Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Longing

I’m thinking in terms of hours now. Forty-eight of them. Exactly two days until I’ll be heading out to the airport to catch my 8:30 am flight to Honolulu. My carry-on is packed, my dining room table is piled high—if chaotically—with everything that will go into my main suitcase. Books have been boxed and addressed. Things that I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to find there have been ordered over the internet for shipping to Molokai. Tour books are ready, camera batteries charged, most errands run, friends said goodbye to. Everything just about ready… except maybe me.

The butterflies have flown the coop, to be replaced by a bit of a war zone. The how can you possibly leave for three months on some tiny island away from daughters, family, Jasper, all that is known, did I mention daughters? versus the yes! three glorious months of rest and solitude team. It’s like a tug-of-war with near perfectly matched sides. Picture it. One side gets the advantage—but only just barely—then the other side takes over—again, barely, and back and forth, the flag in the middle moving mere inches at a time, in fact, not much movement is happening at all, and won’t, until one side either gets overly exhausted or slips in the mud or finds some reserve they didn’t know they had that unleashes a sudden burst of superhuman strength.

I’m hoping for the latter. And I’m rooting for the three glorious months side. Because the truth is, I have longed for just such a retreat for years, I mean years, since long ago reading May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, among others. Long before I knew my marriage would end, eons before my life took on a life of its own and landed me on some planet other than the one I thought I’d peacefully inhabit for the rest of my given years, I’ve been captivated by women who go off on their own and embrace the adventure of solitude. Not adventure as in sailing around the world alone, though there’s a lot to be said for that. For me it’s been more the yearning for the time and the space, the quiet solitude necessary to meet myself full on, to connect with myself on a much deeper level than everyday life affords, to come home to myself as fully as possible, and in a way that is not necessarily something we are ever encouraged to do in our culture, or even necessarily know is possible. To put aside everything that I habitually use to distract, comfort—and ultimately neglect—myself and commune with me and with life as much as possible, exclusively would be nice, through heart, soul, and spirit.

It’s a tall order, I know. Maybe even a bit of a fantasyland. Though I hope not. And what better place to engage in the work, the art really, of making fantasy real than a beautiful little island in the middle of many beautiful islands in the middle of the grand Pacific Ocean.

Oh, and by the way, pacific means "conciliatory, peaceable, calm, tranquil, having a soothing effect." Hmm… auspicious.

Forty-eight hours and twenty-five minutes til my flight is scheduled to depart...

Oh, and by the way... again, I am feeling the faint but unmistakeable flutter of wings in the belly; the little white flag flapping in the breeze and edging ever so slightly, I'm pretty sure anyway, toward the favored team.

Aloha for now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From Sears to Canon to Nikon: The Dream Resurrected

Sometimes I forget how magical writing truly can be. I wrote a couple of posts ago about my first-ever 35mm camera, the one from Sears that I took with me on my first trip to Hawaii. With the simple act of writing those few little words, a powerful memory reached from the past and grabbed me, and an old, long held, and too-long-forgotten desire to photograph the world - or my own little piece of it, anyway - sprang instantly back to life.

Long ago, my Sears' 35mm gave way to a Canon AE-1 Program SLR, a completely unexpected gift from my husband. It wasn't my birthday, it wasn't Christmas, but I'll never forget the day I came home and there it was, a very expensive camera at a time when mortgage payment, car payments, diapers, and utility and food expenses ate up just about all of our income. But he knew how badly I'd wanted it, went out on his own and purchased it. A huge surprise, and you'd have to know him and his relationship with money, plus how broke we truly were, to understand what a selfless act it was.

Nearly thirty years later, writing that post, I am hit again with the longing I knew so well back then. Fresh, alive, pulsating, as though I am that twenty-three-year-old girl peddling to the beach on Oahu, hair flying behind her, camera swaying from her neck, or the newly thirty-something seeing the world for the first time through the viewfinder of her gorgeous brand-new, black and silver AE-1.

