Thursday, December 31, 2009

Saying Good-bye, 2009. Nice to Know You.

Once upon a time, loooong, looooooong ago, there was......all sorts of things going on.  Some of this was understood, even expected.  Some was horrible. Some was surprise, and even pleasant.  Some, most likely the greater percentage, was joy, peace, expectancy, prolific, abundant, the answer to dreams.

On this date, 2009, I was gripped in fear.  Our beloved Labbie, Meatpie, was not feeling well. She didn't appear sick, but something was going on that I was resisting.  No, I said.  This is not happening.  She kept saying to me, in my language, I am leaving.  You will be okay.  It is Time.
We took the dogs to the lake to swim and play.  Pie swam to her heart's content.  She and Luna played rough, ran huge circles, collided.  Wayne was recovering from a surgical procedure done on his throat.  On Jan 2, early in the morning, Pie died.  Well, her physical self did.

For me it was as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest.  My friend and confidant, the one who read my mind, communicated with me telepathically, was gone.  I was alone in a way that I never thought possible.

Meat Pie was not an easy dog.  She was a rascal.  There are many tales of her escapades.  She was a typical Lab, in that she loved her food, any food.  She never-ever growled at a child.  She shared her food with her kitten.  She was the puppy-tender at doggie-day-care.  One day she escaped from the back yard, and brought me a tall, handsome dog-catcher, who came into my kitchen for tea and talk of the neighborhood... she was proud of herself.  "She really likes boys, I mean, young men!"  

Once, when I was determined that I was done with marriage, relationship, life-as-it-had-been, she and I went to investigate a tiny house way out in the hills.  My idea was to move my studio, my coffee pot and myself to the top of a coastal mountain.  Out of sight, out of my mind.  The land owners were instantly enamoured with her,  "We have a pond she will love!"  The "tiny house" turned out to be a gutted travel trailer, into which my easel would never fit, let alone my coffee pot.  Even if my son had built the deck he promised, we would not have fit into the minuscule place.  Often my paintings are 4' X 4'... but I was tempted.  The air was fresh, the pond... well, it was a pond and no houses or sign of men could be seen.  Meat Pie and I got back into the Explorer and headed down the mountain, she riding shotgun, her nose out the window. We went over the first cattle guard, into the horse pasture, and the horses were in the road.  I slowed, stopped.  Three of them came up to the vehicle.  One stood in front of the hood.  One came to each window.  The bay who came around to my window nuzzled me, sniffed around the cab.  The other one stuck its head in Meat Pie's window.  She emitted a sound I had never heard before, terror perhaps.  In an instant, she was flattened on the floorboard, and she said in an intense telepathic voice, GET ME OUT OF HERE, NOW.  It would have been rude to laugh at her, but that memory brings a grin every time.

Well.  Losing her was losing an important element of my life.  Often when I put my hand on Emerson, I experience a Knowing:  Meat Pie approves!  He is not her incarnation, yet I feel her presence and guidance with him.

2009.  The year that went on forever.  And today is the last day of that calendar.  2009 was an instant in the overall big picture, a little puff in the life of the Universe.  Often of late, it has occurred to me that life is very much like a spiral staircase.  With each step I am up (or down) the stairs.  Getting to stair #9 is impossible to do without stepping upon the previous steps. Yes, when I was a kid, I used to take the stairs 2 at a time, and when I felt especially buoyant I took them 3 at a time.  Now, right here, I notice that even the messy, ugly, the difficult has its place on the pot-holey path. 

And, just so you know, the baby is born!  She came last night, whole, complete and perfect. Mama and clan are tired, and recovering.  Baby has no public name yet, but that is, of course, a small detail.

Love prevails.

Monday, December 28, 2009


X is for Xanthippe
...and the sure way any shrewish woman can put poison in the pot for her mate, whether or no he be as wise as Socrates and call her Xanthippean or merely Sarah-Jane-ish or Francescan, routinely vituperative or merely undergoing "one of her bad days."  M.F.K. FisherHee hee hee.  Here I was looking for a noble quote, and found this.  Sounds good to me.  It does happen, you know; nagging, shrewish, grumped-out, vitriolic.  What a great group of words, I mean, who can, or even wants to, be nice, especially when we are tired, hungry, misused?  Of course, words can be suicidal, can be devastating, can wound and maim.  The childhood cry, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me..." simply isn't true.  Words can be poisonous, cruel, debilitating; words can separate families, start wars.  Left untended, innuendo can grow into harsh reality, hurt can fester into wildness, grief into rage.

