Sunday, November 28, 2010


“There are four questions of value in life... What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.
~Don Juan DeMarco, played by Johnny Depp

There are so many things about my life today (well, almost all of it really) that if you’d told me three years ago would be this way, I’d have thought you had either gone completely mad, or were from another planet entirely. And now, here’s the latest: snow twice in one week, AND in two different states. Yep. First at my home in Sonora, then on Thanksgiving when we woke to the most beautiful snowfall at my daughter and her boyfriend's in Washington. It fell all morning, a good two or three inches of wet, fluffy, powdery, beautiful white stuff, more than enough to be excited about and grateful for.

In fact, this Thanksgiving there has been so much awareness of what there is to be grateful for. Maybe that's the gift of loss, and having to let go of so much; traditions, ways of being, structures, securities, things that have been usual, customary, counted, on; all that’s been taken for granted for decades. When stripped down to the raw, bare essentials, it is truly simple to see what remains, what has never actually been lost, what is the core and foundation of everything, and the only thing truly meaningful.

Only love.

My teacher Isaac often speaks about the Beloved, which he says is the strongest and most pure love that can be felt. Like the love you feel for your daughters, he tells me, unencumbered by daily life and issues that arise; the purest, most unconditional love imaginable. For the past few years, deep in the dark forest of so much change, the words had no way to reach me. But this holiday time, by some grace or magic, and for the first time in a long while, maybe ever, letting go of agenda, expectations, sadness, grief, and longings has happened, and in their place, has slipped a soft, natural, unefforted, profound feeling of love. Try as I might, I can't begin to describe it. The best I can do is to say it feels like a swelling and opening of the heart, a stillness, a deep appreciation, a vast acceptance, a sweet and gentle vulnerability.

Most often I have found love encased in a solid shell of worry, fear, grief, and leftover defense mechanisms, desperate to break out, but not knowing how. Though my guess is, that just like consciousness, it is ever present, and all that is required is to soften and surrender, to get out of the way. Yet even that seems not to be in our power. It happens if and when it happens.

For the past couple of months, it's been pointed out repeatedly that the healing path for me is all about vulnerability. Just writing the word, I feel the energy of it, of anxiety and excitement, flow all the way to my feet and toes. It might just be the scariest thing I've ever faced; far more frightening than leaving my marriage, going to Moloka'i alone for three months, moving away, because the hard shell is how I learned so long ago to protect the helpless little one in the face of need, abandonment, abuse, and I've dressed it up, fixed its hair, and worn it all these years like an armor. Though piece by piece it seems to be falling away and this weekend I was aware of the tender exposed places, and the love that was there, ready and waiting to fill them up.

When something is rare, it becomes all that more precious. For us, it's time together. It's been ten months since my daughters and I have all been together. Our awareness of that, our joy at being in each other's company, opened something palpable in each of us, and I felt our bond as I've rarely experienced it in the past.

My youngest daughter and I flew into SF late last night, a plane full of others returning from long distances to spend those cherished hours and days with loved ones. Katie was met by her new boyfriend, whose arms she practically flew into she was so excited to see him, and him her, so much so that he parked and walked as close as he could get to our arrival gate. I was picked up by Ex, who drove all the way to the city at night—something he hates to do, the city and the night—so I wouldn’t have to make the long, tiring ride on public transportation.

Another thing to add to the list of all that I am grateful for: that we walked through the dark and unknown separately and together and have come out the other side officially uncoupled yet more grounded than ever in deep love, caring, and respect.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Beauty for the Soul

After a wild night of pouring rain, gusty winds, thunder, and some flickering lights, I woke this morning to the most awesome sight. Opening my curtains, there was white everywhere; falling from the sky, covering the trees, the road, the birdfeeder, the rosemary, the late season rosebuds. I sat down in the rocker by the window, my body going completely still, and for the first time since I left Moloka’i a year ago—where it happened nearly every day—my soul sang.

I didn’t grow up around snow. And the times I’ve seen it fall I can count on one hand, usually while driving through the mountains and the absolute last thing I wanted to be encountering. But sitting here this morning I just stared and stared, completely mesmerized at the lacey curtain of white descending from the heavens, and I wondered if there’s anything that transforms a landscape like snow does. It is magical the way the sky lowers itself right onto the earth, smudging the line between it and the hills and mountains, gently releasing millions of one-of-a-kind crystalline flakes, brush painting everything in a soft blanket of downy white. And it’s more than just the visual. There’s a feeling to it, especially when it falls as quietly gentle as it did this morning. I could feel it in my bones, and it rang in my spirit; the peace, the tranquility, the stunning dream-like otherworldliness of it.

