Instead of starting a fast today, I am going to do a slow. This mean that I am going to go through the day as slowly as possible; making each moment ‘count’ – savoring it, extending it as long as I can.
I was jerked out of sleep by a dream that a doctor called telling me C. had shot himself. I asked if he was dead, but the doctor only launched into a long explanation of the drugs he had given him before and now since finding him. I wanted to know if he was still alive and kept asking in an ever louder voice. I wondered if the doctor was ‘protecting’ me from the truth that he was already dead or if he was more concerned with covering his own butt for some perceived inadequacy. I clearly saw that if C. was still alive I had certain tasks and duties I wanted to perform and if he had already died there was a separate and very different set of acts to do. I woke up feeling very impatient with the doctor and still not knowing if C. was alive.
Thus, I decided to do a slow today. Normally, W and I have this almost ritualized dance while we dress in the same space. We time the various acts so each has the space needed while not having to pause or ‘wait’ while the other one moves from sink to closet, to stool to mirror. We have it so choreographed that we are both dressed, I have the bed made, and we both go downstairs together. Not today. I stood a long time just staring at my clothes before the early morning chill of autumn hustled me into them. Warmer now I stood at the window of the bedroom looking out over the sea meadows, delighting in the sunshine and the lots not yet built upon. Gazing, gazing until the noise of the heavy machinery working on the bridge brought me back to earth and I closed the window and began making the bed.
This, too, I did as slowly as I could. I carefully looked at the pattern woven in the bedspread, running my hands over the threads, thinking on how much I liked the sunny warm colors of the golds and reds on this side and wondering when I would turn it so the soft greens and reds for the solstice would be out. But today was autumn and I was happy to stay here in this time of collecting, savoring, storing up. I stayed with these thoughts until I heard Bu meowing at the foot of the stairs.
He is very much a creature of habit and gets unhappy if we do not perform as he expects us to do. He was asking why I wasn’t coming down to his breakfast. I walked down the stairs as slowly as possible. Did you know that when your knees ache, they hurt a lot less if you go very slowly? Why this urge to hurry, hurry, hurry just to do more? How much better to walk through, work through the pain so that by the last step it has vanished.
In the kitchen we do another dance as we work together getting breakfast. Werner makes the coffee and cooks his oatmeal. I slice the apple (today it was one of Sandra’s pears – so juicy, white and sweet) in both bowls, set the table, put the milk in a pitcher, open the window so Bu can get his fresh air, turn on the heater and pour out my granola.
With each bite of cereal I would lay my spoon down to chew the mouthful as long as I could. Do you remember the diet that was based on the idea that if each mouthful was chewed as long as possible one would eat less because the feeling of fullness had time to develop? and also because the person simply got tired of sitting and of chewing. I even held the sips of coffee in my mouth a long time before swallowing. Werner asked me if I was okay – thinking I was having trouble swallowing. He understood when I told him I was doing a slow.
Today, after eating, I let Bu sit on my lap for as long as he wanted, as long as he needed to warm the four cold circles of his feet instead of reminding him that I had work to do with a nudge to his soft behind.
Last night I had forgotten to scrub out the roasting pan before going to bed so my regular dance in the kitchen was even more slowed down by having to wash that before I could do the dishes. But that was okay. I watched the sun in the soap bubbles, as I moved my hand as slowly as possible around the insides. I don’t think it took me any longer to get the pan spotless than when I scrub vigorously and with great energy – sloshing water in a frenzy of rubbing. I calmly pushed the sponge scrubber against each clinging bit of turkey, lifting it off before going on to the next spot. I was surprised how easily it was cleaned. I even took the time to congratulate myself on a job well-done. No matter what else happens today, I have scrubbed the roasting pan to the best of my ability and patience.
During the other morning cleaning out ritual, I picked up the book No
More Masks from the rack and opened to a page of Diane Wakoski’s poems
and found one written in 1958 "Justice is Reason Enough" which ends
with "Justice is reason enough for anything ugly. It balances the beauty
in the world." I thought about an email I had received yesterday from
Patricia about how people are using poetry to ‘handle’ the events of
September 11th. I was struck by the violence in the poems. I
hesitate to repeat them but will to show you what was in her email of an
article by Dinitia Smith "The
Eerily Intimate Power of Poetry to Console" in the October
1, 2001 New York Times:
"On the day of the disaster, someone sent a copy of Shelley's "Ozymandias" to a circle of friends and suggested that if the World Trade Center were ever to be rebuilt, it should bear a plaque with the inscription "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:/ Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
". . .read lines by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai: "This is the end of the landscape. Among blocks/ of concrete and rusting iron/ there's a fig tree with heavy fruit/ but even kids don't come around to pick it."
"Mr. Pinsky, who is a regular presence on the program, read Marianne Moore's "What Are Years?," a poem that has been passed frequently from person to person through e-mail in recent weeks. "What is our innocence,/ what is our guilt? All are/ naked, none is safe."
"He quoted from a poem by William Carlos Williams: "It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there."
And yet: there was one poem, and only one in her long report that I wished I had written. It was: "At Union Square Park, which had one of the biggest memorials, an American-Indian poem was pinned on the wire fence: "In the dawn I gathered cedar-boughs/ Sweet, sweet was their odor/ They were wet with tears/ The sweetness will not leave my hands."
Everyone, it seems, is working on how to handle their feelings as the result of the September 11th event. And it is interesting to observe how many ‘use’ the emotional charge it has given us for their own ends. But this action is also showing us where we are within the labyrinth of the unknown and as we take up each person’s way for a step or two we get to see what fits our feet. As I say, "no, I do not want to view the event like that" I can also say: Yes! that I do want to handle my feelings with:
"In the dawn I gathered cedar-boughs
Sweet, sweet was their odor
They were wet with tears
The sweetness will not leave my hands."
October 9, 2001
One of the answers I got at the drumming circle on Sunday night, which I was not happy to hear, was that the peace I was seeking for our world began with me. In fact, instead of ‘listening’ to the two people who told me this, I began to ask Bev about her huge, beautiful crystal which she was a ‘generator’. Almost as an aside at the end of her comments, she mentioned that one other time the crystal had been in the circle two persons felt ill. This got my attention because half of my journey had been given to controlling my own urge to barf all over Bev’s new carpeting. Why had I felt such violent nausea and what did it have to do with my search for my part in peace?