Golly.  Choosing words carefully, with consciousness is important to me.  Like choosing a family of fabric and colors to create a patchwork quilt for a newborn, I prefer to bring love and joy into language.  The quilt will hold an innocent newborn, or a thumb-sucking toddler.  It is a big responsibility to craft a quilt.
This morning I realized (working on this post, Day #2!  Usually I just do it) that I had quilted myself into the proverbial corner with the idea of words.  What to say?  How to say it?  I want more of this life... and I know enough to know that it is me, I am in charge (a little) of how my life IS.  The places of pain are old, have mouldy edges and smouldering embers.  Today I am curious about those corners left unexplored, the stones left unturned, the walks not taken, the words not spoken.  This morning I find myself wanting more: more life, more money, more travel, more more more more.  It seems that I want so much, in ways I cannot find words to express.  If I were a goose, I would just take off and migrate.
The little one for whom this quilt takes shape is coming today!  We have word that labor has begun, that all is well.  My dear friend is there, with her daughter the Mommy.  Her first grand baby is arriving.  Oh, my heart fills with love and knowing, holds this space open and full for her, for her daughter, for the dad... for the whole large, noisy clan.  This baby comes fully loved. 
I am taking Emerson out on 'the long line' today.  Ms. Luna will wait, safely, in her crate, will be happy to realize that she, too, gets a turn.  I am taking at least two, long walks under this low, gray sky.  Then, zipp zipp zipp... that quilt is coming together!  

Ah.  Thank you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A little of this and that while supper cooks...

I am liking these long, slow evenings...

I have always appreciated his attitude toward life.  He seems so comfortable in it, even when he isn't so comfortable, or circumstances are difficult.  He has the "Taurus" stability about him, accepts what is, deals with it.  I learn from him, often.
There are places where it is snowing, I know.  Here, in California, my corner of it anyway, the sun was out all day long, emphatic that it gets to be out and up longer than yesterday.  In San Francisco yesterday and today, it was gorgeous.  Tonight, back home, I am preparing dinner, and hearing that it is going to freeze tonight.  The chickens told me.

We are driving out to Inverness on Christmas day.  Emerson and Luna will spend the day and night with Wade, and I am planning on some photographing and writing on the edge of Tomales Bay.  I wonder if it will be sunny, foggy, or raining.  Possibly all three.

Tomorrow night I am going first to hear Annie(6), and Thomas(4) singing in Christmas Eve Mass.  Then I am going to our Center for Spiritual Living and hear Wayne sing in the Christmas Eve Choir and candle lighting.  It promises to be beautiful all-around.  

Love deepens.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice, Poetry,

Do I need to be doing something this morning?  Clean out the car, sweep up the eggshells that the pup pulverized?  I want coffee, have no cream: that's what I reeeeeeeeeeeelly want.  Now.Oh, that's it!  I am sewing this morning.  Sewing a little patchwork quilt.  Working up to sewing Thomas's quilt, practicing, thinking, moving things around and sweeping out the corners of the studio.  Seriously, I do need coffee, though breakfast may serve me better.  More better.
Last night my writer's group, The Scrambled Eggs, were 'featured readers' at a Salon.  Next to a warm little fire, at a beautiful podium made from a Madrone branch, with an appreciative audience, we took turns, read old and new work, were interspersed with musicians, and topped the afternoon off (by evening!) with a delicious potluck dinner.  It was fun and inspiring to witness one another, to appreciate our long-term relationships with one another and with our writing process.  It is remarkable to see and know how we have grown as writers and artists.

Do you feel it?  Can you tell that the shifting is happening?  Can you feel  the turn?  Our favorite ride, Mother Earth, is doing it:  we are not careening through space; we are on a planet, orbiting our star, guided through the Universe.  This is a sacred ride.  A blessed ride.

Yep.  Grateful.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Deep Dark Part of the Season

Puppy faces are authentic, day in and day out.I love puppy faces.  Yes, maybe this is the baby-substitution.  But, who cares?  It is almost the Solstice.  The "turn" is almost here,  and I am feeling "the coming."  This year I have allowed my experience to just be, not dress it up, or even put up a tree for Christmas.  Two daughters do not, or rarely, bring my grandbabies over to our house.  Today I am going to write about how this is for me.  
This little dog is growing.  I love the weight of him, his paw in my hand, his head on my foot, his whole self pushed into my side for a nap.  He watches me, "What's next?" which makes me delirious and happy, yet it is also such a responsibility!  When I put him out on the back porch, he spends his idleness chewing the porch broom into a pile of straw.

