Friday, February 29, 2008

Birthday in Monterey

I am 40 now, a pisces child born in the year of the monkey. A Monkeyfish. Nothing so beautiful as a jellyfish, I think.

Mostly right now I feel vaguely fatigued, and somewhat old. MR says I'm a four-year-old with a big "O" on the end. I told my family and they laughed. It is very appropriate. I'm growing older but not 'up'. And "The Big O" as we all know, is an orgasm. And I am so terribly fond of my Os.

So despite the grief and stress, I suppose I am still young at heart, and my friend MR indulged my inner child. We went to Monterey for my birthday and stayed at a nice hotel on Cannery Row called The Spindrift. We had dinner at an upscale restaurant with "Sardine" in its name, and then spent most of the following day at the Aquarium. Wow. I've been to many aquariums, and I enjoyed this one the most. The lighting is designed for optimum viewing of the fish, but is dismal for purposes of photographing them. Dark rooms and lighted tanks made my camera want to flash--and flashes cause reflections off the glass. Turning off the flash means the lens aperture stays open longer, and all the wonderful creatures moving around are captured as blurs. Still, I got a few good photos, and I found myself particularly fascinated by the jellyfish.

The drive from Monterey to San Francisco was pleasant. It was a clear evening, the hills were green, and the fudge we picked up on our way out of town was sweet.

Even in the midst of loss and grief, its nice to have reminders that life is good.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Phone call.

His was the last number I called from the airport.

"I'm here."

"Where is 'here'?"

"I'm walking up the ramp from my plane."

"Oh good! You're close."

"I am?"

"Yes, I'm at the marina, just put the boat back in the water."

"I thought you were keeping it in dry-dock til next year."

"Meet me here?"

"I'm tired, Kurt."

"I know, but I want to see you, see how you are doing."

"I'm tired, its after 10. How about I see you tomorrow morning?"

"Good idea. You can sleep here on the boat and I'll see you when we wake up."

"You're so bad..." I chuckled tiredly.

"I'll hold you, and the boat can rock you to sleep. I know you like that."

"I do..."

I stopped by the escalator. I was so tired that I swayed under the weight of my briefbag.

Kurt gave me directions from the airport to the marina, the rich timbre of his voice flowing through me. Potent, it was like a caress down my spine. I felt his large hands scoop my ass and pull me close to him.

"See you in what--half an hour?"

I was too tired to argue, and his boathouse was much closer than my place.

"Sooner than that. I left my luggage in San Francisco."

"You're going back?" Kurt sounded cautious. He accepted my relationships with the other men in my life, but he was concerned about the one in San Francisco.

"Yes. My sister..." My throat tightened and tears welled up.

"Ah. Poor Kay. Come here and let me pamper you."


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ode to Earth

Photo of shining wet sand and white foam
If clouds are her curls waving in the wind,
whitecaps the frothy lace of her blue-grey skirts
slightly worn and often dingy
the sandy beach her legs, mostly smooth
the pebbles gooseflesh and the cliffs her feet,
then what is the asphalt and concrete
but cracked and creeping fissures of an age
of desperation and malicious destiny?
And what am I, and all my kind
in the scheme of geology?
What of the liquid hydrocarbon,
the controlled hemorrhaging of which
keeps her weak and pliable?
Our rash of boxy blemishes a speading pox
following the razor burn of denuded forests?
When the time of reckoning comes
will she lower her skirts,
let the lace creep up the shores,
swirl past the cliffs of her toes
and seal our fates in a watery tomb?
Or will she breathe in her blood turned to gas
raise her skirts and withdraw
until our foolishness causes the end
of the Primate Period?

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Sunday, February 17, 2008


We walked through sand stained black
Some ship spilled darkness that transformed
sepia brown to exotic inkiness
I tried to pretend I was in Hawaii, or some other volcanic isle
and when that failed I pondered the meaning of light
for just a moment
it being far too weighty a topic for an afternoon stroll
so I turned to my companion and asked
If some catastrophe happened,
and the shoeprints upon the sand were petrified,
would those who uncovered them a million years hence know
they were all made by the same species?

