Monday, May 27, 2024

Saturday, June 17, 2023

About My Writing

Wildflower, 2021 

Just popping in here to let you know my first email will go out to my mailing list next week. I actually prefer writing here, but maybe it's time for a change. The emails about my writing will be few and far between, so I hope if you're already signed up that cadence suits you. If you haven't signed up yet, I hope you will. 

Sign up for my mailing list here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Autumn 2022

At the Park, Autumn 2022

Am I alone here now? I think so, but I'm not ready to let this space go, so I'm going to pop in and post a photo and a few words every once in a while. Why not. At this point, I don't really know what a blog is for, I'm not sure I've ever known, so I'm just going to share whatever I feel like sharing, like I always have.

I'm curious about so many things it is impossible to keep track of all I'd like to learn more about. The Montessori method of education is one of those things. Whenever it is mentioned I think, I should look this up. So I guess I finally did, at some point, because I found this quote in one of my old journals:

“The first step in becoming a Montessori teacher is to shed omnipotence and to become a joyous observer. If the teacher can really enter into the joy of seeing things being born and growing under his own eyes and clothe himself in the garment of humility, many delights are reserved for him that are denied to those who assume infallibility and authority in front of the class.” —Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential (1947)

I can see why I wanted to save it. Sure, it's about teaching, but it also seems a good first step in becoming a decent person. Shed omnipotence, joyously observe, practice humility. Yes, yes, and yes. Assuming infallibility is ridiculous. Thank you, past self, for saving this for me.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Everything Changes

Tiny Moon, 2021

Hello. Thank you for visiting.

I've recently gotten word that the "Follow by Email" feature on this blog platform is going to be discontinued in July 2021. I'm not sure when I'll be writing my next post here, but if you’d like to keep informed about my other writing, I’ve added a section to the bottom of the home page of my website where you can add your name to my email list. I’ll let you know when I am releasing something new into the world.

Be well.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

What Will It Be?

After Hill 88, 2021

How has close to an entire year passed since I’ve been here? So much has changed, yet many things remain the same, at their core, including me. 

Our country has new leadership, there are now multiple vaccines to help wind down this pandemic, and my hair is longer than it has ever been, yet the sun still rises and sets each day, the moon continues to move through its phases, and the same tree in front of my living area window dapples my light. 

My life is old and new. Just when I believe wisdom is settling in I discover something life-changing that was within my reach for years, but I missed, and I feel grateful, and humbled. I’m reminded there will always be more. More to appreciate. More to learn. 

I hear a robin nearby, belting out a tune—bold and beautiful. Is it a call to do something big today? What will it be?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Would you like someone to read to you?



Is anyone still out there? Anyone who isn't already communicating with me on Instagram? If so, hi there. It's nice to see you again.

I haven't been here in so long... Typing on this screen feels as if I've traveled back in time, which might not be such a bad thing, considering we're in the middle of a pandemic.

The pandemic is actually what made me think of this space. I wanted to let you know that I started recording myself reading "After the Sour Lemon Moon" aloud. My intention is to offer a space away from the stress so many of us are feeling about the current situation we are all in. Part one and part two are currently in my regular Instagram posts. Part three is coming soon.

I also contributed to a Point Reyes Books project called Quarantine Poems. You can watch a video of a poem being read to you each day. On Tuesday I read Ada Limón's poem, "Oranges & the Ocean." You can see it, as well as the other quarantine poems, by taking a look at Point Reyes Books on Instagram.

Thank you for stopping by.

Be safe. Be well.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

After the Sour Lemon Moon

We’re back in business! After the Sour Lemon Moon has a new printer.

If you'd like a copy for yourself, or to give as a gift, you can visit, call, or order online from your favorite independent local bookstore. After the Sour Lemon Moon can also be found in the usual online haunts, and as an eBook. 


Monday, June 25, 2018

Letting Go and Holding On

I've been returning to Annie Dillard's essay, Living Like Weasels. (Thanks, Chris.) I am particularly drawn to her last few paragraphs

her reflections on letting go,
"I would like to learn, or remember, how to live. I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. That is, I don't think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particularshall I suck warm blood, hold my tail high, walk with my footprints precisely over the prints of my hands?but I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical sense and the dignity of living without bias or motive."
and holding on.
"I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles."
If you haven't read Living Like Weasels, I highly recommend finding and reading the entire essay to see these excerpts in context, and feel the full force of Annie Dillard's raw, rugged, inquisitive nature, and if you have read it, I suggest a return.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spy of the First Person

Impermanence, 2018

I didn't even know it had been published. It was a library find. I don't think there's a better way to find a book than browsing.

I'm still in the trance this book, Sam Shepard's final work, Spy of the First Person, put me in. I can only describe this book as what appears to be an honest documentation of a creative mind making its final transition from here to wherever it is we go when we leave this place.

Although there is nothing about this slim book, with its strange dreamlike text surrounded by ample white space, that would classify it as a "page turner," it has a sense of urgency that once I'd picked it up would not let me put it down. It was much more like standing before Shepard in his rocking chair on his front porch and hearing him speak his final words than what I was actually doing, reading a book. I was not at all surprised to learn Patti Smith assisted Shepard in editing the manuscript.

"... I got to the hedge which was neither a camellia hedge or a hydrangea or anything like that. It was unidentifiable. There were white flowers coming out of it but I didn't quite know what they were. I can make him out through the white flowers, through the hedge. But I wasn't quite sure. I could make something out through there, but I wasn't sure what. Oh never mind, I'll figure it out later. That's the thing about later. You don't know what's coming up. You don't know how all the loose ends are going to gather together. Something for sure is going to happen but you don't know what it is. For instanceI'm outside, for instance. Out here with the birds and the bugs. Not exactly outside, but close enough. Just across the way. It's never like it was. The clouds. The big sky. The flowers. The chirping."

