2 geese in perfect duo
over the bridge together
back from winter.
A false Spring,
a lovely start.
A woman’s pair of beige dance shoes
hangs from the powerline
outside the theatre.
She always wanted to be
a tightrope walker.
We often throw ourselves higher,
sooner than we think we’re able to go.
Ostara, in her haste,
drops a white-washed paintbrush
on the robin blue eggshell sky
leaving a smatter of
pulled apart cotton cloud.
The birds still wait to be warmed
To fly or to burrow?
Cannot take the sky
before I know how
to go to ground.
A strange circular rainbow appears
behind a triangular treeline.
Not yet. Still, more rain.
I take a wrong turn into a dead end street
and the Ouroboros symbol appears
on a glassblowers garage studio door
at the end of the alley,
and it’s no longer the wrong way
it’s the right symbol,
I turn around again
bite my own tail,
face the sun
waiting, turning from the dark
for two to agree
and become one.
She is an egg and every shadowed glance,
every silent forest destroys her.
She is newborn and the shark-tooth grit
of the earth clings to her wet eyes.
She is in flames, the jeweled fire
that everyone remembers,
and then, what she had not foreseen,
She is burned and not consumed.
Burned. She feels her feathers
knit together. Burned. It hurts her
to heal. She is still.
She dreams of the next dawn,
a darkness, a nest of ash.
Tonight was the full moon. The 9th of April. The Pink Moon. The Egg Moon. Even the word April sounds like rain; it spittles from the mouth with the open promise, the gathering of air for the “A” and the plosive “pr” ending with the tongue lap of “l” at the back of the teeth. Water held back, pressed behind the dam. But that rain, as the rhyme goes, the April showers hold the promise of May flowers. Considering the wild rains Portland tends to get on the regular, I would wager that despite a couple of stellar 70 degree days that visited us early in the week, there is still a good bit of watery April left and that will require some patience. Next full moon—The Milk Moon. The Flower Moon.
Luckily, the flowers are already showing their pretty faces in the garden; purple and pink hyacinth carries on the air like a honeysuckle perfume, the camellia trees in my yard bloom bright red, some mottled with white stripes, the yellow, white and violet crocus and buttery daffodils are plenty, and the tulips have unfurled their emerald green bunny ears, though the buds are still closed tight as peapods, so many meditative eyelids, dreaming something deep and colorful. A flurry of cherry tree blossoms drift into the yard; heavy Spring wind casting a false snow, a white mimicry of Winter’s last stand.
While wandering the perimeter of the house, I found a lonely patch of trillium, a tri-fold of green heart leaves lifting up triangular white flowers, a basket of stars, everywhere in 3s.
But that’s the best part of Spring—everything coming back from Winter’s sleep, seemingly, from the dead: the flowers, the trees, the animals, the goddess Eostre, Jesus. Me.
I’ve been feeling better, I’m cooking more and enjoying all the smell and tastes and textures of food. Something happened last full moon, some strong anxietal force moved through me. Some part of me died a little, something, someone else resurrected. It was what i asked for, and lately, as I am sleeping more soundly, it is a common and powerful theme when i dream. Death, rebirth, fire, water, flying, wings, feathers, hands in the earth, digging and digging, biting and scratching my way through.
Two nights ago I dreamed I stood in a huge backyard, a large farmhouse behind me. It wasn’t quite an open field as it was fenced off. The grasses were tall in places and something straw-colored was moving through the area towards me. But all I could see were its dark eyes and furry antlers. It seemed to be part moose or reindeer and masculine—it was so large, but as it drew closer, it became softer, graceful, almost feminine despite the large antlers on its head to indicate male. It was more a Mule deer, a buck.
We both approached each other cautiously and as the deer stood still before me, it morphed into a woman. It occurred to me that i should invite her for dinner; a big party was being thrown by extended family, though it was no family I knew of and no occasion i could name. When I introduced my new friend to the men in the family, they leered a bit, patted at her long legs and lap asking why she was so quiet. I explained that she was foreign and didn’t speak the language, so the deer-woman just smiled softly at them and looked strangely at me. I grew anxious as we visited because I felt that at any moment, her glamour would break and she would morph back into the powerful, antlered creature that would bound through the room, kick over furniture and dishes and smash through the back door to escape. The thought plagued me so heavily, I pleaded with my eyes to the deer-woman, and indicated with my head that we should go back outside. She nodded and followed me.
Once we were outside, she became the buck again and wandered out into the forest where I followed her/him. A bright shock of sunlight stunned the deer and it turned on me, knocked me over, bleating, snorting and biting at my neck. It was part murder, part mating. The world went dark in a swirl of tree canopy, pearl grey sky and clouds of shattered eggshell.
When I woke, it was the woman again beside me, waiting for me to rise. My sense was that I was dead, but undead. Not quite vampire, but stony, pale and cold. I was able to move fast, to levitate, to fly and could bring someone with me, transferring the powerful ability to them, with them, so long as they linked hands or an arm with me.
The deer-woman had someone with her now, and I had a faceless someone with me. The four of us flew around until we came upon a memorial site. A grave with no body. A decorative brass commemorative plaque. With my name on it. But it was not my current married name. It was my maiden name: Andrea Jackman. I wiped dirt away from the plaque, collected cigarette butts and trash thoughtlessly discarded in the grass surrounding it and threw these things away. I felt sadness, but also, realized, it was not truly myself that was lost or dead, but a previous incarnation of self.
This lead me to seek out the mythology of the deer, the stag, ways to interpret the dream. Some of it I knew, but some of what I found amazed me in my own psyche’s ability to deliver the message.
It begins even in Neolithic Cave art where the depiction of people for hunting or shamanistic practice, dress in deer hide and wear antlers. In Classical times, the ‘Stag God’ was paramount to the Scythians and other peoples across the Eurasian steppes. To the Hungarians (my ethnic background) there is a great horned doe, which shone in multicolour lights and its antlers glittered from light.
There is the Spring renewal, the chase after the stag is a hunt for the return of the sun, searching for its light and heat which during Winter is taken away by the stag. The girls of the legend are the does, the daughters of light (Leukepius in Greek), who return the light and fertility of the sun. For that reason they have names which indicate “light, white, burning” Dula=Gyula,Gyul…, Sar=gold, light, stag. Bular or Bugur=stag in Turkic.
Ancient Norse mythology tells how 4 stags run in the branches of the ash and browse the foliage of the world-tree Yggdrasil, eating away the buds (hours), blossoms (days) and branches (seasons). Their names are: Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, Durathor and are thought to represent the four winds.
In Greek mythology, it is the Keryneian stag, a fantastic beast with golden horns and brass hooves sacred to the huntress-goddess Artemis who turned herself into a white hind (female deer) to avoid being violated by two giants.
The deer is also a central religious image for Buddhism. Buddha is often pictured with a deer, and legend tells how he first preached in a deer park. The deer image itself representing innocence and a return to the wilderness.
In Celtic mythology, the deer is a magical creature, able to move between the worlds and many tales have humans transformed into deer. For example, St. Patrick was said to have transformed himself and his companions into deer in order to escape a trap laid by a pagan king. Cernunnos, the Celtic Horned God, was depicted with the antlers of a stag; he is said to be a god of fertility and plenty, and to be the Lord of the Beasts. According to some, his antlers symbolize a radiation of heavenly light. Images of stags were supposedly used to symbolize Cernunnos in non-human form. In the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, the stag is one of the oldest animals in the world, along with the blackbird, the owl, the eagle and the salmon.
In some parts of Asia, deer are considered to be conductors of soul and thus the robes of shamans are usually made out of deerskin. Likewise, many Native Americans believed deer and other animals with forked horns and antlers represented forked or double nature. When the Cherokee traveled during harsh winter weather, they rubbed their feet in warm ashes and sang a song to acquire powers for the four animals whose feet never were frost bitten—opossum, wolf, fox and deer. To the Pawnee, the deer is a guide to the light of the Sun. The Panche Indians of Colombia believe that human souls pass into the bodies of deer after death and therefore eating the flesh of deer is forbidden to them. In ancient Mexico, deer were sometimes depicted carrying the Sun (similar to the ancient Steppe myth and the Scythians).
The antlers of the stag are compared to tree-branches (the world-tree Yggdrasil) and since they are shed and re-grown every year represent fertility, rejuvenation and rebirth. Carl Jung noted that “the stag is an allegory of Christ because legend attributes to it the capacity for self-renewal … In alchemy, Mercurius is allegorized as the stag because the stag can renew itself.”
