Ghost Ranch tomorrow

MHKOff to Ghost Ranch tomorrow with Maxine Hong Kingston and Janet Fitch.  The three of us are driving to the ranch together.  I am doing the driving.  It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place than Ghost Ranch, a thick light heavy on the mesas.  It’s an entirely magical experience.

The writers who are speaking at the ranch this year are unsurpassed.

Many of us wait for the biannual retreat hardly able to breathe until it arrives.

Here’s to magic.

Published in: on August 8, 2015 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

All we need is love


“Don’t much like quitters, son.”

A billboard in my neighborhood reads.  There’s a picture of John Wayne.

John Wayne was a great American actor.

He married three Latina women.

He cheated on all of them.

He smoked five packs a day.

He got cancer and he did ads for the American Cancer Association.

He had a yacht which he preferred to horses.

He was in love with Maureen O’Hara and Marlene Dietrich but married neither because he liked women he thought he could control.

He never fought in the military but he played a soldier many times onscreen.

When someone says I stand for American values, you don’t know what they mean for sure, but it doesn’t sound good.

Often it means putting women in their place, rejecting gays, glorifying Christianity, believing that Whites have the right to a better life than anyone who isn’t White, and of course, the idea that Muslims and anyone else in the world who doesn’t share American values should be eliminated.

America needs less hatred.

There is a reason Obama did not go to Chris Kyle’s funeral.

Chris Kyle, a US navy Seal from Texas, was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and claimed to have killed more than 255 people during his six-year military career. In his memoir, Kyle reportedly described killing as “fun”, something he “loved”; he was unwavering in his belief that everyone he shot was a “bad guy”. “I hate the damn savages,” he wrote. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.” He bragged about murdering looters during Hurricane Katrina, though that was never substantiated.

The American values I like are curiosity, compassion and love of life.  We need to accept each other. Living the dream should be embracing living with each other.

Published in: on August 7, 2015 at 5:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Dreaming of rain

I actually dream of rain.  I wake up in the morning and realize that it still isn’t raining.  I want rain.  We are supposed to get torrents of rain this winter.  If you live by the ocean, in a house perched on a hill, this could be deadly.  We don’t, but in the last El Nino year, a large part of our neighbor’s tree fell on our house.

Tomorrow I am going to Mendocino to speak at the Mendocino Writing Conference.  This is my topic:

The Writing Life: To Write or Not to Write, That is the Question

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of putting aside drinking, partying, sex, family, craziness—to be a writer at least for ten or twenty hours a week.

What you need to be a writer: Time and a room of your own. Brain space for writing. A thinking life that lends itself to writing. Stakeholders in your writing life. A writing community..

Where do MFA programs, conferences or workshops fit into all this? How do you build a sustainable life as a writer and create work that might move toward publication? We”re going to figure this out. From idea to page. From page to print.

I went to Mendocino once before and made a little vacation out of the trip.  This time I am just going in for the talk, I don’t have time for more vacation.

Sunday I am off to Ghost Ranch which will be epic.  Tobi and Molly are going also, they will be with me and I will see Darlene, Tracey, Mary and all my friends and it will be utterly fantastic.  The moon will be sliver in the sky when we arrive and then it will disappear, but the stars will rise throwing gossamer threads of light across the mesas.

Published in: on August 6, 2015 at 8:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ghost Ranch, A Room of Her Own


I am leaving Sunday for Ghost Ranch. It is where Georgia O’Keefe painted those wild desert landscapes.

There are red rocks against the sky, huge pillars of rock.

A labyrinth of stones.  I will walk among the stones and sky.

There is a green field at Ghost Ranch.

Some people go there and don’t like it at all.  They don’t like the simplicity of the place.  They don’t like the lack of amenities.  That’s a fine word that means you have stuff around you to support pretty.

You don’t feel pretty without that stuff.

Last time I was there, I shared a room with Kim Dower.  She made it a party.

