Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday 13

This is a hard Thursday 13. I have nothing to write about except my average life in the little city:

1. I've been knocked unconscious twice. The first time I was 13 and a frustrated friend at a pajama party punched me in the nose as I was innocently walking by. The second time I walked into an air conditioning unit in an underground parking garage (don't ask how I managed to do that). In both cases I fell to the ground and was pretty embarassed when I came around.

2. I simply cannot keep track of my earrings. I love earrings and I've had several pairs that are my all time favorite. Even those I lose. Why oh why do I not keep them in one place? This is a question I cannot answer.

3. Having an outside hot tub is the biggest luxury I have ever had. All winter, even when the temperature hovered below zero, jb and I would sit under the stars in perfect and unbelievable warmth. I don't even need the jets, although they're nice enough.

4. I recently had a past lives reading by a woman who is nationally known. My neighbor asked me to go with her--her husband died unexpectedly and she wanted to understand why that had to happen. My reading was blander than I expected, but she did keep stressing that in five past lives I've had to be ultra responsible and as a result i am very competent in the ways of the world but I can be too firm in my beliefs.

5. Following # 4, I want to be less responsible and less firm in life. I am following a path of faith and flexibility these days, and I like it.

6. The opening of the word-art gallery show with Carla is this Saturday night. What an honor for me to have done work with Carla, and what a treat it will be to see my poem splashed across a wall next to her painting.

7. Ryan is now 11 weeks old. I love how he wakes up and it takes him several minutes to process the outside world: he looks at a loving face talking to him and he tries to figure out what he is seeing. Then he makes eye contact, follows intently and is beginning to smile. The process of being a person is a miracle. It again and again tells me that none of this is one bit random.

8. I am saving my customary $ 20 bills and extra cash here and there for a special trip with my pal Ces. So far I have $ 620 and I'll be up to $ 800 once I cash a couple of unexpected checks. This is a great way to save: just stash $ 20 bills away, even once a month--you'll be surprised how quickly they turn into hundreds.

9. I took my mother to the Casino and she won $ 500, then $ 250, and in the end, following a day of putting quarters into these sweet slot machines, she came home with all her original money plus $ 300. She was estastic! She is 91 and has to hold on to me when we go anywhere, but once she's seated in front of a slot machine, she's gleefully on her own. It makes me happy that I can make her happy in such a simple way.

10. My recent post on relationships and all the great suggestions and comments reminds me how hard it can be when there are different styles involved--and how important it is to respectfully address and resolve those differences when people care about eachother.

11. jb and I are close to spontaneously dropping into the animal shelter where we got Stella and bringing home another dog. I know it will happen on total impulse, and that is fine.

12. jb and I are headed to Colorado to visit family in a few weeks. We're planning to take a week in May to check out South Carolina (think no snow) and perhaps a week in Santa Fe in the fall. I wish we could get in the car and drive where ever whenever in America for 3 months. Someday I hope we will figure out a way to do that.

13. I am still writing away and still not working for $$$. And I may have to change that pretty soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

TheWriting of a Poem

I love when Ces or Andrea or Val or Carla shows the process and progress of making art. Probably because of my inexperience, I can't very well explain the process and progress of my writing. But in this post I want to try.

THE PROMPT: Last night at the Big Yellow writing group, the prompt was a song. I'd never heard it before but as I listened I wrote down a few words or phrases, among them "I don't care", "bluebirds who flew home", "Here I am", "You could cry or die or just make pies all day" and "picture of my sweetheart". I look for ideas and inspiration when I jot down words like these.

THE MOOD: It might be how I feel that moment as I sit on the big yellow couch, but often I'm influenced by how I felt about my day, my life in general, or where I'm at in relation to someone or something else. Yesterday was punctuated with the serious sensitivity I sometimes carry around, including my ever-challenging desire to be a true, good person who gives and receives love fairly, with both temperance and zest, and by a fantastic meal of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes cooked by jb and shared with our two good friends.

