26 April 2006

That Girl

I had an amazing experience yesterday. I went to see the lovely and amazing Tati for a two fucking hour massage. Yes two.. I said two. Seeing her is always magical and amazing. Two hours of seeing her was no different – just more. More on that later.

So Cassie came by weekend before last, or maybe even weekend before that. We talked out possible strategies and supplements that might help my poor, aching feet and chatted, etc. Some things resonate, other things don’t. I like her approach. She puts forward a menu of ideas and encourages me to move toward those that resonate for me. I mull things over for longer than the average bird. My ways are so odd. I don’t discuss my processes often because they work even if they don’t make sense to the average onlooker.

For months (years?) she brings up the whole yoga thing. My neighbor has asked me to go with her for months (years?) So I approach said neighbor last weekend and she’s taking me along with her this Saturday morning. She was so excited – it was sweet. I’m really looking forward to it. Now I have to buy a yoga matt.

Anyways, back to Tati. I realize that one of the things I really get from Tati, besides a kick ass massage and wonderful intentional healing – is time. Time to think, reflect, not think, meditate, let myself go, stop myself. It’s really valuable time that I don’t give myself enough.

I had a reminiscence of traveling through the Italian Alps with a man on a train. It was cold. We were holding hands. It was dark. We were whispering. But I kept thinking that I’d never been to Europe with a man, never traveled there with someone I was so cozy and intimate with. Or have I? I kept finding these memories. I was with someone, getting off a train in Rome when a swarm of children surrounded us, begging, trying to pilfer our pockets for whatever they could. I grabbed the hand of a young boy from my pocket – I looked at his eyes, defiant and rebellious. I’ll never forget those eyes. He was missing teeth. His fingernails were painted blue. I was with this same man. Where was this coming from. And suddenly I remembered.

He flew from San Francisco and joined me in London. I think we were in Paris on Christmas and it was snowing. It was all beautiful and I remember feeling very, very tired. There was a time this boy thought I was something. He was a sculptor and a playwright. Conversation was indeed scintillating. I’m not sure what happened. After several years – four maybe – we said goodbye as easily as saying, pass the salt. And that was that. How was it that I had forgotten all this? Misplaced these nocturnal train rides, Paris, even? But I remember New York with this boy, almost like it was yesterday.

This comes back ‘round. One thing he mentioned is that he held in a certain awe that I would do what I say. I would make a plan and I would do it. It would feel big, a pipedream, out of reach – but I would mention it and then I would make it happen. This mystified him. The thing is, I wouldn’t bother mentioning the really out of reach, the real pipedreams, the things I feel are too big. If I’m taking about it, surely it’s eventually going to happen – when I’m ready. He’d see me drawing out an idea on a sketch pad in a train and talking to him about an idea. I’d stuff the scrap of paper in a bag. A few days later I’d have it etched out on canvass and be filling it in with acrylics – asking him how he thought I could get an affect I was striving for. He didn’t know how to make his ideas happen. I don’t know how to not let mine have life.

So as Tati is working her magic, I come to see these moments. They surface – scribbling in a sketch pad and then the canvass laying on the floor of the apartment in the Western Addition. And it seems strangely attached to telling my walking companion that we should rise early and go to such and such a place to try to take photographs of birds. And it seems related to telling Cassie, over coffee one day, that I’m exploring the possibility of buying a house. And it seems related to bad art nights and water color painting. And suddenly this is related to decreasing my hours to four days. And I know I need to work four days a week and I realize I’m afraid like I’ve never been afraid before. I’m afraid and I’ve been letting the fear stop me instead of trusting – just trusting – and doing – just making it happen.

So I went to The City today with this feeling left lingering and I sat down with the new Administrative Director and explained how I was going to work four days a week. He asks me when. June first, I say. We’ll work out the details, but let’s start there. And then I unravel a tail that needs telling – one best saved for telling here at another time. But this is another beginning. And I’m left with the feeling that there’s a scrap of paper in a satchel somewhere that needs transposing on a fresh canvass with all different shades of green.

I wonder what became of that boy. But not so much, I suppose, as I wonder what became of that girl.

23 April 2006


Down here in the flats, we do our own gardening. And gardening I have done. Yesterday was spent pulling weeds, turning soil, composting, pruning, primping and planting. Icelandic poppies, marigolds, columbine and things I don’t even remember what to call. Delicate things that probably take too much water but I find irresistible nonetheless. It’s not a draught year, obviously, and I’ll take what I can while there’s plenty I suppose. One day, no doubt, they’ll be back to water rationing and my lawn will turn crisp and brown. Carpe diem!

