Archive for July, 2007
Low Tide Mornings
Mornings. The beginnings of light wake me up and lure me to the beach with Cholla in tow. The mornings of low tides, when the beach spreads out in a huge flat arc all around me with the shine of the wet retreat of water are the very best. For me, the low tide is a nature gift. These mornings lately have had the added benefit of warmth, and I am indulging in wearing sleeveless tops and skirts that swirl around my legs, reminding me of my open joy of youth and feeling so so pretty. I run and run in dog like patterns, the sound of my feet slapping, slapping over the hardened sand of the great big ballroom of a beach on a Low Tide Morning . I love that sound. I love that feel. The light at my back pulls my shadow long around me and indeed we are dancing with space all around…and there is no one on the beach! It is my secret, the secret of Cholla, who digs for her breakfast of sand crabs, and the secret waking up of the sky. I used to love to watch Lita, who would seemingly fly into the sky for her Frisbees, the shadow of her reach looming large under her. She found the colors of the sky and hope of beach treasures irrelevant in her athletic joy to run like mad for her pink and green Frisbee.
I like to walk towards Monterey, only looking back if the colors of the sky are especially alive, as the sharpness of the light makes the land ever so precise and clear. I look and look, and really, I only realize as I sit here that something so profound, in a simple way, happens as I’m out there on a Low Tide Morning. I study the wiggly trail of the sand dollar walk in the sand. I look and look at the curve of the land set sharply against the sky, and the clarity of the details in the land with the momentness of painterly study. I feel the wind bend me and make my hair wild and knotted, and love to arrive home with sand all the way up my legs, keeping a vestige of it with me throughout the day. I fill up and up my lungs with kelpy smells and ocean breath. I like to get home with still a little flavor of the fresh morning light around me.
On these Low Tide Mornings, I get filled, and I get filled without even thinking I need to be filled, or that it’s “good for me,” or even thinking of the labels of “oh this is joy” or “smell this,” or “wow, look at that orange sky…” The morning naturally seduces me to feel love; in love with the slap slap of the sand, all my senses awakened, in love and giddy with living.
Nice. Everyone is nice to me. Even the mean ones. Even the ones I’m mean to. Even the ones I think will be mean. Everyone is nice to me.
These few lines have been running through my head for days upon days lately, and periodically I try to sort them or extend them into a poem, but that’s as far as I get. Nice. Everyone is nice to me. It’s a simple thought that I keep getting reinforced everywhere I go.
I think it started many months ago one morning when I enthusiastically drove off for my morning coffee and nearly ran over a lady in a wheelchair. At least, that’s what she thought. I thought I was just parking the car, but she let me know otherwise. My initial reaction was to educate her, to let her know that I was in full control, but I don’t know; in that moment, I saw her there, all pissed off, sitting in her wheelchair, dog at her feet, a dirty bag beside her, looking at me, freshly showered with my clean blue car and my focus to indulge in a latte at 6:30 AM…I wouldn’t like it either. So I took time, chatted with her, told her I really didn’t want to drive over her, and I pet her dog, and she told me about the mess she lives in, and then she gave me these wonderful gifts: she told me I was a really nice person (and I laughed…”even though I tried to kill you?”), which set me off with a way warmer feeling than a double latte, or sparring with her in a defensive way. And now, I see her on the bike path occasionally; she’ll catch my eye, we hug, and we both go away with a smile. Nice.
So some people may say, oh how nice of you to take the time for her, but look at how many of you have taken the time for me, to listen to the same sad story over and over, and you have incredible patience for me. You indulge me and I love you.
I think of the lady who rapped on the window of my car at school, and handed me a piece of jade, telling me that it would help me. I had run out there crying; a friend had died just days before, and I, in that moment, was overflowing and needed to let loose. The lady had asked me how I was, and I of course, said, “fine.” As soon as I was in the car, I wailed, and there she was. Nice.
The friend who recently handed me a worn out origami model. He knew how much I like origami, and he carried it with him for months, knowing that eventually we’d see each other. I keep both the origami and the jade in my pack. Reminders of Nice.
My friend who for a solid month could anticipate the 6 AM call from me; that’s when I knew she would wake up and be somewhat ready to listen to my repetitive woes, which fortunately dissipated in time. Did she complain? Never. We have fun laughing about it now.
People come up to me and tell me things; “I like your smile!” “You look so happy!” “Don’t I know you?” They listen to me; they see me when perhaps I forgot to see myself. Those people are so beautifully attentive to spreading their acknowledgement of life around, even to strangers at Costco. What a wonderful thing. Nice.
There has been a man at the coffee shop (yes, that place is an on-going theme) whom I’ve glanced at from time to time, who looks “different.” He wouldn’t be one that someone would say “how beautiful you are,” or “how healthy you look,” because his face is scarred, he has a hearing aid, and walks with a cane. I shared a table with him this morning, and we got into a conversation. He was worried about his daughter who was going to drive to Southern California for her first road trip. She’s only 16. Turns out he figures if she can help him through his lung cancer, and the recurring trips to the hospital, she could probably do a road trip on her own. He was a delight to talk to, and there you go, another gift. Nice.
Differences? What are those? Those are the potential gifts from others that fill the gaps of what we don’t have, and really need so badly. Amazing that we hold up our hands, our egos, and our psyche in disdain when that other person could give us so much to make us all the stronger, more tolerant, and more full of the love that we all crave so badly.
Family; we’re all family, which means that sometimes we don’t look so great or we behave badly, but we can come around, and we are supposed to lift each other up. There is heart and gift in every person, a treasure to be accessed and added to our journey of growth. We’re all trying to survive in as lovely a way as we can.
Thank you all for being nice.
The Story of Finding Cholla
This is Cholla. Everyone loves her, and she loves everyone. Except rats and possums. She kills them; but, that’s her nature; she grew up on the streets of Loreto in Baja, California, and she had to survive. That’s where Russ and I found her.
Each year, Russ and I went into Baja with his truck, the kayaks on top, a system of milk crate organizational boxes stored under a plywood platform that he built for sleeping, and our two coolers with food carefully selected to last for three weeks without ever venturing into a store. We loved it. Always, there was adventure of every kind.
As some of you know, Russ was cheap. Really cheap. Sometimes we made money on our trips. Maybe it was a mistake to cook him nice meals early on, because we never ate out…and really, it always touched my heart that he pronounced my meals much better than anyplace we could go. Therefore, our “camping” meals were really wonderful indulgences with the best views possible; sunrises and sunsets sent straight from God, and us there, alone, warm lattes in our favorite mugs in the morning, or a bowl of good cioppino at night. It was really perfect. Still, sometimes I would insist on a little interaction in a town, and I could usually tempt Russ if there was ice cream involved (can’t pack that), so that’s how we managed to get into “downtown” Loreto to get a couple of paletas, and wander the streets.
We saw a couple of tourists walking along with a really cute little brown dog, and I told them how precious she was, and they said she wasn’t theirs; she was just following them—at which point, she then proceeded to follow us. She stuck close to us, but was also very savvy at keeping an eye out for snacks; she pawed at a metal grating, and Russ worked at pulling away the metal, and buried underneath was a scrap of an old tortilla. She was filthy; a big stripe of grease down her back, bones exposed, but the sweetest little brown eyes. Russ was smitten, and had no restraint in stroking her fur, and even hunkering to her level to coo at her, holding her muzzle close to him. We began to joke about just taking her. I said my mom needed a dog, and we loosely joked about just packing her off with us in the truck, naming her “Bambi” (said with inflection), and surprising Mom with her. You’re right; the joking grew into something a bit more serious, with self-questioning, wondering if it was possible, then we began to bargain: if she was still there when we headed back north, then we would take her. So, we lingered with her…and we left for Puerta Agua Verde, an hour or so away.
We decided to take some dirt roads out across Isla Danzante, and set up our camp (ha ha, no small task…we pretty much always set up like we would homestead at the site…more stories for later). Russ was unusually silent, and asked me a lot of questions: “What are we going to eat?” “Then what?” “What are we going to do tonight?” “Then what?” “What are we going to do tomorrow?” “Then what?” I watched him, and laughed. A guy in his 50’s with a little boyish pout, looking to me to do something; fix it! I said, “Do you want to go all the way back to Loreto and get that little dog?” He said, “Yes.” (Again, said with a precious little boy voice). In the course of a minute of frantic silent Virgo pragmatic thinking, I tried to envision the implications of picking up a street dog from Mexico in the middle of our trip, and crossing the border, and all that would follow from there. God knows what my face looked like as I tried to consider it all. So I said, “Okay, let’s go get her!” We packed up camp and drove back.
It wasn’t easy to find her. I asked around: “Ha visto un perrito chiquito el color café?” Thing is, all the dogs were small and brown. They had to all be related. Then, there she was, tucked off under a truck. She came to us willingly, and we took her, put her in our truck and drove off to a field to wash her with the last of our water. She escaped during the bath and ran into a ditch where there was a dead dog. The juxtaposition of those two dogs together made my heart flutter. Once clean, I was more enthusiastic about touching and fondling her, in contrast to Russ, who caressed her from the start, grease and all.
Russ never had a dog. He had cats, which apparently are pretty good about figuring out how to coexist with humans without much in the way of formal introductions and instructions. Lita was Russ’ first experience with a dog, and he wasn’t around for the chewing, peeing, escaping, ripping and tearing of all items phase. He somewhat imagined that all dogs arrived onto this planet as Lita was presented to him. I tried to tell him that she and I would snuggle on the couch reading When A Good Dog Does Bad Things every day, so I could educate myself on how to curb behaviors. Her crate was the salvation for both of us.
So, new unknown clean street dog in the truck, and Russ says “let’s get a taco.” I immediately envisioned the entire inside of the truck chewed and strewn about by the new teeth of this 15 pound or so cute dog. I suggested we sit by the truck quietly to watch her before we went off and left her alone in there. She was fine, so we got our tacos, and she was fine when we got back. We bought a bag of dog food, and went back to that same campsite with our new family member.
She quickly became familiar with the yellow bag of dog food, and ate and ate and ate an incredible amount for her size. Her very mellow and subdued nature changed over that next week as she got stronger and fatter. We took her with us kayaking around islands (more stories), fought for turns to get to hold her for our “settling in” time after sunsets, and walked with her amongst the cactus. During one escapade when she fearlessly chased a herd of cattle, I said, “Let’s name her Cholla.” That’s the nasty cactus that grows all over in Baja. You barely come near it, and a chunk comes off and gets stuck to your pants, and it’s hard to get off. We both liked the name, much better than Bambi. We were also deciding that maybe we wouldn’t give her to my mom…
She was a pro at finding dead animals. She found dead turtles behind rocks, once finding a whole pile of carcasses hidden behind a rock, obviously a spot some poacher type fishermen used to conceal their catch. She bounded into the cactus for dead birds, and skillfully ripped apart the spiny puffer fish she found on the beaches.
A “coincidence” was that we had dropped off Lita at my mom’s house as we headed south, and somehow neglected to leave our dog supplies of the leash, toys and bones. As we went through the checkpoints on our return trip, it really looked like we had a dog since we had used dog supplies. The guards would ask me at the checkpoints “Como se llama el perrito?” And I told them, “Cholla”, at which point, whoever asked would laugh and laugh, then call his buddies to come see the little dog named Cholla. Somewhere near San Quintin, we finally found a veterinarian who gave her some shots, and her “pasaporte.” At midnight, we crossed the border, her cuddled under my feet. We laughed about calling her a “mojado,” but huge searchlights, spirals of barbed wire, triple layers of cement walls, helicopters, cameras and sentries with big guns registered very deeply with us and the plight of the many who struggle so hard to eke out a better life northward.
Somewhere on the way up, I had insisted on a motel stay. I wanted a real shower! We left Cholla in the truck. A highlight of that motel was when the sink fell on the floor, narrowly missing my feet (another story). In the morning, there was Cholla, my sandal all chewed up in her mouth. She had already worked on the cover to the gear shift, munched on the Baja map…with her health improved, she was beginning to focus on other distractions, and that will be another story…
Souls come out to play, making music so provocative
it sweeps our minds to stuff somewhere, in a pocket, stored, forgotten.
Our bodies, instruments, dresses and ties, all vessels for that sweet
So sweet like sunset sweet, colors held for a swirl of a moment
Lured to a well- woven web of melody and rhythm, glittery and pure,
I jump in, am wrapped by the threads of tunes that hold me
beyond joy I am embraced with sound,
an invisible hug that touches my heartbeat.
In the arms of another
freely we taste each other’s momentness
eyes unabashedly nude to deepest depths
We spin off like hummingbirds tasting nectar
Essence so sweet
joy at one with breaths
Soul silk music carry me
When Lita Went Blind
Everyone remembers Lita as that vital pup; flying sky high for Frisbees, relentlessly chasing sticks that literally weighed more than her; faithfully going absolutely Any Place with me, with Russ, and having that heavy dog responsibility to make sure that everyone was safe and that the pack was together. She and Russ had a special connection that I think went to The Other Place. I’d have to say that pretty much exactly the time that Russ got sick, Lita did, too. I remember early on, Russ would tell me about these “conversations” he had with Lita, and that she would “talk” to him and give him peace—not cure, nor answers; just peace, everything was alright. Her illness mirrored Russ’. I was convinced that she had cancer, too, though the veterinarian couldn’t find out what was wrong. Russ would throw up, I’d turn my head, and there she did, too. He’d have diarrhea, then there she was. He’d pee on the floor, and her, too. We both believed that she would die right with him, but she plugged on, doing what she could, for as long as she could. That was distinctly a part of her personality. Somehow, she had to take care of the pack.
One of the symptoms she had (and actually, Russ was supposed to have, according to the doctors) was blindness. It came on so fast. And these days, I’ve been thinking a lot about how she handled it, and being the sort of person I am, I look at her behavior, then think of my own. What we just didn’t understand was that she just didn’t get that she was blind. We’d be sitting on the couch, and there she would go running into the wall, and we would say, “Ouch! Poor baby!” But what was unbelievable was that then she would do it again: same wall, same place, hitting it over and over, and she would pant in frustration. I’d go over, pull her away, try to redirect her, and there she would go, pounding into whatever spot she was in, just not accepting her blindness. It took so so long for her to get past this stage, and it was awful to watch her grapple with the change in her body. So much about what she loved in life was about seeing.
In time, and for a short while, we could bounce the ball off the wall, and she would hear it, catch it, and that was so sweet. Then her other senses diminished also: she couldn’t hear, couldn’t smell. I think half of a nostril worked. She could smell around a treat in front of her nose, make a full circle, then zero in on swallowing it down. This was the gal who could smell tennis balls through thick walls. One of the principals at one of my schools liked to entertain visitors by planting a tennis ball in one classroom and then watch Lita smell it out through the other room. Lita grew up in classrooms, and was a part of the experience of school for many, many children. Lita was a crowd pleaser, without even intending to do so. She simply had a passion for living. As time went on in the illness, she and Russ would walk slowly around the block, and some of the wonderful people who came to help would tenderly walk her slowly as well, her panting, and me trying so hard to explain about what she was. Last year at this time, I’d take Lita and Cholla down to Carmel beach, carrying her by then big body all the way down the stairs so she could feel the sand under her paws, blunder around and not get hurt.
So my girl is gone. I don’t know; maybe she is “talking” to me now—getting me to keep that scene of her bashing her head over and over in painful futility, and us, in the objective place, saying “Just accept it. It’s obvious. You have a change. Adapt.” I think she wants me to hold that scene now, as I make my transitions.