I'm now looking at everything I see through the lens of impermanence. The back cover categorizes the book as fiction, but it felt very real to me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Do you know about Slow Club Book Club?

 Selection #2, 2018

If you haven't heard of Slow Club Book Club by Literary North, you might want to check it out.

It's the first book club I've really wanted to join. All I had to do was read their introduction and I was hooked:
Did the frantic pace of 2017 drain the energy out of you? Are you looking for the calm quiet inside? Do you want to slowly enjoy a few good books with like-minded sloths? // If so, this is the book club for you. Just four books that will take us from January through December 2018. No commitments, no shouting, no rushing. // Sound good? Subscribe and we'll send you the brief, no-hassle details. // Slowly yours, Shari & Rebecca
We begin reading our next selection April 1st.

No hurry, obviously.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wait for the Light

Ranunculus, 2018

I read Pablo Neruda's poem, "Emerging," this morning. Then I read it again. Then I had it read to me. Then I read it one more time. I'll probably read it again later today.

This is the beginning of the poem:

A man says yes without knowing
how to decide even what the question is,
and is caught up, and then is carried along
and never again escapes from his own cocoon;
and that’s how we are, forever falling
into the deep well of other beings;
and one thread wraps itself around our necks,
another entwines a foot, and then it is impossible,
impossible to move except in the well —
nobody can rescue us from other people.

But this is just an excerpt. If you'd like to find the rest of this poem, and I think you should, I'm aware of a few options.

You can locate a copy of Neruda's book of poems, Extravagaria, and read it there. If you subscribe to The Paris Review, you can read this poem on their website. If you prefer someone read it to you, you are in luck. You can listen to The Paris Review's podcast, Episode 11, (also on their website, no subscription necessary) at the 01:22 mark and hear this poem in its entirety. Alternatively, if you can track down a copy of their Spring 1974 issue, you'll find this poem in print.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Blood Orange Upside-Down Cake

Before you read my recipe you should know that I rarely follow recipes. There are exceptions, of course, but typically I look at a bunch of recipes and either combine them or select one and make a bunch of changes.

Most of my inspiration for this cake came from this Baking the Goods recipe, found during a Google search while trying to find an old recipe I'd once made. I never found the old recipe, but I was still very pleased with this cake.

There are just so many things to consider with recipes. There's what you happen to have in your pantry and in your refrigerator. There are your personal preferences. There are the kitchen tools you own and do not own. There is the heat of your oven. Your elevation. Your mood. And on and on and on. It's kind of a miracle that recipes ever work at all.

So, since some pals on Instagram asked, I'm just going to tell you how I made this cake this afternoon. I'll try and remember as many details as possible. You'll have to consider all of the items in the paragraph above and make changes where applicable.

Here we go... 

Blood Orange Upside-Down Cake

2 tablespoons Miyoko's vegan butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 small blood oranges
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup instant polenta
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Crushed seeds from 10 green cardamom pods
1/2 cup raw sugar
One 5.3 ounce container of vanilla soy yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil + enough to grease a cake pan
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons flax meal 
Zest from your 3 small blood oranges

Grease cake pan and set aside.

Put 3 tablespoons of of flax meal + 9 tablespoons of water in a small bowl, whisk together with a fork, and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and pour into bottom of cake pan.

Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over melted butter in cake pan.

Zest all 3 oranges and set zest aside.

Thinly slice oranges, leaving peel intact, and gently place enough slices over the butter and brown sugar to cover the bottom of the cake pan.

Slice off the peels of the remaining orange slices, rough chop, and fill in the open spaces around the slices in the cake pan. Set extra chopped orange pieces aside.

Crack open cardamom pods, remove seeds, and crush seeds in mortar with pestle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, polenta, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. Set aside.

In a second medium bowl combine raw sugar, yogurt, and 1/2 cup olive oil and whisk together until combined and smooth.

Take flax meal and water you set aside earlier and whisk with fork one more time. It should have thickened by now. Add all of it to wet ingredients, along with almond extract, and whisk again until combined and smooth.

Add orange zest and any remaining chopped orange pieces to wet ingredients and gently stir to distribute evenly.

Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, adding only 1/3 of dry ingredients at a time. Fold each addition gently, only folding until all dry ingredients are wet.

Gently and evenly spoon the batter over the orange slices in the cake pan and carefully smooth out the top. It needn't be perfect. The top of the cake will eventually be the bottom of the cake.

My cake baked in only 25 minutes, but my oven runs pretty hot. What you're looking for is a light golden brown cake into which you can insert a sharp knife or toothpick into the center and have it come out clean. Maybe check it for the first time at 20 or 25 minutes and then go from there, keeping an eye on it and testing it at 5-minute intervals.

Remove the cake from the oven once the knife/toothpick comes out clean and let it rest in the cake pan for 15 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Place a plate on top of the cake pan and hold the cake pan and plate together with a thick folded dishtowel/pot holders/oven mitts (the cake pan is probably still hot) and invert it quickly. The cake should release onto the plate. Mine did.

Let the cake cool for a bit on the plate. I think I waited about 10 or 15 minutes before taking my first slice..

That's it. Enjoy!

Monday, December 18, 2017

There Are Stars


I don't like writing about art, visual art. Or film, or poetry, or prose, really. Yet I've done all of the above, and have learned of great works by others who have done the same. Still, what I find on my own is always what I favor most. Much of the magic is in the finding, and then watching the formerly unknown film or painting or poem or novel as it opens up to me.

