Friday, July 31, 2015

Lions and Dentists and Cops, Oh My

And then they were upon her. That's a line from Shirley Jackson's chilling story The Lottery, and even though I was probably about fourteen years old when I read it, I can still remember the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck rising up as my bewildered brain took it in and figured it out. If you've never read the story, go and do it and then come back.

God, I love a good short story. That one and Faulkner's A Rose for Emily are seared into my consciousness, and the line I quoted above is one that I kept thinking about over the last few days as the news of the big game hunter dentist's quarry trickled and then gushed out on social media. I find big game hunters just laughably gross, and this guy looked to be typical for the -- well -- breed, but honestly, I'm way more scared of the response I've seen on social media and in the press. There have been people with tiny stuffed lions and people dressed like lions lurking and protesting in the streets, people storming the guy's dental office and shaming him over and over. The internet mobsters have hounded him and his entire family, outed them and forced his business to shut down. I imagine they've gotten death threats, and you could probably figure that their lives are irrevocably changed, if not ruined. Whole businesses are already sprouting up selling lion tee-shirts, and it seems that nearly everyone seems to be caught up in it, jumping on the bandwagon. 

I feel uncomfortable. I find it terrifying that this asshole dude is figuratively being tarred and feathered, pilloried and otherwise destroyed because he killed a beloved lion in Africa. I'm aware that he perhaps is a stand-in for nearly everything that's going wrong on our planet -- the rape and exploitation of all that's beautiful and natural -- but I still can't shake the dis-ease.

On the other hand, I'm complicit in feeling a simmering rage about the apparent daily collision of civil servants and black people. The clusterfuck of cops shooting black people every single day for minor traffic violations or perceived insult is beyond belief, even as the deadly force is a stand-in for racism -- a deep-seated and pervasive disease that you could say is the rotten core of this country. The response, though, compared to that of the lion and the dentist, seems tepid. I'm not a moral relativist, but I find this unsettling.

The hysteria around the dentist is scary to me. I think everyone has gone out of their minds. They are literally upon him. Evidently, hundreds and hundreds of animals are illegally poached and slaughtered each year, yet the outrage is directed at one human being and his family. What next? 

While I wouldn't want an angry mob with pitchforks and burning torches to descend upon any number of police officers who have shot and killed black men and women for minor traffic offenses, what do we do with the rage?  

I don't have any answers, but I do think people should knock it off with the lion and the dentist. As for the rest of it, my own rage, simmering, is but a tiny drop and it behooves me, like many white people of privilege, to sit in the moment and listen. These are intense times, and during intense times, I'm going to go deeper within even as I listen, remain open and increase my awareness of what my fellow citizens of color are telling me.

I think the palliative for fear and anger is to stand firmly and wakefully in the moment. It’s like the old Zen master saying, “Come with me. Let’s fill the well with snow.” It’s a hopeless task: The snow melts; the process is endless. We don’t take action because we expect a certain result; we do it because it needs to be done. We pick up the shovel not because we’re going to fill the well with snow but because shoveling is the dharma activity of that moment. We show up for the impossible.

Bonnie Myotai Treace 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Bookworm Update

I had lunch today with one of my favorite bloggers whom I've been reading for years and years. The Diamond in the Window was visiting a friend in town and was kind enough to meet me for a couple of hours at a neighborhood cafe. Our brown rice bowls were secondary to the conversation as it was all about books -- what we loved, what we disliked, what we're reading now and what we read in our childhoods. It turns out that we're the same age and read many of the same things, had many of the same favorites and -- well -- I'm pretty positive we would have been great friends in the early to mid-seventies, moving into middle and high school in the eighties and perhaps rivals for the Reading Rainbow Greatest Number of Books Read in the Summer contest. Honestly, I could have jumped in her lap when she recalled the creepy china dog in No Flying in the House, because my very tattered, taped copy sits right above my desk in the Most Treasured Childhood Books spot. No offense to my beautiful and brilliant boys, but our reading tastes are wildly dissimilar, and I just never took to baseball biographies and that stinky kid series. Lunching and talking with The Diamond was like being with a friend from fourth grade after the bookmobile came to our school.

I just finished another read of Sigrid Nunez' memoir Sempre Susan, a memoir of Susan Sontag -- even better the second time since I spent a week with her at Hedgebrook. I'm also nearly orgasmic over William Finnegan's Barbarian Days A Surfing Life -- not only is it a literal romp, but it's got photos of surfers and waves and you know how I feel about such things. Diamond insisted that I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, so I picked that up at the bookstore, and when I got home Pleasures of the Table, A Literary Anthology was waiting for me, a gift from a friend. I am gearing up for a September Books & Bakes, toying with assigning Toni Morrison's Bluest Eye (all about hunger), and one of my favorite of hers, or a new book called Dietland that Diamond recommended that sounds weird and edgy and wild. If you were going to come to Books & Bakes, which would you prefer, and if it's neither, what book would you like to discuss and hopefully, eat from? The books don't need to have menus specifically or even something food-related, but hopefully, there's something culinary that can be drawn out of them -- something sensual and worthy of celebrating.

