Here we are, on top of the utopian arc. The water is
shallow. An oil spill shimmers on the surface like a lens catches light and
folds it in front of a mirror. If someone stands next to you, they are there,
even when outside the picture. Which makes total obscurity relative to luck and
such. Unlike the law, architecture lasts. A façade, like an ideal, can be
oppressive unless balanced by a balcony on which you can stand and call down to
those in the street, Come over here and look up at us. Aren’t we exactly what
you wanted to believe in?
I have been holding on to some news. I am not sure if it is because I
was in a bit of denial or because I was worried that if I said
something, it might not work out.
I got a job.
It's in New Jersey.
So I have been packing up my life.
And, as my car decided to keep to the timeline I imagined, even though I stepped away from the PhD program.
That is to say, in January it started falling apart, slowly, and painfully (for me).
was no way to take the car with me. I couldn't even get it south so I
could give it to my father's friend. Though I think I have successfully
convinced my dad that it wasn't a good idea to give it to the friend who
couldn't possibly have the money to sink into making it really
So, I had to make a decision of what to do with the car, the little
green machine that has been my constant companion for the past 16 years.
drove me cross country, away from my ex-husband, into my new life in
Oakland. It drove me to the next new life in New Mexico.
It served as my phone booth on those long drives between Oakland and
Oxnard ... and sometimes, when I couldn't bring myself to talk to
others, as the safe space where I could sing or cry or both.
It was faithful and dependable and constant.
I agonized about the decision, truth be told, though I might not have shown it.
In the end, I decided to donate it to KQED in lieu of all the donations I have not been able to make in the past few years.
Even as I was sure it was the right thing, it was so painful to let go. I drove it down to the big avenue below my house so that the flatbed truck could more easily hook it up.
As I walked back up the hill to my apartment... to that messier before completely packed state, downcast and tears in my eyes, I spotted a car just like mine parked just where mine had been not twenty minutes earlier.
I am not sure what it means except that I thought, oh, you came back... may my little green car be happy either in someone else's home or as the parts that make other little green cars go...
My sister loved animals. On more than one occasion she told me they understood her better than people. So, it is easy for me to see signs of her in the animals that I meet.
She was the one who loved animals, but I was the one that animals always wanted to talk to or be near.
I have come to understand that animals appreciate my alpha vibe. They are so happy to have someone else be in charge, and naturally wired to be drawn to the herd. It works on cats, too, but in a slightly different way than dogs. For some reason when I talk to the cats, they stop and listen. It's a thing. I have no control over it. It just is. The thing is, it used to really bug my sister, and all others that are animal lovers, that the animals would come to me for comfort and safety.
Now it makes sense that when my sister wants to communicate with me, or others, that she does it through animals. My brother comes to me in dreams. And more than once he has actually reached out and touched me. But my sister is less direct. She shows up in possums and birds and butterflies.
Here are some from my long walk last week:
In these bushes is a moth (I think) black with a white stripe along the wings who followed me around on my long hike the other day.
I tried to get a picture of the large, yellow butterfly that was also hanging around, one of these landed on my head briefly.
Here was the black/white stripe one ... I just missed the open wings by a second.
I am not completely sure that these titles are equivalent or just both apt.
Here is my equanimity practice... the one I reach for most often:
No matter how much I wish things be otherwise, things are as they are.
My practice pleasant or neutral practice: for me, it started as #findbeauty on instagram. And it morphed into being able to walk in quiet, listening to everything that is going on around me.
It means I can hear the birds singing or the bugs buzzing.
On Sunday, it meant watching the busy bees go from flower to flower checking for nectar. And it meant watching Raleigh (neighbor tuxedo cat) as he stalked and tried to pounce on something and then celebrating his chase with him.
I was sitting on the stairs, listening to the birds, enjoying the sunny day from a shady spot somewhat out of view. Raleigh happened by, when I spoke to him, he started, but then went back to stalking. When he was out of view, I decided to follow him. I crouched with him, slowly and quietly padding behind him, letting him know that I was there so he wouldn't start. He was watching, carefully... mindfully something in the bushes. I couldn't see it. He was still as a statue, intent on his prey. I was talking quietly to him, encouraging him to go ahead and pounce. He did, and didn't catch anything, but came over to celebrate with me anyway. He brushed up against my legs and looked up at me for encouragement. I pet him and chatted him up. Then he went back to the bushes to look for his prey again.
