reyes Station, CA, when we thought we were transitioning our lives to West Marin. The transition was never completed. Again, we'll save those details for another day.

The sofa was brought back to our little apartment in the city and it has served us well, through all of these changes in our lives, until we moved it out to the sidewalk early this morning. I feel I've betrayed it in some way, like there's something more I should have done.

I'm clearly not handling this sofa departure well at all. I know different people have different definitions of what constitutes needing a sofa, but you can trust me when I tell you the fabric was not just bordering on embarrassing, and the cushions, although fluffed regularly, had really lost their oomph. And the style... It was a bit dated, maybe more than a bit, but honestly, I could have lived with dated. It was the wear and tear that solidified the poor guy had absolutely reached retirement age. Yes, my sofa is male. I don't know how I know.

The pickup schedule was full tomorrow, so we decided to just go one day without a sofa. We were asked to have it outside at 6am this morning, so we woke up early and maneuvered that giant out the front door, as we'd agreed we would.

I took a ferry to Sausalito and Sausalito really was at its best today. It felt good to be there. The fog and the mist were beautiful and the library was quiet. But then I remembered the sofa and started feeling nostalgic... I tried to distract myself with the purchase of a huge ripe tomato. No, I haven't tasted it yet. My fingers are crossed. It will be our first ripe tomato of the season. Usually very exciting, but the sofa... I assumed it would be picked up before I returned home.

I got home today around 2pm and it was still there, on the sidewalk. Now it is 5:30pm and nothing has changed. I've called the service twice. I fear it will be out there all night.

Every time I walk past the sofa or look outside I feel terrible. I imagine it's cold and lonely out there without our bodies to keep it warm. I wish we could have donated it, but my research showed it was not in the proper condition for donation.

The last time we scheduled a pickup for a piece of furniture we had it out of the apartment at 6am and it was picked up by 7am. Done. And I didn't even care about that item.

My husband offered that the sofa would probably be reincarnated and this idea made me feel much better. I'm thinking it will be a goat or a saguaro cactus in its next life. Just a gut feeling.

Wait... I hear a truck.

Nope. Wrong truck.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Is Now

Endpapers, 2016

I was reading a book of poems written by a woman who decided to take up poetry at the age of 90, a book offering more illumination than I was prepared for this evening. Illumination of so many things.

What it might feel like to lose a spouse and miss that spouse, desperately. The experience of reading your own writing, many years after the words were written, and realizing that beautiful part of yourself is gone. The gratification of taking a stand on a small thing, but one that will change each remaining year of your lifedemanding no one buy you birthday gifts, at 90 years old. The relief felt. No more false gratitude required. The energy of those little lies, returned to you.

And just as she gets me thinking about my future, I turn the page to find an interview where she is quoted:

It is very constrictive and destructive to always be living beyond the moment; to be preparing.

So I lean forward, resting my right elbow on this book, my chin in my hand, and look at the wall for a while, appreciating what is now.

Poems from the Pond

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On Perfect Schedules and Saint Barthélemy



Design Your Perfect Schedule. What would you do, say, on Tuesday at 10 a.m. or on Friday at 3 p.m. to make your life meaningful? What, when you really come down to the quotidian details, does it look like every day to have time to do good work, to spend quality time with your family and friends and to refresh your soul?


July 24, 2016, 5:08pm

I’m in my husband’s office, hiding from the sun on the desk I’m using and therefore awkwardly positioned beside some file cabinets stacked with books. I found the questions above somewhere in January of 2015, and although at the time I thought answering them would be worthwhile, have put them off, until now.

A perfect schedule. There cannot be such a thing, but I’ll try and pretend there could be such a thing, for the sake of this exercise, with the hope it will at least move me closer to perfection than I am now.

Let’s begin with Tuesday at 10 a.m. Okay. Where am I? Is this only a perfect schedule? A perfect schedule seems as though it would require a perfect setting. I have no idea where the perfect setting is located, but I once spent several days on an island named Saint Barthélemy, in a beautiful bungalow with a small private pool, and room service.

I was young and impressionable and had read it was a favorite getaway for young attractive jet-set celebrity types, and that was all I needed, along with a maxed out credit card. I was in. It was a long time ago, it seems like a different life, but I do remember quite a bit about this place, especially the general feeling of being there. I recall details such as appreciating the bar soap in our bathroom, and I don’t even like bar soap. Everything was white and beautiful and impeccably clean.