This close to Easter, my mind is swirling with birth, bunnies, blossoms, eggs, animals, the moon, the sun, Christology, oh and sure, I’ve some room for chocolate in there, too. After all, it is the sweet delectables, the luscious plenty, the little gifts, and the small rewards that make such great love and transformation possible. But was my dream telling me to lay off the Twilight series by conjuring a vampire deer? Was I truly dead? Rutting? No—I’d like to think it’s the change on the horizon, the promise of sun, a great white fire I am still chasing after in the woods. Some promise borne out of rain, softening the edges, washing away the ashes, waiting for me to rise from a bed of flowers and turn my head up to the clouds of shattered eggshell to see the robin blue sky.
so . . . i was tagged. more, i was asked to write a blog with 10 random things, facts, goals, or habits about mys(elf).
this longish little labor of love is dedicated to Virtual Angel and Laura, (thanks for waiting pretty ladies) though i will break the trend by NOTtagging anyone directly for obligatory response and instead invite anyone to tell me one random thing, fact or goal about themselves here as an optional comment.
i will start big and descriptive and then i will try to scale down to some simple trivia.
::: ::: ::: :::
1 i am a nature nut. I have a profound respect for all things furry, things with leaves, scales, fins, feather and especially wings. And not just the pretty things like moths and butterflies, but birds and even bats. I have picked up butterflies dashed by car radiators flapping at the roadside. i’ve hand fed a dazed hummingbird after thudding pitifully into a window and was amazed to have it fly directly out of my hand. i have carefully pulled a baby mouse from a glue trap. Out of sheer interest, i took great pride in planting and cultivating a small but beautiful garden and i raised giant silkmoths (Saturniidae) for a year. i have photo documented nearly all of the above in great detail.
This all adds up to the fact that i wish i were a National Geographic level photographer (though i did finish in the 3rd annual Smithsonian contest in the category of Altered Images for a photo of a red tree.) my photos have also been featured in a Maryland Department of Natural Resources Calendar and on a species sign at the Calgary Zoo (for a HUGE bat called a Malayan Flying Fox.)
To remind me of the fragility of the natural worlds (humans included) i keep a little wooden box on my bookshelf. Some would consider it a bug sarcophagus but it has several wings, some full bodies of, and some single panels of glittering, scaly, colorful butterflies, moths and a fully intact dragonfly. I’m not a pinner and framer or a freezer or a killer. None of this Silence of The Lambs nonsense . . . i would just find these and collect them in the field as is. Creepy to you maybe, but delicate treasures to me.
2 i move slow on Sundays. Meditatively so. Or more at, sometimes, i don’t like getting up in the morning. Correction. i do NOT get up in the morning, i typically rise in the early afternoon. Morning for me is 10am to 11am. 9am is really pushing it. Anything prior to that and i am either sleeping, or some kind soul is cooking up a mean breakfast in the kitchen that has roused me and my hunger. Or – i wake voracious and i am found making a tall stack of pancakes, towering like fluffy beige clouds or a big mess of cheesy scrambled eggs. My Sunday ritual is this . . . Rise late. Drink tea. Eat breakfast for lunch. Stay comfortable. Snuggle with Joe. Read or write of fill my mind and heart with music and art. I am not religious (unless you count nature) but i understand why people go to church, why they don’t want to work, why they choose forced respite on Sunday. as midnight approaches on a Saturday, bringing to close a full day, a full week lived and loved, greeted and embraced, photographed and written about, drunk down and eaten full, documented, cherished and learned from, i see the world as my church and the amazing places, people and things in it, all beautiful, meaningful and deserving of reverence in their own godlike ways. So i need time to digest my universe. And i refuse to work on Sundays. For at least the past 10 years . . . ultimately, i try to live my life as if it were a string of neverending Sundays: i eat when i am hungry, i sleep when i am tired, i work when i need the money, i rest when my mind or my body calls for it.
3 i am guilty of magical thinking. This is because i believe i lead a charmed life. Truly. In a world of random bullshit and utter chaos, i find myself wildly lucky. this works for me in a positive way not a paranoiac way. Many, many positive things, people and opportunities have filled my life. The places i’ve traveled to and seen, the wine i’ve consumed, the food i’ve eaten, the music i’ve absorbed, the people i’ve met, the true friends and the necessary lovers over the years and now, the perfect husband i now cherish. Where does the magic come in? i believe these things have been delivered to me from sheer wishing, from dreams, from asking the universe out right, from applying my mind and my will to them and invariably, from making the good decisions that put me in the places where the magic indeed happens. Oh yeah – and i think faerie folklore has a good bit of truth and i don’t care what you think that means. The boon of art and writing inspired is plenty. i look for signs in everything from placement in time and numbers on coins, to colors worn for effect, from license plates to billboards, from overheard conversations to the small, pinched flower mouths of children. Myths are made daily. i live like that . . .
4 i prefer to eat with my hands. I can even been seen eating a salad like this. Sure – i’ve worked in fine dining for the better part of 16 years and i know how to set a proper table. Even so, i use my right hand like a little claw or a prong, gathering three fingers and a thumb into a quadrant, leaving the pinkie out. i like gently tearing off hunks of cake or gathering a bundle of French fries and bringing the whole of it to pursed lips. i often taste sauces on plates with my fingers first before going in. it doesn’t matter how fancy or how low country the food is, though i will often employ the proper tool at the proper time, i still prefer the direct tactile sensation of bringing food to my mouth with my hands. and as for beverages, i’ll drink wine out of anything, including a bowl.
5 i’ve tried my hand at every artistic arena minus sports. i’ve attacked and completed most ventures with moderate success and still continue to grow in the ones i’ve decided to hold onto. No one told me i couldn’t or explained that i might fail so i tried everything to see what i was good at with joyful abandon. i play acoustic guitar and a smattering of piano, i even tried flute and saxophone. i sing mostly as i discovered it was my best instrument and used it to front a band. i’ve been recorded. i’ve sketched, painted and sculpted. i took jazz for a few months and performed in precisely one dance recital in a hideous pink and black polka-dotted bodysuit with crinoline skirt when i was 15. i still write quite a bit and have been published in small collections that i have entered and/or was editor-in-chief for and won minor educational scholarship contests for writing when i began my college career. Then there’s the photography bit too . . . as previously mentioned.
6 secretly – or maybe not so secretly, i want to sift through my writing and author a book. Poetic prose, nothing too confessional, something probably more at short-story/essay-type of writing. If there were a way to amalgamize the astute natural observation of Annie Dillard, the humor of David Sedaris, Douglas Adams or Christopher Moore, and the delightfully dense prose of Tom Robbins, fluid and delivered in equal parts, then this is the book i want to write. i mean – aren’t we all very busy writing the Great American Novel?
7 Socks. i love them. Especially knee-highs. The longer, more silly, more sexy, more striped, more full of cats and flowers and polka-dots and eyeballs and stars, the better.
8 Being naked. This is my preferred state. And i don’t say that to be provocative. i like senseless nudity. Like, i prefer to be naked cleaning the tub and bathroom tiles (so i can shower after!) or fresh out of the shower composing email naked in front of the computer with a towel on my head. i like doing the dishes naked or dusting the bookshelves on a chair naked or my favorite, stripping down in front of the washer and loading the clothes into the basin naked. Also combine this with 7 and you get naked plus socks – another common state of mine. Because i dress according to mood and function, it takes me awhile to decide what i’m wearing for the day so if i don’t have to go anywhere on the immediate, i’ll just wander the house naked until i get inspired.
9 Oregon. This is where i want to live. I want to see mountains and water, to hike to camp, to breathe and eat healthy and sleep soundly to the rain. All of this with my husband Joe, in a home with a fireplace and a wall stuffed with books (or a proper library), with a couple (or few cats) and a big porch to watch the birds from, a backyard without a fence to hold back the garden of flowers, herbs, vegetables and lavender, a few comfortable chairs, a bright window to look out while i write and read, and a nicely stocked kitchen and pantry with plenty of cupboard space for us to feed ourselves and entertain the people we adore. There is a plan in place for this eventual utopian move . . .
And last for 10 i give you . . ..
10 My Top 10 List of Tiny Zen
the top of my cat’s head (where smooches go)
Mango flesh – if you want to learn to kiss, eat one, with both hands
the smell of onions frying in butter
the crisp of autumn experienced through an open window
blood orange hot tea
an afternoon nap in a cool, dark place
lavender – in any form, mixture, balm or concoction
a sexy, luscious, viscous red wine
Jasmine Rice steaming
cold champagne in a hot bath
and the invitation is now yours, should you choose . . .