I'll return to the best work again and again, if I can find it, but I wonder if my returns are less about the great works themselves and more about attempting to reclaim the magic that was in my initial moment of discovery, and how my first experience with the work changed me. But can these things be separated? Isn't it all intertwined—the work, the discovery of the work, the way the work changes the viewer? Doesn't it all combine and add another layer to each person who sees the work? 

Part of me wants to tell everyone I know to get to the seventh floor of SFMOMA before January 1st, when the exhibition that holds the work I discovered Friday, stayed with for over an hour, and then returned to with someone special on Saturday for closer to two hours, and share this experience with me, but I hesitate. 

I know my telling will subtract something from all the work can be, and I even worry that the someone special I introduced to the work on Saturday was unable to feel what I felt on Friday, when I walked into a particular room on the seventh floor of the museum, without a single preconceived notion, and felt myself begin to change.

“There are stars exploding around you
And there is nothing, nothing you can do”

Lyrics in this work I reference, such as the above, are drawn from parts of Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir’s poem, "Feminine Ways."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Joan Didion on The Rock

Imagining Alcatraz, 2017

I moved to San Francisco seventeen years ago, yet I've never visited Alcatraz. I haven't had the desire, with the exception of contemplating seeing Ai Weiwei's artwork there. Missing that exhibition was probably a mistake. Yes, it was a mistake. I meant to go, but then kept thinking later, later, then it was gone. But the idea of boarding a crowded ferry and being part of a large group of tourists shown around the island by a guide... Nope, not appealing.  Not at all.

I've been thinking about Joan Didion lately, she never leaves my mind for very long. I decided to dip back into Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The first thing I turned to was her 1967 essay, "Rock of Ages." The place she describes, and its three inhabitants, is enticing in a strange fairy tale sort of way.

In her first paragraph she begins to describe her attraction to this former prison:

"It is not an unpleasant place to be, out there on Alcatraz with only the flowers and the wind and a bell buoy moaning and the tide surging through the Golden Gate, but to like a place like that you have to want a moat."

And she continues in the next paragraph:

"I sometimes do, which is what I am talking about here."

Later in the essay she explains how she "tried dutifully to summon up some distaste, some night terror of the doors locking and the boat pulling away."

And then she closes:

"But the fact of it was that I liked it out there, a ruin devoid of human vanities, clean of human illusions, an empty place reclaimed by the weather where a woman plays an organ to stop the wind's whining and an old man plays ball with a dog named Duke. I could tell you that I came back because I had promises to keep, but maybe it was because nobody asked me to stay."

I finish reading and I'm left wishing someone actually did ask her to stay, and that I could somehow travel back to 1967 and find a way to become inhabitant number five, at least for a little while.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Good Bones

Light in the Dark, 2017

Reading a poem like Maggie Smith's "Good Bones" presses hard, it leaves a bruise. But for me, what also rises to the surface is a sense of feeling grounded, walking on solid earth again. Such a relief, after treading so lightly, for so long, hiding from what I feared, or attempting to ignore it, desperately concentrating all energy on the good, the kind, the beautiful, but none of it ever really coming into focus, always distorted by that greasy smudge of fear. "Good Bones" just addresses it all, puts the fear and sadness and everything else right out there, makes us deal with it, but note how Smith ends the poem with the word beautiful. Terrible things are out there. Some of these things are within our control, many are not. Beautiful things are out there too. When I remember to acknowledge these conflicting truths, fear loses some its power, I can direct my energy, and it is possible to clearly see what is good again.

This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful. 

 Excerpt from Maggie Smith's poem, "Good Bones."

Monday, September 18, 2017

May Sarton Wisdom

Stinson, Summer - 2017

I can tell you that solitude
Is not all exaltation, inner peace
Where the soul breathes and work can be done.
Solitude exposes the nerve,
Raises up ghosts.
The past, never at rest, flows through it.

-from May Sarton's Gestalt at Sixty

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Ritual, 2017

I've always had a soft spot for individuals with a wild side...

"On my feet again, I explored the abandoned silver mines in the canyon walls, found a few sticks of dynamite but no caps or fuses. Disappointing; but there was nothing in that area anyway that required blowing up. I climbed through the caves that led down to the foot of Mooney Falls, 200 feet high. What did I do? There was nothing that had to be done. I listened to the voices, the many voices, vague, distant but astonishingly human, of Havasu Creek. I heard the doors creak open, the doors creak shut, of the old forgotten cabins where no one with tangible substance or the property of reflecting light ever entered, ever returned. I went native and dreamed away days on the shore of the pool under the waterfall, wandered naked as Adam under the cottonwoods, inspecting my cactus gardens. The days became wild, strange, ambiguousa sinister element pervaded the flow of time. I lived narcotic hours in which like the Taoist Chuang-tse I worried about butterflies and who was dreaming what. There was a serpent, a red racer, living in the rocks of the spring where I filled my canteens; he was always there, slipping among the stones or pausing to mesmerize me with his suggestive tongue and cloudy haunted primeval eyes. Damn his eyes. We got to know each other rather too well I think. I agonized over the girls I had known and over those I hoped were yet to come. I slipped by degrees into lunacy, me and the moon, and lost to a certain extent the power to distinguish between what was and what was not myself: looking at my hand I would see a leaf trembling on a branch. A green leaf. I thought of Debussy, of Keats and Blake and Andrew Marvell. I remembered Tom o'Bedlam. And all those lost and never remembered. Who would return? To be lost again? I went for walks. I went for walks. I went for walks and on one of these, the last I took in Havasu, regained everything that seemed to be ebbing away."
                                                         -Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's Called Taproot

Space to Breathe, 2017

Did you know there is a magazine out there without ads, created for makers, doers & dreamers, with sections titled head, hands, and heart?