There was a boombox and the hotel had a library of CDs. I borrowed a pile of these CDs and settled into our small but luxurious backyard area and was as pleased as I’ve ever been on any vacation in my life. It was the absence of stress. No, it was the ability to ignore it. Unfortunately, my companion did not appreciate this extraordinary space as much as I did, so I went about my business without him. I don’t recall really minding. Maybe there were a few fits of rage, but they were small fits, very small.

I had sun. I had shade. I had music of my choosing. I had beautiful food. And I had time, so much time. I ran around the island and did other things with my unhappy companion—jewelry shopping, restaurant going, bar hopping—but none of it was as enjoyable as the time I spent in the backyard of our bungalow, alone, swimming breaststroke, slowly, back and forth, in our small pool, while listening to Tears for Fears, General Public, and The The.

I recall reading about this hotel suffering hurricane damage shortly after our stay, but when I look at the current photographs of the place all of the old memories return. It looks the same to me. I would not be surprised if a hurricane or two have hit Saint Barthélemy since then and some special force has protected this magical place. It seems impossible for a place to be so perfect, and that I would have had the pleasure of staying there at such a young age. The whole memory, it must be a mirage.

So my perfect Tuesday at 10 a.m. would have to be spent in that pool on Saint Barthélemy, in its perfect mirage state, of course. I would have just eaten a late breakfast of fresh bread, fruit, and chocolate. There would be a breeze, obviously gentle. I’d exit the pool, dry off with a deliciously soft towel, and put on a robe of the same sort, climb into my chaise lounge, and then I would sip coffee while scribbling perfect paragraphs into my journal.

Yes, that would be my perfect Tuesday at 10 a.m. I do believe my life would feel wildly meaningful. I know it all sounds rather shallow, but I don’t usually live this way, and when I’ve tried it has failed miserably. I hate feeling disappointed, but no one would be disappointed with this Tuesday at 10 a.m. No one.

Friday at 3pm I would be taking a nap with my husband (not the unhappy companion), after a perfect 60-minute massage. We would have eaten lunch around 1pm, something like a delicious cold soup and salad, on the terrace.

The good work would be getting done, the quality time with the one I love would be happening, and my soul would absolutely be refreshed. Yes, it would all be covered.

But I’m still here at the file cabinet with this laptop pushed up against some books, feeling fairly sure this exercise hasn’t really helped me move closer to perfection in my day-to-day life. Whose idea was this?

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.

#threepoemsthursday

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

Hanginaround

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…)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fish & Game Quarterly

Poet's Chair, 2016

I'm sitting in the poet's chair over at Fish & Game Quarterly. The spring issue of this online publication is out today. I've just learned that my two poems in this issue are Fish & Game Quarterly's first poetry offerings. I'm honored. These are not warm and fuzzy poems, although one of them is titled Peaches, but they are dear to me.

You'll also find photographs from Inverness, CA, a remembrance of Prince, an essay about space and place written by a former bass player in the band Hole, digital art, a piece about the future of food magazines (there's hope!), even an instrumental track by a trio described as an idiosyncratic blend of dub, roots reggae, and spiritual jazz traditions. This and more are shared by a diverse group of contributors from New York to Bali.

Fish & Game Quarterly 

Enjoy.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Upstairs in the Poetry Room


Last Thursday I visited City Lights, specifically to visit the poetry room upstairs. Two windows, five chairs, one stool, and the largest poetry selection I've ever seen in a bookstore.

I entered alone, but there was someone right behind me making my photo taking awkward and self-conscious. He seemed serious. He picked up a book, sat down in the poet's rocking chair, and did not stand up until he left the room. I must have looked at ten different books—up and down, up and down—and I sat in two different chairs. But I was serious too. We were both quiet.

Then a very tall young man entered the room, serious as well, and focused, like the other guy. Just one book and one chair.

Any less serious visitors felt uncomfortable in our presence. If they were too loud and chatty, they toned it way down to a whisper. If they were overly impressed with the poetry room, and too vocal about it, they calmed down and patiently perused the collection. Those who obviously didn't care about poetry, but were inspecting the place as a landmark, departed quickly.  

But maybe it wasn't us. Maybe the poetry room has its own power. It's possible it controlled us too.

#threepoemsthursday

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Reading in Marin


It's time for another reading.

I'm going to be joining a handful of writers and artists published in West Marin Review, Volume 6, in Corte Madera on Monday, May 16th. I'll be reading my short prose contribution to West Marin Review as well as a few pages from After the Sour Lemon Moon.

An informal evening of prose, poetry, and art.

Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera, CA 94925

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, we hope you'll stop in and join us.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Admired and Feared


Joan. Saturday night.