So much life happens in between writing—sure, I toss off a few poems here and there, bread crumbs for the flitting birds to circle and chase and peck upon in my head, but after awhile, i think i get a little backed up. Polluted really. My brain hurts – and I get an actual headache from the need of being empty. But not in a bad way. I am full to the brim of events to reflect upon, or more, i have so much to convey, to catalogue where I’ve been, what i’ve seen, and all the emotional responses in between.
As a child, i often imagined what it would’ve been like to be Anne Frank. To live swiftly, to love, to fear and to hope so deeply in a mere 15 years, and somehow, to have the wherewithal to take the time and write it all down. I imagined what it would be like to have your secret thoughts, sketched out and told to a book/creature/confident called “kitty.” Strangely, i romanticized the idea of having my own thoughts read by others after i died, young or old, discovered in a desk nook, thumbed over and devoured. i think it is more the idea that most of us want to create a legacy than a fantasy about dying young and being immortalized.
Humans want to surpass mundanity; we want to be individually great and loved and remembered for something. Anne did it unwittingly and it was more than just a girl talking about family and school and boys and prejudice – she documented and encapsulated a dark time in history making it a crystallized horror for us to look at and in some ways, to give thanks for our lives now. Is this why we blog? To prattle on about daily events in the hopes that we are found? Or that better, we are PROfound . . .
Sometimes, i still see myself as the girl with the diary in my night table, except that not only is the writing not so private, there’s a digital display for anyone in the world to locate and to read it. Though i have them and use them for other things, my tools are not paper or pen, but this monitor and this computer with a program that throws clean white sheets and perfectly scribed text and no crossing out or rubber-end erasing; it’s cut and paste and movement and manipulation and clickety-clack and SAVE AS until it’s fitfully complete.
And what will they discover of me? i thought about this upon cleaning my keyboard, popping off keys to reveal multiple DNA samples, unlikely chimera tailing together: dust, dried ivy leaves, finger nail clippings, sticky bits of evaporated wine, food crumbs, cat hair, all recombining to lay out a pattern that speaks of a woman with small hands and a dislike for fingernails that make tapping noises, a someone who loves cats and plants and food and libation and cool breezes through windows to kick and stir things up a little, rather than the swatch of a dust rag.
But that’s just part of me – there is also the most important influence and the reason i am able to write at all . . . the people in my life who i spend time with, who inspire me, who i create memories with, else i’d be moaning and meowing on in my own private hell, concocting my prosaic neuroses in painstaking, exhaustive (and to be sure, wildly boring) detail. There’s plenty of that to be had about and so really, it’s a meaningful task to tell a good story about a normal life; that’s what allows us transcendence into heroes.
Wikipedia tells us that a superhero is a fictional character who is noted for feats of courage and nobility, who usually possesses abilities beyond those of normal human beings. The exhibit a strong moral code, including a willingness to risk one’s own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward. They have extraordinary powers and abilities, relevant skills, and/or advanced equipment. More often than not, they have a secret identity.
Well – my list of late, they aren’t fictionalized (well, yet, unless you count Chelsea, who wrote a book and flattered me with a request to design the cover.) i’m going to have break confidence on this one and reveal the identities of good friends and loved ones.
In June, the Monday night of my birthday, it rained. Not to be deterred and though some of the people I invited did not show, Nicole was my sweet saving grace and trooped out with me. We went out drinking like rockstars and dancing like divas, hair thick and skin slick with rain which became sweat, pressed against all those swaying bodies in the basement bar. It could’ve been a disappointing night with the no-shows and the weather, but Nicole was a true friend to me.
Tuesday it drizzled a nice haze to accompany the hangover I nursed at work the following day, but on Wednesday, there was no holding back – the sky opened up and hailed a glorious rainstorm down on us replete with lightning and thunder and flash flooding. And then the transformer blew out at the bottom of the street in a spectacular blaze, then dudded like a lame fireworks finale and darkened the block all except Joel’s house on the corner who was clearly jacked in to the electricity from the next corner over.
The houses on my street are quite old, a good deal of them declared “historic” with building markers by the nearby and omnipresent Historic Annapolis Foundation. Ours in particular falls under the category of “Chesapeake Gray” in the 19th/20th-Century Annapolis Vernacular, 1837-1921. Some of these houses still have root cellars and a good downpour can mean serious problems in the basement – the kind that require a sub pump to work and when there’s no power, there had better be a generator. On this night, there was a truck, suited with a generator rumbling at the bottom of the street for hours while other neighbors exhaustively bailed out bucket style. Luckily, this was not my fate that night leaving me to concentrate on being comfortable in my pajamas and lighting enough candles to give off the illusion of civilized living.
In this monsoon and to my darkened door, Nicole delivered me the birthday carrot cake, carefully wrapped in plastic and shielded from the rain under my porch awning when i rescued it and brought it inside. i poured a glass of Moscato dessert wine and sat down with a good portion centered on a bone white plate, decoratively trimmed with fat pears and flowers rising from the edge of the china; a happy brail inscription of bounty and beauty. no power, no internet, just my cell phone with three little bars of battery power left, so i sent merry, thankful texts as i happily and greedily devoured a wedge of orange, cream-cheese frosted goodness.
“Still living in 1785?” inquired Ryan? “oh yes. it’s Jane Austen up in this motherfucker. candlelit room like a Renaissance ballroom. quite pretty, actually,” i replied. although it was probably more Jane Eyre a la Emily Bronte. more poor girl makes good of it in the dark and damp. Soon after the umpteenth message was texted under my quick thumb, my cell phone battery died. not to be deterred, i went out front to my parked car into the long, narrow street, wading through ankle-high water rushing past me like a line of cool, silver fish swimming to meet the bay at the foot of the hill. All the ever meanwhile, i was in my grey pajama nightie with the intentions of using the auxiliary power in the car to charge my phone and continue my only connection to the outside world beyond this wicked rainstorm.
As i sat with my feet propped up on my dash, i noticed a bright orange and black umbrella lulling a promenade from side to side in the wind and coming toward my house. it ducked into my neighbor’s fence, then dipped to reveal my neighbor Joel’s familiar face. “Joel!” i called. And then had to call again as he swung around trying to figure out where the voice was coming from to discover it was from a car window, rolled down just enough to let the sound out while keeping the rain out too. He laughed at me and my non-outfit and invited me, or more, tempted me with pomegranate cosmopolitans and a warm robe. i mean, how could i refuse a bartender with a Harvard degree in said skill. Well, ok – a “Master of Mixology” degree from the Harvard Bartending School.
The robe he produced was like the coat of many colors. A terrycloth robe in magentas, teal and goldenrod. It boasted a smaller, matching version for his son. So, for the second time that week, i sat, drinking with a head full of wet hair, but this time, i danced with his dog, Schooner, who allowed me to pull him by his front paws and onto his back legs for a little spin through the kitchen. A finer partner than some men i’ve cut a rug with, i can tell you, and sweeter.
Since we got onto the topic of dressing strangely or inappropriately, for my amusement, Joel pulled out the ghosts of Halloweens past. Costumes made mostly of foam: gigantic heads with glasses, a monstrous slice of pizza you could slide your arms into and peek out through holes from, a blood spattered t-shirt to be worn while carrying plastic knives glued through boxes of Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (a “cereal” killer) and finally, the piece de resistance: a naked, disembodied boob wearing a spiked collar and a stiff leash, the kind meant for walking invisible dogs or for, in this case, for two people to walk side by side and when begged the question, “what the hell are you supposed to be?” They could slyly answer, “Oh, we’re just two people walking abreast.”
Joel showed me pictures from a recent bike trip to Lake Tahoe where he races for Lymphoma & Leukemia. He also showed me photos from a recent wedding of his friend Brit. Joel is a wonderful father to his son, Galen, a terrific host, a great cook and a good ear to bend. And he makes a mean drink too . . . i walked home after several ruddy cosmopolitans in my coat of many colors and staved off the raindrops as i went.
And speaking of some mean drinking . . .
August 21st, i went to see one of my favorite female singers Esthero live at the Ram’s Head Onstage in Annapolis. This venue is small and extremely intimate and we, in fact had front row seats. (me and the 3-Ms (Megan, Meg and Melissa). The four of us were parked right up against the stage at her feet. These were feet at which lay the many shots of Jaegermeister she was able to coax from the crowd. The show progressed at a loose and silly pace of storytelling, her father taking pictures as he strolled through the crowd and around the stage, her and her brother drinking as the set grew more improv and a touch vulgar and hilarious.