And why was I so hurt and angry that these persons told me that peace began with me? I know this! And was it not me who had healed misunderstandings with two of my own acquaintances in the last month? And even in the past week had I and one other person not gotten together again after I had emotionally run away in anger? (Truthfully, it was her kindness and effort that did the work; I just agreed with her to give up my hurt.) Wasn’t I doing my peace of piece work? As the evening wore me down, I gave up the feeling of being incensed (what an interesting word for being hot-under-the-collar in a sacred circle!) and decided to let come what may.
Just before closing the circle, Jan mentioned a series of books she was reading and told us how much sense they made to her and how they were helping her. She would mention the name of the entity some man was channeling, some one would ask her to repeat it, she would give another example of the kind of ideas from this source and another person would ask again the name. It almost became a joke to me as nearly every one of us asked to have the name put again in our ears individually.
Yesterday I went to the studio early and for two and one-half blessed hours I was alone singing to the wet clay pots as they formed under my hands. The sun shone in on the top of my head as I bent over the wheel. One song after another bubbled up through me. The kerthumpa-thumpa of the wheel accompanied my non-too-musical voice. I was so happy when the rainbow appeared over the wheel along with so many pots. Again and again I noticed I was just very full of peace and happiness. At one o’clock the others began to arrive and I welcomed their company. I felt I was being surrounded by good and happy people who were sharing more than just the clay with me.
Later I was surprised when one person called to me, motioning me to come outdoors. As we walked into the sunshine she began to tell me of a situation and a person who was making her very angry. I began listening to her, and then sank down to sit on the dusty earth. Without thinking I laid my palms flat against the ground. At first she squatted beside me with her arms wrapped tightly around her knees. When we got to the part of the conversation of what to do about her feelings of anger with this other person, I offered to do whatever she would ask of me, even if I had to make a call her even though I felt I would be ‘butting into’ their little drama. Again she talked out the whole story to me and as she wound it down, her body too sat her down in the autumn-dry dust. Two women sitting in the dirt with clay dust on their hands. Then I found myself suggesting to her that she call the person involved, that she simply relate her reality, leave out my comments and help, and trust for the two of them to go together from that point. Clapping her hands together she agreed this was the best way for her to make a little peace in our tiny corner of the world. And she was wise enough to see that all her own sadness about the bombings which began the day before, also revolved around this little misunderstanding with a sister co-worker in the light movement.
In the evening, when I could not tolerated another ‘news’ broadcast trying to frighten me with ‘their’ threats of biological and chemical warfare along with more talk of more bombing in more countries, I went to the computer and typed in http://www.kyron.com. In addition to books for sale, there was with the description of each book, a generous excerpt which, miracle of miracle, could be printed out. I soon had an inch thick ‘book’ of teasers in my printer.
As I sat again in my comfort chair, all my tiredness from the long day disappeared as I found answer after answer to explain what is going on in the world, why it is happening, but most importantly I found words to explain my part in it. I realized that ideas I have been following, without knowing why, were part of my destiny and that instead of fearing the world, being terrorized by the happenings, instead of letting myself get caught up its drama, that I could feel peaceful. It was okay to feel happy and peaceful even (or especially) in these times. The persons in the drumming circle were right on. Not only did I need to ‘make peace’ between myself and others, but I needed to allow myself to feel peaceful and joyful – to not buy-in to the drama, but to remain a center of peace and joy. That it was ‘my contract’ to make myself a point of peace and to this I had to be enjoying the peace that was surrounding me.
Hidden on the shelf of bisque-fired pots, I found the missing piece to my "bug-eyed" being bell. This morning, while thinking of what to write here, I assembled the bell and wrote for the poem to hang as its wind-catcher:
sometimes a sound
in the garden of sea fogs
the bug-eyed being
speaking in wind syllables
is more than a butterfly
October 8, 2001
In my excitement yesterday to tell about meeting Doug and Barbara at the bakery and their genuine acceptance of me, I forgot to mention the two physical gifts they also gave me. While Werner was paying for the bread, Barbara called me to the gate where she held out to me one of her very special cupcakes as a welcome gift. You know how you can never get enough frosting on a cupcake? She has solved the problem. She cuts a cone shape of cake out of the top. This she cuts into two pieces. Then she fills the hole with frosting, mounding it as high as she can and then sticks the two pointed pieces of cake on top of this! Very festive looking and it tasted as good as it looked. Carrot cake full of carrots, moist and spicy. And gobs of frosting. A really sweet gift!
And Doug, in his quieter way had scooted his gift across the counter to us. A hot pink square of paper. At first I could only notice the top message: "Wage Peace". It was on my lips to make some comment of finding this old familiar slogan of the sixties and the Vietnam war protest, but there was neither time nor space for my words. In the car I looked at the sheet (about 5 x 6 inches) and saw, below the "Wage Peace" words were four pictures. One of Christ, Buddha, Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Below was a blank square and under that was printed "your picture".
After I finished my blog yesterday I saw how even more timely Doug’s gift was. The news was reporting that American and British military units were bombing Afghanistan. I love America but I could not condone this action. I took down my American flag, rolled it up and put it in the closet. And I listened to the news until it no longer was news.
In the evening our drumming circle was scheduled to meet. I had planned not to go in order to save up my energy for the clay class today, but the longer I thought about the news of our bombing and of Doug’s "Wage Peace" the more I knew I needed to go to the circle. Again I was surprised how little these women were informed. One had spent the day horseback riding and did not even know of the bombings. The others seemed reluctant to talk about it. All I wanted to know was how could I "wage peace" in my life. So we journeyed on the question. I will not repeat the answers the others received but only that I given (again) the thought that peace began with me. This meant feeling peaceful in the face of the news of the bombing, no matter how strongly I disagreed with it. To not get caught up in condemning what was happening with harsh words. To not let the horribleness of it into my life. By refusing to get caught up in hysteria and anger with my country’s administration, by staying calm and peaceful myself I could connect to the peace in the other persons on the planet wanted to manifest. By showing love to those with whom I had contact, I could magnify the love that we all need – now more than ever. So today, not only are there necks to be made for the nearly finished pots in the garage, there are people with whom I want to share my love. Starting with myself!
how happy is the little stone
as watchers hang upon the east
to love the unseen
count not that fear can be had
climbing to reach the costly hearts
October 7, 2001
When I pick a subject for my blog, I usually simply take up the subject that is most occupying my mind at the time. The single thought that I return to again and again regardless of what else is happening seems to be the one that truly needs exploring with a few more words and a bit more time.
the bustle in a house
speech is a symptom of affection
between the visions
when bells stop ringing church begins
so that the bee may blameless hum
On Thursday when I wrote up the story of Mata Ortiz as the result of the lecture at the Gualala Arts Center, there was something else that was large in my mind, but I did not want to talk about it publicly here. I did not even want to talk about the subject to myself because I was ashamed of the tenor of my feelings. And then yesterday something happened that showed me why the meeting Wednesday night had disturbed me so deeply.