I was sort of listening to Selected Shorts when a female voice began reading Goodbye to All That and, how does one describe the spell Joan Didion casts with her words? She is sharp, wry, and brutally honest. She cuts straight through to my heart, exposes those savage feelings I've felt and never told anyone about, and leaves a lump in my throat.

She's one of those brave unrelenting women, the type people admire and fear. You can see it in her eyes. You can hear it in her voice. I saw her live in conversation with Vendela Vida in 2011. She was 77 years old, small, but not at all frail. She was sharp, impatient, and curt.

I always feel the need to prepare myself before I read her work, but I was caught off guard this Saturday night, at home alone, husband out of town, possibly too much space for rumination. And maybe this is the best way to experience Joan Didionwithout armor.

She left that lump in my throat. She forced me to think realistically about my future, and she reminded me how fleeting each phase of my life has been. 

Nothing stays. Take nothing for granted.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Reading in Petaluma


I'm going to be joining a handful of writers and artists published in West Marin Review, Volume 6, in Petaluma, CA on March 25th. I'll be reading my short prose contribution to West Marin Review as well as a few pages from After the Sour Lemon Moon.

An informal evening of prose, poetry, and art.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood*, we hope you'll stop in and join us.

Friday, March 25th - 7pm
Copperfield's Books
140 Kentucky Street
Petaluma, CA 94952

* If you are in Northern California, but Petaluma is a bit out of the way, I'll also be participating in a similar event at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA on May 16th.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Statement


A gray-haired painter (house painter) walks into the cafe and orders a coffee. The person at the cash register places a cup of coffee on the counter and says, '$3.50.' Without a word the painter turns and walks out the door, leaving the coffee on the counter.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Two Weeks Later

Judged by Its Back Cover, 2016

No conversation today. I hope it's good.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Conversation with Myself

Peter Orner's 'Love and Shame and Love' and Me, 2015

'You don't need a new book.'
'Then why are you in a used bookstore?'
'I don't know. It's like a disease...'
'You should just put that book back on the shelf.'
'But Peter Orner is tempting me with drawings of Lake Michigan in winter and Mavis Gallant quotes.'
'Just shut the book.'
'If I don't buy books all the bookstores will close. Life will have no meaning!'
'Shut it!'
'No! Okay, fine.'

Monday, February 1, 2016

To the Top

Guardian Angel, 2016

It's been a while. How are you?

Much has gone on during my absence. I've been productive, which is a good thing, but I don't find productivity all that interesting. Do you?

When I think back to my time away, the experience that rises to the top is a trip to an off-season beach town where I found Patti Smith's M Train in the local library. It was a trip taken not long after my departure from social media, yet I don't think anything I experienced afterward felt as good.

Between getting bundled up and taking long walks at low tide, and quiet mornings with soft light entering the bedroom and falling upon Patti Smith's words and images, well, it doesn't get much better.

It's nice to be back. I hope you've been enjoying the start of this year.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gone Mushroom Hunting

December, 2015

I'm hanging up my Gone Mushroom Hunting sign.

I decided to do away with the Gone Fishing sign, since I no longer eat fish, but this post isn't really about my dietary choices. Let the term mushroom hunting stand as a symbol for going away/taking stock/searching/experimenting with the use of my time/working with fewer distractions. Although I wouldn't mind picking up a book and learning more about mushrooms. It might happen.

I'm not sure when I will return. I might know more about chanterelles, I might not.

May the rest of your December be merry, and may the start of your new year be filled with inspiration.

xx

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Quick Hello

Still Flowers, 2015

Hello. I hope you are well.

Have I shown you these sunflowers? Quite amazing, aren't they? They make me think of time and its passing.

Yesterday, while riding a bus, I spotted the poet Jack Hirschman on a street corner. He was scribbling notes into a tiny journal. I'm always so excited when I see him out in the world. My first thought was that I'd witnessed part of his poetry writing process, but on further reflection I realized he might have been adding to his grocery list.

I wonder how long I'll remember this scene, a poet on a street corner. How long will I hold on to these fallen sunflowers?

