Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sea



The Sea 
~Pablo Neruda, from On the Blue Shore of Silence


I need the sea because it teaches me,
I don't know if I learn music or awareness,
if it's a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in 
the university of the waves.

It's not simply the shells crunches
as if some shivering planet
were giving signs of its gradual death;
no, I reconstruct the day out of a fragment,
the stalactite from a sliver of salt,
and the great god out of a spoonful.

What it taught me before, I keep. It's air
ceaseless wind, water and sand.

It seems a small thing for a young man,
to have come here to live with his own fire;
nevertheless, the pulse that rose
and fell in its abyss,
the crackling of the blue cold,
the gradual wearing away of the star,
the soft unfolding of the wave
squandering snow with its foam,
the quiet power out there, sure
as a stone shrine in the depths,
replaced my world in which were growing
stubborn sorrow, gathering oblivion,
and my life changed suddenly:
as I became part of its pure movement.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Temptation


At the trailhead parking lot a wistful out-of-shape couple stood and eyed the pristine beach, binoculars dressed their necks. I clambered out of my car, juggled keys, pack, leash and iPod. Ms. Riley patiently waited as I slung the pack on my back, stuffed my hair under a cap and moved to the hatch to let her escape. She became alert, her hair rose as the couple obliviously approached. The woman asked about the terrain and whether one could reach the beach by some obscure trail that she had not noticed. The animal trail that is visible during the winter months was now hidden under a spring eruption of Queen Annes Lace. I paused recognizing the temptation to lie. I gave that friendly "tourist" smile and asked if they had checked the tide chart. They had not. I then sadly shook my head, saying that the beach is pretty much just a vision to behold from afar, then kindly guided them to another beach just over the moor, the crowded one, the one with a paved path and restrooms. I pointed out the south trail that would lead them there on foot, if they wanted a more adventurous route. I swear that I saw Ms. Riley smile. I untangled my earphones. King Sunny Ade, my pup and I began our descent down the main trail. We avoided the start of the overgrown animal path to the beach just in case our flight was being watched. I glanced back to see a car with Ohio plates pull out of the lot. A slight pang of guilt tugged at me, but I let it go.
I had checked. Soon the tide would isolate the secluded beach. We had just enough time to drop down a sand dune, scramble over a few jetties of land to reach it. There would be no time to linger. Our only option if we wanted to do a loop was to climb up through the overgrown field full of thistles, poison oak, sink holes and salmonberry vines. It was not a trail for someone who did bother with tide tables, or for people who had to ask. The scratches and threat of pokes would be penance for my white lie.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Survival


"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. " Edgar Degas

Sometimes I am a delinquent friend. I get swallowed into my own sphere and ignore everyone beyond my immediate realm. My friends must be the diligent sleuthy sort.
I meant to say hello after the holiday letter found its way into my inbox, yet I humbly failed. I really was in survival mode when Missy's 'you alive?' email arrived, and I blew it off, meaning to answer later. When I saw Scott's email a few days ago, I slumped a bit. I felt bashful about opening it, but I didn't hesitate, and it was a wonderful surprise that let me gracefully join their world again.

It hasn't often happened that I am a catalyst for creativity. Scott sent me a short story inspired by my Onomatopoeia posting. It made every hair on my arm stand up while I read it. I am still eyeballing Ms. Riley. I realized I am part of a small web of talented artists that really do support each other--it feels incredible! Thank you Scott for letting me share  The Run....
http://rileydogstudio.blogspot.com/p/the-run.html




Thursday, February 20, 2014

Twisted




Painting inspired by Magnetic Poetry
Inside the carton labeled 'ambience', the treasured metal lunchbox nests. Although small, it is filled with worldly humor and poetry, apologies and nonsense, spontaneity and truth. It takes days to untangle its bunched magnetic matings. The unpacking evolves slowly. Words trickle out. Jumbled, unrelated, detached, and at attention; committed to meaning and unity; screaming declaration, provoking twisted ramblings. My refrigerator becomes a magnetic word bank, a public slate.
Charmed fingers create aha! fiction and infectious banter.
Silent vents transmogrify into silliness, and dissipate.
Seduced by cadence, by assertion, by feeding the debauchery and innuendos; encouraged by witticism and possibilities; the gift of gab is endless.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Time

We paused to see if the coast was clear. The dunes were soaked from the morning dew,
gravity defying spume jetted over the cliff lip and settled into the sharp sea grass at odd angles to melt.
 Waves exploded as they slammed into the rock face, trees gave sound to the wind. 
Ms Riley and I were alone.