CONSTRUCTION: As I was listening to the prompt, I wrote: "I don't care if the distance spans the decade". I started my poem with that line. From that I chose the title. Then I started writing. Nerissa allows about 40 minutes to write. I try to write a complete piece and then go back to edit, but because I know I have to be ready to read out loud when Nerissa says "Stop", most often I write, go back and change, write some more, and go back and change again. I've learned to reread and replace weak words with stronger more descriptive ones (for example, hopeful grief became splendid grief) and to delete unnecesary words. I am always surprised by how many words I actually can get rid of. I try extra hard to make the first line and last line impactful--the best writing I can--especially the last, which if I'm lucky will make a point or tie things together. I also like to repeat words and recurrent "themes"--actually, they ususually find me before I find them. In this case, it started with the "pies" from the prompt and expanded to baking and rising and then falling. And carrying the ten sticks came from a recent Tarot reading that told me that carrying a certain burden was worth it.
So here it is: Last night's poem from the Big Yellow:

I Don’t Care

I don’t care if the distance spans the decades
And the patterns never form,
If I never understand even the small photo—
where you are standing beside Jack,
The one where you look straight into the camera
your arm hanging over his shoulder, cradling his cracked smile,
The one where you tried so hard
To keep it together
Even when the fragments flew.

I don’t care if the bluebirds turn around and
Head back to what was never home,
That place we began but never finished,
That corner where we tried to intersect
But instead fell apart
in just that broken moment
When I told you I would endure
And you told me that was worthless.

I don’t care that I am baking pies today,
My senses somersaulting from the memory
Of my mother’s hands,
Moving back and forth
Kneading back and forth,
Following a rhythm I never learned—
A rhythm I think about at midnight
When my dreams will not keep still.

I would watch her dice and slice
Those moments so skillfully
I did not know my childhood was over
Until the day I left home,
Until the day you left me.
Until this day,
When all I can do
Is roll out the dough
And try to rise along with it,
Even when I know so well
I will clearly fall again.

I don’t care that I cannot maintain
Hope that cannot be sifted
In any form but by its splendid grief.
If I thought it was enough
To carry those ten sticks to town,
Just to hold them and push forward,
I would do that.
Gladly. Totally. Certainly.
I would open your garden gate
And ring your bell
And wait in place
Until the door opened
And there you were,
Scowling at my folly
To dare to come at all.

I would try to tell you
That somewhere so deep
I have never found my way
I believe there is a rising rhythm
That makes things right.
I would offer you my sticks
And then I would put my arms
Behind my back, barely moving,
Clenching with a driving hope
That you know that
I don’t care
Really means
I never learned
Not to.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

kj's Human Challenge # 1

Person A: "If I can't be spontaneous, I try to plan ahead so I can enjoy the anticipation."

Person B: I let things hang loose until they fall off".

Oops. If these are the words of two different people, which they are, they can either anticipate their differences and plan for them, or they can ignore their differences until they become a problem. Either way, one person will like the approach and the other won't. And therein lies a real or potential problem.

"Hey, how about lunch?"

"No, sorry, I can't."

"How about getting together next weekend?"

"I'm not sure."

"Ok, how about we come up with a time that will work for both of us?"

"I'm really swamped right now. I just don't know."

"Well, how about we plan a weekend trip for June?"

"That sounds good. But I'm not sure."



Lest you think one of these characters is either too pushy or the other one doesn't give a damn, or whatever else, here's a brief description of the situation:

Good people. Good intentions. Different styles.

What about your relationships? Has this ever happened to you? And if it does, or could, or used to, what the heck can be done to find a solution that works for both parties?

Note: Since I qualify on the grounds of being both a Counselor and an Imperfect Person, I've decided from time to time I'm going to write an ocassional post that looks at sticky challenges and issues like this. And since I'm blessed with such varied and intelligent blog visitors and comments, I figure it's sort of a public service to see who has what to say and why. So consider this Human Challenge # 1. .

What can be done when two good natured people have totally different styles when it comes planning (or not planning) ahead?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Thursday 13: The Good and Bad: The Ying and Yang

This week I'm thinking about experiences and events that are neither all good or all bad, but some of each. There have been times when I think I'm too serious in my blog and others when I'm afraid I make life sound too sing-song easy. So this week I'm listing 13 things that have a ying and then a yang.

1. We start with Mohegan Sun. I love this casino: it is artistically beautiful in every aspect. But it's the slot machines that call my name. I start with the quarter slots and if I'm half-way lucky, I make it to the dollar slots before I lose all my money and have to go home. Once I won $ 250 and it might as well have been $2,500. Any time I leave with the same amount I came with, to me I won. I know it's magical thinking, and I feel badly when I lose, but I love the ying and yang thrill of it.