Yes, it exists. It’s called Taproot.

I’m honored to have my writing in their latest issue, GROW, in the heart section, accompanied by a papercut illustration by the talented Jennifer Judd-McGee.

The people who pull this magazine together are the types who don’t have a problem dedicating their first two pages, as well as their last page, to a peaceful floral print, and this makes me happy.

We all need a little space to breathe.

Thanks for doing what you do, Taproot.

Issue 22 :: GROW

You can find more of my work in these earlier issues of Taproot:

Issue 6 :: WATER

Issue 3 :: RETREAT

Friday, June 2, 2017

Things I Don't Want to Forget

Meadow Trail, May 2017

The young man with glasses and neat short pants who sat next to me in the cafe window and slowly drank his espresso and small glass of water, without a sound, his phone resting untouched on the counter before him.

Seeing my mom's handwriting inside a small note card with a gold pineapple embossed on the front.

The taste of a warm foil-wrapped burrito eaten in a meadow after a hike.

The afternoon there was a fleeting soft space between my apartment and the sandwich shop, where bracing wind ceased, sun shone, and street sounds were muted.

The translucent green of the cresting wave I knew I couldn't capture with my phone.

The way I slice an apple.

The morning we sat at a picnic table and ate an entire loaf of Brickmaiden's Pain au gros Sel (salted potato) as an impromptu breakfast.

The day all of the old men I saw in North Beach had Grandpa John's eyes.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Lunch, 2017

I've seen young furled ferns while hiking and I have always admired their beauty, but never had any idea if they were edible. I did know some people ate a fern called fiddlehead, so when I, always interested in experimenting with a new fruit or vegetable, saw them at the farmers market, I snatched them up immediately and took them home.

Once I got home, things became a bit more complicated. I tried to do some research online, but as is often the case, there were a variety of opinions, and I wasn't sure who to trust. For instance, it wasn't exactly clear how I should clean the fiddleheadswhich cleaning specifics I should classify as necessary and which I could write off as too precious. Each fern was heavily decorated with brown papery threads. I didn't know if the threads were only undesirable from a textural perspective, or inedible.

I also learned quickly that the fiddlehead eaten raw or undercooked could make a person sick. I saw the word toxins, I saw carcinogenic, and I saw clear instructions to thoroughly boil them to make them safe to eat. The amount of boiling varied. I started wondering if I should eat them at all, but that went away quickly. Maybe I've spent too much time with my daredevil father. I moved forward.

I cleaned them up, still unsure if they were quite right, and boiled them for 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the boiling meant that they lost their bright color, the vibrant green you see in so many photos, but I'd decided that I wouldn't risk poisoning myself for aesthetic purposes.

While my penne boiled I made a new mess by trying to clean up my now boiled fiddleheads a bit more. Then I trimmed the bruised ends (I surely could have done that earlier, but...) and cut them into bite-size pieces (I thought some of the unfurled parts were too long. I'm one of those people that isn't fond of huge lettuce leaves in my salad, or giant pieces of broccoli I cannot fit into my mouth in my stir-fry.) The second cleaning and trimming was followed by a sauté in olive oil with garlic and capers. I tossed the fully prepared fiddleheads with al dente penne and squeezed fresh lemon juice on top.

It really was a delicious lunch, but I'm not sure fiddleheads are worth the worry and preparation time. Wouldn't I have been pleased with any vegetable prepared with olive oil, capers, garlic, and lemon? I think so. I know so.

Still, I might try preparing them again. As with most things in life, listening to advice, reading instructions, and watching what others do will only get you so far. There is no substitute for hands-on experience. Learning, and the comfort that follows, takes time.

My bowl is empty. At the moment I appear to be alive, and not feeling at all woozy. Cross your fingers for me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

She's Got a Way

Transition, 2017

Of course, I flip directly to the Linda Pastan poem, and smack-dab in the middle I find these lines:

I've started to dismantle my life already, throwing
out letters from people I remember loving, (14–15)

And they stick, like a bur to a sweater.

-Excerpt from Linda Pastan's poem, Plunder, in The Paris Review, No. 220.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Today Felt Like

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

This afternoon, as I was leaving my apartment building, I saw a little boy, maybe four or five years old, with the viewfinder of a beat up digital camera held to his eye. He was alone at the base of our front stairs. I surprised him when I walked out the door. He stepped to the side, where I then saw his mother. She told me he liked my stairs. I told him to go right ahead and enjoy them, then I looked back at them myself. I’d never really paid much attention to them before. They are mostly terracotta tiles, with what appear to be hand-painted tiles showing on a stair face every so often. They’re a bit beat up, but still in fairly good shape for a building standing since the 1920s. It had been kind of a melancholy day up to this point, but this observant little boy changed my view. I know he helped me find this cloud. He might have also made the sun feel warmer, the air more brisk, and even had something to do with my climbing up and down this city's hills at a quicker clip than usual. Thanks, little guy, wherever you are. I hope when you are a man you are able to look back at those photos of our stairs and remember what today felt like.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


January is running out.
It will never be replaced.

I am tasting my tea,
watching steam lift from its surface.

