Saturday, January 18, 2020

What I've Been Doing

Photo by the inimitable Carl Jackson,

I bet you're wondering what I've been doing since I last posted when the year was young -- only two days -- and so filled with promise and resolution and new beginnings. Well, we're eighteen days in, Reader, and so far my favorite thing about the new year is writing 2020 instead of 2019. It looks better, it sounds better, and I'm hoping it gets better.

So, what have I been doing?

  1. Reading: I've read Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney which I really liked (she's just such a readable writer), but I didn't like it nearly as much as last year's Normal People. I'm still reading The Water Dancer by Ta Nehisi Coates and finding it difficult. Dare I say he's a better non-fiction writer (beyond brilliant) than fiction writer? As the kids say, IMHO. I'm almost finished with the sensational The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah Broome. It's so good. In the bathroom I've got this great book called Sharp by Michelle Dean.  The subtitle is "Ten Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion," and so far I've gotten through the first profile on Dorothy Parker. I'm not one of those people who spends a lot of time in the bathroom on the toilette or doing my toilette, but I do like to pick up something interesting and short to read that I can come back to and easily pick up where I left off. I've also just begun to read Garth Greenwell's Cleanness because two of my writing mentors recommended it, and the editor of MGDB* touted it as well. I read Greenwell's earlier book, so I'm expecting this to be as good. The sex is very, very graphic. By the way.
  2. Going to movies: I've seen "1917," which sucked me in and under as I've always been partial to the Great War, if one can be partial toward wars at all. Aside from sitting on the edge of my seat throughout the movie and being enthralled by the cinematography and the two beautiful co-stars, the main feeling I had was a sort of bemused rage and incredulous sorrow. WE MUST DO ANYTHING WE CAN TO MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO MORE WARS. Honestly, nearly every war movie I've ever watched has manipulated me into this emphatic imperative. Wars are hideous. There is no glory or honor in them. They are madness and insane, and anyone who justifies killing on a grand scale like that is spouting propaganda. Speaking of wars, I've also seen my beloved Terence Malick's "The Hidden Life" which is another war movie, but it's about goodness -- about what it means to be deeply moral and good. I saw Goddess Greta Gerwig's "Little Women" and was utterly enchanted by it, transported in exactly the same way I was transported by the book -- any book, actually -- as a very young girl. That took me by surprise as I had never seen any of the other renditions and only had the book to compare it to. The movie was just as much about writing and reading as it was about being a sister and a woman chafing at societal constraints. I absolutely loved it. I've watched some Netflix and Amazon stuff, too -- most memorably, "The Two Popes" which was more a story of two human beings than the weird fuckery of the Catholic Church. I think that's because Anthony Hopkins and especially Jonathan Pryce were exceptional. Reader, I still can't abide the Catholic Church and that dislike would include Francis, as he is still THE POPE of an institution that I believe should be dismantled.
  3. Teaching at two different schools: I have around 60 students that range in age from 13 to 18. The majority are in a small, private, ultra-religious high school here in Los Angeles that is, at the very least, giving me a lot of material for a future memoir. No more need be said or will be said. Stay tuned, though. I have a few students in another, very highly specialized school, each of whom I adore. Truly. One of my students began reading Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and on a day when I wasn't even teaching her, she poked her head in my office and said, Oh my god! I love the book you picked out for me! I was having a particularly difficult time finding something for another of my students to read and relate to -- and then I thought of Flannery O'Connor's short stories. The kid is sucked in and under and very, very into "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "The Life You Save May Be Your Own." Reader, this thrills me to no end. 
  4. Having my mind blown without the use of psychotropics: I attended a 12-hour Holotropic Breathwork workshop last Saturday. I haven't fully processed the experience and don't have the words to describe the journey I went on during the 3 hours of breathing I did, blindfolded and  carried by incredible music that filled the room and my body with sound. You can read about holotropic breathwork on the world wide webs. I released a whole lot of shit and am still feeling the effects in a positive way over a week later.
  5. The tedious work of what Divorce Lawyer World calls "Discovery." I will say no more except that I have been set into a Matrix, a strange and mad world of no reason, where everything is transactional and my worth measures in negative numbers. It's a good thing that one of the hallucinations I experienced during the Holotropic Breathwork session was my generous body as Mother Earth, merged with the indigo Cosmos and lit by stars, my children rushing toward me as beings of power, my pelvis on fire and the only thing to fear a strange, searing pain that ran up and down my left side but, allowed to speak for itself, was released and transformed into dance. Honestly.