Years ago I had given quite a bit of my time to the organization Gualala Arts. When we first moved here I exhibited my rope sculptures in their Art in the Redwoods shows in August. One year I even helped hang the show in the community building as we attempted to turn a room from being the monthly flea market into an art museum. At the same time I attended Roger Verran’s classes on haiku, contributed my haiku to the collection The Land of Six Seasons, and actually did much of the work on the book with him. When his wife Shirley died and he spent more of his time in San Francisco again, I took over the classes he had abandoned and in 1987, following his example, edited the book The Land of Seven Realms. I paid for the printing of the book (as he had done for the previous edition) so that all the proceeds from the sales could go to the building fund for the Gualala Arts Center. For several years our little group had a booth at the Art in the Redwoods to sell our books and introduce people to haiku and our meetings.
I remember well my last attendance at a official function of Gualala Arts. There was to be an open meeting of reports on the various activities and I was asked to report on the haiku writers. This I could do and I was glad to have the chance to say something about what haiku and writing meant to those of us who live here. I remember working on the speech and I remember standing before about 100 persons giving it. I also remember, all too well, the feeling that I was standing before a towering cement wall with my mouth just inches from it so that when I spoke my hot breath got no farther but blasted back into my face. As I scanned the faces looking for one that showed enough interest so I could focus here to bring my words to a sacred spot, I found nothing. There was just that wall. Somehow the practice giving the speech from the balcony to the sequoia tree in our backyard rolled me though my words and I was very glad to sit down. For four weeks afterward I felt paralyzed and I daily fought off a terrible depression. The only thing that ‘saved’ me was the renting of the Messing House for a week in which I let the view of the sea wash over me hourly until the memory was erased.
I continued holding the monthly classes of the Haiku Writers of Gualala Arts and publishing our haiku (until 1995 when I took the work online with my web site) but I never again attended any function of the official organization. I followed with great interest the story of how the land by the river was donated by the logging company, how money was raised, and how many volunteers worked to build the structure which I finally saw myself on Wednesday.
Arriving early for the lecture, I had time to delight in the architecture, and the wise use of space so the rather small building had a feeling of openness and spaciousness which seemed empty. The beautiful redwoods living outside the building seemed to be continuing their life within the walls of this place and I found this very comforting and yet. And yet.
I paid my money and walked into the auditorium. I was surprised to see so many people already sitting in chairs before the projection screen incongruously sitting on a table. The group was in a circle just before and below the screen with empty chairs forming a dark rind around them. For a second I had the impression that the screen had split the atmosphere and these white faces had oozed out on the floor – a coconut with its milk spilled in a puddle on the dust.
Seeing Kaye standing at the back of the room, gave me a destination and a point of reference and I was glad to be greeted by her. She was the only person in the room I had ever met before. We made polite talk as more people came in. She was looking to see how many from the class would keep their promise to show up but she was soon distracted when Walter Parks, the speaker, came over and began to talk to her. Somehow he knew she had studied with Juan Quezada and began to talk to her about her time with him, asking if she been to Mexico or met him at Idyllwild? and had she bought his pots? and when? and what period of his work? He leaned on the back of a chair as he talked to Kaye. I was okay with being invisible as it gave me a chance to look over the seated crowd. Again I scanned them for a point of contact, a friendly face, a welcome. From here I could observe them staring openly at me. I felt tall and gangly. My old hand-woven shawl felt too flamboyant for this smart crowd. My unbleached shirt and pants seemed unfinished and raw. My sandals had too many miles on them. My single braid seemed childish and unripe. My ringless hands seemed useless and foreign – like animals which I had never seen before that were now attached to my own wrists.
Bea showed up with her class of esl (English as a Second Language) students who seemed to be mostly Mexican teenagers. They were quite shy and quickly took seats forming a half circle around the core center of Sea Ranchers – for that is what they were – residents of the 12-mile long housing development with a ghetto mentality. As one man tried to start the proceedings, Kaye drifted off to the chair she had saved for herself and I went over to sit with the students.
I loved being in the half-dark with their whispered Spanish brushing my ears and the feeling that they thought no one could hear them because no one could understand them. At first there was quiet polite snickering as Mr. Parks butchered Spanish words, but as the evening went on, I could feel how they welcomed them even from gringo lips. Even if they missed the meaning of most of his English, words, it was satisfying to just be in touch with these crooked words of home. When he showed a slide of how conditions had improved in Mata Ortiz, thanks to the pottery industry, with a shot of a low tin-roofed adobe shed barely higher than the two old trucks parked in it, the kids burst out laughing with delight and joy! This they could connect to!
Later, back home again, I kept having such a terrible feeling. I could not put my finger on what was bothering me. I wandered around the house as if I was searching for something. I made myself sit down, to settle down with the hope that I would soon be able to sleep. As I listened to the compline service of the Christ in the Desert Monastery on tape, the familiar sounds acted as roads for this disturbing thought to reenter my mind. When Werner came down for a piece of apple pie, I tried to talk out, to walk around, to discover the stone in my shoe about the evening. Why do these people from Sea Ranch bother me so deeply? Why did the set of his ears fill me with fear? And his new jeans unsettle me? And the too-big silver buckle set off alarms? Why did Parks have to show a slide of Laura Bush standing beside the daughter of Juan Quezada? And then why did he apologize for it?
When Shelly and Paula broke up many years ago, Shelly rented a house in Sea Ranch while they worked out their divorce. At the time we were working on the magazine he ran a monthly tourist magazine called The Coast. When I needed to take him the poems for my column "Poet Tree", I drove to his new place. I asked him how he liked living in Sea Ranch and his reply was: "It is not bad for a foreign country." So I am not alone in this disturbed feeling? Enough of this.