What are you thinking about this last day of November?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Consider the Apple

Pippin, 2015

I prefer an imperfect apple. But if to me the imperfections make it perfect, then what am I saying? Nothing. Maybe I should just eat the apple, not look at the apple, not think about the apple. Well, it's too late for all that. This is a handsome apple. How could I not notice? I pity those who cannot see it. It is simply not my nature to not consider the apple. But it's the taste that matters most. Yes, the taste. Somehow I know this one is going to taste good. Okay, I'm ready now. I'm going to eat the apple.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Collected

These Two, 2015

While dusting, the light moved onto these two. They are very small, each one close to the size of a Kalamata olive. I'm sure I kept them for the same reason I keep all such things. I want to later recall the day I found them. But the specific memories often dissolve, I only know they were collected in a moment of happiness. I stopped, lost in these thoughts, Joseph O'Neil reading Muriel Spark in the background. When my mind returned, he'd finished reading. I missed most of the story, and I won't finish dusting, but I think stopping was a better idea.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Duende (art)

Inspiration, 2015

I was waiting for a smoothie and reading an article in The Surfer's Journal (No, I'm not a surfer, but I did actually get up on a board and "surf" in Hawaii a few years back...Yes, I did.) and saw mention of a lecture Federico García Lorca, the poet, gave in Buenos Aires in 1933. Actually, I was first drawn in by this photograph and text while waiting for my smoothie, then began reading the article.

The article first quoted García Lorca as saying duende is
"...that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain."
I later perused Wikipedia's Duende (art) entry and found:
"El duende is the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside as a physical/emotional response to art. It is what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive."
And García Lorca had written:
"The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, 'The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.' Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation."
Climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet... Fantastic.

García Lorca's 1933 lecture ended with:
"The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and Medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things."
Think about that for a while.

Thanks to The Surfer's Journal 24.2, the Duende (art) Wikipedia entry, and Poetry in Translation's translated text from the 1933 lecture, Theory and Play of the Duende.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

All Before 11am

Five Petals, 2015

Sunshine, a man wearing a cloud t-shirt, an abrupt discussion about celery, loud territorial crows, peppers picked for pickling, waving goodbye, a fat yellow rose that smelled so good, a quiet phoebe, bees on lavender, always bees on lavender (snipping some of those stems and wrapping them in a wet napkin), a hawk landing closer to me than any hawk has before, monarch and little white butterflies, a translucent pink rose with five petals, the few summer squash and tomatoes still hanging on to their vines—unwilling to let summer go, and the tiny wilted purple flower that hitched a ride on the toe of my shoe.

Monday, September 21, 2015

West Marin Review

p. 49, 2015

I am happy to have my short prose piece, The Rancher Whispered, in the sixth volume of West Marin Review, a literary and arts journal. Copies are now available at a variety of independent bookstores in Northern California, and online. Details here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Carol

My Paris Bedroom, 2011

I'm pretty sure I've shown you this photo before. It is the bedroom of the Paris apartment I stayed in during the winter of 2011. Why are you seeing it again? Because I woke up this morning thinking about Carol. Carol is an American letter carrier traveling alone in Paris in the short film, 14e arrondissement, from the anthology film, Paris, je t'aime (2006). What I want you to do is click on 14e arrondissement at the bottom of this post and watch Carol. The short film is 6 minutes and 45 seconds. You will not forget Carol. One day you will wake up missing her and you will return to her in this short film about an essay with a poem buried inside. #threepoemsthursday

14e arrondissement

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Survival Cabin

Instruction, 2015

I found this book at my dad's house several years ago. I've just turned to page 301 to read about The 1980s Survival Cabin.

The author claims a survival cabin can be built for about $2000. He tells me it will be adequate in size, attractive from the outside and inside, permanent, and can be built easily by unskilled labor in about two weeks, with only hand tools.

He made these claims in 1979. I wonder what it would cost now.

I'll also need a very quiet and flat piece of land, with at least one magnificent tree.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hi.

Essential Wisdom, 2015

What are you doing?

I'm about to make dinner, but right now I'm watching old Aerosmith videos on YouTube. Crazy. Cryin'. Life just started feeling too serious and I felt like returning to something that reminded me of my more rebellious days. So here I am. It happens. We like what we like. Did you know both Stephen Dorff (from Sofia Coppola's movie, Somewhere) and Josh Holloway (Sawyer from Lost) are in the Cryin' video with Alicia Silverstone? All of them so young... Yes. It is true.

Cryin'

Monday, August 17, 2015

About the Word 'Vegan'

My New T-Shirt, 2015

Sometimes I feel like the dinosaur with the hummus.

There were some people in line in front of me at one of our neighborhood cafés this weekend, and as they neared the pastry case the man said, Oh, what do they have here? I bet everything is whole grain..., and the woman finished his sentence, or vegan! And then they both slapped their legs, leaned their heads back, and let out a, BAHAHAHAHAHA! The funny thing is this café doesn't serve one whole grain or vegan pastry. I kind of wish they did. Anyway, this reminded me of the clear stigma attached to the word vegan. Notice the knee slapping did not occur until after she said vegan.

