Monday, June 29, 2015

Word of the Week - 69

Painting by Maynard Dixon.
Word of the Week:  WEST

Lucky me, I didn't have to come west.  I was already here.

As children about three years old, both of my parents moved to Southern  California with their families, my father from Illinois, my mother from Michigan.  Both families chose the midwestern sensibility of Pasadena, though my father, uncle and grandparents eventually settled on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley.  My best guess is that it more nearly matched the life my grandfather knew.  My parents met during World War II while attending the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, Mother working toward her BFA, Father there as part of his Navy Officer Candidate School.  My brother, sister and I were all born in Pasadena.

Until I heard Lucinda Williams sing this, I'd forgotten that my former and late husband, growing up in South Africa with western dreams fueled by his Yankee father and Hollywood depictions, was determined to reach California.  Newspaper work knows no geographical limits and he believed there would always be employment wherever he landed.  After reporting jobs in Virginia and New Jersey, after Army service at Ft. Knox, after the Associated Press, he claimed the West as home.   Though Lucinda's West is not California, it is close enough in spirit and allure.  I think it's a swell song.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Keep on rockin

Mick and the boys in the band, 2013.
A song I've shared before, perhaps more than once, that my head was singing to me when I awoke.  My favorite line (guess which it is) told me what I wanted to say here today.  (Update:  The original of "Anchorage" as sung by its writer Michelle Shocked seems no longer to exist.  This cover, by Mary McCarthy, about whom I could find no solid information, was my favorite.  Some good male covers, but I preferred a woman's voice.)

I digress.  Keep on rockin is the thread.  A brief news clip of Mick Jagger on stage last night, his signature moves seemingly unimpaired, fit perfectly.  This is just a succession of shouts-out to the undaunted.

To Mike and Emmanuel who compose, play, sing and help keep civilization afloat.

To Emma and Nanci, to Melissa, Sherry, Claire and Claire, Rebecca, T., Susan, Charlotte, Lisa, Michelle, Lynne, Sarah, Debra, Kristen, Kass, Karen, Elizabeth, Erin, Margot, Jean, Laurie and Laurie, Jay, Suzie, Dana, Ted, Randy, Joan, Marta and Marta, Sylvia, Cara, Lucas, Micah, Harris. by whose hands and hearts and minds we are saved from slipping into darkness, at which we somehow continue to laugh.

To all for whom chronic illness has been an inconvenience yet not a permanent deterrent.  To all whose words, images and forms provide nourishing beauty, encouraging wisdom.  To any whose names have, for the moment, eluded my memory - there are likely many - forgive me.  I love you and know that, because you all keep on rockin, so do I.

If anyone was wondering, there ARE plans and more in the works for new RubberMoon stamp designs.  The ever-discovering, highly persuasive Lisa Hoffman and I, along with Kristen Powers, are definitely up to something and will share when everything is real.  Meanwhile, a new cat postcard that makes me happy.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Music takes me places I would likely not reach without it.  As a conveyance toward and through sorrow, it has no equal. 

Here is a link to the New York Times article, "The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning."

For now, it seems the best we can do is grieve beside our sisters and brothers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Word of the Week - 68

Director John Ford.
Monument Valley from "The Searchers."
Word of the Week:  LEGACY

John Ford is the only director who has won four Best Director Academy Awards.  His legacy,  in which he is called variously one of the top three directors ever or, by Orson Welles, the best, is enviable, defies challenge and endures.  It is said that regardless of where his westerns were set, he filmed them in Monument Valley.  It is land that I will always associate with him, as though he gave it voice.

Any of us who make things - poems, stories, movies, art, meals - must secretly harbor at least a faint wish that some of our efforts live after us.  My maternal grandmother was not an artist in a professional sense, yet it was her recipes for tamale pie and rice pudding that I wanted served at my wedding. My late cousin and I learned as girls to make her Cornish pasties.  If my son can be lured away from his Mexican and Asian dishes, perhaps he can be the next pasty generation.

As I write this on Father's Day, I think of the body of work my father created and how it still breathes.    A younger writer with whom he became friends has taken on the task, to which he seems most dedicated, of compiling Dad's biography, including decades of newspaper columns, magazine articles, children's books and, especially, books about car travel throughout California.  The author has shared facts with me that I never knew.  I can't say it is immortality, for who knows how long any of our species will be here on this warming planet (Werner Herzog is not optimistic), yet the words Dad wrote, the immeasurable time spent in research and interview,  contributed to material with lasting value.  He has become, in his way, part of California history, recounting and, by doing so, preserving.

He also left his three children with a model of caring deeply about California's ancient trees and desert lands, native people, about the precision of words.  We lived and watched as he practiced his craft, utilized his gifts, established solid professional footing.  It was not a democracy, our childhood home, and the wide shadow he cast likely left indelible marks.  Still, we became soft in ways we had not witnessed, soft meaning willing to adapt, to surrender to what could not be changed.  We learned to find and revere what spoke to our hearts, to do our best to see that certain values were honored, elevated.  We know that unnameable parts of us, parts of which we have become fond, would not exist had our raising been different.  Legacy is a shape-shifter, coyote one moment, spirit guide the next, variable as fog off the rocky coast of Big Sur.  Through intention or chance, we leave our mark.  Legacy means we remain.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Of a thousand young poets

Some days simply ask for John Prine.  This is one of them.