2. Next, blogging: my family thinks it's a cult. My friends show obvious facial boredom when I talk about it. My partner complains I spend too much time in a virtual universe. That's the ying. But I know and you know the yang is wonderful. As a writer, what could be better than the privilege of interesting intelligent people from everywhere reading and commenting and sharing back? My daughter had the good humor to wrap my Christmas presents in "I blog" paper. Then she gave me an "I blog" magnet for my refrigerator. It's true: I blog. And I'm grateful and happy about it.

3. (I know Ces: I forget to rotate the photo and then it's too late. ) I bought this bureau for $ 60 on a sad lonely birthday. I still remember how depressed and discouraged I felt at the time. But today: I also look back and remember I bought myself a nice present on a bad day. Good for me.

4. I don't like snow. I live in a valley that has alot of it. Ok, I admit it's beautiful. I admit I love a giant snowstorm when there's plenty of food in the house and the fireplace is roaring. Just don't ask me to live in a snowy climate forever.

5. This is a shot of my trip to Italy with jb. What could be wrong with that, you ask? Well, three weeks before the flight, I had emergency back surgery. I wasn't sure I'd recover in time. I wasn't sure I'd be agile and fun to be with. But I did and I was. Sometimes you just have to show up, wait it out, and let the universe take it from there.

6. For a month or more I was consumed with taking self-portraits. I got the idea from the blogs and liked it because I wanted to know what I looked like and who I had become. My family nagged me about this as badly as they do about blogging. But I persevered. My point in including this photo is that I think my eyes confirm that I can't lie very well. I am willing and I try to lie to spare someone hurt feelings, but I'm bad at it. So this is about the ying and yang of lying. That's all.

7. Here's an old picture of my dad and me. I could say that helping my father die at home was a tragic horrible experience, but if I did that I would be leaving out the fact that it was also moving and meaningful. I look back on it and I am very proud of myself from start to finish. Plus I'm no longer afraid of death or dying--at least not in the same way.

8. In the best and worse category, meet Ms. Ellie. She is a street performer in Provincetown. She sings the same song, off-key, over and over and over. She is also in her late 70's with legs to die for (well, ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit). Ms. Ellie makes it to this ying and yang Thursday 13 on spunk alone.

9. New Orleans. My two weeks with the Red Cross will always be one of the best and one of the worse experiences of my life. I saw so much tragedy and sorrow. And I also saw so much courage and kindness.

10. My mom is now 91 years old. She's lost a big chunk of her memory but not a fragment of her enthusiasm. The Ying is she is still trying to take care of me. The yang is I am quietly trying to take care of her. And she plays those quarter slot machines right along side me.

11. I'm forever grateful to have this unique wonderful human being as my dearest friend, but I hate that she is so far away. I'll be the first one to sign up for time travel if it means we can sometimes have morning coffee together.

12. This is the entrance to my favorite beach. I hate walking in the sand to get there. But it's so worth it.

13. The last lacks a picture: Tomato City. After years of plotting and planning and dreaming and designing, jb and I opened a restaurant. It was successful from the first day and it was a disaster from the first day. When we closed it down, we were not sure we would ever talk to one another again. jb's sister sent us a check and begged us to go on vacation together. That was a good thing. Now when I look back, I am so glad we tried. There were awesome moments. And I'm so glad we found our way out.

That's it.......

Saturday, March 17, 2007


This is Provincetown. I could make a compelling argument that it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It has a year round population of 4000 people and a summer population of 20,000. It lies at the very tip of Massachusetts in an area called Cape Cod. Its residents are primarily artists, Portuguese families with strong ties to the sea, and gay and lesbian folks who have found their way to the land's end to live and be themselves.

Commercial Street runs about 3 miles along the ocean. This is how you reach the harbor and the fishing fleets and the whalewatch boats. In the summer months, the center of Commercial Street is quaint and festive with restaurants. shops, art houses, and galleries, all majestically amidst the back drop of the bay and ocean. In the winter, it is desolate, just right for a writer or artist or contemplative soul to nestle into winter.

