November 30, 2001
In one last effort to get up to speed with the calendar, and skipping over a lot of boastful grandmotherly stuff like Caitlin’s talent for jumping horses, Ian’s good grades and Zach’s entrance into manhood and how much I love my son, Hans and am grateful for his wife, Carol, I want to capture the events of:
Monday, November 26, 2001
Occasionally during the clay classes mention would be made of the Raku Party. I knew what raku was (a Japanese word for a method of firing ceramics) and I had actually made some experiments with the process when I had my studio in the 60s. At the time I was busy trying to make the work with clay support itself and myself. The effects of raku were too unpredictable and there was too much breakage for me to use it as a production method, so after having ‘been there, done that’ with several pots I had given raku up as a way I wanted to work.
As the mentions of a "party" flew around the studio classroom I was confused about how what I saw as ‘work’ could be combined so happily with ‘party’. The advanced students all seemed to take the coming date very seriously. Certain vessels and plaques were made with the intent that they be done in raku and that they be dried and bisque-fired in time. Unwilling to risk anything of the pieces I was really interested in having glazed, I gathered together some of my early wheel-thrown bowls and people pots – all things I was willing to sacrifice in the celebration.
On Monday, the 21st, Kaye lugged in buckets of special glazes which we had never used before. For me, this was new. I never knew raku took special glazes other than the regular rutile ones which I had been making up for all my ware. Then she assembled a row of pots she dusted off, wiped with vinegar and began to describe which milky soup produced these unbelievable colors. Most of the examples did not thrill me and I saw no reason to go to so much trouble for such ordinary colors. Only one sculpture had parts of it (and only parts!) that were iridescent so that it looked as if carnival glass had slipped over on to clay. I began to get mildly interested in the one glaze called "Tomats" until Christy informed me that it was the most temperamental of the lot and that last year she had lost all of her work trying for its illusive blues, greens, reds and golds. Deciding to not but all my eggs in one basket or pots in one glaze, I simply picked up any piece and dunked it in the bucket which no one else was using at the moment. The only one I avoided was "crackle" because I have enough trouble with my pots cracking without choosing such a glaze. I was careful to record which glaze I put on which pot but I could have saved myself the ink because my pots all looked so much alike I was never able to know for sure which one had been covered with which glaze. And the names were so similar. What was the difference between "copper", "copper cobalt" and "copper sand"?
Because I had the most pieces for the firing (7) I was put in charge of the ‘telephone tree’. I found out this meant I had to gather up everyone’s phone number in the case the weather was iffy on Monday. I was to call to see if the party was a go or not and then call each person to report the result. I closed my mind to how much I hate using the phone, wondered if email would be a viable substitute and decided to pray for good weather. Sandra, who had 6 pieces, was made in charge of the food. Whew. I was glad I had missed that job. She was right in her element and knew exactly what she had to do and how she wanted it done. Within minutes each of us was committed to bringing the appropriate dish for an autumn menu. Sally offered to make a pork and pumpkin stew, Sandra offered persimmon cookies and I realized that I hate to cook. For one sweaty moment I planned on requesting to bring chips and dips which should be left to one of the males. But when she asked who would make a salad, I remembered that was not cooking and I could do it.
That evening I got out my Betty Crocker Cook Book and leafed through the salads until I found the Waldorf Salad. Perfect! Sandra had given me a big bag of her homegrown apples. Knowing she did not spray or wax her apples, I could use the skins too for the color. Also, the other ingredients were all in the fridge except the green grapes. If it rained on Monday, Werner would get a week’s worth of grapes in his diet and nothing would spoil.
But it didn’t rain. Monday dawned clear and bright and cold enough to keep it that way. No phoning, no calls left me plenty of time to chop, dice and slice the salad, organize my stuff for the day and remember to take the two boxes of my glazed pots. Sandra picked me up right on time and soon we were flying down the highway and headed up the hill to Annapolis where Jamie Hall, the raku master lived. Shortly after we passed the tiny post office we saw signs saying simply "raku" and were able to find his driveway among great old redwoods. Down in the cleared meadow we could see tables had been set up in the sun, and tanks of propane were lined up around a strange metal wire beehive. While the others arrived, Sandra took me deeper into the woods to show me Jamie’s studio and some of his pots. The studio was one of these old pot-growers redwood hermitages, hand-built hexagonal in one of its shapes, with strangely arranged appendages as new improvements were added to a simple life. Inside the wood stove tried to take the chill out of the air but what really warmed my heart were the lovely pots lined up on the shelves. Jamie’s wife, Kathy does the throwing and he carves and glazes the pots. Now I saw what raku and those funny glazes we had been testing could do. The colors were so unearthly – like lights from another planet. How these have come from the ground? I began to line up my favorite examples (all the ones with the matt glaze I learned was the ‘copper sand’) with the idea that I wanted to have one of these. Then the idea struck me as if a hand had socked me on the forehead. Maybe my pots would look like this!!! Suddenly I was very eager to get this adventure started.
I walked around Jamie’s kiln looking at it as if I had never seen a kiln before. And it was like none other I had seen. It seemed very simple. A gas jet lying on the ground was focused on the hole in a square of fire brick. One top of this was a square wire cage lined with what seemed to be asbestos. A chunk of it was cut open in the top so one could lift the flap to look inside. This wire cage was attached to lengths of angle iron as handles. When he was ready to begin loading the first pieces, two persons bent and easily lifted the cage (which resembled the pictures of the ark of the covenant) up and off the brick base.
He decided which pieces went where on the floor of the kiln, using the spaces but not getting things too close. Soon he called to have the cage replaced and he turned some dials on the propane tanks and whooshing noises increased.
Now we were lead back to the open porch of the studio where we found a forest of rusty tin garbage cans and unused paint buckets. For each piece we had in the firing we had to carry one of these up the hill to a tarpaulin spread on the ground. There were piles of newspaper, bags of various kinds of sawdust and more newspapers. We were shown how to wad up the paper and stuff it in the bottom of the can. On this one could set a cage made of chicken wire or one could accept the burns and patterns of the material as it ignited against the glaze. I watched others stuffing the paper around the wire cages but had in mind the example of raku that I knew in which strange shapes and images had applied themselves to the design of the pot from the burning material. So I decided to forgo the wire cage bit.
