Friday, April 29, 2016
Joan. Saturday night.
I was sort of listening to Selected Shorts when a female voice began reading Goodbye to All That and, how does one describe the spell Joan Didion casts with her words? She is sharp, wry, and brutally honest. She cuts straight through to my heart, exposes those savage feelings I've felt and never told anyone about, and leaves a lump in my throat.
She's one of those brave unrelenting women, the type people admire and fear. You can see it in her eyes. You can hear it in her voice. I saw her live in conversation with Vendela Vida in 2011. She was 77 years old, small, but not at all frail. She was sharp, impatient, and curt.
I always feel the need to prepare myself before I read her work, but I was caught off guard this Saturday night, at home alone, husband out of town, possibly too much space for rumination. And maybe this is the best way to experience Joan Didion—without armor.
She left that lump in my throat. She forced me to think realistically about my future, and she reminded me how fleeting each phase of my life has been.
Nothing stays. Take nothing for granted.
Monday, March 14, 2016
I'm going to be joining a handful of writers and artists published in West Marin Review, Volume 6, in Petaluma, CA on March 25th. I'll be reading my short prose contribution to West Marin Review as well as a few pages from After the Sour Lemon Moon.
An informal evening of prose, poetry, and art.
If you happen to be in the neighborhood*, we hope you'll stop in and join us.
Friday, March 25th - 7pm
140 Kentucky Street
Petaluma, CA 94952
* If you are in Northern California, but Petaluma is a bit out of the way, I'll also be participating in a similar event at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA on May 16th.
Monday, February 29, 2016
A gray-haired painter (house painter) walks into the cafe and orders a coffee. The person at the cash register places a cup of coffee on the counter and says, '$3.50.' Without a word the painter turns and walks out the door, leaving the coffee on the counter.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Peter Orner's 'Love and Shame and Love' and Me, 2015
'You don't need a new book.'
'Then why are you in a used bookstore?'
'I don't know. It's like a disease...'
'You should just put that book back on the shelf.'
'But Peter Orner is tempting me with drawings of Lake Michigan in winter and Mavis Gallant quotes.'
'Just shut the book.'
'If I don't buy books all the bookstores will close. Life will have no meaning!'
'No! Okay, fine.'
Monday, February 1, 2016
Guardian Angel, 2016
It's been a while. How are you?
Much has gone on during my absence. I've been productive, which is a good thing, but I don't find productivity all that interesting. Do you?
When I think back to my time away, the experience that rises to the top is a trip to an off-season beach town where I found Patti Smith's M Train in the local library. It was a trip taken not long after my departure from social media, yet I don't think anything I experienced afterward felt as good.
Between getting bundled up and taking long walks at low tide, and quiet mornings with soft light entering the bedroom and falling upon Patti Smith's words and images, well, it doesn't get much better.
It's nice to be back. I hope you've been enjoying the start of this year.
Friday, December 11, 2015
I'm hanging up my Gone Mushroom Hunting sign.
I decided to do away with the Gone Fishing sign, since I no longer eat fish, but this post isn't really about my dietary choices. Let the term mushroom hunting stand as a symbol for going away/taking stock/searching/experimenting with the use of my time/working with fewer distractions. Although I wouldn't mind picking up a book and learning more about mushrooms. It might happen.
I'm not sure when I will return. I might know more about chanterelles, I might not.
May the rest of your December be merry, and may the start of your new year be filled with inspiration.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Still Flowers, 2015
Hello. I hope you are well.
Have I shown you these sunflowers? Quite amazing, aren't they? They make me think of time and its passing.
Yesterday, while riding a bus, I spotted the poet Jack Hirschman on a street corner. He was scribbling notes into a tiny journal. I'm always so excited when I see him out in the world. My first thought was that I'd witnessed part of his poetry writing process, but on further reflection I realized he might have been adding to his grocery list.
I wonder how long I'll remember this scene, a poet on a street corner. How long will I hold on to these fallen sunflowers?
What are you thinking about this last day of November?
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I prefer an imperfect apple. But if to me the imperfections make it perfect, then what am I saying? Nothing. Maybe I should just eat the apple, not look at the apple, not think about the apple. Well, it's too late for all that. This is a handsome apple. How could I not notice? I pity those who cannot see it. It is simply not my nature to not consider the apple. But it's the taste that matters most. Yes, the taste. Somehow I know this one is going to taste good. Okay, I'm ready now. I'm going to eat the apple.
