Posts filed under ‘Ruminations’
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.
I think I’ve entered into a phase of a shoe fetish, which within the stereotype of Woman in Her Forties would be normal. Someone once suggested that perhaps I really did have a lot of pairs of Keens. I naturally felt defensive, but maybe an alert of the quantity I owned became evident at the Big Sur Marathon whereby the Keen rep gave me a hat and a t-shirt for selling more shoes than he could just by me standing around saying how great they were. (Ooo, those rubber toes are great for all activities. You should see the roars of excitement from six year olds in the way I can kick those playground balls with those protected toes). I don’t really get rid of my shoes. Old shoes are always useful for something. I have stages of tennis shoes; the pairs for walking clean on the pavement, then as they get older, become the stages of beach shoes, and the last stage is I let them become prey to the crawdads and rock scrapes in the Arroyo Seco River.
Okay, you know me: so Shoes. I must delve into the deeper significances. They really were the last items for me to hang onto of Russ’. He had his favorite TopSider boat shoes, and like me, would have a quantity of them, awaiting the cycle. He would wear them until the sole literally dissolved, and then out would come the next grouping to march through the ranks of hierarchy of activity. There was a brand new pair awaiting him in a box, and I sold it at a garage sale last summer, determined not to be negotiated on the price in honor of Russ. His sister took home a worn pair, the toes ripped out, her holding them sweetly with her tears, feeling his warmth through the indentations of where his feet once filled the space. His brother took the cowboy boots from the 70’s, beautiful boots that he wore for those concerts they sang at in Colorado. How many items do we have that hold an impression of our existence? As children, we make handprints in plaster and proudly write our misspelled names, but those were not were not used. Shoes hold our weight, the connection between us and the soil, the place we came from and end up in. They hold us upright, they serve us function, looks, and sooo many books, plays, stories revolve around shoes. Think of Cinderella, the Red Shoe, Van Gogh’s boots, magic shoes (click those babies together by the heels and you are home). So it’s not just me: we all have a shoe fascination.
Ahh…back to my birthday. That’s when I indulged in buying the new blue frilly skirt, and when I walked down the street in Carmel, I somehow wandered into a shoe store, found a pair of very high natural leather shoes on sale. I was told they were made for me, so I believed the clerk and bought them, and when I wore them to work the next day, the secretary was in awe of them, instantly named the brand and declared that I made a smart investment. Investment? That was new to me. This was reaffirmed when I wore them in Monterey the following weekend, was followed by two young ladies who just had to tell me what beautiful shoes I was wearing. Wow. By virtue of my smart shopping, I was not only accepted, but held in deep respect by a culture group who previously would never have noticed me. Oh, for the record, those heels are Frye’s.
Over the holidays, my nephew declared that he wanted a pair of sandals. We were in San Clemente, so I suggested we stop off at the Rainbow Sandal Outlet. That was my source for shoes in the 70’s when I was a beach girl (my podiatrist told me years later that he could tell that my feet had a lifetime of “little shoe encumberment.” I thought I was wearing shoes). Oh, my gosh: memory lane. I was instantly attracted to the giant sized sandal in front of the shop, and I immediately spun into memories of me as a teenager, wobbling slowly on my skyscraper platform of brightly colored layers of foam. (Actually, that pair was not worn all that much for exactly the reason of putting myself into a physical disability. They eventually turned into garage sale material) Oh, the days of beach beauty. I couldn’t resist: Giant Sandal and layered platform went home with me, along with memories of slipping sandy feet into new Rainbows while sitting on the wooden bench at the outlet, looking for the pairs that at least matched, and breathing that smell of rubber being cut behind the benches.
And so it goes…I am now ready and willing to enjoy a new phase of shoe indulgences for all and any reasons. Yay. A shoe fetish. Why not?
The Will of the Lonely
A conversation with a friend in a similar singular situation: He says he’s not dating anyone until he’s fine, until his problems become neatly reconfigured into forms that can be proudly exhibited to the outside world, like a classic car of the 50’s, formerly a rusty thing hidden in a barn in the back of the house, him secretly working on it, replacing the fenders, the engine, repainting and bonding the metal, until finally it’s rolled out, rolled out slowly with the chamois in hand to wipe it up, there for the public to see and admire. It’s ready. But he says he’s lonely. He says he doesn’t like getting hurt, and who would want him like that, like he is.
I tell him, you are fine. I smile and laugh and say oh well about being hurt. He must think I’m a loony sort of person, feelings with the depth of the last sliver of slippery used soap. He probably thinks I should even wash my mouth with it. But I’m right:
Watch the forests after a burn; watch the valleys after a flood, no many floods; watch the lizard’s tail re-grow, watch the beaver dams build and rebuild, and the salmon swimming and swimming, getting bloodied and mutilated in the passionate pursuit of doing exactly what it is that nature has demanded that we all do, and we do as long as we can possibly draw breath inside or move our limbs about or wipe our mouths with the last swallow of consommé: we live, we survive.
