Saturday, October 30, 2010


November 1 is looming. Two more days until I begin—anew—my quest to make 30 posts in 30 days. In preparation, I am now officially a member of NaBloPoMo. I’m not sure what that means or how it all works, but I have a few days to figure it out.

I’m nervous. Just writing this post, I feel how shallow my breath has become with the anxiety of it. What in hell’s name will I write about each day? Most days the well seems dry as a bone. But then, that’s the idea, isn’t it? Wetting the whistle. Priming the pump. Getting it going so that it has a chance to start flowing. Living.

I know I’m afraid of boring my “readers.” Ugh… reminding myself again and again and again that it’s not about it being read. It’s not about impressing or entertaining or intriguing anyone. Maybe what I’m really afraid of is boring myself. Cuz if I’m bored, then what hope is there? And yet. I remember when writing my novel. Some days it energized me, some days it moved me to tears, other days it bored me practically to sleep. Maybe that’s just how it is; maybe it’s all part of the process. Some days I’d write awful, terrible, truly shitty drivel for hours and then suddenly, without warning, wham, with one sentence I’d hit the vein and it would gush. It was like I'd written all those hours to get to that place; a place that couldn't have gotten to otherwise. All part of the creative process. It’s not a mystery or rocket science. It’s pretty simple, really.

Just do it.

And yes, I see the correlation... (I hear my friend Linda whispering in my ear)... perhaps the creative art process is no different than the life process. That each day we live brings us to the next and the next and the next. Of course. It's obvious. But looking deeper, at this time in my life, with the inertia, the day in and day out seeming absence of meaning, life, purpose (think boring words for hours and hours), that it's possible, even probable, maybe even assured, that this is living me to the next day, the next thing, to that one sentence that sets it on fire, changes the course, renews, transforms, and brings a new level of living.

Just do it.

So, starting on Monday, I’ll just be doing it. Writing every day. Posting something every single day.

See you then.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Postseason *OR* The Church of Baseball II

The postseason. Music to the ears of any sports fan. "My" team, the San Francisco Giants, have not only made it to the postseason, they’ve won the first two series, are now the National League Champions, and are headed to the World Series. What a fan-tastic ride they are giving us!

Most everyone, except those of us that love this team and have watched them day in and day out, are stunned. This scrappy underdog team made up of “freaks” and “misfits” and castoffs no other teams wanted. With their rally thongs and dyed beards, with their simple infectiousness for the game, against so many odds, contrary to what any sports analyst outside the bay area thought, in spite of Las Vegas odds against them 3-1, this team is a certified, verified winner, and they are going to the fall classic.

I cried last night watching them celebrate. They fought the good fight, and I cried the good cry, and it surprised me. But I was so moved. And even if they had lost this series, even if they had lost the one before, even if they had failed on that last game of the season, down to the wire, to clinch their division it would have been okay, and they would still be winners in my eyes. Their spirit and chemistry, their belief in themselves, their excitement and passion for the game, the way they pull together, how they all, every last one of them, contributes, has been inspiring. Not to mention incredibly fun to watch. I’ve been hearing that they are rapidly becoming the all time favorite Giant’s team ever. Which is saying a lot, given some of the franchise's historical teams. But I get it. With their never-give-up-come-from-behind-we-can-win-this attitude, it is hard not to jump on their bandwagon. They are truly a team, and they embody what a team should be. There are no A-Rods or Bonds, no prima donas, no toxicity in this clubhouse. They are as humble as they are confident. They play together, they struggle together, they lose together, they win together, they celebrate together.

Though I have to say, they don’t do it easy, and they don’t always do it pretty. Their motto this year, thanks to one of their broadcasters, has become, “Giant’s Baseball – TORTURE”! Nerve wracking, hard to watch, sit on the edge of your seat, heart-stopping, palm sweating, make sure you’ve had your blood pressure medicine games. It’s been true most of the season, and it was true to the last out of the last inning of the game last night. Bottom of the ninth, two men on base, the tying run on second, the go-ahead run on first, full count to the batter, when Wilson threw the last called strike and it was finally—blessedly—over.

I am most moved by the veterans, the ones who, up until this year, had played their entire careers on losing teams, teams who out of spring training had no chance of winning, teams that lost over a hundred games a season, teams where showing up day in and day out, one hundred and sixty-two games a year, was drudgery and discouraging and disappointing. The younger players have their whole careers ahead of them. For these other guys, who are approaching the twilight of their playing years, they truly get it, get what a privilege and gift and honor it is not just to be playing the game of their dreams professionally, but to be winning; to be having so much fun. And make no mistake, they are having fun. You see it in the twinkle in their eyes, the big smiles plastered across their faces. I know they’ve been the inspiration of this club. And they’ve been captivating.