But she became a Superhero to me when she pulled me up on stage to sing Superheroes with her – a song i had here on my profile for quite some time, and that’s a memory i’ll always cherish whenever i hear it. it’s not every day that a beautiful woman /rockstar you admire points to you in the crowd, compliments you on the way you sing and the way you smell, lays their head on your shoulder and then cops a feel!
i only wish that Shane and i were still friends – he gave me that first CD, Breath From Another, thinking i would like it . . . i did. besides good music and film, he also offered company and advice at a time when my life was undone. i’ll be grateful for that time even if i don’t understand what happened to make us distant. i hope he reads this and he knows that although he can be an extremely occupied but selfless recluse and though i can be a little flighty with a full plate of my own, i’m so happy he found someone to love with as much passion as he owns in this life and offers to the people around him.
Adria, a friend from work quipped recently, “you know, i’m never the bride, i’m not even the bridesmaid, i’m the bride’s waitress.” and i laughed, because i’ve listened to women “ooh” and ahh” and aww” over baby booties and matching dishware for many many years having been the waitress who brings the food, the mimosas and the garbage bag to put all the colorful wrapping paper into as well as the paper plates to affix all the bows to for the “bouquet.”
She’d been asking me about dealbreakers and happiness and love and i’ll have to attest, you’re doing the right thing girl. when you bicker over the proper way to make toast in the morning, when the important conversations become null and void topics for discussion, when there’s love but there’s no real time spent together showing it, if it’s only inertia keeping you there then it’s time to escape the atmosphere. Her life will only open up and welcome the love she needs from here.
Proof positive—you can love people, you can enjoy them for who they are and rail at them for who they aren’t, but that still doesn’t make them a good fit in your emotional world. Weather, seasonal disposition and growth (or death) accounts for the fostering or the floundering of any relationship. Some fall away, some change their shape and meaning, some we cling onto for good.
Which brings me to my beautiful Joseph. There i was, ready for the big move. “Fuck it all, boys and girls. He must not live here so i don’t want to either.” i was going to Los Angeles to be near to my sister, Racheal and her great relationship with Flounder (his legal name for which a story is due), and i would foil off of them and locate love in the big bad scary plastic city (with pockets of reality, so i understand). i even had a sweet benefactor/friend who sent me wine and wonderful books, encouraged my move and bought a photo from me. Drew, you’re a beautiful, thoughtful person and a fine example of the goodness in the world that allows us all to pool from the collective unconscious and come by like-minded people to grok this life with.
And weeks before i was ready to make arrangements for the moving truck, the drive, the car, the clothing, the cat, fate stepped in and said,”oh no, not that!” Somehow by some strange twist of dreams, roommates, my friend from the south, Graham, and Joe’s sister from across the pond, Laura – we came to find each other. It was a volley of long, tasty emails, a dinner date and a long walk that turned into two days before i allowed him to go home.
So many false starts and flat hopes and meaningless gestures from other men and then he sweetly asked, “i know you’re planning on moving and i’m not trying to force my will, but would you consider staying here to see where this goes?” His kind request slowed me and led to deeper discussions and further, fancier endearments. His question also prevented me from making a gross error in thinking that there was no one here for me and possibly, though i adore my sister and the west coast landscape, i have a feeling that a part of me might’ve died out there, that i might not have survived in some ways, financially, emotionally and otherwise. That the crushing loneliness of one cat, a small room, a couch for a bed and a horrific daily commute might only have furthered my suspicions of futility when it comes to finding your soulmate. Out there, somewhere, in one of those tin cans driving alongside you or passing you by on the way to the grocery store and you don’t notice him because you’re digging in your door pocket to retrieve a lost CD for that song you just HAVE to hear that reminds you of the love you want except, you know, he didn’t see you either because he’s got his hand flailing under his seat trying to retrieve the fucking Bluetooth so he doesn’t crash his car or worse, get a ticket for using his cell phone without a handsfree unit.
That’s what i mean—in all the mess, all the chaos, in the busy storm we swirl up to occupy our lives, it’s a miracle we find people remotely like ourselves. People who will take the time to get to know each other, to have the serious and soulful conversations that lead to sunrise and breakfast and the rest of your burning lives. To pay attention to someone closely enough beyond movies and music and favorite colors and pet peeves until it leads to understanding. By measurable degrees, you should come by knowing whether that person is a good match, sense the difference between affection and affliction and employ the necessary balance between appearing over-eager, cooling your chances by self-censorship and being justly picky and mindfully critical. i never settled for friends with benefits, i don’t answer to booty calls and the oil-change for the libido that sport-fucking accomplishes is a pale and temporary fix. it is a troublesome, fantasy-laden emotional vacuum compared to the safety and comfort that a real relationship with lovers able to communicate their desires can offer. Eventually, you relax and just marvel and open yourself and are thankful for it all. And i did. Completely. My reward is being unafraid and constantly amazed by the synchronous workings of this gorgeous love affair.
And wow, does it ever give you perspective . . .
A few weeks ago, we lay down for sleep and he was more than half way there when the phone rang at some inhospitable hour. It was a drunk dial from a boy-long-ago. i let it go to voicemail then checked what could possibly be the matter. I snickered as it played back and thrust the phone at Joe so he could hear the silliness for himself. He muttered, “poor guy, sounds like a Muppet with a mouthful of socks.” Indeed. Occasionally soft, brightly colored, delightful in half-hour episodes, but tragically childish and impossible to understand. i lay back down, he pulled the pillow over his shoulder for my head, smoothing my hair as i settled in and curled an arm and a leg over him, a koala bear clinging to a eucalyptus tree.
Megan and i sat down over a big buttery pretzel and some lemonade last night and i described to her, how different i feel. This, i explored out loud, though she already knows the full story because she’s been there since the bad days crashed down and watched with me as the good ones rose and smiled upon me (thank you woman, you’re in my heart). i expressed how my body is changing and strengthening through the yoga she re-introduced me to, how it is also changing and strengthening (and in some ways, softening) at the influence of joy and love, but more so this yielding is taking place in my mind and in the way i see my life unfolding.
“I consider myself so lucky,” I said.
“It’s not about luck,” she said, “it’s about making good choices.” Thoughtful and practical advice in the face of magical thinking. You are where and what you pull yourself towards.
She’s right. And i choose Joe but not only because he rescued me, but because he chose me. And i choose to be a superhero. To be courageous and noble, to devote my life in the service of good without expectation of reward, to develop extraordinary powers and abilities and to choose love. With abandon.
The open palm of desire
It wants everything
It wants soil as soft as summer
And the strength to push like spring
~ Further To Fly by Paul Simon
::: ::: ::: :::
A few nites ago, a wicked rainstorm, which usually puts me to sleep or better – makes me feel lusty, instead put me in a most melancholy mood. Also – the lightning was wild and plentiful, flashing on and off like a constant power surge, as if someone were flicking the light switch in my room, keeping me half-awake for hours. i rose reluctant and weary, bleary-eyed, trying to recall twisted dreams.
It has been raining on and off now for 3 days and no sign of it letting up. the forecast for the next week reads like an incessant moody blue cloud of a poem:
Showers and thunderstorms.
Some thunderstorms may produce heavy rainfall.
Torrential rain will be possible with these showers.
Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms.
Cloudy. A chance of showers and thunderstorms in the morning…
. . . then showers and thunderstorms likely in the afternoon.
Tonight – showers and thunderstorms likely.
Showers and thunderstorms likely in the morning…
Flash Flood Watch in effect through this evening…
Mostly cloudy with a chance of . . .
Partly cloudy with a chance . . .
Mostly . . .
Along with the rumble in the sky, the neighbors have been building something. Again. Last time it was 5 days of clunking and knocking as they installed new flooring. The whole house reverberated with the swing and mark of two hammers hitting wood. His and hers. For the last three days, it’s been tentative tapping somewhere further off in the house. (maybe since the last time i banged on the wall at 8am when i found this to be an unreasonable hour to make so much fucking racket.) But i can hear it whether i’m in bed, at my desk or downstairs cooking eggs. i’m beginning to think they are elves and cobblers. Ruummmmble roll, crackle, tap tap tap tap tap tap. This beat of rain and thunder and punctuating hammerstrokes is droning on and on and on and maybe, just maybe i’ll go mad.
