Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Phew.  I just read that earthquake/LA poem.  I guess I was feeling pretty shaky about leaving the kids.  The irony is that apparently there was an earthquake a few hours before we arrived.  So I was having my own little internal earthquake, the earth was doing her thing and, alas, we are all safe and sound. 

My trip was pretty tremendous.  There was a lot of love and fun packed into a week, a lot of laughter and old friends, a lot of sunshine and long walks.  There was the sparkle of California coastline and tacos and tequila.  There was exploration that I've dreamed of doing for years -- Ojai, Santa Ynez, the mountains above Santa Barbara. 

The thing that strikes me the most as I look at all these pictures is just how much we all needed that sort of down time.  Even the mamas with babes were breaking from their normal routine, seeking adventure and togetherness.  I'm beyond amazed that so many of us made it.  My gratitude overflows for these women and how I feel when I am with them. 

Sadly, the group could only hold strong for a day or two.  By day four, it was just me and Sarm waving the adventure flag above the sea.  We stayed with my oldest friend, Meg, and her sweet family in Santa Ynez.  Our little Sideways adventure was so grounding and so easy.  There is this tremendous comfort that is old friends.  Thanks, guys. 

By Wednesday my need to take a really long hike took over.  Sarmeesha poured over websites and we finally found what looked to be the one.  It overlooked the ocean.  We would bag a little So. Cal peak.  We were all in. 

And even though we didn't find the hike we'd read about, what we discovered was equally alluring. 

And then our adventure took a bit of a turn.  I pieced together some journal bits for my poetry class this week about that big bummer of a surprise.

Shards of Glass So Green and Shiny In the Sunlight

There are moments you just can’t really begin to write
about, the peace of an old friend’s home, the soft and
fast rain,  faint hint of lilac,  
an old oak and the lean white legs of eucalyptus,
then hours up a trail of dusty earth, wild
fennel and sage, the rough and intrusive fingers
of chaparral.   I walk and walk, hide in sand carved caves,
move like an anemone through mossy oak groves, open
and unexpected until the trail
reaches above the sea, a gaping breath, and I’m afraid to
look down,
sometimes it’s all too much to take in,
as down below, a man,
I always assume so,
shatters both windows,  grabs the bags, cash you earned and saved
for that precious bite of Unagi, Hamachi flown in from Japan,
when all you need is right here, here where sand pelts my face,
sticks to my lips,
each little spot of bone and ash,
a seagull’s brittle skeleton,
fills my ears and eyes while green wash
pulses and pounds .
I really can’t believe it,
the duress and serenity of her gray wings and still body, the white
crests of foam, the break and break and break.

So, yeah, after our triumphant walk, after the last high fives, we walked into a pool of green glass, both our purses stollen from the backseat, two windows shattered.  From there it was a police report and then the numbed drive back into Solvang where we walked arm in arm through the Farmer's Market, bought flowers for Meg, told the olive guy the story.  Stranger's sympathy inspired another telling of the tale, this time the bar owner sending us on our way with a complimentary bottle of wine.  And then, while looking for the sushi joint to drown our sorrows, we saw the "sign" the OPEN of the local garage, even at seven in the evening.  Josh, the kind shop owner, warmly measured the window holes, cut cardboard with his exacto knife, sturdily taped things together.  And then the bottle of wine went to him, to bring to his wife since he'd stayed at work so late. 

So the universe is kind and bad things happen to good people but then good people show up to prove them wrong.  We managed to move through this frustration with some perspective and grace.  That said, I will never hoard cash in my underwear drawer again for a trip.  Sometimes I think I have too much expectation.  Or maybe there's no metaphor at all and I just lost my street edge, forgot that you don't lock your purse in the car in LA.  Even when in the mountains, at a trailhead.  Goodness. 

So after the debacle, I was pretty happy to pull back up in Pasadena.  My dad was an absolute gem about it all (it was, after all, his car and, of course, the damage was less than my deductible).  Note to self:  never, ever get mad at your kids for an accident and always, always, be happy they are safe and sound.  Dad made me cry happy tears with his kindness. 