I confess to never getting beyond the basics with that camera. Life, in the form of babies, pets, play groups, laundry, cooking, cleaning, going back to finish my college degree, namely the busy-ness of being a modern-day person in a modern-day family intervened. What shooting I did, was usually from the "P" (Program) and "A" (Automatic) mode. I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere. Some sort of hidden message, if I only had the treasure map to find it. A nugget of truth I'd rather not, in all truthfulness, hunt for.

Last week, just a few short days after I wrote the post that mentioned the camera, I did something big, unexpected and spontaneous; I ordered myself a brand-new Nikon digital SLR, the D60 model. The ease with which the decision was made surprised me, and seemed more an action that simply happened by itself than a true decision; which camera to buy ultimately the only real question. Once ordered, I waited for it like a kid waits for Christmas morning, tracking it on the internet, disappointed when it didn't arrive the day I thought it would. And when it did, when the big brown truck pulled up outside, at nearly six in the evening, I flew to the door, then tore into the package, as excited, as smitten as I was all those years ago with the Canon. Though the AE-1 was child's play compared to the new digital SLRs, with all their bells and whistles and more bells, and the truth is, I'm intimidated as all hell. Truly. Overwhelmed by all the dials, buttons, meters, choices. I have no idea how I'm going to figure it all out. I'm an instant gratification junkie. I'm not patient with puzzles, with layers of detail and nuances, or with reading any kind of manual. Trying to figure out technology that is beyond me - which is pretty much any technology - makes me crazy. Just ask my husband... or my daughters.


But here's the thing: I love the feel of it in my hand, the weight and solidity of it. I love bringing it to my face, breathing in its slight plastic smell, and exploring life through the tiny view-finder (ah... the old-fashioned way). I love twisting the lens gently in my hand, bringing the world closer, then farther away again, then closer again; the exciting challenge of choosing the exact right shot, the best composition. And more than anything, I love, just LOVE the sound, the quick little melody, the gentle definitive magical happening when the shutter opens and closes. Click...

Here are a few shots taken over the past couple of days, from the experimentation phase. In five days, five days (OMG!), I'll be posting pics from my brand new Nikon from Molokai. Wow.

Aloha for now.

PIER AT CAPITOLA, CALIFORNIA

ABOVE CAPITOLA BEACH

SAN FRANCISCO SKYLINE FROM DOLORES PARK

STAIRCASE GARDEN, HOME ON MASONIC, SAN FRANCISCO

MOSAIC STAIRS, HOME ON MASONIC, SAN FRANCISCO

PRINCESS PLANT, TIBOUCHINA URVILLEANA, GOLDEN GATE PARK, SAN FRANCISCO

JAPANESE TEA GARDEN, GOLDEN GATE PARK

JAPANESE TEA GARDEN, GOLDEN GATE PARK

JAPANESE TEA GARDEN, GOLDEN GATE PARK

JAPANESE TEA GARDEN, GOLDEN GATE PARK

JAPANESE TEA GARDEN, GOLDEN GATE PARK

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Planet Moloka'i

There are nine days left until I leave for Molokai. You’d think I’d be pretty much bubbling over by now, frothing with anticipation and excitement, a fun bit of nervous energy tingling up and down my spine, maybe slightly overwhelmed—but in a good way—by all that must be done before I can leave. Scribbling creative little “to do” lists, hauling out suitcases, collecting my travel books and maps.

The truth is, I sit in the middle of a very weird zone; nine days ahead to Molokai, the last nine a whirlwind of packing, moving, paper signing, escrow closing. And oh yeah, in the middle of all that, our Entry of Judgment, Legal Separation, months overdo, arrived in the mail. Timing is so breathtakingly unbelievable sometimes.