While we waited for the pots to get to the proper temperature (cherry red and glowing) we began to nibble at the various plates spread out on the tables. Bob had brought some spinach burritos filled with cream cheese, cucumbers and onions. I decided that nothing else was as good as these. While we munched Jamie would talk to us individually answering questions and giving advice. As I stood by him he raised the flap on the top of the kiln and I could see the glaze on the tops of Amy’s sculptures beginning to crawl. The inside of the kiln was a pale red gold and flames came licking out the flap. Patiently Jamie observed the glaze until it turned to a shiny syrup and the pots became lamps of light. Excitement ran high as we dashed around finding a pair of long-handled tongs, asbestos gloves, and our individual mixtures of combustible in the metal buckets. We tried to stand closest to the spot where our pot was so we could most easily and quickly grab it and drop it into the bucket. Some of us practiced gripping rocks with the weird tongs as others tied up their long hair under caps, took off jackets and cleared the deck for action.
"One, two three!" and the two helpers lifted the kiln top off.
Everyone moved into the heat of the glowing objects as six pairs of tongs converged in the heat. I was so excited that when I got my little people pot in my grasp, it slipped, falling to the ground and igniting the grass. "Don’t worry! Pick it up again and get it into the bucket" Jamie shouted into my confusion. Blinded by the heat and light and my own in-adeptness I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I was not prepared for the blaze of fire that immediately leapt up out of the bucket. "Put the lid on it." someone shouted, and I felt I could not see any lid in the neighborhood of the smoke and fire. Somehow a lid was put over the raging inferno and I felt I could relax and breath again even though the choking fumes from all the buckets was another element. As I started to walk away I saw one pot left in the kiln. Without my knowing it, someone had added my slender little vase to one last square of space. I had two pots in the firing but had only prepared one bucket. "I have a second pot and no bucket." I called as I leaned back toward the fire pit. My pot was already black with its cooling and I felt it was lost, but I picked it up anyhow – just to get it out of the way. As I turned I saw Sally had that quickly prepared another bucket for me and I was able to drop it in. It was still hot enough to set the papers on fire and this time I knew how long to wait before setting the lid in place.
People were staggering around choking and rubbing their eyes from the fumes. Kaye was calling out that we should drink plenty of water and take milkweed when we got home to detoxify ourselves. Jamie quickly began to stack up the next load of pots on the brick base. Only because he called for us to come see where our pots were located before replacing the lid did we avoid my error the first time. This time I had three pots in and had no idea yet of how the previous ones would look. Should I use the wire cages or not? Even though everyone else was using them, I decided to stick with another attempt of not using them. I was sure that because I had dropped my one pot and had been too late in taking up the second one, the first firing was a loss.
Now the rows of hot tins were only sending up slender rills of smoke into the redwoods. We had to wait until the buckets were cool so we kept walking by them touching the lids to see if we could open them yet. The scene seemed optimally autumn with the colors of the rusty tins and fallen needles. I wanted to write a haiku but was too exhausted and over excited. So I just took some photographs.
The buckets containing smaller pieces cooled down first but people were so eager to see their pots that they wore the gloves to dig them out of the ashes. I still had the camera in my hands and wondered why some faces looked so quizzical as they looked at what had once been their familiar pot. The changes were so enormous they had the feeling that they had unearthed the work of someone else. Others would crowd around to crow, "Oh, how lovely!" "Look at those colors!" and still the creator of the pot would be trying to accept the drastic changes.
When I was able to lift out my people pot, the shine of the glaze was like a pain to me. The huge black charcoaled side looked like a desecration and the ruin of my work. I heard Jamie’s voice in my ear saying, "It looks very Japanese." and I was thinking "It looks very, very ugly." As if she read my mind, Kaye was saying, "You can wash off the black so don’t look at it." I could see nothing else. I was glad to lay the pot aside to see what the little vase had done. Because Sally had prepared the bucket, she automatically had put in the wire cage so there was no horrible black side to the work. The copper sand was a lovely matt with variegations of green, blue and gold. The top part, done with copper something else, was a pure ugly green because it had cooled off too much.
Before I could register that I liked the effect of the work set in the basket of wire and to change my three ready cans it was time to take out the next batch. This time I knew better what I was doing but having to do three at once took me right back in the confusion of my first time. In the ensuing excitement someone else had grabbed up one of my lids so I had to go around hunting down a substitute while my pot and bucket merrily blazed away. When they began loading up the kiln for the next time I refused to take part saying I wanted to photograph the next time. And I did. Here is a shot of Jamie and Kaye holding up Amy's sculpture - the biggest work of the day.
Load after load after forty minutes raced by. Jamie invited us down to the studio to see a slide show of his work. It only made mine seem more worthless. So many incredible colors on beautifully made pots, which should have served as inspiration, only depressed me more. And it was getting cold. As the sun sank behind the mountain and left the last of the tall redwoods, the meadow had a nip of frost in the air. Mostly to keep warm I put my last two pots into a firing and prepared my buckets and stood as close to the kiln as I could. I barely remember removing my pots and putting them in the buckets. Christy burned her forehead so I got ice for her from my picnic basket and we all admired the moon which was rising above the tree tops.
We used the last of the light to load our stuff in the cars and several persons left. Sandra still had several of her large pieces left to fire so it seemed we would go on firing even after dark. I stayed on the perimeter of the action trying to capture it on film. I felt I was seeing nothing and decided that I would only remember what I saw as it would come out of the camera. We sat on the cold aluminum chairs and chatted as we waited for the buckets to cool with great impatience. At last we could see that Kim had a beautiful bowl – in my eyes the best piece of the day, and Sandra’s cabbage-leaf dishes came out in astoundingly beautiful hues. Lying on the grass, it seemed a huge butterfly had landed out of the darkness to light up the scene with metallic colors.