In the moment, there is tremendous activity... and it can be pleasant, or neutral or unpleasant. Raleigh's insistence on being in the moment was a gift... pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, it didn't matter to him, just the moment.
For me, forcing myself to stay in the moment is the gift. I have been wound so tight the past few months, and let's be honest, the last four years, that I have given myself precious little room to be in the moment or otherwise.
I am trying to unwind in a way that won't leave me in a puddle in the middle of the floor when next Friday hits and my schedule becomes a little lighter.
This is the kind of Friend You are - Without making me realize My soul's anguished history, You slip into my house at night, And while I am sleeping, You silently carry off All my suffering and sordid past In your beautiful Hands. -- Hafiz
This was the first time I hiked up to Chila's resting place by myself. I was truly alone after this sign because my phone turned itself off in dramatic fashion.
had to focus... on the sights and sounds
and smells and temperature. It was lovely. Apparently, it was the day a
million moths were born. They were swarming every where.
I was so
focused on sounds, I kept hearing this little click, click, click.
Finally, I spied a grasshopper, looked like still in
baby stage, and I watched and listened to it move its body and make the
click click click.
There were so many beautiful wildflowers blooming
... hence the swarming moths. As I approached Chila's place, I
noticed these gorgeous flowers, like a morning
glory but with a dark center.
Turns out they are called catalina
mariposa lilies. I gathered a bunch and made a bouquet for Chila.
I went up to the rock and I had planned to sit there
for a bit, but the plants around the rock were super overgrown and all
I stood there, listening to the wind and birds and
bugs, and watching the landscape.
I thought, where is she? Is she here?
Just as I was feeling sorry for myself and thinking she wasn't here
with me, a hummingbird came up to me, she was about
six inches from my face. She hovered there, and I acknowledged her and
eventually she flew off.
But then as I walked down the mountain, she
buzzed me. Then she sat on a tree and looked at me. I stood two feet
from her and memorized her features so I could
look it up in the bird book.
As I kept walking, she moved to the next
tree, this time, she positioned herself so that she could look right at
me. Finally she flew off.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I
noticed a hummingbird again by my car. She followed
me down, half way to Uncle Louie's house.
She was there... and she let me know.
When I got home where my bird book was, I looked up the hummingbird and it was a female Anna's
hummingbird...[or immature male, but I am preferring to think it was a female!] You can see some photos here and here and here.
Our greatest strength lies in the gentleness and tenderness of our heart. ~ Rumi
I always considered myself lucky -- to have hit the jackpot in the dad lottery. He is one of the most generous people I know, curious and interested in the world, willing to wonder and delve into questions and problems, and though he doesn't always show it, incredibly sensitive, especially to those who have less than he does. And my dad always seemed to think that he had more than enough.
I like to tell the story of how he brought home the homeless guy because I was away for a year, so there was a whole empty room in the house!
But I am also fond of telling the story how after I expressed an interest in morse code, that he bought three transmitters, mounted each on a board and then carved in the codes for the alphabet. After we had all (my youngers and I) learned the codes, we'd sit around the dining room table (which we didn't use to eat from) and dit dah dit dah each other. Our transmitters were not actually connected to anything, so our messages just went out to the room, but we were happy.
As an adult, especially since my siblings passed, I have seen other sides of my pops, maybe seen some quirky aspects of his personality with the volume turned up. I get frustrated with his penchant for the conspiracy theory and the negative outlook. But I have learned to see that age can make folks feel vulnerable and powerless. Growing old gracefully requires one to release our complete competency, and this is hard for my dad.
I refuse to believe that his grumpy old man routine he gets caught up in sometimes is not his true nature.
Being an adult with my dad is not all bad. He shares more with me than he used to. And though it isn't always rainbows and puppies, more frequently it is fear and insecurity, I still appreciate these glimpses into his personality.
