Thursday, August 30, 2012

Once in a very blue moon

Today (still Thursday in California) would have been my cousin Sheri's 64th birthday.  Her stained glass sun, created from a sketch of mine, is next to me in the dining room window every day as I write.  This afternoon South Pasadena had showers, then a thunderstorm, then pouring rain for more than half an hour.  After four weeks of heat and humidity and not a drop of the oft-mentioned "monsoonal flow" through our neighborhood, it was as fitting a birthday gift as I could imagine.  The LA Times this morning reported that in the past two days, New Orleans had an inch more rain than Los Angeles for its entire so-called rainy season.  Living in a thinly disguised desert, I view rain as a blessing, welcome it, especially when not predicted.

On the 31st, we can all frolic beneath the blue moon, the last until 2015.   Do we make a wish, plan a ceremony, eat cupcakes as an artist friend has announced?  It seems we are being called to watch the sky, even if just for a day.  I tend to watch it rather more often than that.  A rare summer storm may signify nothing, as may the blue moon of song and story.  Regardless, both are happenings outside the ordinary which remind me how fond I am of that which falls beyond the ordinary. 

Monday, August 27, 2012


It may be the age I've reached, it may be due to years of quiet and contemplation.  It was illuminated yesterday by a friend's recounting of hospital procedure-induced trauma and its aftermath.  I know I am not who I once was.

In the uninformed ideal, at least my version of it, life had a trajectory without extended pauses or interruptions, diversions onto forgotten sidings, explosions, erosions and participation, not willing, in molecule-altering experiments.  The things they don't tell you.

I could sense in my friend's narrative and the recent memory of a family member being pulled through a similar breach in the continuum that in each of them essential, cellular-level change had taken place, change that left them startled and disconnected.  I am acquainted with startled and disconnected and misplaced.  What I think I now know is that the plan had always been for adaptation and mutation.  THAT was the assignment, not the slow evolution into upgraded versions of a self that remained mostly unchanged, only better.   More worldly success,  material dreams realized,  embarrassing habits cured, nothing untidy remaining to be swept under the rug or shoved in the leaky dishwasher when company dropped by.  Nothing we had to stop ourselves from trying to explain.

It is life, before books, before the theater, before movies, that requires the willing suspension of disbelief.   One possible premise, one place to begin, is to assume that none of this is a hideous, irreparable cosmic mistake.  The quantity of disbelief that needs to be suspended to reach that point can barely be calculated.  Watching the Tony Scott-directed episode of NUMBERS the other night and staring with rapt incomprehension at the mathematical solutions to all conundrums reminded me that understanding the ways of numbers, along with time, is best left to the conjurer or identified genius.  In my hands, time evaporates and numbers beyond a dozen or fewer zeros lose all meaning.  Those of us who find our way by intuition, and forgive me if I over-generalize, cannot navigate by equations.

Why then does there seem to be no mechanism of preparation - coaching, to use a word and job description that cause me to frown - for the magnitude of change we will not escape? How are we to find peace in our mutant bodies with our altered states of existence?  My life is not different from others in its list of the awful, scary, dangerous, unwanted, traumatic, sorrowful, discouraging, shaming, regretted, painful and how-did-I-survive-them? events.  Each event takes us further from Point A, former comfort zone for a sunny outlook and a trust in calm waters, to wherever we are now, a complex and baffling locale, part Ayers Rock, part gulag, part comfy chair with a good reading light.  We are here, where we glimpse the sacred, the familiar, yet know there will be no vessel returning to carry us home.  Stranger still, we begin to recognize the illusion.  Home is only here, only now.  We have, once again, become the new version of us inhabiting what is now to be considered real.

Oddly, I found peace in yesterday's awareness.  I find peace in anything that seems to tell me I haven't been doing it wrong.  All wrong.  Forever.   Having identified so strongly with my friend's alterations I was given a different perspective.  This is what happens to us all under pressure, in tight spots, after each apocalypse.  By witnessing and comprehending the profound change we undergo as the result of events, I felt less isolated, less odd in my decades of involuntary cellular response to life being life.   I felt I was taking my formerly strange self in and welcoming me home.  I have so much to tell me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Able assistants, helpmeets and muses

We of the cottage industries have specific requirements for amiable assistants.  Since they and we are here, together,  throughout the livelong day, possibly squeezed up tight in conditions un-roomy, mutual regard and compatible tendencies are essential.

Denise Litchfield has shared photos and some background on her helpers, especially the ones recruited during a recent European stay.  Her current blog banner features two of them.  Others may be found in the newest post or at her Facebook page.
Photo from grrl + dog, Denise Litfchfield.

The rat awaits your instruction.