Do we do it well, do we do it with great ceremony and pride? We do it with abuses, with divorces, with deaths, with affairs, with losses, and they all hurt and we want to slink away into Some Place where no one will see us and identify us with the ease of naming the make of that fancy car. We think we can hide in a big city, or hide in a small city by staying to ourselves, thinking we are restoring something to great beauty by working for all we’ve got All By Ourselves, and then we forget to watch the disgruntled sea lions making room for each other on the rocks, the forceful carving of waves against the rocks, the geese honk honk honking, and that we are One Of Them, and that The Despair we will wear and wear on ourselves, and it might cut into our very skins as does the excruciating cut of the accidental fisherman’s filament into the poor necks of the sea lion. That sea lion? We turn our heads with the severity of it, we can’t look, he’s hurt, we can’t save him or cut that line, but he pushes and pushes, living as long and as well as he can until that line breaks or he dies with the infection.
We will all die.
Nature demands that in the meantime we live, demands that we wrap ourselves into the going on on on of the earth, of the sunrises warming our faces, of the earthquakes that obliterate our living spaces, of the losses, so many losses, one by one, we hold so tenderly and then they slip away; we glance at them slipping far away, like dropping a key over the side of my kayak: I grab, and it’s gone, twisting, pausing, bright, then dimming, and gone. And we can’t stop. This earth, it is harsh, and it is tender, and it is forgiving, and not forgiving, but it is guaranteed to go on and on. And the love: and the shame: and the hurts: and the beauty: and the joy: we grab it, we grab it all. We grab it because the Earth Says So.
Wait? Wait and wither and be quiet and lonely and safe. Grab and grab heartily, let the losses and the scars wave about us like colorful plumes and proudly live. No one needs to be lonely.
Sugar and Cream
My mom is handing her things off to us kids, furniture and jewelry and plates and pictures passing on one by one with the growing assurance and acceptance of the cycle of life, the lines growing deeper on the face, the bones settling further and further into the shape in which birth took place. With the passing, come the stories, come the memories, some true, some invented, but all rich with the celebration of time on Earth.
On this last visit with Mom, I was for some reason so intrigued with sugar and cream sets. Mom has several: one so delicate, clear glass etched with a leafy, flowery design, and handles so curvy and diminutive in size, the cream would need to be poured by the most polite of finger tips. The base is set with a ring of silver that once shined clear and sparkly, ignited the pleasure and storytelling of my mother who tried over and over again to remember the real story of where she got it, but seemed to just return to marveling at looking at it. Another set was painted; and was a set of three, including the teapot, a golden spout, golden trim, scenes of lovers dancing in burgundy hues around the edges. Just looking at them requires a dress and a harp and a tall backed chair and the summer breeze wafting through windows. She has a gold geometric version sure to have been from the Art Deco movement of the 20’s; design and simplicity set in decadent materials. Yet another set was crystal; each heavy to pick up, cut glass so textured that an accidental touch could draw blood to a finger, and tapped on the edges pings a tone ready for a Christmas concert, with the arcs of light refracting in rainbow lights from each cut edge. This set I returned to holding, cupping the glass in my hand, and letting my finger tips wander over the designs.
She told me I could have one set. I fantasized about every one, thinking about me dressed in my Flapper Dress, a feather poked through my hair, reading the Great Gatsby while sipping my coffee. I thought of me on a Saturday morning, the delicate set out, smiling with my friends, fresh baked scones on fancy plates. I went through scenario after scenario, creating entire segments of life just in my looking. I couldn’t decide. And then I was sad; I was mystified by my sadness. So I did what I do to figure such things out; I walked to think about it.
Coffee. Tea. The rush of the morning, the getting ready for work, the lattes that have gotten bigger and bigger to the size of soup tureens. The presentation of colorful bottles in the coffee shops that attract our attention with color, with words, with shape, and we buy them, so loving the craving, and then when done, we throw the bottle the cup out.
A crystal sugar and cream set. Consider: a very small cup on a lovely saucer, a tiny sip of this, a tiny sip of that, and the conversation, the thoughts, the ceremony. Not so long ago, there was an entire culture that enjoyed small portions of coffee on elegant surfaces, and there were people that understood the presentation of the experience was really more important than what was being consumed. 100 years of sugar and cream in the same vessel over three generations, and here we are tossing cups and bottles out by the millions, every day. And myself, the single gal, I’ve been swept right up with all of it, not so much forgetting how much I love to linger over a Saturday breakfast set on beautiful plates, but perhaps I’ve lately been putting that special time aside in favor of moving quickly to “do” as much as possible, to be out and about. With mom’s table covered in a sparkly array of sugar and creams, a neglected part of me quietly reawakened. I need to entertain on a Saturday morning, using tiny little cups and enjoying the growing light of the morning with fresh baked muffins, squished out orange juice and the bliss of a meandering conversation.