I can make another cup, just like this one,
but I cannot add another day to this month.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Addicted to Hope

Fog, 2016

I woke up thinking about expectations and disappointments today. Letdowns have always been and always will be a part of my life. Why? Because I'm addicted to hope. It's nothing new. I don't know if I've read too many books, seen too many movies... It's everywhere, really. Plays, musicals, television, blogs, podcasts. A conflict is introduced. A resolution closes things out. And even though the resolution isn't always positive, it can be a letdown, there will be another conflict, with a better resolution. There always is. But long before most of these things were part of my life, I was hopeful, a believer.

When I was 4 years old and in kindergarten my teacher told our class we were going to China. I was absolutely ecstatic. I firmly believed her, obviously. Why would she lie to us? I rushed home to tell my mother. When she thoughtfully tried to manage my expectations, I was appalled. She wasn't there! She didn't know! We were going to China! When the day arrived and we sat on the floor eating bowls of poorly cooked white rice I was shocked, and then deflated. I'd never really liked that teacher, but this seemed a particularly cruel joke.

Oh, I forgot to mention that on my first day of kindergarten, my introduction to the whole concept of school, when most of the children were crying, I was excited to visit this new place and meet new people and start learning. Hopeful. Okay, back to the story... 

I don't remember if any of the other children were upset or even aware of what I saw as profound disillusionment. I don't think so, because I recall feeling very alone. But I did not give up on teachers. Although this teacher was an utter disappointment, due to her lie (I know the word lie seems strong, but I was a very serious child) about China, the way I feared raising my hand and asking her if I could go to the bathroom during Weekly Reader, and an array of other unfortunate events, I did not resolve to distrust all teachers.

As it turns out, the next teacher I met, my first grade teacher, remains my favorite teacher. Because that's the way it goes. When times are tough it means something better is around the corner. This too shall pass. Right? I don't really know how to live another way. The bus breaks down. There is the pleasure of unexpected downtime. A bad breakup? Love will come again. Even when something is so tragic I know the only thing that will aid healing is time, no matter how slowly it seems to move, time does pass. And even if it seems implausible, I know, deep down, joy will eventually return to my life.

This coping mechanism has carried me far, but it began to falter this year. I've never been an avid follower of politics or current events, but I did keep informed about most major world issues, until I snapped in early November. I reached capacity. Part of the reason for this is what the rapid advance of technology has made available to us, at such incredible speed, and the other part is the number and intensity of actual events taking place. Since snapping I have avoided radio, newspaper, online news, talking heads of all sorts, and people who focus their attention in these areas.

I've instead gravitated toward nature, albeit mostly urban nature, literature, beauty, peace, and the belief in the capacity for human kindness that I know still exists. I haven't decided if this is a sustainable way to live my life. At times it seems I'm avoiding reality, or is it just another version of reality? I don't know. I'm sure there are many wise arguments against living this way, but it is where I am at this moment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One step at a time.

I can still drink my coffee with Eudora Welty.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

We Can Do This

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Join Us at Litquake San Rafael

I'm getting these two bums off the sofa and we're heading to San Rafael.

We will be joining writers and artists published in West Marin Review, Volume 6 this Saturday, October 8th for Way Out West: West Marin Review Showcase. I'll be reading my short prose contribution to West Marin Review, The Rancher Whispered, and from my novel, After the Sour Lemon Moon.

Saturday, October 8, 2016
4:30pm - 5:45pm

Proof Lab SR  
907 4th Street  
San Rafael, CA 94901 (map)

We hope you'll join us.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

I'm Always a Reader First

Ideal Reading Conditions, 2016

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Have you read it?

I read the entire book in less than a day. It's described as a story about a mother and daughter, but it's really about so much more. It's about a woman's soul, which comes through in her story telling.

I photographed the title page in dappled front yard light, which seemed to match Lucy Barton's story telling perfectly. I recall all of these things as if Lucy Barton actually told this story, as if it is not a work of fiction written by Elizabeth Strout. Why? Because it is how I feel. I don't really want to believe otherwise.

Part of me can't help but wonder how Elizabeth Strout did it. Did she know someone like Lucy Barton? Did this Lucy Barton friend share her story with Elizabeth Strout, and did Elizabeth Strout then write the story down in a way that would get it published? Did Elizabeth Strout fabricate the entire story? Maybe Elizabeth Strout is Lucy Barton in more ways than she is not.

As a writer I am curious about the writer's inspiration. As a reader I am not, I do not care. It is Lucy Barton's story, I need not know more.

I'm always a reader first, while reading. I do not think this is the case for all writers. Some writers read through writer's eyes, and I think this is a shame. I'm tempted to go so far as to call this a misuse of reading material, and if not a misuse, then definitely a missing out on the intended use of the material that, if the writing is good, would certainly be far more gratifyingly read as a reader.

Read My Name Is Lucy Barton as a reader, no matter who you are. You have every right to disagree with me, but if you do, keep it to yourself.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sebald Sentences

Transportation, 2016

W. G. Sebald is one of my favorite authors. I might have mentioned this before. I'm currently reading Vertigo for the first time. As always, reading just a page or two of Sebald's writing transports me into a trancelike state, sometimes all it takes is a sentence or two. I folded the top left corner of page 84 earlier this morning so I could return to it and share the sentences below with you.