This past weekend, he was complaining because my mom didn't invite him to a garage sale she was going to with a girlfriend. It is funny because she never wants to go with him to the thrift store or garage sale, but she still wants to be invited. I reminded him that he often didn't want to go whenever she invited him places. He was salty, grumpy old man style. A bit later, mom arrived and apparently handed him a bag of goodies ... a gift from the garage sale. I was still working in the other room. My dad came over pleased as pie with his gift. Look what your mom brought me! He beamed. And he giggled, good thing she didn't know he had been complaining.
That is my dad... he might be feeling entitled to complain more than when I was younger, but he still is able to appreciate more than most.
I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you sleep, I would hug you
tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. If I knew that this
would be the last time you pass through thisdoor, I’d embrace you, kiss
you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the
last time I would hear your voice, I’d record each word to be able
to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see
you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you
know it already. -Johny Welch From La marioneta de trapo versión original: Si supiera que hoy es última vez que te voy a ver dormir, te
abrazaría fuertemente y rezaría al Señor para poder ser el guardián de
tu alma. Si supiera que esta fuera la última vez que te vea salir por la
puerta, te daría un abrazo, un beso y te llamaría de nuevo para darte
más. Si supiera que ésta fuera la última vez que voy a oír tu voz,
grabaría cada una de tus palabras para poder oírlas una y otra vez
indefinidamente. Si supiera que estos son los últimos momentos que te
veo, diría TE QUIERO y no asumiría tontamente que ya lo sabes.
I love this picture of The Boy. Sometimes I think it is because I love this couple so much and their connection is palpable here.
When I used to see this picture on his mom's desk, I would think, they are soulmates.
I was sure they would get back together, have beautiful babies and be happy.
But then again, I was sure of so very many things that we will never see.
He has been close in mind lately, not just in the past few days, but especially this month.
Now when I look at this picture, it is the eyes, that look. It tells you so much about this old soul. There is a knowing about the trials and tribulations, the power of love, and the importance of connection. There is compassion and world weariness and strength. He was steady and wobbly at the same time, fearful and hopeful, ready to take on the world despite his reservations about well everything.
I see this picture and I think there is no way he is gone. There he is, right there, forever that sweet, smart, relentlessly idealistic and pragmatic young man, my future governor or president.
Some days I weep for the world because we lost that light, the one we so desperately needed.
Some days I weep for his mother who is trying so hard to learn how to be in a world without him.
Some days I weep for the children who don't get to grow up with father; he would have been the absolute best father in the world.
Some days I even weep for myself because there were so many more stories to tell, issues to discuss and adventures to have... and I try to be brave remembering his last text, the one he sent when he found out I was dealing with yet another loss, before he knew I would have to deal with his as well.
Rest well, sweet boy, but let your mom know you are okay.
This has been sitting in my draft folder for a while ... thinking I would figure out how to debrief my trip back to Old Nassau. But April is a cruel month and these memories and feelings can't be processed so easily. So here is a little photolog of the trip.
We took an early flight out of San Jose. We left the house before the sun was awake. But it rose just as we took off, giving this spectacular good morning to all those tired travelers.
We landed in Newark, as it is still the easiest airport to get to/from Princeton. And this was the first sight of New York in the distance. It is still remarkable to me how close and yet how far NYC is from Princeton.
Also, I noticed, for the first time, how alike Oakland and Newark are... see the port and those machines that were Lucas' inspiration for those walking monstrosities in Star Wars?
This was my residential college... first steps off the new Dinky stop you see good old Forbes (or PIC if you are older). The sun was so bright, I was trying to see what I was aiming at, but instead caught my fingers.
It must mean something to see like this, but I will leave it up to you, dear reader.
People love to remark on the beauty of the campus.
I have to say since my time there was so fraught, I never noticed beauty.
But there is beauty that I can now appreciate... especially in the details.
These small creatures some scary and others whimsical that guard arches and doorways are some of my favorites.
Here's another that struck me on this trip.
I spent many hours in this building as it housed my department. I also happen to think it is one of the most beautiful. I am sure that others have fond memories or like the looks of others better.
It started raining after this and I forgot to take a lot of pictures. But I have a few more, especially of the conference that I will share later.