Go check out The Diamond in the Window if you haven't already, and mine your brains for book suggestions for my salon. Tell me what you're reading and what's on your night table.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Making Space for Stories (and an updated embed)

Those are new Benzo-Withdrawal Drool Bandannas that I ordered online. I couldn't resist the marijuana leaf one and hope it has extra powers as it wicks away the vile drug that permeates Sophie's body.

I don't have much to say or write today. I've been thinking a lot about an article I read in Philly Voice about vaccinations. The writer, Amy Wright Glenn, is a pro-vaccine journalist and mother, but she addresses those of us whose children have been injured or killed by vaccinations with unusual gravity and admonishes those of you who would argue against our beliefs and stories. Here is a brief excerpt:

Unfortunately, it’s easy to disregard the stories of vaccine injury, disability or death as statistically insignificant or inconsequential. Collectively we fiercely embrace a utilitarian ethic with regard to vaccine injury. The stories of families suffering serious injuries are too often ignored, discredited, used to further anti-vaccine campaigns, or quietly accepted as a type of collateral damage in our noble war to eradicate the scourge of infectious disease from the planet.

I will say that this is, perhaps, the only article or opinion I've ever read on the issue that doesn't make me literally sick to my stomach or provoke what I can only call post-traumatic stress syndrome. Those overwhelming feelings come no matter the position, and after twenty years I'm only dimly aware that they are, perhaps, related to deep and damaged feelings of not being heard.

One safeguard against a decrease in vaccination rates is the public ridicule awaiting those who question the ever-increasing number of required immunizations. Even parents who were formally compensated by the vaccine court report feeling ridiculed. For example, in 2006, Florida couple Theresa and Lucas Black received a $2 million settlement along with $250,000 a year for medical expenses from the vaccine court. Why? Their 14-year-old daughter Angelica is permanently and profoundly disabled after receiving a standard round of inoculations at 3-months of age.

No matter how many times I try to reasonably talk or write about this issue, even going so far as to allow a renowned journalist to interview me and take photos of my family for National Geographic Magazine, I've never been able to convey what Ms. Glenn does so beautifully in her opinion piece. I know that's because of the emotion I feel and convey, natural given my own experience. I hope that you'll all read this piece, even those of you who joined in the social media mockery early this year or who believed that those of us who choose not to vaccinate our children or who do so on a different schedule should be vilified or mocked or pay fines or whose children should be kept out of school.

Nineteenth century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued that an action is morally permissible if it serves to increase the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Contrast Bentham’s utilitarian ethic with German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s deontological, or duty based, moral theory. According to Kant, individuals are not means to be used to justify an end, no matter how pleasing or far-reaching such an end may be. Individuals are “ends unto themselves.” In other words, we have value independent of our usefulness to society. 

Thank you, Ms. Glenn, not only from the bottom of my vast heart, but also from the top of my head and my intricate, mysterious brain. You have made space for our story.

Given these legal and market-driven realities, we must make space for the stories of families who pay the price of our increasingly mandated utilitarian ethic. 

Watch this, my pretties. It happened today in the United States Congress:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


That's the shell out of which I shook an almost fetus-like blob of gray slime a couple of weeks ago in my cottage at Hedgebrook. Slurp, it slid out. Now it sounds like the sea. It's a perfect breast and it's a shell. What is that whorl called at the tip? Are there names for such beauty? If you lift it up, the edge curls over, a ledge, hard, smooth and shiny, tinted pink that disappears in a curve. My finger strains to feel up and inside the darkness on the underside of the whorl. I am certain no one has seen inside.

That's my first copy of To the Lighthouse, and it's filled with tiny margin notes, written by me and a boy I loved. I've underlined this.

To want and not to have, sent all up her a body a hardness, a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not to have - to want and want - how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cops and Firemen

It's pretty quiet round these parts with The Brothers on the east coast. I'm catching up with things, organizing, putting the old life in order, drinking vodka drinks, hanging with The Soph. I've got the first draft of MGDB and need to find an agent. Tips? Leads? Extra girds for the loins? I've got a meeting tonight at the neighborhood police station -- an orientation for parents of kids who want to be auxiliary police. Guess who? Big, big sigh with a slow, heavily accented good lord.  I'm trying to persuade him that cops while necessary and often wonderful are -- well -- cops. They carry all that shit on their belts, have clubs and tasers and bad haircuts and mirrored sunglasses and wear black leather boots that come up to their knees. How about firemen? is what I ask in my most gently persuasive tone. Tearful, if you're reading, please chant for The Big O and his mother.

I was going to write a Saturday three-line movie review of Amy, the documentary about Amy Winehouse, but I didn't get around to it. Here's a three word review:

Go see it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


The more I think about Sophie's behavior, seizures and involuntary muscle contractions, the more I believe them to be symptoms of benzo withdrawal.  I've invested the process of removing this drug from her body with all the fuckeduppery of The Whole Business. I feel stripped of trust in anyone or anything.