Maybe it's less about the definition and more about the actual word. Say it out loud. Vegan. It does have a dour sound, no? There are other terms. Plant-based, whole food plant-based, or simply herbivore. I rather like herbivore, although it doesn't appear to be working for the dinosaur, and it doesn't really help when ordering a meal in a restaurant, which requires a lot of, can I order this without ______? And a lot of servers wincing behind their smiles.

I get it. For many years I proudly answered, zero dietary restrictions, whenever asked. I felt I was doing everyone a favor. I was low-maintenance. Then I slowly transitioned from a pescetarian diet, to vegetarian, to dinosaur, and life changed.

Eating at home is pretty easy, it does require thought, but mostly nutritional thought, something I should have always been considering. I've enjoyed combining new tastes, textures, colors, etc. in my own kitchen. It is being out and about in the world that is challenging. And I live in San Francisco. I know some people believe we are all free love vegans over here on the left coast, but we are not.

So I'm finding myself in situation after situation where I'm different, really different, and this is new to me. Blending in quietly didn't used to be a problem. It's a little harder now. So I decided to just go with it and do things like buy this t-shirt. I feel good. My body feels healthy. Laugh if you must, but I'm going to carry on. I hope it builds character.

Vegan

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Quiet Blogs

Quiet, 2015

Sometimes coming here, to my blog, feels like walking around my high school, as an adult, in summer.

I recently went to update the list of blogs I follow and found they were nearly all inactive. So, it seems we've come full circle. This is a quiet place again.

There is a slim possibility I'll run into a few old friends, but there won't be any crowds. It leaves me feeling somewhat melancholy, but maybe it's better this way.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Existence of Something Better and Deeper

"People who suspect the existence of something better and deeper, and desire these things, are, I believe, likely to abstain more and more from all ridiculous external show, the nearer they approach, through experience and action, to the reality of their dream; on the other hand, however, the further away from it they are, the more they cling to such flaunting display."
Excerpt from Green Henry by Gottfried Keller

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I think we'd get along swimmingly.

While Sauntering, 2015

"I listen to music. I occasionally rock it up, but mostly it’s the blues. And I read, and I might saunter somewhere, usually to get coffee. That’s everything I like. That and bookshops."

-Bill Nighy

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Handwriting

Late May, 2015

I recently bought this book, secondhand. When I opened it up for the first time last night I found this surprise, Michael Ondaatje's signature.

Michael Ondaatje held this book in his hands and signed it.

He is the only man my husband does not want me to run into when he's out of town, even though he too is married, and older than my father. I do love a good book. And have you ever seen the photograph of him in the blue sweater? #threepoemsthursday

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mavis Gallant in Madrid

Just, 2015

I just listened to Antonya Nelson reading Mavis Gallant's short story, "When We Were Nearly Young", again.


Sigh...

A perfect match.

It's just so damn good. Sometimes I crave the recording and play it just to fill me up with, I'm not sure what. Quality, I guess. Nelson's voice paired with Gallant's story as fuel, inspiration to push myself further.

Find thirty-two minutes and fifty-seven seconds, get comfortable, and click here.

Monday, May 4, 2015

What do your floral choices say about you?

Almost 7:00pm, 2015

I've had this jasmine for fourteen weeks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Found Memories

Madalena's Bowl, 2015

This is the bowl Madalena uses when she bakes bread.

Have you heard of the film Found Memories? Watching it felt as if I'd had the luxury of staring at a painting for two hours while imagining life beyond the still image, and eventually entering the scene myself--walking through fragments of landscape, entering the worn architecture of a rural Brazilian village, and slowly meeting its faint ghostlike residents.

Monday, April 27, 2015

In the Middle of It All

Dancing Above the Garden, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The weather in San Francisco seems to have retreated back to winter. I'm wearing a puffy jacket and sitting in an ugly little cafe with great coffee and a barista with eclectic taste in music. When I sat down it was Redbone's Come and Get Your Love, and now Blondie is purring ooo, whoa, ooo, whoa. His music makes it feel good in here.

I saw a sad mattress leaning against an apartment door on my way down the hill this morning, the same door that had a dirty old television blocking it on Saturday. This is supposed to be a fairly nice neighborhood, but it definitely has its oddities.

On a cold grey day, it feels good to escape into a place without wind, arrange coffee, notebook, and pen on a table, lean back into a chair, listen to some good music, and see where the mind drifts.

There's a pudgy guy in the cafe, sitting in a black leather chair, wearing basketball shorts and reading a tiny paperback with a raised gold title. Science fiction? Mystery? Romance? I don't care. A huge loud truck is idling just outside the door.