* My God-damn book, which I have worked on only in my brain with not a thing on paper to show for it for over a year.


Thursday, January 2, 2020


This is my New Year's post.

On New Year's Day, Carl (aka The Bird Photographer) and I took Sophie to Solstice Canyon in Malibu because we read that it had an accessible path. It did have an accessible path, and the two of us took turns pushing Sophie up the steep grades, stopping every now and then to admire the yellow leaves, the bird calls and the grass-covered hills in the distance. I would have liked a view, but you had to do some serious, non-accessible climbing to see the Pacific, so Carl and I planned to come back another day. Afterward, we stopped at a fish shack restaurant on the PCH (that's Pacific Coast Highway for you non-Californians) and ate fried shrimp, grilled swordfish, grilled catfish, french fries, Cajun rice, coleslaw and salad. The restaurant was more "accessible" than accessible, so when we left, Carl had to make a path through the hordes of people waiting in line. He was helped by one guy who yelled out, "Watch your backs, folks! Coming through!" It must be the New Year kind of thing and all people filled with the resolutionary spirit because all the people parted, smiled, said encouraging things like No problem! How ya doing! Happy New Year! as we made our way through.

Here's the thing. It's been a hard year. It's been a hard decade. Hell, it's been a hard couple of decades.

But then there's now.

Who would have thought that on the first day of the year 2020 I would be divorced, walking a path with my daughter and a man with whom I've fallen deeply in love? Sophie's father -- my ex -- is devoted to Sophie, as she is to him, and I am grateful for that. I will say bluntly, though, that I had absolutely no expectation of finding happiness with anyone else. I had the usual post-fifty fears, both superficial and complex, but, frankly, the real concern was over who in their right mind would take up with someone whose life is a three-ring circus? There is baggage and then there's -- well -- baggage. I'm not saying Sophie is baggage, but the world of disability is not for the faint of heart. Sophie's made me who I am. Carl has a massive heart, and I am filled to bursting with gratitude.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Runes and Ruin

Sunset, Pacific Ocean
December 2019

Vikings had only an oral culture. Eventually they used runes, which were a sort of alphabet.
Here are some common ones that I lifted off the World Wide Web:

 Name:Hagalaz, “hail.” Phoneme: H. Meaning: destruction, chaos.
 Name: Naudhiz, “need.” Phoneme: N. Meaning: need, unfulfilled desire.
 Name: Uruz, “aurochs.” Phoneme: U (long and/or short). Meaning: strength of will.
 Name: Thurisaz, “Giant.” Phoneme: Th (both soft and hard). Meaning: danger, suffering.
 Name: Ansuz, “an Aesir god.” Phoneme: A (long and/or short). Meaning: prosperity, vitality.

All the free men in Viking World would gather together to make laws and settle disputes without resorting to blood and violence. They called this meeting The Thing. Ever since I read Sigrid Undset's books in my early twenties, I've been fascinated by that name. The Thing.

I'm going to call what's happening between my ex and me The Thing from now on. So when I disappear from this space you'll know it's The Thing, and that there's been no blood and violence.


I went out on the wine dark sea yesterday with Carl. We saw one gray whale, about fifty dolphins and some sea birds. It was really cold and really beautiful. The sunset was incredible. The photo I put up there is blurry, but there's no filter on it, and don't you think that oil tanker could be a Viking ship? You see where I'm going, right?

I didn't walk around the boat much because earlier I had wrenched my foot while cleaning up my porch. I was wearing clogs and stepped on an uneven spot and stepped off the clog. The clog, rather, bruised the side of my foot. I have a bum knee as well on my left leg, so now I have a bum knee and a bum foot, and I'm walking weird. I feel heavy but not rooted. On the boat, though, I sat and swayed and rode the waves like a whale myself.

