Tropical language

When I went to Colombia, people got in lines everywhere I got up to speak to have their picture taken with me.

 

I have a picture from that trip which is still on my iPhone of the mayor of Monteria taking his picture with me.  He is wearing a pink shirt.

 

The children are having their pictures taken with me. In the background, there are farm animals.

At the airport, I sign the form saying I have not seen any farm animals.

 

In people’s houses, the floors are dark wood and the kitchen is a fire in the back room and a table.

 

In other people’s houses, the floor is concrete and children sleep on the floor on mats.

 

In other people’s houses, the floor is dirt and everyone sleeps on hammocks inside when it rains, outside when it’s not raining. Under trees when it’s sort of raining.

 

Most of the children have no shoes. As a child we sang, All God’s children get new shoes to wear. Are these not God’s children?

 

I am here in Nebraska, and I remember going to Colombia, and I remember the tropical feeling there, and the way the women around the green pool you could not swim in cut the cocaine.

 

In Nebraska, I think it is mostly meth.

 

Here at Residency, it is mostly beer. Because Nebraska has a lot of corn and people sleep in beds and the longing is for more dreams. If I lived in Nebraska, I would grow sunflowers.

 

But, I live in California, and I have a hammock, but I don’t need to sleep in it.  I sleep indoors.

 

If I were in Colombia, just like I did before, I would say good night to the women cutting the cocaine by the green pool.  When the people lined up to take a picture with me, I would smile in ever picture.  I would stand up straight. When they said, You look so American, I would smile and try not to show my teeth.

Published in: on July 17, 2016 at 2:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

We walked toward the moon.

We walked out toward the moon in the late evening air. There had been tequila for some, vodka for others.  We had dinner in the bar.  We drank on the terrace.  We listened to readings, then we walked into the moon.  I could feel it floating toward us, as we walked over the bridge.  Teri sang a wedding song in the smooth as silk air.

 

It’s all writing and reading and talking about writing.  We’re into story and dream here.

What I like in Nebraska: The writing, the story, the great friends, the walks through the orchard, swimming.

 

What I miss: Mark, Tobi, sushi, the dogs.

 

We miss the people we are, the places we inhabit.

 

When we wanted to be young, we were young.

When we wanted to be blond, we were blond.

When we wanted to be smart, we were smart.

When we wanted to have fun, fun was all around us.

This is the big life.  This. Right now. The dream.

Published in: on July 16, 2016 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Black Lives Matter. America must wake up and change.

Great week.

And the wind blowing the heat back.

Deena Metzger lunch with some sushi that melted me. And the seaweed salad.

Then Mark and I drove to San Clemente to spend the night with Maurya Simon and her husband.

The heat blew in off the ocean.

We ate fish and waves broke under us crackling the pier.

And you?

You can’t come to the place where the sky meets the water without feeling the wet lively feeling of being that near the ocean.

And then home.

The plumbing.

The trees.

And we have too many chickens.

I am trying to find a home for some of them.

Some people want to eat them. My red hens!

Lordy lordy, what is the world coming to?

Tomorrow Portland, then Seattle, then Nebraska.

There are never too many trees or too much beach or too many waves or too many clouds.

And the world is large enough.

Right now there is too much violence in this country.

Black Lives matter.  Black lives must matter to all of us.

Published in: on July 12, 2016 at 7:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Deena Metzger responds.

I don’t know if it is proper to respond to such a gift as Kate offers me here, but I am too moved to pretend that I didn’t read it, especially as Kate advised me of it a few minutes ago. Because of what she wrote, I am standing between two poles, my friendship with Anaïs Nin and her diaries and my friendship with Kate and this blog. From the time I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the ways writers wrote about each other and their friendships. These seemed the ground of literature, without which the writer couldn’t do her work. But when I met Anaïs and was introduced to her Diaries and the journal form, I learned about the ineluctable connection between the interior life and relationships – how much we need both and how the journal mediates between them, as does this Blog. We’re in a slide, on shifting ground between what is exquisitely personal and what is made adamantly public. Why do we write this way? Because as Anaïs taught, the interior, the dream, the magical needs to be brought into the world and known.
Particularly now, in these dark times.
And so Kate is right to speak about light – the necessity of light in these dark times and so the holy friction; we rub up against each other – the spark is necessary – we want to burn bright – we want to bear the light – we can’t do it without each other.
I met Anaïs when I was 27 and we were close friends for twelve years to the day she died. Give or take 5 years, there is the same age difference between Kate and myself. Once Gore Vidal, without intending to be amusing, asked me when Anaïs was going to publish the Diary in which he figured. I didn’t know if I would be in Anaïs’ Dairies; what I wanted and honored and received was deep connection on a soul level. That soul connection is part of what Kate and I spoke about. That place of profound trust when, as it is said, two or more engage so. Such rare meetings have the quality of eternity around them. From them light emerges. It’s important to write about this in dark times.
When I think of Kate, I think about devotion. She is fiercely devoted to what matters. And you know I am using ‘fiercely’ deliberately. She is very fiercely devoted to what really matters. And so we hold each other. And so we stand up and write. And, then, somehow, again, the light.
Thank you, Kate

