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Closure dreams haunt my sleep, leaving me fuzzy-brained and exhausted. A prince frog in a paper bag, a sad shadow mopping up. Disturbing premonitions of dad losing his mind. What did all those bathrobes mean?
My waking hours are filled with reminders that patience is the lesson du jour. Recall something from a Wayne Dyer book about how we spend our lives looking for that special someone to teach us what we need to learn, then after we find him/her, we go kicking and screaming into the classroom. I am SO reluctant to assume my usual role as teacher’s pet.
A live jazz trio with so-so singer performs at the funky yellow Café Diablo on a grey Sunday afternoon. Groundhog Day, and people with dogs are sitting outdoors. Inside, an animated duo of bearded, chubby Ginsberg lookalikes; two focused young women poring over booksandbinders at separate tables, obviously needing the noise; midlife young lovers canoodling over coffee; and a Sunday Times-type fashionably affluent couple in their 50s, probably long-married, pretending to enjoy the music. She has lovely skin but wears a sallow, despondent expression and an oily cloak of gloom that he trips on as they sleepwalk out the door.
Another dream leaves me feeling like felt-wrapped lead. My past bubbles up like reheated lava. Clear puns and symbols abound. More patience required to let it all sit and simmer, without having to concoct meaning just yet. D reminds me that the flip side of fear is excitement, but he has his own agenda. Then sends me a website called Neurotic Poets! “Madness takes its toll; please have exact change.” I feel anything but mad, although it sounds good to say I’m losing my mind. Been disappearing into myself for a while. Right now, it is giving me a headache.
Shorts and fur jackets; boots and bare legs; sweaters and sunroofs. Seattle blows hot and cold on a sunny afternoon in early February.
Back at Café Diablo, I overhear a woman with a baby on her lap describe a vicious baseball bat beating that sounds like a Sopranos episode. Turns out she witnessed it a few blocks from where we sit… Everyone locks everything, chooses the walking route from parking spot to restaurant with fear in mind and assures me that it really is that dangerous.
Nice weather, but I would hate having to get used to being so careful.
The sound man places his bowl of vegan chili on the equipment case. Earnest-looking people of all ages are tuning guitars. A four-year-old with scraggly blonde pigtails and layers of pink hippie clothing is running around barefoot. There is a goodnatured call for donations – Our basket is a little light tonight, folks! – and then one by one they step onto the little stage and sing-strum-and-otherwise-perform the meaning-infused songs they have written. Some are surprisingly good. One young woman sings Big Yellow Taxi. It is open mike night at the Still Life Café in Fremont and it feels just like home.
I had forgotten the value of garden therapy – the tender turmoil of choosing which little orphans to rescue from the discount table, the kidinacandystore dilemma of picking just seven perfect primroses, the willitbeenough? moment as the hatchback slams shut, the newboxofcrayons delight of placing (and replacing) (and replacing) each plant, the betterthanbakingbread smell of giving damp earth, my dripping nose unwiped, my knees on concrete unprotected, just the zenlike focus on a familiar task that will be neither rushed nor taken for granted, and finally, the proudbeaming joy of gazing on the finished planter as though it were Givernay itself.
She reminds me of my own words of wisdom about patience and goddammit, they weren’t bad. Pondering the difference between being patient until a particular end is achieved and being patient when no particular end is known. The latter a much greater challenge. Requires living mindfully, paying attention, trying to be truthful and not acting out of anxiety. Lightening up would be good, too. Enough with the hushed tones and existential moping. It was one year ago today that I first set foot in the Emerald City and there’s champagne and tiramisu in the fridge. I am my own Wizard.
There are witches aloft in the land. They swoop around on their unlikely brooms, trailing moonmotes and surfspume, slipping through the cracks between reason and anxiety, letting fly a blast of dazzledust, chilipepper and helium… In a fit of sneezing and laughter, the unsuspecting souls caught offguard taking themselves too seriously are airborne temporarily, lifted high enough above the earth to remember their proper place. One stubborn individual, upon being returned to her feet, smoothed her skirts, shook the clouds from her hair and the stars from her eyes, put on some lipstick and fell happily into her lover’s arms.
They spent the day in bed, making love, listening to jazz and waiting for the clouds to lift. Outside, the skies stayed grey, but inside, they had begun to clear. She was again reminded of gathering evidence: Whatever side you took, you could always find enough to make a case. Eventually, they got up and dressed to go out on a small part of the town. As she brushed her hair, he appeared in the doorway and announced (knowing he was handing her a perfect line): I will teach you the Art of Nothingness.
They both heard the distant cackling.