I only tended to the side yard and the day was done. This morning I rise, make coffee, toss in a load of laundry and all the while my body rebels from bending and lifting and pulling in ways I’m unaccustomed to bend and lift and pull. There was a day that I’d say I hurt in a good way. But mostly I just hurt. Once the gardening gloves are through the washer and dryer this morning, however, we commence once more. Perhaps that is redundant.. and the we is perhaps the royal we. Secret and I maybe, or me and my aching back. I love the hot tub. Good investment. Everyone should invest in a hot tub. Once we’re suffering the worst effects of peak oil, it may make a nice planter or something. But in the meantime.. sizzle, sizzle, sizzle.

Ed technically starts the new job on Monday – but he’s busied himself by working on his computer most of the weekend. How convenient while I slave away at chores. This is the side of him I can do without. This is the part I’d just as soon kick to the curb.

I think I mentioned I haven’t been terribly inspired of late. It shows, doesn’t it, in these mundane entries about nothing? I want to decrease the number of hours I work, to four days a week. It seems at any given time there’s a desire for something that’s not happening – like contentment for what we have even.

20 April 2006

My Normal

Well, the good thing about Ed being home/around is that he can pick up extra dog-walking duties. Don’t get me wrong – my favorite thing to do each day is to walk the dog. I totally love that – not only do I like the hike for me, I also get to see her in her most joyful moments. It totally rocks. But I had to go into the City yesterday to be fitted for and pick up my orthotics (yahoooo!!!!)

That endeavor involved a ten mile bike ride to the ferry – a half hour on the ferry each way, forty-five minutes in bus rides in the City (both ways) and then the ten+ mile bike ride back home. I left the house at eleven and returned home at five, but/and that involved having to wait an hour in the City for a ferry back (poor me, so I just had to stop by the Scharffen Berger chocolatier at the ferry building.)

I actually arrived back at the Larkspur landing at 3:30-ish – but took my sweet time coming home. Honestly it’s usually just a thirty minute bike ride – ten miles doesn’t take so long and it’s mostly on a bike path, aside the creeks and canals that run to the Bay. It was so lovely outside, however, that I decided to come up the back side of the mountain on the way home. Wow. I haven’t done that in awhile. Wiggly. I can’t believe I made it, with a backpack of shoes, a change of clothes and er… all that chocolate even!

The best part of huffing and puffing up the mountain is that from the peak all the way to my house it’s downhill. I descended into the soccer field where all the trail heads converge, and there in the middle were all the ladies with their dogs. I stopped and chatted while the dogs ran crazy around the field and everyone asked after the Honey Bee.

Ed was still gone with the Secret Agent Monster as I rolled up to the house, tossed the bike in the back, stripped and plunged into the hot tub, still covered with mud even. I tried to hose some of it off, but it stuck. Indeed, there was still mud stuck to my legs when we were out at the fondue restaurant, celebrating the several job offers Ed’s received and discussing the pick of the litter. Have I mentioned how much I love that fondue restaurant? It’s the bomb. It’s also a franchise, so it’s possible you could check it out (The Melting Pot), albeit a bit pricey. All hail fondue!

What a far cry from where we’ve been. When Ed and I first started seeing one another, he was an under-educated and under-employed boy of twenty-something - constantly broke and unemployed. He worked odd construction and labor jobs –boat building, maintenance repairs, work in the shipyards, as a painter, etc. etc. There’s been many years between now and then, we’ve gone from those days of $15/hour service and construction jobs to debating over fondue which six figure salaried position has the best benefits and equity packages. I’ll take these days over the past any time.

We’re happier too now – even through my complaining. Even though some days I do feel so totally done with us. I wonder if that’s normal. If there’s just some days everyone, no matter how committed, just feels done – doesn’t want another day of the same face, body, problems, etc.? I don’t know what’s normal. This is normal for me. What is, from day-to-day, that’s my normal. And right now, it’s okay. Right now, it’s good.

18 April 2006


I’ve been rather busy.. and uninspired. Did I mention Ed got fired? Yes. Ed got fired. Bummer. He’s not unhappy or freaked out about it, however.. so I’m not going to be either. It makes me realize on some level what a whiner I am. I go from You’re never home. You work too much. to Oh shit, you’re way too up in my space in seconds flat. Something to work on I guess. Why do I have to be such a malcontent?

