Thursday, July 29, 2010

seeing spirits

I am taking a class in curanderismo (actually tomorrow is the last day of ten intense nearly 5 hour sessions) -- that is traditional Mexican healing, and in the past few days there has been quite a bit of discussion about spirits, personal (tonal, according to my teachers) and those of our ancestors and guides. These are not strange subjects to me. I am fairly clear about at least three of my guides, though I suspect there is a fourth known guide.

Two of them are my grandmothers. I feel their presence not as often as I would like to, but I know that they are always there. The third is a friend from junior high who died when we were seniors. I am quite sure that Jaime has many souls to watch over, so I am grateful to be counted among them. The fourth is my cousin who died suddenly about nine year ago. Again, I imagine he is busy watching over his children and wife, but I know that he often looks in on me and I imagine he also looks in on my other cousins.

Seeing and feeling these spirits does not bother me, but when I opened fb the other day and saw Jaime's face staring at me, I was startled. You see, Jaime died nearly 24 years ago. I noticed that he was "friends" with several of my fb friends and others that I remember from junior high. How could this be? I have one other fb friend who has passed to the other side; but he and I were fb friends (and of course friends in real life) before he died. When I recovered, I realized that there must be a good explanation so I added my dead friend and dug around his page.

It turns out that his younger brother, who must have been at high school with me as well, had decided to put up the page as a tribute to his brother. It is a way to share and collect memories. And a way, over twenty years later, to make sure that Jaime's spirit lives on.

When I got the email that Jaime had accepted my friendship and sent me a message, I was filled with bittersweet feelings. Jaime was someone I had a crush on ... though nothing but friendship ever came of it. He was one of those rare junior high boys who took great care with people's feelings. I will always remember his cocky little smile that often broke into laughter ... not able even to convince himself that he was a tough guy. When he died, he was going through a very rough patch in his life and only 17. As a result of his death, more than any other person who has died so young, I have always wanted to own a protective bubble you could throw over certain teenage boys for a few years. You know from their soul that they will figure it all out, but they may not survive in order to do the figuring.

There are some other circumstances, too painful to write here, that cause me to feel especially close to Jaime and perhaps why he takes the time to check in on me. We share a connection I am glad has only been strengthened since his death. I visit with him whenever I am home ... though it has been over a year now since that beautiful face smiled at me from his headstone. Well, that has something to do with why I needed to be his fb friend, too, even though, obviously, he's not there. I wrote Jaime's brother and told him about visiting the grave. He wrote back thanking me for never forgetting him and for continuing to be his friend.

Jaime was one of the sweetest people I have ever known, so this is not an arduous task, it is a pleasure to hold him in my heart.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

self portraits, sort of

all shots in old part of town, Yreka, CA

Monday, July 26, 2010


I promised myself I would compose a long letter to Amtrak after my 21 days of train travel. The gist is I want to know why everyone who works at stations must be surly.

Do they not realize what great benefits and pension plans they have as federal employees? Do they not understand that every year congress considers doing away with them because they lose money EVERY year? Do they not hear the privatization train coming down the track?

Amtrak people, get it together!!

Someone is training the phone staff to be polite, helpful and even solicitous. Perhaps it is because they do not have to contemplate what it would be like to lose their jobs, they already know that the automated bitch answers the phone and gets first dibs on all the customers.

I tried to be compassionate with them, especially when I noted that one woman working at the Oxnard station had a face full of bruises. Yes, everyone has bad days and all kinds of personal baggage they carry around, but, honestly the poor customer service was fairly consistent from station to station - I visited four, two of them several times.

Another aspect that added insult to injury was that at most (that would be three out of four) there was ONE competent, helpful, if not friendly, employee. And that was the one that was NOT waiting on me.

Did I mention that I LOVE trains and traveling by train. I mean LOVE it. Even in the US, even in California,where the trains are notoriously late and whose timetables are anything but convenient.

I am full of romantic notions about travel by train. I mean FULL. It is probably best not to go into the details of all the fantasies I harbor regarding train travel, let's just say they are vivid, memorable and juicy.

And the surliness did not dissuade me from these thoughts or future train travel, but I do worry for the survival of my beloved trains and I don't think the surliness is helpful.

Lighten up Amtrak workers!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


"You know tenderness comes from pain" Sade

If I had to choose one word to describe how I felt on my trip to California, it would be tender. It is not necessary melancholy or hurt or even scared.

I feel like a piece of meat clobbered with the hammery tenderizing tool. Whereas theoretically it could make me more open and vulnerable, I fear it only makes me more vulnerable and wary.

My energy - that which I release into the universe - concerns me. It is all part of the new process: less fear for personal safety, more concern for my soul. It's more than worry about how I am perceived; it's about having my outside match my inside.

Another thing I realized after my trip (perhaps some while I was on it) is that more vulnerable and more open has helped me feel people again. This trip especially I felt like I was able to feel the emotions of some people who I experience as difficult and problematic. Instead of triggering a protectiveness, I truly felt their pain and was flooded with compassion for them. It changed the way I interacted with them and how I experienced myself.

In retrospect I can see that this is part of the opening - that I am responsible for prying openly heart in this way - and that I should feel glad and proud.

Perhaps this is exactly what I need to let go and let in at the same time. I need to let go of all the old agreements because they are no longer valid. I need to allow the new agreements to live as law and not as hope and conjecture.