We’ve officially said goodbye to our house. I wandered through it one last time on Monday; completely empty, except for the ghosts and the memories that haunt and fill every single square inch. Remembering everything, like a movie running in slow-motion, and vivid technicolor: Christmas mornings, family dinners, birthdays. Bedtime stories, the tooth fairy, fevers, first days of school. How Barbie, Ken, and Midge moved in and took over our family room. Seriously. For years. Our very own Barbie Town, complete with pink corvette, jeep, house, and enough clothes, shoes, and accessories to last Barbie ten lifetimes. How our youngest always ran down the hall, jumping at the door jams, trying to reach and then one day, wala, she could actually touch them. First just barely, with fingertips, then, what seemed like mere days later, the whole hand reaching. How when the same daughter moved to France for a lifetime—oh yeah, that’s right, it was only for a year—I’d walk into her room, sit on her bed, and crumble, wondering how in the world I was going to get through it. Sleeping with my oldest when she had mono and felt like she couldn’t breathe, her glands so swollen. Watching Beverly Hills 90201 together… later graduating to Sex & the City, then moving on to the L Word (only when age appropiate, of course). The night one of them sleepwalked into our room asking for a cheeseburger. (Was it Annie or Katie? Funny how memories can be so alive and so nebulous all at the same time.) How I lay awake nights until they were each tucked safely into their warm beds before I could even fathom the idea of actually sleeping. The good times and the hard ones; the clear, blue skies, and the stormy weather—all a part of the glorious joy of being a family.

That day, I told myself, was the last. Too painful, too grueling. Just way too hard. But I couldn’t help myself. The next day, after we’d signed the papers, but before escrow actually closed, my car headed, seemingly of its own volition, in that direction. I parked for the last time in my driveway, and crept quietly in through the sweet white picket gate my husband had so meticulously made for me. I took in all the color, the heady, earthy scent, and cut the last roses I would ever have from that garden. The giant, yellow, outrageously scented Toulouse Lautrec, the ever abundant Carefree Delight, the dainty, dusty pink miniatures whose names, but not faces, I've long forgotten. Then I turned, took it in all in one last time, and closed the gate gently behind me. Walking back to my car, my sister-in-law happened (timing again... amazing) to be driving by and pulled up to the curb. It’s so sad, Debby, she said. Every time I drive by this sweet empty house, it’s just so sad. I know, I said. I know, reaching in and taking her hand, the welling in both our eyes threatening to spill over, run uncontrollably down our cheeks, flood her car, then the entire neighborhood.


TOULOUSE LAUTREC


CAREFREE DELIGHT

Molokai may be a mere nine days away. A short five-hour flight. But to my psyche right now, it might as well be on another planet. Yes, there is so much to do. I'm not so overwhelmed that I don't know that. And it's getting done, slowly, seemingly by itself, one little bit at a time. My new camera has arrived (more on that later!), a true piece of excitement in the middle of the muddle. Yesterday I found the perfect bag for it, along with extra battery, filters, memory cards. I also found the shorts I've been wanting but that have been alluding me... at the very last possible place to shop for them. I've given my laptop over to my "husband" for a tune-up, the thought of being marooned on Molokai sans computer absolutely terrifying. I've cleared closet and drawer space for my daughter, who'll be living in my apartment while I'm gone, shopped for books, figured out how to pay the bills while I'm gone.

In short, it is happening. With or without my stressing about it, all on its own, in the midst of all else that is going on, what needs to be accomplished is quietly, and relatively effortlessly being accomplished. I'm sure there is a life lesson here somewhere. A big pearl of wisdom hidden in the muck and mire. Maybe on Molokai, I'll relax long enough and thoroughly enough, have the time and space, be able to hang loose enough to really get it.

Until next time...
Aloha.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Different Kind of Love Story

I thought I’d start off with some much-needed levity:

Last night I dreamed I was making love with Kevin Costner (my serious heart-throb for many years, back in the Bull Durham, Dances with Wolves days, before he became a caricature of himself) and it was really nice, I mean quite nice, except that he was a terrible kisser. I mean not just bad, but really bad…! Yucky bad. I woke up with a fat grin on my face. Kevin Costner yum, Oh! Kevin Costner a bad kisser! Ha! But oh... life's disappointments!

Anyway, I remembered something this morning that I think is pretty interesting. I was thinking back to my first ever trip to Hawaii. I was 23, my older sister and her family lived there and I visited them on the windward side of Oahu, the town of Kailua, during the last two weeks in November. Their two boys, my nephews, were 2½ and six weeks old at the time.