After two hours it stopped, then turned to a soft rain. It’s surprising how quickly the rain drops melt the snowflakes clean away, leaving me wondering if I'd dreamt it all. But it’s okay. It was everything I’d hoped for moving up here. Plus it looks like it will clear up in time for me to make the drive to the bay area this afternoon.

Perfection. All the way around...

(...well, except that blogger has totally changed how everything is done and I'm having a hard time with it... i.e., pictures no longer fitting in the boxes...  ugh)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grieving... Again~Still~Again...

I honest to god do not understand what goes on inside me. And I don’t know if it’s connected to the depression, or if it’s still a part of the grieving process. Maybe both, but based on past experience with each, I’m going to assume, am assuming, it's more the latter.

I don’t get how I can write a post like a did last Saturday, that is full of strength, hope, perspective, inspiration even, or Wednesday’s post, where the suffering of others obliterates the personal I nearly completely, and then do a swan dive wherein for the past couple of days, I am swallowed up by grief again to the point that this morning, I’m having trouble moving more than about an inch at a time, and the waterworks flow like snow melting in spring.

I forget that grief is like this. That it comes in big waves that pound and rip at the shoreline, storms of varying intensity and longevity, before quieting, before receding back once again into the greater, calmer ocean. Either that or I think that surely it’s been long enough, surely two years of its coming and going should have done it, should have rendered me done, healed, should have put me squarely back into the normal category, flung me back into that greater, calmer sea once again. Though in truth, I have nothing to base this idea on, no idea what is “normal” in my situation, if there even is such a thing, which I doubt, because it is nothing if not intensely personal, one-of-a-kind, unique to each and every person that might be experiencing their own something similar.

All I know is that it’s the holiday season again and I miss my home, and being surrounded by family so much that it's overwhelmingly painful. All I know is that right now Sonora feels like the loneliest place on the planet. I know that night feels way, way longer than day. That I feel isolated and thousands of miles away from where I want to be. That I feel way more alone here that I ever did on Moloka’i, that tiny little island in the middle of a huge ocean, even though in reality I am a mere two hour drive away.

All I know is that once again, I question everything, everything, including how in the world I could have made such a wrong turn that landed me so unhappily isolated… though it hits me that maybe, no matter where I am, it’s just that it’s the holidays… and nowhere, nowhere that isn’t our family home, the space that I know and love, that was filled with each other whether we were physically present or not, will ever be enough.

And it’s not even that I am facing the holidays without them, because I’m not. We’ll be in Washington, the girls and I for Thanksgiving, and the four of us for Christmas. And I am so happy about that. But in the past few days, I’ve realized that for me, anyway, the “holidays” incorporate far more than a couple of days. It is the season, that almost mysterious time between now and New Years, when time seems almost to stand still, when the days darken and the sun can no longer keep us warm, that are filled with a strange quality of longing and anticipation; the holiday season that was, I’m realizing more fully than ever now, my favorite time as a family. The tenderness, the coziness, the security of being together, all hunkered down in our cave, preparing for celebration, listening to Johnny Mathis and Perry Como and John Denver, candles burning, cookies baking; shopping together, decorating the tree together, wrapping presents, mailing cards. That time of year that is day by day, moment by moment, warmest, fuzziest, because of family and home.

It shouldn't surprise me, then, to find myself flattened by grief once again. And yet it does. It's the hardest wave I've had in a while. Old traditions have died and been buried and I am grieving them... again, still, and yet again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It Is All So Effing Relative

Today I read that 15 percent of US households experienced “food shortage” in 2009. That’s 17 million families, approximately 50 million people, including at least 17 million children. I try to get a grip on the number, but know only that it is staggering. I try for some perspective. I realize it is 13 million more people than live in the entire state of California. So, that would be every person living in the most populous state in our union, plus another 13 million. It’s 15 out of every 100 people, it’s 17 million, 17 million children. And that’s just in our country, the self-proclaimed richest country in the world.