Ms. Riley sniffed her way through the forest edge. I chose my footsteps carefully on the slick rock, bending slightly in a crouch to break a sudden fall. My eyes remained on the ground in hopes of spying an arrowhead birthing itself from the pores of the sandstone.
We emerged from the tree line and spilled out onto a crumbling plateau overlooking
the ocean and sand dunes. As I made my way down the first ledge,
I glanced backwards and caught sight of a gigantic carved sculpture in the nose of the cliff. 
Eyes tilted towards the sky, lips as if filled with melody, it was outrageous and shocking,
and yet earthly; the face somehow belonged to the landscape.
It evoked all the idiocies of humankind: man versus environment, King of the pond, ego.
It was also an oblation of sorts, a recognition of beauty, and untamed greatness;
an offering to the unknown.





























I grew up mostly in urban wilderness.
Few times in my life have I been truly immersed in the 'Nowhere'.
There is peace and reverence to behold in the truly wild.
My parents taught me never to deface trees, to leave no trace,
to let the Wild be as much as possible.
Still, I shouldn't be so surprised to see human imprints on these ancient trails. 
There will always be 'that' kid that screams in the library, or
 the kid that has to tag public spaces. 
Time will eventually erode the sandstone offering, the face is only temporary. 
Until then, it will be a reminder to pass down taboos, and teach the right way to
respect the wild we tend.


Past                                         By Pablo Neruda
We have to discard the past
and, as one builds
floor by floor, window by window,
and the building rises,
so do we go on throwing down
first, broken tiles,
then pompous doors,
until out of the past
dust rises
as if to crash
against the floor,
smoke rises
as if to catch fire,
and each new day
it gleams
like an empty
plate.
There is nothing, there is always nothing.
It has to be filled
with a new, fruitful
space,
then downward
tumbles yesterday
as in a well
falls yesterday’s water,
into the cistern
of all still without voice or fire.
It is difficult to teach bones
to disappear,
to teach eyes
to close
but
we do it
unrealizing.
It was all alive,
alive, alive, alive
like a scarlet fish
but time
passed over its dark cloth
and the flash of the fish
drowned and disappeared.
Water water water
the past goes on falling
still a tangle
of bones
and of roots;
it has been, it has been, and now
memories mean nothing.
Now the heavy eyelid
covers the light of the eye
and what was once living
now no longer lives;
what we were, we are not.
And with words, although the letters
still have transparency and sound,
they change, and the mouth changes;
the same mouth is now another mouth;
they change, lips, skin, circulation;
another being has occupied our skeleton;
what once was in us now is not.
It has gone, but if the call, we reply;
"I am here," knowing we are not,
that what once was, was and is lost,
is lost in the past, and now will not return.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Spirit

May the spirit of the season embrace you...

"We've all been given a gift, the gift of life. What we do with our lives is our gift back..."
~ Edo

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pattern



   A blowhole shot up a throaty misted exhalation, the wind flared and danced with it. Flukes appeared randomly and vanished quickly.
I caught glimpses of backs, barnacles and fins, rolling over each other like puppies in a pile. Feeding bubbles surfaced and melted into the white winter ocean. It reminded me of a mad woman's tatting. 
The Bering Sea for the summer, Baja for the winter; the pattern of migration for most Pacific whales takes place underneath my sea cliffs.
I feel blessed and honored to observe their magnificence. 