Ghost Ranch isn’t elegant, it’s stark and beautiful.

The ranch has been owned by the Presbyterian Church since 1955.  The church runs day camps there but anyone can visit.

To experience the ranch is to realize that sky enters your body.

It will rain while we are there.  Even the sky has forgiveness.

Published in: on August 5, 2015 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tomorrow is my son’s 24th birthday, we are starting the celebration tonight

Some of us like to give advice.  We think we have something important to say.  But we might be wrong.

Many times we’re better off shutting up.  I need to remember that.  My kids tolerate my advice, others might prefer if I just worked on my own life which could use some help.  I’m off to fix my life but if you have any ideas for me, I’m willing to hear them. Tomorrow is my son’s 24th birthday.  We are starting the celebration tonight.10944856_10204783951932199_2660918054064787389_n

Published in: on August 1, 2015 at 5:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’ve committed all these crimes but one. We humans fumble for happiness but make so many mistakes along the way.

There are so many of us on this planet.

We bump into each other in the dark.

We say things that annoy the ones we love.

We apologize or fail to apologize.

We fall in love and we need to be loved back.

We fall asleep when we should be making love.

We forget each other’s birthdays.

We forget to come home.

We forget to plan a vacation.

We go on vacation but we think of our own pleasure.

We don’t make the right food.

We don’t make any food at all.

We drink too much.

We are thirsty for something big.

We smoke weed in the bathroom when we’ve been asked not to.

We tell secrets that we’ve been asked not to tell.

We wear the wrong clothes.

We are angry and can’t find the right words so we use the wrong ones.

We find that people don’t read our minds and that makes us angry.

We realize someone is reading our mind and that makes us angry.

We want people around us to understand us.

We don’t want to have to think about everyone’s drama.

We wish we had a therapist, the right therapist.

We resent people who are always quoting their therapist.

We talk to God but nobody answers.

We go for long walks on the beach and pretend to be in movies.

We wish our whole life felt like movies.

We write big stories and then forget about them.

We wear masks when we should be honest.

We are honest when we should wear masks.

Published in: on July 31, 2015 at 12:48 pm  Comments (1)  

Music speaks our soul language

Come to the Beach House on Tuesday for an amazing reading!

Tonight we are going to the Bowl to hear Dudamel conduct  Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

Even with his hair cut, Dudamel’s energy is fairly electric and we always have yummy food at the Bowl.  This a week of celebration.  Yesterday was Mark’s and my 15th wedding anniversary.  (I gave him a 21 year old port.) And this weekend, we are going to the Edison on Saturday and the Bowl on Sunday to celebrate Stephen’s 24th birthday.

I like music and celebration.  The two go together well.

My editor says that I need to listen to Frank Sinatra and Bono’s rendition of “I’ve got you under my skin,” which I now have, and it is pretty amazing even for someone who’s never really listened to Sinatra.  I skipped the Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra phase of American music although I had quite a Simon and Garfunkel love affair which never ended. It makes Mark laugh to think about that.  It’s odd how other people’s musical taste often seems ridiculous.  Teresa’s husband was chuckling when I told him I liked Neil Diamond so I didn’t mention Bjork or Regina Spektor let alone my obsession with Louis Armstrong.

We all have songs that speak to us, that speak our heart’s musical language.  I love the song, “Smoke gets in your eyes,” but I also love Toto’s “Africa,” which I am pretty sure is ridiculously corny, but smarmy is sometimes good.  I always want writers to add music into stories because I can’t really think about a character properly unless I know what they listen to.

I remember the yummy joy when you first got to someone’s house or apartment and you rifled through the books and records and everything suddenly became very clear.  Johnny Cash is different than the Beatles which is different than Guns and Roses.  As my friend’s kid Zack says, “Don’t yuck on my yum.” Don’t snicker too much at other people’s musical taste.  Surely someone thinks your music is a laugh riot. Lauridsen is my heart’s home music; but someone out there wouldn’t like that either.  That’s what makes people so interesting and peculiar.

