Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

Other Worlds

March 20th, 2017

“There are worlds beyond worlds and times beyond times, all of them true, all of them real, and all of them (as children know) penetrating each other.“ P.L. Travers

The discovery by NASA of Trappist 1, a planetary system outside our own, is an instance when science became so magical to me, revealing that there are “worlds” beyond we never dreamed existed. It coincided with a re-reading of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, a book/trilogy that reminds me of the fairy tales that made me believe utterly in the impossible as a child. The drudge of daily life and the notion that everything in the world has a rational explanation (the Man in the Moon? Just craters and shadows!) can leach the numinous out of our world view. Theoretically, I should be too old to be entranced and bewitched by fairy tales and unknown worlds like Trappist 1, but I’m so grateful to have that childhood vision restored to me for a bit by the intersection of a beautiful novel and a brilliant scientific discovery. Who knows what else is possible? More than we dream and exactly what we dream, I hope.

 

Where I Live Now

January 24th, 2017

misery

When I can’t stand one more bogus press briefing, one more alternative fact, one more surrogate spouting lies even they don’t believe, my thoughts turn to murder. Wives with Knives, Killer Teens, Deadly Neighbors, Homicide Hunters, Fatal Vows, Deadly Affairs, Strangers in My House. The ID (Investigation Discovery) channel never lets me down. I’ve learned how to do away with my spouse by dosing his iced tea with antifreeze (Don’t drink it, you dope!), and that if you kill someone in the kitchen, no matter how much you scrub the linoleum,  Luminol will betray you. Husbands and wives, do not take out million-dollar life insurance policies right before you off your spouse! Poor trusting schmuck, if you start getting sick and sicker with no discernible cause, have your doctor do an arsenic test! Wives, the hit man you hire WILL throw you under the bus for a deal! These gruesome tales about the dark side of human nature provide a brief respite from the gruesome stories coming out of Washington, DC, these days. Where civility, compassion, decency and truth are being massacred one by one. Where democracy is being axed with every new fox being put in charge of our henhouse. Where money talks and poor people walk. But at least on ID, I know that justice will prevail, bad guys will be caught and the poor widder woman’s ranch will be saved. Until I wake up and realize that at the junction of Fear and Misery, there are more senators to call, more marches to join, more setbacks to protest. And if you decide to join me on the picket line — misery loves company!

seattlewoods

Deep, mysterious forests to get lost in. Pray they aren’t opened to logging, drilling and mining and capitalistic greed. Chain yourself to a tree.

Our sense of humor. Laughing at tyrants is a deadly weapon.

Fireworks on July 4th – Oh, say can you see past this dark time?

The daily tides, reminding us that politicians come and go.

Mount Denali. It will be there long after Trump is gone.

Dolphins feeding off shore. (Fight off-shore drilling, nasty women!)

Winter sunsets, which even Trump can’t buy, sell, rent or otherwise monetize.

Canada, O Canada!

Bob Dylan, whose songs are hymns of rebellion.

Adventures in Failure

November 19th, 2016

web-sea

 

In class recently, I started trying to paint a standard landscape — land, sea, sky — but when I finished, it looked so dead, so predictable. I was trying to paint the way I thought I should, and the result was not only boring, it was also definitely bad. In a fit of self-loathing, I took my palette knife and scraped as much paint off as I could. The result was accidentally closer to what I wanted — a kind of blurred, rough abstract view. Not a masterpiece or even a piece I would ever frame, but something that was closer to what I saw in my mind. I’m used to judging what I write or paint on the basis of what other people might think of it. Will someone publish it, will someone praise it, will someone validate me? But in this case, my failure was also my fuel — when I took it home, I was fired up to keep trying to capture what I see, the way I see it. Has a failure ever opened up a new way of thinking or a new path for you?