I grew up in a large, ranch family.  Christmas was a time of extended-family gatherings.  There were piles of food, and piles of gifts which in the long run, equalled 1 gift per child (a disappointment for me, as I intended to open the whole lot).  Aunts and Uncles drank too much and hollered at one another.  It wasn't always fun, but the "gathering" always happened.  As a child I was unaware of the misery of the adults, being engaged in playing with my favorite cousins.  There were family members which I steered clear of, for safety and peace of mind.

As I raised my girls (3), and stepdaughters (2), and sons (2), Christmas was always a hilarious, stressful and fun time.  Wayne and I went to great measures to provide a magical experience for them at home, and we always hauled them off Christmas day to N. California (Humboldt Co.) to Grandma Mary's house, where they romped with their pile of cousins.  Sometimes they had a blast, sometimes not. Sometimes they puked on the way (#3 daughter, especially), once we ran out of gas and had to wait by the side of the road while Wayne walked a mile to get some gas. One year I made each child (at the time, 5 of them) a huge Raggedy Anne.  This trek, while long and exhausting, was always amazing.  Preparing for this was an awesome task, as I look back at it: I made home-made gifts for my nieces and nephews, usually tins of cookies, granola, etc etc etc.

Of course, now the girls are where they are.  It is not my place or desire to judge.  It is my desire to loose the sadness, 'cause I really wish they'd all converge here, regardless of personality clashes, hideous history, anger, disappointment... blah blah blah.  Personally, I love the mess of it all.  My personal belief is that we heal ourselves, and can support each other in healing all of the above.  And, that's me.

My job is my front step.  Sweep it, girl!
As I have said at least a million times, I just love this face.  LunaDog is talented at snuggling in the pillow pile.  She too, loves piles of kids with which to romp.  Oh, does she love to pounce on them when they are in sleeping bags!

When I first got her, my kids said, "Nice Pitbull, Mom!"  There was a consensus that I had really gone off my rocker with this one.  Not true!  She is (just turned 3) quite an amazing Luna. She did scare my grandnephew silly, but he had an awful experience with a Dalmation hurting him.  Luna is a Love.
So, here are my present-day kids, I mean, here are my dogs!  They stand in for my kids.  They are not my kids, they are dogs.  They allow me to gush over them, play with them, go out into the wilds of the vineyards with them, take them to puppy class, learn to NOT chase chickens, even put up with a weird collar or two (no costumes).

We are not putting up a Christmas tree because Emerson would (maybe, maybe not) tear it down (after all, he did knock over the rocking chair yesterday), and at the very least, he would chew through the cords.  Last year Luna got up on the dining room table to investigate the baby Jesus, who knows what would happen this year.

Really.  I just am not putting up a tree.  I do not want to remind myself that the girls won't come over.  My plan is to focus on the Solstice, to gather my fire within, to set my intentions for the coming year, to burn the old in the Solstice fire, again.  

Also, I have come to resent being called "a consumer!"  So I am purchasing very little.  First and foremost, I am a Being.  I love my family: my kids, their kids, my siblings, their kids, the kid's kids, my aunts and in-laws.  My gifts this year will include a home-made prayer of Love and Peace for all.

And I am so grateful for my dogs.  I know that may sound goofy, but they are "mine" and I get to lavish affection, love, and training (myself, mostly) on them without restraint.  All they return for my grumping, mistakes, tears, teasing, sometimes-missing-the-walks... is Love.  And I am grateful.



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Most Perfect Day

He looks like a walrus to me.  He has a nice, Italian name.  He is Top Cat at Preston Winery.
Hilary bought me coffee (and a piece of Red Velvet Cake), and fixed my camera this morning! Oh, one of the best birthday's ever!  Then I went over to check on Little Mr. Thomas, who was under the weather, who sat all hot and mooshy in my lap.  Then Skyler (my baby!) came by with his newly stitched-up finger and had tea with us.  From there, I headed home... and yes, I made a few detours.  I stopped at the little Catholic Church in Asti, and photographed Jesus, and the Rose window, and the Palm Trees and the Rosemary.  And headed home, again.  Then, I turned west, and drove over the hill to Dry Creek, winding my way out to the Preston Winery.  I love it there: the gardens and vineyards are organic and sustainably farmed.  They are restoring the riparian growth along the creek.  When I take a heavy heart out there, I walk the lane with my camera and am restored.  When I arrive happy, it just gets better.
I bought Hard Montana Winter Wheat which they grow there.  Dana offered to take me for a ride out to see the pigs and chickens, and we rode out in search of them.  We discovered that we both have Ferndale roots (I knew she looked familiar!), we found the sheep and the big white dog who is so proud of his flock (tomorrow!  I will post him tomorrow, as he deserves his own page), the garden, the new chicks... but no pigs.  Dang.  Next trip, I guess.