Reader, what are you doing?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas Eve

Oliver got a tattoo.

It's Sophie's birthdate in Roman numerals. As he said, "Now we each have a tattoo for Sophie."

I have a mermaid, Henry has a bit of Sophie's brainwaves from an EEG and now Oliver has her birthday.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Notes from the Underground

to Leslie

There's an underground passageway where certain mothers or those like them go. It winds down and down and then along and perhaps up and up because the metaphor isn't always about ground and earth and dark but sky and cloud and light. (But that's later). So maybe not underground except as it is in sleep, deep. The women wear thick loose gowns, silk, thick cotton, stiff from another time, an eternal time, their arms bare their hair long and they leave their glasses on bedside tables because they see in the dark. They lie beside children and grown children who moan (from) the dark for no reason at all and they wipe the hair from their foreheads and press up back along the knobs of the spine, steps from the base to the base of the neck. They straighten an arm and roll the palm flat the body a series of reflexes the moan becomes just breath. They lie down always an outside spoon. Later. A poem appears in a lighted box. Another woman in an underground passageway in Seattle is making jam and cleaning up her husband's dying shit the fluids. The passageway is toward the present, the woman (me) sees (dark). Lying in (to) (by) the present.

Here's the poem:

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

Louise Erdrich

Friday, December 6, 2019


Moon and cactus, reflected

So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
--from the Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 37

There's a man walking La Brea Blvd. who might as well be an Old Testament prophet. His skin is rough and dirty, his hair is crusted over, his pants tied with a rough rope. His toes poke through what look like leather slippers, and he's looking upward, his mouth agape. Also, there's a purple-haired black woman with a Christmas lit halo walking behind him, her eyes on his back. She might as well be an angel. I'm gripping the steering wheel with my hands, tipped with jagged nails and sprinkled with age spots, an old scar from a fifty year old dog bite a divot on the top of the right one. I might as well keep going, Driving, that is.

so saith the Lord

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

When Giving is All We Have

I've been in a self-absorbed rut.

Today is Giving Tuesday.

I'm no philanthropist and have difficulty with the philanthropy model, so much so that I've long given up fund-raising for medical charities, etc.  But today, on Giving Tuesday, I'm pulling my head out of my navel and raising money for a non-profit foundation that is particularly dear to my heart. It's the place where Sophie goes each day that she is able, a community of disabled young people and their aides or "coaches," who help them to access the community, to work, to be a part of something bigger than themselves and their diagnoses. The staff of Creative Steps/Aurelia Foundation expands these young people's lives and sees beyond their limitations, and it's a beautiful thing. They run on a shoestring budget, partially reimbursed by the State of California, but I learned yesterday that they also run on a consistent $350 a month per client deficit. I'm reaching out to you today to donate whatever you can to The Aurelia Foundation -- even a tiny amount is a good thing!

Here's Sophie's and my page:

Aurelia Foundation/Creative Steps

Here's a poem:

When Giving Is All We Have
       One river gives
       Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it —
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give — together, we made
Something greater from the difference. 
From “A Small Story about the Sky,” by Alberto Ríos (Copper Canyon Press, 2015). Reprinted with permission from Copper Canyon Press.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Dogged and Dogged

found on the internets

The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head.

Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

I am in a dream these days, some part a deep and abiding sense of being loved and another a nightmare. I walked down the dingy halls of the courthouse earlier this week, dread and bewilderment masked by cheer and a dull gratitude for beloveds flanking me. What does it mean to be unreasonable? The word contempt. Marriage. Divorce. Years. Papers filed by lawyers and a whole system constructed by. By. The halls of justice are really halls. The metaphors of justice do justice.  There must be a system. I stare at the back of a head whose folds I know. Metta. The Virgin Mary. Those old tricks. I age ten years. I dig for humor some days later, dogged and dogged and find it in the 55+ menu at IHOP where I am not questioned and order a full plate breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast and hash browns. The coffee was good.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

When You Can't Stop Crying

I've been hearing all kinds of wise talk these days as I seek the counsel of people who love me. Yesterday, after twisting needles into parts of me that were clearly storing an inordinate amount of anguish, Dr. Jin spoke about Chinese armies who fight one another.  The side that doesn't want to fight or who is fighting out of integrity and truth against evil wins, she said in so many heavily accented words. Regardless of outcome. This felt strangely reassuring.