Now September by Earth, Wind & Fire, which always reminds me of our wedding. September is the best month in San Francisco, and a wonderful month for honeymooning. September makes it easier to ignore the truck.

I've let my cappuccino sit for too long. It's cold and flabby, but not all bad. I'm still drinking it... Everything seems okay--the grey sky, loud city, intricacies of this wallflower cafe--and I'm feeling such an affection for it all. I have some unexpected free time today and I guess I just started feeling cheesy and happy to be alive. I know, but... No one reads blog posts anymore, right? Might as well say what I please.

Earlier today, about a block before I saw the mattress, I started craving frozen fish sticks. No idea where this originated. I haven't bitten into a fish stick in decades, but I used to love them. I was obsessed with frozen entrees as a child. Our treat for staying with a babysitter was a TV dinner or pot pie. I liked frozen fried chicken too.

The closest I might have come to a fish stick in the recent past would be a Filet-O-Fish in a McDonald's, but sheesh, I don't even know the last time that happened. I did pass a McDonald's in Newport Beach a few months ago and the idea crossed my mind. Memories of childhood... But sadly, I did not follow through. I probably drank a green smoothie or ate a salad instead. What a disgrace.

I need to waltz into the Safeway frozen foods section and find the familiar box with the Gorton's fisherman on it. But does Gorton's still exist? Do they still freeze sticks of fish? I'd also need prepared mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish to make a tartar sauce like my dad used to make.

When I was an undergrad I'd buy hamburger buns and sliced American cheese and knock off the Filet-O-Fish by placing four fish sticks on a bun I'd toast with cheese and then slather with the tartar mentioned above, but it was never the same without the squishy bun McDonald's serves.

Mom loved the Filet-O-Fish too. I wonder if she ever hits the drive-thru for memory's sake.

And when I was a little girl I'd often walk to McDonald's with my grandpa. During our strolls he'd always ask, what do you feel like? I'd say, a fish filet (I never referred to the Filet-O-Fish by its proper name), and he'd say...

Wait! Now Janis Joplin's Piece of My Heart. I think I'm in love with this barista and this cold coffee, and the ugly furniture.

So anyway... As I was saying. Grandpa asks, what do you feel like? (As in, what are you going to order at McDonald's today?) I say, a fish filet. He says, you don't look like a fish filet. I laugh hysterically, every time.

It's quieter now. A white van with Del Monte Meat Co. on the side is parked outside the door of the cafe. Probably a delivery for Leopold's. The guy with the tiny paperback is gone. I don't know this song.

-------------

Did you watch the Redbone video? How the heck is the audience just sitting there? I was listening to the song and couldn't help but sit-dance on the sofa while typing. Then I had to stand up and play it again. And maybe a few more times.  

...if you want some
Take some, get it together, baby
Come and get your love

Monday, April 13, 2015

Something, Anything

Stinson, 2015

I woke very early this morning thinking about a quiet unassuming film I saw on Saturday. The main character experiences a period of absolute sadness, but it is followed by a beautiful struggle fueled by hope. I think it was about listening to oneself, and determination. It was so different than anything I've seen lately. I'm glad to know such films are being made.

Something, Anything

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Her Time


Saturday

While visiting Tree Fall today we were essentially accosted by a small, middle-aged, very enthusiastic woman, apparently a docent for this particular work of art. As we walked in the door she immediately began to joyfully push other artworks in the park on us.  

Do you have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure? You've seen Wood Line? You know about the eucalyptus overtaking the cypress? Of course, you must have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure. And you know about Spire? The For-Site Foundation video? Yes, we have seen it. I offer an inauthentic smile. Young trees will eventually obscure the sculpture. You have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure, right? Okay. Okay. Just let your eyes adjust. I love when you walk in and can't see anything at all and then your eyes adjust and it's like, wow.

But I saw Tree Fall clearly when I walked into the space. It didn't seem at all dark to me. My eyes did not need to adjust. I strain to smile again, looking up at the tree and wondering if she will leave us alone with the art, at all. Ever?

Next she pulls out a large hardcover book and begins rapidly turning pages and recounting all she believes to be highlights of the creation of Tree Fall. There were 40 volunteers! This is his daughter. They mixed clay with hair and straw. She points up. Here's a piece of straw!

Then she begins promoting the Presidio in general. There are these great talks on Thursday evenings, she gushes. There's a play they talked about recently, what was it...Ondine! My husband thinks he knows the play and asks if Ondine is a mermaid. No! Definitely not. She lives in the water, but she is -not- a mermaid. Okay. The play will take place beside the ocean, at the Sutro Baths. Outside! At night! It might be cold, but...