Monday, October 12, 2015
These Two, 2015
While dusting, the light moved onto these two. They are very small, each one close to the size of a Kalamata olive. I'm sure I kept them for the same reason I keep all such things. I want to later recall the day I found them. But the specific memories often dissolve, I only know they were collected in a moment of happiness. I stopped, lost in these thoughts, Joseph O'Neil reading Muriel Spark in the background. When my mind returned, he'd finished reading. I missed most of the story, and I won't finish dusting, but I think stopping was a better idea.
Monday, October 5, 2015
I was waiting for a smoothie and reading an article in The Surfer's Journal (No, I'm not a surfer, but I did actually get up on a board and "surf" in Hawaii a few years back...Yes, I did.) and saw mention of a lecture Federico García Lorca, the poet, gave in Buenos Aires in 1933. Actually, I was first drawn in by this photograph and text while waiting for my smoothie, then began reading the article.
The article first quoted García Lorca as saying duende is,
"...that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain."I later perused Wikipedia's Duende (art) entry and found:
"El duende is the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside as a physical/emotional response to art. It is what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive."And García Lorca had written:
"The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, 'The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.' Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation."Climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet... Fantastic.
García Lorca's 1933 lecture ended with:
"The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and Medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things."Think about that for a while.
Thanks to The Surfer's Journal 24.2, the Duende (art) Wikipedia entry, and Poetry in Translation's translated text from the 1933 lecture, Theory and Play of the Duende.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Five Petals, 2015
Sunshine, a man wearing a cloud t-shirt, an abrupt discussion about celery, loud territorial crows, peppers picked for pickling, waving goodbye, a fat yellow rose that smelled so good, a quiet phoebe, bees on lavender, always bees on lavender (snipping some of those stems and wrapping them in a wet napkin), a hawk landing closer to me than any hawk has before, monarch and little white butterflies, a translucent pink rose with five petals, the few summer squash and tomatoes still hanging on to their vines—unwilling to let summer go, and the tiny wilted purple flower that hitched a ride on the toe of my shoe.
Monday, September 21, 2015
p. 49, 2015
I am happy to have my short prose piece, The Rancher Whispered, in the sixth volume of West Marin Review, a literary and arts journal. Copies are now available at a variety of independent bookstores in Northern California, and online. Details here.
Thursday, September 3, 2015
My Paris Bedroom, 2011
I'm pretty sure I've shown you this photo before. It is the bedroom of the Paris apartment I stayed in during the winter of 2011. Why are you seeing it again? Because I woke up this morning thinking about Carol. Carol is an American letter carrier traveling alone in Paris in the short film, 14e arrondissement, from the anthology film, Paris, je t'aime (2006). What I want you to do is click on 14e arrondissement at the bottom of this post and watch Carol. The short film is 6 minutes and 45 seconds. You will not forget Carol. One day you will wake up missing her and you will return to her in this short film about an essay with a poem buried inside. #threepoemsthursday
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
I found this book at my dad's house several years ago. I've just turned to page 301 to read about The 1980s Survival Cabin.
The author claims a survival cabin can be built for about $2000. He tells me it will be adequate in size, attractive from the outside and inside, permanent, and can be built easily by unskilled labor in about two weeks, with only hand tools.
He made these claims in 1979. I wonder what it would cost now.
I'll also need a very quiet and flat piece of land, with at least one magnificent tree.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Essential Wisdom, 2015
What are you doing?
I'm about to make dinner, but right now I'm watching old Aerosmith videos on YouTube. Crazy. Cryin'. Life just started feeling too serious and I felt like returning to something that reminded me of my more rebellious days. So here I am. It happens. We like what we like. Did you know both Stephen Dorff (from Sofia Coppola's movie, Somewhere) and Josh Holloway (Sawyer from Lost) are in the Cryin' video with Alicia Silverstone? All of them so young... Yes. It is true.
Monday, August 17, 2015
My New T-Shirt, 2015
Sometimes I feel like the dinosaur with the hummus.
There were some people in line in front of me at one of our neighborhood cafés this weekend, and as they neared the pastry case the man said, Oh, what do they have here? I bet everything is whole grain..., and the woman finished his sentence, or vegan! And then they both slapped their legs, leaned their heads back, and let out a, BAHAHAHAHAHA! The funny thing is this café doesn't serve one whole grain or vegan pastry. I kind of wish they did. Anyway, this reminded me of the clear stigma attached to the word vegan. Notice the knee slapping did not occur until after she said vegan.