13 April 2006

Follow Me

I’m all muddle-headed for the cold Ed generously shared with me. He’s so giving when he wants to be. I called off work early today – not so much because I must sleep, but moreso because I’m having a hell of a time concentrating. At a certain point I just concede that it’s not even right that someone should pay me to gaze out the window while my head’s in a day-dreamy fog. I’m not sleepy for the DayQuil and coffee, but I’d call what I am decidedly distractible. I’d describe it as a day of oh look, something shiny! It’s going around. It’s not terrible – but it starts off with a scratchy feeling at the back of one’s throat (at 4:30 am night/day before last I woke up with that burning swollen dry throat feeling – assuaged by a popsicle in the wee hours of the morning.) And then it burns on with a mild fever, loss of appetite and stuffy nose, etc. This too shall pass.

Day before I stopped work early too – but later in the day. Not for the muddle-headed stuff, but due to inclement weather and flood warnings. The town activated The Emergency Notification System (TENS) and I received a phone call around 2 pm, notifying me of imminent flooding and encouraging me to evacuate. I watched the neighbors evacuate. I thought they were being a bit premature. Instead, I made sure the electric equipment (cameras, lap tops and other valuables) was up off the floor and before even rolling up the carpets I went to see the water level in the creek/river. It looked okay. It was actually receding some as I arrived which was my cue to let the carpet’s lay. The rains were relentless, however – coming down steady and heavy for hours. All together, in a 24 hour period, we easily saw 5 inches. It continued yesterday at a much slower pace. The weather services changed the flood warnings (which mean flooding is imminent and/or occurring) to flood watches and/or advisories. The striking danger now, they say, is probably not so much the risk of flooding (which has abated some now that the rains have slowed and become more intermittent) but the risk of earth movement/landslides.

We saw evidence of this yesterday evening and we climbed the rise up Bolinas-Fairfax road to the Water District preserve around Lakes Alpine, Bon Tempe and Lagunitas. Slides were occurring all along the rises banking that road – even the short distance to the preserve area.

A few towns away there’s a Mill Valley man reported trapped (dead?) by a 14 foot wall of mud that came tumbling down. The earth is so saturated it’s now the people who thought themselves safe in the hills that have to worry. Those of us in the lower flat lands – in the flood plane –rest a little easier while our neighbors in their lofty perches begin to sweat. Whoever is worrying, it’s never good – though perhaps all part of the order of things.

I think of when I lived in the City, we never worried about such things. Cities are immune, for the most part, to most of the effects of inclement weather and natural disaster. Oh at least the inhabitants believe they are. It’s that little insular bubble of energy/heat/pollution that for the most part pushes the weather to the suburban areas – protects them from tornados and the like. Public works are set up to respond promptly and accommodate things like increases in volume of sewage processing and/or a terrifically windy day.

When things go wrong in a City, however, the level of devastation can increase just for how people pack themselves in to live so unnaturally on top of one another. But even still, it’s always amazing to me how relatively few lives are lost in natural disasters that strike first-world Cities. I know, folks might be thinking Katrina – but I’ve yet to see a good breakdown of urban versus rural life lost and the numbers were relatively small at the end of the day. There were predictions of tens of thousands – and I believe it was just shy over one thousand, wasn’t it? Compare that to losing upwards of 130,000 to 230,000 people in a single day, from that massive Indonesian tsunami, however – and it really puts things in perspective. Or does it? Are we capable of really understanding perspective at that level?

The thing is, when we hear numbers like this, 230,000, they don’t mean anything to us. I’d read a good/fun(?) book called Cambodia: A Book For People Who Find Television Too Slow. I think it was written by a guy named something-Fawcett. I read it a long time ago. Anyways, he talked about numbers and statistics and how we can’t really fathom or hold the impact of numbers that are really large. What does that mean? Does that mean one in five of my friends and family members, one in two? Does that mean, if they were lucky, entire families? On some level it’s got to be worse, don’t you think, if you’re the only survivor? I don’t know.. maybe, maybe not. I doubt one would ever think of it that way. We’re used to saying that the survivors are the lucky ones. I believe that. I think life is fun, even when we lose parts of the game.