And then there is Hilary.  And Mazzy.  And their little home.  And my mom and her big thoughts and blue eyes.  There was Hollywood on the train and Broadway's best at the Pantages.  There was ripped tee shirts and jean shorts and some hot moves on the dance floor to Erasure.  There was my family dancing with me, laughing as Hilary and I dug deep to produce instant choreography, the years of dancing together imprinted on our brains forever. 

Just like my man Rob Base stated, oh so eloquently, "Joy and pain, like sunshine and rain..." 

And we had it all. 

And then I got to return home to my babies.  And lie next to them while they slept, my midnight flight not allowing me to see them until Sunday morning.  And then I heard their little pit pats and kissed their sweet cheeks and breathed in every ounce of them and felt so darn blessed by it all. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In anticipation of leaving my children for a week...


Anxiety sneaks in on little rat wings, scuttles and flurries of the what if’s as I approach
seven whole days without them.  I imagine the earth quaking, riding a giant wave across

housing developments, stucco and concrete, mini-malls where packages of Japanese udon and
Vietnamese fish paste get tossed like detritus, fly into hungry mouths.  We all mix together,

the vatos on the corner, the women tending shop, the man in the Mercedes, rolling and cresting over
that wide and shiny city, that gritty and deranged barrio, those seasons that meld and mesh,

the sameness that is sunshine sprinkled with centuries of drought and  doughnut shops.  Here, we are safe.  The snow is bad enough, the avalanche tears into our neighborhood and miracles abound.

That’s what I’m talking about.  The pain of real seasons.  The challenge of the day to day makes us
exempt from the wanderlust of the earth at her core, her need to finally release because  where I come

from, where I’m going, no one is spared.  Plates are pushing, pushing, waiting, waiting, lean in,
hold on and it starts with windows, windows rattle, find a doorway, find a table, cover your neck, no

your head, no your neck, always have a plan.  Keep bottles of water in the trunk, keep an extra blanket in the backseat.  Call your children often.   Think of them with the snow and her soft thaw 

and coats, downy and warm.  The way the pull their hats over their ears, their mismatched socks.  The deer watch wide eyed in the yard as they pull away on their bikes, shout, “Look at me!”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

marching forward

This month continues to march forward.  She marches head-first today into spring.  Last week she marched me into a new decade. A week before that, she marched snow down a ravine, shook us into a whole new level of awareness.

I've always loved this month.  The way she welcomes a new season.  The way my birthday coincides  with the return of all things warm, all things light.  My blessings seem everywhere.  My friends showered me with love on my birthday, sang me my favorite songs, created ceremony and circles and reflection.  The children sat on Joellen's hard-wood floor, a picnic blanket between them, while their parents shared words and toasts at the table. 

After dinner the children joined us for music, Solan and Cyrus playing a sweet rendition of, "Happy Birthday" on their guitars.  To really bring it home, Joellen and Casey rewrote the words to the 80's classic, Foreigner's, "Your Love," a forty year rendition all about my wacky life.  That was followed up by, "Seasons of Love" and then Yaz's, "Only You."  Absolutely perfect picks.   I was a soppy pool at that point, floating above the scene in dreamy disbelief.  I felt so wholly loved.  It was the very best birthday present in the world.

 Much revelry continued and will, continue.  I read my poems again at a local bookstore, saw my words move someone to tears, felt confident and took my time as I honored those I love so much, a piece for each -- my sister, my mom, my children, Brandon.  Jeff and I sat across from one another afterwords and had a quiet, candlelit moment of appreciation for all that we have, all the history that has suddenly found us, me back to writing poems a sort of full-circle. 

On Saturday my girlfriends and I packed a bevvy of canvas bags filled with chocolate and wine, books and boots, and headed to Kay's cabin to carry on the celebration.  Kay's birthday is the day after mine -- so fun to share my Pisces splendor with someone who I love so much.  I felt so grounded with these women, so safe, so content.  At one point I looked around at them all and sort of marveled at how artistic, how intelligent, how fun, how solid they all are.  I am surrounded by love.