I decide this is her time, not mine. I look into her eyes. She's so excited. She cannot wait to see this play. I forget about Andy Goldsworthy and Tree Fall and leave with a vision of Ondine spotlit in the night fog.

Lithograph of Carlotta Grisi in the Pas de l'ombre from the original production of Ondine, ou La naïade at Her Maejesty's Theatre. London, 1843.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Thing Itself

Post, 2015

I ate breakfast alone today, without friend or family member. No radio or book, not even pen and paper. Just breakfast and me. It tasted better than usual.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Return

Space to Think, 2015

Have you ever gotten into your third or fourth reading of a poem and realized, although you liked it enough to return to it, you never really understood it, and your returns might not have been for pleasure, but for understanding? And as you continued reading and felt yourself slide into that perfectly shaped space the poet carved out of this world for you, did part of you rejoice in it being precisely what was meant to happen, while another part sunk down deep, dwelling on how close you came to missing it?

Monday, February 16, 2015

All the Way

Blood Orange Valentine, 2015

When somebody loves you
It's no good unless he loves you
All the way

Apparently, when I was two years old, I liked to sing this Frank Sinatra song in the car, especially belting out the line All the way. I'm not sure if I actually remember singing it, the three lines above do feel familiar, or if it's just the story of my singing that I recall.

I still feel the same way about that line. The All the way part of love, it is very important.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Memory Won't Save Me

Leaf, 2015

I found this leaf on page 36 of Memory Won't Save Me: a haibun by Mimi White. I don't recall placing the leaf there. The receipt was still in the back of the book. I bought it on November 5, 2013, 2:55 PM, at RiverRun Bookstore during my first and only trip to Portsmouth, NH. Rachael had written about Mimi White in September of the same year. She began with, "Mimi White's poems quiet me." Beneath the name of the store, address, and phone number on the receipt it reads, "Home of the Brave!" I really liked that little store. And now we have almost moved through January 2015. The sunlight has moved off the oranges and lemons, leaving them less enchanting than they were just moments before. Time...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Camellia

Camellia in January, 2015

My favorite dead flower.

Monday, January 19, 2015

W.G. Sebald and When Harry Met Sally

A Place in the Country, 2015

Lately, I have found myself copying passage after passage of W.G. Sebald's work into my notebooks. First, from his novel, The Rings of Saturn, and most recently from his book of essays about place, memory, and creativity, A Place in the Country. Some of the passages I've copied from A Place in the Country are Sebald's own writing and some are the words of the creative minds that helped shape his work.

He drags me down and through what sometimes seems the worst of human existence and then lifts me up into some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read, leaving me feeling as Sally felt about Harry in the end of When Harry Met Sally, during that final New Year's Eve scene. Just when Sebald carries me to the point of feeling I must put the book down for a while, if not for good, he'll throw something like this out there.

There can scarcely be a brighter eulogy than Heinrich’s funeral oration for his young cousin Anna, who passed away long before her time. When the carpenter is rubbing down her newly finished coffin with pumice, Heinrich recalls, it becomes “as white as snow, and only the very faintest reddish touch of the fir shone through, giving the tint of apple blossom. It looked far more beautiful and dignified than if it had been painted, gilded, or even brass-bound. At the head, the carpenter had according to custom constructed an opening with a sliding cover through which the face could be seen until the coffin was lowered into the grave; now there still had to be set in a pane of glass which had been forgotten, and I rowed home to get one. I knew that on top of a cupboard there lay a small old picture frame from which the picture had long since disappeared. I took the glass that had been forgotten, placed it carefully in the boat, and rowed back. The carpenter was roaming about a little in the woods looking for hazelnuts; meanwhile, I tested the pane of glass, and when I found that it fitted the opening, I dipped it in the clear stream, for it was covered with dust, and clouded, and with care I succeeded in washing it without breaking it on the stones. Then I lifted it and let the clear water run off it, and when I held up the shining glass high against the sun and looked through it, I saw three boy-angels making music; the middle one was holding a sheet of music and singing, the other two were playing old-fashioned violins, and they were all looking upward in joy and devotion; but the vision was so thinly and delicately transparent that I did not know whether it was hovering in the rays of the sun, in the glass, or merely in my imagination. When I moved the glass, the angels instantly vanished, until suddenly, turning the glass another way, I saw them again. Since then I have been told that copperplate engravings or drawings which have lain undisturbed for a great many years behind glass communicate themselves to the glass during these years, in the dark nights, and leave behind upon it something like a reflected image.”

And he makes it impossible for me to put the book down and leaves me wondering if I will ever find another who sees the world quite the way he does.