"After barely an hour of breezy travel, with the windows open upon the radiant landscape, the Porta Nuova came into view and as I beheld the city lying in the semicircle of the distant mountains, I found myself incapable of alighting. Strangely transfixed, I remained seated, and when the train had left Verona and the guard came down the corridor once more I asked him for a supplementary ticket to Desenzano, where I knew that on Sunday the 21st of September, 1913, Dr K., filled with the singular happiness of knowing that no one suspected where he was at that moment, but otherwise profoundly disconsolate, had lain alone in the grass on the lakeside and gazed out at the waves in the reeds."
Sebald died young, at 57 years old, only 11 years after this book was published. His books have been described as difficult to characterize, and I wholeheartedly agree. What I think I respond to most in his work is the way it both carries me to faraway places and reminds me to be present and live fully. A thoroughly satisfying, albeit slightly disorienting, combination.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Sofa Would Probably Be Reincarnated

Indigo, 2016

We've needed to replace our sofa for quite some time now, but have put it off. Our comfortable sofa, loaded with memories, is sadly waiting on the sidewalk in front of our apartment for the Bulky Item Recycling pickup I scheduled. Our new sofa arrives tomorrow. It's a beautiful indigo and I don't even care.

I bought the sad sidewalk sofa when I lived on my own in Chicago. I didn't have any furniture at all, so I didn't waste much time making a decision. I needed a place to sit. So I simply walked into the showroom, and without much thought selected a model and fabric, and that was that. No perusing Pinterest or Apartment Therapy or design blogs of any sort, because they didn't exist back then, and if there was anything of the sort it wouldn't have mattered because I didn't know about it.

My new sofa was delivered to my empty apartment, not long after my visit to the showroom. It was gorgeous and new and I loved it. I hadn't even met my husband yet. A few other gentleman might have sat on the sofa before I met him, but we won't get into that.

When I moved into my first apartment in San Francisco, which ended up being our (my husband when he was my boyfriend and me) first apartment in San Francisco, the sofa moved with me. The apartment was supposed to be my apartment, but the rental market was brutal and someone saw a window to worm his way into my life. I didn't argue.

Then the sofa moved with us to our second SF apartment, where we got married, on the roof deck, with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. A very special day.

And it moved with us again, to the tiny apartment we moved into so I could afford to go to graduate school. We're still here! I know it seems crazy, but maybe it isn't. We like it here, usually. Another story for another day.

Then the sofa rode with us in a U-Haul truck and lived with us in Point Reyes Station, CA, when we thought we were transitioning our lives to West Marin. The transition was never completed. Again, we'll save those details for another day.

The sofa was brought back to our little apartment in the city and it has served us well, through all of these changes in our lives, until we moved it out to the sidewalk early this morning. I feel I've betrayed it in some way, like there's something more I should have done.

I'm clearly not handling this sofa departure well at all. I know different people have different definitions of what constitutes needing a sofa, but you can trust me when I tell you the fabric was not just bordering on embarrassing, and the cushions, although fluffed regularly, had really lost their oomph. And the style... It was a bit dated, maybe more than a bit, but honestly, I could have lived with dated. It was the wear and tear that solidified the poor guy had absolutely reached retirement age. Yes, my sofa is male. I don't know how I know.

The pickup schedule was full tomorrow, so we decided to just go one day without a sofa. We were asked to have it outside at 6am this morning, so we woke up early and maneuvered that giant out the front door, as we'd agreed we would.

I took a ferry to Sausalito and Sausalito really was at its best today. It felt good to be there. The fog and the mist were beautiful and the library was quiet. But then I remembered the sofa and started feeling nostalgic... I tried to distract myself with the purchase of a huge ripe tomato. No, I haven't tasted it yet. My fingers are crossed. It will be our first ripe tomato of the season. Usually very exciting, but the sofa... I assumed it would be picked up before I returned home.

I got home today around 2pm and it was still there, on the sidewalk. Now it is 5:30pm and nothing has changed. I've called the service twice. I fear it will be out there all night.

Every time I walk past the sofa or look outside I feel terrible. I imagine it's cold and lonely out there without our bodies to keep it warm. I wish we could have donated it, but my research showed it was not in the proper condition for donation.

The last time we scheduled a pickup for a piece of furniture we had it out of the apartment at 6am and it was picked up by 7am. Done. And I didn't even care about that item.

My husband offered that the sofa would probably be reincarnated and this idea made me feel much better. I'm thinking it will be a goat or a saguaro cactus in its next life. Just a gut feeling.

Wait... I hear a truck.

Nope. Wrong truck.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Is Now

Endpapers, 2016

I was reading a book of poems written by a woman who decided to take up poetry at the age of 90, a book offering more illumination than I was prepared for this evening. Illumination of so many things.

What it might feel like to lose a spouse and miss that spouse, desperately. The experience of reading your own writing, many years after the words were written, and realizing that beautiful part of yourself is gone. The gratification of taking a stand on a small thing, but one that will change each remaining year of your lifedemanding no one buy you birthday gifts, at 90 years old. The relief felt. No more false gratitude required. The energy of those little lies, returned to you.

And just as she gets me thinking about my future, I turn the page to find an interview where she is quoted:

It is very constrictive and destructive to always be living beyond the moment; to be preparing.

So I lean forward, resting my right elbow on this book, my chin in my hand, and look at the wall for a while, appreciating what is now.

Poems from the Pond

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On Perfect Schedules and Saint Barthélemy

Design Your Perfect Schedule. What would you do, say, on Tuesday at 10 a.m. or on Friday at 3 p.m. to make your life meaningful? What, when you really come down to the quotidian details, does it look like every day to have time to do good work, to spend quality time with your family and friends and to refresh your soul?

July 24, 2016, 5:08pm

I’m in my husband’s office, hiding from the sun on the desk I’m using and therefore awkwardly positioned beside some file cabinets stacked with books. I found the questions above somewhere in January of 2015, and although at the time I thought answering them would be worthwhile, have put them off, until now.