There's a rainbow of babies
Draped over the graveyard
Where all the dead sailors
Wait for their brides
And the cold bitter snow
Has strangled each grassblade
Where the salt from their tears
Washed out with the tide

And I smiled on the Wabash
The last time I passed it
Yes I gave her a wink
From the passenger side
And my foot fell asleep
As I swallowed my candy
Knowing he was in heaven
Before he died

Now the harbor's on fire
With the dreams and desires
Of a thousand young poets
Who failed 'cause they tried
For a rhyme without reason
Floats down to the bottom
Where the scavengers eat 'em
And wash in with the tide

Repeat Chorus:

The sun can play tricks
With your eyes on the highway
The moon can lay sideways
Till the ocean stands still
But a person can't tell
His best friend he loves him
Till time has stopped breathing
You're alone on the hill

Repeat Chorus:

Today would have been my 43rd wedding anniversary.  My former and late husband has been gone for eight years this month.   When we were first together he wrote a music column for the daily newspaper where we worked.  A review copy of John Prine's first album, followed by an interview with the singer/songwriter, converted all our friends into John Prine fans.  At the time of the photo above, Mr. Prine and Mr. Kelly bore a strong resemblance to each other.  Bless the 70s.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Word of the Week - 67

Painting, "Adrift" by Anne Packard.
Word of the Week:  ADRIFT

Things unroll, misalign, fall, elude and, sometimes, vanish.  Wobble-free steadiness seems too much to ask.  There we are, no longer properly moored, having trouble surrendering the need for an immediate solution.  Wonky seems to be one of my constants.

In my family there was a long-discussed wool plaid picnic blanket that eventually came to me.  Unremarkable in all respects, other than being mended with silver duct tape, its appeal must have been too subtle for my sensibilities.  It was too pointlessly, needlessly wonky.  I said, no thank you.  No one remains to ask about this curiosity.  I only just remembered the fact of it.

IT is, literally and metaphorically, about getting the holes to line up.  One part of life can't be affixed to another if the phillips head screws are not a straight fit.   Even if the day itself has askew portions, the feeling of things gone-out-of-true is within.  It is uncomfortable and generally unfixable.  Oh, dandy, I think, another warty booger to befriend.

For however long I am separated from my shore, my actually reliable center, I twitch and squirm.  Vague and momentary pains jostle my legs.  Focus wants to trade places with sleep.  Eyes and mind wander.  And I know that just as suddenly as this flux state overtook me it will depart.  Bobbing corks on an endless sea.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Previously in Billington's Cove, then presently in Billington's Cove, Shrines of Memory

The most recent post from Billington's Cove, followed by the new post.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Robert recalls bits of the dance, not quite sure of his reality

Thank you, Sizzler, for cheesy toast triangles.

Robert couldn't remember the author who had said of growing older that he felt like a young man who had something wrong with him.  The name would come to him before lunch.  "Or so help me," he muttered.

Another morning of golden cheesy-toast benevolence beaming down.  Limbs that sang, "Younger Than Springtime," with an off-stage whisper of, "Older than dust."  Pent-up anticipation could make joints twinge, nerves jump, muscles ache.  So could dancing until the sun was due, eating seven kinds of dessert after midnight and what felt like four hours of dreams for which one could not swear to being either asleep or awake.   The thought that he had conquered lucid dreaming gave him a sense of accomplishment.  Perhaps conquered was too strong a word,   At best he had stepped from one reality into another and back again.  Not quite enough to add to his CV but not nothing.  He began to noodle with suppositions about a job that held lucid dreaming high on its requirements list.

But I digress, he told himself.  The dance.  Yes, the dance.  And Gloria.  Would she fall back into his arms when he reached the kitchen,  missing his closeness as much as he missed hers?  Would they waltz through the tearoom, delighting themselves, possibly amusing others, or would they experience that initial distance that says, "You imagined the whole thing," until each remembered they had not, in fact, imagined any of the good parts and they were all good parts.

He didn't need to decide it right that moment but Robert was considering never again washing the shirt he'd worn, never wanting to lose the scent of her, of sugar and strawberries and a summer night.  It had its own fragrance, that he knew, and feared he could never catch it again if he washed it away.  Then he reminded himself that fairy magic, while seeming fragile and fleeting, was really the kudzu vine that wove lives together.  Meanwhile, the shirt in question could make friends with other denizens of the laundry basket.  Or perhaps he would just fold it and slide it under his pillow.  I am twelve years old, he thought. Lucky me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


The taste of sweetness that comes from wishes fulfilled teased Gloria awake.  Could she capture just that flavor in one of her pastries?  Would a bite through the glazed and buttery crust to the ripe, sugared peaches inside let anyone else know they were savoring love, quiet and mature, quiet and adolescent, silly and dizzying and yes, very quiet?  Gloria knew that she, her own shrine of memory, had grown in a way she could not yet calculate.  Could the vault hold any more? she questioned.