The light, colors, the sky getting lower and lower made for a perfect day of photography.  It's my birthday.  The biggest gift to myself is a completely unstructured day.  Wandering, meandering, stopping at a roadside veggie stand and purchasing a big butternut squash, putting the change in the jar, every breath, every turn was pure fun.  Oh, and I found the Starlings!
And now, I'm ready for bed!


It couldn't be done if it wasn't fun, right?

Nothing else to say...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Starlings, Sheep and "The Rag and Bone Shop..."

I know:  Many consider these starlings a scourge.  I find them fascinating, even though I curse and throw things at them when they are feasting on the first crop of figs in the spring.  Now, they group together in flocks of thousands.  They fly ribbons and tornadoes, balls and spirals. They preform aerial miracles every day and talk jabber all the while.  It must be fun to be a Starling.
Last evening I was chasing Starlings, like a Tornado-chaser.  Maybe you have seen "Twister" a couple of thousand times, like I have; it being my sons' favorite movie for a few years.  There is a scene in it where the victims(oh, I mean heros) are taking refuge from a killer twister in a tool shed (right...), they look up to see all sorts of nasty, sharp farm implements swaying in the tornado, clicking and scything.  Then there is the scene where a Holstein Cow is flying through the air, and the annoying woman (yes, there is one that is not so annoying) cries, "We've got COWS!"  Of course we all join in hoping that she joins the cows.  But anyways, this is as close as I got to my cloud of Starlings, and which was very confusing for my camera, though it is not too bad, as at least we can see part of the flock in flight.

The sheep are my neighbors down the lane.  They hurry over to see what I am doing, standing there by their fence.  As they hurry, they pretend they are not looking.
Then, they turn tail and run!

Reading this morning in "The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart," I found this by Robert Bly,"Great art and literature are the only models we have left to help us stop lying.  The greater the art the less the denial.  ...Breaking through the wall of denial helps us get rid of self-pity, and replaces self-pity with awe at the complicated misery of all living things."

"Complicated misery..." I wish I'd made that one up first!  Listening to NPR news, I am hearing so much right now about the state of the world through the words of reporters and commentators.  The climate change and state of our planet is at, and beyond, the turning point. Humans are still milling and grappling for power, still in fear that some one else will get more; that another opinion will turn out to be right, and human children are dying of starvation, of war, of torture, of despair... even in our richest-nation-in-the-world.  

"A poem(painting) that confronts denial has a certain tone: it is dark but not pulled down by evil.  It is intense but not hysterical; it feels weighty, and there is something bitter in it, as if the writer were fighting against great resistance when he or she writes the poem."

Thank you, Mr. Bly for these words which aptly describe what I went through with my last paintings.  Resistance to what wanted to come through tore into me.  I whirled through the house, outside, and back into the studio.  It hurts.  There is so much information, in so many languages and images that I may succumb to confusion, or inertia.  

There is much writing and painting to be done with this denial.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Pie and mountain baby and a little rambling...

After too much of this (on the way to Dev's house... blackberry/huckleberry... safe from inquiring noses, while I am picking up rolls; Wayne is guarding...),
we had to go here, and soak it off!  I love to stare at Forest Bamboo while I soak in an oh-so-nice hot, mineral bath.
Mountain sisters:  it takes more lens than I have to get closer, since I know enough to not go into their pasture...
...look who was in the grass!  The little black rock raised its head!  Of whom did this remind  me?

Yes.  I must take another picture of Emerson.  He can still zip under Luna, but that is starting to lift her off her feet!  I must say, she is not a paragon of patience, and I must also say, I totally relate.  SNARFFF!! she says, Get the hell out of my chair!   Saggies can be grumbly  if bothered after their bedtime, or before it's time to get up...