A perfect schedule. There cannot be such a thing, but I’ll try and pretend there could be such a thing, for the sake of this exercise, with the hope it will at least move me closer to perfection than I am now.

Let’s begin with Tuesday at 10 a.m. Okay. Where am I? Is this only a perfect schedule? A perfect schedule seems as though it would require a perfect setting. I have no idea where the perfect setting is located, but I once spent several days on an island named Saint Barthélemy, in a beautiful bungalow with a small private pool, and room service.

I was young and impressionable and had read it was a favorite getaway for young attractive jet-set celebrity types, and that was all I needed, along with a credit card. I was in. It was a long time ago, it seems like a different life, but I do remember quite a bit about this place, especially the general feeling of being there. I recall details such as appreciating the bar soap in our bathroom, and I don’t even like bar soap. Everything was white and beautiful and impeccably clean.

There was a boombox and the hotel had a library of CDs. I borrowed a pile of these CDs and settled into our small but luxurious backyard area and was as pleased as I’ve ever been on any vacation in my life. It was the absence of stress. No, it was the ability to ignore it. Unfortunately, my companion did not appreciate this extraordinary space as much as I did, so I went about my business without him. I don’t recall really minding. Maybe there were a few fits of rage, but they were small fits, very small.

I had sun. I had shade. I had music of my choosing. I had beautiful food. And I had time, so much time. I ran around the island and did other things with my unhappy companion—jewelry shopping, restaurant going, bar hopping—but none of it was as enjoyable as the time I spent in the backyard of our bungalow, alone, swimming breaststroke, slowly, back and forth, in our small pool, while listening to Tears for Fears, General Public, and The The.

I recall reading about this hotel suffering hurricane damage shortly after our stay, but when I look at the current photographs of the place all of the old memories return. It looks the same to me. I would not be surprised if a hurricane or two have hit Saint Barthélemy since then and some special force has protected this magical place. It seems impossible for a place to be so perfect, and that I would have had the pleasure of staying there at such a young age. The whole memory, it must be a mirage.

So my perfect Tuesday at 10 a.m. would have to be spent in that pool on Saint Barthélemy, in its perfect mirage state, of course. I would have just eaten a late breakfast of fresh bread, fruit, and chocolate. There would be a breeze, obviously gentle. I’d exit the pool, dry off with a deliciously soft towel, and put on a robe of the same sort, climb into my chaise lounge, and then I would sip coffee while scribbling perfect paragraphs into my journal.

Yes, that would be my perfect Tuesday at 10 a.m. I do believe my life would feel wildly meaningful. I know it all sounds rather shallow, but I don’t usually live this way, and when I’ve tried it has failed miserably. I hate feeling disappointed, but no one would be disappointed with this Tuesday at 10 a.m. No one.

Friday at 3pm I would be taking a nap with my husband (not the unhappy companion), after a perfect 60-minute massage. We would have eaten lunch around 1pm, something like a delicious cold soup and salad, on the terrace.

The good work would be getting done, the quality time with the one I love would be happening, and my soul would absolutely be refreshed. Yes, it would all be covered.

But I’m still here at the file cabinet with this laptop pushed up against some books, feeling fairly sure this exercise hasn’t really helped me move closer to perfection in my day-to-day life. Whose idea was this?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Carnival Evening

Carnival Evening, 2016

May 22, 2016

I let it go. For a moment I just sat there, my feet warm in thick socks as the wind roared outside, and examined all of the details of my new book—the silver National Book Award Finalist seal on the front cover and the detail of the Henry Rousseau painting it was stamped over, the small square photograph of the poet's face on the back of the book, lower left, and the bookmark the person at the shop had tucked inside.

Then I heard the wind again, it had gotten louder, and I put the book down. It was strange, I thought, the way books sidle up beside weather. Or is it the other way around? I'm usually aware of the weather when I'm reading a book, aware in a way I am not while watching a movie or researching a topic on the internet.

Soon there was only the ticking of the clock and the settling sounds of the cottage. The thing I had let go attempted its return.

The wind growled and saved me. I picked up Pastan.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Frickin' Good

 Path to the Beach, 2016

There's a lot going on in this world, much of it negative. 2016 is far from a lull in life-changing events, and it is difficult not to consider all of the larger implications of these events.

From a more local perspective, I'm reading Joan Didion's book, Where I Was From, and she's tracing California's history. The tracing is absolutely interesting, but not at all uplifting, and has me thinking about this state's future.

And then there is day-to-day life. Just the regular stuff. The sun rising. Drinking coffee. Laundry. Trying to incorporate learning about an armed robbery in my neighborhood, the neighborhood I thought was safe, and walking down the street more cautiously. Remembering to buy dental floss. Thinking about what we will eat for dinner. The sun setting.

Of course, there is also the filler, silly sort of stuff. It's life too.

Robert, a barista in my local cafe, asks me, How's it going?
I reply, Good.
He somehow hears, Frickin' good.
So he looks at me inquisitively, What did you say?  
I said good.

To make a long story short, he laughs and tells me he was a little shocked because he thought I'd said, frickin' good, and it was so out of character. I smile and my cheeks start feeling hot, and probably taking on a pinkish glow, as they do when I'm embarrassed. He tells me I'm usually...then he motions downward with a flat right hand. I assume this means low-key.

How do you know something really fabulous didn't just happen to me?
He smiles, True.

I sit down with my coffee and think, Do I want to be the type of person who says frickin' good? Would that person live more lightly in this chaotic world? Would she have more fun? Is frickin' good a part of me that's hibernating? I think it might be. It clearly came out more often when I was drinking, but I don't want to sink back into that hole.