But tonight, the love is right here, right at home.  Jeffy's away for a long weekend so the kids and I are settling into our little style.  Tonight during books this one little page had the kiddos in hysterics.  They wanted me to keep going back to read it again and again.  Soli's laugh was guttural, deep, and Eliana and I were laughing both at the book and in celebration of this little boy.  Eliana looks huge these days, wise and wacky.  She lost her front tooth last week and has this massive gap-toothed smile, her hair long and wild down her back, her colors vibrant and all her own.  Solomon's brilliance continues to show-through, his mind wild with connections, his Spanish soaring.  Today I stood outside his classroom during my recess break.  I had a perfect view of him at his little center, sitting next to Adriana as she explained to him how a measuring tape worked.  He was so focused, so enthralled.  I then meandered across the hall and went into Eliana's quiet room, the kiddos busy outside on the playground.  I looked at her artwork, her handwriting on the walls.  I thought about how absolutely comfortable she is in that space, how proud she is to be herself. 

I've been feeling that same way.  It's a pretty splendid place to be.

two years ago, today

When we moved I found a few really precious things.  Two tapes containing Brandon singing to me when he was seventeen years old are at the top of that precious possession list.  He's been gone two years today.  Today I pull them out of their box and plug in Eliana's pink Hello Kitty boom box -- the box with the tape player.  Brandon sings and talks, talks and sings.  I realize as I go through this tape that I have listened to this hundreds of times before.  Hundreds of times while I rode the stationary bike at my college rec center, wiping my heartbroken tears.  Hundreds of times as I drove up the five, over the Grapevine, headed to or from school.  I press my ear up to the little pink speaker.  Technology sure was different then.  Golly, his spectrum of musical theatre to bad ballads to sweet croonings is really remarkable.  This was Brandon at his finest.  Brandon's late night madness.  So innocent then.  Just him and his music, singing, "What I Did For Love" into a handheld recorder.  If he started a tiny bit off key, he'd start again, start again until he got it right.  No studio or computers or equalizers.  He never misses a note.

He must have made this right before I left for college.  He's talking about how he'll see me in October.  I wish I remembered the chronology better.  When he decided he had moved on.  When sweet Anna came into the picture.  He's saying, "It's real.  It's really real."  And I'm remembering that feeling of real, that feeling of first real.  And now he's saying, "Bob!  Bob, take care of your sister, Bob (addressing Hilary with her nickname at the time)."  What a relic.  An auditory love letter.  An auditory goodbye.

There have been a handful of people who have really seen me in this life.  Thank you, Bran.  Thank you for seeing me.  Thank you for giving me that space to be me, in all my early adult splendor.  Thank you for knowing me so completely.

You just told me goodnight.

And the tape clicked off.  And now I'm trying to rewind and play the other side and the tape player won't work.  And I'm jimmying and jamming and I don't want to ruin anything.  So I take a deep breath and play some November Rain in your honor via Youtube, know that I need to keep the tapes in good working condition so that I can share them with Hil in a few weeks when I arrive.


During my early morning session I listened to you, I drew cards for you, I wrote for you.  I was nervous before I pulled my cards, nervous their magic wouldn't work, that I wouldn't get a sign from you like I did last year on this day.  But, sure enough, there they were:

The Miser
The Outsider

and there you are, in all of them, falling between the two towers of the two worlds, holding all your pain and brilliance close to your chest, your whimsy and eternal youth, you, always outside, always alone, behind the black wrought iron bars of your own making, made of your mania.  

So there you are, my friend.  The season gently moves in, the light holds out a bit longer and I light a candle for you, sweet friend.  For our innocence and truth.  For your huge and resonant voice, forever alive.

I think the sun is a flower,
That blooms for just one hour.

            Ray Bradbury, All Summer in a Day

Natural Light

You are winter.
Soft mist and bare trees
smoke billows over brown hillsides
air heavy with cloud –
white and lifeless,
you hold darkness,
windy mountain roads,
hairpin turns,
music loud,
a cigarette burns through your tired fingers,
hair like a whip,
a curtain of sleek black
obstructs your view.