Maybe it's less about the definition and more about the actual word. Say it out loud. Vegan. It does have a dour sound, no? There are other terms. Plant-based, whole food plant-based, or simply herbivore. I rather like herbivore, although it doesn't appear to be working for the dinosaur, and it doesn't really help when ordering a meal in a restaurant, which requires a lot of, can I order this without ______? And a lot of servers wincing behind their smiles.
I get it. For many years I proudly answered, zero dietary restrictions, whenever asked. I felt I was doing everyone a favor. I was low-maintenance. Then I slowly transitioned from a pescetarian diet, to vegetarian, to dinosaur, and life changed.
Eating at home is pretty easy, it does require thought, but mostly nutritional thought, something I should have always been considering. I've enjoyed combining new tastes, textures, colors, etc. in my own kitchen. It is being out and about in the world that is challenging. And I live in San Francisco. I know some people believe we are all free love vegans over here on the left coast, but we are not.
So I'm finding myself in situation after situation where I'm different, really different, and this is new to me. Blending in quietly didn't used to be a problem. It's a little harder now. So I decided to just go with it and do things like buy this t-shirt. I feel good. My body feels healthy. Laugh if you must, but I'm going to carry on. I hope it builds character.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Sometimes coming here, to my blog, feels like walking around my high school, as an adult, in summer.
I recently went to update the list of blogs I follow and found they were nearly all inactive. So, it seems we've come full circle. This is a quiet place again.
There is a slim possibility I'll run into a few old friends, but there won't be any crowds. It leaves me feeling somewhat melancholy, but maybe it's better this way.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
"People who suspect the existence of something better and deeper, and desire these things, are, I believe, likely to abstain more and more from all ridiculous external show, the nearer they approach, through experience and action, to the reality of their dream; on the other hand, however, the further away from it they are, the more they cling to such flaunting display."
Excerpt from Green Henry by Gottfried Keller
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Late May, 2015
I recently bought this book, secondhand. When I opened it up for the first time last night I found this surprise, Michael Ondaatje's signature.
Michael Ondaatje held this book in his hands and signed it.
He is the only man my husband does not want me to run into when he's out of town, even though he too is married, and older than my father. I do love a good book. And have you ever seen the photograph of him in the blue sweater? #threepoemsthursday
Friday, May 22, 2015
I just listened to Antonya Nelson reading Mavis Gallant's short story, "When We Were Nearly Young", again.
A perfect match.
It's just so damn good. Sometimes I crave the recording and play it just to fill me up with, I'm not sure what. Quality, I guess. Nelson's voice paired with Gallant's story as fuel, inspiration to push myself further.
Find thirty-two minutes and fifty-seven seconds, get comfortable, and click here.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Madalena's Bowl, 2015
This is the bowl Madalena uses when she bakes bread.
Have you heard of the film Found Memories? Watching it felt as if I'd had the luxury of staring at a painting for two hours while imagining life beyond the still image, and eventually entering the scene myself--walking through fragments of landscape, entering the worn architecture of a rural Brazilian village, and slowly meeting its faint ghostlike residents.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Dancing Above the Garden, 2015
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
The weather in San Francisco seems to have retreated back to winter. I'm wearing a puffy jacket and sitting in an ugly little cafe with great coffee and a barista with eclectic taste in music. When I sat down it was Redbone's Come and Get Your Love, and now Blondie is purring ooo, whoa, ooo, whoa. His music makes it feel good in here.
I saw a sad mattress leaning against an apartment door on my way down the hill this morning, the same door that had a dirty old television blocking it on Saturday. This is supposed to be a fairly nice neighborhood, but it definitely has its oddities.
On a cold grey day, it feels good to escape into a place without wind, arrange coffee, notebook, and pen on a table, lean back into a chair, listen to some good music, and see where the mind drifts.
There's a pudgy guy in the cafe, sitting in a black leather chair, wearing basketball shorts and reading a tiny paperback with a raised gold title. Science fiction? Mystery? Romance? I don't care. A huge loud truck is idling just outside the door.
Now September by Earth, Wind & Fire, which always reminds me of our wedding. September is the best month in San Francisco, and a wonderful month for honeymooning. September makes it easier to ignore the truck.