It’s a horrible statistic and reality, one that makes me feel completely helpless, that makes me want to cry, and brings a flood of shame at how I complain about my life. It’s stone cold sobering, and it gives me huge pause. I have no idea how to digest it, much less write about it, much less rectify it with my own life; never mind writing a post about the miseries or revelries, the grief, depression, longings, celebrations, pettiness and pity of said life.

So, I’ll leave it at that. As I lay down to sleep in my comfy bed, in my warm, safe house, with cupboards and belly full of not just food, but good, organic, fresh, healthful food, I’ll think about how completely unfair life is. I’ll imagine what it must be like to live with “food insecurity” (great government term, isn’t it?), how it must feel to go to bed hungry, to get up hungry, to have to find my way to a church or community food bank and hope they’re open and pray they have food, to rock my child, hear her tummy growling, know she’s hungry and in pain, to wonder, to worry, to agonize over where our next food—any food, never mind what I like or prefer, never mind what might be good or healthful, how it might have been grown, what it might have been sprayed with—will come from; and know that I can't begin to imagine it, can't begin to imagine what it must be like to know true hunger, the pain of hunger, the fear of hunger, and not be able to go to the fridge or the pantry or the store; how I can't begin to imagine it when I can't even fathom it... when numbers like that fly beyond me because they are simply so inconceivable.

Fifty million people... and that's just here, in the "great" U S of A. Politics, religion, platforms, ideals, policies, debates aside, it's simply unconscionable. That food, along with air and water, the holy triad of what a body needs to survive, and beyond surviving to thrive, is not an unailiable right in this country that is so proud of its many unailiable, self-evident, natural, and universal rights.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Art Imitating Life... or is it Visa Versa?

Fall is fully here in Sonora. Nothing near the east coast, but our own little version, with leaves of every color, shape and size (the persimmon is by far my favorite – gorgeous corals and oranges), clear, crisp mornings and nights, and the wonderful smell of wood burning in fireplaces. This week we’ve hit 32 degrees overnight, and I can feel winter closing in. It, too, is in the air, though it’s more subtle and mysterious, difficult to articulate. It's a stillness, a quiet anticipation, almost like earth softening herself, preparing for restful barrenness and sleep.

Surprisingly, on good days, anyway, I find myself really looking forward to a long winter here. On those good days, here is my sense: I am here. It looks like I’ll be here for the winter. Maybe, because I’m here, there really is a reason I am here; maybe my being here, though it looks from pretty much every vantage like a colossal mistake, is somehow part of an invisible rightness, maybe being here is actually perfect… the perfect retreat, all winter, nothing to do but be… in my little cave in the almost mountains. Each day my sense grows stronger that maybe, just maybe hibernating here might be not just good, but very, very good; might in fact, be exactly what I need; the next step in resting, recuperating, renewing… and healing.

Here’s how I envision spending my retreat days:

Meditating (I’m getting pretty good… over 20 minutes sometimes… it’s a miracle)
Taking pictures
Doing art (mixed media collage)
Eating fresh, healthy food (part of any good retreat… more on this sometime later)
Sitting on my sofa with my animals staring out into the trees

The desire to create has burned inside me for many (mostly frustrated) years, and I am feeling the heat of that flame again, the hunger to give myself over to creativity. In the creative process, you surrender and let go, go out on a limb, take risks,plummet, soar, expose yourself, lose yourself, find yourself. Lately I have found myself reading inspiring blogs and buying books by amazing creative women. Two weeks ago I moved my dining room table closer to a window and turned it over to art. The table is now strewn with paper, paint, brushes, scissors, the current project. It’s a mess and I love it. I can sit and work as I am moved, with no need to get everything out and clean up each time. A whole room, albeit small, and smack in the middle of my home, not tucked away in some obscure bedroom, dedicated to the messiness, the chaos, of creativity. What freedom. It flaunts convention, and it fills me with a feeling that I can't even find the words to describe, except that there's something about it makes me slightly breathless. What symbolism, art in the center of my home reflecting my deeper desire for it to be the center of my life. And collage seems like the perfect thing right now. Take a piece of this, a scrap of that, throw some paint here, some images there, maybe some words. It’s chaos until something does—or does not—emerge from all the bits and pieces. Just like life. Sometimes a thing of beauty is born and it is joyful, other times it is a hugely sad disappointment, you throw it away or paint over it and begin again. Just like life. It is alive. It is stimulating. It transports. Regardless of outcome, it is always, always about the act; the process, not the product, the journey, not the destination.