I also fight off feelings of despair that this will ever be over. Benzo withdrawal syndrome can persist for years, even after the drug is weaned completely. I've always hated war imagery when describing illness. Her battle with epilepsy. His warrior spirit in the face of cancer. Etc. Actually, as long as I "fight" the feeling of despair, it increases. Instead, I allow it to wash over me, acknowledge it, bathe in it, open my eyes even as I'm in over my head. It goes away, then, leaves me dry and again, stripped.

I'm suspicious of the "mental illness" excuse that people of all persuasions trot out every time a man uses a gun to mow down innocent people. I'm not talking about gun control, either. I think the mental illness trope masks something deeper and more rotten that has everything to do with a culture that has always glorified violence, that is deeply paranoid and most of all, intellectually lazy. Does that sound pretentious? It's certainly not original, but it's what I'm squirming about today.

Here's a poem:

In the Library

There’s a book called
A Dictionary of Angels.
No one had opened it in fifty years,
I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages
Crumbled. There I discovered

The angels were once as plentiful
As species of flies.
The sky at dusk
Used to be thick with them.
You had to wave both arms
Just to keep them away.

Now the sun is shining
Through the tall windows.
The library is a quiet place.
Angels and gods huddled
In dark unopened books.
The great secret lies
On some shelf Miss Jones
Passes every day on her rounds.

She’s very tall, so she keeps
Her head tipped as if listening.
The books are whispering.
I hear nothing, but she does.

Charles Simic

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, Henry!

Henry, light of my life, you're 17 years old today!

From the moment you were born, you brought nothing but an infectious joy to the world. It's an honor to be your mama, and I'm proud of the young man you've become.

I love you.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Things That Amuse Me, Part 567

from Monty Python and the Holy Grail


very well-respected neurology periodicals like the current Epilepsia with articles like the following:

Controversies in Epilepsy

Dietary therapy is the best option for refractory nonsurgical epilepsy
Elizabeth A. Felton and Mackenzie C. Cervenka
Article first published online: 22 JUL 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/epi.13075
Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | Enhanced Article (HTML) | PDF(118K)

Dietary therapy is not the best option for refractory nonsurgical epilepsy
María Magdalena Vaccarezza and Walter Horacio Silva
Article first published online: 22 JUL 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/epi.13074
Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | Enhanced Article (HTML) | PDF(127K)

Where You Are

Sculpture Garden, Norton Simon Museum 

I've got a whole month of Sophie days ahead -- no school and no Communicamp this year. It's hard thinking up things to do with her, and there's some rigamarole involved given the stuff I have to schlep. I'm not complaining, but if I were a man I'd do some mansplaining. There are definitely days when I'd rather let her roam around her room, picking up toys to mouth, aimlessly, but those days leave me feeling not so much guilty, but rather inadequate. I know she needs attention and stimulation, but I don't feel like doing it. You don't need to assure me that I'm a good mother and couldn't possibly be with her constantly. You don't need to tell me that no one could possibly do that and do it for twenty years. I know these things. I just feel a bit querulous, and my sense of humor is elusive in the face of -- how do I say it -- the perpetuity of it all. I have this theory about our cellular/genetic makeup -- how as mothers we're made to withstand things like babies screaming for hours and pooping their pants for years, or needing to bathe and feed and entertain them, even when it's boring. Our wiring is beautiful in that we are able to do these things, sometimes very well and sometimes not so well, because we also know, on some deep cellular/genetic level that it isn't forever. Colicky babies eventually stop crying. Every baby eventually sleeps through the night. Toddlers get potty-trained, learn how to talk and eventually play by themselves. Ultimately, if all goes well, they leave you for their own lives.
The thing about caring for a severely disabled child is that the whole paradigm shifts -- we aren't so much wired to endure the necessary level of caregiving but have to figure out how to endure it for -- well -- ever. And no, it might not be forever, literally. Some of us fear that our children will die sooner rather than later. We also fear that they'll die later rather than sooner. Not a day goes by that I don't feel grateful for the time I do have with Sophie. I am skilled at holding paradox -- despair and delight -- cursed and blessed -- gravity and humor.


At Hedgebrook I had the opportunity to share a bit of my writing with the other residents, and after reading a chapter about the early days of caring for Sophie -- the immense crisis, the hell of it all -- the writer asked for my feelings, for me in the events. Surely you felt something, she asserted, a writer needs to show those feelings, and I felt the tiniest bit defensive. I've been thinking a lot about that feedback and questioning over the last several weeks. I don't articulate myself during crisis, nor do I identify every feeling as it occurs. I am, rather, in it, doing it. When I write it I want that to be conveyed -- not so much the necessary dissociation that occurs but the attention to the present moment that leaves no room for analysis. Lorrie Moore wrote in her story "People Like That Are the Only People Here:"

How can it be described? How can any of it be described? The trip and the story of the trip are always two different things.