Melancholy Baby

November 13th, 2015

evening angela carter

“Sad, so sad, those smoky-rose evenings, smoky-mauve evenings of late autumn, sad enough to pierce the heart.” Angela Carter

These fine fall evenings when the sunsets fire up — our version of the Northern lights — and you can detect an under note of winter in the breeze, I find myself happily melancholy. Maybe that sounds like a contradiction, but just as black tree limbs are starkly outlined against vivid orange skies, memories of the past come to the front of my mind — present as at no other time of year. They are unsorted, simply tumbling over me like photos spilling out of a shoebox, some black and white, some still Kodak-colored. I think about talking on the phone to the lover I’d just broken up with, staring out the window at a bleak autumn afternoon and a bedraggled wet squirrel huddled in the rain on a tree branch. The loss, the hopelessness, the anguish of that moment are still fresh and painfully sharp. I remember nights lying on my stomach in front of the fireplace at my grandmother’s house, lost in a book, snug and safe in that lost world,  still innocent and unconscious of the many times my heart would break in the future. And even though the smell of burning leaves is no longer commonplace, it comes back to me undiluted, carrying visions of saddle shoes, a caramel sundae on a fall afternoon shared with a lanky golden boy I almost dated, wool skirts tentatively raised by my football player boyfriend in the back seat of a car parked on a gravel road. Those memories do pierce my heart with sadness but also with gratitude for their beauty, for the intensity of feeling that, unlike old Polaroids, never becomes washed out or faded.

button jar

Because Fear and Embarrassment are my constant companions in painting class, I’m trying something new to trick them into looking the other way when I pick up a brush or pen. I bought a stack of cheap little canvases at a craft store and I’m slapping on oil paint fast and furious before my censor catches up.  I dash them off on the kitchen table before I remember I’m not a real artist.  I have no expectation of the results being good or something I’d keep. I don’t care if they go in the trash as soon as I’m done. Same thing for my sketchbook. Fast, sloppy drawing and colorful markers meant for kids. And I don’t heed all the advice not to tear a page out of your writing/drawing notebook. Screw that. I love ripping out the BIG mistakes and the mishaps because I don’t want my insecurity to take me back to those over and over again to obsess about what I didn’t do right.  I want to jump over the security fence set up around my adult brain to keep it safely inside the lines and recapture the fun I had doing this long before I realized Art was serious and only meant for geniuses, grown-ups and professionals.

Saluting My Prayer Flags

August 19th, 2015

prayer flags 3 web

I’ve never seen a ghost, experienced magic or had a paranormal experience. I’m not religious, but I believe in the power of prayer flags. That the wind wafts blessings through the air as it blows through them. I’ve had them strung on my porch since I moved into my house, and coming home and seeing them makes this country girl raised as a Methodist inordinately happy. As do the string of tin can lanterns made by a friend of mine. And the twinkle lights that stay up year round. Bless this house. Bless everyone who comes through the door. Bless the little green lizards that climb the screens. Bless, I guess, the damn slugs that sometimes make their way onto the porch and scare the crap out of me. Bless the delivery guy who leaves Amazon packages on the porch, for he shall enter into the heaven of books. Bless the doormat made of recycled flip-flops and the feet who journeyed in them. Bless the aloe plant that I forget to water and yet quietly survives, waiting for the bad sunburn it will treat without saying “I told you so.” Bless the Martha Stewart wicker couch from K-Mart purchased before her fall from grace and still jaunty on the porch in a recent coat of turquoise paint. Bless the amazing little woodpeckers that come to the feeder and even the schoolyard-bully jays that try to take it over. Bless the cliched white picket fence that is verging on shabby, and bless the wide world that lies outside the fence where blessings come and go on the wind.