I've let my cappuccino sit for too long. It's cold and flabby, but not all bad. I'm still drinking it... Everything seems okay--the grey sky, loud city, intricacies of this wallflower cafe--and I'm feeling such an affection for it all. I have some unexpected free time today and I guess I just started feeling cheesy and happy to be alive. I know, but... No one reads blog posts anymore, right? Might as well say what I please.
Earlier today, about a block before I saw the mattress, I started craving frozen fish sticks. No idea where this originated. I haven't bitten into a fish stick in decades, but I used to love them. I was obsessed with frozen entrees as a child. Our treat for staying with a babysitter was a TV dinner or pot pie. I liked frozen fried chicken too.
The closest I might have come to a fish stick in the recent past would be a Filet-O-Fish in a McDonald's, but sheesh, I don't even know the last time that happened. I did pass a McDonald's in Newport Beach a few months ago and the idea crossed my mind. Memories of childhood... But sadly, I did not follow through. I probably drank a green smoothie or ate a salad instead. What a disgrace.
I need to waltz into the Safeway frozen foods section and find the familiar box with the Gorton's fisherman on it. But does Gorton's still exist? Do they still freeze sticks of fish? I'd also need prepared mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish to make a tartar sauce like my dad used to make.
When I was an undergrad I'd buy hamburger buns and sliced American cheese and knock off the Filet-O-Fish by placing four fish sticks on a bun I'd toast with cheese and then slather with the tartar mentioned above, but it was never the same without the squishy bun McDonald's serves.
Mom loved the Filet-O-Fish too. I wonder if she ever hits the drive-thru for memory's sake.
And when I was a little girl I'd often walk to McDonald's with my grandpa. During our strolls he'd always ask, what do you feel like? I'd say, a fish filet (I never referred to the Filet-O-Fish by its proper name), and he'd say...
Wait! Now Janis Joplin's Piece of My Heart. I think I'm in love with this barista and this cold coffee, and the ugly furniture.
So anyway... As I was saying. Grandpa asks, what do you feel like? (As in, what are you going to order at McDonald's today?) I say, a fish filet. He says, you don't look like a fish filet. I laugh hysterically, every time.
It's quieter now. A white van with Del Monte Meat Co. on the side is parked outside the door of the cafe. Probably a delivery for Leopold's. The guy with the tiny paperback is gone. I don't know this song.
Did you watch the Redbone video? How the heck is the audience just sitting there? I was listening to the song and couldn't help but sit-dance on the sofa while typing. Then I had to stand up and play it again. And maybe a few more times.
...if you want some
Take some, get it together, baby
Come and get your love
Monday, April 13, 2015
I woke very early this morning thinking about a quiet unassuming film I saw on Saturday. The main character experiences a period of absolute sadness, but it is followed by a beautiful struggle fueled by hope. I think it was about listening to oneself, and determination. It was so different than anything I've seen lately. I'm glad to know such films are being made.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
While visiting Tree Fall today we were essentially accosted by a small, middle-aged, very enthusiastic woman, apparently a docent for this particular work of art. As we walked in the door she immediately began to joyfully push other artworks in the park on us.
Do you have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure? You've seen Wood Line? You know about the eucalyptus overtaking the cypress? Of course, you must have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure. And you know about Spire? The For-Site Foundation video? Yes, we have seen it. I offer an inauthentic smile. Young trees will eventually obscure the sculpture. You have the Andy Goldsworthy brochure, right? Okay. Okay. Just let your eyes adjust. I love when you walk in and can't see anything at all and then your eyes adjust and it's like, wow.
But I saw Tree Fall clearly when I walked into the space. It didn't seem at all dark to me. My eyes did not need to adjust. I strain to smile again, looking up at the tree and wondering if she will leave us alone with the art, at all. Ever?
Next she pulls out a large hardcover book and begins rapidly turning pages and recounting all she believes to be highlights of the creation of Tree Fall. There were 40 volunteers! This is his daughter. They mixed clay with hair and straw. She points up. Here's a piece of straw!
Then she begins promoting the Presidio in general. There are these great talks on Thursday evenings, she gushes. There's a play they talked about recently, what was it...Ondine! My husband thinks he knows the play and asks if Ondine is a mermaid. No! Definitely not. She lives in the water, but she is -not- a mermaid. Okay. The play will take place beside the ocean, at the Sutro Baths. Outside! At night! It might be cold, but...
I decide this is her time, not mine. I look into her eyes. She's so excited. She cannot wait to see this play. I forget about Andy Goldsworthy and Tree Fall and leave with a vision of Ondine spotlit in the night fog.