Thursday, November 28, 2013

Shadows


If you ask, I won't quite admit to being a runner. I am not committed to racking miles on pavement. I don't enjoy races, or crowds. I hate repetitive routes. Timing means nothing to me.
Mostly I doggie run; a rhythmic heart racing movement that requires sudden stops to explore an unknown; a spree type of run-- dash up this hill, then trot, then walk, then a fast stretch down the backside, flying over tree roots and obstacles.
This morning I raced the receding morning shadows downhill and burst onto the beach as the sun vaulted over the rim of the coastal bluffs. Ms. Riley rolled in a patch of warm sand. I watched the darkness turn into shimmering sheets of light under my feet, the half moon parting from the horizon. This morning, I paused for beauty and was included in the glow of a new day.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Secret


It was the same curse every summer. The curfew. We distanced ourselves from the laughter, stood to wean our bodies from the heat of the bonfire. The older kids with cars, and beers, and what seemed to me the perfect age of freedom, stayed. Someone supplied the fire with another log and jokingly quipped, "Beware of the MelonHeads..."
The story remained untainted from the year to year telling. We were use to the idea of large headed, small statured humans lurking behind trees, waiting for a stray child to steal. We could shrug it off.
We clumped together, my brothers and three others. We said it was the chill. Instead of weaving ourselves through the Birch forest, a shortcut, as we had hours earlier, we slugged the shoreline to the parking lot, then stayed to the road. It was two miles of tar and dirt strips, over hills that we ripped down in the winter on sleds. My brothers and I had the farthest to walk that night.
It was deep woods black. A few stars glinted in the exposed sliver of sky over the tree tops, the moon was errant in its aid for light.
On the flat near the beach, our group became smaller as our first summer friend parted and fled for her porch light. I could tell she was relieved to be home.
We briskly climbed a long hill, our lights bouncing dully off the pavement. We laughed at the newest kid. He was a tall freckled redhead, and looked like a lobster from a day of water skiing and sailing. The tops of his feet had peeled off, exposing raw skin. He walked barefoot, carrying his sneakers. He laughed with us, and then asked the question that made us shrink. About the MelonHeads. We ignored him.
We rounded a corner and came to a stretch of dark woods.
My oldest brother turned his flashlight up to his face, glowing, he screamed, and with a grievous look, he flipped it off. Then he ran. We all sprinted. We did not want to be left behind.
Chests heaving, we stopped when we came to the next set of house lights. Another of our friends left us. We had one more stretch of dark road before home.
The unanswered question still hung in the air.
All of our flashlights were on, with varying degrees of brightness. The erratic beams streamed across branches, rocks, shoes and pavement. We moved fast and quietly, pack-like, in the middle of the street, until we heard something big crash in the woods. Without hesitation, without words, we fled, my brothers and I, leaving the new kid behind to face the MelonHeads on his own. Some secrets are tradition.








Thursday, October 24, 2013

Entangled



Horrified! I come to a halt and peel off my cap. The spider web was shockingly wet. I shiver and roll the tangle from my eyelashes and cheeks, hoping for no creepy movements. Quickly I brush my hands over each bare arm, the back of my neck and chest. The web frees its cling, leaving a trace tickle on my skin. It is foggy out, the light not quite right to catch the silver threads loaded with water drips. It was also my turn, I suppose, to be the one to clear the trail. I have been banking on the goodwill of others to weave a path through the morning webs that haphazardly zip across the trail.
Ms. Riley is actively sniffing. She stops to inhale little spots on leaves and becomes so enamored with a scent, I physically tug her off it. We flush out a deer. It springs away. A wistful Ms. Riley tracks it to the edge of a precipice, she comes fairly quickly when I call her back to the trail. We run again, we dodge shrubs and jump errant new vine growth that catch my laces. I sing out loud to a song from Mali that only I can hear in my earbuds; the nonsensical words are engulfed by the fog and trees and ocean. As I run, I wave my arms in front of me, to catch the webs that I can't see.