I took the crystal set.
Writing by the Hand
A fellow writer, with great intent of supporting me, told me to abandon my writing by hand in my journal. I’m sort of known around here as the one in the coffee shop who hunkers deep into my writing, my silver pen or my 24 year old Lamy fountain pen sliding over surface, thoughts ambling along, and I rise my head up intermittently to look off blankly. “It’s a waste of time,” he said. “Do all writing on the computer!” Tweak it, save it, manipulate it, cut, paste, modify, send, delete…treat the words like electronic putty. It’s wonderful advice, and I do write by computer, but I will never give up writing by the hand. For me, it’s not exactly about the words; it’s relationship of the hand, the heart, the pen. The pen serves as a quiet seismograph of the connection in the moment of the writing.
When I was in middle school, a teacher made an assignment that we each write ourselves a letter, looking ahead to the year 2000, and that we seal it and not open it until January 1st. Being the dutiful student that I was, I did just that. I tucked away that letter, and on January 1, 2000, I rode my bike high up into Toro Park, sat in the tall grass, and read my long awaited letter, and soon my tears rolled way off my eyes, off my cheeks, onto the paper. What stood out so much to me was not the naïve sweet advice and predictions I gave myself then as a teenager, but the rounded careful writing that froze that person, who was me looking in the future at me, and in that moment, I returned to that teenage girl who at once was so brilliant and so scared, and I wanted to hold her to mutually love ourselves.
In college, I lived my first year in the dorms at Cowell at UCSC. I had one of those mailboxes that had enough glass to it that I could even see from outside the building if I had mail. My dad wrote me letters almost weekly, arriving so tidy in a long white envelope, his distinctive even writing in pencil addressed to me, and inside, on yellow legal paper, there it was: row upon row of perfectly formed words giving me details of all the important parts of living I was missing: the weather, the fish, the books, the walks, and always, the writing served as a warm embrace of love from my dad that pulled me through yet another week of the unknowns of being suddenly single in college.
My sister! Every note is filled with a variety of well rounded, doodly, colorful or cursive words, with flourish and joy, design and detail that makes me impulsively pick up a pencil and begin to create like her.
My mother, a perfect form, a sign of the era that she grew up in, and even today, with limited eyesight, she can still write in small smooth writing full of her determination to be independent, feminine and sophisticated. That was the way she was trained, and her writing at times gives me the false hope that she will live forever as the strong willful person that she is.
Ah, love letters…full of such great exclamation points and hearts and joy and words written really big, and carrying those letters absolutely everywhere, and feeling the heat of them even through being stored in the middle of thick novels, textbooks or in backpacks…pulled out and tasted over and over again, looking at those words like physical touches and kisses with the movement of black or blue line over blank sheets, words written in the desperation of lack of paper; words written on napkins, paper bags, ticket stubs; words written with passion and urgency and silliness and life, so much life.
My friends, each one, I could name the person by the hand, as clear to me as hearing their voice or feeling their touch. So many letters I would get, and tuck away into my pocket to savor in just the right spot, and would read and reread and taste and enjoy over and over again, not even needing the words any more, but loving the form, the dance of shape that is so distinctive to that person, loving the crossing out of words, the missing words and letters, the postscripts, all of it.
Writing always takes time, and on the computer, it just is so optimum, it’s true, I can’t deny that…it’s precisely what I am using in this moment! But never do I want to give up the writing by the hand, the gentle gift of recording a sort of heartbeat of soul and time. Always, always, I treasure even the smallest of handwritten notes of all my people, the preferred font being the one moved exactly the way their hand pushed that writing implement.
At the Farmer’s Market, there is a lady who sells honey. She has a table set up with an amazing array of every shade of amber colored honey poured into plastic smiling bears, shiny big mason jars, or skinny tubes for sucking on while walking the market. There must be 30 varieties. I’ve been buying honey from her for years. I’m set on sage. It’s my favorite, though I continue to indulge in sample tastes on the little sticks she hands me; each one rich, creamy, sweet; liquid earth sliding down my throat. But there’s something else about this honey lady; she has beautiful hands. She has hands so wide, thick, and gnarled that I am drawn to clamber into them and climb them, finding the secrets of honey in the deep lines. So I find excuses to touch those hands; more tastes, more change to parcel out slowly in payment for honey. I watch her hands move around the tables, hoisting around boxes of honey jars. Those hands have been places. Those hands have talked to bees. Those hands are not shy about living. I stand back and watch, entranced.