Because my sister had a toddler and a newborn, we didn’t get out much. But every afternoon while they all napped, I’d ride their bike a few blocks to a small, nearly deserted beach and lay in the hot sun, watching the sand crabs scurry from hole to hole. I remember stopping along the way and taking pictures, with my first ever 35mm camera, a brand new Sear’s model, a big purchase for me at the time, and that took surprisingly good photos. I remember being especially drawn to all the green: the steep mountains and cliffs (the pali), the trees, and the water that flowed lazily through the canal I passed on the way to and from. I'd get off the bike, lean it against the bridge rail, and take shot after shot; each day the same, like it had somehow changed overnight, or like I was somehow trying to get enough of it, take it into me in some way, so that I would never forget.

That trip was not love at first sight, though I was enchanted enough to know that someday I wanted to return. But the truth is, I don’t think I gave it a fair chance. You see, I was enchanted in a completely different way. I’d just started dating a man that I was feeling pretty excited about. In fact, he was picking me up from the airport when I returned. I’d sent him postcards, and bought him a mug with his name on it in Hawaiian (and a matching one for me…hmm…daring!). I was smitten, and eager to get back and see where this was going.

Three years later we were married. He picked me up when returning from Hawaii, we spent thirty-four years together, now he’ll be taking me back to the airport the morning I leave for Molokai. Full circle, and pretty incredible when I think about it.

It took me 25 years to get back. The year was 2000, our oldest had just graduated high school and we took the trip we had been saving for for years: two weeks in Hawaii, the first week on Maui, the second on Kauai. To say I was unprepared for my response when I looked out the window of the plane on our approach is an understatement. There, in the middle of the beautifully variegated sapphire Pacific, sat stunning emerald green Maui, the Valley Isle as it is called, and seeing it, I started to cry. Deep, involuntary sobs that started in my belly and rose, becoming fat tears that slid silently down my cheeks. My daughter, sitting next to me, was mystified, mom, are you crying? why are you crying?? are you okay??? Maybe it was enhanced by the dimmed lights and uniquely island music that flowed through the cabin of the jet, maybe by the sweet faces of the flight attendants, or the scent of the leis that fell from their necks, but whatever it was, yes, I was crying. From somewhere that was bigger than me and beyond me, and that I’ll never fully understand except to say that in some mysterious and inexplicable way it was like I was coming home. The prodigal daughter returning, after a very, very long absence. I cry today just writing about it.

Such was (and is) my love for Maui, that a week later, when we left her for Kauai’s north shore (which, by the way, is stunningly, amazingly, mind-bogglingly beautiful) I missed Maui like one misses a new-found lover. The whole week in Kauai, I pined for her soft breezes, her rainbows, the cool dawn sand beneath my feet, her startling pink, purple, and coral sunsets. I could not understand it… I was in paradise grieving for paradise, yet it was what it was. Maui, the island that I learned later represents the heart in some spiritual tradition, had stolen mine. I’ve been back twice since, once again with the four of us when our youngest graduated high school and then again, when my husband and I took a Hawaiian cruise two years ago. It was on that cruise that I knew, if somehow the unthinkable, unimaginable happened and our marriage ended, that if I could be there—in Hawaii—maybe I could actually survive, my soul not just nurtured there, but singing in tunes and melodies I never knew that it knew.

So, why Molokai and not Maui? It's easy, a no-brainer, as they say. There was no way, in my present state of being that I could go there, where my only memories are of marriage and family, and not disintegrate completely. Nor was I interested in going where there are throngs of happy touristy families, freshly married couples on honeymoon, older ones celebrating significant anniversaries. Besides Molokai is right across the channel, and part of Maui County. Plus it did sound breathtakingly perfect: A remote, tranquil, non-tourist destination—exactly what the doctor ordered. And here's the thing: its affordablility is what has made the three months possible. Three incredible months in paradise.