The sky is blue this morning, sure to disappoint my grandchildren who were hoping and praying for snow.  Brr.  I am too Californian (of the soft variety) to really ask for snow.  Snow is pretty in pictures, but I hate to drive in it, walk in it, or even look at it for too long, as it makes me dizzy coming down like it does.

When my girls were small, and I had to drive miles and miles and miles on frozen freeway with snow swirling in the headlights to pick them up for my "visitation."  Of course, it was required that I drive "half-way" to pick them up, which meant that I had to drive approximately 450 miles, about 200 of which were, in the winter, frozen and snowy.  I am compelled to say, that the drive was the whole way, no half about it.

One year the traffic was stopped  past Mt. Shasta, where the freeway winds up up up, the the snow coming down down down.  I put chains on my Plymouth Fury (aptly named for those years!), with adorable little noses pressed against the windows (not dogs).  We sat in the blizzard, until it quit, and the CHP sent us on our way.  Later I discovered that my brother was in the other lanes, right at the same spot, only headed the opposite direction!  

Chains!  Ha!!!  I really like snow tires.  But in my present life, I do not have or need them, and I like it that way ;-)

Over snow, I much prefer a good, feisty storm at the coast.  I like to be in a cabin/house where I can watch from the warm interior, with the option of racing out and back inside!  Yes, I am decidedly soft.  I love the sounds and smells of a storm, and I sincerely am looking forward to this one... from my living room!!!  With tea.

Now you know... I am a softie.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Right Work

Work makes me happy.This is what I and my clients see when we look out the Massage Room window!  In a few weeks, this persimmon tree fills with fat robins, woodpeckers, starlings, finches, and Cedar Waxwings... all gorging on the soupy sweet fruit.  This does make it difficult to concentrate on the work at hand, but, oh well.  

This painting is leaning up against the closet in my little studio.  I 'finished' it a couple of weeks ago, along with another one inspired by 'Nazca Lines.'    It really needs more space!!!

This greeted me this morning when I opened the door to my studio:  Bathed in the golden thick, almost winter light, they vibrate with their own energy.  They startled me.  Wow, I thought, who has been in here?

Yes, work must bring me income, as I am about as far as one can get from being independently wealthy (and in light of world-economics, I am wealthy).  I have come to a point in life where I realize that every moment is "my work."  Every moment is why I am here, on this planet, in this chair.  Just a moment ago I stood at the back gate, with a warm, brown egg in my hand, the sky over my head a pale, wispy blue, the maple tree bare, the sun in my hair warm.  Solstice approaches and we have two full moons this month.  

Blessed Be.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted.  
Frederick Franck
Any day now, I will pass by these walnut trees, and they will be bare; for now they contribute to the thick, yellow light that fills the valley.
Today was filled with hope and enthusiasm.  Most likely yesterday was as well, don't you suppose?  Was.  What brings it down?  Was.  How does a certain grouping of words, with a certain tone of voice, and a certain frown, empty my day?  Was.

From "The Zen of Seeing," by Frederick Franck (1973):

The ninth-century Irish mystic John Erigena, for instance, knew that "Every visible and invisible creature is an appearance of God.  ...seventeenth century Angelus Silesius rhymed:

"In good time we shall see
God and his light, you say.
Fool you shall never see
What you do not see today!"

And Meister Eckhart in thirteenth-century Europe said:  "The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me."

Was.  Change the 'tense;' grab the breath for all I am worth, notice!  Take note of the inhale, the turn, the exhale.  In this moment... all is well.

I love bright colors.  Bright yellow, or red, or orange, oh yes; the warm colors!  My little mother used to say, "Brazen!" of my color choices, of my word choices.  Right now, I feel the corners of my mouth curving into a smile at the sound of her verdict in my ear.  Just look at those brazen pomegranates, the yellow walnut leaves, and tomorrow the persimmons!  Oh we do love these colors (she did too, her fuchsia-house filled to over-flowing with bright color)!

Franck's book is written in long-hand with delicate and powerful line drawings.  He suggests that we gather ourselves together and crawl into this moment... and in this moment, simply notice. Right now, take nothing for granted.  I suppose this is a definition of Meditation.  I find that in holding this concept lightly, I have already started to feel better.  I notice that the yellow finds its way into my whirling thoughts of injustice, betrayal, (blah blah blah!), and I am calm. Outside  the window a few moments ago, I watched wave after wave of robins headed south. Now the sky holds remnants of this colorful day, bats are doing aerial acrobatics(!), stars are blinking into night.

Yeah!  I love brazen!

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