The Dog Has Run Off Again           by Mary Oliver

and I should start shouting his name
and clapping my hands,
but it has been raining all night
and the narrow creek has risen
is a tawny turbulence is rushing along
over the mossy stones
is surging forward
with a sweet loopy music
and therefore I don't want to entangle it
with my own voice
calling summoning
my little dog to hurry back
look the sunlight and the shadows are chasing each other
listen how the wind swirls and leaps and dives up and down
who am I to summon his hard and happy body
his four white feet that love to wheel and pedal
through the dark leaves
to come back to walk by my side, obedient.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Onomatopoeia

The first rainstorms are rolling through the Northwest. The dry landscape is sucking in the moisture, burping mushrooms from the soil, purging seaweed beds and thinning trees. Water hangs in the air, soaking all that moves through it. Ms. Riley and I are trying to squeeze in a run during a lull in the weather rage. My mouth tastes salted from the thick shoreline air. I lick my lips. Behind me, my breath becomes a path of haphazard exclamation marks: white puffs lingering on the trail, then disappearing into the ferns. Green leaves prematurely rip from their thresholds and spiral downward from the skies; the wind gusts and shakes sheets of rain that envelop me in drenching bursts. Limbs rub and groan and creak against each other. Mossy branches, needles and pine cones litter the path. Our trail dips through dim second growth forests that seem to glow, all white mist back lighting darkened tree forms.

Ms. Riley races through puddles. My leaps fall short of the shaggy edges; my toes are squishy and loose, sloshing in the tops of my sneakers. We round a corner, and are assaulted by discordant shrieks.  I clip Ms. Riley into her leash. We pause. In the trail is an injured crow, cawing! head turned to us, and hopping awkwardly down the trail. Caley sits and sniffs the air. The cawing echos through the dripping trees, swirling in the wind with the fog that is filtering through the branches. I shiver as I watch the terrified black form freeze. The crow catches that eye to eye moment with me, as if to ward off threat, as an invitation to kindness.
It suddenly feels too still and just downright eerie.
I turn and ask Ms. Riley to follow. Reluctantly she lets me tug her back round the bend.
We could have been in a grade B movie horror clip, there could have been zombies hidden behind every tree trunk, or a gruesomely tortured animal on the trail ahead sporting a Big Foot imprint embedded in the soft mud beside it.
I don't feel like fighting off a spook today. I find a different trail back to the car. One with sideways rains and open fields and obvious thistles.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rescue



A music link to enhance your sunset experience:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90sEDLHomLw&list=PL50A247B9AB47CEA9&index=3

Atypical cloud formations, waves, spilling across the top of the fog bank, rescued me this week. Nighthawks bombed our mountaintop perch, close to where my friend and I stood. A mosquito took its life by entering the cave of my open mouth. The view was breathtaking, and otherworldly.
I stood in my own scene, my own life movie, unmoving, staring into the brilliant sunset. I was just one speck, one set of arranged cells in this vast confounding universe. I stood tiny, like an ant, like an acorn, like a fading wave rolling and breaking and disappearing into the crashing surf, into the wholeness of the give and take.
There is a Kiowa song I sing often, even though I do not know its tune. It goes like this:

You see, I am alive
You see, I stand in good relation to the Earth
You see, I stand in good relation to the Gods
You see, I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful
You see, I stand in good relation to You
You see, I am alive
I am alive

I carry you, my Heart Friend, wherever you may dwell, with me, always.





Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Jungle


The world use to arrive at my door in a brown paper wrapper. With it were the wings to fly to the moon. Through glossy slick pages, I danced to native drums, my breasts exposed, dangling in the overhead sun, submerged myself in coral reefs to swim with sea turtles and sharks, and followed my first feminist heroine, Dr. Jane Goodall, into the jungles of Tanzania to learn the language of chimpanzees. Back issues stacked near the vinyl sofa in the basement became the foundations for school reports, for dinnertime debates, and forays into lost cultures.
Today the wrapper is plastic, there are more ads than I recall from my youth, but it is still a coveted read. My kids will quietly disappear behind closed doors, emerging hours later with that well traveled look on their brows. We post the coolest maps on our walls and talk about the Moche and Angkor like we were archaeologists. We spy microscopic landscapes and wander the last vestiges of isolated civilizations. Thank you, National Geographic, for widening our eyes and minds into worlds we never knew existed. Thank you for bringing the jungles to our table.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Travel