I’ll admit that I was very tired as Sandra drove us home. Truthfully, I really wanted to cry – I was so disappointed with the way my work had turned out. The next morning, with the sun dashing and crashing around on the shiny glazes, I felt slightly more kindly toward my creations but still. . . I loved the photos I had taken and for them, and the companionship with the others, the day had been a success.
November 29, 2001
I am still trying to catch up as my behind gets behinder. Even getting up in the middle of the night does not help. So I continue to have two Wednesdays and two Thursdays in each week. Moving now to last Thursday –
When I had talked with my kids about Christmas gifts I floated the idea that instead of sending gifts back and forth, we simply each write a special letter to each person. At first I got some "ahems" about another crazy idea of mom’s, but the longer they thought about the proposal and realized that any kind of a letter would be acceptable, the closer they came to agreeing to the plan. For me, I thought that I would have the whole month of December to get my letters written because they could be mailed as late as only a few days before the holiday. Heidi, however, thinking that because we would be together for Thanksgiving and not Christmas, that we would exchange our letters now.
Fortunately for me, I had planned to give checks to the grandkids also, in addition to the letters. The checks I had written and enclosed in handmade cards along with a small goofy toy gift. I was glad to be able to give them the money before they began Christmas shopping because I know how easy it is to find things for oneself when out shopping for others.
So after dinner when we were all too full for one more dollop of dressing or another bite of turkey, the plates were cleared away and the packages passed around. There were laughs and questions as my weird ideas of what teen-aged kids liked were explored and they tried out each other’s funny stuff. Then to my surprise, Heidi left the table and returned with a bunch of envelopes.
Since she had gotten the idea that the letters would be exchanged today she had corralled, admonished and directed everyone to "get their letters ready for mom". Ashley, now almost 16, had drawn and colored a small book with big pages with the title Merry Christmas to Oma and Opa around a peppermint candy cane. Inside, and illustrated with a Christmas ornament, was her letter:
"Dear Oma and Opa, Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas is filled with lots of love, happiness and joy. I am so thankful that you could spend this Thanksgiving up in Oakhurst.
I know that whenever I visit you I am going to have a great time. Whatever we do, from making dolls to collecting shell on the beach (page two with a Santa waving ‘Frohe Weihnachten’) we always have an adventure to remember and I hope it will always be that way.
I just want to thank you for everything you have done and for always supporting me in what I do. Thank you so much and I hope you know that . . . (page three with a big pink heart) I Love YOU. Ashley
Shaun, who has a girlfriend, got Jackie to make the cards from both of them. These were the size of a placemat and made of some soft suede-like material in white and red. On mine Jackie had stenciled the edges with Japanese ideograms. In the center was a picture of the whole family taken under the big oak tree with the sun filtering through the golden leaves. Underneath was written her message: "Oma, you are such a neat person. We really admire you. Thanks for all you do. With much love, Shaun and Jacqlyn"
Werner’s placemat greeting was covered with stenciled silver snowflakes, a matching photo, his name and the message: "Jackie and I love to visit you and Oma. We always have so much fun with you. Thanks for being so wonderful. Happy holidays! With much love, Shaun and Jackie"
Ray, who had cooked the whole dinner himself and did a beautiful job of it
– everything was delicious – had gotten us a large Hallmark card of
"Merry Christmas Wishes Just for You". The greeting was:
"These wishes are especially warm
Because they’re meant for you -
Have a bright and merry Christmas
And a happy new year, too!
Thanks for being here today. Hope to see you both again soon. Love, Ray"
Then Werner opened his letter from Heidi. She had a beautiful photo she had taken of rock formation in the Arches National Monument in Utah layered over with a sheet of clear acrylic on which she had printed her poem:
how quickly time passes
and the miles grow longer and longer
was it just yesterday we met
or was it 30 years ago?
did you know
that as children
both grown and small
we take things
that are permanent
and solid for granted?
I want to thank you
and honor you for
being that pillar of strength
in my life
and lives of my children.
I love you, Heidi"
For the photo on my card she had picked an autumn scene on the Sabina Creek with the water arranging the gold and pink leaves in brocades. On the overlay she had her letter to me which I began to read out loud.
days have past before I could find myself pen in hand and thought in heart to the many, many feelings I could share with you.
I know more than anyone I meet, you are the closest to me in reflection – a magnetic truth that pulls us together and pulls us apart.
(Then, and today, tears welled up in my eyes blurring my vision.)
all of our lives we truly only wanted to love and to be loved.
I believe we love each other on a level deeper than we both can bear. My desire to protect you creates a distance between us at times that is real and imaginative.
(Here my voice broke into a sob, but I swallowed hard to be able to continue.)
I have always felt loved and cherished by you and would that you would know the same of me.
(I was only able to gasp out "Oh, yes!" before more sobs bowed my
I know as a mother now, that love flows in all ways, like a brook. . . over and under, tumbling and showering, spinning and drying, leaving a ring at the high level and tadpoles floundering in the stillness, and yet it is the same love, pure. . .
I love you, Heidi"
In one gesture both of us were out of our chairs and holding, embracing, rocking and kissing each other in a racking flood of tears. When we finally were able to turn back to the others still sitting at the table every one of them were crying, wiping away tears and sniffles. We laughed at ourselves as we cried even harder and reached out our hands to one another. It was such a sweet moment and such a perfect way to end our meal.
In Martin Prechtal’s book, Long Life, Honey in the Heart, he writes of how Guatemalans celebrate each feast with a session of grieving for dessert. I had never experienced this before, but the tears and the affirmations of love we shared made this Thanksgiving like no other.
Well, another month has disappeared into turkey gravy, dressing and left-overs. It is always a surprise to me to realize how much I must do daily. A few days of doing something else, and all the normal flow of tasks and mail backs up into a logjam that threatens to topple across my hours. Now, I not only have all the stuff happening today, I have journals from the trip that are waiting to be typed in. So do I write about the moment (clouds thinking of the next rain storm and the clay class this afternoon) or do I slip back in time to a week ago to hold tight that day? I realize that I risk living my life a seven days behind myself, but here goes because those were very special days and I do not want to ‘lose’ them.