I'll just let it be. This part of me will climb up and out when it is ready, or it won't. I can wait. I think I can wait.

I might as well return to Didion's California. And I do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On Not Gardening

 Rhubarb, 2016

This is what our garden looked like the day we said goodbye. We’ve given up gardening, at least for now. There were a variety of reasons we chose this option.

One of those reasons was the incessant watering required to grow vegetables (we aren’t really the ornamental garden type) during drought months (roughly half of each year), and the rate in which the freshly dampened soil returns to dusty dry dirt. It’s downright depressing and seeing it happen in this up-close-and-personal way leaves one wondering if California should truly be the produce paradise that it is.

Gardening started to feel unnatural, which of course it is, in the true sense of the word, unlike nature. But there was the promise of fresh rhubarb tempting us, so we carried on, for a while.

There were also the logistics of getting to the garden, toting garden clothes, tools, gloves, and shoes, and then getting back home. This was not a backyard project.

Protecting the plants from critters such as skunks, raccoons, rodents, and a variety of birds was another challenge. We used bird netting, but then began to worry about the possibility of birds getting caught and injured, or worse. What were our other options? Building something more stable? Would we need tools? Lumber? Did we really want to tame nature? We were having doubts.

Lastly, there were community garden politics and community garden gossip. To avoid joining in, I’ll say no more.

I am well aware that these are issues only a very lucky person can complain about. We waited 8 years before getting this garden plot. It seems we should be happily dealing with all of the above, but instead we channeled Bartleby, so off the plot goes to the next in line. I hope the new gardeners use the plot as long as they find doing so enjoyable, and then pass it on to the next people who want to give it a go.

The truth is that I don’t really miss gardening. There, I’ve said it. Call me fickle. I understand. It just might be true. For now, I prefer admiring the not-so-natural-yet-beautiful elements others in my neighborhood have chosen to tame, eating farmers market fruits and vegetables, and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to explore Mother Nature’s more wild side.

Farewell, dear rhubarb. I wish you well.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


Posy, 2016 

I was waking up differently than I had just a month or two earlier. It was easier. I started to think some miraculous transformation had taken place in me, then I realized there was simply more daylight earlier in the morning, so I sighed, felt foolish, and moved on.

I went downstairs, washed a few dishes, and made a few notes on this and that. I did these things while listening to Counting Crows. I began to wonder if they named their band after the behavior of one of their members. Was Duritz a crow counter? I hadn’t thought about the origin of their name before that day, never noticed a bird in their band name. Yet I’d listened to them for years. 

Some things just get passed by, not purposefully ignored, but still overlooked. It’s not like I don’t ponder a variety of unimportant matters on a regular basis. I don’t know why some things stick in the mind for further exploration and others don’t. 

Was I paying attention to these crows because I was on vacation and spending much of my time outside with insects and skunks and foxes and birds? Maybe.

Anyway, I found myself particularly tuned in to the song Hanginaround, and listening to the part about long days with nothing to do, and I thought back to telling my dad, "There’s nothing to do here!" This is a thought that no longer occurs to me. The last time I whined such a thing I was probably in my early teens. It must be a mindset that recedes with age.

My 13-year-old self would have filled her long nothing-to-do days diligently rewinding songs such as Hanginaround on her cassette tape over and over again until she heard each word, writing them all down, and memorizing them so she could sing along with the tape in front of her friends, appearing as though it all came to her naturally, as if those words had never been rewound, written down, or memorized. Yes, it is true.

If I find I have a stretch of time with nothing to do now, I don’t mind. I don’t blame Dad. I no longer write down the words to songs, but I do still think about them, and band names, and birds.

Origin of band name (I had to look it up…)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fish & Game Quarterly

Poet's Chair, 2016

I'm sitting in the poet's chair over at Fish & Game Quarterly. The spring issue of this online publication is out today. I've just learned that my two poems in this issue are Fish & Game Quarterly's first poetry offerings. I'm honored. These are not warm and fuzzy poems, although one of them is titled Peaches, but they are dear to me.

You'll also find photographs from Inverness, CA, a remembrance of Prince, an essay about space and place written by a former bass player in the band Hole, digital art, a piece about the future of food magazines (there's hope!), even an instrumental track by a trio described as an idiosyncratic blend of dub, roots reggae, and spiritual jazz traditions. This and more are shared by a diverse group of contributors from New York to Bali.

Fish & Game Quarterly 


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Upstairs in the Poetry Room

Last Thursday I visited City Lights, specifically to visit the poetry room upstairs. Two windows, five chairs, one stool, and the largest poetry selection I've ever seen in a bookstore.

I entered alone, but there was someone right behind me making my photo taking awkward and self-conscious. He seemed serious. He picked up a book, sat down in the poet's rocking chair, and did not stand up until he left the room. I must have looked at ten different books—up and down, up and down—and I sat in two different chairs. But I was serious too. We were both quiet.

Then a very tall young man entered the room, serious as well, and focused, like the other guy. Just one book and one chair.

Any less serious visitors felt uncomfortable in our presence. If they were too loud and chatty, they toned it way down to a whisper. If they were overly impressed with the poetry room, and too vocal about it, they calmed down and patiently perused the collection. Those who obviously didn't care about poetry, but were inspecting the place as a landmark, departed quickly.  

But maybe it wasn't us. Maybe the poetry room has its own power. It's possible it controlled us too.


Monday, May 9, 2016

A Reading in Marin

It's time for another reading.

I'm going to be joining a handful of writers and artists published in West Marin Review, Volume 6, in Corte Madera on Monday, May 16th. 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.

Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera, CA 94925

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, we hope you'll stop in and join us.