Just like life. And don't get me wrong, it is a big process this learning to accept what does or does not emerge, this letting go of or redefining the idea of beauty, of outcome, of identity, of what "should" or "shouldn't" be, to not question, second-guess, judge, critique, evaluate.

Again, just like life.

Which has brought me here. For some mysterious reason that only It knows. With, some would say, have said on more than one occasion, an amazing opportunity. No job, obligations, places to be, things to do, people to take care of. As the seasons turn, I will take my que from them. A time to retreat. A time to be. A time to surrender and let go. A time to create.

As in art, so hopefully, in life.

I always think of spring as the beginning. But in truth, it is winter. Fall marks the dying away, then winter the internal resting; the dark, quiet, solitude, where the decay transforms itself magically into the rich compost necessary for creation, birth and new growth. Without winter, spring could not even be a thought, much less a possibility. I feel myself reveling in the anticipation of this wintertime. The fire is burning, the table set...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spoiler Alert: It's a Downer

It poured last night. I used to enjoy few things more than a good soaking until a couple of weeks ago when my roof leaked. Now I watch the gray ceiling and storm clouds approaching with serious butterflies in my stomach.

In all my years, from crappy apartments and duplexes to fairly nice houses, I’ve never had rain water dripping inside my house. It was a gloomy Sunday afternoon, in a place where I know no one except my realtor. It unhinged me in a way that was shocking. I wanted nothing more than to get in my car and head to the safety and security of the Bay. But I couldn't... because my roof was leaking.

I’m back to the love/hate relationship with fall. Driving home from the Bay Area late yesterday afternoon, forgetting about the time change, it was almost dark—and already lonely—when I pulled into my garage. Note to self: Drive home from now on in the middle of the day. I was already in a terrible mood. My women’s group is going shitty. Transference and Projection, the psych 101 twins, have thrown us all back into the chaos, abandonment, abuse and pain of early, early childhood. All of us with our humungous mother wounds practically bleeding on the beige carpet, going for each other’s throats, thinking somehow that will assuage the overwhelming, and I mean overwhelming-I need-to-kill-something pain. This morning it was all I could do to unravel myself from the fetal position I’d spent the night in. Then I pried my swollen eyes open and for the first time in years, turned on Beverly Hills 90210 reruns.

You heard me right. Kelly, Donna, Brandon. Smoldering Dylan. Mr. and Mrs. Walsh. The Beach House.

I started watching the show when my oldest daughter was fifteen and she wanted me to watch it with her. Anything to bond with a teenager. In a few months, she’d grown tired of it and I was hooked. Of course it’s fiction, crap soap opera-ish tv, but I envied them their friendships, their urban family. I still do. Same with Sex and the City. That tight intimacy of I’m-always-there-for-you friends. Their midnight calls to each other, Sunday brunches, the arguments and tear-filled reunions; swimming through the big sea of life. Together

I long for that kind of community. I always have. Though never more than now, when I feel alone and isolated so often. I’ve had quasi-groups. A work community I was never quite a part of. Church groups where I clearly didn’t belong. I tried PTA when my kids were in school. It fit about like a shoe two sizes too small. Even in my spiritual community, I more often feel like an outsider, than one who truly belongs. I read people’s blogs who seem to have everything anyone could want: meaningful work, a family their life revolves around, garden, art, friends, community. A sense--an actual fact of--belonging.


I keep trying to make meaning out of this time in my life. When I face each day as a long highway with no stops, nothing to do, see, accomplish. Nowhere to be. No one in the car for the journey. I keep thinking there must be some reason why now, at a time when one would think I’d need it most, I am so un-peopled.

Nothing to do, but be. A serious spiritual opportunity here, I know. And I do better with it some days than others. Some days, I welcome it. Some days I nearly throw my arms around it, pull it to me, and embrace it. It's just that today isn't one of those days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Ever since I wrote the word in my last post, I can't get it off my mind. It is with me constantly, like the invisible presence of a new love, and like a new love, it's opened something in me.