I know, I know. It’s just sports. And I know… some of these guys make millions of dollars a year for the privilege of playing a game for a living. I know they are among the elite. I know it is just entertainment. I know in the big scheme of things... really, I know. And yet. Isn't a dream a dream, no matter? Isn't it uplifting to watch a person's, a team's dream be so well fulfilled? Especially when it is unexpected. Especially when it is fought for so hard. Especially when it is against the odds? Is it not inspiring? Does it not feel good, touch something in us, warm our hearts, enable us to imagine possibility? Does it not give us hope? Not to mention the pure, unadultrated joy. Of players and fans alike. When else do grown-ups, grown men particularly, get to act like pure fools, get to give themselves so over to the moment, get to stand up, uncensored, and jump, and shout, and cheer? Give each other whopping high-fives and full body hugs? I can't think of another instance besides sports. And I can't think of another instance of the experience of such collective joy (or heartbreak for that matter when it doesn't quite go our way, when we watch it dawn on the faces we've followed all year, sitting in the dugout, hanging on the rail, that they're not going to take it home this time, this year...) And the fans this year have been amazing. To a man, every Giant interviewed has said without the fans, they wouldn't be where they are today.

Speaking of winning and losing, why is it that we can only be "winners" if we go all the way? Why is it that it is only a "success" if we win, win, win, come out on top, trample all the others on the way to victory, grab the prize, bring home the trophy? I honestly, truly, don't get this one. This year's Giant's team is a winner, is a team of winners, whether they take the ultimate prize or not. Disappointing if they don't win, yes. Hard to watch these guys I've come to care about and respect if they lose, yes. But ultimately, in my mind anyway, it's a no-brainer. Play your hearts out, do the best you can, be respectful of each other and the game, play fair, make it exciting, be proud of what you've done, and you've got me.

And one more thing. Personally, the Giant's have gotten me through some hard days this season. That they've been who they are, that they've been so likeable and easy to root for, that they've played exciting and competative games, that they've given us baseball through the end of October, that they are fun, entertaining and sexy... well, I'm just grateful, for the light they've given me, the joy these past couple of weeks especially, when light and joy have not exactly been at a premium.

The Giant's, one of the oldest franchises in baseball history, have not won a World Series since moving from New York to San Francisco in 1957. We have the third-longest championship drought in the MLB. The Texas Rangers, the American League Champs, technically an expansion team which came into being in 1961, has never won a championship. How great that these two teams will be meeting in the World Series. How exciting. If I didn't live in the Bay Area, if I hadn't been a Giant's fan since my dad started taking me to The Stick when I was ten years old, if the mere vision of black and orange around the diamond didn't make me practically swoon, it would be a toss up who to root for. But as it is, all I can really say is...


And P.S. What I wouldn't have done to be a fly on the wall in that clubhouse, and get to watch Aubrey Huff, aka Huff Daddy, aka Huffy, strut around in his red, that's right, red thong underwear. His way of keeping the troops loose, his contribution to the rally, and the spirit and energy of the team. "Oh my..." as Annie Savoy would say. Oh, my...

Speaking of which, if you haven't seen Bull Durham, now might just be the time. It's one of the best baseball movies ever, a classic, that's smart, sweet, sexy, fun, and pure enjoyment. Not to mention that Kevin Costner was pretty damned good on the eyes way back then.

Oh my...

Thursday, October 21, 2010


It’s 7:30 and just barely dawn outside. I forget about how dark it is in the morning as we get closer to the time change. Outside the open bedroom window where I stay in Livermore, there is what sounds like a whole army of birds chirping and chattering and singing.

I miss this kind of bird song. Where cacophony or symphony are the only words that can begin to describe it. It’s amazing, really, to sit and listen to it. The way it fills the air so completely. Louder than the cars going by. Bigger than the distant train, the little planes taking off from the nearby airport. We had the same thing in Dublin, especially around the creek at the little park where I used to walk Jasper every morning. It was so alive with the sounds of birds you could practically see it. In Sonora, I hear mostly a singular bird call in the mornings. I have no idea what bird it is, but recognize it as the same one I used to hear waking up in the early, early mornings in Yosemite. It was one of the things I first loved when I moved to my house last April. How I could wake up to that sound, and to the strong smell of oaks and pines and cedars, close my eyes, and be instantly transported to the canvas tent, the chill of the mountain morning, the warmth of the flannel inside the sleeping bag, the girls sleeping peacefully next to me, the pop of the morning campfire as Chris got it going.

