Starfish

As kids we found starfish of all different colors and we saved them. It would be better if they were not saved by us.  We kept them alive for a short while in buckets and pails of salt water, but then they dried out and then they smelled like seawater and brine and dead fish.  They were prickly to the touch where their fingers touch the rocks; those fingers dried out.  We would hide the dried starfish in our clothes and by the time we got back to the school, our clothes smelled of dried fish.  Our hair. Our hands.  We would also have shells, dried seaweed, wood, rocks and the feathers of dead birds we’d found.

 

When I left the Farm, I looked through my stuff.  I found one starfish, threads of dried seaweed, a few rocks, and a pile of pine needles. The pine needles were thickened with pine sap.  I left all that behind.  I was travelling light and for the next few years, I continued to be very careful what pine needles I collected, what shells, what rocks, what books.  I needed to be able to pick up my stuff and walk.  Now, I have a lot of books.

 

This weekend I will go to where the starfish are, but not to collect them. I will touch their tiny fingers, and they will touch mine.

Published in: on June 29, 2016 at 6:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where you shop

 

I read an article recently by Dylan Landis. She tells of her husband taking her to buy lingerie at Neiman Marcus as a way of comforting her.  I like the story, but it made me think about shopping.  My husband has taken me shopping at H & M for my birthday.  We have never been to Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks.  Once in New York, I went to Bergdorf Goodman.  I just walked around.  I thought I would buy a scarf or a pair of earrings, but there was not a single thing I could even vaguely afford.  I never went back. I have a friend for whom I collect clothing.  She buys clothing at the Salvation Army and I’m sure she would consider my annual forays to buy clothes at H & M, (last time we spent $87.) quite extravagant.

 

When you are writing a novel, it is important to think about your characters. What they eat, drink. What music they listen to. Where they shop. And it’s important to not judge your characters too harshly if they shop at the 99 cent store. Or if they shop on Fifth Avenue in the fanciest shoe stores.

 

Things I never buy when I’m feeling down:

Perfume. Shoes. Jeans. Bathing suits.

Things I sometimes buy to cheer myself up:

Books. Plants.  Socks. Boots.

Published in: on June 28, 2016 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Journey to Long Beach

I had an almond latte with Victoria Chang tonight.

Long Beach has a huge apparatus for unloading ships and loading railroad cars. We walked around the town a bit. Lovely sturdy houses with porches where you could drink lemonade.

 

No writing since I got back from the greens of Ireland.  Just thinking. Taking notes for why and where and what. Sinking back into work.

 

Our tree is growing.

 

I keep an eye on the Lannisters with Mark and go to meetings.

 

This weekend we will go camping where the tide pools are.

 

If you eat healthy, you might live longer, they say.

 

After I walked away from my first green place, I learned to sweep.

 

I know how to make fires.

 

The sun rises so quickly here.

Published in: on June 28, 2016 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

My new email

My new email is

kate@redhen.org

 

Verizon was sold to Frontier, so my Verizon email no longer works.

 

 

Published in: on June 23, 2016 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Desire

 

There’s what you want and what you get.

Sometimes you find that what you wanted wasn’t the best thing for you anyway.

Desires of the body, the stomach, the heart, do not always point us in the right direction.

What you want at 20 changes by 30, 40, 50.

For a friendship or love relationship to work out, some of that desire has to overlap.

We wanted to write, to raise our kids together, to enjoy our lives together, to race toward the moon.

Some of that shifts, but the core stays the same.

I am amazed by how much love there is in the world in spite of everything.  How much joy.

Two wonderful writers, Meredith and Liz are staying at our house, Liz Kay is reading tonight at the Annenberg.  She wanted to be a writer, and she is one. Come to the Annenberg Beach House!

Published in: on June 21, 2016 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  

I had a wonderful lunch today at Follow Your Heart and remembered why love and friendship are part of what makes life worthwhile. I hadn’t seen my friend for a while and seeing him made me happy.

When I think of the culture of hate in this country, it makes no sense.

Hatred and fear pull us apart. Sometimes I think, really?

After Paris, after Orlando, after all, you still hate me or anyone?

Isn’t the world large enough

I want love to be a big enough room for us to walk around in.

 

T.S. Eliot, “Lovesong of J.Alfred Prufrock”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”
Published in: on June 20, 2016 at 9:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Father’s Day was scorching.

 

You could feel the thick heat rising from the ground in huge blankets.

We watered everything and even so, it looked like the gardens were frying.

In the frying pan of earth, the sun reaches down into California and starts fires.

We walk early to greet the dawn, and we stop to spray down the dog and she thanks us by lying down on the walk.

When I go the pet store, they are closing because of they have no ac.

Frogs would melt in this heat.

Dragons would lay their eggs on the streets in this heat.

The air is bluish under the gold.

Down through the layers of gold heat you find blue.

To find blue, you must reach through gold, or find the ocean or reach for sky.

It is hot gold, blue and wet in California.

Published in: on June 19, 2016 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coming home in time for Father’s Day

 

 

Father’s Day is Sunday and Mark will be celebrating with his eldest, and my kids’ dad will be celebrating with his eldest.  Father’s Day is a day to make sure the father in your life is grand. If he is grand.  Mark is a good dad, and my kids’ father is a good dad.  Being a good father is a tricky thing; it’s like canoeing upstream.  Water keeps coming over the gun whales and you have to keep paddling.