Hands. I most definitely have a “thing” about hands. That itty bitty hand with fingers unfurling with the newness of life in a newborn, each finger delicately taking on the experiences of beginning time in this world. The sweet long chains of children safely connected, walking down the street on a field trip, one fat hand held in the other. The rapid sure hand of the flatpicking guitar player, moving chords in forms so complex and fast I can hardly see it happen. The slow moving hand of age, the bones showing through, and the fingers closing up in the form that they first began. I love them all, and they all speak to me.
That is how I first noticed Russ. I saw his hands from across the room. Really. I was at the coffee shop, talking with a friend, and I stopped mid sentence to say Look at those hands! They are so beautiful!, and I watched them; I watched them talk, sit still, move around a bald head. I don’t think my friend understood. Russ’ hands were mini bear paws; strong and furry with a ferocious sense of protection. His hands were used. He made stuff with his hands. Homes were built, sailboats sailed, mountains skied, cars worked on, and all done with a surprising tenderness. There was nothing better than feeling one of those paws probing the soft hair at the back of my head; through that touch I settled, like a lizard warming on a rock.
I remember a woman I saw years ago in Thailand; speaking to my father and I about something nondescript…but after all these years, I remember her hands, moving all around her like doves, like jellyfish, like wind that I could see; and I asked her about it. She said she went to a school in Thailand to learn how to make her hands dance, to make them float like feathers. It was regarded as an art, and there she was, carrying those hands with her everywhere she went.
Some so delicate, some so tenuous about living, and some so rough and rich and swarthy with life.
Okay. So we all know that adage about the cup half empty or half full, right? And the cool thing is to always make it seem that we are the half full type of personality, sucking the best out of what little we have, right? (Who actually admits to being a half empty kind of person?) But here’s what I think: pour out that half full or half empty, whatever it is, and start over. Be empty. Be totally empty. So empty that you’re shaking that cup, swirling your finger around the bottom, searching for that wetness, so empty that the frustration builds up, because what will happen is that you’ll get to fill it again. If you leave it with anything, you’ll have to mix it—and what’s a mix? Like all the colors of the palette swirled together: mud.
Boredom. I need to look that word up. My guess is it means something like this: “Pertaining to the inner drive to delve deep into the soul (boring like making a hole) to find internal peace, pleasure and creative joy.”(I was always good at that Dictionary game, the one where you find a word, make a definition, and try to stump everyone. Margaritas always helped to loosen up those definitions a bit. I always won, but with the margaritas, winning didn’t particularly matter). What happened to boredom? It’s the best thing going: emptying out in order to refill. How many of us can remember that beautiful whining we used to make, when the entertainment was over, when the drive to do the long desired summer activities were met, then came that moment, when it would start… the bumbling into walls, the picking up and placing down of a multitude of materials, and increasing the volume of our complaints to deaf parental ears: “I’m bored!” And then, it would come…the project that would inspire us for days, the clubhouse, my macramé hammock (that I never finished), the dug out irrigation system I created that almost destroyed my parent’s yard, dressing up the poor dog like a clown, making a ridiculous play to entertain only the family: those inspired creative impulses that have carried some of us actually into our careers.
Better than that: boredom. Successfully mastered will bring that drive to delve deep to find that peace and creativity anywhere, anytime. Waiting at the airport. Waiting at the doctor’s office. Waiting for anything: how many times do we need to wait? How impatient are we about waiting? Fill the time with cell phone calls, with calendar adjustments, work affairs…but to wait that extra bit of time to EMPTY, to create that void, then to call up what specifically we want to fill that spot, so that in the process, time disappears, and we say….ahhh…because we have filled with grace and the artistic brush of our souls…boredom…that moment of listening to what says, “hmm, what would be fun to do now?”
I think as we get really good at boredom, we can almost bypass the whining stage: we learn to be on the alert to get ready to EMPTY, and we even get excited to cleanse out, to dump out, to trash calendars and watches, and then to await the magic of the simplicity of filling…the surprise and charge with reaching out with openness to the obvious wonders of the Earth awaiting us to make what we will with it, as ridiculous and nonsensical as it may all be, and what does it matter? The object is creating joy.
Yesterday I walked past a little boy sitting on the sidewalk, totally absorbed into pounding designs into bricks with a hammer and awl. I watched him for a bit, and delighted in the fact that he didn’t even notice me. I wondered what stories were going through his mind with each hole that he made, and how he probably learned how to use his tools better with practice, learned the nature of the brick, made decisions about where the bricks would go. I wondered if he would become a future architect, an artist, a mason, or just someone who learns to empty well and search for new ways to fill, and to fill in ways that bring the soul a kind of peaceful happiness. I really doubted that he had any kind of schedule to be hammering holes at that specific time. It was emptying out and searching for the fill that produced that endeavor.
Boredom. I so love it.