Wednesday November 21, 2001
We were up at 7:00 and flying out of the house already by 7:30.
uneven the ocean tosses
spume and spray
In spite of the wind, rain and darkness we were able to make good time. In fact, we were moving so fast I never even saw the town of Gualala.
writing it down
a haiku in Gualala
Only at the different sound of the tires crossing the bridge did I notice what I had missed.
wall to wall water
the autumn rains come
to the river
The mouth of the river, at the sea shore, had not yet opened so the river was filled to the brim. This would have been a good day to watch the high tide eat away at the sand bar for that magic moment when the river would gush across the last fragile barrier to enter the sea. But already, by the time the desire had formed, I was far down the road.
neither here nor there
the dreams one carries
on a journey
With all the success of sticking one’s tongue into a broken tooth to replace a lost filling, I kept trying to recall my dreams, but the passing scenery jumped up against my eyes, blinding me to the person I had been in the night.
unable to write
There are few things I hate more than being in a moving car, so I tried to focus my attention on the rapidly passing world.
to the wooly fog
The ocean was wild with storm and up by Salt Point there were some great views. I was torn between trying to watch the curvy road, the on-coming traffic, ocean waves and my own motion sickness.
climbing the walls
along the coast crashes
the heavy surf
entering Salt Point
the windshield is covered
with white crystals
As we made the sharp curve in the road I could look back into the gulch at Stillwater Cove.
the only green is in
the lost kite
At Jenner, where we love to stop for a rest after the hairpin curves coming down the pass, it was too foggy to see if the seals were on the beach. I had not realized how important it was to me to see them lined up on the shore in peaceful sleep when I am so nervous about traveling.
the sleeping of the seals
is not to be seen
The whole town seemed asleep. Only in the marshes along the river road was there animal life to divert my attention from my discomfort.
above the pond
Somehow I could not stop using that first line so as we passed more ranches the haiku changed into:
coming into winter
I was surprised to see so many lambs already. Usually, it seems they come for Christmas, but this year there seemed to be more than usual this early. One species seemed to have white mothers and yet the newborn lambs were totally black. I wondered if sheep were color blind. Most of the way (two hours) winding along the coast is pasture land, so I had plenty of time to take in the wonders of the farming community.
taking shape in the meadow
a pregnant sheep
We finally stopped for a rest break in Bodega Bay. The rain had not stopped so we stood under the roof at The Tides and watched the gulls dive among the docked boats.
the ducks swim around
When a gust of wind came off the water we realized another truth about the romantic life in a harbor.
full even when empty
with fishy smells
In town there were finally people to watch and I couldn’t help smiling when I saw this scene being enacted in the front yard of a small house with a big tree.
with the power company’s crane
hanging the kid’s swing
Back in the car I mentally designed a set of bowls and contemplated titles for my new book while looking for the proper exits and connecting highways. These activities got us to Livermore at 11:00.
the miles disappear
At 12:30, in Modesto, we thought we would try to catch a quick lunch at Denny’s. As we stood in line to be seated, we heard the woman in front of us how long it would take for her dinner to be served. When we heard the host say it would be twenty minutes, we stared at each other with wide eyes, automatically in unison did an about-face out the door. How glad we were she had asked that question and saved us getting stuck with that waiting.
lunch in the parking lot
at the restaurant
The only cop we saw all day was parked here, waiting for his lunch. We enjoyed our hard boiled eggs and rye-krisp and even our water tasted great. Back on the road the flat straight path of highway 99 through the San Joaquin Valley gave rise to:
the mindless valley
Here at least the season was more in evidence than it had been on the coast.
gray to gold
in the fog the trees
turn to autumn
In getting off the freeway in Madera we had one of the usual husband wife differences about which exit to take. I wanted the one that read "Yosemite – Millerton Lake" but Werner was looking for the highway number "143" which appeared on the next exit. So we took that way. As we drove along we kept asking each other where the foothills were. Why was this land so flat? Shouldn’t we be climbing by now? Again and again we passed signs with 143 written on them and reassured ourselves that we were right. Only when we came to the tiny town of Kerman did I realize we had taken 143 south instead of east.
in a foreign country
darkness overtakes us
By three o’clock we were back in Madera – just in time for a heavy rainstorm and afternoon gridlock. But the traffic moved so slowly we were able to find our way back to the exit we had meant to take. Soon we were headed east and gaining altitude.
in the rows of rain
As we left the flat land the weather cleared, the skies opened up and shafts of sun spot-lighted view after view. Topping each lump of land as hill were the smooth old granite boulders left from the times that this was once a lake. Not only was I flooded with the memories of when I lived in this landscape, in the 60s, but I felt I had also lived here along with the lake in even earlier times.
among great stones
I had such a desire to jump out of the moving car – to simply go running over these soft, comforting bosoms of land. To run my hands over their curves in welcome and renewal. I was very tempted to ask Werner to stop and just let me roll in the grass.
a dead branch
then I remember this is
I was surprised that the hills were still covered with the dried summer grass. Along the coast the land was already winter green.
with overcast skies
it seems sunny
The good weather of the foothills soon escalated into a mountain rainstorm and by the time we got to Oakhurst at 4:00 Heidi had given us up to her imagined difficulties and the world was dark with wind and weather. Still there was Heidi’s bright smile and her joyful welcome in her new photo store we had never seen. There were clerks to meet, equipment to wonder over, her marvelous photos to admire, and the plans for the evening. We quickly bought some groceries at the deli and headed up to the cabin at Fish Camp (6,000 feet elevation). How cozy it was sitting under the tin roof listening to the rain. She told us the snow that had just melted on Monday and we wondered if each pause in the roof sounds meant it was beginning to snow. How easy to drift off to sleep without a haiku in my head.