Eighteen days and a get up. The butterflies are at it again. Every time I think about it. A few more added, it seems, each day. Yet writing about it helps make it more real, bring it into sharper focus. And here's another thing: Some of the butterflies, the newer ones coming on board, are more of the excited variety. I don't know how exactly I know, except maybe their flutter is just ever so slightly different. It's subtle, a nuance, really, except that something down there is changing, shifting... if just a wee bit.

Three months in paradise they seem to be saying. Yippy!

Aloha for now...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Moloka'i - Three Weeks and Counting


Sometimes a bumper sticker says it all. Thanks to TripAdvisor's CaribbeanJimmy for the generous use of the photo.

People keep asking me if I’m getting excited about Molokai. It’s a natural question, but still I don’t know quite how to answer. Three months in paradise… what’s not to be off-the-chart, doing-cartwheels-over excited about?

Except that most of the time it feels like the guillotine awaiting. Okay, maybe guillotine is overstating, but on some level, that’s not far off. In so many ways, I’m walking straight into the unknown, and have the overly-active-butterflies-in-the-stomach to prove it. Not that that’s a bad thing, right?

The closest I’ve been to Molokai was staring at its silhouette from across the water on Maui, and reading about it in Alan Brennert’s sad, yet moving and inspirational tale of life in its infamous leper colony. His book one of my great draws to the island, by the way. And I’ve done my homework. I know the island is 38 miles long and 10 wide. I know that there are 7,000 people living on it, including the highest percentage of native Hawaiians of all the islands save the tiny, private island of Ni╩╗ihau. I know there isn’t a building taller than a palm tree, and not enough traffic to warrant even one signal light. I know that it’s nicknamed The Friendly Island, and that I keep reading and hearing the words peaceful, beautiful, tranquil, relaxing, retreat… So far, so good, right?

I know I will be living for those three months in a condo on the arid (read: dry) west side. I know that I will have a “garden” view, but will be able to hear the surf, sometimes so loudly at night I’ll be tempted to get up and close the door. (The ocean too loud??? I can’t imagine.) I know that the golf course that I’ll be looking out on from my lanai has closed, the "green" turned to brown. I know that I’ll be walking distance to one of the longest, most beautiful white sand beaches in all of Hawaii—and that my footprints may well be the only ones pressed in the sand on a given day. I know that I’ll be driving a ten-year-old Chevy with “iffy” air conditioning, and that I’ll be isolated, a long, long way from "home" and loved ones, and a long way from “civilization,” seven miles from the nearest anything, twenty from town and a decent sized grocery store (whatever that means on Molokai), and that, except for ten days in October that my sister will be there, I’ll be very much alone. And yes, I do know that out there in the middle of the vast Pacific, there is the possibility of things like hurricanes and tsunamis.

I also know that the plan to go to Hawaii for an extended time hatched out of what was maybe the darkest time I’d experienced through this whole year-plus of change. When I honest-to-god didn’t know how I was going to get through it all, when the shock of moving, of leaving, of separating, had worn off, and the real grief smashed like a high speed train straight into me, when I could barely drag myself out of bed to go to work—and some days couldn’t—when I learned in the midst of everything else that my oldest daughter was moving out of state, the idea flashed, not a bright and glorious beacon, but a speck, a tiny little pearl of possible salvation on an otherwise bleak and ever darkening horizon.

I know also that these days leading up to leaving have been hard ones. Packing up everything in our house. Going through old boxes of wedding and honeymoon and baby mementos. Deciding how much and what to hold on to, what to let go of. My wedding dress (hand-made by my mom), and shoes? (Vintage now, after thirty-one years.) The now badly tarnished silver champagne glasses we toasted with that were a gift from my mother-in-law? How about the sleepers my babies wore home from the hospital? The handmade Moses basket liner and blanket? Their baptism, preschool “graduation,” and first day of kindergarten dresses? The adorable pink bonnet, the one with white lace, that made the skin on their cheeks look even softer and peachier. (Was that possible??) Or the orthopedic shoes our youngest wore during her second and third months to straighten her inwardly growing feet?