 The trip and the story of the trip are always two different things. I'm trying to tie these things together -- the love and the loathing -- the present and the perpetuity -- the trip and the story of the trip -- and convey what it means on a cellular level, when all paradigms have shifted.

I've lost my thread.

I took Sophie to the Norton Simon Museum this afternoon with a friend of mine. I have lived in Los Angeles for eighteen years, yet I'd never been, and it was just fantastic. The museum is very small, but the collection is pretty amazing, and the sculpture garden was gorgeous. My friend and I wandered around and caught up with one another, and Sophie was fairly content, so it turned out to be not just a lovely afternoon but one that assuaged my needling thoughts of inadequacy and caregiver fatigue.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


That's a weird shot, isn't it? I was trying to get a picture of us together when Sophie suddenly head-butt me really hard. It brought tears to my eyes, but it didn't seem to bother her. I suppose she has a high pain threshold what with all the goings on in her brain. My entire scalp is always so sensitive which, Dr. Jin tells me, is too much heat, and now I have a sore spot. Other than that, though, Sophie's had a decent day with no seizures to speak of, fewer tremors and jerks that I believe are withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes I put my hand on her right arm and gently squeeze it, and I swear I can feel an electric pulse running down her arm and into her hand. I wonder if she feels agitated by that, if it drives her crazy, if butting someone's head is a pain that distracts from a greater one.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bird Bath

La Brea Tar Pits

She's much better yesterday and today -- we've added a little THC to her regimen to help with withdrawals.  Four drops a couple of times a day -- we'll see if it helps.

What's going on in the CBD and medical marijuana world continues to be very frustrating. I'm trying not to be cynical about it all, but we might be just like Carl Sagan's "pale, blue dot." Look it up if you haven't seen and heard that.

Wild world.

My friend Terri sent me this video yesterday, and I just love everything about it -- especially those sexy tattooed arms.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Brothers

I don't mean to offend, but in my experience boys are simple. I'm not speaking about intelligence, but I am speaking about complexity. The more boys you put together, the simpler they get. In my experience, it's the opposite with women. Do I make sense? I am a woman, after all.

Ask these brothers the same question, and you'll always get opposite answers. It's a simple prediction, and it doesn't make for complexity.

Simplicity can drive a woman insane.

Good thing they're easy on the eye.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Back in the Saddle and Some Junk Dada

Oliver, Sophie and I went to LACMA today to see the Noah Purifoy exhibit, Junk Dada. Purifoy is a little known African American artist who was one of the founding directors of the Watts Towers Art Center in Los Angeles. After the 1965 Watts rebellion, he helped to create a body of sculpture with charred debris from the fires. His strategy was to use materials at hand and art as a tool for social change. He worked for 20 years after the rebellion, after which he relocated to the Mojave Desert and spent his final 15 years creating large-scale installations out there. I've never been to Joshua Tree to see them, but the three of us found this exhibit of some of his work engrossing and wild.

Here are a few more pictures:

After the museum we ate some Thai food from one of the many food trucks that lie along Wilshire Blvd. It was hot out, and Sophie hasn't been doing too well the last couple of days. She is on the third week of the latest withdrawal of her benzo, so between the heat and that, I think I know why she had so many big seizures. I told a friend that today was the first day since Hedgebrook that I felt back in the saddle. It was inevitable. When we finished eating, Oliver pushed Sophie's wheelchair while I held her arm, and we all crossed Wilshire Blvd to get back to our car. Right in the middle of the intersection, Sophie began to seize, and I literally had to drag her out of the street and up onto the sidewalk. While seizing. A couple of people asked if they could help, but I said, That's ok, we've got it. And we did have it. Oliver balanced his leftover spicy ramen in a container and maneuvered the wheelchair behind Sophie so that I could position her in it, even as I balanced my Thai coffee and felt my sunglasses slipping off my sweaty nose. I had to hold her jerking legs and keep her from slipping out of the chair and into the dank water along the curb, and I'll admit that the three weeks away from It All didn't do anything to assuage my normal back in the saddle feelings of tempered despair. I never get used to it. At some point, as we made our way back across the street, Oliver said, Well that was fun, and he didn't mean it.

Later, I laughed with some of my comrades over a headline and article that appeared on US News and World Report's health page. Epilepsy Is No Longer a Mystery, it said, so at first I thought it was something from The Onion. It wasn't. Good Lord. I left a few words on each of the sites that had posted the article on Facebook, and let's just say I disagreed. I noted that despite the fact that we all get to see photos of Pluto's surface on our laptops, we are still drugging people with epilepsy up the wazoo or removing large chunks of their brains and filling them up with spinal fluid, and my daughter is seizing for the millionth time for no apparent reason in the middle of Wilshire Blvd. 

Epilepsy is still a mystery, and from my position in this damn saddle, I still see a hell of a lot of desolation.