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Today at the beach

The wind tasted of sunlight and salt, tasted
like the hopes of hungry seabirds flinging themselves ahead of the fog
retreated beyond the reach of the naked eye but waiting
for the wind to reap the whitecaps of their tears
and send the moist blanket of oblivion rolling up the sand

The tide exposed the sand dollars,
those rounds of creams and purples, stripped them
of their camouflage, revealing their secret palmate etchings
known to man and bird alike, neither of whom bothers to note
the underside carved by ten rivers flowing into a single hole

Life is fragile as the sand dollar broken
by the gull's beak
comforted by sea foam whose bubbles hold captive
a thousand rainbows waiting for the fog to free them
from the suffering of the light

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Does heaven have enough angels yet?

Taking a moment to grieve and miss my sister Tammy, I went through some photos while listening to music. This song came on, and I dissolved into tears when I heard Tracy Chapman asking "Does heaven have enough angels yet?" Such an achingly sad song. I flashed to Caro laying in her bed, arms slathered with methadone and promethazine and haloperidol. She looks like an angel when she is sleeping, when her face is smooth and peaceful. And we find ourselves asking when heaven will want to add another angel, when her suffering will end...

The Only One - Tracy Chapman (Telling Stories album)

She was the only one
Of my flesh and blood
Now I have no calling
I can do no worldly good

I sit silent
I sit mourning
I sit listless all the day
I've mostly lost the voice to speak
And any words to say except
Does heaven have enough angels yet?

I've gone hard
And I've gone cold
I can't make the piece of this cracked life fit
Please forgive me for wanting to know
Does heaven have enough angels yet?

Together oh together
No there'll be no more of that
But I would not dare for myself to ask
Does heaven have enough angels yet?

She was the only one
Of my own flesh and blood
Sometimes I hear her calling
Straight from the house of god


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

California Dreamin'

In Romeo & Juliet, Mercutio said something like: "A plague upon your house. Upon both your houses!"

There are days when I feel like my house is under a plague.

I have three sisters left. Two are ill, one terminally so. The third is the twin of the one who is terminal. She is exhausted from months of care-giving and is wondering how she is going to live life without her twin. My step-mother cries a lot, and prays.
My father is stressed, tired, infinitely sad. My father's sister just had surgery. My father's brother is in the hospital. My mother's brother is disabled and unwell.

Its crazy.

Meanwhile, my life is assuming a new rhythm. My step-mother is happy I'm here. I am a breath of fresh air, she says, a big-energy person who fills a room, and ever the astonishing child. I try to be upbeat and positive, to radiate compassion, to hold her when she cries over her daughter's suffering. I show everyone photos of Tammy, of Oregon, of my travels, and entice them to eat things they've never had before: mini-wedges of mango and ginger stilton, slices of warm artisan bread with chevre, balls of gorgonzola rolled in chopped nuts and baked. Slices of english cucumber with mascarpone and bits of cured meat, fruit, or nuts on top.

Some nights I take my turn checking on Caro every two hours, making sure she is comfortable, applying topical medications, adjusting the blankets. Pain has creased her forehead prematurely. Her eyes are tired. She sleeps a lot, and when she speaks, her voice is barely above a whisper. Soon, we hope. Soon her suffering will end, please, oh merciful God we pray, amen.

Sometimes at night my body curls around the grief in my middle, and I cry. Sometimes, sleepless, I open my laptop and write.

And sometimes I listen to my self-hypnosis scripts. Relax, my own voice tells me. Bathe in the healing white light of my consciousness. Know myself as the possibility of freedom, of joy, and powerful peace. Listen to the sea birds, imagine myself swimming the ocean, rocking in it, comforted by it, my own tears of sadness blending with it. Awaken rested, refreshed, at peace, my own voice whispers into my ears just before I end the trance and send myself to sleep.