You are winter.
Long days indoors,
no natural light
books and pages torn, strewn
words and notes,
harmonies and battle cries,
formulas and the pursuit
of quiet.  Pills spill and you
search and search,
up all night,
you sing to the bare sky,
sing to the frozen river,
sing through another season.

In March the sun begins to return,
you’ve survived again.
Daffodils and daylight,
green grasses blaze,
and one Saturday, you
hear your name,
walk quietly down the stairs,
past the pages taped to stairwells,
litter of guitar picks,
boxes of Nicorette,
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,

back issues of Rolling Stone,

cracked jewel cases, scratched CD’s,
a single white sock,

and breathe in the spring,

carefully loop the rope around the rafters.

The angel of the morning is calling out your name
smooth movements
you’ve done this so many times before

The angel of the morning is calling out your name
and you know then
the pierce of sunlight from beneath the closed garage
the clean scent of dew moving in around you
the eternal warmth of spring.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Forty things, for forty

It's two minutes shy of my fortieth birthday.  It's late and the day has been full.  But, alas, the challenge of a forty things gratitude practice lures me in, late night and all. 

Forty things to be grateful for:

1.  My family.  Jeff and his big brain, huge heart, how well he knows me.  Eliana and her kindness and creativity.  Soli and his wild-abandon and passionate ways.

2.  My mama's gifts of absolute love and devotion.  Her intelligence and insight.

3.  My dad's love for connection and art, for travel and poetry.

4.  Hilary and every single thing about her.  The way she loves me inside and out.

5.  The rest of my siblings and how they've always supported me, guided me, held me.

6.  Earrings.  Especially leather ones.  Especially my silver, pleather dangles.

7.  Water -- water in my glass, water in the tub, water in the river, water in the sea.

8.  Open space.  Mt. Jumbo.  Waterworks.  Greenough Park.

9.  My bed.  Flannel sheets. 

10.  Books, books and more books.  Books in the bath.  Books in the hot tub.  Books in piles at my bedside.

11.  Girlfriends.  Melissa on the line, my Missoula posse, their loud laughter and adventurous ways. 

12.  Writing.  My journals.  This blog.  The poems that have begun to grace my life again.  The wisdom of the muse.

13.  Early morning yoga sessions.  My sandalwood candle.  My puffy pink mat.  Pandora.  My Osho zen cards and their magical ways. 

14.  Food.  Indian food.  Burritos.  Hot sauce.  Cheese.  Sushi.  Fruit.  Salads.  Green curry.  Food.

15.  Tipu's chai and vanilla soymilk every morning.

16.  Dancing to loud music.  Doing lots and lots of turns.

17.  Barefeet on sand.

18.  My body in the ocean.

19.  Music.  The voices of my ladies, the voice of my boyfriend, Michael Franti, the throw backs and pop songs, the heartfelt power ballads.  Bring it all.

20.  Fashion.  Scarves.  Necklines.  Color.  Soft fabrics.  Comfy boots.  Knee-high socks. 

21.  The art on my walls.

22.  My little blue lamp with the girl on the swing.

23.  Watching my kids sing along to, "Frozen."

24.  My hair dyed for the first time today and blown straight.

25.  Coconut oil for my skin.

26.  Facials and massages.

27.  Missoula.

28.  California.

29.  Mexico.

30.  All the places I've yet to visit.

31.  Tipi camp.  That I get to go back.  That it's only a five hour drive away.

32.  Downtown.  How I love to buy special treats for myself from different places.  How I like to check out the sale racks and put on oil and lotion samples.

33.  This gorgeous house.  The deck in the summertime.  The mellow neighborhood and kind folks.

34.  My jewelry.  My wedding rings and necklace collection.  My ability to accessorize. 

35.  The rhythm in my bones.

36.  My smile.

37.  Sunshine.

38.  Listening to songs that I grew up with.

39.  Dance parties.

40.  Birthdays.