Taking an even more active role in the day-to-day of a small business is Ratty, sales manager for Penelope Todd's Rosa Mira Books. Yesterday they made a "reckless" offer to which I could only say an enthusiastic yes. I hope you decide to do the same. How would you like to find The Rat perched on your letter box? Drinking from your favourite mug or hunkering down in your armchair? Flying a copy of your book cover, or a friend's? Reading your grand/child's favourite bedtime book, or disguised as an unopened magnolia blossom in your garden? For the rest of August, anyone buying an ebook from Rosa Mira Books is entitled to a free copy by email of Ratty holding, wearing or doing something pertinent to the buyer. August buyers will be contacted by email within 24 hours of purchase, to discuss rodent manoeuvres.Check out a few of Ratty's previous antics here. Rosa Mira ebooks can be read on any kind of reading device, including a Kindle. Or they can be downloaded as PDFs for comfortable reading on a computer screen.

My own muses come in all dimensions.  The flat, yellow Button Bunny is press agent, stunt double and licensed to practice law in California.  Here are the most elderly, but by no means the least enthusiastic.  Where would any of us be without someone to play Amelia Pond to our Dr. Who?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fox 1, Squirrel somewhat less than 1

This pensive fox and his traveling wardrobe are the work, I am told, of Russian illustrator Nalogina Lubov who works under the name The Takiyaje Dolls.  My thanks to Under the Blanket for information and links.

There is no explanation.  Sometimes squirrelly comes over me like beach fog.  Suddenly every imagined twinge is sinister - was THAT here before? - every possible malformation expands beneath probing fingers and I am off and running on adrenalin fueled by the unknown.  Which creates a problem, since all that is is mostly unknown.  I don't consider these episodes magical, more like Robert Mitchum arriving in town fresh out of prison to stalk and terrorize Gregory Peck and family in (the original) CAPE FEAR.  The mind as tormentor of self.  I'm sure there are clinical names for this, pathological descriptions.  It seems to be part of the human condition and its arrival cannot be foretold.  The extent to which we let the squirrels run the show (and no offense to squirrels, who are blameless) determines where we stand in the big field.  Are we fairly close in to where people are gathered, participating and keeping the threads together or are we out of shouting range, barely able to distinguish and probably misinterpreting arm signals in the dwindling light?

So - that happens.  I am not entirely clear about whether what lightens our hearts, soothes our jitters and quiets our doubts is the product of events best described as "in spite of" or "because of" for it feels like a combination of the two.  In my mind the game of Old Maid had a tightrope walking character, which is probably faulty memory.   Like MAN ON WIRE , she navigated the empty space between tangible points.

In spite of suffering, loss, fear, bad news, in spite of everything, there are handmade foxes in white undershorts, the existence of which can sweep away the ashes.  And because our separate and collective ineffability joins us like Legos, we rise and for a moment or longer know only that we are the gift we bring.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Now I think I know what I'm doing here

If the forgotten anniversary had involved another actual being, well, it could have gotten ugly.  As the partnership is with my blog which is (a) probably not self-aware and (b) forgiving, I can dope-slap my own back-of-the-head and move along.  On August 4, it was four years since the first post.  I am scowlingly harsh with myself for lack of consistency on all fronts.  Yet here I still am.

Magic, as I interpret its manifestations, calls to me more insistently all the time.  Of course that is slight exaggeration for one of magic's shiny attributes is its quiet voice.   Magic gets our attention with the sentence we can't quite hear.  We become more attentive and hope it speaks again.  When I see its face, I share it here.  If I witness magic at work, I am all a'tremor until I can tell the story.  Looking back, I suspect it was magic that kept elbowing me to start a blog.  Clever sprite, it spoke through my friend Lisa.  I wasn't sure why I was doing such a thing; I had no idea what I'd say.

So four years pass.  In the last two days what I'm doing here has become clearer, with the photos of the children, the example of ceramic art that feels like kin or part of me.  This is not at odds with what I've done all along; I am more aware that it is an official assignment and not volunteer dilly-dallying.  I am sure magic knows how far from our true natures we have wandered.  It misses us and wants us back.  It signals to us constantly, regularly.  No one could overlook the awe of a summer meteor shower but a kissing monkey named Crystal (perhaps a story for another day) might be misleading.  In newspaper language, I wonder what this beat would be called, though it doesn't matter.  This has always been my real job.  I'm going to need new business cards.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Meet Kina Crow. Oh, happy day

Found Saturday night on Facebook, the art of Kina Crow.  This piece was called "looking for just the right word."  It was love at first sight. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

I soar, I roar

Photos, face painting by Alia Leadabrand, my niece.
Not a disguise but a true face.  The wonder of passing through the world as one's unmistakable self.  Ordinary life's greedy fingers want to winkle all traces of faerie dust from our pockets.  Without our magic we are tired whoopee cushions, faded, flat and unfunny.   Yet there is hope, for other more benevolent forces are spray painting evidence of dazzle back onto the ceilings and walls, flamboyant enough so that we will not so easily be sedated into dull amnesia.  We will not through intention or accident forget who we are.