And in the morning I am strong again, a mountain of light with just a few spots of erosion showing. No landslides yet. (A twinge. Tammy's favorite song: Landslide.)

Some days I spend at a friend's house, taking a time-out. We watch movies and play games, taking breaks to go for sushi and dim sum. He does his best to make me smile, and lets me snuggle up to him, and just be. And best of all, at his place I can sleep. Sometimes I stretch out on his bed and nap with his cat in the sunlight, letting the ocean breeze tickle my skin.

Life is what it is. The plague will pass. Meanwhile, I'm doing my best to live each day fully, even in extraordinary circumstances like these.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Travel clothes

I wear skirts when I travel. I generally wear skirts regardless of whether I am flying or driving, and except in cases of deep snow, regardless of the weather. Most women I know think I'm nuts. But I have my reasons, good reasons.

Skirts are comfortable. They are unrestrictive, allowing a full range of motion. If they get twisted, they do not tug or cut painfully into anything. They allow for air-flow when it is hot. When it is cold, bike shorts or leggings can be worn underneath without compromising comfort.

But regardless of these practicalities, there is a better reason to wear skirts when traveling: People are more courteous. I find that when I am wearing a skirt or dress, people are more polite. Bus, tram, trolly, and shuttle drivers always rush to help me with my bags. Service staff at hotels, restaurants and airports are both more deferential and helpful. People hold open the doors and let me pass first. And men are more admiring and appreciative. I've had several comments from men about how nice it is to see a woman in skirts.

I assure you, chivalry is not dead. It is simply that men's responses to feminism have driven it underground. I have observed that while most men will be solicitous toward women given the opportunity, they are less likely to act upon their chivalrous urges when the fairer sex is wearing pants. It seems to me that men unconsciously interpret the wearing of pants as a woman's declaration of independence.

A woman in skirts however, ah! now she is the target of all the bottled-up chivalry that men have less and less opportunity to express in this world of gender parity. She has dropped something, Oh, here, let me get that for you. Oh, no need to pump your own gas, I'm almost finished with mine, I'll be happy to do yours next. Please, take this full-sized car instead of the mid-sized, no extra charge. You'll be more comfortable. A lady should never eat alone, may I join you? Please, you take this elevator, I'll wait for the next. Its pouring rain and you've no umbrella? Please share mine. Here, let me get that door for you.

I am by no means helpless, in fact, quite the opposite. But there is an implied social contract between a woman in skirts and the rest of the world. In exchange for their solicitousness and courtesy, for providing them the opportunity to be gentle-people, I am smiling, gracious, and receptive: a lady.

I dress like a lady, act like a lady, and in return, I am treated like one.

All for the 'price' of wearing a skirt. Quite a bargain, I say.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blue toes

"I'm going to California tomorrow," I told him.

I leaned back into his couch and put my bare feet up on the table. I smoothed my skirt across my thighs, enjoying the feel of the fabric.

"What's this?" he asked, leaning over to look at my feet. "Blue toes?"

I grinned and lifted my leg, sliding my shin along his cheek until my toes were just inches from his face.

"I had a pedicure today. Do you like?"

He studied my toenails. I'd chosen a metallic blue nailpolish that went really well with several of the skirts I wear this time of year. The nail art on my big toes was done in delicate silver, black and white dots and curliques.

"Very nice," he said, taking my feet into his warm hands.

"Mmmm," I purred. I hadn't realized they were chilled until he'd touched them.

I wriggled around on the couch until my shoulders were braced by the arm and my feet were in his lap. He proceeded to give my feet and legs an acupressure and massage treatment that had me limp as a kitten within 10 minutes. Which is no mean feat given my stress level of late.

"I'll miss you," he said, as he lifted my foot and kissed it. His hand slid along the underside of my thigh until his fingertips brushed my bare mound.

I'd forgotten myself in the sheer pleasure of the moment, and neglected to keep my thighs together. How long had he been looking up my skirt? I wondered, and then decided it didn't matter. I was certain that the voyeur in him deemed it a fair trade for a delicious foot rub.

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