How We All Do It

M using her vaporizer system for MMJ while an inpatient

Back in April, my friend Heather connected me to her friend S, a Canadian mother of a sixteen year old with severe disabilities. Here's the email that S sent me:

Heather gave me your contact information because we are really struggling with our daughter's seizures right now. She is 16 and previously had been seizure free for 2 years!! Now we have been in status Epilepticus twice in a week that requires massive drugs to stop. It's a matter of time before she is intubated and takes her at least 4 days to recover from. I have heard so much about CBD oil and need to try this. Not sure what resistance I will encounter with her neurologist but want to arm myself with information. I was not even sure I could get it in Canada. I am very excited about this option and would appreciate ANY information you could offer.Thank youS

I responded immediately, but because I am Not A Doctor  and have only a tiny, little mother mind,™ God forbid I should give any medical advice. I referred her, instead, to Realm of Caring, to the Facebook groups and to my Canadian friends who use CBD with their families. I also suggested that she watch the CNN series Weed. 

A few days later, S responded:

Thank you! M. is on Vimpat, lacosemide, clobazem(onfi), and now adding phenobarbital that she had an allergic reaction to 15 years ago. They hope she's outgrown it???!!! So many drugs, each one has its own side effects. Our neurologist today told me he will not support CBD oil because he has no proof it works and is not legal here!!!!! So frustrating. I still will pursue this because I have heard such overwhelming real life accounts of its benefit. I am not sure how to join the support groups. When I  click the links I get a page saying I do not have permission to enter the site. I am super excited to be able to hear Canadian stories. Gives me great hope. How do I join those groups?Thank you. S

I'm sure you heard my giant sigh when I read what her neurologist said. It was probably in direct proportion to how the neurology world perceives my tiny, little mother mind™ and the government views the evils of marijuana or Big Pharma anticipates profit, but I got back to S with what I knew about medical marijuana in Canada (that it's NOT illegal) and then referred her again to the Canadian mothers I know who are using it successfully. I'm not sure what happened next, but about a month later, I got this message from S:

Just wanted to give you an update! I took M to a Cannibus clinic against the neurologist and paediatrician!! They were not supportive - the opposite of that really. I begged my family doctor for the referral. She wanted to put M in the Hospice and pull all treatment. I begged for this saying then at least I know I have done everything. Well we started 17 days ago. We have not had one single seizure in 17 days!!!!!!!! So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your help has given us another chance at life with M!!! She has had some significant brain injury due to the severity and frequency of the seizures. The only way we can move forward and heal is to get a rest from the seizures. We have that now. Hope it is onward and upward from now on!!! Thank you again for your help and advice.

On June 11th, S wrote this:

Day 35!!!!

Unfortunately, this past Friday, S informed me that M had to be admitted to the hospital because her feeding tube site got infected, and S had to then worry about giving the CBD oil in-hospital. Here's what she wrote me:

We are trying to get her medical marijuana approved to use here in Hospital!!!!! Yesterday a resident asked the team and they said yes. I was so excited until we went to use it. That resident never wrote orders for it!!!! So that's my mission today. She has gone 3 days without it. I will be devastated if she had a seizure because she was not allowed to use it!!!! I hope the oils get established and provided here!!! We are here because M's feeding tube site got infected. We brought her in Sunday and they did not believe she was sick! They were so rude and condescending. By Tuesday morning I had to rush her here in septic shock. They believed me that time. So looks like we are here for a while. Hope not too long!!! This place drives me crazy as I am sure you can relate!!!!

I can definitely relate, although my experiences in the hospital with Sophie were, thankfully, years and years ago. Knock wood three times right this second. S and M are far bigger rock stars than Sophie and I!

In any case, S updated me further:

I got the approval!!!! Can't believe they are going to let me do it in the Hospital!!! They say it is a first!! It seemed like a big deal. They had to take it into their possession and lock it up in their narcotic cupboard. Makes me laugh!!! I have enough Midazolem in my diaper bag to drop a horse but the less that 2% THC product that wouldn't affect a fly is confiscated!!!! Oh well, at least I got approval!!!!! I would love to see the look on the neurologists face if he hears about this!!!!!!

I know some of you think I dramatize stuff, that I might spend too much time writing about the negative experiences of our children with special healthcare needs and not enough time with the positive. I am perfectly aware that there are plenty of wonderful doctors and healthcare facilities all over the world, and I'm grateful for all of them. The reason why I highlight a lot of this stuff, though, is because it can be life or death -- literally and figuratively. It's a literal life and death situation for many of our children. Those of us who parent or care for children with severe disabilities and epilepsy in particular die a thousand deaths figuratively when our children seize. We are traumatized by the condition itself and then doubly or triply so when we face bad care or doctors who dismiss our concerns or who fight our decisions, openly, even as they have no hand to deal.

But back to our unfolding story. You're keeping up, right?

On Friday, S sent me this message:

Yes!! M got her medical marijuana tonight in the Hospital. Children's Hospital!! She is sound asleep and peaceful. It is such an amazing and wonderful medicine for her!! Natural healing power!!!