When I think of tenderness, I think of babies, puppies, daughters, the delicate sprout of a tiny seedling folding itself out of the brown earth; things that are new, helpless, sweet; things and beings that are pure and untarnished; that are vulnerable, and need warmth, care, and nurturing to thrive and grow.

It never dawned on me what an amazing act it would be to be tender toward oneself. Even though I've bandied the idea of self-love about with the best of them, until recently, until the word tenderness became my new and constant companion, it was always a concept from the head rather than a knowing of the heart. It started a few weeks ago when the idea of radical self-acceptance dawned on me, self-acceptance toward all the things in me and about me that are flawed and imperfect, that make me wholly human, that might be hard sometimes to be around, that I've been shamed for, that I've been ashamed of. And it was huge, this bright new notion, like the shifting of earth's tectonic plates, and it opened a new doorway, and in the past few days something has been melting, and tenderness has flowed in and out through that passage, and with tenderness, automatically streams its counterparts, love and compassion and kindheartedness, and they are all glowing in me, like a soft yellow lamp on a gray winter's day.

Tenderness. How fascinating that it refers to both the hurting and the healing. These places in me have been tender; raw and painful, an achy, bruised, chronic tenderness. And now tenderness comes along... and wraps the vulnerable, innocent one in its loving, caring, affectionate tender arms.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Changing Course

Is it just me, or does NaBloPoMo suck? I have to say, here at Day 6, I’m not bowled over. The writing is not doing it for me. Rather than arising from some spontaneous and true wellspring inside, it feels forced, unnatural, coerced. When I sit, I wonder what I’m going to write about, instead of going effortlessly with whatever’s on my plate; what’s on my mind. Everyday it feels like efforting; like a big pressure, a cloud over the day, and not the joyful thing that I had hoped for.


Sitting here this morning, listening to that one dang bird—when I feel like I could really use the cacophony—I am wondering… I am wondering if just like in photography, there isn’t a particular style, a specific, distinct way (which includes timing), that I alone am supposed to write. It’s a rhetorical question, of course. I know that over the year and a half I’ve been writing this blog, I have found that; over the course I have discovered and tapped into my own unique mode and rhythm of expression. And finding it, exploring it, practicing it, putting myself out there in it, has been as satisfying as it has been exhilarating.


With the blessings (urgings, actually) of my writing coach and mentor (my wise-beyond-her-years-writer daughter who has so had my back year after year on this writing path), I am officially giving up NaBloPoMo. Already, on Day 6, there has been great seeing and learning. If I were involved in a big writing project, that would be one thing. If I were writing a piece of fiction, or a memoir (which I would still love to do someday… I’ll just put that out there…), a singular entity that requires continuous nurturing, that would be different. And in that case, in my opinion, as much as possible, it simply must be done every day. But for this particular kind of writing, for the purpose that this blog serves, knowing my style and cadence, doing it every day does not work.

I do know what drew me to it. In my depression, I was not writing as much or as often as I wanted, and I wanted to light the fire under myself so to speak. So, as is also in my “style,” I went straight for the hatchet. Not writing enough?? Then you’ll write every single day, by golly. Well intentioned, but a bit ludicrous when seen from some perspective. In my life, baby steps have never really been my MO, though I am learning. A really nice baby step—in fact a very sane approach—would have been to pick two days a week and commit to posting on those days.


That is my new pledge. To post a minimum of two days a week. More, if the urge authentically hits, if there’s more that is bubbling to the surface. But not less. And because I am taking baby steps trying to get more discipline in my life, I will pick two days, say Wednesday and Saturday, that I will post. Ah, today is Saturday. Perfect.

This feels so good. In fact, the breath that I didn't know I'd been holding all week, just let itself out. It feels gentle and nurturing. And at the same time, there is still the intention and the commitment around that intention that I will hold myself to. It is good to meet myself with tenderness, to be able to be graciously open to changing my mind, to letting myself off the hook that I see already isn't serving. It is liberating, to hoist the sail mid journey and to change course, with the wind solidly at my back now, rather than struggling daily against it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photography My Way

New Books~
Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart

inner EXCAVATION: Explore Your Self Through Photography, Poetry, and Mixed Media

I got these two books in the mail today and I am so excited. Many times I've tried reading books about photography, and I've never gotten past page one. Most of them out there are dry and technical and scientific. Which, on one hand, photography is. But it's also unquestionably so much more. And here are two books--whose type I didn't even know existed, that I didn't know I was looking for until I found them--that spoke to that so much more. Taking them out of the box, flipping through them, I could feel the energy of excitement and knowing and recognition moving through my body.