Lithograph of Carlotta Grisi in the Pas de l'ombre from the original production of Ondine, ou La naïade at Her Maejesty's Theatre. London, 1843.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Space to Think, 2015
Have you ever gotten into your third or fourth reading of a poem and realized, although you liked it enough to return to it, you never really understood it, and your returns might not have been for pleasure, but for understanding? And as you continued reading and felt yourself slide into that perfectly shaped space the poet carved out of this world for you, did part of you rejoice in it being precisely what was meant to happen, while another part sunk down deep, dwelling on how close you came to missing it?
Monday, February 16, 2015
Blood Orange Valentine, 2015
When somebody loves you
It's no good unless he loves you
All the way
Apparently, when I was two years old, I liked to sing this Frank Sinatra song in the car, especially belting out the line All the way. I'm not sure if I actually remember singing it, the three lines above do feel familiar, or if it's just the story of my singing that I recall.
I still feel the same way about that line. The All the way part of love, it is very important.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
I found this leaf on page 36 of Memory Won't Save Me: a haibun by Mimi White. I don't recall placing the leaf there. The receipt was still in the back of the book. I bought it on November 5, 2013, 2:55 PM, at RiverRun Bookstore during my first and only trip to Portsmouth, NH. Rachael had written about Mimi White in September of the same year. She began with, "Mimi White's poems quiet me." Beneath the name of the store, address, and phone number on the receipt it reads, "Home of the Brave!" I really liked that little store. And now we have almost moved through January 2015. The sunlight has moved off the oranges and lemons, leaving them less enchanting than they were just moments before. Time...
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
A Place in the Country, 2015
Lately, I have found myself copying passage after passage of W.G. Sebald's work into my notebooks. First, from his novel, The Rings of Saturn, and most recently from his book of essays about place, memory, and creativity, A Place in the Country. Some of the passages I've copied from A Place in the Country are Sebald's own writing and some are the words of the creative minds that helped shape his work.
He drags me down and through what sometimes seems the worst of human existence and then lifts me up into some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read, leaving me feeling as Sally felt about Harry in the end of When Harry Met Sally, during that final New Year's Eve scene. Just when Sebald carries me to the point of feeling I must put the book down for a while, if not for good, he'll throw something like this out there.
There can scarcely be a brighter eulogy than Heinrich’s funeral oration for his young cousin Anna, who passed away long before her time. When the carpenter is rubbing down her newly finished coffin with pumice, Heinrich recalls, it becomes “as white as snow, and only the very faintest reddish touch of the fir shone through, giving the tint of apple blossom. It looked far more beautiful and dignified than if it had been painted, gilded, or even brass-bound. At the head, the carpenter had according to custom constructed an opening with a sliding cover through which the face could be seen until the coffin was lowered into the grave; now there still had to be set in a pane of glass which had been forgotten, and I rowed home to get one. I knew that on top of a cupboard there lay a small old picture frame from which the picture had long since disappeared. I took the glass that had been forgotten, placed it carefully in the boat, and rowed back. The carpenter was roaming about a little in the woods looking for hazelnuts; meanwhile, I tested the pane of glass, and when I found that it fitted the opening, I dipped it in the clear stream, for it was covered with dust, and clouded, and with care I succeeded in washing it without breaking it on the stones. Then I lifted it and let the clear water run off it, and when I held up the shining glass high against the sun and looked through it, I saw three boy-angels making music; the middle one was holding a sheet of music and singing, the other two were playing old-fashioned violins, and they were all looking upward in joy and devotion; but the vision was so thinly and delicately transparent that I did not know whether it was hovering in the rays of the sun, in the glass, or merely in my imagination. When I moved the glass, the angels instantly vanished, until suddenly, turning the glass another way, I saw them again. Since then I have been told that copperplate engravings or drawings which have lain undisturbed for a great many years behind glass communicate themselves to the glass during these years, in the dark nights, and leave behind upon it something like a reflected image.”
And he makes it impossible for me to put the book down and leaves me wondering if I will ever find another who sees the world quite the way he does.
In the passage above, from A Place in the Country, Sebald quotes a character Gottfried Keller created for his 1855 novel, Der grüne Heinrich.
Friday, January 9, 2015
Or Tea, 2014
"I will cast this shadow into the air, where it may never be seen, or where it may be seen at a great distance, and only by one person, someone I will never know. The point is to cast the shadow out into the air."