There's both the literal and the figurative saving of lives. 

I was so excited to hear this that I asked S whether I could post a story on the blog about them. This is what S said,

Absolutely!!!! If M's story could help one person or inspire someone that would be wonderful. I think this is an important time for this era of medical marijuana acceptance. It is definitely something that I believe in and has improved the quality of M's life beyond anything else that has been medically offered!!!

So, there you go. Reader, please share M's story.

We're all connected, and this is how we do it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rain on Dead Grass

As Denise says, "People take lots of photos of the rain in Los Angeles."

I left the sunny, warm Pacific Northwest and arrived home to the rainy, humid shitty. That's a photo of our back yard. We've let the grass die and plan on replacing it with drought-tolerant stuff. I'll make a couple dozen cupcakes for you if you design something for me because my creativity just doesn't extend to landscape design. I'm thinking a fire pit, some seating, maybe a meditation garden/labyrinth and a lap pool. Just kidding on the lap pool. The rain is nice, though, and today when I went to Trader Joe's, that's all anyone was talking about. As they stacked the avocados, two guys talked about the awesome thunder we all heard this morning, and pretty much everyone commented on how exciting it is to see water fall from the sky.

I'm finished unpacking and re-entrying. It's going well. I've only raised my voice once and badgered The Brothers over and over when they flew the small drone I had purchased for them outside before they'd gotten skilled at it, like I told them to, and it got stuck up in a tree. They connected about four long poles, broomsticks, lacrosse sticks and flagpoles together with duct tape, along with a citrus picker and managed to get the drone down, but the protective cage is still up in the sycamore. After raising my voice and badgering them, over and over, they informed me that it'll come down, Mom, in the fall.
My three weeks in the Hedgebrook wilderness have evidently changed me, though, because that response was adequate, I shrugged my shoulders and went back inside to read some more.

You know how when I got there it felt like I was hallucinating? After three weeks of solitude, intense writing, dreaming, walking, conversing with amazing women and having nearly every need met by the staff, I might be permanently stoned.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Leaving Whidbey Island

I really can't ride on a ferry without quoting this, a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that I memorized in the last millenium:


We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

I'm baaaaaaaaaaack. 
It was beyond wonderful to see the boys last night, but Sophie was asleep so I went in to her room
this morning and gave her a big hug. She touched and explored my face very solemnly, looking me in the eyes. I told her that she was my inspiration, is my inspiration and that everything I've done and who I've become is due to her.

What are ya'll up to?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Twenty-two

Willow Cottage with the only blue door at Hedgebrook

I've said my good-byes and am sitting in Willow Cottage, waiting to be picked up and driven to the shuttle that will take me to the ferry that will take me to Seattle airport that will take me to my plane that will take me to my sons and daughter.

I never did see that owl, but last night a bat flew into the screen window at about 2:00 am while I sat up in bed, reading. At first I thought it was a moth, then realized it was a bat, and then fell to my knees in prayer and thanksgiving that the screen was in place. I suppose there's meaning to be made from not seeing an owl and having a bat encounter instead, but I'll leave that up to you to make of it what you will.

I've girded my loins for re-entry. I'm feeling good.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Twenty-one

Last night, three of us walked over Deer Lagoon to Useless Bay when the tide was going out and the sun was going down. The water was literally rushing out with the wind. No bugs last night and the coolest of breezes, Mt. Rainier right there in the distance. I know I'm gushing, but it was glorious.

I don't have much to say, to tell you the truth. It's been an incredible three weeks, and I leave tomorrow evening from Seattle. I've met an extraordinary group of writers, I've finished a rough draft of the book, I've read two novels, one memoir and a pile of New Yorkers. I've re-read To the Lighthouse, the collected stories of Lydia Davis and some William Carlos Williams. I've received a pile of letters -- thank you to Missy and Carolyn and Rebecca and Mary and Liv and Mary Lou for your beautiful words and old-fashioned stationery. I arrived three weeks ago and spent a glorious day and night with Karen. Thank you for showing me this beautiful part of the world that you call home. I spent a lovely afternoon with Kari in Langley, including a delicious lunch and conversation that could have gone on for hours. Thank you, Kari, for taking the time to come out here and for sharing your life with me. I met Lynda who has been reading my blog for years and with whom I've only exchanged emails. She drove me around Whidbey Island and showed me the sights, introduced me to her beautiful family and shared the most delicious mussels I've ever had, harvested right here on Whidbey. I am grateful for your friendship.

So, I did have something to say.

I'm saying my good-byes today to Hedgebrook Farm, to my little cottage, Willow and to the extraordinary people who work here. I am replenished and filled with gratitude for the experience. I'll never forget this time and the work I did here in solitude, even as I was cared for and nourished.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Twenty

It's the twentieth day. I have yet to see an owl and am resigned to making meaning out of that -- that I've never seen an owl.

The writing is going well, although I am stumped on how to wrap things up with the book. I talked for a long time to one of my best writer friends and comrades yesterday, and she had some good advice.