November 20, 2001
The house is cleaned, the laundry done, the suitcases packed, half my Christmas wrapped and ready to go. Tomorrow we leave for Heidi’s house as soon as one of us wakes up. We get to see her new store in Oakhurst, watch the grandkids working for their living (!), plan a deli meal and be whisked off to the cabin at Fish Camp for a night in the high mountains just outside of Yosemite National Park. Thursday Ray will do the turkey (he is the best cook in the whole family), Shaun will make me feel like a computer idiot as he demonstrates all he can do and all I wish I could do, and Ashley will introduce us to her family of pets: dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and maybe the new pig already. After another night in the forest (will it snow or merely rain?) we head down the mountain to Visalia and Hans’ family. First we go to the cookie store to stock up on (what else?) and then we go to Three Rivers to watch Caitlin take a riding lessons. Last week she took five ribbons in a show in Los Angeles but her mom said she was most proud of her for not losing her cool when Go-Go (an aged borrowed horse) didn’t go and refused a jump because he was freaked by the bank of flowers. Poor Caitlin had been the first rider out and then the judges made her stand alone in the center of the ring, for being disqualified, while all the other riders made their trials. She didn’t let this bother her but got back on the horse and got the best possible performance out of the old thing. Three Rivers means a stop at Reimer’s candy store so this will be the sweetest day of all. I think Hans will cook us turkey in his new pit barbeque so the eating will continue deep into the night. Saturday morning we will have with Hans to walk through his pomegranate groves and if Ian gets his way, he will go dove hunting with Werner. Zack and I will sit and tell each other stories. We have this liar’s club thing to see who can tell the biggest whopper. In the afternoon we will head back home.
Jody will come to be here with Buddha, but tonight he thinks we are leaving him forever. I had to hold him while Werner closed the suitcase or his whole body or his paws would have gotten packed up. Now he is moping in his bed and looks at me, when I walk by, as if he is going to die in an attempt to break my hard-hearted heart.
I hope everyone has a marvelous Thanksgiving!
Divine on the mountains;
proclaim blessings from high places.
Divine, all you angels;
praise the Most High all you hosts.
Divine, sun and moon;
praise, praise praise all you stars
Divine heaven of heavens,
and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise
the Names of the Divine
with the sound of their coming and going.
marvels endure forever;
may the compassion of the Divine be mine.
Divine from the earth;
you sea monsters and all the deeps.
Fire and ice,
snow and fog;
tempestuous wind, doing the Divine.
fruit trees and all cedars;
Wild beasts and
creeping things and winged birds;
Kings of the
earth and all peoples;
princes and all rulers of the world.
Young men and
the young and old together,
Let them give
praise to the Creator
for this Name is exulted in splendor
across all the galaxies and universes.
thanksgiving that we are chosen
to join the Divine in this grand pageant.
November 18, 2001
As we drove back from Mote Creek, we saw that the sky was about 80% covered with clouds and wondered what the weather would be like between 1:00 and 3:00 am when the best of the meteor showers were expected. The sunset was lurid and looked like something imported from Hawai’i. We had little hope of being able to see much, but still we set the alarm clock. I was awake before it rang. Looking east from my pillow I could see many stars all the way down into the pine trees. As I raised up and looked to the north, there were, within seconds two shooting stars. It seemed all the clouds had floated down to the horizons leaving the center of the sky cleared for action.
We dressed warmly and gathered up shawls and blankets. It seemed the best show was when looking to the northwest so we scooted the chairs around on the porch. Instead of turning on the light to get ourselves settled, we tried to find our places in the dark. I forgot that the porch was still wet and slipped, did the splits and fell on my chair. The little warning made me wonder if I fell, would I look like a falling star?
After we settled into our places our first thoughts were of Anna and Joachim and we both wanted to talk about them so we combined them into the show.
the stars are falling
from our sky
As the display increased we began to make our fireworks display sounds: "Ah!" "Did you see that one?" "Wasn’t that one great?" From these brief remarks it was only a short path to more haiku.
fall into the sea
There was no light on the land except for an occasional car coming down on to the highway. We wondered if people up in the forest were driving to the coast for a better view. As our eyes became accustomed to the dark we saw more and more.
then the flash
from the lighthouse
It is not often we can see the prism of light nine miles away from Point Arena’s lighthouse. Usually it is visible only when it is reflected off the bottoms of low clouds. But tonight the sky was crystal clear. Orion was off to our left and when I tilted my head straight up, there were the Pleiades with all seven stars visible directly overhead.
the cold comes in
under the blanket
After an hour we were both chilled and agreed to give up part of the show for the warmth of the dining room and a cup of cocoa.
the purr of the cat
glad for company
We were resigned to missing the best of the show from our new, warmer place but the heavens had one more surprise for us.
lighting up the room
the shooting star
was that close
A huge ball of fire had arched over the meadow just outside. Even after it had passed its curved tail hung like a swag of light in the night sky for over a minute. Like an illuminated eyebrow made of sparkles it drew us out of our chairs to stand at the window in amazement.
from the shooting star
a spin of light
After a while the warmed milk began making us sleepy so we agreed we had stayed up long enough. Even as I laid in bed I saw several more flashes of light as the earth passed through the tail of the comet. And then, as I watched, with sleep-drowsed eyes, the clouds from the east rose up to take away the show so I could drift away to the places where shooting stars are made.
still the shooting stars fall
toward the earth
November 17, 2001
I was leaving a school in a few days and there was lots of flurry, scurry and excitement as classes were finished up, plans were being made and people were preparing to go their separate ways. A friend of mine wanted me to meet this Greek family she had gotten acquainted with at a picnic. She talked a great deal about the young man and I rather had the feeling she was very attracted to him and did not know what to do with the parents so she wanted me to entertain them while she concentrated on charming him. This all seemed a bit wearisome to me, because I still had so much to do and wanted to give my whole energy to the tasks at hand. However, she begged me so much, bugged me so long that I finally gave up protesting and went along.
The young man was handsome and okay but I found the parents to be much more interesting people. There was an instant rapport between us so that I felt I was meeting a set of my parents from a prior time. They seemed vitally interested in knowing how my life was going and what was going on with me. I was surprised to find that in my purse was a packet of photographs. I had the feeling that their desire to see where and how I had lived was so vital to them that they had caused me to bring these pictures even though I had no idea of doing such a thing.