Two nites ago i drank, i think, too much wine (if that’s possible for me) in late celebration of my birthday (week) with a few friends. One bottle was sent to me from a friend, Drew, in California, a Pinot Noir from Willamette, Oregon. i had come home in the afternoon in between shifts on a 12-hour double and there was this package with Happy Birthday in black sharpie written on the outside. it reminded me of a flower box, long and deep, and then i unwrapped the label “Sass,” and had a good snicker to myself. how appropriate. His prelude message read: “You are the anthropomorphic embodiment of this Wine’s Color, Size, Disposition, and Flavor. Hope you like it.”
i liked it alright; it was ruby, dirty, fruity and chocolate goodness. And as always, good wine spurs good conversation and with three wise women, Nicole, Lesley and Jean it went on to waxing love’s philosophies until Nicole, in an emphatic discussion, toppled her wine glass and we shuffled about cleaning as Jean and Lesley (both of whom work too early to conscionably get loaded) took their leave. Nicole convinced her boyfriend Brian to make homemade biscuits and gravy and soon enough we had a slightly over-baked but warm and edible version of breakfast. i poured myself out the door at 4am and found myself weeping a bit openly and unexpectedly as i drove in the rain amidst my thoughts, thankful for at least, a talkative cat when i arrived home. it can get so lonely, even when you’re surrounded by friends, which is to say – i get lonely. And then, you know – i get it in my mind to initiate a bit of a drunk dial, only to find disconnections of not-oft dialed numbers and eventually a sleepy, but willing voice. Thank all good graces for my friends.
But i should move from this grim business of rain and drunkards and think about sunshine and music and poppies and light again on the goodness of friends – even ones i don’t know in this disembodied, alternate state of conscious living, the online community. Some of these friends seem to know me and my tastes better than people i spend most of my direct and physical days with, and that’s fucking impressive.
i have known some of them for the better part of 8-10 years and only recently had the opportunity to meet a handful of them in the real. some people i only know through their writing or their photography or comedy or art or music or whatever it is they do to create and express. And some of these people have imparted on me inspiration, cheer, well-wishing, encouragement, down-right deep flattery, and the most apropos gifts at the most unexpected intervals.
i’m waiting for Monday – for a day off to sit around and package things i’ve meant to be packaging. i truly enjoy sending gifts to people when they don’t expect it. so much better than obvious holidays or birthdays. i take great care in accumulating little things and cards and glitter and confetti and stickers and specialty paper and then i put on music and think of them opening it and enjoy the whole process.
Most recently, me and 6 photographers on deviantART who have never met did a mix CD exchange where we picked 100 songs that somehow define, illustrate, or describe us in some way. Also a great way to acquire new or old music we may have forgotten about and to learn a little about each other.
i picked the number 111, as it has a mystic quality to it. i’ve always liked it better than 100 and also, i’m miserable at sticking to explicit directions. (Like the one where Drew included two books in with the wine and instructed me to choose one, finish it, then open the other.) Of course, i just ripped right through the tissue paper into both of them like a cat into a grocery bag, turning the titles over in my hand, reading the descriptions and accolades on the jackets. As it is, i have 6 books piled on my nite stand with bookmarks at various places and two audio books on my iPod i’ve been listening to in my car and in bed, plus two more audiobooks to rip on my computer desk.
i like visiting different spheres and stories as my mood calls for. i am in constant flux, a multi-tasking motherfucker of the highest degree, horrible at sticking to one idea or project and often finishing 3 or more at once as their immediacy and priority call for. Ask me to tell you my favorite anything and i’ll give you at least three choices. Tell me to compile a Top 10 list on any subject and i might just burn a hole in my brain. At dinner, i often consider two small meals out of liking both and not wanting to decide on one taste alone. Gemini nature? mayhaps . . . more that i don’t want to pick/play favorites in foods, color, pastimes, friends or anything really and i don’t like to issue hurt feelings or choose something final.
Well – unless it’s love, and boy howdy, having tasted a whole lot of that in drams and dumps in several mildy satisfying configurations and variety packs over the last year, it’s safe to say i’ve become a nit-picky connoisseur bitch about that category.
But we’ll come back to that . . .
June 6th through the 8th i convinced Meg, Megan and Michael, her brave husband (in a car with 3 women) to take a short jaunt out to Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Art Festival, primarily to see Andrew Bird (here on MySpace and his official site). He is a Chicago-born classically-trained violinist borrowing sonic everythings including Swing, Appalachian folk, Gypsy music, Jazz, Brazilian sounds and the Blues. He is parts Beck, Jeff Buckley, Devandra Barnhart and Rufus Wainwright. He plays violin, guitar and glockenspiel all the ever while looping, even live, to create textures and whistling, warbling like an eerie, otherwordly bird with a Theremin or a UFO for vocal chords. even so, the parts he plays are spare and atmospheric but densely textured and made all the more lovely, delicate and moody with his intelligent lyrics steeped in myth, brilliant observation, whimsy and word play. His music is penetrating, magical and haunting. i’ve known nothing like it. And i wasn’t about to miss it, so we trekked out to Pennsylvania to see him perform.
We started the day early with greasy biscuit bombs of eggs and bacon and cheese plus coffee (jet fuel). On the way up we listened to comics like Dane Cook go through their routines, laughing with tears in our eyes and taking photos of each other and the passing scenery until we couldn’t, that is to say i couldn’t allow us to pass this beautiful field of red poppies dotted with velvety shoots of royal purple flowers. Simply magnificent to behold and to photograph.
We stayed at a beautiful Bed and Breakfast, The Arbors on the North Side, five minutes over the 6th street (Roberto Clemente) bridge and we were right in the heart of the city and festival. Jim, our illustrious host upgraded us to the Timberline Suite with a bedroom and adjacent sitting room (which i offered to Megan and Mike for a little space and privacy) and Meg and i stayed in the Sunset room. The sun was peeking through here and there when we arrived and the place was so comforting and homey, we decided to take in a day of rest and make use of the kitchen, the sunroom, the garden, and the beds for a nice afternoon nap. We took a little walk with umbrellas when a light rain began through the quiet, steeply hilled neighborhood and found the whole area flanked by cemetery, making it quite peaceful.
We took a few meals of salads and sandwiches from the cooler Megan packed and had access to the fridge and pretty much, run of the house. Jim left in the afternoon after laying out continental breakfast and we turned the place into one long pajama party. Jim baked wonderful treats; mango muffins one morning, coffee angel food cake another, fresh fruit, cereal, juices, and good coffee and teas. We drank several bottles of good wine, ordered out food for delivery that was plentiful and cheap, soaked in the hot tub room, listened to music, had wonderful conversation and restful sleep.
The second day, we made it out to the Andy Wahol Museum (a 7-floor prolific extravaganza), and The Mattress Factory (a two-building art installment). From Wikipedia on the Warhol: “Opened on May 15, 1994, the Andy Warhol Museum is the largest museum in the world dedicated to one artist. The museum’s collection includes over 4,000 Warhol art works in all media – paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and installation; the entire Andy Warhol Video Collection, 228 four minute Screen Tests, and 45 other films by Warhol; and extensive archives, most notably Warhol’s Time Capsules. While dedicated to Andy Warhol, the museum also hosts many exhibits by artists who push the boundaries of art, just as Warhol did.”
And in the basement, a photo booth, which we spent some time goofing off in. i have decided i’d like one installed in my home, as a sort of guestbook. Something magic about the way they produce photos that everyone looks good in with perfect contrast of black and white.
It was then on to the Wednesday nite main event, the main impetus for the trip (other than to celebrate Megan’s and my birthday in tandem) . . . to see Andrew Bird LIVE. We sat right up front near the stage in folding chairs provided by the venue and the mini-magical micro-climate allowed the weather to hold out, though it had been threatening rain all day. In short, so as to not gush – it was everything i imagined it would be. i shot 60 great photos of him, picked up a rare CD and a t-shirt, got to meet him, thank him for his beautiful music and hand deliver a piece of writing that his music inspired in me.
After a couple days of filling our eyes, ears and hearts with music and art, and our bellies with wine, baked goods & cheeses (my GOD the cheese we ate!) we decided to go a little low country. We picked up some 40 oz beers (MGD & Heineken, we stayed away from Malt Liquor and brown bags) and we ordered 3 large containers of various flavored hot wings and had a ghetto feast. Later, we all piled into one bed in the suite and for the second nite in a row, attempted to watch Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil on the DVD we borrowed from our host Jim, but Meg and Megan crashed out both times, leaving Michael and i to declare bedtime for all us bonzos.
Wednesday, the last day of our trip, was full of activity and pleasant surprises. We ended up with a super-deep discount on the stay. We were to receive the weekend rate of a 2-nite stay for $195, so two rooms, 2 nites, 4 people, $100 per person for accommodations. Jim only charged us for double occupancy of the suite at $145 / nite, thus we collectively paid $300 for all of us! We left him a thank you / love note and tipped him $40 for his kindness, generosity and the time he spent sitting around talking to us, giving us directions and highlights of the local things to see and do. It was one of the most pleasant stays i have ever had, anywhere.