Excerpt from How I Get to Write by Roxana Robinson
I saw a notification that someone named Sarah pinned my Woolgathering by Patti Smith photograph from Instagram onto one of her Pinterest boards. I clicked on "Sarah" to open her Pinterest profile and see, Sarah who? Oh, Sarah from Edge of Evening blog. Yes, she's written many literary posts I've enjoyed. I notice her "cook" board. Tasty. I see something called Jacked-Up Banana Bread. I'm intrigued. I'm already following her "writers" board, but as happens when one gets into such a hopping mood, I begin scanning all of her past "writers" pins. I see Michael Ondaatje, Marilynne Robinson, Mavis Gallant, and all the way at the bottom I find this little treasure from The New Yorker. I read it (read, not scan), every word, and I wonder if I have read it before. I believe I have. No matter. If I have read it, fine, it was clearly time for me to read it again. And I think, all time online is not lost, there is much to glean, and I might start drinking instant coffee.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Proof Copy, 2014
I recall my long exhale after releasing a certain post into the world earlier this year. What would follow was still unknown.
There have been friends and family who have read After the Sour Lemon Moon and shared their thoughts about the story with me. There are those who quietly peruse this blog that have purchased my book, curious to see how I would write in book form. And there are the people who stumbled upon a book by an unfamiliar author and decided to take a chance, open that first page, and enter Sophia's world.
You have all made me very happy.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Day Seven, 2014
There is a clarity that reveals itself when I am alone for an extended period of time. It's like shaking the sand out of a blanket after a day at the beach, so all that is left is the blanket itself.
I recently saw Marilynne Robinson interviewed. She spoke of editing and how she had little need for it. She rarely changes what she writes. She nails it on her first pass. I knew in that moment that my process had nothing in common with hers. Her blankets are always clean. And I don't think this is something that might change for me after years of practice. It's not just my writing, it's my entire life, unlike Marilynne Robinson, I never begin clean. All of my starts are covered in sand.
It's taken me ten days of being alone to remember what clarity feels like. My decisions are less hurried. Priorities seem to sort themselves. Nothing important is missed.
This was what it was like when I lived alone. I never understood why my boyfriend at the time had to keep such a tight to-do list (or why he was so specific about the way each piece of his clothing should be folded). I felt what needed to get done got done. It happened naturally. Why fret? Why feel that weight of the dreaded list? He lived alone too. Apparently, we were very different.
I've found living together often means carrying around a sandy blanket. I get distracted by the presence of another. Some of those distractions are pesky, but most are good distractions that add layers to my life. I see and do things I might have otherwise missed. It's messier, but my life gains dimension.
But this does not mean I should forgo the one solo trip I take each year. Every year I get attached to the way things are. I think, I don't really need to go anywhere by myself. I spend enough time alone writing. But I'm wrong and I'm thankful to share my life with someone who cares about what's best for me and tells me to go off on my own and uncover that true self, who isn't really so far away, and bring her back home.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Last night, deep into twilight, I was walking along the shoreline. It was very near dark and I thought of how I always tell Chris that I don't like walking over sand in the dark, how holes could get camouflaged and lead to twisted ankles, or worse. As I looked down, unable to see much of the sand or the steps I was taking, I realized I am less careful when I'm alone.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Salsa in Green Bowl, Upper Left, 2014
Have you read Laurie Colwin's essay, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant? I have, multiple times, and I just heard it read in a late September episode of Selected Shorts from PRI, the Next Stop, Greenwich Village episode.
"People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam."
I love this essay. I listened while eating breakfast, a simple and lovely plate of food I posted on Instagram. My photo showed an apple, a few pieces of sharp cheddar cheese, and a long slice of bread neatly cut in half. What I did not post was the last of the bag of Tostitos and the salsa that I ate after I finished the lovely plate of food, when I was still hungry.
It was perfect timing, listening to Laurie Colwin reminisce about washing arugula in her bathtub, eating the same toasted cheese dinner for six months, and her failed beef fondue, laughing at herself as I laughed at myself and finished off the tortilla chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
When I was younger I wasn't really aware of good light, no more than aligning my beach towel with the sun for the best tan.
It has me thinking of this song. I thought it was new, not from 1973.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
Friday, October 10, 2014
My View, 2014
I sit here in this large empty restaurant, contentedly eating my bowl of fruit and looking out at the bay.
A man with greasy hair and excellent posture walks in and sits down at the table directly across from mine, his back to the bay. He looks into my eyes while purposefully arranging on his table, a small paperback copy of Irrational Man beside a paper cup and a rumpled brown bag from another eating establishment.