I ran across The Shutter Sisters Blog by happy accident one day and felt immediately as though I'd arrived exactly where I belonged. Here's part of what I read about their philosophy:

Shutter Sisters is committed to honoring and celebrating the beauty that women behind cameras can capture. We embrace the belief that we are all creative equals, eager to share with one another our work; our art. It is in that sharing that we thrive and grow not only in our creativity but in all facets of our lives... . A great image is a great image whether it happened by beautiful mistake or meticulous calculation.

Most of the pictures that I take that I end up really loving belong more in the happy accident category. I don't seem to have the capacity, the knowledge, the patience, the whatever, that is needed to meticulously set up a shot. I know that about myself. I know that I'd rather take two or three hundred shots and hope for a few exciting ones (thank goodness for digital...) than to take the same amount of time to set up the shots and take just a few. Not only that, I don't think I'd even know how. And, because of that, sadly, I've been under the assumption that because I don't do it "properly," I would never be very successful. Yet now, here is a blog and a book, with contributors that are both professional and amateur photographers, that tell me otherwise, that honor that there are different ways of accomplishing the same thing, and that there is no one way that fits everyone.


For me, there is a thrill to just shooting that would be lost if I took a more scientific approach. It works for me. It excites me no end to come home after shooting and have so many pictures to go through. It's just how I do things. When gardening, there was never a master plan, as is suggested by all the books out there. I just started someplace and it grew and evolved from there. Same with decorating, with road trips, with so much of what I do.

It doesn't mean that I don't have a shitload to learn. It doesn't mean that I don't crave growth and transformation as a photographer. I want to learn more about light and meters and filters and tripods. I want to experiment with composition, be more creative, step more outside the box. There is so much on the technical side that I need and want to learn. And slowly, it is happening. In my way, in my time. But even more than technical knowledge, I want to discover and then develop my own unique style, and beyond that, to learn and practice the art of photographing from the heart.

I can't wait to get going...

Oh, and p.s. I've created a new blog, Snapshots From the Moment, for my photography. My goal, eventually, is to post a picture a day, and maybe to write about the learning and the experience of taking pictures. To visit the site, click below.

Visit my new blog here!

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who Do You Miss?

Back in Sonora, looking out my big picture window, I see how every few minutes, a subtle breeze comes through and blows dozens of tiny oak leaves from the tree across the street, and they fall like a graceful curtain of gold snowflakes to the ground. Watching it, I imagine what it will be like when snow falls here in the winter. It’s a primary reason I moved up here, the idea of snow, just enough to enjoy the experience, not enough to impact my daily life. Growing up in the Bay Area, snow is not an experience I’ve ever had. Yet I can easily picture it: Sitting with a fire in my big gas fireplace, a soft blanket covering me, dog's warm body on one side of me, cat's on the other, drinking a cup of hot tea, writing or reading a book, plump crystalline flakes falling magically from a gray sky.

As soon as that tinge of crisp edge hits the air, I anticipate fall and winter. It happens every year automatically, my cells light up, and I am like a naive kid looking forward to so much. I’m sure I’ve written about all that I love: the leaves, the cooler weather, the warmer clothes, the coziness of hunkering down, the rain, the first storms, holidays—forgetting each year, with near total amnesia, that the season also brings its shadow side: darkness, and its emotional counterparts: losses, memories, melancholy, missing, grief.

I was reading some prompts on the NaBloPoMo site and one caught my attention: who do you miss, it asked. Who do I miss? I didn’t have to think, because the answer came instantaneously. I miss my friend Tanya. Maybe because it’s fall, and I have so many fall memories that have to do with her. Halloweens together. Fall Festivals. Holiday boutique-ing. How we used to drop our kids off the first day of school in early September, autumn already in the air those early mornings, then we’d head to the local cafĂ© for breakfast. Every year for years it was our tradition. Summer with the kids was over, routine was back, and we’d have a morning to ourselves--finally--once again. We’d spend hours over our food and talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company like really good friends are supposed to.