 

On the long trip from London to Los Angeles, I am on a justice trail, first watching the Anita Hill movie and then Spotlight, the movie about the Catholic church protecting the priests who molest kids.  When you think about it, “justice” is a really overused word.

 

Ireland was lovely and green.  When you looked into the woods, the green went on and on, so thickly.  When you looked into the ponds, there was also green lying on the ponds.  When the ocean went out, the seaweed heaped up along the shore, and there were mud flats, but then in the ocean came again putting wet fingers into the seaweed and the mud.  We walked past the boat house which was half hidden by thickets and an abandoned blue paint that was losing paint.  There was a church with many graves.  And my friend in Ireland had to dig a grave for his friend’s mother and bury her in that grave.  In Ireland, you might have to build the grave yourself.  There is no Forest Lawn.  You can buy fresh chickens at the market.  You can buy honey that someone made with their backyard bees.  In Ireland, you feel you can put your hands into green and your hands might become green.  In Ireland, I didn’t write at all.  I was teaching, but I was also walking around ponds.  I am coming home from green to California, and I want to work in my garden this weekend.

Published in: on June 17, 2016 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ready for a writing week in Ireland

In Ireland, when they say wet, they mean wet.

When they say green, they mean utterly green.

And here we are, the cool green wet swallowing us in Irish arms.

Ready to go to Inish Beg tomorrow.

In Ireland, a person could feel in love with just the air.

With the sound of the language.

With the bookstores everywhere.

In Greece everywhere you saw chapels and churches.

But here, you have pubs instead of prayers.

And in this lovely beauty, we will prayer to continue liquid language.

Published in: on June 7, 2016 at 12:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Eat Jellybeans While I Write

 

 

When you’re writing a story, food is important.  Mark and I are both working on a novel here in Greece, and we keep batting back and forth what our characters are eating.  My main character Amanda is a good cook.  She cooks lightly without much oil, and everything she makes is fresh. She doesn’t use anything from a box or a can.  She cooks pretty much the way we cook at home.  If there were an earthquake, we’d be down to rice and fire roasted chilies in about twenty-four hours.  We buy fresh food almost daily.   Amanda’s husband loves her cooking.  He doesn’t love much more about Amanda, but the food and the kids keep him around.  That’s always a good question in a marriage. What is the fuel that keeps it going especially after the love runs out?  If you aren’t desperate for money, that helps. You can coast along in a long sleep walking through your life.

 

Mark’s character doesn’t know how to cook at all.  She manages to feed her family by mashing potatoes night after night.  The fact that she doesn’t know how to cook and that her husband and son don’t complain says a lot about his characters.  They’re used to thinking of her as the boss of the house and the husband as the boss of what goes on outside the house.  In Jonathan Franzen’s Corrections, we all remember the dinner season where the little Chip has to sit there with his gross inedible food, but his father doesn’t want to cross the mother who he sees as being in charge of the house which is her domain.

 

In my book, the main character, in spite of her good cooking is fat.  That’s because she’s a sneaky eater.  That’s an important element in describing a character.  Where and when do you do your eating?  Some people do all their eating at the table, some people are snackers.  Mark can get into the habit of not eating breakfast or lunch but then coming home and eating steadily from 6 pm to bedtime. When I’m trying to lose weight, which I’ve been trying to do since I was twelve, I always blame the fact that when I’m around other people, I am expected to eat, but the fact is that if I didn’t do any eating by myself, I would be bird thin.  When I’m out with other people, I try to eat as I imagine a thin person would eat.  When I go out with my friend Kim who is perfectly thin, she likes to order a small Caesar salad for us to split.  That’s how thin people eat.  When I’m alone, I can’t get enough fruit and jellybeans.  I eat apples, cherries, pears, and melons.  I don’t eat a slice of melon for breakfast on Sunday, I chop up the whole cantaloupe for Mark and me, and we eat it.  If Mark eats so much as a single tortilla, I give him an evil stare.  “Carbs?” I say.  “Carbs?”   I eat watermelon and grapes, tangerines and apricots.  I eat mangos and papayas.  I’ll even eat lychees and star fruit.  In the evening, I like jelly beans.  If it weren’t for all this fruit and jelly beans, I’d look just like my friend Kim.  That’s why I made my character Amanda a secret eater.  I’m interested in what we eat in public and what we eat in private. I’m interested in our secret lives.

 

That’s what we work on as writers.  Everyone has a public life and a private life.  The private life, which we hardly tell anybody about is often much more interesting than the public life.  A male friend of mine told me recently that for men most of what is important and interesting in their life happens outside the house and that for women it’s the opposite.  His wife doesn’t work, so maybe that’s true in his case, but I doubt Madeline Albright would agree.  Whether your public life has as much weight as your private life depends on the success of each.  As writers, we try to explore both who we are inside the house and outside the house.

 

What you get to explore as a novelist is the inner life of your characters who may be neurotic, well meaning, cruel, morose, but to work as characters, they have to have some balance.  What does your character do that’s self soothing? What does your character eat, drink, do when he or she is alone? And most importantly, when your character is alone in the bathroom, shaving or brushing their teeth, what story do they tell themselves? That inside story reverberates into the outside story.

 

Here in Greece, the fruit is good especially the apricots. I’m managing to think of myself as an epic writer even without the jellybeans.  That’s the story I’m telling myself.

Published in: on June 5, 2016 at 7:42 am  Comments (1)  
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