It isn't like you have an option. When a Border Guard lines up the next available transportation in an unrecognizable language with a sturdy semi truck driver, you don't argue. You say Thank You, pay the going rate and donate the last of your whiskey to sweeten the deal. You even manage a smile as you climb onto the back of an open bed of a double trailer, and look brave as you clutch the metal frame tied to it. You adjust a bandanna around your nose and mouth and pull your fleece balaclava down to cover the rest of your face. You have just embarked on a cross country terrain adventure better left to a dirt bike. You hope this is one of the semi trucks that was blessed in the last Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria. With the other passengers, you hang on as if you were the next rodeo star.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Protest


My But is back and it is larger than it use to be.  All my Shouldn'ts are glaringly evident as well, although I am told not to utter that word and am fined if caught. The punishment is severe if I add an I Told You So.
I practice sitting with my Is and letting it Be. A silent protest to my But. I am sure my pounding heart is audible and direct evidence to my internal panic during the five minutes of meditation I manage.
I have been advised to substitute or add an And. For possibilities. It is tricky; my words go awry, or  I lose my point, which is worse. I always default to But. And it is addicting.

I once had to walk through a police line in order to pick up a poste restante care package. The people of Ecuador had taken to the streets in a mining protest. The army stood in a perfect line surrounding the public squares and government buildings. I squeezed between bullet proof shields and masked faces. I brushed up against a military issued gun and a night stick. When clear, I ran as fast and far as I could beyond them. Behind me, the people marched forward in clumps into the soldiers faces and began to shout. They then turned and fled as tear gas took the air. It felt real, and not predictable. Not an American on a corner with signs and chanting kind of protest. It felt like it could go wrong at any given moment.

“ I'm a pacifist, but the most American thing you can do is to dissent, and the most un-American thing you can do is to stifle dissent. When you feel threatened by the suppression of your liberties, you exercise them to the nth degree, you scream your head off every chance you get. You talk to people you don't agree with. Really good advice: Every day, talk to at least two people who don't agree with you. It's the only way it is going to get done.” ~Utah Philips



Friday, July 5, 2013

Equality


In Quito, Ecuador, my eyes feasted on worlds I thought were so comparatively unequal to mine. A shy two year old scrubbed face mute girl held roses out for me to purchase while I feasted at the street cafes. Her mom steered her towards women like me; my idea of equality stitched in the furrow of my brow. I was an easy daily sale.

Studies have shown that kids as early as 15 months have a sense of equality. As a parent I have both divided candy evenly between my kids Easter baskets, and also resurrected my mothers mantra, 'fair is not always even'. I have watched my kids adjust to sharing with each other, to speak out when they feel they deserve better or more, to stand up for others when they need a voice.

It is a huge word. Equality. It defines human; our acceptance, belonging, worthiness, fairness; a basic need.



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Children


The only bumper sticker ever to decorate Gertrude, our 70's green wood-paneled Suburban, read  'Have you hugged your children today?' Hugs were serious in our house. Non negotiable.
Growing up, I was the product of a parenting curriculum filled with terms such as 'cold pricklies' and 'warm fuzzies'. My Mom developed a great tool box of effective parenting techniques, ones that haven't terribly altered over the years. Her favorite wordless tool was the hug.

Today, I help parents understand what trauma looks like to a newborn, how to hold, talk, and play with their child. 
I teach them what to expect, at least developmentally, in the first three years of a child's life. 

It doesn't take much to be a fantastic parent. Good parenting isn't complicated.
We were all once children.
We all wanted the same things; kindness, love, empathy and a safe, nurturing environment.

Isn't that the definition of a hug? 
Let's make hugging the 'in' thing again. 




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tension



It was going to be a run to cut the tension of the week.
We flew up and down trails, danced over the roots of trees. We veered onto an animal path. With a moon-walk gait, we soared down a wet dune and plummeted to the beach, catching the last bit of a low tide. I emptied my shoes, tightened my laces. Ms. Riley attacked a liberated float, tossed it into the waves, then ran after it as the the tide sucked it back to sea. When the float receded too far into the water, Ms. Riley took a sand bath. My pup awkwardly flung her cavernous chest skyward and aggressively shimmied like a fish out of water upside down. Sand flew everywhere.