In the afternoon, we headed down to the actual Festival to walk around the city and take in all the local booths of jewelry, sculpture, art, crafts and food. After a couple hours and some lunch, it was time to take our rock show tour on the road. We drove back to Maryland, changed clothes and headed out to DC to the 9:30 club to see KT Tunstall. It was being filmed and it was a fantastic show with a wonderful crowd. All the people around us were fun and friendly, receptive, polite and out to have a good time.
And here’s the best part – the next morning, my friend Mike, a local guy who records sound for a number of local venues dropped a 2-disc recording of that very same show in my mailbox (as he’s also the local carrier!) what a treat to get to hear it all over again! Not only that but Michael, Megan’s husband called to see if i’d be home, dropped by my house and left me a bouquet of gorgeous flowers that included Stargazer lilies with a note thanking me for planning the perfect road trip (and declaring that i was “the poop.”) My friends are truly amazing and thoughtful people. i am gifted by graces and for lack of a better term, blessed.
3 friends, 3 days, 3 rivers, 3 bottles of wine . . . it was one of the best 3 days in memory.
By the next week when my real birthday rolled around, my friend Tiffany came in from Oregon to visit, i showed her the huge terracotta pot she had left me which i thought to be empty but was suddenly blooming blissfully orange Tiger Lilies against the “Love Lies Bleeding” Amaranth i had fertilized and planted. We put on swim suits, crawled up on my 3rd story roof, drank a bottle of wine, laid in the sun and talked about work and all things “boy.”
The day before, 12 of us went to an English High Tea at Reynold’s Tavern on a Sunday. i wore a beautiful white linen dress with gold and green floral and ivy accents, borrowed from Nicole (and breaking tradition of my usual black wardrobe.) And we picked through three tiers of scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, finger sandwiches, tarts and a variety of tea cakes and pastries. Everyone gave the perfect gifts! A moonstone toe ring, a book of Polaroid art photos, wine napkins, a book to log all the wine i taste, funny fridge magnets, cards with faeries and of course the gift of their attendance and company. It was so civilized compared to the next evening of debauchery . . .
Monday, i started out my day easy with sticky rice, coconut milk, fresh mango and Chicken Satay with peanut sauce and cucumber salad. Nothing like Thai to get your day jump-started. i went to get a manicure and pedicure, complete with salt scrub (a gift from my boss and his wife) and i drove home through a light patter of rain, laid down with my iPod and went down for a gorgeous disco nap.
When i woke up, it was still raining, but i was not to be deterrred . . . Jean, my roommate Andrew (who gave me a bouquet of flowers when i woke!), Nicole and the more than half the bar that i knew (including the Band, The Mike McHenry Tribe) celebrated in 5 rounds of shots and two beer style. Despite the rain, i donned another fabulous dress, a halter number with tangerine, red, browns and gold. i warmed up with a plate of potato skins to soak up the alcoholic gravy i was about to imbibe and the nite was underway. Nicole and i hung out for the long haul and danced until the lights came on. the band sang me happy birthday, played all my favorite songs with sweet wishes and dedications in between. Both my email and my cell phone were blowing up all day with calls and text messages! it was incredible to be so thought of; i felt so loved.
And so boys and girls, we arrive – skidding the car back into the topical station and everyone get the hell on board for the messy, dizzying, head-spinning, scream-inducing, laughter-lust, flights of fuck-fancy, hands-in-the-air and NOT safely-in-the-car-at-all-times rollercoaster of L-O-V-E.
i reflected on where i was last year how on my birthday i was unceremoniously dumped by my love of 8 years. it’s all fine now, really: his mother is still my friend and psychic (she even attended my tea party), his father, my mechanic, his brother, my concert buddy, and Brooks, still my friend after all the hurt subsided. i have said it before, and i will say it again, my life has opened up so much since then.
what i will say, as i am a pretty private sort and since this is a small fucking town i will put it simply; i have a heart-wrenching love affair in mind, a summer or beyond romance i seem to be hanging my hopes on. Those who know me will nod, as you’ve already been informed, those who know me peripherally, may simply wonder and offer unsolicited advice but trust me i know.
In a pre-birthday strangeness, while listening to Andrew Bird in Pittsburgh, one of the biggest fantasy-type, love hopefuls erupted back into my life with a barrage of “can i see you,” type text messages. We met for a drink and a talk and all the connection and fire was still there between us as it always has been despite the respective relationships we were in at the time we met several years ago. mine ended and his, is about to self-destruct and so, i suppose he found himself reaching out to me in possible hopes that i was still there, still available.
After than initial time spent, the details of which are mine to own, he’s either buried in moving out and hurting or gone the other direction into reconcilliation with her for all i fucking know, but he’s somewhere out there with his tail between his legs, licking his wounds and not at all interested in answering my syrupy, lustful, hopeful text messages. This, since the last thing i told him when he cancelled for the evening (again) and at 7am to thoughtfully allow me to alter plans for the day, that i recognize the potential for me to be seriously disappointed but that i wouldn’t hold back my emotions or reservations for fear of rejection from him.
i told him i was tired of being careful, and i meant this in general and in emotional terms, that i wanted to be his friend and his lover, eventually, whenever, but that i would protect myself until he gets things figured out. really – it’s nearly impossible to hum a dirge while singing a new love song. He should be noticing this right now. he has no real business tangling with me, since i am ready, willing and knowing but he has barely begun to land or recoil from the shocks.
it could all be so romantic – requited love long in the waiting, but then . . . fucking timing. always.
In the same theme of getting messy and misunderstanding or running away in fear . . . my friend who i know by his persona, “jesterday,” wrote to me recently on the difficulties of courting and pursuing love. he admired a girl on the city bus, wanted to express how beautiful he found her and so wrote her a poem:
” . . . I had to spent several weeks to chase around, trying to come across her, while skipping busses that come and go when it was freezing outside. Finally, I managed to sit next to her, and try to talk, and hand her this handwritten piece. She got a little nervous, and asked if she could read later. Yes. It took me several weeks more to get “feedback.” “It’s nice”. She said she had a boyfriend, so end of story.
I am 25, living as an expatriate in cold Scandinavia. People are quite different here than what I am used to, even quite different compared to the US. For the better and for the worse, just different, the culture and relationships having been sort of shaped by the climate.
As they say for the nordic region, that ‘the seduction process is short here, it starts with liters of beer in the evening, then ‘your place or mine?’ at night, ‘who are you?’ in the morning and then they start dating.’ I think it was quite unusual and uncalculated what I have done. I’m still proud of myself for that, for being a romantic in these ages and in this geography; however, it hurts that this girl whom I called as the nordic elf, Majbritt (/my-brit/), does not even look at my face when I come across occasionally. And I just walk away, trying not to bother. Would you believe that I have no idea how her body looks like, i.e., in common terms, I never ‘checked her out,’ as I couldn’t move my eyes from her face, eyes, and hair, which looks like a little bird’s nest.”
He had sent me the poem he gave to her to read, to critique really, and it was near my birthday, so i took it as such, but then, having “elf” in the title, i also misconstrued as being intended for me, an accidental if not bold assumption. We were both a little embarrassed, but as i am never one to kick love in the teeth, no matter where it comes from, i am kind enough to entertain any affections until it seems incongruous – a bad match.
i am never misled – only slightly confused sometimes, but it never stops me from acting accordingly or expressing thanks. and the beauty in the language is this: it could be taken to heart by anyone. and if it does what it is good at doing, a poem makes you think deeply on things and perhaps, even wish you had written it yourself or that it was intended for you.
::: ::: ::: :::
Nicole called a little while ago. She wanted a recommendation for a wine that pairs well with ham.
“Riesling or Beaujolais,” i suggested.
“Oh,” she asked suddenly, changing the subject, “do you like carrot cake?”
“It’s my favorite,” i chirped excitedly, thinking of moist orangey cake with cream cheese frosting.
She giggled in such a way that it sounded like she had chosen wisely and had a good secret or a pleasant surprise.
“It’s the one thing i do really well,” she said offhandedly, “and i’ve already shaved the carrots so i’m going to bake three: one for my mom, since she’s coming to dinner, one for Brad’s family, and one to split between you and Genna.”
My friends are so good – i finally get my birthday cake . . .
To tie Pennsylvania, love and friendship, food and the quality of life into one neat package, again, i give you what jesterday had given to me:
“Andrea, you know I like squirrels very much from my days in Pennsylvania, that you even posted the Berry Squirrelly for me. So here’s a quote from translation of a poem from my favourite Turkish poet:”
Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example-
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation . . .
~ Nazim Hikmet
Please take the time to read the poem, On Living, in its entirety HERE.