Yesterday, on the way to the grocery store, Werner decided to stop at the bakery in Point Arena for another loaf of bread. Over the past several years he has been going there a couple times a week. He has often mentioned what a special atmosphere there is in the place. He had also said how the bakery felt like a center for Point Arena’s spiritual being from the way people collected there for a morning snack as well as daily bread. I had so very often felt that the bread from here was not only nourishment for the body but was vehicle for some far greater and more vital force. Not only was there the freshness of still warm bread from the oven, and the goodness of surely organic ingredients, but I had the feeling that this bread had been prayed over. From reading the weekly newspaper I somehow had the idea that Doug and Barbara, the owners, were Buddhists or maybe I made the association between my old Tassajara Bread cookbook from the sixties and the breads they made. Anyhow something good was coming from here and now I had a chance to see and feel it for myself.
Walking into the tiny, tiny shop I had my head down yet from my bow when I saw the painted tiles on the floor. Bright flowers sprang up among the warm reddish clay shapes into the smell of bread baking. Six steps and we were at the low gate that separates the work area crowded with the flour covered table just inches from the huge oven. Bending there was a large man with a curly ponytail pulling out pans of bread. Seeing Werner he stopped mid-gesture and turned to us. Werner introduced me to Doug and we shook hands. Just that quick Barbara was around the table with her dark eyes sparkling in reception and our hands made one being of us. I think we exchanged some words as I soaked up the emanations from this couple. It was like finding water in an oasis. The goodness, the wholeness, the sweetness, the charm, the groundedness, the perfection of this couple – whatever spiritual practice they have was as real as the yeast in the baking breads. I turned then to meet the clerk behind the tiny counter and she was the third part of their pie circle. In the smallness of these spaces, everything had to fit perfectly and heart and work did it so perfectly that the shop seemed as wide as a world.
When I meet people for the first time, the efforts of the collection of their many vibrations and emanations set up such a buzzing in my head that later I cannot remember what was said. As the car swung around the curves toward Manchester, I tried to sort out the spoken words from my all-too-real impressions in the same way I reconstruct my dreams. And as I tried to recall what I felt about meeting the people in the bakery shop, I also watched me listening to them and wondered how they now saw me. It was good. It was good. They would understand my shyness, my bent head, my mumbled thanks. They were not thinking of my outer appearance, but surely the inner core of myself had connected with a basic goodness that is fostered, cared for and cultivated within themselves. It would not be far-fetched to say that in those seconds of buying a loaf of bread love was given and received.
I’ve nothing else to bring
the bird must sing to earn the crumb
a tale told to buried gold
as if a bowl asked for common alms
for the frame the years had worn
October 6, 2001
I had a letter yesterday from EB in which he wrote his thought about my dream of October 4th, of the shack with an outdoor privy attached to it and the damaged barn in which dogs had pooped on a sheet of plastic which I then tried to clean up. He wrote: "But we won't be returning to this apartment/house once we're gone. Not this time. Yet it is important to clean up our "shit", or a pet's mess. We might come back to visit, but not until we're settled into our destination. The opportunity is a gift. That is why your old carpet had to be left clean. Not for your company, but the next tenants. That is why my usual sense of déjè vu is nearly non-existent. It is time to actually let the past go. But then maybe it's only my (mis)perception (?). Don't know. It's why I still write and paint, as a truth against the facts. Something much more than the sum of its parts. Not memory to hold, but to release."
I thought many times during the day about his words and was also thinking that we know dreams can have the function of instruction and I was then wondering if they also could be like tests – to recreate previous emotional situations to see if we still react in our old patterns or if, in the moment of the reality of a dream, we are able to show we have truly changed our basic internal ways of perceiving and behaving. Then I recalled the dream of the 3rd of October – when my mother had demanded certain unreasonable attentions which I hastened to give her, in spite of the fact that they were injurious to me and my foot-(ing). Again in this dream I found there was nothing I could do to earn her love and in the end I was only hurt again and more. I remember being angry with myself for dreaming that, for acting like that even in a dream and realizing that this urge to knuckle under, this insane eagerness to be loved by my mother, was something I needed to ‘get over’ or I would be given another childhood like the one I just had. I had even met, in real life, another woman who continued the patterns set by my mother and to her, who I had no reason to want to impress or make love me, I responded in the same groveling ways. I was very upset with her and with myself at that time.
Thus, I was so glad to have this dream last night:
I was again a ‘young’ woman of about 35. I was delighted by my strength and my ability to work, to cope and to do what I had always dreamed of doing – I was a professional woman wearing power suits as I walked with confidence through life. I was the head of a company in a big office building, I held my chin high and I KNEW. And then I got a telephone call from my mother.
She talked a long time telling me "a secret" she had just found out about my husband (the first one – not Werner). She said he had been having an affair. As she told me the sordid details (how long it had been going on; how completely he had bamboozled me) I was neither surprised no dismayed as I had already accepted such behavior from him. Not getting any negative reaction from me, my mother raised the bar by saying that his present girlfriend was now only two months from giving birth to his child. Mother went on and on about the disgrace, moaning about the scandal I had brought into ‘her’ family by marrying such a man – more blaming me for his behavior than him (who she had always liked). I listened to her quietly and without comment. Then I asked her what they (my husband and his girlfriend) were going to do with the child. Off-handily mother said, "Oh surely they will put it up for adoption – there is no way that woman, who has two other children out of wedlock, could care for it herself. And you know how hard it is to get money out of him! He will never support it."
As she paused only long enough to sniff haughtily and take a breath, I interrupted her with, " Then I will give up my career to take the child – to raise it."
An unearthly scream ripped through my dream carrying me back into the reality of the night where one of the feral cats was howling right under the open window. It sure sounded like my mom!
called to the window
by a wind not from the orchard
the fairest home
except heaven which had come near
those who have been in the grave the longest
October 5, 2001
I feel as if I am floating on a sea of events; none of which I can grasp, hang on to, or even get the arms of my mind around. Ideas come to me and before I can even note them or explore them or understand them, something else swims to mind and they whirl out of sight as bobbing driftwood.
The Tanka Splendor entries have been sent out for judging and already several people have sent back their choices. I am eager to start tabulating the votes to see what is happening, and yet I tell myself I should wait until they are all in after the 15th. Three of the emails have bounced back and I have tried everything to get them to go out, but still when I think of those not being delivered I try to think of something new to try to get them to go.