Today I was told by one of Sophie's caregivers that when you can't stop crying, you haven't cried enough.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Pictures, You Need Pictures: Part 3: Florence

Enough! you say? Well, Henry and I left Rome on a train after two glorious days and headed to Florence where he's been living and studying at the Gonzaga University campus. After Los Angeles and New York, Florence is my very favorite city. I can't adequately explain the impact on me when I first visited in 1985, but it hit me all over again fifteen years ago and yes, all over again in 2019.

I did my pilgrimage to the monastery where Fra Angelico painted the frescoes, where strangely amongst the din that is Europe and its tourists, the place remains supremely quiet and near-empty.

And then, of course, around the corner and up the stairs...

The Annunciation.



I might be smiling in the above photo, but I am also slowly dying as we walked through the city over the river and up the steepest hill I've ever climbed in stupid shoes to the Piazza Michelangelo. It overlooks the entire city, and the view was entirely worth the effort. In fact, if I'd died up there, it would have been just fine.

On our last night we ate at this famous restaurant called 13 Gobbi. We had anchovies first, followed by pasta with mozzarella, and then I had eggplant parmesan and Henry had Milanese. It was easily one of the best meals I've ever had, but to tell you the truth, all the food in Italy is crazily sublime. How is that even possible? (It feels ridiculous posting these poorly lit photos, but I'm going to, anyway):

This is just a crazily lit photo of a gorgeous building near the restaurant. We walked the long way home. Henry dropped me off at my pensione, hugged me good-bye and left for his own. I left the next morning for the west coast of Los Angeles, filled with gratitude for this time spent away.

P.S. For all those who've asked after us, we are safe and far enough away from the fires to only be affected by smoke and bad air quality. We have many friends who were affected, though, who had to flee in the middle of the night. My heart goes out to all those who lost their homes, their possessions, their livelihoods. California is a fiercely beautiful state, and I am grateful to have lived here for over twenty years.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pictures, You Need Pictures: Part 2: Rome

I'm sorry, ya'll. I'm sorry that I haven't kept up here. I haven't kept up really anywhere, and that's because I'm involved in a very ugly, very upsetting and very stressful post post divorce thing. That's all I can say about it, and I would appreciate all your good thoughts and wishes and metta for all those involved. I am bewildered and upset and disbelieving and depleted and very, very sad.

Onward to Rome.

Henry and I had an amazing time in Rome and Florence. We stayed in a friend's apartment near the Vatican. The building was about five stories and had one of those incredible cage elevators and the winding marble floored staircases.

Please take my picture in this elevator, I asked Henry.

Every room in the apartment looked out on the great dome of St. Peter's. I'm not kidding. As the kids say, "Ridic."

Those are my legs, profoundly weary from tromping about 20,000 steps a day in boots and sneakers that somehow didn't cushion the 56 year old caregiver body like they did 35 years ago.

Everything is so damn beautiful and big and ancient and filled with centuries of longing and strife and reaching toward beauty and the divine. And suffering.

Our own struggles aren't lessened by witnessing ruins of the past, but they are integrated into something much larger than ourselves.

Henry and I made some remarks in poor taste about St. Peter's Square and the Vatican. Mea Culpa.

We walked about a million miles a day, and I was usually trailing Henry, as evidenced by the photo below.

I bought a pink ring, and it perfectly matched the pillows on the purple sofa at our friend's apartment.

We ate pizza, pasta and gelato every day.

Shortly after the above photo, after we'd thrown our coins in the Trevi Fountain, we both had nervous breakdowns because of the crowds. Honestly, Reader, Rome is insanely crowded.

If you look closely, you get an idea of the hordes of people streaming down that central street toward the Spanish Steps. We are standing at the top of them, here, marveling at the view.

We got the heck out of Dodge, bypassing the crowds and roaming past the above door.

The skies were Felliniesque, big white clouds and blue.


I was there two weeks ago.

There WILL be a Part 3, I promise.


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