We met when her oldest and my youngest started kindergarten, and our friendship lasted fifteen years. There aren’t many people in my life now or ever that I remember the first time I ever saw. But I remember her. There she was outside the classroom door, much younger than I, cute, perky, waving goodbye to one kid, pushing the other in a stroller, electric blue eyes, a lovable, insecure smile, and a rare and engaging sweetness. We gravitated toward each other, and our friendship grew until we were almost inseparable; No one made me laugh like she did. Few people forged their way into my heart the way she did. No one was easier for me to be with, talk to. The boundary between us melted away, we saw each other daily, and talked on the phone at least once a day. There was little, if anything, that we didn't and couldn't talk about. We were there for each other,through good times and through hard times, as our families evolved, as our kids grew and changed, as we grew and changed; until, I guess, one change too many, our friendship suffered, and over the course of about a year, it cracked, crumbled, and finally broke for good.

It's been years but I still think of her more often than I ever thought I would. Mostly when the season turns, the days shorten and grow cooler, life turns more inward. The beauty and the melancholy of fall. Two edges of the same sword. Two sides of the same coin. The leaves at their most stunning just before they die.

I could wax philosophical. I could talk about how people come into our lives at certain times, for certain purposes. How few people hop aboard for the long haul, most for a chapter or two. How to everything there is, as they say, a season. And it's all true. And she was in my life for a big and important chapter; a long, enduring season; she was a huge and wonderful part of my life. And... I miss her. Always, but most poignantly, in fall.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time to Celebrate

Aubrey Huff and his rally thong! ~From Yahoo

I am way too tired to write. I got up at 6:45 to take BART into San Francisco for the World's Series Champion Giant's parade and ceremony. Me, my sister and her boyfriend, my aunt and uncle, and hundreds of thousands of others. A crowd estimated to be the largest ever in San Francisco's history.

BART was overwhelmed. The line snaked all the way out the station, down the walkway, and into the parking lot, with people waiting over an hour just to buy a ticket. We gaped at the line, and headed to Safeway, bought our tickets there, and were back at the station in about 10 minutes, where we boarded a train immediately and were on our way.

I've never been in the midst of so many people in my life. Not in Times Square, not walking the SF Bay to Breakers, not ever. So many that seeing anything beyond the people in front of us was not possible. So many that when one moved, everyone moved, like a big wave in the ocean. So many that if you stopped to think about it, it could actually be frightening.

But I didn't stop to think about it. I didn't think beyond the fun, the excitement, the festive feeling. We walked, we stood for hours, we caught the tiniest glimpses of our heroes. We screamed, we waved, we whistled. We were mobbed, cramped, pushed, shoved, jostled. It was long, hot, exhausting. And... I would do it again in a heartbeat. At a time when there is so much that is difficult, sad, disheartening, wrong, unfair, painful on our personal and collective plates, it was nice to take the time and make the effort to share the love; to support this team that has brought San Francisco its first ever World Series title; to be part of the party, to be with so many other people, across every imaginable spectrum, with one goal in mind: to savor, enjoy, and celebrate; and to thank the team that showed us that dreams can, indeed, come true.

Giant's President, Larry Baer, said it best, "The triumph of this team allows us to flash back and connect to our past, to experience the beauty of our memories and shared experiences with unbridled joy."

As they say in the church of baseball, amen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Well, the Giants are making my first few days of posting easy. I promise, after I attend the parade downtown tomorrow, that I will get on with the more "serious" business of life and blogging!

But for now...

the nail biting, the hair pulling, the high blood pressure, the serious anxiety, is over, and torture has turned to rapture. That incredible moment, with the last out, players running from the outfield, pouring from the dugout, coming together near the mound, high-fiving, fists pumping, huge hugs, rolling around on the ground, jumping into each others' arms, until finally coming together in one large, coalesced, gyrating circle of ecstatic celebration. Their reaction, and the look on their faces will stay with me for a long, long time. Shock, surprise, awe, and then the pure, unadulterated joy. A personal height few of us will ever experience. And on my face, the smile stayed until my jaws hurt, and I stayed up way too late because I wanted to watch every interview, hear every word about what the experience was like for each and every one of them.

This team has captured a city's heart. My daughter, who lives in San Francisco, was telling me during the series that she was amazed by the vibe. She was loving how strangers were talking to each other, how nice people were to each other. She said it reminded her of how people react when something bad happens, how the energy changes, the illusion of separation is erased, and there is a new-found sense of being united. How great it’s been, she said, to walk around without that wall that generally separates the million plus that live in the big city.