As we looked at the many photos together, we were sitting in a grassy field, some of the photos began to move so that we were looking at live action video clips. Most of the photos I barely looked at because I already knew them because I had lived them. Only one did I look at closely. It was of a black cat at the top of wooden stairs leading down to another level. The cat had its back legs on the floor of the room and the front feet were poised on the step below. The photo was so realistic and the positions so active that I expected to see the cat begin to walk down the steps. Instead the cat remained static and the background around the cat in the photo began to move around in a wiggle as if someone was not holding the camera quite still. Yet the image of the cat stayed clear and in focus no matter what happened in the background.
As we looked at the other photographs I mentioned that my mother had enrolled me in college when I was a sophomore in high school because she wanted me to grow up faster so I would get out of the house so she could use my bedroom as a closet in which to store her clothes. The Greek couple was very upset to hear this ‘fact’ which I had related with so much calm and acceptance. They immediately began to talk to each other very rapidly and excitedly in their own language. I wondered what was going on and evidently began to look rather abandoned and puzzled. The woman, who was very motherly, reached out and drew me to her, so that she was holding me as she continued to talk to her husband. I wondered what was going on and felt from the way they were looking at me that the conversation was about me.
Then the woman told me that she and her husband had discussed if they could invite me to go home with them and that they had decided that ‘yes’ they wanted me to stay with them. Almost without thinking I refused to take up their kindness and explained that I wanted to go back home to try once more to "make things right" with my mother.
As I thought about my reaction to their offer, I realized that yes, my parents had sent me off to college, and yes, my mother had expressed glee to have me out of the house, and yes my mother had thrown out most my things in order to make my bedroom into a closet, but she had not done this when I was a sophomore in high school but when I was a sophomore in college - the proper time for such an event. I realized that in my memories I was making her to be worse than she really was and that I wanted to apologize to her for this. I saw so clearly how I had issues (here rejection) I was working on and how I twisted the actions of others in order to make my lessons more emotional vital and clearer.
At breakfast I was thinking of how memories and dreams use images which seemed to be printed out on transparencies as with over-lays. One can shuffle the sets of acetate sheets so that the images are out of order to make a new picture or one can even turn over some of the acetates over these images are backwards. This makes the collected images slightly out of kilter and presents another view of the ‘truth’ of the originals. This is why it is hard sometimes to understand dreams, and memories because some of the overlays are turned, flipped or even missing. I also thought that we do not remember events as if looking at a photo or even a video, but more in the way a cat scan gathers information – in slices of pictures that only look like the original when they are stacked one on top of another.
When I told Werner of this idea he said "yes, that is the way we work with memory in poetry also." And I realized that he was right. If I write about a moment and simply describe it as a reality photo the poetry is missing. However if I can flip or twist some of the overlays, as we do in dreams, the remembered reality is closer to being poetry than just a factual accounting of the event. The ways one does this is the creative process and enriches the world by just that much.
soul, will you toss again
after that horror that was us
her final summer
they had shut me up in prose
I heard a fly buzz when I died
In summer we had planned to spend our 30th wedding anniversary, in October, by taking a trip to Paris. That way we could have been in Germany for the wedding of our oldest granddaughter – Anna. Werner has his built in fears of war, due to his still real memories of living through the Second World War, and I with my phobia of being on the wrong side of a political fence made it very easy for us to let the events of September the eleventh cancel all our plans. The result was that Anna’s wedding and reception in Hamburg went on without us. But at what a price! All day we each were neither here nor there. Our thoughts kept racing off across land and seas, following another clock, trying to image "now they are doing this, now this is happening" when in our lives absolutely nothing happened. We were nothing but shells. No one was home and even our porch lights were not on. We got in each other’s way wanting to call and knowing that now was not the right moment. There was nothing in our lives worth doing or attractive enough to capture our complete attention.
By afternoon we just felt we had to do something so we went to Mote Creek. I was surprised the parking lot was empty because the Schooner Gulch area was crammed full. I guess the low tide was discouraging the surfers and no one else thought of coming here.
The rain storms of the last week had made drastic changes in the beach. Many new huge logs laced with tangles of bull kelp had been rolled up the beach. Even the large white rock I had been using as altar had been swept away. The creek was full and flowing down to the sea with a straight deep channel. My regular path through the driftwood piles had been blocked by the new logs. Part of the earthen cliff had slipped down onto the rocks exposing a new page of the history of the area. There was so much to explore and admire and wonder at.
I had no idea where to set up my altar so I began walking the beach, which was easy with much of it either sand, scraped bedrock or small stones. The rumble of the creek called me and I wondered if that was where the altar should be. I did my water blessing and then stood there a long time looking at the rocks, asking if I was supposed to cross the stream or if one of these boulders was the right one. Seeing a lovely piece of polished abalone shell I turned away to pick it up. Then farther one was another, and another. As I picked up first one and then another of the tiny colorful chips I retraced my steps south down the beach. At one place there were so many pieces lying together I knelt to gather them. When I raised my head I realized I was directly in front of the large rock had been underwater the night we had launched the spirit boat and on which I had stumbled as we waded out into the surf. So that was to be the altar!
I walked around looking for a stone to represent Anna and found a flint with the white shape of a butterfly in it. Then I asked for a rock to stand in for Joachim and found a gray stone swirled with white melody. The tide was going out but still I had to cross water by stepping on the high spots to get to the altar. I had brought mums from the garden and the bag of cornmeal. Just as I began to lay it all out the sun broke through a crack in the clouds. Though there was little wind, it felt good to do the ceremony in the warmth and light of the low sun. A family of oystercatchers waded in the tide pools for dinner and gulls gathered as white flecks far out on the newly exposed reef. One man came down the path but when he saw us, he turned back.
When I finished the ceremony I was scanning to see if our prayers had been taken. Just as I pointed to a cloud to cloud rainbow Werner raised his hand to point it out to me. Ah, that was good. Within minutes the sun slid down into the next cloud and it was time to go back home. On the path we met two couples and two children and were thankful for the time alone on the beach with Joachim and Anna and our wishes and prayers for their future together.