Then there’s the older stuff I’ve had possession of for years: my mom’s high school yearbook, her last driver’s license, her address book, with friends and relative’s names in her big, loopy and confident handwriting. The letter from her oncologist in reponse to her giving up treatment, the guest book from her memorial service. Pictures of my dad when he was quarterback,#42, at McCloud High, Mt. Shasta rising snow-covered and majestic in the background? The letter to my grandma telling her that her son had been wounded in battle, wounds they hoped he would recover fully from. (No other information... what a torture for her and my grandpa.) My dad's old leather fireman’s helmet, #19, dating back to 1951, the year he started with the Hayward Fire Department; his death certificate and autopsy report, cause of death, a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head, blood alcohol level .1, legally drunk, but practically sober for him.

Some things definitely better left behind.

The guillotine is starting to make sense. Yes, there is much I know about Molokai, though it is insignificant compared to what I don’t know. But more to the point, I think, is what Molokai represents. It has been a year filled with nothing but endings, and with our house closing right before I’m set to leave, those continue right up until I walk through security and onto the Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 that will carry me to Honolulu, and where I will make my connection to Molokai. I see now that Molokai represents a type of free-zone, a three month stretch of time between endings and what I know my psyche understands will be beginnings (read: more unknowns); a buffer zone, if you will, between the old and new; the gestation period that always, always comes between death and rebirth.

I hope that Molokai will be above all else, a place to rest, to recoup, to begin to rejuvenate; that it will be both winter and spring. Hawaii was the only choice. My spiritual home, the only spot on earth I knew I could go to and be okay. The plan is simple, to walk, swim, read, write, and above all, to lay my weary bones in her great, nurturing lap, and allow her warm waters and fresh tropical breezes, the scents of plumeria and ginger to wash like a balm over me. My sense is that it won't matter that the green has turned brown, or that I won't be in the lush tropics that I love so about Hawaii (and hey, I'll have the Chevy, and the ability to drive to the other side of the island, the rainy, tropical side, when I feel the need, after all, it's not far). It's about the air itself, and the energy, and the fact that this little island chain is the most remote in the world, the farthest removed from any large land mass, isolated, untouched, alive in a way that can only be felt; the quintessential nurturing, renewing, healing yin energy.

I plan to feel it every moment, every day that I am there. The intention is mine, the work is hers. Thankfully, she has never let me down.

Aloha for now.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lessons?

I had a rough night last night, sleep-wise; a couple of weeks of rough nights in fact. Ever since my dog got sick, pulling a couple of all-nighters, I am still trying to get back to feeling well slept and rested again. But I was awake at 5 a.m., alert enough to turn on my light, check my email, write an email, check the Giant's score from last night. (You know, all the important things.) But luckily I was able to get back to sleep—a pretty rare occurrence—probably around 6ish. A deep, comfortable, dreaming sleep that I was brought rudely out of by my upstairs neighbor hammering. And hammering. And then hammering some more. I turned over and looked at the clock. 7:15. On a Sunday morning.

I lose sleep to this woman on average at least once a week. Some weeks nearly every night or morning. Occasionally, rarely, I go a couple of weeks without being disturbed by her. But she always makes up for it. A month ago, the night before I was leaving and driving to Portland, about an eleven hour drive by myself, she was up, on her balcony loudly visiting with a friend until 1:15. I finally turned off my alarm which had been set for 5:30, deciding that getting enough sleep was more important than arriving by a certain time. Nice idea… except that they were at it again before 7.

Though their loud friendly and fun banter was nothing compared to the x-rated fury that, a few months ago, she began unleashing on her partner in the middle of the night. I would lie in my bed, wondering if this was the night I needed to call the police. One night, just as I was reaching for the phone, the partner fled down the back steps and out our back gate. I was grateful she had escaped, but then worried about her anew. It was the middle of the night in the middle of Oakland. Where would she go? Did she have her car keys with her? On and on, as though worried about my own daughter. Two weeks ago she (the neighbor, not the partner who I think has finally moved out, thank god) rang my doorbell at 5:30 in the morning, needing someone to let her in the back because she was locked out of the front. She was so drunk she could barely walk, and kept dropping her rolled joints, nearly falling over when picking them up, chronically missing the front pocket she was trying to slide them into.