It ends this way:
This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet-
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space …
You must grieve for this right now
-you have to feel this sorrow now-
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived” …
now you’ve been properly instructed,
get out there, and do some living. . .
DESIRE TO SLIDE INTO A DITCH AND DIE ON THE WAY TO WORK:
On this snowy day, a perfect day for doing some reading and thinking (and oh alright, some damn homework, if i must) i am wrapped in a soft red robe, bright as the cardinals lighting on the snow-laden branches and the bird feeder outside the window.
And so a trade in the weather calls for a trade in the birds . . .
I suppose i should tell you about my little Caribbean getaway, since i haven’t done that just yet . . .
We flew out of Philadelphia this time instead of Baltimore. The couple hours of extra driving were worth the $200 cheaper airfare. We were looking to go on the cheap since we would be checking in early evening (8pm) and leaving early morning (4am), so we stayed at the Motel 6 which i haven’t done since i was a child traveling across country. This place was squeaky cheap; the air was sterile, the lighting somber and jaundiced, the tv bolted down, not even any badly rendered seascapes or horrific art on the wall. The plaque on the bedside table discouraged smoking in the rooms but there were cigarette burns on the sheets. And as for the sheets . . . they were so over-bleached, thin and scratchy, i could barely tell them apart from the toilet paper which as you know, can be equally miserable!
But onto the actual vacation . . .
We arrived January 6th, on Beef Island and took a taxi to Tortola, for the first nite’s stay in the resort and the following day to collect the boat, a 42′ Beneteau monohull. It was Three Kings Day that day, celebrated in the Caribbean as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Hispanic communities, particular with Mexican Americans and especially on the East Coast. It is also known as the Epiphany feast, occurring 12 days after Christmas to commemorate the Three Kings – Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar who visited baby Jesus with gifts. The tradition is older than Christmas and Santa’s visit, but follows the similar gift-giving tradition. On the Eve of the Epiphany children collect hay, straw or grass and place it in boxes, containers or shoes (in Mexico) under their beds. This gesture is the equivalent of milk & cookies for Santa and is instead, a gift of food for the camels, elephants and horses that the Kings ride in on while they rest in between deliveries. If you thought a sleigh that landed on rooftops with reindeers was implausible, imagine a camel, horse or elephant on the roof! i’m sure you’d smell the barn yard coming . . .
But i digress – Three Kings Day, after the children received their presents and sweets, was more or less another reason to have a wild feast, bonfires, parades, and to consume Pusser’s Rum. Which no one needs an extra excuse to do down there.
Though i had only been to the British Virgin Islands once previous, getting back onto the boat, unpacking clothes and storing provisions was just like coming home. Everything in its proper place and then commence to stowing the Carib beer, getting plenty of ice, securing items and getting underway. The days are spent cooking breakfasts, sailing for a bit, stopping somewhere to moor or anchor near the island du jour, snorkeling, swimming, shopping, sunning. Showering off the saltwater and rinsing out the wetsuits. Catnapping through the brief, light rainfalls in the morning and mid-afternoon. Watching pelicans dive into the water after fish. Eating dinner on the boat or at some wonderful restaurant nearby. Drinking rum and beer until about 11pm or until you are too tired to resist the gentle sway of the boat and then it’s bedtime and up again with the morning rain sprinkling your face through the hatches and the 7am sun glinting off the water like pools of silver. i only seem to adhere this alien schedule when i am there. At home – i keep vampire hours.
We returned to our first sailing point, across the Sir Francis Drake Channel, past a collection of rock formations poking out of the water known as the Indians, and onto Norman Island, which is locally known as Treasure Island and is believed to have inspired the Robert Lewis Stevenson classic. We moored at an anchorage known as The Bight and rode our dinghy out to The Caves for snorkeling. The Caves are incredible rock formations only four feet deep, but dropping off to 40 feet near their entrance. The walls are encrusted with gorgeous, yellow and orange cup corals, sponges and incredible tropical fish swimming all around.
As we finished snorkeling, we were approached by a dingy with two frantic Italian men. One of them had deep-sixed their new, and expensive Oakley sunglasses. We rode out to their boat where i handed Brooks his weights and he dove to recover the lost glasses. Upon his resurfacing, the crew, 2 lovely women and four men all cheered, clapped and snapped photos. They offered us a couple beers, we sat down for an hour chat and they later gave us a bottle of wine from his brother’s vineyard! We drank that later with some fresh fruit, crackers and cheeses on our own boat.
We sailed past Peter and Salt Islands the next day and moored at Manchioneel Bay just off of Cooper Island. Manchioneel Bay is named for the trees on the beach with shiny, little, green, poisonous apples. The Carib Indians used this tree’s sap to poison their arrows as it causes severe skin blistering and, if in the eyes, at least temporary blindness. Manchioneel Bay is said to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s famous “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” It is typically known for good snorkeling, but i must confess, this was a rainy, windy day where not much got done, besides popping anti-nausea medication, drinking ginger beer, and attempting to feel human. That night – eughhh . . . the boat swung around on the mooring ball and rocked sickeningly, prompting me to rename it “Lurch n Heel” or “Munch n Hurl” Bay. The only good thing is that Brooks got to go on his first dive that following morning, backtracking off Salt Island to a famous dive site, the Wreck of the Rhone, where the R.M.S Rhone (Royal Mail Steamer) went down in 1867 in a hurricane.
From there we sailed on to Virgin Gorda and landed in Spanish Town, where we stayed in the Yacht Harbor for two glorious (civilized) days. There we ate some wonderful food at a patio tavern called The Bath and Turtle. Chicken wings with Tamarind honey ginger barbeque sauce, conch fritters, some terrific fresh tuna and French Toast on actual French Bread for breakfast one morning. Chickens free-ranged everywhere with their chicks in tow (though they were not for dinner), goats roamed the local shore nibbling the grass, little dogs begged for food at the lunch tables in front of the small grocery store, bougainvillea grew in brilliant hedges, lizards flitted along fence posts and tree limbs. We took a taxi to visit a much-photographed scenic area called The Baths. The Baths are named for its large assortment of huge basalt boulders, formed deep underground from magma, which are properly called batholiths (from the Greek bathys and lithos, meaning “deep” and “stone.”) We climbed the trails, explored the caves and rocks, collected seashells and admired the feral cat with the torn ear who hung out at the little beach bar shack.
At the gift store, Brooks impulsively bought me a beautiful teardrop ring i had been turning over in my hand, hemming and hawing about amongst others, but was trying to behave by not purchasing. “I’ll take this one,” he said before the woman could put it back. “Is that the one i like?” i smiled and asked playfully. “Yes,” he said. And it was sealed. It’s so rare i buy jewelry for myself; to me wearing something is symbolic. It has to be right place, the right time, the right shape, color, energy, memory. Now i have something to remember Virgin Gorda and the Caribbean by.
We sailed past The Dogs (Seal Dogs, George Dog, West Dog and Great Dog) where there are a great many nesting birds and on to Marina Cay. Marina Cay is small eight-acre island with soft, white sand beaches, a beautiful nature trail with lush tropical plants, cactus, flowers, and wildlife, a small 8-bedroom hotel and bar, and a great little store attached to the tasty Pusser’s Restaurant. When we were there last time, a calico cat named Tess dined with us. In my lap, you could more correctly say. And she was still there! Cruising the dining room, being fed chicken scraps and shrimp tails. This time she sat with me while i rubbed her ears during dessert – rum soaked Bananas Boulangere with caramel, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Our dinners were sopped with the Pusser’s Rum creation called The Painkiller, available in levels 2-5.
Earlier in the day, the current was moving a bit, but i dove down and wedged the dingy anchor between two rocks on the silty, grassy bottom and Brooks went diving while i snorkeled with turtles and puffer fish along the reef. I found a beautiful tulip shell that i lost off the side of the boat in a clumsy, stumbling attempt to show off my prize. Brooks donned his dive equipment again and went down for recovery – surfacing with the shell and a few other lovely prizes. It wasn’t as interesting a dive as the one he took earlier in the week at Alice in Wonderland in South Bay on Ginger Island, but good search experience for his log.
