Archive for ‘Uncategorized’


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.

Vitamin Dream Days

January 11th, 2015


My new sort-of routine is heading for the exotically-named and mundanely suburban Alhambra Hall, a public building set in a big lawn on Charleston harbor near my house, to watch the winter sunset. It’s not always spectacular, as on this day of moody gray clouds that remind me of a Japanese woodcut. I don’t make it on rainy days and I don’t make it on lazy days, but when I do show up, it pulls me into a 10-minute space of silence that is shivery and serene. The air is as crisp as a just-ironed, lightly-starched white shirt. Planes write soaring haiku paeans to the sky. The dog walkers are quietly convivial with each other while their companions cavort. I’m acutely aware of the contrast of being warmly bundled up while I breathe the chilled sauvignon-blanc air. A small delightful luxury that I have done nothing to deserve. When the sun starts to set, a golden light often sweet-talks the dormant russet marsh grass, and it seems to glow from within. And so do I.

Which Side Is Up?

January 9th, 2015

Key West Reflection web

When I was first divorced, two new friends invited me to dinner and played Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” for me. I was taking the first tentative steps into the world alone, and I’ll never forget the moment of illumination and clarity it precipitated. Suddenly I could see that the demolition of my marriage was also a chance to build a life that felt like home. Usually, I’m only able to recognize in hindsight crucial turning points in my life, those moments when I simultaneously mourn an ending and step toward a beginning.  The ones that resemble epiphanies are rare for me, but I’m beginning to realize that I can take most any story I’ve created around my failures, losses or shortcomings and practice flipping it. Was that lover I parted ways with so tragically really the Fake Soul Mate Who Scarred Me For Life? Was it only a time of embarrassing foolishness, unanswered questions and lingering regret, or can I flip it and see the things I learned, mourn the powerful hurts we inflicted and be grateful for the moments of intense joy we shared in spite of the inevitable and damaging ending? It helps me to see that the stories I’ve created about my life and the people in it aren’t very accurate or useful. Any time I’m able to stop viewing my life through a narrow tunnel vision, it opens up a world of possibility I never imagined, like re-reading a book and suddenly discovering layers of meaning and multiple side plots. I guess we’re all unreliable narrators when it comes to our the tales we tell ourselves, and flipping the picture won’t necessarily reveal the “real” truth. But it can make our stories so much richer because everything that happens to us comes with a multitude of lessons and truths. In the process, we can meet ourselves anew, the strangers who have been walking side by side with us all this time just waiting for us to turn and embrace them.



Spring in a Jar

December 22nd, 2014

 ren salt web

Homer called salt a divine substance, and in various religions, it was thought to repel evil spirits and used in purification ceremonies. I’m a salt and savory person and find sweets cloying after the first few bites. I love salted popcorn, chips and nuts. I love the way tequila is downed with a lick of salt, and the lingering taste of salt on skin after a swim in the ocean. Our tears are both the seasoning and cleansing of grief and heartbreak, rubbing salt in our wounds and healing them at the same time. No wonder, then, that when I was coughing, sneezing and feeling alternately chilled and fevered recently, I was drawn to a salt rub the same way wild creatures made their way to the old salt licks deep in the wilderness. In winter, my skin is wrapped up in layers and craves the rough slough of salt balm, the repetition of scrub, scrub and rinse, the ceremonial preparation for rebirth in the spring.

Creativity for Christmas

December 20th, 2014


Is it a coincidence that I’ve seen two admiring references to Sister Corita Kent’s iconic book, Learning by Heart,  in the last couple of weeks or a sign of the current zeitgeist? Her posters were everywhere when I was younger, and her book continues to  be an inspiration. If you know someone who’s just starting their creative journey or someone who needs a kick in the creative ass, it will be a gift, a companion and a road map all rolled into one.

Cure for the Common Cold

December 19th, 2014

gray skies web

A miserable head cold, problems with my new iPhone, spending money on junk that no one really needs under the tree, on hold with a health insurance company for 45 minutes (45 MINUTES!) — all day I felt as if I were swimming against a tide of stupid problems that threatened to wear me out before I got to shore.  But when the really nice customer service person finally picked up with all the information I needed, I realized how crass it is to complain about the health insurance I’m lucky to have. And later, when I was standing in a steam-filled shower to get warm and clear my sinuses, I suddenly thought how miraculous it was to have hot water come right into my house on demand 24 hours a day. And when I remembered there was an unopened bottle of prosecco in the refrigerator and a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup that I was saving for a sick day, I felt humbled and embarrassed by everything I take for granted. And that’s the cure for the common cold, the calloused conscience and the discontented heart.






December 18th, 2014

lu cd web

That’s how NPR described the place Lucinda Williams writes and sings from. It might seem weird to tout her new double album that so beautifully catalogs regret and misery and loneliness in this month of holly jolliness, but she bears witness to the human condition with the whisky, graveled voice of gritty truth. She’s the bitter night that shepherds endure alone. She’s the long dark night of the soul of anyone who has to go through this holiday alone. She’s the lonesome train that passes through town in the middle of the night.  Put this music in someone’s stocking this year — someone who has a stand-up soul and is willing to go down to where the spirit meets the bone.

The Promise

December 17th, 2014

 banana painting VSCO web

A book I’ve been reading describes winter as a time to be “scoured.” An odd description, but step out into a winter wind on a bleak day and you can feel Nature’s abrasive being applied to your body and soul. The banana tree that put out leaves so lavishly this summer in its turquoise pot has been scoured by the cold weather. Hidden among its drab brown remains are the shafts of green leaves caught in mid-unfurling and left hanging with summer unfulfilled. But still. The green is there like a hidden message for anyone who looks past the dead foliage to the tree’s core.  Even as we layer up in fleece and parkas and hunch our shoulders against the razoring winds, I believe “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower” is in us too, still alive, still waiting quietly to race through our bones and blood in a great spring shout.

A Whatever World

December 15th, 2014


I think “meh” is one of the most annoying, contemptuous expressions around. Meh is too bored to be bothered, too sophisticated to break a sweat, too jaded to jump for joy.  And yet, I find that I’m dangerously close to developing a Meh state of mind. Go to that play? It’s too much effort to order the tickets, wear something besides sweatpants and find a parking place. Send a handwritten note? An email is good enough — after all, it’s the thought that counts. Throw a little party? It’s so much easier not to. I know myself too well to think I’ll suddenly leave home to hike the Pacific Coast Trail, but I want to be the kind of person who says “Yes” more often than “Meh.” Yes, I do! Yes, I will! Yes, I accept!

Sunday Says…

December 14th, 2014

Emerson quote web