They already figure prominently in my mind and heart - they just have not been given a privileged place on my consciousness.

(So I have beating myself up a bit for not having written this sooner. The word danced in my head for so long, but I couldn't face the computer with the scary thoughts. Today, reread my journal for 7/13-7/16 and realized I had already written what needed to be said. Blessed be!)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cowboy Firemen

As I expressed in a recent post, I have a thing for cowboys. I also have a thing for firemen (and park rangers, you may be catching the theme here).

While traveling around northern California (and I mean really northern not north of Los Angeles - we were near the Oregon border), my friends and I started thinking how the only thing better than cowboys or firemen would be COWBOY FIREMEN.

Believe me when I say to you that I looked high and low. But these were the only ones I found.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From the train (Oxnard to Oakland, take 2) ... FAVORITES

Considering the almost 300 photos I took during this eight hour train ride, I think I was pretty restrained in the number of pictures I have posted here. Hope you enjoy the ride.Take two because it was the second time I was taking the Coast Starlight, though the first time going south to north. It was a very, very foggy day, not unlike the beach day I had the day before...

We're on our way...

I couldn't resist

I missed this sight on the first trip
State Street

We spent some time at the Santa Barbara train station.
A view from the other side.
I always wave at the train.
One of my absolute favorites
Who left these on these lonely beaches?

Here are a few things that caught my eye.

One of the best things about this train is that it goes through country to can't see from the main highway. There are back roads and even state beaches out there, but it is not the same scenery you are used to commuting back and forth on 101. It gives the feeling of being out there ...alone with the wide ocean and gorgeous dunes.
I love the dunes on our coast
The dunes and a little fake creek

I had a little obsession with roadsI especially loved this road that promised to lead to the ocean just to be blocked with ugly orange barriers...just try to keep us out.

At San Luis Obispo, the train takes a turn inland and the foggy coast turned in burnt earth and the promise of cowboys.

Cowboys? When I was a girl scout, we went to a camp in Los Osos that had real cowboys as the camp counselors. Imagine... a young girl's early fantasy building...
On my final Coast Starlight, I saw an actual rodeo at this place:

Tractor in the fields, hope this was the best of the set that I took:
What is the Central Valley without fields?

I guess this is my favorite of this barn; I tried up close and far out and with the mountains and with the fields...

I had a teeny, tiny obsession with these mountains...
I only posted two of the twenty or so I took.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer ... Sun and Fog

June in California (and sometimes July, too, really) is foggy. So foggy, that the weather forecasters took to calling it June Gloom. The local paper had a whole piece sometime in early July asking to find a clever name for July when the fog hasn't gone home yet. Check the link... this is an article from yesterday or the day before about how hot it is getting INLAND. (Here's what HOT in the INLAND areas looks like)
You know what that means for Oxnard and surrounding beach areas? Yup, you guessed it, MORE FOG!

Locals now the drill. It doesn't mean we don't go to the beach; it just means we prepare. See the sweatshirt? Yes, typical beach bag item.

Surfers like this kind of weather.
They are there, look closely. Just be glad I didn't say they were seals like my sister used to...
This is what a beach day looks like most days in June and sometimes in July... no joke.

I didn't want you to think I was exaggerating. Some people accuse me of that and more, but that is another post.

Actually year round in my hometown, you can count on some fog. Early and late... and the closer it gets to summer, the shorter the in between sun time gets. Usually there is some sun between 1 and 4pm ... maybe even earlier, like NOON.This is what it looks like in the afternoon/early evening when the fog comes home; that is if you are lucky enough to get some sun:

These photos were taken from the Coast Starlight on June 30, 2010. The train left the station in Oxnard late, around 2pm... and I started taking these photos around 3pm.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


The Dancing Mermaid challenged her readers the other day to remember what makes us happy. Make a list, she said, so you can visit it on the days when happiness seems far away...

1. children -- I find them entertaining ... far more entertaining than anything
2. clouds... I love them whether I am picking out the shapes inside them or just enjoying them
3. the hot air balloons sliding up into the sky as I run
4. WILDLIFE ... of all kinds! I particularly appreciated the dolphins that stopped by to say hi on my last beach day in SoCal!
5. trains
6. law and order. I won't lie, whenever I get near cable, I find law and order and watch it, episode after episode. The original is my favorite, especially those featuring Benjamin Bratt, but I will watch just about any of those original episodes regardless of the number of times I have already seen them. I will watch first few seasons of Criminal Intent and any of the ones with Chris Noth. But I don't care for SVU. I am planning to at least try out the new one in the fall.
7. dessert -- I am slowly working my way through the Flying Star dessert menu. Sometimes I go to a restaurant just for dessert, you get more CALORIES in your dessert that way.
8. chocolate, not to be confused with dessert
9. strawberries, especially if they were grown in Oxnard and bought at a roadside stand -- closely followed by blackberries, raspberries and then blueberries.
10. whipped cream -- I keep it in my refrigerator at all times ... either in the can or a carton of heavy whipping cream ... and I was recently gifted with the little canister that makes whipped cream like the ones at sbucks... can't wait to use it!

That should be enough to lift my spirits under most circumstances!
Visual reminders, just in case:

We are off to the mountains with no internet posting will resume sometime after we come off the mountain next week.
Happy fourth!