Leaning back in his chair and crossing his right leg over his left, he opens his book and bites into his pain au chocolat. No one seems to mind.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
I'm sitting here inhaling the crazy delicious scent of the almond cake I have baking in the oven. I listened to a Dorothy Parker episode of Selected Shorts while pulling it all together. Earlier today I read two essays from Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and Lena Dunham's excerpt from her new book in The New Yorker.
I've been reading and writing and listening and thinking all day. A little baking too. It is and isn't as luxurious as one might think. Too much time wandering around in one's own mind is dangerous, yet so often where I find myself.
Yesterday, like Monday and Tuesday, was incredibly different from today, but I did make a point of visiting Browser Books to see if they had Dunham's new book. I wanted to buy it. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone.
I decide to read a few pages before bringing it up to the register. I don't love it. I'm not even sure I like it. It makes me uncomfortable. Part of me still wants to buy it, the part of me that hopes I’ll absorb a tiny percentage of what makes everyone love her so much. I leave the bookstore with Joan Didion instead.
I wake up today haunted by Dunham. I listen to her chat with Terry Gross. As mentioned, I read the excerpt from her book in The New Yorker. It's long for online reading, but I don't even pause. She can write. I consider buying the audio version of her book. She reads it herself. Finally, I request her book from the library. I simply don’t want to miss out. I would be missing out if I didn’t read it, right?
What is my problem? I like her, but maybe I selfishly want her to be different. I don’t want her to do things she’ll regret. I want her to stay away from crappy people. I want her to like herself more. I want to protect her in some way.
Dorothy Parker and Joan Didion certainly make people uncomfortable. What's the difference? Well, Dorothy Parker died a long time ago, she's beyond protection, and there's something about Joan Didion that makes me think she'd give me a sharp little slap in the face if I said I wanted to protect her.
Dunham's life is really none of my business, but she’s made it my business, she’s made it everyone’s business. Is there anyone who hasn’t talked about Lena Dunham this week?
Strangely, my feelings for this person I do not even know are awkward and stressful, but I’m realizing they shouldn’t be. She’s found a way to charm people by sharing her foibles, mistakes, and humiliations in a way that makes her feel better about them and leaves us all wanting to give her a big fat hug. Maybe I will buy the audio book and cancel my library request. Maybe I'll listen and read. I don't know. Maybe I’m the one who needs protecting.
Monday, September 22, 2014
"But we continued to talk, concluding that if wilderness was a state of mind--a perceived rather than actual condition of the environment--why not write a history of the wilderness idea?"
-Roderick Nash thinking back to the autumn of 1960 in his Preface to the Third Edition
I saw a reference to this book in the latest Orion. I'm just at the beginning, very intrigued by the author's original inspiration.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Have you ever felt off kilter, searching, hoping to put yourself back on track and feel at ease again, when you stumble upon the perfect something? For me it's often something I read, but it can also be a memory, a photograph, or passing a contented old man on the sidewalk. I'm sure you have your own collection.
Today I found a quote from Marilynne Robinson's novel, Housekeeping, at the top of an article in The Atlantic. I read it, paused, looked up, saw the few wonky little ceramic pieces I made as a young girl resting in my bay window, and I was again in upright position, restored.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Off the Shelf, 2014
I was flipping through a magazine today, came across an article titled On Privacy, and just stopped and stared at the title, for a long time. I'm not sure if I was originally questioning the meaning of the word privacy, trying to figure out what privacy means to me, or wondering how privacy fits into our culture today, but soon all of these questions were darting about in my mind at once.
So much has changed so rapidly. What we can do with our phones, all we've so quickly learned to take for granted. It's mind boggling.
I know some of it is beneficial, but at what cost? What have we lost?
I cannot stop thinking about Mildred's parlor walls in Fahrenheit 451, her way of distracting herself from the outside world and engaging with others at the same time, all in the privacy of her living room.
Then I think of what I always think of when I'm feeling overwhelmed, the simple mud cabin in The Temptation of Saint Anthony, the pitcher, loaf of black bread, and knife, the description of the sky as the sun sinks. I think of Saint Anthony sitting cross-legged and weaving mats. Flaubert took thirty years to write this book and I think it's time I read it again. In solitude, Saint Anthony does have to deal with his demons and his doubt, but isn't that as it should be?