They found the wine bar where the exotic-looking jazz singer from the art gallery was performing. A woman moved her sleeping child from the corner of the huge blue-velour sofa and they settled in as though they’d reserved tickets for that particular spot. They sipped rich, dry Bordeaux and ate cheese bread olives Genoa salami and mustards that reminded her of France, while the sultry Celia crooned Lover Man and My Romance and I Can’t Make You Love Me, and of course, My Funny Valentine. Every song they ever heard together had lyrics that mattered, and she always sang along.
The next day, he took her downtown to buy red shoes. She’d never been taken shopping by a man – who noticed details and had opinions, yet. And said “We’ll take both” when she couldn’t decide between the red and the black. And browsed the hosiery department and had preferences in fishnet. Bought a $25 belt like it really mattered. And didn’t grab the first crystal flutes, but asked for the complete toasting goblet tour and touched everything. And didn’t the saleswoman speak French, because she had lived in Montreal and spent time with her then-boyfriend on his farm outside Sutton.
How beautiful are the poets, with their flushed faces and wild hair and burning eyes and carefully insouciant dress and yes still black turtlenecks and goatees, berets and sweaters with holes at the elbows, a choir of voices singing infinite variations on themes of courage and resistance, power and humanity, fragility and endurance, art and artillery and hard-learned lessons of accountability, now ranting now whispering anger pain admiration incantation inspiration observation opposition confusion clarity disparity but not despair, so much history, so much here we go again, so much feeling only a room overflowing with radiant conviction can handle it.
She found herself growing accustomed to being relaxed and desired. This stirred conflict. On the one hand, what a lovely custom to grow into. On the other, what if it ever ceased? That was one legacy of the recent past: a new awareness of the endings contained in all beginnings (and middles, too). She remembered a long-ago notary’s office, signing a marriage contract and not being able to imagine an ending. Now endings were so obvious. She saw them everywhere, while making coffee, or getting on a bus. Here today, gone tomorrow. How it went from one to the other.
Of course, thinking was her dual-edged downfall. Well, perhaps not thinking, but that particular kind of “futurizing,” as M had christened it. Those little trips to What If and What Then and Oh Yeah? and the other places just beyond the horizon, where low clouds of ochre dust, stirred by a hot afternoon wind, obscured the details. She could travel all day, peering into the distance, but never quite make out what she was looking at. And then night would fall, and she was still no further ahead. Except that another day had passed and she had really enjoyed it.
Marching in Seattle reminds me of my first
in Paris. My first exhilarating experience of being carried by the voices of half a million people.
Ouais, Debray, mieux qu’en soixante-huit!
My first taste of tear gas and lemons on the Grands Boulevards… And the evening in Athens when Papadopoulos fell: sitting in a café and sensing the change in energy, cadence and volume of speech, picking up the trot of those headed toward Syntagma Square but not yet knowing why. I think it was the only time I ever participated in such a celebration…a victory for the “good guys.”
On a rainy Sunday afternoon when my body and spirit are as toneless and heavy as the sky over Seattle and thinking is as much an effort as moving, I am soothed by a sibilant concoction of stillness, soup, salad and Schubert that even makes writing enjoyable.
Thinking about the discomfort of death, and how those who don’t let themselves feel their own brand of sad raging miserable relieved forlorn heartbroken abandoned are condemned to keep using other people’s clichés, alienating themselves from their own grief. Sometimes I disappear into a painful memory, but I know exactly where I am.
If a) we construct our reality to a large extent, and b) we can, if we’re clever, always find data to support whatever position we choose, then why not decide to be happy and construct our reality around that? I’m not a moron – I know it’s not that simple. But if all you’ve got is minor complaints, you might want to consider a shift in perspective. Just be prepared for the miserable seeking company; they’ll try their darnedest to wipe that stupid smile off your face. In fact, you may find that you need a whole new group of friends.
(Note to self: Avoid pop psychology.)
My favourite issue came back yesterday for round, oh, who’s counting anymore. Will I have the gumption to let go the relative safety of the particular trapeze on which I swing and leap confidently towards the silvery bar I cannot see yet? You’d think there were snapping crocs down there, not that tightly-woven and forgiving net into which I have already bounced at least a few times. Maybe I should be thinking more about how bad the worst-case scenarios could be instead of worrying about making the perfect decision. As through there were suchathing.
Today, a Native American parable about choice and consequence. A man tells his grandson about two wolves struggling inside him. One is the wolf of peace, love and kindness, the other the wolf of fear, greed and hatred. “Which one will win?” asks the boy. “Whichever one I feed,” is the reply.
I love that the wolf isn’t just the bad guy.
Lone wolf. Hungry wolf. Peter and the Wolf. Wolf in sheep’s clothing. Don’t wolf your food. Don’t cry wolf. Keep the wolf from the door. Thrown to the wolves.