Thank you, Alia and these beautiful children, for being today's messengers.  I stopped this morning and picked my fortune from among the envelopes in the face painter's basket.  It said, "Sleep with your dreams under your pillow.  Be grateful in advance for all wishes bestowed.  Stardust is the greatest force in the universe."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's hot and some of us are running on empty

This will not be a whine.  I have no cause to complain.  For at least two years we had summers so mild they were nearly unnoticeable.  And then it was now.

I am made of flimsy carnival material, not meant to hold its integrity under extreme conditions.  Los Angeles is hot, not Santa Ana winds hot but high pressure system over Four Corners drawing tropical moisture up from Mexico, 78 degrees at 4:45 a.m. hot, make a reasonable mind turn dull hot, forget you ever had a plan hot.  Running on witless sweat and empty hot.  Thank the weather gods that Jackson Browne makes me feel that if I drove fast enough (oh, those were the days) I could become temperate of body and sharper of mind.

It is not just age, thought this 1978 band in which neither Browne nor David Lindley has a single gray hair does conjure days of some now-absent vibrancy.  I come from people, well, some of them, who lose their personalities and memories in August.  I throw out things I need not even 3 seconds later, purchase non-perishables, heavy ones that my son has to carry upstairs, that are already on my shelves.  If the music gods and the weather gods can agree, maybe "Running on Empty" as an iconic summer road song will appease while I'm looking for any unoccupied time machine to give me back my oomph and an undimmed notion of what I was going to do next.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

From a distance

Photo: Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom."
When we stand too close, our lives become mired in misapprehensions.  The infected tooth, the inflexible joints, the hyper-awareness of our own disordered histories lead us to mistake small, self-absorbed trifles for larger truths.  What we are meant to study and comprehend, the wise interpretation of our stories, is the result of perspective, a combination of distance, time and paying attention.

Paying attention, along with the word patience, insistent as a drum beat, seems to be part of my mandate.  One of my early rubber stamps said, " There is no substitute for paying attention."  There has been no reason to rethink that.  The art of noticing may be the result of a childhood in which my siblings and I were expected to be quiet, those years when good children were "seen and not heard."  One can fritter many hours in reverie.  I can look at the sky while the minutes evaporate when I am almost out of bed and on to the next/first indicated thing.  Noticing, however, grows in the incubator of daydreaming.  When one learns to be still, one hears more.  Voices within and without surrender their secrets as the listener merely abides.  The extent to which we are capable of being our own wise counsel cannot be guessed or gauged.

There is also an "X" factor necessary for perspective.  Whether it is the shifting of a planet or the crumbling of an ancient defense, something needs to fall and allow even one additional lumen of captured radiance,  brighter and more enduring than a struck match, light enough to read and reckon by.

Behind the battlements of most of my life, I assumed I was doing it wrong.  I knew I was doing it wrong.  Five days ago, with evidence to refute the charge, I allowed myself to consider that perhaps such a belief was untrue.  That permitted "the thin edge of the wedge" (a phrase I first encountered in novels by the Mitford Sisters) of realization:  if I had not been doing this wrong, maybe the same was true of that and multiple other examples.  When the gummy, shifting foundation upon which one has attempted to build a sturdy and resilient self is revealed as a quagmire and a lie, what was unimaginable appears suddenly possible.

As with the earlier post about misapprehensions, I am still adjusting to this revision of a core belief.  Do I take the seams in or let them out, raise or lower the hem, cut the thing to pieces for a collage and start over?

For three days and counting, Los Angeles has withered under the summer's first real heat event and I have postponed anything that isn't essential or automatic.  As a life-long denizen of this reclaimed desert, one might think I had, by now, adapted.  I have not.  Which requires waiting for the air to simmer down, the morning fog to return and sweatless nights to be the norm before I can digest (compare and contrast) a truly radical notion.  It was cooler when I started writing and I thought I was equal to this task.  Then my concentration became a crayon in the noonday sun.  I've applied for permission to postpone conclusions.  I want to know how this turns out but distant images become a distorted mirage under this hot blanket.  I can wait until the horizon clears to be sure of this.   

Monday, August 6, 2012

Unknowable landings

Milton Glaser speaks to us about fear of failure, a theme to contemplate as the world has just seen NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab successfully land its Curiosity rover on Mars. Had they not been willing to risk failure, how could such an unknowable mission have been launched?  How would any venture with an unknowable outcome ever be attempted?  As I believe it is all, every moment, a mystery in the process of unfolding, for better or worse, we seem to have two choices: do nothing or do something.  Neither of them comes with a guarantee.

“We are all born with genius. It's like our fairy godmother. But what happens in life is that we stop listening to our inner voices, and we no longer have access to this extraordinary ability to create poetry.”
Milton Glaser

Among his iconic art, Milton Glaser created covers for every album produced by Tomato Records.   Here, with covers, are songs from the School of the Bold and Willing, performed by Nina Simone and Etta James.