Published in: on July 30, 2015 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Today is our anniversary.

download (1)

We have been married fifteen years, and tonight we went out to celebrate.  Then we came home to watch our movie:  Orlando.  It is a thing to be reckoned with if your couple movie is Orlando.
Of one that lov’d not wisely but too well….

We felt the clouds, we felt the morning rain.  We felt the moon rising over us on the evening tide.

We had a few friends we can call our own.

We have chickens and an aviary full of birds.

A fountain.

Certain dogs.

There are greens growing in the garden.

I am sleepy.

If I could sleep and wake, I would wake into poetry.

My favorite scene in the movie Orlando is when the poet is curiously begging for a pension of 300 pounds a year to be paid quarterly.  The poet gets his money from Orlando, continues to write poetry and critiques the poetry of the lord while laughing at him.  Both sides are terribly ungracious, but  in the world of literature, such types run amok.

We have been married fifteen years, and we will continue for many more.

To love. To respect.  To dreams.

Published in: on July 29, 2015 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  



Yosemite is the palace of the gods.  It’s crazy beautiful.  Joy unbounded.

The good

It is absolutely magnificent.  Half Dome looks like a huge rock cone sheered in half and wildly split open, threads of waterfalls down the rocky hillsides.  Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, the Mist trail, vast white water plunging downward; we climbed into the water and thick misty air.  We climbed trails from the valley floor which was all campers. The sheer vastness of the rock faces, thrusting up into the wild hot hair.  Many Europeans visit Yosemite; it seems like more of them  than the Americans. Europeans are simply thrilled with Yosemite, they come in thousands, they come in droves.  The Dutch, the Germans, the French, the Italians, give us your huddled masses.

The bad

Yosemite is the Disneyland of national parks.  I’ve never been anywhere in the wild that was quite so crowded.  Every trail you hiked you had to pass many people. The Valley floor was a crowded encampment that was just packed with people.

The weird

We stayed at a campground with all these tent camps, and it was fine; it was nice.  There was a communal barbecue.  I was kind of disappointed because I wanted us to have our own barbecue. One of the joys of camping is sitting around the campfire with your family and making food and drinking beer.  You can hear the waterfall and it’s very peaceful and you’re in chill mode.  Yosemite is breathtaking but there is no chill mode.  It’s like going to Disneyland but you happen to be at the most breathtaking national park you’ve ever seen.

We loved Yosemite.

We’re used to camping in deserted campgrounds; so this was new for us. We were very glad to come home. To go to the Korean spa. To go to Mexican food. To come home and watch Razor’s Edge.

Published in: on July 28, 2015 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yosemite is magical


All families are crazy, but some are crazier than others.  All have families have their different ways of getting through family crises.  In our family, we all get together, talk together, hang together.  We believe in the power of love.

A friend of mine once said to me, “A good family isn’t always strong, but a good family gathers around its weakest member.” That stuck with me.  And it isn’t always the same person.  Sometimes one person needs help, sometimes someone else.  We gather.  I’d like to say that we always say the right thing, that we do the right thing, but that isn’t true.  We’re not god, we can’t see the future and we don’t always learn from the past.  Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are able to figure it all out, that we know the future, but we don’t.  I’m chatty, so I generally spin forth with my wisdom such as it is.

We are very small in the universe.  Planets revolve around the sun. The Milky Way spreads out for light years, and here we are infinitesimally small, hanging like a dot in space. But we make much of our travels, our art, our music, our relationships as well we might.  This is the life we have; let’s make the best of it.  We’re here in Yosemite where there is a very high danger of fire.  Sometimes when there is very high fire danger you have to be on high alert.  A person can only stay on high alert so long.  We have a wonderful family even when we find ourselves in fire danger, we have water.  We have water.

Published in: on July 25, 2015 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,873 other followers