So I try to embrace these numbers. Over the past twenty years, roughly 18,000 people have died of AIDS in San Francisco (about 2.25% of the population of the City.) Generally the current population of the City is believed to be about 800,000. All together, throughout the southeast, the death toll from Katrina was said to be something like 2,000 people – not from a single city, but throughout the entire region. Even still, however, consider the context of population density of New Orleans, estimated at roughly 470,000. Looking at less natural disasters, the death toll associated with 911 in New York City was roughly 2800 people – in a City of 8 million people. 2800 people represents just a little over .03 % of the population. That’s nothing when you think about it. Over the past twenty years roughly 85,000 New Yorkers have died of AIDS (a little over 1% the city’s population.) Even when you average that out, that’s over 4,000 people per year. I don’t even know how to compare these figures to populations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami – given just the raw numbers, however, it’s clear these are relatively small.

While statistics are a bit old, I found one source suggesting that 41,000 women die of breast cancer each year in the United States, total. Similarly, the total annual AIDS deaths in 1995 was about 50,000, but that number seems to be decreasing with the advent of more potent therapies to treat the disease. I couldn’t even begin to figure out how we would estimate the number of deaths in the United States due to poverty and violence, but I’m sure it would outstrip these numbers.

So what’s the point here? Sure, many people die for many reasons, every day. What’s the point of comparing these statistics and then talk about 7,000,000+ Jews, Gypsies, queers, etc. who perished in extermination camps under Hitler’s Nazi Germany? Or the 2+ million deaths in the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia (which was believed to represent 15 to 25% of the countries entire population)? Or the slaughter of upwards of 850,000 ethnic Tutsi’s in Rwanda? Or the stoning to death of a single woman in Afganistan by religious zealots?

The point is that there is something horrific and frightening and political about these numbers. And they don’t include the suffering of the living, who long afterwards, perhaps generations, are scarred by the events. Nor do they include the stories of people who are strangely healed by them either – the people whose hearts are uplifted by helping those more keenly affected by death and dying nor those inspired by the telling and hearing of heroic tales. What affects us more, broad sweeping figures of annihilation and destruction or the suffering of one – our mother, our father, our sister, our lover, our dog?

When it’s close, the personal becomes the political.. the political becomes the personal. It’s that one, I think, that we take into ourselves. The one whose suffering becomes our own suffering – or perhaps the end of their suffering is the beginning of our own – a slow overlap where we take possession. At first diagnosis, at first threat, they hold all the fear, uncertainty and pain. Later the loved ones take possession of all the fear and sorrow. And oh how we can caress it. And we have two choices – to become it or to let it go.

Those who become for a spell or forever are the ones who walk the earth hollow-eyed, always reaching out to touch something. They are aware of the thin layer of energy, space that surrounds them that keeps them from truly ever touching anything or anyone.

There is a chemical you put in pools that breaks the hydrogen bond at the surface of water – the thin sheath that the bugs walk across or that allows a leaf to float, rather than sink, immediately. Disease, fungus and worrisome stuff can grow in that space and become difficult to get rid of. At first blush, dissolving that layer makes all things sink and die. But it also allows you to touch the problems and deal with them. What a scary place to be.

Those who let it go – they’re like the ocean horizon. At first the line looks so clear where the one thing, the water, stops and the air begins. But it’s really not so clear is it? The water evaporates and mingles with the air and the place where these two things meet are quite entwined like the legs of lovers. Not only do they touch everything around them, they become part of it and it becomes part of them.

It was Rilke who wrote that if we fling the emptiness from our arms perhaps the birds will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

I lived in San Francisco during the time of the big earthquake of 1989. This was a 7.1 on the richter. My understanding is that the richter scale is logarithmic, not linear. Thus, the 9.3 magnitude earthquake that shook in the middle of the Indian Ocean in late 2004 was over 100 times the magnitude of the famed Loma Prieta quake. It was also the longest in duration ever recorded and I’ve read reports that suggest that the quake that inspired the tsunami caused the entire planet to vibrate over half an inch. Now… are you absolutely sure that you have a solid foundation, that your feet are securely planted on the ground, that the earth beneath you is solid and that everything you hold in your beliefs is right and sound and true?

I’m telling you, I think we’re all only scratching the surface – picking at it really, like an itchy scab. What’s down there deep is powerful, destructive and very, very fragile.

And now you're thinking.. enough already, we liked the pretty pictures. bring back the pretty pictures!