I called to her. We swiftly moved down the beach towards the first ridge that we would need to clamber over. Ms. Riley is not nimble on wet rocks. Her legs splay every which way, and I worry about broken bones. We take the steep route and traverse animal trails up and over cliffy arms to avoid the beach rocks, then drop back down to the beach wherever possible to elude the treacherous undergrowth of the moor.  It is not an easy trek.
The grass was slick from the recent rain, the trail was nothing more than hoof prints in the mud, a slight path trickling through daisies and strawberry blossoms. On the backside of the first hump, I gently slipped. My hand came down on a vertical wedge of slate. The slat ripped open a jagged slice of flesh, leaving shards of rocks embedded in the ribbons of shredded skin. Blood streamed from the gash, spilled across my jacket; it was glaringly vivid. I wrapped my wound in tissue, then my headband, and sat for a moment drinking in the landscape. A cacophony of sounds hit me: waves smashing against shore and rocks, sea lion conversation, Ms. Riley panting, wind through the grass, the beat of bird wings, my heart beat. My heart beat. I breathed out the air from the week and it disappeared into the fields behind me. My feet hit the here and now. I stood and we scrambled onto the next beach, and headed towards home.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Future



Yesterday I went to lunch with The Future. He unpacked his computer, plugged it into the nearest outlet then ordered a mini pizza. The Future then smiled at me and our dialogue went something like this:

Me: So, my Illustration Friday word, are you ready for it? (Think word association.)
The Future: Go for it!
Me: Okay, the word is "Future"
The Future: (pause, eyebrows lifted, pause) Now!
Me: Now?
The Future: If we want a Future, Now is the time to do something. There isn't any time left to think about acting. We need to be radical..go BIG, way beyond recycling, reducing and reusing.

For the next ten minutes I listened to The Future talk about the present, and it wasn't a pretty picture. The Future has been quietly paying attention to dinner debates and current events. The Future has been engaging in classroom discussions on the environment. He is pissed at those in charge, and is cringing at the blatant hypocrisy.
The Future has the weight of the world on his shoulders, something I was oblivious to at 12 years of age.
He is right. The Future is Now. The Future depends on me. If I fail him, I fail the world.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Farewell



An unkindness followed Ms. Riley and I on our morning ramble.
Ms. Riley forged the stream, I balanced across the driftwood log, then scaled the first grass slope. From the sea stack behind us, the Ravens began their flight; the sound of wings forcing gravity to give way mingled with the rushes of wind that passed through the grass. Ms. Riley was startled as, one by one, the Ravens popped over the ridge riding the current. She eyed their stiff wings and extended legs as they veered off for a flight to study the tides. My wild pup resumed poking her nose into burrows; reluctantly she noticed I was in the lead and whirled past me across the pitted landscape. I turned into the wind and spoke the words of Lao Tzu, to see if they carried weight, to see if they held in the air: "I know the way of all things by what is within me." They did.
As we reached the base of the Cape, the shadows of the Ravens swooped up the headland. We watched them disappear over the lip, folding as they moved between planes. The weed choked track called to us like a Mother-May-I game. We took clumsy gigantic steps intermingled with tiny baby ones and worked our way up the steep route. The southern wind warmed our backs. We followed our unkindness upwards into the cornflower blue sky.
My blessed feet traveled the trail with ease, my spirit was busy balancing caution and courage, not dwelling on the mechanics of foot placement. The wind pushed us over the crest of the Cape. We stopped and watched the Ravens dip in and out of the contour of the moor. The Ravens turned their heads slightly in our direction, as if inviting us to share the wind, the field, and unmarked path.
I walked to the edge of the cliff, the ocean blinded me like a mirror tilted into the sunlight. With silent Ravens circling overhead, I said my farewells to the yesterdays I have been holding onto. I threw them into the wind.
Now, my unknown journey can begin.

"Courage is a willingness to act from the heart, to let your heart lead the way, not knowing what will be required of you next, and if you can do it." ~Jean Shinoda Bolen, Gods in Everyman.