Where are you? she asked, and she wasn't talking about place. I sat in the window seat with a pen and a notebook and tried to answer it, got up and typed a bit and around.

Where are you? is going to lead me to the end, I think.

Here's a poem by Leonard Cohen:

These Heroics

If I had a shining head
and people turned to stare at me
in the streetcars;
and I could stretch my body
through the bright water
and keep abreast of fish and water snakes;
if I could ruin my feathers
in flight before the sun;
do you think that I would remain in this room,
reciting poems to you,
and making outrageous dreams
with the smallest movements of your mouth?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Nineteen

Papa would tell me,
is not a science,
but the intuitive art of wooing Nature.

- from Auden's poem The Art of Healing (In memoriam David Proteach, M.D.)

You are in another state, I know, but I think I saw you
last night as the sun went down
sandwiched between clouds, reaching its pink arms up
through the leftover blue
a solitary person in a boat
rowing out toward the middle
and this morning I thought I heard you
stirring up the birds
your low voice carried
through the pines.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Eighteen

I haven't seen an owl yet, but I've been keeping company with a tree just outside the window over the sink in my cottage. I've been keeping company with a lot of trees, actually, in hopes of seeing an owl, but this tree, in particular, has drawn my attention enough over the last two weeks that its inhabitant now stares, implacably, back at me.

Do you see the face? Initially, I thought it was the Virgin Mary, but then I realized that it was just Ezra Pound with a Virgin Mary drape around him.

It occurred to me that the prolonged solitude, the delving into the deepest parts of my interior, and the wrestling with narrative were fine-tuning my imagination enough that the lines separating that interior with the outside world, even reality, were a bit blurry. But Facebook, in addition to making birthdays absolutely over-the-top and its ability to sign you up for various choirs that sing one long and beautiful, if boring note, also confirms your sanity. It also confirms that I have a rocking group of friends. At last check there were over thirty comments in response to my posting that photo, a hilarious list whose variety suggests the face to be a kind of Rorschash blot.

Tell me who you see. Leave a comment here if you haven't already on Facebook.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Seventeen

Andrew Wyeth-like scene of bird sanctuary
Deer Lagoon, Whidbey Island

The weather here is finally what I expected -- a gray blankety thing over the sky, enough nip in the air to build a fire in my little cottage stove. I'm going for a walk in the woods in a bit, up to a place called The Deep Dark Cedar Grove. The combination of piney woods and shadow and fairy tale wildlife with broad stretches of beach and blue herons and majestic snow-capped moutain backdrops to ocean is unlike any other landscape I've seen. The universe is abundant, and I'm grateful to be in it.

Last night, the new writers came. One of them is Sigrid Nunez, the novelist and former assistant, friend and roommate of the late Susan Sontag. Um, yes. Of course she didn't tell us that at dinner. I sat next to her and chatted politely with the new women. When one said her name was Sigrid, I said hello Ingrid and then she said, It's Sigrid and I said, Oh! I love that name, and the only one I know of is Sigrid Undset! We're a female group here at Hedgebrook, and we'd already discussed Pearl S. Buck and how she'd won the Nobel Prize. I was obsessed with Sigrid Undset in my twenties, read all of her books when I saw them languishing on a used bookstore shelf with the Nobel Prize sticker on them. What can I say? I have always been a nerdy girl, and a trilogy about medieval Norway was just up my alley. This Sigrid and I then spent a few minutes trying to recall the names of the few women who've won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and we only came up with six. I checked later, and there are actually thirteen. We talk about everything at the table, and not all of it is about Nobel prize winners. One of the writers, a young rising star poet, can sing all the verses to Beyonce songs, and one of the writers who left was a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and speechwriter for the Defense Secretary of the U.S. of A. Hedgebrook is truly the most unpretentious place on the literary planet. The ages of the writers since I've been here range from the 20s to the early 70s, and we are black, white, lesbian, straight, famous, probably will be famous and oh so not famous. That being said, I have allowed myself to feel extremely intimidated at times which is just another excuse to stop doing the work, the writing, and shake slugs out of shells and lie naked on the bed, an emperor with no clothes staring foolishly at the ceiling.

Anyway. It's Saturday, and the whole day of solitude stretches ahead, so here's the rest of the story.

This Sigrid also told us about where she was teaching in the fall, and that's when my tiny little mother mindbegan its inexorable pursuit of who IS this woman, she's SOMEONE. My recollection files have been moved back into the dark recesses of my brain, though. In any case, I went on a walk after dinner with my mind still whirring and wondering who the heck this Sigrid was. Was it Paul Auster's wife? No, that was Siri Hustvedt. You know the drill. Maybe it was the midges who swarmed me on my walk, diverted me while the brain did its work, but Nunez came to mind somewhere on the way home, a tendril that I grabbed that was attached to Susan Sontag and then all the rest. I'm glad that I didn't realize who it was when I was sitting next to her at the dinner table because I would have fallen right out of my chair. OK! I'm not saying anything else (I can be a bit of a literary star fucker). The tiny print is figurative, ya'll. 