Only a Peach

August 17th, 2015

peach web

Last night when I went to bed, I was swamped by a sadness that seemed to rise up out of nowhere. Sadness about change and loss,  sadness about everything I’ve done wrong in my life, everyone I’ve let down, every time I’ve made a bad choice. The list grew and swelled with reproach every time I closed my eyes. And through it all, I felt a deep embarrassment at being so frayed around the edges, at not being able to pull myself out The Bog of What Might Have Been. I can’t say much of anything changed overnight. In the morning, I drank a latte. I read an article about pilgrimages on the Camino de Santiago.  I took a walk around my neighborhood. I ate a perfect peach. It was the last one from a bag a friend brought me from upstate South Carolina. One more day and it would have gone from ripe to rotten.  The contrast of its chorus-girl curves with the wabisabi-ness of the beat-up wood table on my porch and the pristine plate mediating between the two nudged me to try and paint it, to record that it was here and so was I. Nothing happened to make my sadness completely disappear, but the day went on and I made my own pilgrimage from a soul-wrestling night to an afternoon of peaches and paint tubes. I put one foot in front of the other with no guarantee of enlightenment, no spiritual guide, no destination in mind. I just shouldered my grief and took it for a walk through an ordinary day, an unremarkable day, a good day.

Resumé Rehab

March 16th, 2015

treasure map web

I don’t have a resume. In fact, I haven’t had one for 20+ years, so how can I be sure I actually exist? Even before I was self-employed, my resume was spotty with some awkward gaps. Ten years as a stay-at-home mother. Another five going to college while a single mother. A degree and my first real job at age 33. A slow start with a meteoric rise with a publishing company. A brief stint with a software company. A bad breakup and an illogical move to a faraway state. Making ends meet as a liquor store clerk, glorified chambermaid in an inn, incompetent waitress and so on until I started the improbable venture of creating a magazine from scratch. When I was the publisher of my own magazine, I occasionally thought I should update my resume. Then I lost my old one and the dates of the various phases in my job history became hazy in my mind. Sometimes I would be asked to submit a bio, but rarely did I need to document all the ups, downs and dates of my so-called career path. The longer I went without one, the more I resisted it — until the thought of assembling one became almost painful. As if I would have to relive the hardscrabble years of single motherhood, the insecurity of being an older student in graduate school competing with kids from Harvard, Yale and Ivy-whatevers, the guilt of neglecting my kids while focusing on my shiny Big Job, the regret of relationships that never had wings, the constant self-doubt around people whose accomplishments far outweighed mine. I’ve always had the niggling feeling that I’ve cobbled together a life without benefit of schematics or instructions, and a resume only reinforces that. Now that I’m back to working part-time as a writer and consultant (whatever that is), it seems even more daunting to sit down and fill in the back story of Me. It would undoubtedly be reassuring to be able to look at a list of orderly career stages neatly dated and documented with action words (Created, Led, Developed, Initiated). A linear map of my life. Instead, I have a rambling story of work interrupted by dead ends and detours, rest stops and road-side attractions and long intervals of just being lost. It’s more akin to a kid’s treasure map or a visual resumé than an adult’s career bio, but I doubt the board seat I’d like to apply for would accept a CV drawn on a napkin with a crayon.

Pie-Eyed

February 5th, 2015

cherry pie web

I’m a faithful subscriber to BON APPETIT even though I rarely attempt one of the recipes. I know I will never make a Beef Bourguignon Pie or Seeded Buckwheat Cookies, but I love to imagine the people in their small Manhattan galley kitchens or their Aga stoves/sub Zero-fridges kitchens lovingly duplicating the recipes in the magazine. I like to think they’re serving their meals to cello players, aspiring actors, struggling writers and artists who are on the verge of a break-through at a rustic farm table that has big fat candles (unscented of course) set in saucers down its length and carafes of rough, honest red wine from some tiny vineyard in Italy. The conversation will range from Tolstoy to tap dancing, Frida Kahlo to perfect pommes frite, indie films to urban farmers. BON APPETIT is a secret world to me, much as California was when I moved there at 18. A magical land I could visit but never really be part of — a state of mind made up of San Diego sunlight, exotic flowers and fruit and the soul-astounding Pacific Ocean. I would love to live there, but I also cherish the homemade-with-love cherry-pie country of my real life, grounded in gritty reality and table talk that’s sometimes tense and antsy instead of artsy. I wish I were one of the people in the BON APPETIT spreads, those confident, well-dressed, well-educated dinner guests. But I’m afraid I will always be the one who knocks over the wine glass, who would rather stay home than pilgrimage to India, who sweats when she’s out of her social depth. And whose favorite dessert is humble pie with extra ice-cream, please.