As the years and their losses increased, Gloria found the way to save herself from sliding into perpetual grief was to understand one of her life's purposes, that of being the trusted repository for the good, all the good, with which she had been showered.  It was not to ignore or deny sadness or worse, but to recognize that within the naches and tsoris of an earthly existence, elevating joy was an act of faith.  So much beauty, love and wonder had been entrusted to her, she felt at times they were children whom relatives had left in her care before they departed for other realms.  She only knew to kiss them endlessly, her arms always tight around them, to let go would be to lose them.  She was the steward, the trustee.  Hers was the task of bringing them back and back again into the light of knowing, acknowledging, appreciating so they might not fade.
What she loved, had always loved, would not leave her when held like a savings bond, accruing value.  All that was asked of her, assigned to her, was to keep safe what was most precious, whether or not it had ceased to exist outside her remembering.  She held with the view, not quite understood in a scientific way, that all time existed simultaneously and what had once been still remained.  It almost suggested the existence of ghosts, not identifiable forms yet still of substance.  Nor was their purpose to torment but to keep her awake to the fact of them.  They asked for her friendship, her understanding, her most potent healing arts.   Gloria practiced alchemy in multiple forms, her cooking which was pure transformation and her soul as safe haven for what seemed gone but was not.

The dance, now residing in the past tense, took its place among all that shone most brightly in endless yesterdays.  It was too soon to know if it was a mayfly or caterpillar in the process of becoming.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Word of the Week - 66

Henri Matisse making paper cut-outs.
Matisse in front of gouache-painted papers, Hôtel Régina, Nice.
Word of the Week:  INVENT

Even the most able-bodied among us has a need to adapt from time to time.  When one door closes, turn around and go the other way.  If a possibility has been exhausted, invent or discover a new option.  It is a form of mental duct tape, putting pieces together that have been rent asunder.  Making things work.

As you may already know or have just read in the photo caption link above, Henri Matisse, no longer able to paint or draw as he once had, turned to a giant pair of shears, gouache-painted papers and cut-out shapes to make art for an album called "Jazz."

From Jerry Saltz's exhibition review: "With The Cut-Outs, Matisse crosses a mystical bridge...With The Cut-Outs, all we see is the work; only process is present; process and something as close to pure beauty in all of Western art." (see article here)
Making things work, whatever the things, allows us to feel, to be, undefeated.  Having only a Plan A for any situation leaves no escape hatch.  I believe strongly that very little in our human existence has only one right answer.  We develop a vocabulary of second chances: adapt, adjust, reconsider, improvise, redefine, wing it.  Cooking offers itself as a model for such behavior.  We are greater than a mostly-bare cupboard.  We will prevail, there will be dinner and it will taste good.

It is not scientific but in my experience there is always a way.  Some way.  The molecules of the situation may have to be rearranged to create an original life form and so what?  We build new neural pathways with just this sort of problem-solving.

Grab those enormous scissors and change the shape of what it ought to be to what it CAN be.  The genius of Henri Matisse will light the way.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Eight hundred and counting

Without my noticing the number, today's Word of the Week became my 800th blog post. I do not consider consistency one of my virtues. I'm not entirely sure what my virtues are, other than patience. Yet, here we are.

If you've ever doubted that each small forward shuffle carries us to places we thought we could only imagine, let me be my own witness.  I do not post every day. There are days, not too many out of 800, when I re-posted something from the archives which go back to 2009 (correction, I started in 2008 - I forget), and I committed to myself a few years into this blog business that I would have a minimum of 10 posts a month. Since that day I believe I only fell short once, but I can't swear to it. Every day I wear a badge from artist Angela Smyth with the motto, "Anything is possible." So it seems. xo

Word of the Week - 65

Word of the Week:  JUNE

Its arrival has signaled celebrations for many Father's Days (gifts for which were once a roll of wintergreen Life Savers or pack of Gillette razor blades), for graduations.  It launched decades of vacations and once allowed the sun to warm a backyard hippie sort of wedding.  Among my friends and one relative it is now mostly birthday month.

I wish infinite good in all things to Ted, Joan, Claire, Randy and Carroll.  Because silly seemed to be in the air today, I share what might be a spirit creature for each in toy form.  Yes, I could Google toys all day.
The World Wildlife Federation offers adoption papers for their Three-toed Sloth, for Carroll.

For Claire, with a nod to her recent adventures, the Iguana marionette from Folkmanis Puppets.

The Folkmanis Puppets Golden Retriever for Ted.

For Randy, from Big Furry Friends, his retirement Doberman.

For Joan, a vintage Steiff cow on wheels.

Happy Birthday, dear chums and cousin. Happy June. Summer throws open its doors. Let's take our shoes off before we start to run.