Riding bikes past deer grazing peacefully in the late afternoon meadow. The way the granite face of Half Dome turned pink as the sun sank below the mountains and tree tops. The amazing array of stars. Summer thunderstorms. The spray of waterfalls on our cheeks. Holding their little hands as we hiked through the forest to Happy Isles, where the Merced River tumbles and roars its way down the mountainside with a power so astonishing it never failed to drop my jaw. And where I could sit, just like I could at Kepuhi Beach, for hours on end, in rapt wonder at the absolute glory of our amazing earth.

The sun is up. It is suddenly quiet. Remembering summer after summer, the only vacation we could really afford. A yardstick of the girls growing year by year; from the front pack to the stroller, to walking and running ahead of us on the trail. Graduating from the carrier on the back of my bike to their own—training wheels one year, the next balancing skillfully on their own. Pony tails giving way to French braids, glasses to contact lenses, Barbie and My Little Pony to reading quietly around the campfire or the four of us playing Yahtzee to the hiss of the propane lantern.

It is ironic that the only thing constant is change. Like the valleys carved by ice and flowing water, we are sculpted by the meandering creeks, rushing rivers, heady falls of life’s journey. Personally, I think I am beginning to sense a shift. There are hours, sometimes big part of days, where I feel almost normal. There seems to be less fighting what is, and more surrender. Less hanging on, more letting go. Some switch that is allowing a relaxation, almost a curiosity to fill more of the spaces of my days. A sort of grace that is allowing me, this morning, anyway, to notice, and to revel in the birds; to smile in the face of poignant family times and memories.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


When I decided I wanted to write 30 posts in 30 days, I didn’t know that there is an official site/organization dedicated to doing just that. I found it a few weeks ago perusing the internet. It’s a takeoff on NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month, founded by Chris Baty, author of No Plot? No Problem. Every November for the past ten years, tens of thousands of folks have made a commitment to write a 50,000 word novel during the month. Last year 165,000 of the officially entered writers completed their novel during the month. The idea is to simply get the words out. No editing, no rewriting, just words on paper; quantity over quality; get over the blocks, the ideas about there being enough time; stop thinking about it and start doing it. Five thousand words a day for thirty days. Trust the words, the process will take care of itself. It’s become a bit of a big deal, and I know two people who have participated, completed the words, and enjoyed the hell out of the ride.

More recently, the idea was expanded to blogging, and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) was born. In the beginning, it was also November, though because blogging is more an ongoing activity, it soon expanded, and you can now participate any month, though the “official” participation month is still November.

Though I’ve (obviously) fallen way short of my original goal, I still have a great desire to do a post a day for thirty days. For one thing, maybe even the main and only thing, writing begets more writing. I found that when I was writing my own “novel.” The more often and the more words I wrote, the more immersed I became, until something opened, it came alive, and I began to live it.

I loved it when that place opened. Not the “oh, gosh, writing is so easy” place, but the one where ideas and connections and insights are popping like firecrackers on the 4th, where the process is alive, even when not in front of the computer; when I’m walking the dog, or running an errand, and the thread is there, so lively that I wish for a piece of paper and a pen or a tape recorder so that the scene or conversation or developing character coming alive in my mind wouldn't be lost. I heard once that my favorite poet, Mary Oliver, hides little notebooks and pencils at various places in the woods near her home where she walks every morning. A knothole in a tree. Between rocks. So they’re there when the unexpected loon or goose or fawn surprises and inspires her and a poem is born.

Dial tone or no, there’s something to be said for writing every day. In fact, there’s everything to be said for it. For me, anyway. In my experience, in that year and a half that I worked on the story, I learned that the only way it had even a prayer of a chance of flowing consistently was to do it every single day. It’s like the piece, the creation itself, takes on a life of its own, becoming its own entity, one that must be fed and nurtured constantly. Otherwise, like a neglected baby, it would fail to thrive. I also found that for every day that I did not write, it took that many days to get back into the space and flow of it. One day, not so bad. Two days, gets more difficult. By the third day, not only would it take at least three days to get it moving again, but a sort of a block had begun to set in in my psyche that actually made it harder to accomplish the act of even sitting down to do it. (If I remember correctly from reading his book On Writing, when Stephen King is writing a novel, he writes every single day, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, for the months that it is being created—for exactly that reason.)