There are so many things I love about this apartment. My first apartment in over thirty years, my first foray from suburbs into city. It’s in a decent, cute, older Oakland neighborhood. The building has much character, and my unit is charming, bright, sunny, and cute—especially after my sister and I repainted the kitchen which, when I moved in, was purple, orange, and lime green. (I kid you not, the cupboards were purple, the cupboard doors orange, and the walls the lime green!) It’s a four-plex, a nice quiet community, I was told as I signed on the dotted line, committing to twelve long months. And for the most part, it is. Though the walls are paper-thin, and not much goes unheard from unit to unit, my other neighbors are sweet and nice and have great energy. Though I hear them regularly, I am not disturbed by them. Just the opposite, sometimes, as it’s nice to know that there are folks nearby.


But with her, it’s different. For the record, I have complained. To my landlord, and to his brother, who lives in one of the units. I know they both know it’s a problem, and I know she disturbs Peter, too. I’ve also asked her personally if we could observe a quiet time. She was reasonable, she was apologetic, but she’s an addict. Having grown up with an alcoholic father, it’s unnerving. Lying in bed at night, just as I did when I was little, hearing things go bumping and crashing in the dark, fearing that in her drunken/high stupor, she will hurt herself… or all of us. Like so many addicts, she is sweet when sober, full of rage when not. Though even when sober, she is just plain loud. The youngest of eight, she told me. She had to be loud to be heard, she said. I’m sorry, she said, it won’t happen again. Right.


It’s a habit of mine to look for meaning in everything. It’s interesting that I’ve moved out of my quiet home in the burbs, to a place that I had hoped, had intended, to be a bit of a sanctuary; where I could rest, grieve, and begin to heal. Sometimes it’s almost comical… I look around my cute little “cottage-y” space, complete with adorable new sofa, “shabby” craigslist furniture, books lovingly displayed; indoor “garden,” complete with fountain, and at all my “spiritual” and inspirational trappings, all the while listening to her screaming the F-Bomb and worse--trust me, there’s much worse—right and left. The quiet serenity of the space I’ve created in direct contrast to such volume, and such violent rage.



Yet here’s a truth: When I lie in my bed, my own rage bubbling like a fresh spring up and over, I am no different from her. Yes, I meet her raging with fear, but I meet her lack of simple, common courtesy with out-and-out rage. I do. It’s not something I am proud of, as a self-proclaimed spiritual “seeker.” Nor do I have the excuse of alcohol or drugs. But rage is rage, and there’s far more than enough of it already flying around our imperiled little planet. Yes, there are times when there has been understanding, compassion even. But never when I’m tired and needing sleep. The response is automatic. How dare you disturb my precious sleep.

And there are also times when I am profoundly aware of how lucky I am: that given the amount of alcoholism that runs in my family, that didn’t happen for me; that I have not just a roof, but a nice one over my head; that I have a brand-new warm comfortable queen-sized bed, plenty of food in the fridge; and the biggest one, that the bombs I hear exploding are simply of the “F” variety, and not the kind that so many live in fear and danger of, the kind that terrorize, brutalize, maim and kill on a daily basis.



I don’t know why exactly I came to live here. I know the practical reasons I chose this place, besides its potential cute quotient, that is: friends in the neighborhood, my job within walking distance, cheap rent. But my sense is that I will be long gone before I am ready or able to integrate whatever lessons are here for me. I’m too chronically tired, still too off balance from all the changes, still too often on the brink of meltdown. I don’t know why the reality is so much different than what I’d hoped for, with all my salting and smudging, space clearing and cleansing, prayers of intention. Maybe it’s just life, and life can sometimes suck. But I like to think there’s more to it than that—need to think there’s more to it than that.

It’s been good to write about it. The anger is gone, for now. But then so is the hammering…

I’ll end with one of my favorite Rumi poems:

So the sea journey goes on,
and who knows where?
Just to be held by the ocean
is the best luck we could have.

Until next time…
Be well.