Published in: on July 8, 2016 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Race by Elizabeth Alexander

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.
The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks,
imagines pencil markings in a ledger book, classifications,
imagines a sidelong look from an ivory spouse who is learning
her husband’s caesuras. She can see silent spaces
but not what they signify, graphite markings in a forester’s code.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
The one time Great-Uncle Paul brought his wife to New York
he asked his siblings not to bring their spouses,
and that is where the story ends: ivory siblings who would not
see their brother without their telltale spouses.
What a strange thing is “race,” and family, stranger still.
Here a poem tells a story, a story about race.
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/resources/learning/core-poems/detail/52118
Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.
The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks,
imagines pencil markings in a ledger book, classifications,
imagines a sidelong look from an ivory spouse who is learning
her husband’s caesuras. She can see silent spaces
but not what they signify, graphite markings in a forester’s code.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
The one time Great-Uncle Paul brought his wife to New York
he asked his siblings not to bring their spouses,
and that is where the story ends: ivory siblings who would not
see their brother without their telltale spouses.
What a strange thing is “race,” and family, stranger still.
Here a poem tells a story, a story about race.
Published in: on July 8, 2016 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Deena Metzger is part of the great magic in the world.

Lunch today with Deena Metzger, we had some crazy yummy sushi.  She is a shaman, a teacher, a healer and in her work to heal the planet, she is clearly luminous.  I met her many years ago, but she seems to not age at all.  She moves as if she moves through light.  Whatever great magic there is in the world, Deena is part of it.

There are some of us who are bearers of light and Deena is one of them. I remember her seeing Wanda at a party at my house, the two of them bowing to each other in my living room.

The journey toward the imagination and the creative process is not one we undertake for ourselves. It is one we undertake because we need to change the world.

I have met greatness in the literary world-Peggy, Deena, Eloise, Lisa, Judy, Maxine, the other Kate, Camille, Wanda, and so many more.  It’s a long journey, but worth it.

Published in: on July 7, 2016 at 9:52 pm  Comments (1)  

James Baldwin on the police

Negroes have always held, the lowest jobs, the most menial jobs, which are now being destroyed by automation. No remote provision has yet been made to absorb this labor surplus. Furthermore, the Negro’s education, North and South, remains, almost totally, a segregated education. And, the police treat the Negro like a dog.

By James Baldwin, July  1966

Today’s events make all of us wonder what has changed in fifty years and what has stayed the same.  We would like to live in a country where we can be safe, can work, can send our kids to school, can marry whoever we want, can have privacy, opportunities, dreams.

I can’t stop thinking about the four year old sitting in the back seat while the man was shot by the police.

America! What have we become?

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/the-counted-police-killings-2015-young-black-men

Published in: on July 7, 2016 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

a break in the sky

We saw the movie, The Legend of Tarzan which is not one of the smartest movies but the lead actor is ridiculously good looking.  It’s like he’s from another planet.  I like the scenes of Africa, the whole movie was a bit of a love letter to Africa, even though the scenes were completely unrealistic.  Tarzan could talk to ostriches and lions and elephants.  He could leap off cliffs and swing hundreds of feet.  He could command crocodiles and cattle.  None of this seems very likely even if you are raised by gorillas.  I wanted to see a fun popcorn movie for the 4th and everyone said that Independence 2 was a wash.  I want to see the new Star Trek movie and the new Bourne movie.

 

The best thing about silly movies is the popcorn.  Our dogs really hate the fireworks.  The brave one, Zooey is the most chicken of all.  She hides and cries and pleads for us to hold her in our arms.

 

Maybe, that’s a good way to be, the brave one is afraid.  The blind boxer cried least of all.  If she has her treats, she’s just chilling.  Zooey sees too much, hears too much.  The world is too big for her.

For Ginger, if there are treats, the world is a good place.

Treats don’t solve everything, but it certainly feels better.  Especially if you are a dog.

If I were a dog, what I would like would be:

Other dogs

Food,

Water

Taking walks

Interesting smells

Toys

Bones

Sleeping

 

I am glad to have time to breathe. Like snapping turtles do, I can rest on rocks in the sunlight.

Published in: on July 4, 2016 at 9:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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  
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