You can walk from one end of town to the other in about an hour. Every house and every sight is breathtaking in its own way. The sea is everywhere: you can see it and smell it and hear it and feel it.

The beach and provincelands are just beyond the downtown area, an easy bike ride or walk for most. These are photos of the dunes, where they surround the pristine beaches and incredible waves of the Atlantic ocean. The water temperature does not reach 80 degrees until early August, and even then a plunge in is chillingly stimulating, but it's worth it. I've bobbed in that salt water sometimes and I've solved all my problems and then some simply by bobbing with the sun on my face.

P-town is all about fun. Folks come from all over the world for a day or a season because this is a place that pushes its creative and expressive freedom to the limit. My friend Marilyn painted this mermaid cutout a few years back when I was involved in developing some businesses in town. The angels and little dolls sitting around a pond is a typical example of what you might see in someone's yard. And these two fine gentlemen are the Hat Sisters: brothers, really, they've been around for 25 years or more, participating in parades and town events with their classic whimsy and heterosexual take on life in Provincetown.

The light on the outer Cape is like no other. Artists come from everywhere to capture it. Sometimes you only have 30 seconds to mix your paints before the sky changes color. I've seen the sky brillant pink and unbelievable purple. These photos can't do it justice, but this is really truly what it looks like sometimes when you walk along Commercial Street, the bay, or the beach.

In the photos below, to the left is a dune shack. With no electricity or running water, for years artists and writers have holed up in the dune shacks, often with their dogs, to make their art through solitude and ocean inspiration. Food is brought in once a week or so. Now-a-ways, the town has a lottery every year for these coveted dune shack spots.
The middle photo is the strip of beach jb and I have walked along for years, often once or twice a day. Here we individually and together weighed and thought about our hopes, dreams, inspirations, and practical matters. We planned our restaurant, talked about the day that eventually came when we could move to Provincetown full time, accepted life simply as it was and is, and watched our beloved dog Rosie swim non-stop for hours.
The sign on the right is just a reminder that there is no room for hate anywhere. Provincetown has its own problems with that, although on a much smaller scale, but for a hundred years and to this day it remains a community where expression matters and it is ok to be different.

jb and I have always spent part of our summers in P-town. We have a 3 room place a block from the ocean, now rented out, that has always been a sanctuary. Almost two years ago we moved away after spending two years living there full time. It was not an easy time but my memories are driven by the sheer beauty and my deep love of the town. What more can I say? I hope I've done some justice with this tribute. The place is in my blood, my memories, my roots, my heart. It's a terrific spot. I recommend you put it on your list of "someday".

P.S. I can't tell you why, but you'll have to scroll down a bit to click on "comments". And please do: I love them!

March 17th......

Question: What's green and lives outside?
Answer: Patio Furniture
Comment: This is just about my favorite joke. I hope you get it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday 13: Stepping into Spring

I'm pretending I don't know a snow storm is expected later today and into tomorrow. That means the warm weather that has changed the color of the ground from total white to increasing patches of brown and green will be a faded memory. HOWEVER: it is March and in New England that means the month proverbally begins like a lion and ends like a lamb. That means it has begun in earnest to be more spring-like than winter-like. And THAT means I am hopefully, happily, and heartily awaiting the first crocus and the first chance to sit in my backyard and putter in my unique-to-me-do-nothing way.

Here are some reasons I love Spring:

1. The first crop to hit the farm stands will be locally grown asparagus. My favorite hole-in-the wall restaurant serves them with homemade dill dressing.

2. OK, I admit photo was taken last summer, but this view from my kitchen window begins to calls my name as soon as i see a snowless ground . I planted these zinnias in May and June last year and we had cut flowers in the house until October. If I were a flower, I might choose to be a zinnia.

3. Hmmm. What do shoes have to do with Spring? Only that I like them more, I am more inclined to buy them, and this particular shoe is the most comfortable you will ever wear. The brand is Rieker and I can tell you they come in orange, green and black. JB, Ces and I all have a pair.

4. Since we're now on the subject of shoes, here is the photo-less jb in her cowgirl boots. I've never owned a pair myself, even though she swears they are awesomely comfortable. I can't get past the effort involved in taking them off.....

5. Unfortunately, your imagination is needed for this group photo of Ces, jb and I modeling our new shoes. I know Ces will tell me how to properly enlarge this shot, but hey, I did the best I could. (And if you're wondering at all why all the shoes, please remember this post is entitled "Stepping into Spring".....