November 15, 2001
All night I dreamed of doorways, or better said, thresholds. Actually the ‘doorway’ was a wide as the room – one wall of dimension had moved out into infinite space so that all was behind me except the openness before me. Again and again this image came to me. I would put ‘things’ or the images of things before me and all the images would fade and then it would clear and the image of a room to leave would come again.
This morning I woke to such incredible tenderness. There were seconds when I felt I could not bear the overwhelming sweetness so I simply drifted off into them. The storm clouds became pink with the dawn and a gentle rain began to fall. While getting breakfast I found myself humming "Pomp and Circumstance" – the song of progression for graduation.
And now I have a jillion letters to answer, calls to make and decisions to make up out of nothing.
sweet safe houses
if you were coming in the fall
how could the door
contain the triumph of drums
all the years of wandering
November 14, 2001
I had been invited to attend a meeting at a woman’s house. Because I arrived early and had never seen her place, she began, with much joy and enthusiasm to show me around. Her brand new home was in the tropics, perhaps Hawai’i and incorporated the best of the style for that climate. The rooms were open-walled on one side to porches and verandahs with wide expanses of wooden floors, white walls and no ornamentation - just simply beautifully proportioned spaces outlined with natural materials. It was a thrill and a joy just to stand and breath in the air such rooms. One could smell new wood, flowers growing outside, sea breezes and blue sky.
Then she led me out on the verandah to show me her views of the sea through the palm trees from this mountain side. She laughed as she explained how hard she had worked on the garden areas around the porches. As I looked over the railing I saw that there was not a weed or leaf out of place on the raked earth. My attention was caught by one strange plant. It did not really look like a plant because it had no green leaves. It seemed more like a brown rough root which had emerged from underground. It was gnarly and twisted and about a foot and a half high. What interested me were the white flowers (about 3 inches across with five petals) which grew directly on the surface of the wood without stems. I gazed at the thing wondering if it was plant or not, and asked the woman its name. She was eager to show me something else and was already walking off in that direction, so she only flung the name over her shoulder with a laugh. I was too taken by the plant to catch her words. Regretfully, I followed her away but my eyes stayed riveted on those lovely white flowers in such an incongruous setting. I really wanted to ask her more about the plant, but the door gong was being rung and the other guests were arriving.
When everyone was assembled there were over 200 persons at this meeting. As it began I found out we were there to discuss haiku. I thought how proper it was to talk of haiku in such a perfect-for-haiku setting. When the first speaker got up to talk, I realized that soon I would have to give my own speech. Not waiting to have to walk to the front of the room from my chair, I slipped off of it and walked around the edges of the crowd so that I could wait behind a screen. When I got there I saw that the couple speakers before me had had the same idea and were already lined up in the order they were to be on the program. As I waited I could hear the roar of the high incoming waves of the ocean and wondered how we could hear them so clearly this far up the mountain. I thought they must really be rolling in with great force for the sound to carry so far. As the line of speakers moved out into the view of the audience I realized that the sound which I thought was the roar of the sea was the movement of everyone getting out of their chair to join into the line of speakers-to-be. Snaking back and forth through the room was this conga line of women! "Hey!" I asked, "who is listening?" Even in the dream I saw how accurate this was for haiku writers that everyone wants to tell others how to write haiku, yet no one wants to listen to each other and saw the joke in my dream.
The dream continued then to the time after the meeting. I stayed to help the woman clean up and put her house back in order. She asked me to make her bed because one person had gotten too tired and was not feeling well so she had let her lie down on it. Thus the bed needed to be remade. As I straightened the satin sheets and pulled the softly colored pink, orange and purple silk bedspread back up I marveled at this woman’s taste, her ability to give herself the best, and to enjoy what she had.
it's not that dying hurts
the road is lit with moon and star
you love me so
you're sure my shape will rise
as the doomed regard the dawn
November 13, 2001
Lying awake in the predawn darkness, listening to the rain, the blessed rain of winter, I was thinking of how dependent (and that is not the word I really want) I am upon the intelligence of every thing. Instead of saying ‘dependent’ maybe I should say how ‘connected’ I am to the intelligence of other things.
This begins with the separate intelligences of the cells of our bodies. Each one is capable of making changes (which one could call decisions) and they do this hour to hour and day to day while ‘keeping in mind’ the function of the whole – me. And all the separate cells give up some of their ‘independence’ in order to function in collaboration with ‘like-minded cells’ to be liver (actually the live-er), the blood, the skin or other organ. Together these groups of cells can ‘decide’ whether to attack other cells, to defend themselves against other cells, call in other cells for help, to heal or rejuvenate, or even to die. Without our thinking of it, the parts of our bodies quietly go ahead doing what they know to do (most of the time). I am always amazed that while I was writing or making a pot – totally involved with thinking processes, that all the parts of my body have continued to do what they think is best for them to do - automatically. A lot of what my body does I do not even understand the complete processes let alone be capable of instructing it to do what I want it to do. And yet I am able to ‘use’ some of the small bits of information I have about its working to communicate my ego intelligence with its separate intelligences.
I had awakened this morning with a scratchy sore throat. I asked my throat what the message of this small pain was. I remembered being too hot, too cold, too wet and too tired yesterday at the clay class. I told my throat I know that in the past we have spent many weeks in winter lying on the couch, under a warm blanket just reading but that I truly preferred to be up and out, making things and relating with other people for awhile this winter. For this, I promised to give my body rest in the evening, to protect it with a scarf next time, and to even give it a vitamin C tablet if that is what was needed. As I thought of these small changes, my mind wandered to other plans and I forgot about my throat. Only later was I aware that the scratchy tickle in my throat was gone. So we had reached an agreement. I was willing to compromise by increasing my care of body and body parts were offering to withdraw their message of a sore throat.