Wolf sure gets a bad rap in western culture.
Finished writing yesterday’s 100 words, then sat down with some soup and the newspaper. On the front page, a beautiful photograph of a wolf and an article about wolf-dog hybrids. These things have been happening to me regularly for about a year: I think of something and then it happens. Turn on the radio and the song I’ve been humming mindlessly comes on. Sometimes I have to duck to avoid the signs and omens. And now D is trying to contact me from “beyond.” She knew better than to dial direct, and sent her message through a more receptive medium.
After seeing The Quiet American, I indulge in a rant. Why does it always have to be about a woman!!! Worse yet, one who has only to stand there looking exotic and delicate. We know virtually nothing about her; only that the male leads are compelled to rush about saving/protecting her (which they do so very badly, of course).
And then it hits me. What a perfect metaphor for Vietnam! The mysterious, exotic little Asian whose true character and needs none of her “saviours” ever considered, let alone understood. Their hubris, weakness and naked desire were all that ever mattered.
Time is on my mind (yes it is). The old shape-shifter, now fat and sleek and lazing about, reeking abundance, now thin, mangy and elusive, darting nervously around the corner out of sight. Sometimes I picture myself in the top of the hourglass, stomping the sand like a vat of grapes; sometimes I am on the bottom, jamming my finger upward to cork that impossibly slender neck. Occasionally, I manage to tip the glass globes and trail my Zen rake through the silky grains, quietly enjoying the designs until the contraption is righted again and gravity undoes all my waves.
Want to know what a long-distance romance looks like? First I came for 12 days in February. Then we spent a critical 11 weeks apart but I returned for three weeks in May. Five weeks later, he came east for 17 days. Three weeks after that, I went west for almost the whole month of August. We endured 10 long weeks apart and I spent most of November here. Then he surprised me and came for 10 days over the holidays. Three weeks after he left, I arrived to spend five weeks.
It’s amazing what you can get used to.
Took off today on one of those aimless adventures we do so well. I recorded the unfolding with my ancient Yashica, taking random pictures of vistas and skylines and pinkcloud cherry trees and artsy-fartsy combinations of architecture and plants with the snow-capped Olympics and white-capped Sound as backdrop. Snapped photos from the moving car, too. Right through oysters and Margaritas at Anthony’s and the apricot sunset. But I dropped the camera and I think something bad happened and the whole roll might be spoiled. Once that would have bothered me so much, it would have ruined the whole day, too.
Compensated and procrastinated today. Put off packing till evening, working until the light was right and then grabbing my camera and heading up those fucking hills to the place where the cherry blossoms glow and you can see the sun and the moon and all the mountains and water and skyline and Lebanon at once, trying to fill up on images as I have done before with sunsets in Cape Breton and Carmel, Costa Rica and Clayoquot. The photographs will never be as vivid or as heart stopping as the reality, but they will serve their purpose as visual madeleines.
Last day is restless and wistful and poignant, and never long enough. It begins with a reluctance to even acknowledge the day is under way, and an attempt to make the perfect maximize-each-minute plan (that changes with the hours). We lunch at the Indian restaurant, stopping afterward to buy things for the house, as though one of us wasn’t leaving. Then back to Volunteer Park to take pictures of massed daffodils, but they’re just beginning to open, so I feed my need inside the conservatory, photographing bromeliads and caged orchids that look the way I feel when our lips touch.
Urban sophisticate, Gaia gardener, Jewish mother, teacher’s pet, witch, princess, goddess, slut, hippie, spoiled brat, purebred mutt, red diaper baby, dilettante dabbler, business woman, language babbler, singer, dancer, fancy pantser, ivory tickler detail stickler, wheeling dealing reeling feeling vodka swigging black earth digging poker player disobeyer piper payer nerve frayer, adventure seeking future peeking drama queen word machine east and west and in between, earthy sensual intellectual book reading soul feeding good deeding pack leading fantasy breeding deep needing Scotch sipping light fantastic tripping bared dared scared unspared ground breaking leave taking crazy making high staking up shaking heart aching.
A modern family gathers to celebrate my son’s 28th birthday. At the table are the birthday boy and his sweetie (who organized this surprise shindig), me and my two ex-husbands (G, my son’s father, and R, his “fake father” as he was once dubbed), G’s wife, my parents (married 62 years), Sweetie’s mom and her boyfriend, my brother and his brood (second wife, two first-marriage sons, two second-marriage daughters, one soon-to-be daughter-in-law), G’s sister and her two teenagers, my son’s ex-girlfriend and a few of his close friends. My mother said: Please don’t marry again -- it’s getting too complicated.
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