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.  
Oscar Wilde

Thank you for your kind comments over the last couple of weeks -- I have little time to be online, so I haven't responded to any of them, but I really appreciate them. I want to reassure all those braver souls than I that the moon slug or snail that plopped out of the shell the other day was dead, dead, dead, so I couldn't have sent it back into the ocean. I'm generally not a squeamish person, either, but I have my limits. I actually love spiders, though, so here's a poem:

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Walt Whitman

Friday, July 10, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Sixteen

view from Willow Cottage

I might be feeling a little cabin-crazy. I've been here now for sixteen days and will be leaving on day twenty-one. It is life-altering, to say the least. To be largely in solitude and free to write and read and walk and think for hours on end is far beyond luxury. I am grateful for the time, for the community of women that I've met and for the incredible "radical hospitality" given by the Hedgebrook staff. Sixteen days is enough time to wrestle with yourself, to hate and doubt and love yourself and then back again. I told a friend that I feel like I should be making amends to all those whom I've hurt or neglected or spoken unkindly to over the years. That being said, I know that I should also let go of those who have hurt, neglected or spoken unkindly to me. Does that make sense? I will try and be grateful for each of the days here until I leave and hopefully carry it with me in real life.

The beauty of emptying one's fridge every single day, of there being only what you need.

Yesterday, before I was hijacked by the moon slug, I was going to write about this plum tree that grows in the garden here. I've never seen so many plums on the tree, and that's even after the gardener has picked and filled an enormous metal mixing bowl with them and leaves it in the kitchen. The plums are small, but when I take a bite, I'm reminded of that scene in the movie The English Patient where the nurse, Hanna, bites a plum and mushes it in her mouth before feeding it to the horribly burned patient. It's incredibly erotic in the movie, but I'm not Juliette Binoche in an Italian villa, and there's no Ralph Fiennes lying naked and bandaged under a sheet. I do have to cover my mouth with a napkin, though, so the juice doesn't squirt everywhere. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Fifteen

to Nicole, Diane and Rosie

I was going to post about plums, and it was going to be a sensuous if not sexy post, but there's been an interruption. The title to this post should read:

Hedgebrook, The Fifteenth Day, An Idyll Interrupted

Here's what just happened. The other day, when I went for that walk to Useless Bay at low tide, I picked up the most amazing conch shell. It was perfectly intact. It was fist-sized, ya'll! Like something you would buy in a shell shop all polished, but the real thing. It was white. It was lying there, waiting to be picked up. I picked it up. Earlier I had picked up an amazing sand dollar and promptly dropped it because it just felt -- well -- wrong (in the sense that Oliver used the word when I told him how babies were made when he was a little boy and he asked me whether that was what I had done with his father). What can I tell you? I'm a city girl. But the conch shell was dry, and when I shook it, it made a rattling sound so I thought the owner had probably dried up. I took it back to Willow cottage and put it on the bench outside the front door because it smelled a little, and  -- you know.

Anyhoo. (New readers -- I hate this word and only use it judiciously)

I just now brought the conch shell inside and began to wash it out in the pretty little blue basin that is my cottage bathroom sink. I shook it pretty vigorously to get that sand out, but what slid out was a giant, gelatinous blob of I don't know what, right into the sink, and the memory of it is making me gag even now as I type these words.

This gelatinous, moist thing slid out with a sucking sound.

I texted my best friend who gave me some advice:

I managed to get a big wad of paper towels and a plastic bag at the ready, scooped it up (still gagging and this girl is NOT a gagger) and threw it in there.

Now I don't know what to do with myself. I'm going to blame this on the three writers who left this morning. They've takenall the magic out of Hedgebrook, and I'm left with a slurping gelatinous mass to haunt my dreams.

Where ARE YOU, Nicole, Diane and Rosie? You, especially, Rosie! I know you would have taken care of this godforsaken thing in my wash basin or at the every least delegated the job to someone!

I don't want to use the word traumatized because that would be hyperbole, and I'm supposed to be honing my writing here. I'm a teensy tinesy bit inclined to pack my bags and head out of the woods, though, take the first ferry back to the big shitty.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hedgebrook, Day Fourteen

Yesterday, I went on a walk to Deer Lagoon and then to the sweet curve of Useless Bay. Useless Bay got its name because it was useless, basically -- impossible to use as a port because it's too shallow. At low tide, I could better understand that because the waterline was so far away, broken here and there by sandbars that I was able to step on. So beautiful. See for yourself.

Here are some shots of Deer Lagoon on the way home. The weather has turned to pleasantly cool and seems more like the Pacific Northwest that I had imagined. The bugs, nearly terrifying the other times I'd walked over the causeway, were manageable, and I stopped and watched a flock of geese preening at waterside.

There's your dose of beautiful for the day.

Now, I'm off to write. Life is hard, right?


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