I love that baseball is non-contact and non-violent. I love that it is a “thinking man’s” (and woman’s!) game. I love that there is so much history and lore, such romanticism attached to it. I love the anticipation of each pitch. I love all the sensory experiences of the ballpark; the sound of bat on ball, ball on glove, the ump calling balls and strikes, vendors hawking peanuts and cotton candy, the roar of the crowd. The smell of popcorn, hotdogs, garlic fries, beer. The sight of a ballpark at night, with the diamond, the grass, the stadium, the seagulls, all shimmering under the bright lights. The feel of the bay breeze, and the cool San Francisco fog on your face.

And last, I love that baseball is/was maybe the only positive connection between my dad and I. He loved the game, he taught me about the game, he took me to the ballpark, and passed his passion for the game on to me. For most of my life, he was an angry, bitter, confused, toxic alcoholic. Most of my memories of him are painful. But not baseball. And I’m not at all sure I would have come to the game any other way.

I am reveling in this time, and there is a heightened appreciation of just how special it is. Time and again I’ve heard this sentiment, from players, broadcasters, sports-talkers, fans: Savor this. It is a rare gem. It is a gift. It is incredible. Enjoy it, savor it. And to be basking in such positive, joyful collective energy is also an incredible gift.

To a man, from Bruce Bochy, the manager, on down, I LOVE these guys. So many amazing stories. Such fun personalities. So much exhuberation and an amazing collective effort. I am proud of them. I am grateful to them.

Congratulations!! Way to go, 2010 World Champion Giants!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Here We Go... One Day Word at a Time

Well, I couldn't help myself. Shamelessly starting this post off with my team's logo. And why not... they've now won three out of seven, and with one more win (in three more tries), we'll--okay they'll--be World Champions.

Though not to get ahead... as they say, anything can happen in baseball. As they say, it's one day--one game--at a time.

* * * * *

I now have an "I am a member of NaBloPoMo" badge front and center on my blog. It looks so official. And intimidating... It means I have to write. If I skip even one day, I can no longer be officially participating. For the past few days, I've felt like a cornered, trapped animal, acitively wondering why in the world I publicly made this commitment, how I can possibly do this; essentially making a very big psychological mountain out of a molehill. It's writing for goodness sakes. Something I really love doing. Something I want to do more of! It's not like I promised to run five miles a day for thirty days, it's not like I promised not to swear, or always drive the speed limit, or keep my kitchen clean... you know, the really challenging things. Still, if I think about it too hard... my god, thirty posts in thirty days... yikes.

Though last night, watching my much-loved team, with their can-do attitude as responsible as anything for their success, I felt something shift. Sitting poised at the starting gate, I began to sense possibility. I began to taste a wee bit of excitement; I felt some wonder, about the empty slate of these next thirty days; curiosity about words and pages and posts... and just where this month might take me.

Hmm... excitment, wonder, curiosity, possibility...

I tell the women in my writing groups that when we write, it's like getting on a train whose destination is a mystery. Our job is merely, simply, to hop on... Beyond that, if we're lucky, we are given over completely to the ride; thought stops, everything around us fades, words are scrawled onto paper. Beyond that, if we are lucky, we stop worrying about destination and surrender to the thrill of it. I tell them to trust their pens, trust their words, their hearts, themselves; trust whatever it is that wants to be written, wherever it is their words take them.

One day at a time. The Twelve-Step mantra. Also the ballplayers, in their own words these past few days and weeks, not thinking about winning the series, but focusing instead on playing one game at a time. I will take my cue from them. I will forget about the bigger picture, the intimidating one wherein I am supposed to write and publish a post a day for the next month. Instead it will be about today... Today I will write. Today. I will only think about tomorrow when it becomes today, and not before.

In fact, beyond that, and in the spirit of mindfulness, I will only think about the day's writing when I'm actually sitting down and doing it. Not just one day at a time. But one word at a time. Each day I will hop aboard that train, destination unknown, and give myself over to words. It's the heart and soul of the creative process. It's what I love about the prcoess. It's what I love about writing.

It's what I LOVE about writing.

Yipee, the wheels are moving and I'm on the way!

See you tomorrow... oh, yeah, and GO GIANTS!