27 March 2005

Postcards From The Cornfield

I was flying back from Los Angeles Friday before last I think it was. I’d taken a brief stroll on Rodeo Drive before an early afternoon lunch meeting nearby. That was a reminder to me of just how uncool I am. It crossed my mind that if things had worked out with the lover-who-shall-not-be-named that that place would be the context of my life. I would hate myself and feel out of place – I’d likely never really know that it was the place and not me that I loathed. It’s so difficult to make distinctions sometimes.

Flying back from Minneapolis a few days ago now. Things that must have once seemed commonplace strike me as odd. And the mere realization, the third-person-looking-in moment of awareness, colors events with an invented and surreal quality. I watch. Very through the looking glass darkly or maybe brightly. Serves to show me how much I’ve changed (and perhaps how much I haven’t).

I’m not saying good or bad. I’m just saying different. Leave the judgments to those who thrive on them. I’ll leave it to the you and the other to name which is which, what is what, who is who. All I know is that at once I felt like two ends of a magnet, both repelled and attracted. It was all laid out like an unmovable feast before me with a sign that says, look, but don’t touch.

I’m left with old familiar feelings. My heart and eyes too wide open - when to hold it in my vision I must put my heart and mind in separate rooms until it’s safe to come out. I tell Ed that I feel sad and wished-away. (What part of our history is reinvented and under rug swept?) He wishes me back.

16 March 2005

Smoke Break

I leave for Minneapolis in the morning. I’m tired of airplanes - tired of traversing the planet in the sky. In my best of all possible worlds, perhaps, I’d roll on my belly in the dirt – slither across the continent and feel not merely see the distance as it neared, I wallow in it and then crawl away.

I want a cigarette – such a little flush of plant, soaked in lethal chemicals and wrapped up in a bit a scrap paper can have the most seductive allure. I imagine myself sitting on a hillside with a perfect cup of coffee, dog by my side, and in the strike of a flint a year of resistance down the drain. But can’t you just smell the sickly sweet and stale smell of burning tobacco wrecking the crisp spring air? And the coffee - steamy and sticky and sweet? Sigh. It’s pretty to think so. And just as quickly I’m forced to flush those thoughts from my mind and stay the course.

Amidst Ed’s laundry I found a mostly empty pack, with a sole lonely cigarette inside. I wasn’t looking, mind you. I was sorting laundry – that’s all. And I pulled the pack out of the inside shirt pocket, took out the cigarette and rolled it between my fingers, held it in my hand and smelled it. I walked into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror while I mock smoked it… just for a second before tossing it in the toilet and flushing it along with those thoughts.

Over a year since I set aside that seductress and still the sirens sometimes woo me with melodious enchantments - (empty) promises of a lush life. But when she turns round toward me in the pale light of morning, she’s old, weathered and wrinkled – not with those beautiful lines of character and a life well lived, but more like a hunger folding in on itself over and over again – (can you imagine all that greed and avarice coming down on that child’s lips?) If it wasn’t such a lie or at least if I could believe it…

15 March 2005

Must Give Us Pause

My grandmother had a stroke on Sunday night. My mother flew to Minneapolis to be near her, to be with her, on Monday. She died this morning. Firstly, do not apologize. Secondly, don’t offer condolences. To do either of these things would denigrate her life.

My grandmother is a wonderful woman. The mother of my mother, she gave me the most precious gift. She is perhaps with me today in far keener state of mind than she has been for years. She is laughing and growing more youthful and vivacious as the seconds draw on and my grandfather’s arm wrap warmly around her, free of the burdens of flesh – as she grows more accustomed to this business of being dead and gets on with it.

As Rilke wrote:

And being dead is hard work
and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel
a trace of eternity. - Though the living are wrong to believe
in the too-sharp distinctions which they themselves have created.
Angels (they say) don’t know whether it is the living
they are moving among, or the dead.

In other words, she doesn’t recognize me as alive and I refuse to lament these distinctions. To lament her death is to lament her life. What is death but a pause, a form of punctuation, in our lives? Death is the final proof that we have capacity to continue to grow and change. Death maybe isn’t our final act, but it’s often an awkward chrysalis for the living to behold. Don’t count me among them - those that view the becoming as awkward or untoward, that is. Do count me as among the living, however.

I am clear that my grandmother’s death is not about me. And I won’t try to step in and steal her center stage through some erroneous display of grief. This was her gesture - the last attached to this flesh that I’ll have the luxury of savoring. I am grateful and humbled and honored in the face of that.

07 March 2005

Again and Again

I arrived in Boston the day before yesterday - on the 20th (February). I clarify that because I think about writing here often, put thoughts on the page, and then think the better of posting, or maybe I don’t think at all and I just don’t post. I walked through Boston Commons yesterday, the 21st, during a brilliant snow storm. Nearly six inches. It was crisp and cold and clean snow blanketed the park as I walked the mile and a half in less than sensible shoes.


I walked on the mountain with Secret today – on the 28th (February), back in the Bay Area. Cassie contends that it’s not spring yet – she says, ”the trees don’t lie.” But the Madrone’s are flowering, wild irises are beginning to pepper the hillsides, Indian Paintbrushes flaunt their blooms and the buckeyes bear leaves cupped in the shape of small hands the ways hands would be shaped if they were displaying Easter eggs on their fingertips. Ha. It’s true, the trees don’t lie. It was only a matter of time. There was a mild breeze, high cottony clouds in a field of bird’s-egg-blue sky and sun shining through like grace – like grace on a divine day. It was perfect.

Later still…

I finished McGuire’s Mirror, Mirror on the airplane. I read through the notes provided for discussion groups. I used to be such a deep reader. I don’t know who the fairest one of all is – which leaves me feeling like a dork.


It’s March-something and I’ve never seen the desert in such spectacular bloom. I say this and still the ocotillos and beavertail cactus, except in the lower and warmest desert, have barely just begun to unfurl their buds – just the tiniest splashes of red and pink in seas of verbena, desert sunflowers, poppies, and dandelions, lupine, Canterbury bells and the bouquet of more goes on and on.

We drove to the base of Edom Hill to wallow in a landscape of delicate desert sunflowers wafting in the breeze – while ATVs corrupted the serenity. Joshua Tree was awesome. Although even the hills that abut downtown Palm Springs, running parallel to Palm Canyon Drive, are covered with such green it’s downright trickery – lush and tropical – not resembling a desert at all.

Home again, home again…