We had a nice day of sailing and stopped off for an hour or so at Sandy Spit, the ideal tropical isle with the single leaning palm tree where i took this photo:
Our last stop was Great Harbor in Jost Van Dyke, only four miles long, named after a dutch pirate and known as an unspoiled “barefoot” island with a mere population of 200, a main street lined with restaurants and bars, the most famous of which is Foxy’s. We were privileged to catch Foxy Callwood himself singing in the afternoon and later during our dinner. He is notorious for dirty and corny joke-telling, and for making up songs about the people he meets and singing to them. He sang to Brooks who carried his shoes up from the beach on his hands and sang about him “wearing gloves on his feet.” He then sang to me as i took photos and encouraged me to use the flash or all i would get was “eyes and teeth” since he didn’t plan on getting his “black ass out into the sun.” Foxy’s throws infamous parties, one of which is New Year’s Eve. A New York Post journalist once wrote that there were only three places in the world to be on New Year’s Eve and voted Foxy’s as one of them. A staggering amount of people showed up that year and with all the boats, they turned the harbor into a giant raft. This tradition still continues . . .
We enjoyed a fabulous steak and lobster feast. The large, spiny lobster was fresh from the nearby Anegada Island. The music was enjoyable, the people danced wildly amid the Christmas lighting which still hung like colorful icicles from all the roof edges. Mind you – Foxy’s is like a sprawling lean together of tin roofs and wooden poles on which all manner of objects are stapled – any part of the structure it can be affixed to. The ceiling and visible areas are covered with business cards, t-shirts, boat flags, license plates, even signed underwear. All of which is proof of the many people the world over who have visited Foxy’s: a place that began as little more than a lemonade-stand-size bar, supposed to be open for one day only, and “has evolved into a major cultural force.” I know this to be the case because when i wear my Foxy’s t-shirt home, people smile and want to talk about it.
We stayed until the karaoke began and the overweight, sun burnt tourists began dancing to “Do you love me?” by The Contours.
We proceeded to wander down the beach to Corsairs Bar where Vinny “The Blade,” and wife Debbie were our fine and fabulous hosts. The last time we were there, we caught the last half of The Sopranos followed by Deadwood, where we invented our drinking game. Any time the word “fuck” or “cocksucker” or any derivative thereof was said, we took a drink. When someone was shot or died, we did a shot. We ended up giggling and toddling off to the dingy that night and pouring into bed i can tell you!
This time, we were treated to some drinks and interactive music from Reuben Chinnery. We were all (all meaning about 6 of us) encouraged to grab a percussive instrument out of a large milk crate including tambourines, shakers and a few things i failed to identify, and begin playing along. Reuben was wonderful, did a fine rendition of “Summertime,” and when a light rain began that chased us under the awning, he called the rain, “liquid moonlight.” A funny little drunk character named “Nippy” unloaded his hand-collected and crafted seashell necklaces onto the bar. i bought one and then he asked politely if he could touch my hair. Of course – i permitted.
I got to meet local artist, Aragorn who came by on his boat with t-shirt prints from his studio in Trellis Bay on Beef Island and also we received another visit from Deliverance, a small supply boat that offers ice, fruit, fresh baked goods and will pick up trash bags from your boat.
On the way back into Tortola, Brooks and i had to put on full rain gear. Two squalls hit us with winds and pelting rain and we had to motor all the way back in. We cleaned up the boat, collected the linens and cleared out. We were able to take a taxi into Road Town to see some local flair and culture.
As we waited to board the small plane, i noticed one of the women waiting with us. She had sung a Bob Marley song at Foxy’s during the karaoke madness. She hid her dark and lovely face behind her long, beautiful dreads and laughed as we said we recognized her. Turns out she is one of Foxy’s cousins.
My reward for the grey skies and the rain on the last day was a rainbow appearing just over the hillside as i walked onto the tarmac and boarded the plane.
With Douglas Adams on my iPod and into my ear, i drifted off to sleep. i was too tired to write in the little journal i brought with me, a journal whose pages rippled up from the wet and the salt, like the bends in my hair, some of the thoughts which are written here now.
i will be posting more snippets of memories in my scrapbook and my formal gallery as i look through the mega-folder of photos i took.
the muse is a strangled messenger tonite
hands clenched, cloth-bound
thoughts escaping from tendrils of hair
like so many red-ribboned kite strings
up there searching out safe clouds yet
snarled in the black fingers of trees,
tethered to snake-skinned telephone lines
and no one electric is talking on the wire.
words backsliding, kicking and biting
doubled-up, dropped, uncoiled nonsense
a tired, escaped lover leaves
a cold kiss like the pelt of sleet
a callous, sandpaper caress.
the endless white noise of fictional rain storms
and his name so close to water, pours
through my broken, cupped hands.
but the words won’t come with tapping
nor gathering –
no puddle collects in sand.
into hopeful shallows, a shining line is cast
while empty hooks come back, silver glinting
eyes and teeth smiling still, the dead promise
the muse he used to keep me up at nite
incessant chatter until i heaved a sigh
and agreed to write.
but the muse is a strangled messenger
the scribbling not a song, just a rhythm of
the t cross line little e open eye
half me still i m tied up in the two-looped l and the double-hump of m
waving goodbye dropping two consonants g (ee)
below the line.
two cat tails switching in time
to music i cannot hear through my
own wild whispers
and deafening cries.
Floridian backlash from the hurricane sent plenty of it this way. Pattering on and off for days. Competing with our conversations and sometimes, believe it or not, our sleep.
Moths clung to the eaves and fluttered like wet leaves against the windows, looking for shelter.
But my most unusual find was a butterfly at nite, flapping weakly at the base of my front door, bedraggled in a spider web, its one antennae twisted, sticky and fused to a front leg until it became one, sending it wheeling in helpless, directionless, flightless circles.
i’ve seen this dark butterfly in the day – first time this season and one i haven’t been able to identify yet. Smoky, scalloped wings with irridescent green-blue powder. When the wings are closed they present bright orange dots.
i took it into the house and it was so tired it sat in my palm as i took a small pair of razor sharp tweezers and separated the leg from the antennae. it sat quite still, opening and closing its wings slowly like a breath, a slow pulse, a heartbeat. Then it waggled its antennae together, angling out as if communicating or tuning in and discovered it could fly.
. . . in my house.
the cats watched it beat towards the bright torchiere lamp in the living room and i quietly dicsouraged their chase. i caught it and went out side where it sat still in my hand for a few minutes and took flight again, resting against a high window until morning. As soon as the sun warmed things – it was off again to meet the day.
i always wondered where such delicate things could hide while the rain and wind tore through the flowers and trees. They hide under things – leaves and awnings with their wings clapped up tightly, waiting it out. Sometimes they are tattered to bits of confetti like all those tiny dances of death i see in the road beating furiously across stretches of two-lane country roads only to be tossed into the updrafts of passing trucks and cars, creased into radiator grills, dashed against hot pavement. You wouldn’t believe how many of them i see. How easily i pick them out from fallen leaves, newspaper, fast food bags, litter.
How many scraps of wings i find and save . . .
Today Zoey and i were driving to take in some lunch and photos in Annapolis. We stopped the car 20 yards out of the driveway and rescued an Eastern Painted turtle crawling directly in the path of the road. i held it gently by the midsection of its shell and began carrying it to a safe field. It quickly struggled and kicked against me as if to swim away, scratching the palms of my hands with meaty claws – cool and strong. But we saved it from the possible cars or the wash of storm quickly approaching.
Funny how the creatures most flitting, fast and delicate and even those lumbering, slow and sturdy in seemingly impenetrable shells – each are fragile in their own way.
There is always something larger than yourself, different and differently abled.
And we all need a safe place to rest out of the storm . . .
i went to bed as the sky was slipping open,
a silver blade across a dark canvas
the sun – a dusky, milk-white pearl,
a burnished tin coin
and the patter of rain.
i woke up late afternoon
a warm ivory cocoon
decided not to burst wings
but lay still for 2 hours
assembling dream collages
two paperweight cats
held me warm and fast.
i had explained to him
that waking up is like being born
sometimes i come out screaming
sometimes i need more pushing
sometimes i cry . . .
i called three friends
from under the blanket-tent
with sleep and recline in my voice
and they asked if i were ok
and i declared softly
with a honeyed smile in my voice
that i was
in a slip of black satin
i padded the stairs, cats in tow
and made eggs and pancakes
with peanut butter and toast
and drank orange juice slowly
marveling how far it had come
to be here now.
how far would I have to travel
to move this slow every day
in a purposeful dreamstate
to share a wishbone prize
while never having broken
and i know how suggestive that sounds
but it’s just too warm here to snow
so we get rain . . . rats
i have to work tonite – Christmas Eve
and so i hope for kind, generous
and conscientious guests who go home
when it’s time so i can spend MY eve
with my family opening gifts
drinking wine, taking pictures,
eating chicken wings
and chilled shrimp and baked brie
and fresh fruit and chocolate
and a BIG RED Cherry Pie!
to all of you who celebrate it –
or Happy Solstice if you like it
a little more non-descript