As I thought about the intelligence of my body parts, only skimming over the surface of the miracles and wonders, I begin to think about the intelligence of the room in which I lay. The wood is still alive and surely remembers growing, seasons, warmth and rain. The fabric of bed sheets was once a cotton plant that sprouted, bloomed and seeded itself in a cocoon of fiber that now cocooned me. Even the plaster and sheetrock were once part of the rocky surface of the earth and now stood about me as a being we call ‘house’. I trusted all of these intelligences enough to lie down among them night, for night, and to sleep soundly. I had faith in the intelligence of the wood to hold up the walls, the shingles to repel the rain, and the electricity to stay in the wires and make the nightlight glow. I realized that the intelligences of all my cells, all the microbes and bacteria living in and on me, added to the intelligence of the room. And the opposite was equally true. The intelligence of the room and all the things in it, accepted and aided the intelligences within my body. When I am in this room I am different, in subtle ways, than I am in other rooms of the house. And how different I am out of the house! Walking outdoors I expose myself to the intelligences of the various trees, rocks, wind, sea, grass, birds, bugs, animals and even sometimes – people. I have often noticed how quickly we as people or animals have made a path over the grassy meadow. The grass seems to act as memory. No wonder paper is made of cellular material. We write down our memories on that which already has memory. A book is not only a collection of the ‘author’s’ thoughts but is a collection of all the intelligence and thoughts of grasses, trees, earth and rocks which are now loaning their being to this collaborative endeavor. We may think of a book as an inanimate thing, but it is capable of ‘knowing’ what it once was (in its cells is still the information of whether it was grass or tree, its ancestry and even the kind of soil upon which it was grown.
(Aside: I just spelled ancestry as ancestory. An = before or becoming; cest = relatives as in the word ‘incest’; and story = story. The story of those who have come before us. Is the dictionary spelling the word ‘wrong’?)
Back to the book. Books do take on the mind of the author with the words they contain. Their size and shape and composition is determined by the mental material (or intelligence) within the book. And even when all the manufactured books are the same they are never all the same. Sometimes a page is bound in crooked, a page is blank, a corner bent, the ink smeared or too light. And even if one has the control over the manufacture to make the books be very similar, they will begin to change as soon as they are separated. One book goes to a tropical climate, one to a colder climate, one to well-heated home, one to the damp corner of storage, one on a windowsill, one on a night stand. As soon as a book is opened the oil of hands combine with the cells of the cover to leave a fingerprint. The open pages take on the breath of the reader. Imagine what impact a sneeze has! If you write in a book it is altered forever with the personality of a moving hand and ink. And what happens to a book that is loved? When it is opened often or carried in a pocket it takes on an unmistakable patina of days passing. Death does not erase everything. When I open my father’s Bible, he is still there. When I look at a photo of Aunt Evelyn she is still there.
(Aside: Tomorrow would have been Aunt Evelyn’s birthday. See, even days which are nothing marked by nothing [how can you write on time?], have, or bring memory when combined with other intelligence.)
And so we come to the idea that everything is happening at once. The book contains the sprouting tree, the lava-made rock. I am all my ancestors. My prayers are conversations with myself for myself and about myself. Incense uncurls itself into smoke and wonders never cease.
poets light but lamps
we’ll pass without the parting
a visitor in marl
in many and reported places
sweet it is nothing is lost
November 11, 2001
Somehow I simply could not settle down to work. I had plenty to do; that was for sure. The howling wind, gray skies and noise of the rain was like a tent over me in which was perfect for conforming me to some kind of much needed-to task. I fiddled around with my email, not really accomplishing anything. An email from the Lightners in Pandora, with a web connection was an amusing diversion. As I bookmarked Jasper’s Emporium, I noticed how unwieldy my list had grown. With seemingly nothing better to do I began to delete the sites I no longer wanted to keep on it. Whenever I do a repetitive computer task I sort of space out. So it was no surprise when, instead of clicking on a yoga to highlight it for deletion, I double clicked and whup! there I was deep into this offer of a week in Hawai’i from a local couple of yoga masters. In the late summer I had gotten this announcement and had briefly considered going as this was a chance to be in Hawai’i, to stay in one place for a whole week with companionable people, to not be in a hotel, to be near the volcano, have use of pool, vegetarian meals, and be on the southeast coast of the Big Island.
After September 11th, I had easily given up any plan of flying over 3,000 miles of open sea, but today, with the cold rain, the darkness and the whole winter ahead of me, the dream of going back to this spot of earth that clearly called to me was rather pleasant.
Drifting and dreaming, something I rarely do at the computer, I was gently floated up against the numbers of the clock in the corner of the screen. Ten:forty-five! I only had fifteen minutes to prepare for the sounding of 11:11:11. I had planned to go to Mote Creek but a glance out the window and I saw that the wind was still blowing the rain horizontal so I had to pick a new place. The warmest outdoor spot in a south wind is the west porch so I went out there. At the corner of the eaves was a small relative dry space where I could stand. I had plenty of time to smudge myself and the drum, attach a flower, and offer my intent with the drumming. I wanted to do a ‘song’ – not to just bang away as if scaring off bad stuff (which was the purpose) but to offer up a composition of my love and compassion. Then I got the idea of drumming for eleven minutes. Out of the corner of my eye, through the French door, I could see the clock on the radio. So five minutes before eleven o’clock I began my drum song.
At one point my attention was attracted by something directly above my head. One of the snowy egrets was flying very low directly over my head from south to north. I accepted this as a sign of acceptance of my song prayer. I glanced at the clock. It was just eleven o’clock. Pleased and grateful I finished my song – almost hating to have it come to an end, but the drum head was softening up from the damp air and it was time to quit and go back inside. As I stepped back into the house, there on the mat laid a star made of a ti leaf which I had bought from a man in the Hilo farmer’s market that Sunday morning. I wondered, as I picked it up, how it had gotten off my altar down here in my path. Surely I had not stepped over it to go out the door. What had happened? Had the wind blown it down as I walked out? No, it was a sign. But like an obvious dream, I had to think on the event for several hours before its meaning became clear to me. In deep gratitude and wonderment.
Continue reading at:
November 9 - 1, 2001
October 31 - 21, 2001
October 20 - 11
October 1 - 10, 2001
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