I see Richard has sent a new set of judged Sea Shells in his email. Should I stop everything and put them into html and notify the winner? And prepare another set for him? The backlog still seems endless. Going faster does not seem to overcome this riptide.
I had stopped the work on the Book of Hours for the end of the month and the contest and I want to get back to it, but each day seems to fill up before I even get around to it. I had planned to work on it while waiting on the votes for the contest to come in but I feel almost too distracted to sink down into the place where I need to be for what it needs.
The pile of ghazals who want to be a book nag at me daily. I feel they need either some revision, some stroke of genius or to be dumped. According to my bio-thermometer I pick one of the three paths and then an hour later, change my mind.
Last night I spent two hours making a birthday card for Robert Spiess with calligraphy, haiku and stamps. When I awoke this morning my first thought was: "that card is horrible – totally unsuitable for an 80 year-old editor of Modern Haiku." Now it lies in the out-basket with an 80 cent stamp on it. By the way, if you would like to send him a card for his b-day on October 16th, his home address is: Robert Spiess, 2830 Tomahawk Ct., Middleton, WI 53562.
Three of Cordelia’s children have birthdays within one month so it seems as soon as one package goes out, I have another one to plan, organize and manifest. And with this preseason exercise comes the knowledge that Christmas is just over the hill and closer than it looks.
Today I end this ten-day regime of anti-biotics, my mouth is already pock marked with yeast sores and yet I still have symptoms. Do I take more pills (I already have a refill) or just quit them and hope everything is dead that would try to slow me up? It did not help last night to hear a report on the radio how harmful the anti-biotic given to food animals is for us.
And that tooth that is aching must go to the dentist as soon as Tanka Splendor is done. Will it wait? I have already learned not to smile outdoors in the cold wind or drink cold water.
And that funny smell that comes now with the hot water from the new tank – that smells like tetrachloride – is it dangerous? Is it in the same pipe my drinking water comes from?
And what a biological warfare? Should I be getting vaccinated? Or trying to? How can we protect ourselves? Should we buy a couple more of those canteens with filters in them? Yes. And I need new socks.
I am in the process of giving up wearing white by switching to an unbleached look (more politically and environmentally correct) only because the white pants I loved are no longer available as are the ¾ sleeve t-shirts. I finally was able to find the right items of Deva clothes and have started wearing them, but they still feel weird on my skin - as if I dressed from a stranger’s closet. They are not as soft as the old things and these new clothes do not know me and I feel their discomfort having to live with me. I think they would still rather be plants than pants.
The neighbor to the north continues to begin to build his house right next door. For almost two weeks he has tearing up his land and my peace with two - 2! bulldozers, three trucks (no, now it is five trucks), and two barking dogs (which incite the other neighbor’s dogs to bark in calipee).
Down on Highway One they are repairing the bridge over ‘our’ creek that goes to the beach. This means our walks are accompanied by the roar of uncountable trucks and more bull dozers. As I get out of earshot of the neighbor’s heavy equipment, the road workers take up the theme from below.
Yesterday, influenced by the vision of smoothness of the pots from Mata Ortiz, I spent another hour scraping down "The Great Lady" pot. I must have scratched over a half-a-pound of clay away getting rid of that one weak line. At least, between the roar of the bull-dozers I was able to hear a few haiku in my head. Good grief! I cannot find the paper on which I had written them down. From memory:
scraping the pot
a lone crow answers
metal on clay
shaping the pot
level with the sea
There were more which I can only hope to come to light soon.
In bed this morning I thought about the three pots I had started and now know I do not like the slant of the sides so am eager to cut off half of yesterday’s work and to swing them outward so they open more. How could I have been so pinched in?
I need to call some company that sends a fax every morning at 7:00 advertising a cell phone deal that is unavailable in our area. They cannot be very bright. They offer 1125 minutes for $29.99 or 1500 minutes for $39.99.
The Gualala hardware store must have gotten in a shipment of small American flags. They were all over the auditorium at the art center the other night – stuck into the rings of the curtains all around the room in a very funky, insecure and temporary way. Even the bull-dozers outside my window have American flags on them bravely waving in the clouds of brown dust. I had vowed that if Bush and the military began to bomb Afghanistan civilians I would immediately take my flag down. But now that I hear they are sending food in for the refugees (hooray! good move!) so I think I must go to town and buy a couple more to show my approval and to help out the economy.
Should I reschedule the flight to Hawai’i with the women’s sacred journeys next winter or just stay home? The Russian plane blown up over the Black Sea seems like a warning out of a poem or Nostradomus message: rushin’ – plane – blown up – black – sea.
Do I still plan to visit the kids in November? Shall I take the train instead of flying? Or just stay home and plan conference calls? If I go I can take the Christmas presents instead of mailing them. If I stay home I need gifts that will go through the mail. What would best express my love for them? If this were the last Christmas with them what would I give them?
At this point my mind floats off again only to bump against the letter to Marjorie that I have been thinking about and not yet typed up, the comments I wanted to make to Ed, the funny email from Caran I wanted to forward to Jody and Elaine, and the thought that I need to make a decision on the offer of a partnership with Justbooks. As I glance at the mail pile there is also the letter from the guy wanting to know how to start a publishing business and he wants details.
Oh, and there is there are the rest of the poems from early last summer which still are waiting to be typed in:
of this day composed
far better than the music I’ve heard
a secret told
"morning" means "milking" to the farmer
this chasm sweet upon my life
October 4, 2001
One of the benefits of living across the river from the rich and famous (in The Sea Ranch), and as part of the trickle down economy, we can, if we pay our $5.00, can sit in on lectures and concerts put on by their visitors who come for a little R&R but cannot stop the itch to publicize. Thus, at the edge of the continent and its attending fog, the money and leisure of a retirement community have built a new monument to the arts on the non-Sea Ranch side of the river called Gualala Arts Center. Gualala Arts began north of Gualala about 30 years ago when a small group of people got together in August to show their artwork. And the first show was actually hung on the redwood trees in the park-like of Charlie’s grove (which was brutally cut down last year). But August is our foggiest and drippiest month so the local artists soon had to find a better shelter for the show. Over the years it was held in empty buildings, tents, commercial spaces, and the community center of Gualala. Many people worked very hard to finally get the money together to build what today is a lovely piece of architecture, set in a redwood grove by the river.
Last night I sat in the still new-smelling auditorium and listened to a man tell another story about art, progress and riches with faded and crooked slides to prove it.
In the early seventies there was a poor boy living in Chihuahua Mexico who had to leave school after only three years to help support his family. They lived in a small village on the Palangansas River, on a plain east of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Because he was very shy, he avoided jobs that involved being with other people. Thus, he was the one who went to the mountains to gather firewood, which his brothers then sold. In his treks he often passed over areas where previous villages of the 14th century Paquimé Indians had been. The rain-leached soil was littered with shards of their pottery which he would often gather. He was fascinated by the intricate designs of stylized animals and abstracted patterns painted in warm browns and gold. It became somewhat of a game to him to piece together enough shards to see the side of a pot. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find a whole pot?
As he grew older, married and needed more money than he could make hauling wood or picking apples for the Mormon landowners or wet-backing into the USA for work, he got the idea of making pots like the ones which were now in pieces. With no one to teach him the processes, or the techniques, but guided only by the shards, he was able to make a fairly decent imitation of the shape the pots had been through trial and error. As a boy he had often painted pictures on the mud walls of the house so he was able to draw the simple designs in fairly accurate symmetry using earth colors from the mountain gullies. These pots, fired under a lid made of an old bucket or clay flowerpot heaped with cow pies, looked fairly similar to the old ones of the area. By distressing the bottoms (careful not to harm the designs) the man thought he could sell them as archeological finds. As he and his brothers made their way over the US border looking for work, they would also carry in the pots which were quickly sold. Very quickly the man found he could make more money with his pots than with the low returns from field labor. So he continued to refine his methods, practice his techniques, vary his materials as he grew into his way of decorating the pots. Every thing he needed he either dug out of the earth or made himself. Even the brushes were made of a twig and four strands of hair for the intricate designs. He ground up the clumps of variously colored earth to discover the red and black engobes he now uses on pure white clay bodies.
Now the gringo enters the picture. In Deming, New Mexico, in 1970, a man who loved bargains and shopping in funky stores finds three of these pots in one of those dusty desert trading posts. A graduate of Princeton, the man wondered if these pots were truly ancient, so he asked the proprietor and she, accidentally, remembered the man who had brought them in. She honestly told him she thought that they were newly made and that the seller was the one who was making them. The gringo, instead of being annoyed about the near-fraud, was excited about the idea of someone making such pots. He bought all three and set out to find the artist. His journey took him four hours south and west of El Paso, Texas, to Casas Grande and beyond – out to a tiny village Mata Ortiz on the river. Asking everyone he met if they knew someone who made pots, he was finally led to Juan Quezada.
The gringo’s name was Spencer MacCullum and for eight years he supported Juan (by offering him $300 a month to be paid back by one pot) and he began making the rounds of museums and galleries to sell the pots Juan created in his new-found freedom and security.
Other gringos have been attracted to the artistry of Juan’s pots and have formed alliances with him. Tom Fresh, of Idyllwild, California, was instrumental in organizing classes and tours so Juan could teach others beyond his village. And Walter Parks, the man speaking in Gualala last night has also been publicizing the work with his book, Miracle of Mata Ortiz (1993). Because the story of Juan Quezada is also the tale of a village that went from a place the young fled as soon as they could, to a spot where the people stay to find the roots of the vision of their ancestors.
Juan, who has the soul of an artist, soon turned himself to finding his own vision of the ancient designs. In the process, and with his growing success, he began to teach others in, first his family, and then in the village, his methods and materials. Slowly but surely the circle around him broadened as student taught new students. As the passion for making pottery widened, new ideas, new designs and new visions entered the arena. Now there are about 300 – 400 men and women working in pottery. It is the perfect cottage industry for the area. Today the three-street village, still looking like a picture from another century has electrical power, pumps instead of wells, appliances instead of mud stoves, new freedoms and new problems. But the world is richer by a widening flow of pottery from the south and we have another example of how working together enriches everyone.
the outer to the inner
how the visions closed above him
the ancient clay
if art now sinks these are standing
we never know how high we are
I also had this weird dream; perhaps because I met Kaye at the lecture.
I was walking with a small group of people down a deserted road through a forest. As we looked up to our left, we could see through the trees that high above us someone had built a primitive little shack. For some reason I felt I knew about the place from some other time. I talked a few of the other persons into exploring it with me so we climbed the steep rugged hillside to the building. It was made of leftover pieces of lumber, was not much to look at but was solid and enclosed. Cautiously we knocked and then opened the unlocked door when no one appeared. As we looked inside we could see that no one had been here for a long time so we took courage and walked in. This was not my place but somehow I felt I knew the person who had built this and had been often in this room. I showed the people the corner where the kitchen was, but really we could see it all because it was only one room. A door to the left opened into a bathroom consisting of a one-holer perched out over the steepness so all the dung quickly slide downhill. We laughed at the ingenuity and yet wondered what it was like here in hot weather.
By going through this lot, we discovered next door my place, which was a barn, much like the one which we built on the ridge. For some reason there was some structural defect in it so that it could no longer be inhabited and thus, I had moved away to another place. Among the people looking at the shack, was Kaye Like, my pottery instructor. She immediately liked the barn (her studio is in one very similar to the one we had had) and wanted to rebuild it. For some reason it was not possible to fix the fault but she got permission to build another barn right beside it. Because I still felt connected to both the shack and the old barn, I was often around during the construction.
When it was finished so Kaye began to move in, I helped her place furniture, decide where to put the various things and simply unpacked her many boxes. I was so glad to find that I had left some of my furniture in the old barn which she had reclaimed and brought into her part. The oak roll-top desk again appeared in its old place. But she felt it should be scooted around the corner. Figuring this was her space, I accepted whatever she wanted to do with it. It was no longer mine and I was just glad she was so happy having it. After we got everything arranged just the way we wanted it, we discovered that the desk was blocking the way to the stairs to go to the ground floor! Instead of moving the desk so we could use the stairs, we decided to walk through the old barn. As we crossed the connection between the two buildings, I noticed the floor was buckled and damaged. It looked as if any moment it would give way and one could fall through. We carefully and quickly crossed to the other side. There we heard barking. In one of the carpeted rooms were two dogs. One was an Irish setter and the other a black cocker spaniel. They had evidently been shut in the room for some time, but they had been left plenty of food and someone had spread out a plastic trash can liner over the floor. The dogs had been careful to always shit on the plastic but the room was very smelly. I quickly tried to gather the mess up to dispose of it, but the chunks of poop kept falling off the slick plastic onto the carpet. Then remembering that this side of the barn was not to be used any more, I wondered why I was being so careful of the old carpeting.
October 3, 2001
For some unknown reason I could not ftp my blog to my server yesterday. Today I am deep into sending off the entries from the Tanka Splendor contest for judging and am having a devil of time. Tomorrow has to be better. In the meantime, all I have to offer you is last night’s
I was a very old woman living alone in a small town. One winter evening someone came to my door. At some level I knew the person had come to check on me – to make sure I was okay, and yet I was deeply afraid of this person. Instead of opening the door, I silently slipped the bolt lock on and just as silently walked across the room, through another room and quietly slipped out the back door. As I ran down the dim and icy alley I slipped and turned my ankle.
Much later I was in a warm and softly lit room with my right leg on a pillow. I could see the inside of the ankle was deeply bruised. As I sat in this strange room wondering how I got here and where I was, my mother came into the room. She was not concerned with my injury but had come only to ask where she could buy a pair of summer shorts. I gave her directions to the only store that might have such an item, but I warned her that it was unlikely that they had any in stock now. Somehow she had the idea that if I went with her the store would get out the shorts for her. I pointed out to her that my ankle was injured and I did not know if I could or should walk on it before it was bandaged.
She became very angry with me, accusing me of not loving her, and too concerned about my self. Drawing herself into a tragic pose, she declared that if I really loved her I would stop making up excuses and go with her. It was very painful to step on my foot, but I was determined to prove to her I loved her. I hopped by balancing myself along the wall. Outdoors I hopped to a tree, broke off a branch to make a stick. While I was trimming the branch I realized that if she had given me her shoulder or arm to lean on I would not be breaking down this tree.
We shopped for a long time (and I forgot about the sprained ankle). Then Mother decided she was hungry and needed to have lunch so we went into the cafeteria in the store. She could not decide what she wanted. I knew I would take the chicken hot dogs so I picked up a plate with them on it. She, still not knowing what she wanted, decided to take the same thing. When we sat down at the table, she took one bite of the hot dog and spit it on the floor. She began to bitch at me for influencing her to choose a food that she found so awful. I was hungry and wanted to eat my meal in peace. So I asked her to either go get something else or wait for me to finish. She went back and got a dish of ham, which I thought looked quite good. Again she found it distasteful and dumped the dish on the floor. Now we were asked by the management to leave, so I never got to finish my own food.
She insisted we find a place where she liked the food. I was again limping and feeling very tired and sick so I sat down on a park bench to rest. Across the street was one of those food stand-wagons one finds in big cities. When she complained of being hungry I suggested she go across the street for something that she wanted. She refused to cross the street without me, so I walked over to the food wagon. As I watched the woman preparing the food I was so repulsed. She was injecting it with a thick turquoise jell. When she held up the finished product, she squeezed the meaty chunk and the stuff oozed out in a disgusting manner. Mother delightedly bought the ghoulish thing and began to eat it.
October 2, 2001
I was eager for the clay class today because Kaye had promised to show slides of her work. I had seen individual pots at local shows but had no overview of her work. When I left our house at noon it was already 74 degrees Fahrenheit – my upper limit of weather comfort for moving outside of a hammock. In the seven minute drive up the ridge the temperature climbed to 89 degrees. As soon as I stepped out of the air conditioned car I knew I had to leave as soon as possible. I quickly unloaded the dried pieces and reloaded the bisque fired pieces in the boxes. Back and forth through the blazing sun I went with the dry dusty fallen oak leaves crunching under my steps. I carried two new bags of wet clay from the shed to the car with my last bit of energy. Still I had to write out a check for Kaye, so I went back in the studio. Now filled with the rest of the class, it seemed more stifling than before. Afraid I would faint, I stuck my head under the water tap until my hair was soaked. Water was still dripping off of me as I plopped in a chair to write the check. A guy who was sitting there talking to the prettiest girl in the class, took one look at me, got up and walked away!
As I got to the car I met Sandra so we quickly exchanged her apples and pears for my crocheted potholders. She, as usual, had much to say, but I was barely polite in my eagerness to be gone.
In the car I turned the air conditioner on high and steeled myself to stay conscious as I drove along the winding road. I drove with my elbows in the air like the cormorants who try to dry their wings in the wind. As I began the assent to the coast, the temperature began dropping and with each new number I felt better.
At home having only cold water seemed a good thing. Still, it took me almost an hour to get cooled down. By then Joe was here with the new hot water heater and pressure tank. Unable to rest with a stranger going in and out of the house, I began photographing the clay things which had been fired.
Joe was having his troubles too. When he drilled through the wall so the next hot water heater leakage could drain outdoors instead of coursing through the house, he hit the water pipe. He had to cut out the wall and replace the pipe. Then when he hooked the new system up, the water would not flow into the kitchen. It was now 6:30 everyone was hungry and tired as Joe ran in out of the house even faster. The cat was freaked, I was frazzled and Werner’s lips got tighter and tighter as he calculated Joe’s bill.
It was no wonder I dreamed:
Heidi and I were on vacation in a place on a tropical sea coast. The beaches were all sandy and safe, it was warm and sunny and the breezes were as gentle as the people. The first couple of days we spent our whole time in and out of the water. I took lots of photographs, even underwater, with my old Rollei 66. At night we developed the photos and I put them together into collages and compositions. Each day I had a list of things I wanted to photograph for the next night’s work.
One morning when we got down to the water, it was glassy smooth, reflecting the soft pinks, blues and golds of the predawn sky. As I looked off to the right I saw an island fairly close which I was almost sure had not been there before. It had steep cliffs and large brick buildings. Somehow I knew it was a prison. And yet it was in such a beautiful place. I found the idea of putting a prison in so much beauty extremely inexplicable.
When I looked off to the left I could see across the small channel another land mass. We were so close I could see the people gathered on shore to take the ferry boat to our shores.
Not wanting to waste the great light, I began photographing and forgetting to follow my plan. It was written on a strip of gray paper about 20 feet long which I had laid in the sand and weighted down the corners so it stayed unrolled. When I came back for a new roll of film a young woman in her twenties was standing there looking at my drawings and notes. She wanted to be a photographer and therefore was very interested in what and how I doing my work. I began to talk to her while I changed the film. I had done this a million times before, able to do it in the dark, but somehow having her watch me, having to talk to her, thinking about what was best to say to her and having still wet hands, the film kept slipping out of the film holder, threatening to unroll, catching on the rollers, the paper tore, and I knew I was going to have to throw this roll away and start with a new one. I really hated to appear so clumsy to her, but thought was that what was more important was to have the film in the camera properly than to impress someone.
While I was still fussing with the film, a teen-age boy came up and started talking to me also. He distracted the young woman so that I was able to remove the goofed up roll and put in a new one as if this was a normal procedure. The boy told me he was going as an exchange student to another country soon and wondered what advice I could give him. I told him to photograph everything that he loved. The photos he would have for himself and they would show the people he was visiting a lot about him and where he came from.
October 1, 2001
At the end of September our tardy summer has finally arrived! Yesterday was actually still and hot like days I have from New Mexico. Nothing stirred, nothing breathed – the heat lay like a bright blanket over every thing. I sat in the shade forming pots that dried too fast while the swear poured off of me.
Usually we take our walk around four o’clock; timed to be warm though often the wind tries to strip it off of us. Last night we stayed in the house, which was much cooler than the outdoors, until we saw the sun sinking into the sea. With the fog gone and the skies perfectly clear, the show was too good to miss so we quickly walked to the knoll. It seemed the great orange ball balanced on the horizon before beginning to deform itself into a bell, a hat, a cake, a soup bowl, a pizza (with anchovies!). As the last slice narrowed its edges were already taking on a greenish glow. With our mouths open we watched the orange grow thinner and thinner. And then! several green flashes popped out of the blue. We waved to the sun, called out that we wanted it to come back tomorrow and thanked it for the show of green flashes. It had been such a thrill to see several instead of just one, that we continued to talk about the sunset as we walked around bottom of the ‘U’. Regretfully we frightened the deer from their evening browsing and they ran into the pines. As we started up the hill, there just sliding through the pines we were surprised by, not the three deer, but the harvest moon. It seemed so close that if we only walked a little faster, and if we just crossed the next little woods we could step right up to it.
As we walked back home we watched it slip from tree as if we were playing hide-n-seek with some dignified person who wanted to give us a tiny pleasure. The night was too beautiful to go inside. We tried to stay outdoors but our neighbor’s two dumb dogs barked at us so long and so loud the delights of the night dimmed. We hoped by going inside they would quiet down.
Rarely do we have all our windows open, but the night stayed so warm we wanted to catch every breeze. Poor Buddha about went nuts when the raccoons came on the porch and only a thin screen was between him and his enemy-friends. I had to shut the windows for his safety. The dogs continued to bark (the neighbor is gone and whoever shuts them in the garage at night had not yet done their job) so I walked out to the road to talk to them, to comfort them. They only bark because they are scared and alone. As I waited to see if my little talk with them was working, I looked up at the night sky. I don’t think I had ever noticed so clearly the different colors of the stars. One bright red one, there a greenish one, some so blue; it was as if flowers had gone to heaven and ignited.
I had barely gotten to sleep it seemed, when I awoke to the warm smell of skunk! With one swing of my arm I had the window shut and was preparing to sleep again, when Werner reminded me that all the windows were open. Since I was more awake than he was, and I hate skunk smell more than he does, and there was an anti-biotic due to be taken, I got up and closed the other windows. And then I saw the moon over the sea! With so little wind, the sheen on the lightly riffled water was metallic, molten moving.
I tried to go back to sleep, but knew I was missing a great show so I got up, and came downstairs.
the coolness of moonlight
Bu always gets freaked by any out-of-the-normal activity and having me up, having me sitting in the dark, drives him bananas. He races around the house trying to be a watchdog while he scared out of his wits. Evidently he was not the only one mystified by my unusual behavior.
across sea and meadow
a huge raccoon
After much spitting and hissing at the French door the coon decided that dinner was long gone and there was nothing to be gotten here, so he ambled off into the cypress trees.
the moon comes in
an open window
brings to the porch
I just could not resist a couple ‘silence’ haiku as I thought about my little book of long ago as I wished it be finally given the publisher it deserves.
from window to window
To the west of the sea the moon laid down a path of silver coins. For a long time I tried to figure out why there was a place where the sparkles were thinned out and very fat.
in autumn kelp beds
a deeper darkness
Outside the night was cooler than I had expected it to be. I had to go in twice for more clothes.
moonlight to shore
the journey of waves
comes to me
I sat on my cushion letting my mind seep into the boards of the porch until my consciousness became as fluid as the sea and bright as the moon.
the lattice fencing’s other being
The breeze from the west bought me new information about the night and its visitors.
across the sea meadow
Okay, how much discipline do I have and how much trust in the goodness of the wild? I sat very still and soon I forgot about the smell.
an hour later
the great sea cypress
Inside, and now warmer, I was able to continue my moon mood.
in my recliner
Back in my room I could observe how the changing light and my increased night vision transformed ordinary things. The unlit kerosene lamp had two bright eyes – moon-shaped of course.
across the room
As the moon sank down far out to sea it seemed it was taking the water with it.
the moon approaches
the moon pulls to itself
As the moon crossed the starless sky, I was surprised to see it headed directly toward that spot where the sun had set, where we had begged it to come back. And now the moon was filling its place.
as if with memory
the full moon follows
the sun to the sea
But before the moon could leave, there were still miles for it to travel. As it moved north it brought new views to me.
the shape of the cypress
turns into a deer
a roundness comes
to my lonely room
The moon became larger and deepened to first an earthly ochre, and then it became pure gold.
yes it is!
the man in the moon
is a leaping rabbit
under the eaves
morning and moonlight
last sip of tea
the full moon slips
into the sea
The moon left a slight grayness in the sky.
try to sleep again
or just stay up?
the moon appears again
in Psalm 121
Copyright ©Jane Reichhold 2001
Continue reading at:
September 21 - 30, 2001
September 11 - 20, 2001
September 1 - 10, 2001
August 22 - 31, 2001
August 11 - 21, 2001
August 9 - 1, 2001
July 31 - 26, 2001
July 25 - 18, 2001
July 17 - 11, 2001
July 10 - 4, 2001