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I bought Teju Cole's Open City after reading this blog post and finding out he had a fondness for Michael Ondaatje. What has lingered with me most is the end of the main character's visit to the American Folk Art Museum.
I lost all track of time before these images, fell deep into their world, as if all the time between them and me had somehow vanished, so that when the guard came up to me to say the museum was closing, I forgot how to speak and simply looked at him. When I eventually walked down the stairs and out of the museum, it was with the feeling of someone who had returned to the earth from a great distance.I love that.
I honestly do not recall how I learned of Stoner by John Williams, but I do know it was mentioned by someone online. Thank you, mystery reader*. I borrowed Stoner from the library. It is one of those heavy books worth the weight. It left me contemplating my life, and all of the lives that have touched mine. There is a quote in the introduction (read after the book, as always...) from an interview with the author that I've been thinking about. Williams is disenchanted with the way literature is taught.
"as if a novel or poem is something to be studied and understood rather than experienced."I'm with Williams on this one.
I found Rachel Zucker's The Pedestrians on the poetry table in Point Reyes Books. I almost always find something appealing in their little poetry section. The Pedestrians was published by Wave Books, and after reading Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, & Honey (Thanks, Shari), I had good feelings about Wave Books. Standing beside the poetry table, in a sort of up-for-anything mood, I opened The Pedestrians to the first entry in the fables section, jumped to the center of the page and read:
"Yes," she thought, through the haze of jet lag," there should be no limits placed on the value of a very fine cheese."I decided I wanted to read more. Done. What stayed?
"The mountains looked as real as a photograph."This sentence is a door into so many conversations. The way one perceives photography is endlessly fascinating to me.
Before bed last night I was trying to decide what I would read next, Lorrie Moore's Anagrams, or Sam Shepard's Great Dream of Heaven. I'd pulled Anagrams from a pile of books someone left in the entryway of our building. A few of the tenants do this, place books on the hall table to see if another tenant might be interested. I found Great Dream of Heaven while wandering City Lights several months ago. This is the first sentence in Anagrams:
Gerarad Maines lived across the hall from a woman named Benna, who four minutes into any conversation always managed to say the word penis.Although I found this beginning sentence fairly entertaining, I decided to end my day with Sam Shepard.
What are you reading?
*Mystery solved on August 13, 2014. I learned about Stoner while reading a post about poppy seed bread. Carina mentioned being lost in a book and I had to comment and ask what book she had been lost in. Stoner was her answer.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Someone I Met Earlier This Summer, in Palm Springs, 2014
I've been thinking about a phrase my friend Tiziana mentioned in an email. She wrote this email back in April. I know I have something to say about it, but it is still percolating...
"In Italian we would say "ha un suo perché" (it is a slang that we use when something unusual has its own reason to be)."
Thursday, July 31, 2014
- not finding the "debris and organic matter" in my dried beans and breaking a tooth
- stepping on a piece of broken glass while wearing espadrilles
- getting salmonella after eating raw eggs in cookie dough and cake batter all of these years episode-free
- walking between two cars with running engines, that happen to be blocking a crosswalk, when the rear car accidentally accelerates and crushes my knees between the two cars
- losing my memory
Posted by Denise Parsons at 1:49 PM
Monday, July 28, 2014
This is the second to last printed page of Michael Whitt's book of poems, La Ventana. The copyright is 1975.
It's such a beautiful book.
I poked around a bit and found that he began a general practice of medicine in a small town in Northern California 45 years ago and has remained a country doctor, writing poems, and watching birds.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Wednesday Poems, 2014
I found this slim weathered book of poems a little over a month ago. They were published in 1974. Ten poems. No page numbers. One blank page in the front, one in the back. I like that the price printed on the back is $1.50 and I was charged $10.00.
I sat down with these poems this morning and decided I would read each one before doing anything else. They were exactly what I needed.
Later, I typed the title and author's name into Google to see if I could learn more about the poems or Robert Bly's time in Point Reyes. I wondered if he ever actually lived there. The first return was Amazon. There wasn't much there. I read the one and only customer review.
these poems didn't work for me. I found them to be depressing and odd. Anyhow, it is a nice historical piece
What you see above is precisely what I found. She didn't capitalize the first letter of the first word of the first sentence and she did not punctuate the end of the last sentence. They didn't work for her. They were depressing and odd. She found her copy to be a nice historical piece.
I decided not to look any further. I didn't need to know more. I found peace and comfort inside this pale blue cover, on these numberless pages.