In the passage above, from A Place in the Country, Sebald quotes a character Gottfried Keller created for his 1855 novel, Der grüne Heinrich.

Friday, January 9, 2015

I Might Start Drinking Instant Coffee

Or Tea, 2014

"I will cast this shadow into the air, where it may never be seen, or where it may be seen at a great distance, and only by one person, someone I will never know. The point is to cast the shadow out into the air."
                                     Excerpt from How I Get to Write by Roxana Robinson

I saw a notification that someone named Sarah pinned my Woolgathering by Patti Smith photograph from Instagram onto one of her Pinterest boards. I clicked on "Sarah" to open her Pinterest profile and see, Sarah who? Oh, Sarah from Edge of Evening blog. Yes, she's written many literary posts I've enjoyed. I notice her "cook" board. Tasty. I see something called Jacked-Up Banana Bread. I'm intrigued. I'm already following her "writers" board, but as happens when one gets into such a hopping mood, I begin scanning all of her past "writers" pins. I see Michael Ondaatje, Marilynne Robinson, Mavis Gallant, and all the way at the bottom I find this little treasure from The New Yorker. I read it (read, not scan), every word, and I wonder if I have read it before. I believe I have. No matter. If I have read it, fine, it was clearly time for me to read it again. And I think, all time online is not lost, there is much to glean, and I might start drinking instant coffee.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Entering Sophia's World

 Proof Copy, 2014

I recall my long exhale after releasing a certain post into the world earlier this year. What would follow was still unknown.

There have been friends and family who have read After the Sour Lemon Moon and shared their thoughts about the story with me. There are those who quietly peruse this blog that have purchased my book, curious to see how I would write in book form. And there are the people who stumbled upon a book by an unfamiliar author and decided to take a chance, open that first page, and enter Sophia's world.

You have all made me very happy.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Her Blankets Are Always Clean

Day Seven, 2014

There is a clarity that reveals itself when I am alone for an extended period of time. It's like shaking the sand out of a blanket after a day at the beach, so all that is left is the blanket itself.

I recently saw Marilynne Robinson interviewed. She spoke of editing and how she had little need for it. She rarely changes what she writes. She nails it on her first pass. I knew in that moment that my process had nothing in common with hers. Her blankets are always clean. And I don't think this is something that might change for me after years of practice. It's not just my writing, it's my entire life, unlike Marilynne Robinson, I never begin clean. All of my starts are covered in sand.
 
It's taken me ten days of being alone to remember what clarity feels like. My decisions are less hurried. Priorities seem to sort themselves. Nothing important is missed.

This was what it was like when I lived alone. I never understood why my boyfriend at the time had to keep such a tight to-do list (or why he was so specific about the way each piece of his clothing should be folded). I felt what needed to get done got done. It happened naturally. Why fret? Why feel that weight of the dreaded list? He lived alone too. Apparently, we were very different.

I've found living together often means carrying around a sandy blanket. I get distracted by the presence of another. Some of those distractions are pesky, but most are good distractions that add layers to my life. I see and do things I might have otherwise missed. It's messier, but my life gains dimension.

But this does not mean I should forgo the one solo trip I take each year. Every year I get attached to the way things are. I think, I don't really need to go anywhere by myself. I spend enough time alone writing. But I'm wrong and I'm thankful to share my life with someone who cares about what's best for me and tells me to go off on my own and uncover that true self, who isn't really so far away, and bring her back home.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Alone on the Beach

Earthwork, 2014

Last night, deep into twilight, I was walking along the shoreline. It was very near dark and I thought of how I always tell Chris that I don't like walking over sand in the dark, how holes could get camouflaged and lead to twisted ankles, or worse. As I looked down, unable to see much of the sand or the steps I was taking, I realized I am less careful when I'm alone.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alone in the Kitchen

Salsa in Green Bowl, Upper Left, 2014

Have you read Laurie Colwin's essay, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant? I have, multiple times, and I just heard it read in a late September episode of Selected Shorts from PRI, the Next Stop, Greenwich Village episode.

"People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam."

I love this essay. I listened while eating breakfast, a simple and lovely plate of food I posted on Instagram. My photo showed an apple, a few pieces of sharp cheddar cheese, and a long slice of bread neatly cut in half. What I did not post was the last of the bag of Tostitos and the salsa that I ate after I finished the lovely plate of food, when I was still hungry.

It was perfect timing, listening to Laurie Colwin reminisce about washing arugula in her bathtub, eating the same toasted cheese dinner for six months, and her failed beef fondue, laughing at herself as I laughed at myself and finished off the tortilla chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag.