Archive for February, 2008

Clarity is not Crystal

Clarity is not Crystal

            No, clarity is not “crystal clear.” Clarity is green, green tender and tinged with yellow, green that is new and fresh, the product of the deepest outpouring of the magma from the Earth, the color of smiles from the incubation of winter, the winter wet and cold and inward. Green erupts and then is fragile and stains on the knees of our blue jeans when we slip on slippery green growth criss crossing thick on overgrown trails. Green is the color of change, the color of truth. The truth that says nothing is permanent except knowing that the green will come back even though it seems to wither away as it falls spent from its source. Green, the color of beginnings that keep beginning, over and over again in spite of anything, anything at all. What was ever more beautiful to me than seeing Yellowstone Park oh so many years ago, miles upon miles of black charred trunks from that major fire, then green pushing up, forming leis around every form of blackness?

            Anger (red) is fuel for green. Let the green grow. Stay focused, feel the deepest beat of earth, trust the wisdom that the green is there. That, is clarity. Clarity is green.

            Andre Breton, one of my favorite existentialists who wrote Nadja, and who grappled with that three word preoccupation we humans have had for all eternity, right up there with our preoccupation of “I love you,” lamented about the other one: “Who Am I?” Breton says: “I myself shall continue living in my glass house where you can always see who comes to call; where everything hanging from the ceiling and on the walls stays where it is as if by magic, where I sleep nights in a glass bed, under glass sheets, where who I am will sooner or later appear etched by a diamond.” I would have instead carried Andre to a field of the newest green, left him there, and his waiting would have been over. He would then be intoxicated with being alive.


February 18, 2008 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

November 16, 2005 (On Hope)

November 16, 2005

There’s an apricot tree I have in a bucket in the backyard. When I got the house, it was pretty and lovely, and I managed to have one luscious apricot from it before a, well, “friend” chopped it down. After time, a sprout came up from down the stump somewhere, and I was sort of surprised, and thought I’d take better care of it to see what came of it. It continued to somewhat grow, but when Russ and I decided to build the shed in the spot that it lived, we dug it up, tossed it on a sandy mound and figured it wouldn’t ever come of much of anything, anyway. In the spring, lying there on its side with roots exposed, it had flowers. We got excited, put it in a pot, and started planning for a garden. Russ loves that little tree. The tree shows endurance, vitality in adversity, and hope.

I know that analogies can seem trite, but they make sense. We pull them out so often in life. I keep thinking about those birthday candles that would drive us to the point of frustration as we initially smiled, blowing them out, and they wouldn’t blow out, just wouldn’t blow out, and everybody would laugh, the wax would go all over the cake.

I was showing my students my little sketchbook that I carry with me in my pack. I hadn’t looked at it in quite a while. I have drawings of Russ, relaxed, plump, serene. I have a cartoon sort of thing of our life together; the Baja trips, the dogs, the kayaking, the morning lattes…and the knots build up inside of me.

Hope…we get up in the morning and immediately we have hope. Hope is stronger than muscle, stronger than statistics, stronger than herbs, stronger than medicine. Do we let go of hope? I don’t think so; I think the big challenge is to reconfigure hope…something like the Eskimos that have 80 or so words for snow, we need to develop 80 or so ways of understanding hope. I guess that goes along with the “Serenity Prayer.” I have a wallet-sized version of it I carry with me, one that my niece gave me that has a cute picture of a polar bear cub on the back. I really do say it and say it, trying to really absorb the cycle of life      and it’s hard…

I saw the moon yesterday morning; big and full and orange, reflecting over the water, dancing its color as it does so often for me for all those times I’ve spoken to it. I know life and nature isn’t trying to tease me, or test me or even provide me with answers; it just IS, and I guess I have to love it for that.

I think that’s all I want to say for now.

February 13, 2008 at 4:04 am Leave a comment

First Post for Death, Dying and Grief

February 12, 2008

            I was at the Farmer’s Market this afternoon, my usual Tuesday evening haunt which has the triple lure of being outside, meeting people, and buying produce. I bumped into a friend who reads this “blog,” (I always feel compelled to put that word into quotes. There’s just something annoying about that word that I refuse to adopt as normal vocabulary) and who, over the past few years, had been wondering about Russ and didn’t know that he had died. I wrote a fair number of emails during the course of Russ’ illness with cancer (and this friend somehow missed the list of all that), some after he died, and then in time, I started this blog, and I guess I haven’t been writing about cancer, dying, death or grief really at all. To analyze myself, I might be protecting any of you from the deep and sad stuff, maybe I’m protecting my own vulnerability, or maybe I was just plain tired of writing so much about it all for so long. So, periodically, I’ll post some of the things I wrote under the heading of, oh geeze…a label? I guess I’ll call it death dying and grief, and maybe include some excerpts from my journals that I kept after he died. I read a lot of books on grief then—ha, ha, 47 to be exact. It’s one of those odd stories that came out of that time. A few months after Russ died, a lady from Hospice called to offer me support in some way, and I simply said I wanted the books. I read them all; children’s books, poetry, scientific, religious, behavioral, psychology, and for some reason, I kept a list of the titles in the backs of my journals. I wrote several journals, and they are all precious to me, a deep and tender time of my turning inside out and inside and out again and again over that time. My friend asked me hesitantly if it was okay to talk about Russ right there in the middle of the market, with the guy selling jade looking on, the buzz of people going by. We had actually started our conversation about it when he asked me, “Do you have any stories brewing around inside of you?”

February 13, 2008 at 4:03 am Leave a comment

Tomatoes are from Greece

Tomatoes are From Greece

            I used to regard tomatoes the way most people regard that little splash of parsley adorned on plates of food ordered at average road stop restaurants across the country: it was the semi-red thing to be picked out and pushed off to the side. I learned food politeness early on; the small smile, the “Oh, no thank you, I prefer_______instead.” Years ago, when I was in Greece, it was immediately obvious that there was no choice but to eat tomatoes as they were served with absolutely all meals, and that a Greek salad had nothing to do with my concept of a salad; no greens to speak of, all tomatoes, some olives and feta. I had to give the things another try.

There’s this exquisite moment of fresh, unexpected, almost shock in discovering an edible that is off the chart delicious. Conversation stops, almost the heartbeat stops, and the overload of one sense alerts the others to come into play: you halt, you lean back, you look again at what you are eating: How can that be so good? So then I decided the only good tomatoes on this planet came from Greece, until Bob started growing them in his backyard. He let me water the fat, loaded bushes when he left on a trip in the summer.  Happily, I supplied myself with squishy, plump and thick tomatoes, and took them home to adorn my kitchen with their redness until I ate them.

            This fall I got my supply of tomatoes from Steve, who retired, and retired with this declaration: “Do not retire until you have a passion to do something else.” His passion is growing his garden, and specifically, tomatoes. He let me have one, and that freeze came over me, so he then returned the next day with a huge bag of them for me, every size and dimension and color from tiny yellows to purples and big like softballs. He practically had them all named, and allowed me the 20 minute or so show on his laptop of each plant photographed in each direction. You can taste the love and pride in every bite. I let Maria, a 7-year-old girl I work with, have some of the little ones while we were chatting. We popped them into our mouths, one after the other, and when I saw her a couple of days later, she kept asking me for the “dulces.” I argued with her, as I would never give the children candies, then it dawned on me that she was referring to the tomatoes. A big revelation: a child begging for tomatoes so rich with sweetness she naturally confused them with candy.

            There were so many foods I decided early on at Maria’s impressionable age that I didn’t like at all, and for my entire life I avoided.  Such as melons, that I thought must have grown into those perfect round green and orange balls to be pushed around in bowls as I forked out the grapes. Melons I rediscovered in Mexico, sliced straight out of the entire fruit; wet, drippy, so sweet, I had no idea that it was at all related to the balls. Mangos fell out of the trees after the storms, and we ate them as we watched the rain fall, smiling stringy yellow smiles. For all that people say about the food in Mexico, the freshest, most flavorful of produce I discovered there, as though I was lead on a rebirth of fresh food introductions. I obliterated my negative judgments of many fruits and vegetables, and learned to sample them all, as they had no relation to my prior experiences.

            Jody managed to get me to try out my last hold out of learned food refusals from my childhood of Jolly Green Giant. Jody is the perfect cook. Like Steve who grows tomatoes like his children, she cooks with her heart and spirit. She is the “Food Whisperer,” and I’ll bet when no one is looking, she probably walks around Farmer’s Market listening for the produce to call out to her: “Hey, Jody! I’m the one you want, and get my friend over there, the celery root!” I think I’ve caught her putting her ear to the greens spread out over her counter. And that’s what she does: she makes an array around her, an edible pallet, and pauses, breathes, listens, and lets the food magic happens. When you eat her food, you feel it moving through you, and you immediately feel simultaneously energized and serene. I think I’m a pretty good cook, but when I follow her around at the market, it becomes clear: that lady is blessed. So, when the beets showed up at her house, I thought, oh, I can’t tell her that those things make me gag. But I told her, and I also told her I trust her magic, so I had her beets. And there it was, the frozen moment. Beets? She got me to eat them?

            Last week I thought I would try cooking them myself. I bought an assortment from Alex at the market. I took them home, sautéed them in honey and sake, a little salt, a little pepper, and there it was: even I could make them wonderful, though it’s not me; it’s the earth they grew out of, and how soon they came from the earth to me. It’s also encountering the person who had something to do with its growth, who took pride in their quality, and that is part of what nourishes me, too.

            My body? It knows. It was smart for all those years to pluck out the nasty flavorless forms that were only small semblances of what I was told was good for me. My body? My senses? They know. The frozen moment. Ah, stay here, this is right. Linger and enjoy. Get that produce from the source, shake the hand of the person who knows the food.



February 7, 2008 at 5:20 am Leave a comment