6. One of my favorite pasttimes is to meander along country roads in the Springtime with jb. Since I don't have a photo of us driving, and posting her picture in any form is verboten, here at least is jb's hands, which as you may now know can be found modeling in past editions of Better Homes and Gardens.

7. Shoes again? These belong to two of my good friends. This Spring we'll hit the auction houses and meet at the local farmers' market every week. We'll compare gardenting notes and eat fresh fruit and vegtables together.

8. There could be no better kick - off of Spring than a weekend with this group at the Big Yellow. Last weekend 8 writers and 4 songwriters had quite a time of it. These are the folks who listen, offer loving and helpful feedback, and literally and figuratively help my heart sing.

9. I live in a rural part of my state. There are many colleges and universities, but they are surrounded by farms. I love farms. Not as much as I love the ocean, but I've come to love living here. I did not know that the area is rich in tobacco growing. When I first saw it hanging, like this, I had no idea I was seeing tobacco.

10. Here's my little farm. Well, it's not a farm at all but my half circle garden off the driveway is plenty sufficient for me to plant all the flowers and vegetables I want. In April I will turn the soil, plant lettuce and probably peas, and then add hearty flowers and herbs until Memorial Day, when the danger of frost is safely past and I can pop in tomatoes and green beans and eggplant and maybe green peppers.

11. I love knowing the sky will still be light after dinner. I feel like I've been given an extra half day just because it stays lighter longer.

12. I love knowing I don't have to deal with snow and driving in snow and being slowed down by snow. I really don't like snow all that much. Really. I don't.

13. This Spring I am very aware of the special wonderful people I deeply, totally, permanently love. I could not feel more fortunate in this regard. Since Springtime and love seem to go together in some new-growth precious way, I want to keep reminding myself that nothing, nothing, nothing matters as much as the people I love.

Monday, March 12, 2007


This Friday night I will have the honor of a "Word-Art" gallery opening. It is a collaboration with one of my favorite and most esteemed artists, Carla Kurt. I visited her blog and read her comments to others for months before I found the courage to leave her a comment about how much I enjoyed her paintings and insights.

The show will run for a month, my poem hung beside Carla's painting. This is a bona-fide "debut" of sorts for me-the-writer, and I am both joyful and giddy to have this pleasure and opportunity.

The Irregular Circle of Life

You’d have to say the beginning
starts when you
first notice light,
squinting your eyes
strained in the first minutes to make
sense of voices
set in those bobbing circles
that want you to know,
and try to reach you from within.

From the beginning your turns are
every which way,depending
on how hard you hit the walls
and how softly you bounce off them.
The same bobbing circles protect
or abandon you during those bounces.
It makes a difference
because the hardest bounces don’t heal well
and the soft ones push you forward.

They spiral and build upon eachother
until maybe when you are twelve
you smoke a cigarette or
sneak that candy bar in your backpack
and that’s another beginning
because you have begun
little deceptions you can call your own.

In those moments you know
but can’t describe the sweetness and light
you will revisit for all of your life.
In those moments
you decide
the shape of the circle--
the vessel really—
that will carry you home

Some of your turns
are as wide as every possible outcome
and others so narrow
you squeeze by,
your breath compacted so tightly,
that when it cannot expand
you know you just have to move
or you will be in that space forever.

The day your boundaries blur
and you find yourself drifting--
on that day another beginning
carries you to the spot where
destiny meets opportunity.
And there you are,
wondering again
who wants you to know,
and why it matters.

When you grow up,
by some standard anyway,
your circle may be closed shut
so your community and beliefs
are safe and firm.
Or by then you have had
the misfortune, if it is that,
where little point a and little point b
fail to reach each other.

When that happens
you are born again,
again noticing light,
and squinting your eyes,
straining in the first minutes to make
sense of voices
that want you to know,
that want to reach you from within.

And at that moment,
if you are lucky enough,
the irregular circle that lacks a beginning
and lacks an end
and fails to protect,
this circle that is broken —
this irregular circle--
becomes a portal for
every step you will now take,
for every mystery and
every vision
that every person
who ever loved you
will tell you
if they could
is the truest straightest way
to guide your way home.