Not only does writing consistently and habitually keep the words flowing and the material alive, it also takes us somewhere. It opens doors we don't know are there. It provides a path previously only partially-if at all-glimpsed. It offers new vistas and fresh insights. It presents the opportunity for what lies buried deep inside us to ascend into the light of day. It is risky; it requires courage. It evokes feeling; it can bring about deep healing; it can change our lives.

We are all creative beings. We all have a story to tell. On Moloka'i, I sat for hours and hours talking story with the many people I met there. In the telling, and in the listening, connections were forged, lives shared, community created. In my writing groups, I watch in awe and humility as the participants stagger themselves and each other when they reach inside and find what even they didn't know was there. When a poem spontaneously erupts, a story moves them to tears, a piece of fiction surprises them. I witness their courage and the richness of their words; through those words, we get a glance of each others' spirits; and I watch as community is forged there as well.

I am going to try again. I am planning on participating in November’s NaBloPoMo. For the month, dial tone or no, I want to turn my life over to the process of writing like I did when I was telling my story in my novel. Surrender, trust the process. Unlike other arts, writing can connect us in a unique way. I would love it if others out there would join me for the thirty/thirty. It can be done officially (you join the community of writers on the site) or it can be done more casually. Setting up a blog and using it is pretty easy. (Honestly. If I can do it, pretty much anyone can, and I am happy to lend support where I can) We could form a loose community, "follow" each other, and just write. Winter's on its way, maybe we should hunker down and see what wants to arise. And here's the good news: since it's blogging and not novel writing, there are no word counts. Just publish a post a day for thirty days. What could be easier... (haha... right... ;)

Whaddya say?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcome to My Pity Party

It really IS hard to write from the dial tone. I just wanted to say that, to get it out there. I’m having such a hard time. I sit for hours, writing drivel, stuff that I can’t even stand to read, so I backspace, then write more drivel, then backspace some more. I wouldn’t be surprised to see I’d worn a groove in the back arrow key. I blame the medication, which I believe is responsible for the dial tone, in which there is simply no inspiration. I look back and see that my writing has lost its life, its fullness, its edge, right around the time the medication would have been fully kicking in. It seems too clear to be mere coincidence.

Or maybe the writing’s lost so much because somehow, unconsciously, I’ve started to censor myself. Be more PC. Don’t be such a downer. Try to look at life more from the positive. Count your blessings. And the big one, how can I possibly feel sorry for myself when so many people in the world are so very much worse off. God almighty, what a guilt trip.

Maybe I can’t write because what I really want to say is how fucked over I feel by life. Maybe I want to say that living in the dial tone, which has stolen my ability to feel, to write, to be inspired, to be inspiring, to pretty much care about anything, just flat out sucks. And maybe, if I weren’t censoring myself, I’d write about how unfair it is that my two choices seem to be the black hole and the dial tone, both with their own, unique, unending agony.

Maybe I’d want to say, if I were going to be totally honest, how completely wrong it seems that I took such risks, gave up so much, walked so consciously and deliberately into and through big losses and changes into the unknown, where I'd hoped to find more happiness, contentment, peace, and quality of life—only to find such darkness there. Way to show support, universe. Way to reward courage. Way to show me you give a fuck.

I’d probably write about how ripped off I feel that I've lost so much of my independence, and my ability to be alone. That the original pleasure I found in my new home has turned into anguish. That I'm going to have to go through so much to sell it... and then have no idea what I will do.

I might write about how angry I am. How cynical I sometimes feel. How bitterness might be knocking at my door and I’m too weary not to get up and let it in. But then that’s apparent isn’t it?

Maybe I’d write about the fear… the fear that in the big “this is my life” spectrum, in my personal life bell curve, I’ve somehow peaked, rounded, and it’s all down hill from here. The worry that I will never feel okay again, that I’ll never get a decent quality life back, that like an elderly person who falls or has surgery, who just can’t seem to ever recover; I am paralyzingly afraid I’m never going to recover.

Maybe I'd write about how hard it is to lose faith, and to no longer trust much of anything.

And yes, for the record, I do know that there are millions out there whose lives are so, so much worse than mine. Whose daily existence, whose hardships and tragedies make my current life look like a stroll in the park. And on the flip side, I’m also aware that there are others who have never experienced hardship or tragedy or loss pretty much at all in their lives.

It’s true what they say: your pain is your pain. Right now this is my pain. It's where I am, and so the only place I can be. To try to pretend otherwise not only doesn't serve, it flat out doesn't work. The choice seems clear. I either write what is absolutely, terrifyingly, narcissistically, gut-level true in the moment, or I don't write at all. I guess I'm not yet ready to throw in the towel.